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Monday, January 29, 2018

The Day We Became French

Sunrise at anchor

We accidentally became French the other day. 

It all started like any regular day (for us) in Guadeloupe.  Well, maybe not just any day because the day before, we had learned about the “Breakfast Boat.”  So, on that day in question, we would be receiving fresh croissants and pain chocolate (chocolate bread) delivered to us on our boat. To have them delivered right to us…….is as they say, priceless! So you can see the day was actually getting off to a better than usual start. 
The Breakfast Boat Lady handing us

In that particular harbor, the Breakfast Boat lady also does laundry for cruisers.  She had picked ours up the day before, while her husband drove the boat and the both of them were corralling two toddlers in diapers at the same time as they were coming alongside.  I was impressed by how far their arms reached, although neither of the little tikes were wearing life jackets which frankly made me cringe, but hey, this is not my country.  At least it wasn't yet. 
Washing clothes on deck

But I digress..….so, the Breakfast Boat lady had taken our laundry!  And we were going to be getting it back from her that afternoon.  Now, before you get to thinking that we are just lying around living a life of leisure on our boat, having people wait on us hand and foot, allow me to disabuse you of that notion.  
My Clothes Washing Plunger

First off, having someone else do our laundry for us is a new thing, but we have discovered that there are a few anchorages in the Caribbean where there are no laundry facilities.  In those cases, the only option is to pay someone to do it for us. Secondly, when there are no laundry facilities available and we really need some things laundered, I do it by hand. 

Not exactly like a plunger on the bottom
I go up on deck with a pile of laundry that I figure will dry fairly well on our lifelines.  (Lifelines = built in clotheslines on a sailboat).  On my second trip up on deck I carry up several things—a big blue bucket which will be my washing bin, a large orange bucket from Home Depot which also happens to be our “look bucket”.*  That will be my rinse bucket.  And my “clothes washing plunger.” 
Room for lots of items hanging on lifelines

On my third and fourth trips up on deck, I will schlep along pails of hot water that I heated on the stove, along with the laundry detergent, bleach, etc. The advantage of the plunger thingy is that I don’t have to pound the clothes on a rock or scrub them up and down over a washboard to get them clean.  Plus, I can wash several items at the same time.  
Sometimes clothes get rained on a
few times before they get dry.

Now if I only had some way to wring out the wet clothes; some method that works better than squeezing them with my hands, which is really hard work.  I am not pointing out this last fact in order to engender pity.  I expect none.  We have been told frequently that we are “living the life.”
Overlooking harbor in Deshaies

Okay, so what I really want to explain is how we inadvertently became French which is the only reason anyone is reading this post, am I right?

So, on that particular day, another flat-bottom motorboat with four official-looking people in it was also circulating in the harbor.  In fact, we’d overheard a brief conversation on the VHF radio about this boat before we even noticed it.  One cruiser was telling another cruiser about how this French boat wanted him to fill out some paperwork; to tell them who was onboard and all kinds of other personal information.  He said to the other guy,  “I just told them I was leaving in the morning and they went away.” “Oh, that’s what I’ll do, too” said the other guy. 
Garbage burning day?

How odd we thought.  Why was the French boat visiting all the boats in the harbor? We would find out soon enough. The French motorboat pulled alongside—three men and a woman.  One of them put a line onto our midship cleat.  They were friendly looking people.  One was driving the boat, two of them were clutching sheafs of papers and the woman, who appeared to be running the show was writing on a clipboard.  A clipboard. Clearly a serious matter.

Four census takers
All four of them spoke French.  Well, duh. But have no fear, we were armed with our trusty Google Translate app on both phones.  The youngest man knew a little English.  Clearly they wanted us to take these papers and fill them out and when someone hands you a paper, it’s an automatic reflex to take it.  (Except in shopping malls where I never take a paper that’s shoved at me).  

Using Google Translate to complete census
So, now Carl had assumed ownership of the papers and he slid his phone with the Google Translate app over the words on the form.  We each had a set to complete. French words magically became English. Our full names, citizenship, mailing address, place of abode, whether we worked or were on any government assistance, square footage of our domicile (love that question—there are not many square feet of walkable space on a sailboat.) Pfft…they’re just census takers, for goodness sakes.  
Census question- "How many iguanas do you have?" 
Just kidding. No iguana questions on census.

We mumbled a little to each other — should we be filling out a census form in a French country?  While Carl was using his phone for the form, I tried the tactic of the gentleman we’d heard on the radio.  I texted, “We are leaving in the morning.”  The young guy knit his brows together and read my Google translate screen .  He straightened up and smiled,  “Oh, no, is okay, is okay.”  And we figured, it really was okay.  
The driver was shy

The purpose of a census is to have a snapshot in time of who is in the country, right?  No reason NOT to fill it out.  Good grief.  By that time, Carl was filling out a second set of papers.  Hmmm…  When we were all done with the papers, I google translated, “May I take your photograph?”  They cheerfully obliged and cast off from our boat. 
"Can I take your photo?"  sounds like -
Poozhah prah footah footah

I mean, it’s not like we were giving up our U.S. citizenship, right?  As we were waving and saying “Au revoir” I wondered, Wait….what was that last question again?  Carl looked hard at me.  “I think we’re French now.”

*For non-cruisers, a look bucket is one that has had a large hole cut out of the bottom which is then replaced with a plexiglass disk, set in with an amazingly sturdy adhesive.  A look bucket allows one to see into the water by holding the bucket onto the water’s surface.  Good for looking at the bottom from a dinghy.


Mark Bennett said...

Hey, Ardys, we have the solution for you. We have a hand ringer that I mount with wing nuts on the mizzen gallows (you'd have to find another spot). Its a model BL-44 from, an aluminum frame and bronze bearings. Here's a link to their website: Besides that, we have found that using a small amount of ammonia instead of detergent eliminates the need to rinse. Ammonia is a surfactant, as is detergent. The ringer removes almost all the water, and the ammonia evaporates. Might not be quite as good as detergent, but it's good enough between ports, and both easier and requiring less water.

Ardys said...

That is great, Mark! Thank you for both of those tips. How much ammonia do you use?