Arrivederci. Goodbye Romans. It’s time to chase the sun and the wind. Bravely sailing onwards to freedom. If you don’t have the courage to leave land behind how are you going to discover new places. How will you see what’s around the next headland or corner.
But wait, before you lay about on deck in your carefully designed topless bikini…
There is stuff that needs doing. Like unpacking every lazaretto and drawer. Would you believe we found an inflatable baby swimming pool. Kept it. You never know when you might need it again. Made lists of spare parts. On the ocean you cannot call an electrician. Does liking cats and dogs make me an electrician. What do you think, Pamela. On a boat you’re a jack-of-all-trades. I never imagined that I will learn to change an oil filter. I even know where it is and what it’s for. Once you’ve done it, you’ll see how easy it really is. It’s not rocket science. This is stuff we learned to do ourselves by trail and error. And lots of manual reading and googling and arguments. Spaces are tight on boats and you need the skills of a contortionist too.
Another recipe for huge arguments is the sails. One windless morning we hoisted and furled Mojito’s three sails. A job that takes many hours. This year we managed it without one argument. I’ll be honest. My husband and I can really argue about almost everything about the boat. We fight and we make up. The other day I paged through our logbook and noticed some of the comments I’ve written over the years. Stuff like; “We argued again”, “I hate him” (!!!), “we had fantastic sex last night under the stars”. Love and hate. That’s us. But the good stuff outweighs the bad stuff ten to one. Sailing is hard on relationships. Much harder because of the stress involved out there on the ocean. Sailing doesn’t come naturally to us. Seven years ago I’ve never set a foot on a sail boat. We are new at this and will always be. We learn something new about sailing almost every day and about ourselves too.
Boring our lives isn’t.
Mojito must also adhere to many other formalities. Clearing in and out of countries involves yet more paperwork. Passports, crew lists, itineraries. Because we sail under a South African flag we have the added headache that we may only stay in EU waters for eighteen months at a time. That is why we’ve sailed to Gibraltar, twice. And why we would have to sail to Montenegro some time next year. What a stupid rule. Because all the authorities need is a document confirming that you left the EU for at least a day. Last year we sailed 500 miles in the middle of the winter from Barcelona to Gibraltar. Turned around and sailed back again.
Sometimes I wish there were international passports for boats, allowing them to go anywhere.
Every island and country have their little funny quirks and rules. Like Corsica. Corsica is under French rule, but don’t you dare fly a French flag while in Corsican waters. Yachts have to fly the Corsican flag of independence. Corsicans hate France, although France support them financially. Sounds a little like Africa doesn’t it.
We’re not done yet. Sailing the worlds oceans is a dangerous business and involves hours and days of planning. Leaving the safety of land means confirming emergency contact details with friends as well as the US Coast Guard and the Maritime Safety Agency in the UK. They are the people who will come to your rescue, if you need them. Which I hope we never do. We email a ‘flight plan’ to friends. Listing our itinerary. When we leave and when we expect to make landfall. If we become overdue they’ll know to alert authorities.
So you see sailors are responsible people too. They know stuff. They are resilient. It’s the kind of community where kindness is a verb. That’s how you learn. Also by being kind you built credits with the gods of the ocean. You don’t mess with them. You follow the rules. Like you never begin your journey on a Friday. It’s serious bad luck if you do. You never whistle on a boat. No bananas on board if you want to catch fish – that one has never been explained to me. Sailors are superstitious. How can you not be. The ocean is not your friend. The day you stop being afraid is the day you sell your boat.
And I can’t help but think of Obelix every time I say that. Do you remember how the Roman legionaries and Julius Caesar made life difficult for the feisty Gauls. Not that we don’t like Romans. There are some really sexy Italians about. Obelix made a plan. In retaliation the Gauls created a market for menhirs. Flooding Rome with useless stones carved from basalt. And it’s not a legend. Menhirs do actually exist – we’ve seen them in Corsica.
Our last day in Roma we walked to town, a long way from the marina. Some thugs stole our bikes from the dock one night in a fierce rain storm. We went to light a candle in the church as we do before any passage. The church in Ostia is plain by Roman Catholic standards. Ostia-Lido is a seedy suburb of Rome. The church, although far from fancy, is light and airy with a long flight of wide stone steps leading to a tree-lined avenue and straight to the ocean. A short stroll to the piazza for a last beer and prosecco at our favorite bar. And then gelato before heading back. The Spanish, French and Italian people eat gelato at four o’clock in the afternoon. Every afternoon. I love that tradition.
Arrivederci Romans. Mojito is bravely going where we’ve never gone before. South. After weeks of hard work and preparation. Summer is around the corner. Fabulous places and adventures await.