Saturday, June 26, 2010
The Channel Islands just keep getting better. We had a blast on Guernsey where a well written article by the Guernsey Press gave us some unexpected attention from the locals. The article resulted in many lovely meetings and a Dune Buggy ride around the island!
We also had a one night stand in Sark, an experience akin to stepping in to a time machine and press 1940. There is probably not a more relaxed place anywhere in this part of the world. The island can be walked across in about an hour (at it's narrowest), but should you get tired from the steep hills you can always catch a ride with a tractor or a horse-and-cart taxi. Yes folk, a car free island, what a bliss. Sark falls under Guernsey but was, until December 2008, Europe's last feudal state. Of the 600 people living on the Island, the power was held by the one who owned the largest piece of land - in this case the Seigneur of Sark - John Michael Beaumont. Although John was the rightful king of the island he did - disappointingly - not strut around with Hermine Furs accompanied by a jester and five Island virgins. He was a regular man with a wiki-page and a fancy title. But as it goes, Sark's finger-to-the-world system is in the process of being overrun by the evil Barcley Brothers who figured that sipping Dom Perignon in Monaco was very 90's, while imposing uninvited Democracy is more 2010. After buying up neighbor island Brecqhou and fitting it out with a Gothic castle and a helicopter pad they impose their power on Sark by offering Sark business owners cash only to close down the business once it's in their hands. It is fair to say that the people of Sark (and indeed of Guernsey, a stone-throw across the water) are moderately impressed by the brother's arrival on the Island (even if rumor has it that Guernsey is happy to have Sark abolish a couple of medieval laws, restricting the Channel Islands from joining the European Union - divorce was illegal on Sark until a few years ago!).
Jersey is a slightly different story again. Its own government and, from what we have seen, no major stuff of fairy tales. But they do have a sailing race with Guernsey - a law firm put on extravaganza where Guernsey people race to Jersey (about 45 miles) arriving in ship shape and suitably tipsy for dinner and drinks in the Jersey Yacht Club. As Clive has never missed an opportunity to enter a room full of cashed up, drunk yachties with a bag of books, Hanna has never been one to turn down what could turn in to a great story for this blog, so off we went. At arrival we found a bouncer the size (and shape) of our wheel house at the door. Fortunately we ran in to a friend from Guernsey who handed us a dessert ticket (!) and instructed us on the best way to enter this by-invitation-only event. (The dessert ticket would, we figured, imply that - although we clearly came off the side walk - had already had our entrees and mains with our friends inside. Clive also flaunted his Greenwich Yacht Club, GYC, cap, as the initials are the same as Guernsey Yacht Club, hoping that the bouncer was of simple nature). We're not sure how but we made it inside but Hanna was not late to use the dessert ticket, as Clive was not late to use the bar. What we didn't calculate on - and this, dear friends, is where our coup could have failed miserably - was that we have after all spent the last two weeks on the premesis of the Guernsey Yacht Club, as well as had a double page spread (p. 6-7 to be exact) in the Guernsey Press. We also don't wear khaki pants or loafers, no jewelry if you don't count a gigantic sea shell around Hanna's neck, and Clive was dressed in slippers. We were not incredibly anonymous.
But just as we feel that the prospect of being thrown out head first in the gutter is worse than loosing out on a free fruit cocktail with vanilla ice cream (note to Carey Olsen Law Firm; is this a corporate promo event or a kid's birthday party?) we are approached by a man in pink pike shirt and a broad smile, reaching out his hand to Clive.
"Gordon Wilson, Commodore of the Guernsey Yacht Club. I've heard a lot about you and would be honoured to shake your hand," he says, shaking Clive's hand kissing Hanna's cheeks appearing generally thrilled to be in our company.
Our cover is blown and within minutes we are surrounded by familiar faces patting us on the back and buying us drinks. Even the instructor of the kid's sailing club declares that it was him, after all, who assisted Hanna in fishing up a fully functional, gorgeous turquoise bike from the bottom of the Guernsey Marina just the other day.
Needless to say we didn't get thrown out, but left volentarily (smiling at the wheel house- in- a - suit at the door) as the price ceremony started. Finishing off a smuggled bottle of white in the harbour we agreed that the strange life on the Wong may some days seem mundane to us, but as long as we're Junkies we seem to bring smiles to people's faces and inspiration to their hearts and that, my friends, make it all worth while.
Friday, June 25, 2010
We arrived in Jersey this morning and sadly I'll be getting the ferry back home tomorrow. I wish Clive and Hanna well on the ongoing voyage and to all who follow in my footsteps and spend some time on the Wong, you won't regret or forget it.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
"Social prosperity means man happy, the citizen free, the nation great."
Passing by the weather worn facade of a Guernsey building once housing French poet and novelist Victor Hugo, one imagines this line, from Les Misérables, written with the spirit of the island in mind.
To travelers passing through, Guernsey appears a paradise island, a refuge from the politics of the land, the problems facing Europe and the world. It is the kind of place where, if you had the fortune (in every meaning of the word) to live, you would spend Saturday mornings at Farmers' markets, volunteer in the beach kiosk and never lock your front door.
After five days on the island the politics of this nation is still a mystery. Not really part of the U.K, but with a member of parliament in Westminster assigned especially to keep an eye on Guernsey and her neighbors. With the power to create her own laws but, to make things simple, almost without exception following the legislation of the U.K. With her own currency which does work on other islands but not in the U.K. Her own flag that, when flown from the roof of the harbor office, proudly carries the Union Jack in the corner but otherwise settles for resembling England's red cross on white. They seem to root for England in the World Cup, but then again Guernsey didn't qualify this year. They don't pick up on phone signals from neither France, nor U.K, but have their own Channel network and phone numbers are happily handed out for free (+44 778 14 41 823, for another couple of weeks, if you wish to chat). But the most talked about distinction between the Channel Islands and the mainland has to do with tax, and both Guernsey and neighboring Jersey have become psydo tax havens. For Nuthin Wong all this comes down to curious confusion, cheap diesel and the notion that were we ever to beach her permanently the Channel Islands would compete with Honfleur as the place to do it. (We should probably stop toying with the idea of the land by now. Partly because our flings with the hard are one-night-stands better left veiled in romantic mysticism, and partly because Europe just seem to get more beautiful the further south we go and the list would just be too long and confusing to keep up with.)
The waters around the Channel Islands are known to be among the hardest in Europe to navigate, with the largest tidal differences in the world. All but one basin in the marina dries out twice a day, but being refused a place there this is of no concern to us. Refused might be a bit harsh but after running us aground while directing us to the waiting pontoon the Harbor Master declared that all free moorings had been allocated for the year but we were welcome to submit an application form for a free berth next year. While this is extremely generous we decided that we might give it a miss and go on the anchor instead. Guernsey Yacht Club proved more generous supplying internet connection, coffee and great books for token donations (Kipling's Captains Courageous and a vegetarian cook book have been added to the library).
John and Faye have left us for the U.K but we have incoming company from U.K tomorrow. An update from the other islands, some photos and a presentation of our new crew member will follow shortly. As will an article about us in the Guernsey Press today (and the one from Honfleur).
Berths are still available throughout the summer - welcome new friends and old!
Wednesday, June 09, 2010
Some of you, dear readers, might have stumbled across our ‘philosophy’ page. If so it would be clear that this whole page is a stolen piece of inspired writing from our spiritual guru, the late Sterling Hayden. If you’ve never heard of Sterling or had a chance to read “Wanderer”- his masterpiece account of escaping the harsh reality (or surreality, rather) of Hollywood by setting sail towards Tahiti, never to return to the fame and fortunes of the movie industry - you should put your next paycheck towards it!
In addition to being a brilliant piece of literary achievement its philosophical message is profound. His realizations are the thoughts with which all wanderers are tortured - what lies beyond the horizon? Or, in most cases – what’s stopping me from finding out?
On the Nuthin Wong it is far from everyday we can afford ourselves the luxury of sitting back to ponder our own spiritual reasons for voyaging the way we do. That is why emails like one we received the other day encourage us to keep on moving in spite of obstacles and rainy days. The following text is an extract from that email.
I read the press article about you in the Ouest-France this
morning, Tuesday, June 1st, 2010. I’ve been happy to see about
your adventure after having observed your incredible boat for
a long time on the harbour of Honfleur for soon 2 weeks... I
am not of the same generation as you but I also prepare a big
trip around the world with my future boat and my family, plan
which I prepare since the age of 10. Since then, I made my
life and I had children who 2 of them are adults today. Then the
time of departure approaches. Experiments as yours are a stone
furthermore in my knowledge to refine and achieve an adventure
on the sea. I thank you for it... Thank you still for your
experience and your mind which shows that this world isn’t
devolved to violence as we can see continuously in news. That
freedom has another place there.
Yes, dear friends, freedom does have another place here. But ironically freedom does not come for free and it does not come easy, not in Sterling’s swingin’ 50’s, and perhaps even less today.
A book, anyone?
So we escaped Honfleur, the saddest of departures yet. Two weeks on the wall meant many beautiful encounters with people from near and far. But we don't usually even shop in the same supermarket twice, so getting familiar with the lunch hours of the local laundromat meant that departure was overdue, the horizon calling.
Annual boat blessing festival, Honfleur.
We had a couple of days on anchor outside lovely St Vaast before entering one of our biggest ports so far, Cherbourg, where we met up with John and Faye from New Zealand. Cherbourg is a busy international port with four ferries from the U.K each day (don’t mind the wash guys, we’ll just make a habit of tying down the porcelain on a regular basis!). With 40 000 people calling Cherbourg home it offers an opportunity to stock up on a few essentials to prepare us for a very exciting leg of the journey. Tomorrow morning the anchor comes up again and the course is plotted to the Channel Islands! The island group just south of the English Channel is affiliated with the U.K but not officially part of neither Britain, nor Fran ce. It will be our furthest stray from shore so far – 40 miles west. Thank you for your supportive comments, keep them coming!
View from galley during festival - farewell privacy...
Yann-Olivier is a nice journalist for Ouest-France and a fan of the Wong
Hanna demands that evidence of hard work is made public (note the absence of smoke brakes under Captain Clive's command...)
Good morning horizon!