Sunday, 14 October 2012

O La Vache !

The French phrase “O La Vache !” (literally “Oh, the cow”) is a popular expression of surprise similar to the English expressions “Oh my God” or “Holy Cow”.  During this week’s cruise, we applied the phrase liberally to another French cow:  the “Water Cow” (vache a eau) is what the French call the water tank on a boat.  We managed to have a wee accident with our Water Cow, eliciting not just “O La Vache !” but also another favourite and useful French phrase, “Putain !”  (…and if you haven’t yet seen the “Learn French in One Word” video that has gone viral on the internet, here’s the link: 

Form 1: Function 0
The problem was one of form-vs-function and fault should properly be attributed to the faucet and not the water tank itself.  When we bought the boat, we were attracted to the double sinks and lovely faucet that the previous owners installed in the Caribbean (see Bricolage Update for tales of earlier difficulties with Caribbean plumbing).  We have now learned why such faucets are not standard on boats.  It’s too bloody easy for them to open accidentally.   

I took the wheel and Patrick went below to try to activate the AIS setting on our MaxSea software (…still not working).  While he was down there, I asked him to make a log entry, as one is supposed to do every hour or so at sea.  He claims this is where all our problems began.  Somehow in the process of climbing from the nav station to the table where the logbook was (boat heeled over about 15-20 degrees), his foul weather gear or life vest managed to snag the water faucet handle and open it.  He was not alerted to the sound of running water because, inside the hull of a boat charging through waves at 7 knots, this is not an unusual sound.

As the tank emptied into the sink, the boat became progressively lighter – by 90 kilograms ! –  on the port side.  As we were on a port tack, the boat heeled over further and the water pouring out of the faucet finally skipped over the sink altogether and started splashing directly on the floor.  This is when I noticed the unusual noise and saw that the faucet was open.  By this time, it was coughing up its last, spitting and sputtering a mixture of water and air from the tank.  It was at this point where the two phrases Putain and La Vache were liberally applied.

It all seems so simple in retrospect:  switch off the power to the water pump when underway.  The positive side of the story is that I was starting to feel guilty about our making such simple trips from the Gulf out to one of the islands and back, but after this latest incident, we decided that as long as we’re still learning important lessons like these, it’s not a bad idea to be close to home.

And we really can’t complain because our home sailing ground is truly beautiful.  (For other photos and stories of Hoedic, Houat and Belle Ile islands, see First Duet and Fall Season Opener with their associated trip photo links at the end).
Beautiful Hoedic.
We pulled into small Port Argol on Hoedic Island in the early afternoon on a Friday and were stupefied to find that we had the dock to ourselves. This is quite astonishing since Hoedic is (a) on a “migration” route for sailors navigating along the southern coast of Brittany, (b) there was a special weather bulletin announcing a gale for the next 24 hours, chasing sailors off the water and into the ports, and (c) Port Argol only has 5 visitors’ slips and fills up very quickly even in mid-week and off-season.        

Snuggled into Port Argol, Hoedic (Spray is the 2nd mast from the left).
The theme of this week’s outing was seafood.  Like the local seagulls, Patrick has learned that the Hoedic fishermen come back into port around 2pm, and has taken to poking around their boats when they arrive to see if they will sell him anything directly.   

What's for dinner ?

Last week it was a dorade (sea beam) and this week it was torteau (rock crabs).   

Rock crabs and pliers.
The next day, we went oyster hunting on a rocky plateau on the southeast side of Hoedic.  “Wild” oysters are difficult to open but they are wonderful to eat, even for someone like me who isn’t generally crazy about raw oysters.  We didn’t have the proper seafood tools one generally uses for opening and eating crabs and oysters, but with all the fix-it jobs we do on the boat, we were by no means defenceless and simply pulled out the pliers and screwdrivers to get the job done.

A lot of work to open but worth it...
We headed home in between squalls, which seems to be our stable weather pattern for the fall.  They hit, last for about 15-20 minutes, and then the sky becomes lighter for an hour or so before the next one hits.   

Our typical fall weather pattern: squall, blue patch, squall, repeat.

We’ve taken to using the smaller headsails quite a bit and we installed a bungee cord system to keep them in order on the deck when furled.  Now if I could just figure out how to get them dry in between squalls before stowing them below…

Yankee bungeed to the lines.