August 28, 2008
42º 41.9830N, 3º 04.1110E
Closing the Loop
By Lois Joy
We are one mile from the entrance to Canet Harbor, the place where it all began journal10.html. We cast off from the Catana dock on November 5, 2000 and sailed out into the cold and fearsome Med, turning to sail along the coast of France toward Spain, Gibraltar, Tangiers, and the Canaries. Back then, we had waited a few days for the weather in the Golfe de Leon (Gulf of Lion) to calm down, following in the wake of a Force 9 storm.
This morning, at 10:05, the turbulent Gulf is calm as can be, at Force 0. Although we would have liked to enjoy some sailing for our final passage from Corsica—especially for our crew, Monika and Norbert—we prefer this flat sea to the fierce winds for which this Gulf is known. We have sailed around the world for a total of 33,996 nautical miles! And now we are closing the loop.
Our crew snaps a photo of Gunter and me at the bow with the town of Canet Plage in the background. Then I decide to present one more gift to Neptune, god of the sea. We have already donated champagne during our first crossing of the equator, as well as a slosh of dark & Stormy for the second crossing, when the seas were not as benign. What shall I give now? We don’t want to pop the champagne until we are tied up securely at the dock. As we well know, “it isn’t over till it’s over.”
Vin rouge! That would be appropriate here. Not only is this Languedoc-Roussillon area we are entering famous for its red wines, but I had actually formed the Vin Rouge Net when our group of yachts crossed the Atlantic in December of 2000. Gunter uncorks a bottle and I begin to pour a just a little into the sea. Actually, it is too much, since I have to repeat the ceremony twice more for the photos.
The coast of Canet Plage is shining in the morning sun, beckoning us. I’d forgotten how cute we found that town and harbor. Monika and Norbert fasten the dock lines on the cleats and put the fenders in place. We motor slowly through the small harbor, past the fuel dock, to the Catana area at the end. Pascal circles Bliss with his dinghy. “Congratulations!” he yells. He remembers us from eight years ago. We follow him to a side-tie at a mole that has rubber strips instead of those ugly black barrel fenders that leave marks all over ours.
This will be temporary, for the week-end. On Monday, we will be moved over to the Catana dock from where we sailed off. (Pascal is now a partner in BMS, Boat Management Services, and will be working through our TO DO lists: one cosmetic, the other functional. Messing with Boats is not over yet!)
Pascal jumps from his dinghy to the mole to catch our dock lines. Then we invite him on board to share our champagne. “To the circumnavigators,” is the brief toast. We reminisce about the frenzied rush to build Catana 431s and meet schedules in time for the 2000 ARC and the Atlantic Crossing to St. Lucia. The skippers assigned for sea trials ended up managing the tail end of the production process instead. Pascal was a skipper for some other yachts; Pierre had been our skipper. “It was a busy time, a crazy time back then. I remember it well,” says Pascal. He explains all the changes Catana has gone through, recently acquired by yet another company, although the brand remains strong. “The 431s and 471s were the best cruising yachts, and also the safest for crossing oceans, but they were eventually phased out,” he says. Only sixty Catana 431s have been built. The new management is focused on building larger boats.
After Pascal leaves and the adrenalin fades, we realize that we haven’t had lunch and are dead tired. As usual, we have slept little during the final night of our passage from Corsica. The freighters criss-crossing the Gulf of Lion from Toulouse to Barcelona had taken all of our concentration. In the morning, the anticipation of arrival had kept us awake. It takes the afternoon for us to recuperate. Pascal arranges for a rental car, and in the evening, we drive into Canet for dinner. We recognize some of the same restaurants where we’d eaten before. It is still August, vacation time for the French. The beach front stretches for miles, packed with happy families; the old merry-go-round spins amid shouts of gleeful children; temporary playhouses puff and squash under hundreds of bare feet. Moules, 9 euros. The restaurant with the checked red tablecloths and bright yellow napkins beckons. The mussels arrive in a huge sauce pan, accompanied by a bowl for the shells. We are happy to be back in Canet. It feels like coming home! We have come full circle.