September 10, 2008
Our Final Day Sail on Pacific Bliss
by Lois Joy
We are leading a caravan of six vehicles from St. Cyprien to Canet, stopping every so often to make sure the VW van loaded with the five Brist children is managing to make the turns. We let other cars—not part of our procession—pass. No, this is not a wedding or a funeral. But it is a major event. We are taking the grandchildren, nephews and nieces with us for our last day sail on Pacific Bliss. What a way to end our circumnavigation!
The day has dawned gray and now the air is thick with moisture. Not a wonderful day for sailing, but perhaps the weather will improve. We stop near the Catana factory in Canet Plage. The vehicles disgorge about thirty eager relatives, laden with lunches, suntan lotion and jackets—prepared for any eventuality. “I see Pacific Bliss!” one of the children yells out as they all run down the dock, light-footed and energetic. “Will we be able to handle them all?” I wonder.
“Everyone take off your shoes!” I command. They file onto the passerelle and make themselves comfortable on the boat. I count the life preservers, including the extras ones we’ve borrowed. “OK, 21 can come!” Some of the adults who had been sailing with us before, or who fear seasickness, stay behind and wave us off from the dock. Most of the kids make themselves comfortable on the net. We cast off the dock lines and are underway. We have invited Pierre, our “Catana Skipper” from our sea trial eight years ago, to skipper Pacific Bliss on this sentimental day sail. During that sea trial, we had also sailed to Collioure. So today’s sail is coming full circle (see photo of where we docked then).
With all these children on board, we are thankful that the fierce Gulf of Lion is calm as can be. We motor over glassy seas. Relieved of his Captain duties, Gunter wanders around Pacific Bliss, talking with family, explaining how things work, and eventually lying down in the master berth for a final snooze while underway. As the engines drone on, even the kids lose their energy, the adults begin to relax, and soon almost everyone begins to nod off. It is, after all, the day after The Big Bash.
Everyone becomes alert as we enter Collioure harbor. A ferry commands the area where Pacific Bliss landed many years ago. But there are moorings now. Gottfried uses the special boat hook designed by Pierre to grab a mooring. The bag lunches and soft drinks are passed around. What a wonderful view to enhance our picnic on board! The old castle walls are to one side and the old village walls on the other. In the center is the swimming beach. It is the first opportunity for many of the children to see a beach from a boat.
Collioure is an old Catalan fishing village that has become a tourist destination in its own right. Matisse "discovered" the town in 1905 and, attracted by the light, persuaded other painters to join him. "No sky in France is more blue than the one in Collioure..." he wrote. Today the sky is gray, but if one walks through the town on a sunny day, he or she will find that there really is something special about the light. Collioure has long attracted other artists including Dali, Picasso and Chagall as well as other painters, poets, writers and musicians.
Sitting in the cockpit, we are living in history and set our cameras down only to pick them up again. Our view includes Chateau Royal, built by the Knights Templar in the 13th century; the Eglise Notre-Dame-des-Anges (Church of Our Lady of the Angels), built in the 17th century; and the outer fortifications of the Old City, rebuilt again and again. The old stone lighthouse tower is especially striking against the blue of the sea.
After lunch some swim and others watch. When I’m not taking photos, I’m handing out towels. Everyone seems happy and content. On our way back, the kids play games. The wind does not come up until we approach Canet harbor again, so we never raise the sails. All in all, it is a fine day sail with those we love. As Pacific Bliss approaches the dock and I throw out the lines for the last time, it all hits me. I will not be doing this again. I brush away a tear and then search the boat for any belongings the group may have left behind.