Off to the Chamber of Commerce Club we went, where a fine dinner was being prepared.
We went upstairs to the bar where we were greeted by our Host, Dr Jean Plancke, Honorary Life Vice President of the Little Ship Club and Co-HMFWIC of the Calais Rally.
I noticed the little red rosette that Jean wore on his suit, Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor. I immediately knew this to be a very important person, and I was happy to extend respect to this War Hero and grateful to have an opportunity to share a drink with this man.
The call to seats was made and we looked for our names at a table. Norman came over and asked us to have our seats and pointed to the head table, where our boat name was prominently marked next to Doctor Jean Planck.
What an honor. I was humbled that we had sailed over and were invited to sit with Jean and his lovely bride.
My Mom was glowing with pride and she too, knew that this was incredible and we were going to be in for a dinner of a lifetime!
As we took our seats, wine was poured for us and I took a small sip and immediately, Jean called sharply for the waiter and gave a wave. The wines were snatched back and the funny thing was my Mom; She was about to take a sip and the glass was yanked out of her hand as it was half way to her mouth!
Jean spoke quickly, asking the waiters to bring wines that were to his liking.
Oh yes, this was turning out to be interesting!
We chatted about boating, and I was sure to ask Jean about his relationship with the Little Ship Club.
Jean and Norman were known as the "Calais Twins", they share a birth day from 1920, and I think that the two have been friends since the War.
Jean was in the Resistance, and I think Norman was involved in that, too. Norman's Regiment, "Queen Victoria's Rifles"
World War II
In World War II after initial deployment to France as part of the BEF, the regiment lost two battalions at the Defence of Calais (2nd Bn KRRC and 1st Bn the Queen Victoria's Rifles(TA)) where a Green Jacket Brigade held up the German advance to enable the evacuation of the allied armies at Dunkirk. Redeployed to northern Africa the unit began to see success, continuing with actions in Italy, Austria, Germany and in the Battle of Greece and Crete (where its 9th Battalion, The Rangers (TA), served with 1st Armoured Brigade Group). The 1st Battalion served in the 4th Armoured Brigade that failed to link up with the 1st Parachute Division at the Battle of Arnhem. Post war the unit was deployed in Germany.
The Queen Victoria Rifles had defended Calais during the German Blitz.
No wonder Norman and Jean were such friends.
And I was dining with these folks.
I am not worthy. That's what was running through my head.
Did I not say that the trip was going to be great???
More side notes: What I was about to learn of that days events was when I had raised our "Battle Flag" earlier that day, no one had seen that there was an American boat in the harbor. There was no flag showing our representation up by the Yacht Club. Apparently, someone reported our flag being sighted and Jean Plancke had gone NUTS because he felt we had been slighted and proper hospitality had not been shown to the American Guests! Sort of a a French "faux pas" (How often does a person get to use Faux Pas in a French situation?) which he felt was a tremendous insult to us (Wildebeest III) and the American Allies in general. So the call was made to find an American Flag, tout suite, and get it up the flagpole out front.
This is no exaggeration.
We had a wonderful dinner with White wines for starters, Red for the Beouf, and finally Port and Champagne for dessert.
Speeches were made in French and English, Norman gave a short speech welcoming all and closed with this hilarious joke; An English person having breakfast is always happy with the menu because "one egg is always an oeuf".
Dr Jean made a speech also, and then I was called on to thank everyone for our wonderful dinner and to thank our hosts for having us.
Then the dinner was over and post dinner drinks and short speeches were made with each table giving a speech where they would insult other tables by "damning with faint praise". I suppose this is a European version of playing the "dozens". We were thoroughly entertained and the evening was fabulous.
2200 came and it was time to shut down the hall and let the staff go home. We shook a hundred hands and left to HMS Puncher for nightcaps. Our party had grown from the crew of the Wildebeest III, to now include Don UFO (Roger) and also the Paul of Ferris (He was the gent who helped us race in the Frostbite Rally).
We arrived at Puncher about seven minutes later, but noticed that the vessel was silent. Having a nice buzz, I asked the quarterdeck OOD to send for the Captain, who from last night was my "Buddy".
The Captain came up and invited us into the wardroom for a quick glass of wine and beer. He explained that he wasn't feeling too sociable due to one of his Officers having caused a severe discipline issue the night before. I won't mention what it was, but it was worse than you might think and it meant the end of an Officer's Career.
It was a real buzzkill and I was shocked.
We were invited back next year and we took our leave and went to the boats.
Was the party over?
Oh no, it wasn't.
We got back to Wildebeest, Mom went to bed. So Roger, Rich, Spousal Unit and me went over to Don UFO, where there was allegedly some potent potables available for drinking.
We climbed onboard a darkened sailboat and loudly crashed into the cabin where we found the "Pigeon Sisters" in their bunks wearing footy pajamas and night caps!
They began to rebuke us loudly like scalded cats and demanded we leave this boat immediately because they were trying to sleep!
The Pigeon sisters were not at the dinner.
This struck me as hilarious, so I sat down on one of their bunks and began drinking another beer asking them how their night had been and why don't you join us for some cocktails?
The Pigeon Sister who's bunk I had sat on shook like a terrier passing a peach pit. She was mad.
Roger thought that his guests were not appreciating the fact that it was eleven thirty on a Saturday night, a time for all good sailors to be out of their bunks and indeed, they should be partying with other sailors!
We made quite merry at the expense of these prudish dolls, (Especially at the footy pajamas) but after about ten minutes, we decided to leave them and return to the Wildebeest, where I knew for a fact there was champagne and Rum.
About this time, while sitting in the spacious cockpit, other boats took notice of the Americans.
Tom Davey came over from Gallivant, (We were tied to Gallivant) asking (slurred) for whisky and for us to play some of that Jimmy Buffett music.
Then people came from other boats and we had a literal Parrot Head party in Calais France. People thirty yards away called for us to quiet down but Wildebeest, Gallivant and Don UFO were not to subside. There was singing and a dancin' on the three boats. I think there had to be about twenty people in our cockpits and alcohol was flowing and never seemed to run out.
Remember the Scottish Lass from the Queenborough trip? She wound up on our boat by mistake, looking to join the party, she didn't notice who the hosts were! We howled with laughter when she recognized that she had wandered back in our cockpit and tried to get away from us when I said "hello"!
The next thing I remember, I was describing my total dissatisfaction with my Vodaphone Cell phone, and when pressed why I kept the phone I answered, "You're right!"
I threw the phone into the harbor!
Oh, that ended the party. Especially when someone mentioned to the Spousal Unit of my deed, and she came over to me and asked if I had actually thrown a hundred seventy five dollar phone into the water.
Oh well, it was indeed late. Maybe about eight o'clock in the morning, everyone went home to bed.
About ten thirty, someone came to the boat asking if we were going to go to the meeting at the Yacht Club?
No way. I was into the worst hangover of my life, I was going to just lay in state and hope to just die. The Spousal Unit trudged up there like a soldier, and it was a good thing.
Towards the end of the meeting they called for the "Americans, where are the Americans?"
She , dressed in ballcap and dark rayban sunglasses went up front and received an award of a Normandy Flag and a tea tray.
Awards had been given for smallest boat traveling the greatest distance, Yacht Club with most attendees, etc. We got an award for being the "American boat."
Did I mention the hangover? It was so bad I am still feeling it, twelve years later!
We left the Wildebeest in company with Don UFO looking for the famous Moules and Frites (Mussels and French Fries), you can get a bucket full of both for about three bucks.
I almost puked. Both of us were feeling rough, my Mom (feeling really chipper) said, "That's what you get for staying up too late".
We got back to the Wildebeest about four o'clock and slumped into the cockpit. Tom Davey and John Stoneham took pity on us and tried to get us up by giving us "Medicinal Madera" and homemade "Meade" .
Tom happened to make Meade from his beehives, and fashioned this ancient drink from the Bee Excrement.
So did the Madera.
We finally felt more human by about eight o'clock, so we celebrated this by going to bed.
Not Gallivant. Tom and his crew went out partying.
There was still one more day before having to return, they were going out in style.
The Return home from Calais.