Friday, October 9, 2009

Brest: A City too far

So the next morning, we check in properly with the Brest Port Officials and get tokens for showers. They were like two bucks apiece!

Note: The French don't care for showers, but don't mind if you pay for them.

We purchased about 20 tokens, to be sure of not running out.We scampered over to the heads and happily stood for our five minute showers. We returned to the boat extra clean and happy to be in France.

Going ashore meant a trip to find the local stores and Boulangerie's. We hopped a bus to the town (Brest is actually quite small!) and took in the sights.

Returning to the Wildebeest, I performed a thorough inspection of the rigging and engine room. All through-hulls were opened and closed and filters cleaned. I noticed a small water leak coming out of the outside water pump. For the first time, I opened the pump and changed an impeller.

Water still leaked. Darn!

Opened it back up, looking if a gasket had become pinched. Nope, water leaking heavier now.

This was when our crewman, Chris N. showed up to the boat.

We welcomed him aboard, had lunch and some wine and beer to celebrate. Chris showing up meant we were that much closer to continuing the mission, heading to Spain.

Except the weather started closing in. The forecast was for winds to pick up to 40 knots for the next week. Some Autumnal low pressure systems were inbound, and our water pump was not right, so decisions had to be made.

1. My passport was expiring on 30 November. That was needing a replacement, and the nearest place to do this was Paris or London.

2. I was still on terminal leave from the Navy. Now, just to annoy me and get in my way, someone in the Personnel Department had ordained that I had to check back in on the 30th of September, only to finally check out on final terminal leave. One can't have more than 60 days of leave in one fell swoop, can they? Rectums.

So I decided to travel to Roscoff, hop a ferry to Plymouth and train to London, and knock it all out. Spousal Unit and Chris can remain on the boat and ready us for the next leg.

I took a train to Roscoff and taxied to the ferry. The ferry wasn't leaving until the next morning, so I had to stay in a hotel for the evening.

Next morning, underway, in first class. Ahh, this was the way to cross the channel!

Once in Plymouth, I walked to the train station, bought a funny looking paperback and settled in for the three hour ride to Waterloo.

On the back of the book;

What the publisher is saying ...
"Just when you thought the south Florida crime novel was played out and gasping for fresh air, along comes Tim Dorsey to give it a hot spike of pure adrenaline called Florida Roadkill. Think Hunter Thompson leaving Las Vegas and taking Fear and Loathing through the Everglades on the Tamiami Trail. Think Thomas Pynchon on a psychotic break. Think Elmore Leonard mainlining speedballs, or James W. Hall tripping on Ecstasy. Think Quentin Tarantino whispering in Carl Hiaasen’s ear, “You don’t go far enough -- out!” This is a wild-at-heart, pinball-machine of a novel, teeming with oddball kooks. crazies and maniacs as they careen through Florida on a kaleidoscopic crime-and-violent-mayhem spree, with stops in Tampa, Palm Beach, Cocoa Beach, Miami Beach, Key West and the Dry Tortugas. Ultra-sex, mondo-drugs, Satanic rock ’n’ roll. Lap-dancing coke whores, money-laundering life insurers, ruthless retirement-village scammers. Five million bucks in a suitcase dropped in the trunk of the wrong car, with a whole convoy of homicidal wackos in pursuit – and every damn one of them stops in Miami to take in the last game of the World Series. The dumb bad guy is hooked on cocaine and cartoons; the smart one is obsessed with Sunshine State lore; the babe is a walking wet dream who’s twice as deadly as the men. And get this: There are two good guys, and one of them is a lawyer. This is Florida in all its decadence, corruption, dysfunction, cupidity, stupidity and bizarro violence. But native Floridian Tim Dorsey still loves his home state – the pure Florida that hasn’t been completely paved over – and he eloquently communicates his abiding passion for its beauty and history. But mainly, Florida Roadkill is a hyperkinetic, ultraviolent, crazily lyrical and hysterically funny crime fiction with a post-modern spin. From murder by Levis 501s to the Running of the Hemingways in Key West, this novel is overdosed, overdriven and over-over-the-top.”

The cover:

I began reading this book on the train and feel bad for the surrounding passengers... I was in full stitches, trying vainly to repress giggles and guffaws. In no time I was in London and at the end of the book. "Florida Roadkill" became the cruise-crew required reading novel, and I heartily recommend it. Many of the jokes in transit came from this book, such as, "Beer Me". It's a real hoot, trust me!

Back to the mission: So I cabbed over to Oxford street, went to Drugstore that did instant passport photos. Five minutes later, pictures in hand I headed over to Grosvenor Square and to the Embassy.

I still had my "Striped Badge" which identified me as working for the Operations Directorate and identified me as being in special programs. I clipped my badge on and walked in the embassy, noticing a line that headed out the door which terminated at "Passport Services". This was my cue to ask a helpful person at a nearby desk, "I need to renew my passport, and I am from across the street..."

"Oh, yes. Come this way." Said the nice lady as she eyed my ID Badge.

I was led to the Passport Counter, where another nice Embassy employee opened a window for me.

"Here, fill in this form, hand me your passport and pictures".

Moving quickly, and feeling the heat from the glare of forty eyes on my neck, I filled out the info on the application and passed it over. There was a "thanks" sound followed by a wait over there instruction.

Five minutes of innocently looking around, and my name was called. My passport was warm and more importantly, good til 29 Sept of 2009!

My day was progressing my way, and it was only 2:00 PM!

Passed through the Marine Guards at the Headquarters, I walked up to the fifth floor for the final time. I turned in my leave papers and received my final papers. They told me that I could turn in my Green ID card when I got to Jacksonville, and replace it with a Blue one after my terminal leave was up on 30 October.

"Have a safe trip home!" Was the final words I heard from the nice Personnelman Third Class to me as an Active Duty Serviceman.

It was now 2:30 PM, civilian time. I walked down the stairs slowly, soaking in the final smells and sounds of a Naval Force Command that I had spent four years of my life as a part of, and now was just a stranger. My valuable Striped Badge which identified me as a person cleared to view vital Intelligence was turned in to a bored Marine Lance Corporal, who called the ID clerk over to dispose of it properly. I was signed out of the building for the final time.

Walked out the doors and caught a cab for the Little Ship Club.

I stayed with Simon and Wendy Phillips, great friends from the club. Wendy made a sack of sandwiches the next day for the train ride to Plymouth, which I consumed over the three hour trip.

Cheese and Onion sandwiches.
In the UK, they eat a great many foods that they consider "comfort foods". Like a yeast paste known as Marmite. Also known as "Bovril" and "Vegemite".

Some people adore the taste, some detest it. In fact, there are television commercials in the UK showing people trying to run away from a Supermarket Sample of the hideous product.

No, Wendy knew not to give me sandwiches of Marmite. She kindly made Cheese and Onion sandwiches. You shred cheddar cheese, the very sharp variety, not that yellow stuff you get in America. Mix with a healthy amount of chopped yellow onion and use mayonnaise as a binding agent, spread on on white bread and you have a lunchtime treat.

Never in my life had I eaten such a thing. "Onions, front and center. Attack the breath; GO!"

I was grateful to have something to eat. Oh, was it tough to endure. I think the first two sandwiches were ok, but the third and fourth were literally like the "Pork Chop Hill" of luncheon dining.

Thanks to Wendy that there were apples to dessert upon. It was a very kind thing for her to have made me a lunch to snack on while watching the rainy British Countryside whiz by.

Soon I was back on the ferry and back in the hotel at Roscoff. The next morning I was on a train to Brest and back on the Wildebeest III.

The weather was still bad, and we would not be able to depart until at least five days had passed. Plus the water pump was needing attention.

I pulled the pump off the engine, and Chris looked through the English to French phrase book for the term; "Le Pompe de Eau".

We hiked to the local Perkins shop to order the pump. The clerk pointed to the English word, "Tomorrow" and wrote out the Franc amount equivalent to $350.00.


We stopped by the wine shop and purchased ten bucks of pain killer, and slogged back to the 'Beest.

The next morning, the winds were still howling at about 35 knots, and rain clouds kept washing us down. We were enjoyng the second pot of coffee when a feeble sounding knock was heard on the coach roof.

"Hello?" "Hellooo!"

Spousal Unit opened the hatch and leaned out, "Yes? What can we do for you?"

An attractive, tired looking and wet young lady with a Dutch accent introduced her self as "Magritte", and said, "I knew you could speak english, because of the American flag, could you tell me where the showers are?"

I jumped in, "Where'd ya just come from, which one is your boat?"

She pointed to a little 25 foot aluminum boat and said she just got in from the Azores. "It's been a seven day passage..." And she started to cry.

Man, the Azores, in the weather we are enjoying?

She said she needed a shower desperately, and she hadn't eaten much in a week.

We gave her two shower tokens and told her the code and where to go. We also invited her to lunch when she was ready.

About an hour later, looking infinitely better, Magritte came back to the boat to tell us her tale.

Spousal Unit asked what she would like for lunch, we had three kinds of leftovers and a microwave.

"You have a microwave???"

Turns out that Magritte's boat had engine problems and the sails had been blown out. Because her boat was so light in weight, she had to strap her self in the cockpit while the boat was thrown around in the Biscay gale driven seas. When she could get below for a minute to find food, she would start her alcohol stove and set a can on the flame until the can exploded. Then she would scrape out what was left and eat.

I guess she had lost her can opener.

I would have used a knife (I showed her how to take a heavy knife to pop open a can) and ate the food cold. Europeans always seemed to think that canned food has to be cooked.

Remember that little nugget. Canned foods and cooking. You will hear of this problem again...

Anyway; the motor would run on Magritte's boat about five minutes, then shut down from overheating.

Sounds like an impeller problem to me! (This blog is all about meeee, Right?)

More importantly, she pulled her little boat on the outside of the dock, facing the bay and the increasing winds. We needed to get her inside the break water ASAP, and secure her boat before the coming storm beat her boat more.

Only problem was that it was only Chris and myself who could do this. The winds were increasing and consequently, so was the waves. We needed more manpower.

There was a large wooden sailboat, about two boats down.

It looked ominous and there was a crew of about six onboard. They looked like "skinheads", violent European youth who enjoyed fighting and drinking. The uniform of such youngsters is Levi jeans, Doc Marten Boots and shaved heads.

I nervously approached "Aida" and knocked. I asked if anyone spoke english? The skipper came up and answered that he did, what do I want?

The explanation of a young Dutch lady needing their assistance, and that we would give them a dinner of Chili and a Keglet of Heineken if they would kindly help pull the small boat about a hundred yards.

There was a moment as the skipper went below to consult with his friends. I wondered if I was crazy to ask.

About ten seconds went by when a rumbling came up from the inside of "Aida"! Six strong and tall Norse Vikings came on deck in a rush.

What, a Damsel in distress??? "We don't need beer and food, we do this for free!"

And with that they ran to the boat, practically picked it up (I'm exaggerating!) and dragged the ailing sailboat past the jetty and brought her around behind the Wildebeest.

We all exchanged names and made new friends. The offer for chili was still there and was they accepted and asked to host a celebration party on "Aida". Magritte offered to buy a case of beer, so the plans were set in motion; Dinner will be at Six PM on Aida.

Chili was made on Wildebeest in the homemade method we enjoyed. We chilled our keglet of beer and at the appointed time we made our way to "Aida".

We learned from Horvath and Per that the boat had been built by the six friends from Norway. The plan was to sail to Trinidad for Carnival, where they would bring their bongo drums to the shore and play.

Very gentle and very fun loving Vikings, were they. And hurt feelings they had, indeed, when I said that we were afraid of them before!

Magritte is in the background talking to Horvath. Dig that hanging table! Chris is the grey haired chap on the right.

More party shots:

We can put a hurtin' on some beer!

After chili and beer? Bongo's must be played!

The Spousal Unit's handwritten log of the party:

We ran out of beer and steam about eleven o'clock. Great new friends and great party.

Our pump came in the next day and was installed without problem. We loaded up with wine and food, filled up the tanks and were underway for LaCoruna three days later.


Buck said...

Darryl, you've had more fun in these last three posts than most people have in an entire lifetime. I suppose it's all relative... in that folks love to have adventures and party, no matter the time, place, or circumstance... but I'm sure you get my point.

And, ummm: "...good til 29 Sept of 2009!"

You're expired. :D

Barco Sin Vela II said...

Ahh, new Passport is in hand!

JihadGene said...

Beer Me!!!