Day -8 and 9 2-May-2017
Cherbourg is a large town built around its Harbor. Children learn to sail at a very young age as part of their school curriculum and they are out there almost every day regardless of weather conditions. As sound carries so well over water and the wind has typically been blowing inland, we enjoy hearing their continuous laughter and chatter. Some of these young sailors will ensure France continues to dominate in international sailing competitions.
Mayday is a holiday in France and it rained all day. This afforded us some much needed down time. I weaved pot holders from George’s old socks, an invention of Marilla’s with a few additional tips from Nancy. George read some of the many boat manuals. It was delightful.
The following day it is back to business. George has been communicating all morning with Jean, an ALLURES workman who has come to fix the leak in the keel trunk and investigate what looks like a leak in the cabin top over the head (turned out to be condensation). Jean does not speak a word of English, and George does not speak a word of French. George appears to anticipate Jean’s needs (ie, a wrench, a hose, et al.,) and with a bit of charade- like gestures “Voila” there are nods of heads.
Communicating does not always go so smoothly. A few days later we set out to buy a 40cm X 55cm piece of plywood to build a mount for the dinghy outboard motor. In a store that is a bit of a cross between a IKEA and a Home Depot we could only find plywood marked “Non-structural”. I asked in my best French (a combination of words I know and words in english with my best French accent), “Je regard non-structural plywood. Avez-vous structural plywood?” Puzzled look. My statement, I later discovered, translates to “I look non-structural plywood. Have you got structural plywood?” George goes over to the sign that says Non-structural and puts his hand over the Non. A look of enlightenment comes over the employee and he runs off.
Quite some time later he returns with another employee who speaks English very well and we let him know what we are looking for. In the interim, we had found a small cut piece of plywood that was big enough and I show him a written notation of 40cm X 55cm. He understands our request, but his expertise is in the gardening section of the store and responds that he does not know enough about building materials to advise us. We are almost ready to give up and I see that about 20 feet to the right of the many stacks of non-structural plywood, a stack of (you have probably guessed) structural plywood. The first employee then guides us through the store to an area where the 40cm X 55cm piece can be cut.
The piece we need and the remaining scrap and large piece of plywood are loaded back on the cart and we prepare to leave. I get the bright idea to ask that the store keep the larger piece of plywood and explain in my Franglais that we are living on a boat. That we will pay for the entire piece of plywood, but could the store please keep the large piece. This third employee pulls up the Google translator on his phone and with several rounds of back and forth communication, he understands we only need the small cut piece. He takes a few minutes calculating and then give us a bill for 2 Euros (just over 2 US dollars). We surmise that we had thoroughly confused the man by simultaneously saying we will pay for the whole board, we can only take the small piece, can the store keep the large piece….. It took about two hours to purchase the plywood. Everyone was so helpful and patient.
When George started to plan the installment he discovered the outboard engine is too large to fit in the locker. Can’t wait to see how long it takes when we go to return the piece of plywood.