Bienvenue aux Marins Francais!

Rob Temple
All the way from France!
All the way from France!

Breton couple sail from France to Senegal to Trinidad – to Ocracoke!

If you chanced to take a scud “down base” last weekend (that’s “drive down to the NPS docks” for those unfamiliar with Ocracoke), you saw a large gathering of glitzy pleasure craft, mostly sailboats and mostly from Fairfield Harbour near New Bern.  They come over at least a couple of times every year and really fill up the otherwise mostly empty marina.  All the boats sparkle with the newest high-tech toys from West Marine, and Sperry mocs, Columbia shirts, Ray Bans, and Tilley Hats are the uniform of the day.

When they finally cast off their color-coded double-braid dock lines on Sunday morning for the long voyage back across Pamlico Sound, a single vessel could be seen remaining at the dock: an unpretentious 28’ sloop – clearly not a club member.  Her decks were fairly covered with the organized clutter of ocean-going cruising gear: coils of line, buckets, a man-overboard marker and a wind vane self-steering system. From her starboard spreader flew the stars and stripes – the small courtesy ensign of a visiting foreign yacht. From her stern flew the tricolore – the national flag of France.

The vessel Ma Blig d’Ar Mor (Breton for “Sea Willing”) attracted the attention of Ralph and Vera Buxton on one of their morning strolls.  They recommended to Sundae that the Current should do a story so the following day, accompanied by my trusty side-kick Mariah, I went down and made the acquaintance of Michel and Annie Dourmap and arranged an interview.

They showed up for the interview with Michel pushing Annie in a wheelchair which I’d noticed on their deck previously – the result of an accident on an icy road 35 years ago when she was 28. Annie told me that, unlike the road, the sea had never betrayed her. They were on their way to buy fresh vegetables but turned down my offer of a golf cart, preferring the exercise.

The Dourmaps are both retired now, enjoying the freedom of cruising where the wind blows them with no particular itinerary.  Although their official hailing port is Nantes (the major city of Brittany), they’ve been living aboard and cruising for 30 years.  They home-schooled their son for several years while cruising the Mediterranean but when he turned 12, they moved to an apartment in Rennes until he was old enough to leave the nest.  They still keep the apartment and return there from time to time.  In 2000, they resumed cruising, first around the Med and then to the Canary Islands and down to Senegal. 

Michel and Annie
Michel and Annie

They cruised for miles up the Casamance River in Senegal where, for a time, they transported medicines and supplies to remote villages for Doctors Without Borders.  They were impressed with the simple lifestyle of the Senegalese in their wooden dug-outs.

Although Michel, a former deep-sea biologist, had done some trans-ocean yacht deliveries in the past, their trip across the Atlantic in 2009 was the first such adventure for Annie, a retired teacher of French as a second language.  They arrived in Trinidad on Christmas day, 2009 and island-hopped through the Caribbean, finally sailing from Cuba to Ft. Myers, FL.

They crossed Florida on the Okeechobee Waterway and followed the Atlantic Intracoastal  Waterway as far north as the St. Mary’s River at the Georgia/Florida border.  Having grown tired of the “ditch,” they went off shore from there but, after bashing into adverse winds for four days, they came back in at Beaufort Inlet.  They’ve actually been in N.C. waters for a while now, having spent a year in Oriental.

The general plan from here is to proceed south to the Bahamas for the winter.  “Yesterday,” Michel pointed out, “we saw some geese flying south and it suggested to us that it may be time to go!”

It wouldn’t surprise me at all if I run into them again soon.  Mariah and I are leaving next week to help Tony sail to the Bahamas on Papillon and he usually keeps up the pace of a guy who has someplace to be.


Comments powered by Disqus