Thursday 31st May, 2001
Calcane, France
Writer : James Frankham

The Hondas fired up with enthusiasm as the sun squinted over the horizon. Rubbing the sleep from our eyes we passed camera gear from hand to hand into the tender. Lines were cast off and Michael squeezed the throttles forward and STARTENDER reared up, then flattened out on a fast plane casting water aside with hasty indignation.

Weaving through the chicane of cray pots on buoys we hammered through the commotion of waves where the wind meets a quick running tide. Standing waves crest sharply and throw salty water into our eyes. Wake-up is complete.

We could smell it before we could see it. White shapes danced in circles high above Ile Rouzic, an expanse of guano beneath trembled with many more birds, like a pungent cake of indescribable inedibility. The tide was low and we approached with caution, aware that the submarine topography was a minefield of granite spires, perfectly capable of punching a clean hole through the hull. Photography required us close so we navigated by looking for disturbances on the surface that would give away the dangers beneath.


Ile Rouzic Gannet colony.

Thousands of Gannets babbled on the colony above us like gossiping horse-race goers with a great deal to say. Gliding in enormous circuitous flight paths they criss-cross the sky beneath the vapour trials of Europe’s continental morning commuters. They swoop low from a hundred metres up with black primary feathers stretched; flare, stall and drop into the smallest space, receiving pecks all round should they ‘trespass’ on another’s patch of yellow poo. Wing flapping, squawks and pecks ensue until it becomes obvious that the newcomer will not take flight without a battle. Peace is made and all seem to agree to laugh about the situation in the future; “Remember that day Pierre dropped in? I could have killed him for landing on my foot like that”.

Gannets are beautiful in flight. 1.72 metres (5 feet) of wingspan lift them high above the sea, barely beating their wings at all, preferring to glide on up-draughts from cliffs or cruise over the waves using ground-effect. They are gregarious acrobats, wheeling and diving from tremendous heights to pluck fish far beneath the glossy surface.


Gannet on the wing.

This afternoon STARSHIP pitched and yawed in waters of a breezy English Channel making passage to Calcane, not far from Mont St Michel. A swell lobs around the corner and we roll at anchor, my swivel chair coasting back and forth between the keyboard and the bed. Every now and again I synchronise to type a word or so in a frenzyt o misplacezd taps ,myscreen aligfht with red speling underglines :)

The crew work to deploy a stern anchor at 90 to our main anchor, directing STARSHIP into the swell and minimising the disabling roll. We sit a little more easily but it will still be a rollercoaster night. Have a go at home; balance on an upturned bucket in the middle of your bath for 3 years! After many months living aboard a ship the movement becomes soporific, even necessary. In three weeks the land will seem decidedly sedentary.

Gunnel to gunnel northern France,

James

 

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