My love of huge yachts is second only to my love of trains. This is despite the fact that ninety-five percent of my sailing experience has (so far) taken place on a sailboat the size of a bathtub. When I was young, my sister and I sailed reconditioned wooden Sailfish around Bearcamp Pond in New Hampshire. Mine, with a black hull and red sail, was named the Red Baron; hers had a girly yellow name that I can’t recall. We also had a sailing dinghy named the White Whale. On vacations in my early teens I sailed for hours, lying on my back watching the sky until the appearance of pine tree tops alerted me that shore was near and I needed to tack back into the center of the pond. I dreamed I was cruising the South Seas in a majestic ketch, a gorgeous lover sunning herself on the teak deck in a blue bikini.
Darlene and I took an hour-long boat trip from Cannes to St. Tropez and back yesterday. She explored the shops and was delighted to find a raspberry tart she has been hunting ever since we arrived in France three months ago. She bought two of them, and we savored them last night in the kitchen back at the apartment. In St. Tropez, I settled into the Café de Paris, whose awning had little nozzles for spraying a fine water mist every 10 seconds, to cool off the patrons. I had a Coke and admired the yachts. A row of them was moored directly across the street from the café. They were from Bikini, Hamilton, and London with names like Cavu, Griff, and Sirahmy. But the one which evoked my adolescent longings was Bushido. It was a wooden ketch with a black hull (just like the Red Baron) and a length of, I’m guessing, 80 feet. Its home port was Georgetown, so it was flying the red Australian flag. I sat and watched Bushido as if enjoying a private session with the Mona Lisa. Last night I fell asleep dreaming I was at its helm, tacking toward Tahiti with a gorgeous woman tanning topside. I think her name was Fifi.
The other yacht which caught my eye was Volupté, home port St. Tropez. The word volupté has tasty meanings in French, including “plaisir sensual, intense et raffiné; vive jouissance, délectation,” which translate into English as sensual pleasure that is intense and refined, lively joy, and delight. Bushido, the name of the black ketch, is the code of the samurai warrior.
Sometimes it seems as if each day’s most alluring sights or impressions offer coded wisdom and guidance. If so, perhaps yesterday’s delights in St. Tropez were pointers toward the complementary values of refined sensual delight and fierce ethical discipline. It takes both to make a yacht truly grand. As we walk along the wharfs at St. Tropez and Cannes, we always come across somebody scraping and sanding a hull or a fitting, as well as the usual scenes of nattily attired guests clinking crystal with each other. Most probably they are not the same people, but the essence of the boats themselves comprises both–bushido and volupté.
Sitting here at the Deep Sun Café on Boulevard Carnot in Cannes, dabbling with lofty images and thoughts, has been a welcome respite from today’s more prosaic reality, the Battle of the Baggage. In three months we have accumulated, little by little, an impressive burden of guide books, French literature, CDs, shoes, and whatnots. The total clearly exceeds the British Airways luggage limits, so I found a shipping company which will air freight a suitcase back to Denver for us, leaving an almost manageable load to haul to the airport next week. Darlene is in Villefranche this morning shopping. My job will be to navigate a 50-kilo Big Bertha down four flights of stairs and then along Canne’s narrow sidewalks to the transit company in 90-degree heat before she returns.