If you are a faithful reader of my blog, you know that I am not in friendly terms with the sea. It is beautiful, so beautiful that it sometimes takes my breath away when I look at it from my home in Brittany. But I am never too keen on going boating even though Popeye owns an Atlantic liner, so to speak...
Last Friday and much to my surprise, I heard myself saying to my men: “Why don’t we go boating for a change?” and I even added: “Don’t you want to start wakeboarding again?”
Much to my surprise indeed... since the weather was rather bleak. But and there is a but... the sea was so glassy and calm that the Verdelet was reflected in the cove. Perfect weather for wakeboarding even if the skies were laden with dark and somehow ominous rain clouds. No wind though.
My men were absolutely stunned. Then they sighed and shrugged and answered with one voice: “Why not!”
It started raining as soon as we left Les Tertres. But the weather took a turn for the best while we were getting closer and closer to our port of registry... at least, it stopped raining.
But like I said, the sea was strangely empty. Deserted even. Quite strange on a summer day even a cloudy one.
Swee’Pea put his diving suit on. A diving suit? In August? For wakeboarding? Well, my friends, in Brittany, I have known people to don a diving suit for swimming... Some even call their diving suit their swimming suit! Not uncommon at our place!
He was fastening the rope onto the boat when he happened to glance round about. Definitely rainy clouds coming up towards us. But once you are wearing a diving suit and you are riding the wake (and getting wet anyway), what’s the problem anyway.
So he put on his wakeboard and went for a dip... Come what may. He was wet and riding the wake when the first drops of rain started to fall. One ride. Two rides.
I was standing inside and rather sheltered from the rain...
Within a few minutes, Swee’Pea was braving a downpour.
Wakeboarding is very intense. It requires speed and speed means wind and wind means that raindrops turn into darts, sort of.
I realized that he was doing his best to protect his face. No luck...
He called it quits and came back on board and before we even had time to secure his board, we run into a squall.
Those of you who are used to sail in Brittany know that the weather there can be quite unpredictable. But this squall was unbelievably sudden and brutal.
High winds and rough seas in a few seconds. We felt safe because we have a steady boat and we were not very far from the harbor. But getting back there was a little bit tense mainly because of the blasts of wind and the sheet of rain...
Popeye was busy checking the moorings while Swee’Pea and I were tidying up the wakeboarding stuff. Our Channel 16 VHF was still on and we heard a mayday call to the Semaphore in Saint-Cast.
Someone was calling the coastguards because they were having a huge problem with two persons on board. The answer was really puzzling. “Please call us from your cellphone. Quit using Channel 16. Call us from your cellphone.” Very puzzling indeed.
Usually, the coastguards call immediately for help from any boat that may be around. And people keep on sending out messages until help is on the way. We had understood from their first communication that the mayday message had been sent from a boat filled with skin divers not very far from Cap Fréhel, quite close to our wakeboarding spot.
Channel 16 went dead. It was very distressing actually. The wind was howling in the riggings of the sailboats and torrents of rain were beating down on the quay where we were safely moored. But... But... somewhere, not very far from us, people were in danger.
And then sirens wailing above us. Police cars and firefighters were already rushing to the marina. Quite a few actually. Not good. Not good at all.
There wasn’t much else to do but to leave our boat, get into our car and drive away. Lots of police cars and fire brigades trucks and ambulances were waiting at the main pier.
We did not talk much about it. Terrible things happen all the time and we are not the kind of people who love to slow down whenever an accident happens in order to watch the scene.
I do not wish to dwell upon what happened that day. All I know is that it did strengthen my feelings that the sea is treacherous. Gorgeous and bewitching indeed. And terribly unsafe and dangerous without any warning. At any time. Even for very experienced sailors and seamen.
Vincent Van Gogh supposedly said: “The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.”
Fishermen’s livelihood depends on the sea. Landlubbers like us should remain ashore more often...
*Good Luck, and Good Night*