This is a line of articles discussing a sailing trip from Lisbon in Portugal to Arrecife on Lanzarote. Six new yachts manufactured by Dufour of France had to be delivered to LAVA CHARTER, a charter-company with German roots operating from Arrecife. This fleet of six brand new Grandlarge sailing yachts ranging from 38 to 51 feet has been sailed by dedicated skippers well known to the company who recruited their respective crews amongst friends and committed sailors. I was offered the chance to be part of one of this crews, manning a Dufour Grandlarge 460, the SY MOJITO.
As I roam the jetties of Porto Santo Marina, the way I always do it, I am looking for interesting sailboats. That´s a thing I like most about being tied up somewhere: Which other people did make it to here? What boat are they sailing on? And which stories are behind their respective journeys? And this is exactly how I discovered an aluminium alloy yacht I found particularly interesting – I heard somebody roaming about inside from her cabin, so I knocked at the hull. “Bonjour Monsieur”, I said, as a very friendly weird looking young guy was sticking his head out of the entryway: “Ca va?”, he replied and invited me to come inside.
Meet the Marc´s CMPF Trisbal 36
Interesting sailing yachts are attracting me like light does attract moths. Though it´s not the shiny new polished hulls which draw me in, it can also be a special form, an unusual rig or – like in this case – the flag. It was the Tricolore, the French flag flying at one of the back stays of this yacht. I came closer and noticed her hull made of aluminium.
It´s a French boat made in the Seventies, like my own one, built by a yard called CMPF. This yard does not exist anymore but their sailing yachts do have a respected name and image in France still today. The very yacht I was boarding – her name washed away from her transom – was a Trisbal. Some 11 meters long overall which makes her a 36 feet yacht.
I instantly noticed her sturdy strong construction: This was definitely not a boat made for a leisurely cruise but for a crew going to the high seas and seeking the thrill of a fast ride. The Trisbal 36 has a width of 3.72 meters which makes her considerably sleek in relation to modern cruising yachts. A badge right at the entryway down to the cabin stated that she was built in 1979, the year of my birth.
Although her hull did feature some visible bumps I was surprised by the relatively fine appearance of the boat. All colours shined in the sun of Porto Santo, her rig seemed all right and so I did not hesitate to follow her master´s invitation to come down into the saloon to take a look onto her interiors.
Where Chaos meets … well … Chaos
Let´s call him Marc, as I unfortunately do not remember his real name. Marc was very open and seemed to enjoy my interest in his boat. His friendliness was true and he seemed to have no problem in showing the very private interior of the boat in which he was living for the past years, as I learned: “I am going around, you know”, he told me: “Sometimes here, sometimes there. I´ve been in the Mediterranean, to the Azores, Canary Islands and even the Caribbean … it´s dangerous there. Now I am here for some months.”
„Where do you go next? And when?”, I ask as I enter the narrow cockpit. He points to some machinery parts scattered on the starboard locker: “Don´t know yet. See here? I am doing repairs of the … the … thing …”, he said and goes down the steps into the boat. The parts are a little bit rusty, must belong to the engine. Nobody knows for sure, neither him I suppose. So I follow him.
The Trisbal 36 does have a large saloon with the main bulkhead being the collision-bulkhead at the same time. There is no real for cabin (in this particular boat) bit a large fore berth for two persons. A remainder of a double seater settee on the port side vis-à-vis the housing for the lifting keel that could be turned into a dining table. The starboard side is the galley.
“This is it …”, Marc says and laughs. I hesitate: “Is it okay for you to take pictures?”, I ask. Maybe does not like me to picture this kind of messy place. “Yeah, sure! If you like”, he replies and begins to show me around. I instantly notice this weird smell of the boat. It´s unlike any other ship I ever visited before. A strong stench, a mixture of oily, greasy odours from the machines, the smell of various odds and ends of meals (in various stages of decompostation), coffee, tee, sweat and cold fumes of the filterless dark cigarettes Marc uses to smoke to their dozens per day. Wow. Just wow.
Marc is a lone sailor. There are no other persons except him on the boat, above all no woman. The state of the interior, the all apparent chaos implied his singlehanded attitude. All and everything aboard was subordinated to his and his alone demands – even the grade of tidiness. He makes himself comfortable at the chart table, as the seat was seemingly the one and only part of the whole boat not messed up by some form of things.
He begins to talk while he is powering up his computer laptop: “I´m showing you what I do …”, Marc says and clicks wildly to open some data. “Is this a lifting keel boat?”, I ask, pointing to the large housing. “Yes it is.” Marc raises his hand and shows me three fingers: “I have three of them. One is the large, another one, a small one, in the cockpit and of course the rudder blade. I can remove all of them to fall dry”., he tells me, further fumbling with his laptop. “take a look at this …”, he finally says after I´ve taken some pictures, pointing onto the screen.
The chart table is a complete mess, thus fitting perfectly to the overall impression. But in this chaos there seems to have been applied a certain kind of harmony. Two lighters, a lot of papers, prints and business-cards and medicine seem to form piles. Only a small area for the computer mouse device is free of stuff. As I take a quick look around where to put my can of cold beer brought with me roaming the jetty, I apologize: “Sorry, Marc, I should have brought a beer for you as well …”
“No, no, that´s okay …”, he says, opening up his mouth and sticking a finger into it: “I just removed an old tooth from my throat and now it´s … bleeding and hurting.” He points a finger to the roofing of his boat and smiles: “Took it out with a halyard. I take medicine to cure it. No alcohol.”, he smiles again and as I nod appreciative looking at all the prescription pills scattered on the chart table he begins to search for cigarette papers and fine cut to prepare himself a rolling tobacco.
Somewhere between Moitessier and Crowhurst
I look at the laptop screen. Marc starts a YouTube Video. Colourful spots appear on the screen, a non-descript staccato of tunes sets in. The dots begin to move, to multiply. They´re changing colors in an ever increasing rate. Explosions of dots, the sound get even weirder up to a point where … Marc points to the screen, his eyes wide open: “Now … look!”, his mouth open, he holds his breath and as the dots begin to form a pattern, aligning to the soundbites forming a rhythm he whispers: “C´est Mathematique … c´est Mathemagique.”
He gets excited evermore. The somewhat fascinating, somewhat disturbing video clip seems to trigger him, move him. He stops the film and rewinds the player to get over a certain timecode over and over again. Smiling, laughing: “Don´t you see it?”, he asks me, smiling in happiness. I am raising my shoulders, apologizing: “I´m sorry, but math isn´t my favourite …” “You see”, he says, “Math is in everything, it´s the ultimate truth. That´s something I am seeking, that´s something that moves me a lot.” I look at Marc and ask: “So you are a philosopher? A sailing philosopher? Like Moitessier perhaps?” He is flattered and waves his head: “No, no. Moitessier … is … a different dimension.” Well, I am not so sure about that.
As he is telling me a lot about his drive towards mathematics, I take a deeper look into the cupboards. A yellow model boat draws my attention. “Can I take a look at it?”, I ask. “Sure!”, he jumps to his feet and reaches out for the model: “That´s a Polynesian outrigger boat, you like it?” Yes, I do. It´s a nice gift. He tells me that he makes those models by himself. I look at Marc: “You did carve it from wood by yourself?” Sure, he says: Evermore, he did paint it as well and made a complete rig for the boat that he lost over the years. I am astonished.
“You see, everywhere I go, I do a model from local boats”, Marc explains, pointing to another model: “That´s the SPRAY of Joshua Slocum.” I love this boat as I love the book, a standard reading for all seafarers. “I carved it according to the original building plans.” Marc astonishes me: A weird mix of a wild, lone sailor, loosing himself in complex visualizations of mathematic problems making excellent handcrafted stuff … what else is there to this unique personality that can be uncovered here? I decide to dive deeper. There´s a globe hanging from the ceiling: “This is how I generally navigate. That´s much better than paper charts”, he says. Okay. Fine, I think. And ask: “Why did you carve out this area?” There´s a part of the Malacca Strait removed. His answer: No-go area. Also because of crime: “It´s dangerous there. Pirates. Crime.” And as he turns away he mumbles: “Pirates are the guardians of paradise.”
What can a man take?
“You live aboard this ship?”, a totally unnecessary question: “Don´t you have family waiting for you?” He nods his head and smiles: “Family? No. What for?” He seems to notice my lack of understanding expressed in my face: “There are some seven billion people on earth. Why should I add one?” Simple logic. Mathemagique. So that Trisbal 36 is his home. His flat. Moving around on this planet. “I have everything I need here …”, Marc says and spreading his arms. That´s his kingdom.
The aft cabins are full of stuff. Matrasses, clothing, spare parts and sails. Bare mats, no linen, no nice stuff. “Look!”, he says and reaches behind a cupboard, switching on a strip of LED-lights, illuminating all of the shelves. He smiles. I nod. “Nice!”. “Ah, and notice this …”, he says, squeezing himself through between me and the lifting keel-housing, tripping another fuse. The galley lightens up. “LED as well!” Ah, right.
“What´s about the engine?”, I ask and point toward the big blue machine. He tells me that this was the second engine as the original one with just 25 hp didn´t do the job sufficiently. “So I took it out. Now I have more than 30 horsepower and that´s good. But I took off the covering plates to have better cooling.” That´s Marc as he lives: Anyone of us would happily add more dampening stuff to suffocate any of the Diesel-noise, Marc removes everything to get better cooling …
“By the way …”, Marc says and squeezes himself through the narrow boat another time, stand in front of the galley and points down to a bucket, enclosed by a blue lid. “This is the head. Here I take my dumps.”, he says and smiles. Ah. Good to know. I change topics: “Is this a fast sailing boat?” He raises eyebrows: “Oh, sure! My best was 12 knot over ground. She is a fast and sturdy boat, singlehanded no problem. It can go in storms, very seaworthy indeed!”
Fleeing from or returning to civilisation?
Marc is a complete riddle to me. As he lights up his cigarette, I ask: “You cannot have a beer because of your tooth and all the pills … but you smoke a filterless?” He smiles and with a wink of an eye he points to the healthy side of his face: “I inhale through this side, no problem.” Marc did sail as far as to the Pacific Ocean, French Polynesia and the whole Caribbean. “Why are you sailing?”, I ask. He looks at me and doesn´t know what to answer in the first place, just as if I´d asked why somebody would live in a house. Then he tells me a riddle: “I search for the one.” “The one?”, does he mean god?
“No, the one.” I do not understand. As for explanation, he grabs a used cup of coffee, the last fresh brewing literally days old, and holds it up for a moment: “What is one? A cipher? A thing to physically grab? Or a thought, no one can grab?” Looking at me, then smiling: “You see, the one is unexplainable. It´s math. It´s science. But it´s more.” I want to tell something clever, philosophical, the best thing jumping to my mind is this: “We are all dust of stars …”, but he is vigorously shaking his head: “No, no. We are made of four elements: Water, fire, air and … and … see: Go to the beach, feel it …”, he points of the harbour walls where the long beach is adjacent: “The beach is fire and water and air. Just like us.” I am puzzled. “I am writing a book”, Marc says and wipes away some of the prescription pills cartons: A pile of some 3.000 sheets of paper is visible, each one densely written on. “Oh wow, a script. What is it about?”, I ask. “About everything.”, Marc answers: “But it´s not for publication.” Still puzzled, I am nodding. Of course, it´s not for publication. We leave the boat.
As we reappear back on deck, I take a deep breath of fresh air. My clothes steam from cigarette fumes, the oxygen of the atmosphere a mere shock for my lungs. “See the watertight hatch?”, he says and draws my attention to the large glass door. He moves it, as it does, it makes a heavy sound on the aluminium: “I made it by myself. When a wave poops the boat, the cockpit will be full of water. I mean really full. You need a strong hatch!” Unimaginable, this guy sailing through storms.
I thank him for letting me take a look onto and into his Trisbal 36. Moreover, I thank him to let me get a first hand look into the mind of a lone sailor. I seem to have been getting closer to understand the ingenious/crazy minds of people like Donald Crowhurst or Moitessier a little bit better. We wave Goodbye long after I go back to the jetty of my own boat, thinking of this man. Crazy mathmatician, philosopher, sailor, lonely, open minded guy. What a diverse character, what an exciting mixture of things. As I see him sitting around in the bar some days later, he waves and smiles. On the screen of his laptop a complex drawing, the headline stating: “Quantum Optics”.
All previous and the upcoming articles on this sailing trip from Lisbon to Lanzarote can be browsed by clicking on this hashtag #dufourcanaries
Special Thanks to LAVA CHARTER for the chance to sail on one of their boats. For information and offers on charter trips on the Canaries on these Dufour Yachts please visit www.lavacharter.com A unique and special discount for my readers of 1.5% on all LAVA CHARTER bookings may be acquired by stating web code NOFRILLSSAILING along with your booking.