Having said goodbye to Lee and Clive in Brest, we spent the first two and a half weeks of our trip as a community of two. We had read about the relationships developed and maintained whilst out cruising (1) but hadn’t imagined quite how quickly we would find out.
Shortly after meeting in Viana do Castelo, consolidated over drinks in Porto, we very quickly became a community of seven, even a family. (Although if any of you call me and Stefan Mum and Dad once more it’ll be early to bed without supper for you!)
Thankfully for us, and our very typically British laziness for languages, they all speak perfect English. This was good news for the conversations that cemented our friendship because my German stretches to telling anyone who will listen that I am 12 years old and have a guinea pig. The added bonus too being that thanks to his Portuguese heritage Michael became our official interpreter (amongst other unmentionable job titles!) Our collective Portuguese stretched to a hello, please, thank you and a few numbers with pronunciation Michael tried so hard to improve!
Perhaps too soon we had talked politics, religion, sex. We did not shy away from sharing the stereotypes of each others nationalities. There were many jokes about sunburn and beer and beach towels and sandals and socks. And it took no time at all for us to ignore Basil Fawlty’s warning not to mention the war.
And so “the Germans” became the (slightly inaccurate) collective noun for the crews of SV Faith and SV Sturmswalbe (who because of that British laziness for pronunciation known to us as Stormschnitzel!)
Ursula – the Crazy German Lady with the Big Knife and giver of our new favourite phrase, “We’re pretty fine”.
Alex – action man and king of the shmoker, dodgy taste in shorts.
Michael – stray American and extremely tolerant butt of many of our jokes, rookie sailor.
Jan – proper sailor and installer of the tidiest onboard wiring, the quiet one until you add a horn and a fishing festival.
Jule – cake baker and queen of German directness (“Jan! Bett!” she commanded one night when she decided it was bedtime).
Mostly our time with the Germans was spent just hanging out
on the beanbag (which Michael named Clifford after the Big Red Dog, a cultural reference lost on us Europeans),
exploring places together,
and messing about in tenders.
They taught us some useful, if over lengthy, words in German and some not so useful words which should not really be used over the VHF radio! In return we introduced them to Luther, harissa and the lesser spotted onboard washing machine.
And then after a couple of months in and out of each others cockpits the time came to continue our journeys in different directions but we hope one day to see them ping up again on the AIS or come hull-knocking because we miss our great Anglo-German alliance.
(1) not the kind of cruising you are thinking about, Fen – the sailing kind