“I wonder whether that boat sees us” Mark remarked when we were sailing along St. Barth’s west coast nearing the capital Gustavia. A small boat under full sails was heading our way. As a matter of fact, he was on a collision course pointing straight at us and coming closer by the second. Irie was (also) under sail and on a starboard tack, which meant we had right of way. But, he was flying a French flag. And as far as stereotypes go, some of them are pretty close to the truth when it comes to the French. They don’t like to speak English, they anchor right on top of you when there is plenty of space in the bay and they don’t seem to follow (or know) “the rules”…

“I can’t believe this. He is not making any moves to avoid us!” Mark started considering the options. We had been fine and peacefully on course with nicely trimmed sails for 11 hours!Frantically, I reeled the fishing line in. Even if the boat cut behind us, he would snatch our line and our last lure would be forever lost. Mark fell off and got out of the way. The Frenchman must have seen us, because he sat on the high side of his boat. When he came within a few yards, just missing our stern and waving with a big smile on his face, Mark yelled at him, in English. He basically explained how we had to change course for him, that we were on a starboard tack and he was on a port tack, that this was inconsiderate of him as a sailor. The guy did not quite understand what was going on, didn’t feel any guilt and did not speak any English. Until… he caught the word “idiot” coming out of Mark’s mouth. Now, that he did understand (the French word is pretty much the same) and he yelled: “I’m coming back for you!”

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  • Liesbet Collaert

    Liesbet Collaert, a former school teacher from Belgium, has been an avid traveler since she was a teenager. Growing older only …

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