Art. 2 – Who is DreamChaser ?

(All the words followed by * are explained in the glossary at the end of this article)

DreamChaser : that’s my moniker on social networks. You’d probably tell me that I could have kept my real name, wouldn’t you ? Yes, but I wanted to keep some kind of privacy as well as find a name reflecting my current goal – pursuing my dreams – and that I could associate with my vessel’s name.

« Pursuing my dreams ? », What do I mean ?

Well, since I started working, the hectic pace of my professional life, and – of course – my personality, which tends to never put off till tomorrow what I can do today, prevented me from making time to take care of myself and practice my favorite sports : kitesurfing, surfing, diving. I was in a constant fight with myself to take some time off. And when I could, I would often finish my sports sessions with a bitter feeling of underachievement : months and years were passing by and I wasn’t getting better. I know I am certainly not a “natural” when it comes to water sports, but the more you practice, the better you get or, at least, you’re not getting worse !

The fast approach of my 40’s started to make me rethink things over. If I had to sum up my life, I would have said that on the professional side, I had succeeded, but on the personal side, it was a disaster. No serious relationship, a boyfriend making his way into my life while sailing on a round the world voyage, no kids, and friends whom I rarely saw because I valued more my job than good time with them… And working freelance meant being busy until late at night and most of the weekends.

Patrick, my then boyfriend, was my total opposite : he valued his private life over his professional one. He was constantly surrounded by friends, because as he told me one day, he was always willing to make time for them, and time was something he had. He spent hours kiting or surfing depending on the weather conditions. His entire life was about living his passions and being happy… Of course, not everything was idyllic in his life. Living like that also meant living out of society, with no health insurance nor regular income and accepting to be happy with very little. But he was content. If it had to eat white rice for a whole month because he was broke, that was fine for him. He only worked when he felt the need to or when necessity made law, and used his spare time for his own personal enjoyment.

Being close to such a different character was the wake-up call I needed to make a life change. Being in love with him helped quite a bit too… That is a feeling I have rarely experienced but when I do, I can move mountains. In this situation, he was there at the right time to help me overcome some hurdles : I was in love, I needed a life change, so I decided to drop everything and follow him on his boat.

But do not think he was the one pushing me to do so. Hell, no ! He is an independent guy, very kind but he doesn’t know what it feels like to be in love, at least not yet… As a result, he just avoided telling me no when I would tell him about my projects, without ever being a dynamic element of our relationship. Blinded by my feelings, I read his reactions as a form of approval (haaaa ! Love !!!). He didn’t have to push me forward, I moved by myself, I was running even !

I found a buyer for the clientele I have built over the past 5 years. It took me approximatively 6 months to gradually inform my clients, introduce them to my successor, in short, to organize the end of my professional life. It was a big deal for me ! Nobody quits overnight a comfortable income earned by the sweat of his brow without asking themselves a few questions. You oscillate between « I dot it ? », « I don’t do it ! », « Be strong, it gonna be great ! », « No, I will regret it… ». And then finally, you rush, trying not to think too much.
Here comes the end of my last fiscal season, March 31st, 2016… I have finished all the financial statements. The files have been passed on to my successor. Some are skeptical. Knowing me for quite a while, they could hardly imagine I could be able to live on such a small boat far from the crazy rhythm I was used to. And without no particular comfort. No fridge, no shower. 8,50 meters to share with another person and a lot of mess aboard : kitesurfing gear, surfboards, paddle-boards and even one kayak ! They are even betting on my early return in my job. « You will see, in 3 months, you will be bored and you will come back to us ! ». And here I am, listening to them, smiling. I am not thinking. I do not even know myself if I am going to like the boat life I am about to experience, living aboard Eureka, Patrick’s boat.

I eventually spent 5 months aboard. 5 months of contrasted feelings. Laughs, fantastic discoveries, great encounters, as well as tears, fears and boredom…

Boredom at the beginning, because going from a life at 100 kilometers per hour to traveling at a speed of 4 knots(*), which is approximately less than 8 kilometers per hour, is hard… Everything seems slow to me. I see Patrick constantly adjusting the sails, tinkering here and there and being new to this environment, I do not feel at ease. I can’t help him and truth be told, sometimes I don’t even feel interested. I eventually end up asking him if he can show me how to handle the boat hoping that one day, I will be able to handle her without any help. Kind and patient, he teaches me everything he knows. But I remember only a small part of what he is teaching me, everything is too new to me. Being on a sailboat is far from sailing an Optimist(*) like I did when I was a child. I have done a lot of work on my house, but the skills and knowledge I have acquired in the process don’h help much on a boat : I am utterly incompetent in electricity and mechanics, and seriously lack some self-confidence. I know I am not a self-taught person. It’s a fact : I learn and I have always learned from books. I was good at school, the perfect student. But in “real life” school, it’s a different story, I am a slow learner. Handling by myself his boat one day seems an inaccessible challenge to me even if Patrick has faith in my abilities…

Thanks to him, I meet, during our journey, dozens of sailors with various profiles. Most of them have already met along the way somewhere in the world… This guy was in Panama, that one in Venezuela and that guy, over there, was in Martinique. To my surprise, I realize the sailors world is very small. They share their anecdotes about the Panama Canal crossing, their encounter with the San Blas Indians, the crossing of the Equator during their Transpacific, their more or less successful experience with crew members… This one is French-American and comes straight from San Francisco with his small 8-meter boat with no engine. He has to tack in the passes(*) to get inside the atolls and that is not a small task !

These passes… I find them so impressive : imagine a current which goes faster than the maximum speed of your boat ! If you are in a pass when the current is not favorable, it’s sometimes impossible to go through. This unknown environment even feels threatening to me sometimes. My personality is missing a daredevil side I think… I recall experimenting aboard Eureka at least three scary moments related to passes.

First scary moment : a night crossing of North Fakarava(*) pass. Leaving by night the anchorage had already felt difficult for me. Me steering the boat while Patrick was lifting the anchor stucked under a rock 10 meters deeper (no windlass(*) so it was all by hand). Once free, I started panicking when we had to find our way between the boats anchored in the dark around us with no visual cues. Patrick had to take the steering over me because I did not want to take the risk to hit another boat I would have not seen. Already, the fear had gripped me. Then, we started crossing the pass in the complete darkness, Patrick still steering. The navigation software was showing that we were in the center of the pass but I was staring at the sounder(*) showing figures decreasing at a fast pace : 5 meters, 4 meters, 3 meters … I was petrified, clutched at the ship’s rail(*) and I was seriously thinking that the GPS(*) was talking rubbish and that we were about to be wrecked and maybe sink… In fact, it was undoubtedly a shoal of fish swimming under the hull and perturbing the sounder. But at that time, I didn’t think this type of things could happen and I felt quite powerless in this environment where I had little control and where I had to fully rely on Patrick. It was the complete opposite of my professional life where I was handling everything and where I was feeling like a fish in the water and needing no one’s assistance

Second scary moment : a crossing, in broad daylight, of South Fakarava pass. Patrick had sailed way too close to the surfing spot and its waves for my liking and, for a brief moment, I thought we would be run down and end up in the water, keel(*) in the air, pushed towards the reef. We had quite an argument : he couldn’t understand my stress being powerless in such a scary moment, and I couldn’t help being agressive to reliease both my adrenalin and my inability to make him understand how I felt.

Third scary moment : an anchorage right in the pass of Faaite(*), a pass well-known for its strong current, more powerful than in other atolls. Given the small size of Patrick’s sailboat, mooring(*) at the quay made for bigger boats was not an option, so we anchored to the only robust mooring located right in the pass. When it was time to go, Patrick thought it was a good idea to set free one of the two mooring lines without telling me. Unfortunately, as I reached the bow(*) to free us from the mooring, the wrong side of the boat nose began to be pushed by the strong current and the remaining rope, still tied to the deck(*), went under the hull making it tilting so far that I thought, for a second, that we were going to capsize. I do not remember how, but I luckily managed to set us free, allowing the boat to steady herself, pivot in the right direction and being guided by the water flow out of the pass.

Apart from those moments, I discover fantastic landscapes, I dive into wonderful places, I kitesurf in idyllic sites and I learn to spearfish my own fish which we often savour during improvised beach barbecues with all the other friends from the same mooring.

Five months go by. Two of Patrick’s Argentinian’s friends will soon come and join us abord. He will give them private kite lessons (he is a kite instructor). They’ve known each other for a long time and they join him on a regular basis wherever he is on the planet to kite on new unknown spots and benefit from his advice. Being afraid the boat will feel too crowded for me and speaking no Spanish (and they speak no French, nor English), I decide to take a few weeks of vacation in France.

I am leaving the Tuamotus aboard a sailboat named « Naoma ». She is a 38 foot and she belongs to a very nice couple, Ryan and Nicole. They are American. I met them briefly a few days before and they offered to take me back to Tahiti. I feel intimidated. It’s the first time I boat hitch-hike and I do not know them very much… Very quickly, I feel at ease. They are super cool ! I spent most of the time speaking with Ryan. A brilliant guy ! He encourages me and motivates me to follow my desires and my dreams. We speak about us, about our respective families. He speaks about his disease too. He suffers from an incurable illness, FSH, gradually reducing his muscle mass. And to show me how it affects his everyday life, he shows me a video in which he speaks about it : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ktBIBoowq8t. And he, a great athlete, instead of turning bitter or blaming the entire world, he lives by his motto : “feel the joy”. You can only feel good around him. He is interested in what I have to say, he is listening to my fears and my questions about my life and my relationship. And he is pushing me to follow my own dreams. Once I reach Tahiti, I take the plane for Paris totally boosted by our discussions !

(Side note : Ryan et Nicole have a Youtube channel named « Two Afloat ». Do no hesitate to subscribe, their videos are awesome. They have a great sense of humor !  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCs3WnQG-QeLq1ebfr0gBUhg. And if you want to help them in their adventures, their Patreon page is the following : https://www.patreon.com/twoafloat ! Do not hesitate, you won’t be disappointed !).</

I’m in such a good spirit, that I decide to subscribe to a training course to become an IKO(*) kitesurf instructor. My objective is, in the future, to help Patrick give kite lessons. I was already helping him from time to time but I wanted to be officially trained and certified. In October 2016, I officially become an IKO instructor. I am proud of myself and proud to complete my extra-professional panel skills (the previous year I was certified as a PADI diving instructor in November after 3 months fighting with myself to make time for practice every weekends). I tell myself that at almost 40 years old and for a girl who spent most of her life behind a computer screen, it’s not too bad. I like to think that I shatter the idea people have of an accountant.

With my 40’s approaching fast, I feel the need to clarify my relationship. I want to envision the future with Patrick but I have the feeling I’m the only one who wants to commit. He easily admits easily that I am always the one making the first step towards him when he is just doing his own thing. In short, I need to know if he really loves me or not… Although, when you ask this kind of question, it means you already have your answer… This is why I send him a lengthy email summarizing my feeling about the last two years together and begging him to be honest with me. In turn, he musters the courage to put words on what he really feels for me. The result of his introspection ? He likes me very much, I am a great girl but he is too selfish for … blablablablabla… in short, he says to me everything you would tell someone you do not want to hurt and which is, nevertheless, never pleasant to hear. Of course, I do not take it too well. And reading the answer on my birthday didn’t help. On the other hand, this day or another one, the result would have been the same. Now at least, I know where I stand…

From that point then I decide to make something of myself. Going back to French Polynesia is out of the question. I do not want to see my ex too quickly, I need time. Staying in France is out of the question as well. I have left the metropolis in 2004 and I couldn’t see myself settling back there. I had managed to do the most difficult part, namely to give everything up and I do not want to come back to my previous life too soon. It is so hard to leave everything that maybe I will not manage to do it another time. And at what age in that case ? …No ! Right now, I am 40 years old and fully grown… It is now or never !

I find myself thinking about these discussions with various sailors met around a campfire or on their boat. They have made me willing to see by myself the landscapes they told me about. And why not ? I create a profile on different websites connecting boat owners with people wanting to sail. My first project is to cross the Atlantic Ocean, no less. My uncle, who passed away at 48 years old, was a skipper in one of his lives (among others) and he had crossed it several times. I am curious to make the same crossing. And I almost hope I will meet, on the other side, people who have known him.

No proposal in the next couple of weeks. And then, one day, Philippe, the owner of a Sun Odyssey 479, contacts me. He is 70 years old, he doesn’t talk much but he seems nice on the phone. He has just bought a new boat and he wants to bring it back to Martinique where he lives. I jump on this occasion and buy a plane ticket for the Canary Islands where I join him and the other crew member, Antoine, 28 years old, an E.R. nurse. They have known each other for a few weeks only. They sailed from France with the boat. Here I am ! Completing this great team to cross the Atlantic Ocean. Nothing better to keep a good memory than do a video out of it, you can see the insights of this Transatlantic here : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AnSJBzcJE0M&t=52s

Once I arrived in Martinique, I hesitate to go on boat hitch-hiking to French Polynesia. But I also want to go there at my own pace, making stops in remote places to kite surf, surf or fish, just like I did with my ex in French Polynesia. This is how the crazy idea of buying a boat comes to me. I also really want to learn how to sail. Sailing as a crew member is ok but in fact, you always count on the captain to make all the decisions or to take matters in hand when problems arise. I want to see if I am able to gather all my my courage and operate my own boat. And I was told several times that as long as I do not own my sailing vessel, I would not go for it. Well, guess what ? I took on the challenge ! The first one of a long series !

THIS IS HOW DREAMCHASER WAS BORN !

You like my adventures ? Do not hesitate to subscribe to my Youtube channel : https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwU7L7ZnpuNSCDIAPr6wFIQ
You want to help me ? Contribute to my adventure through my Patreon page : https://www.patreon.com/dreamchaserandnautigirl and if you do not know what it is about, here are the explanations you need : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SmLBV3KiJe0
Want to follow me on Instagram ? Easy ! My profile is dreamchaser_and_nautigirl.
See you soon !

PS : This story is real but names in the article have been changed to protect anonymity except prior express permission.

GLOSSARY
Atoll : it’s ring-shaped coral reef. The sea it encloses is called a lagoon.
Bow : it’s the front of the boat’s hull.
Deck : it’s the surface, on the boat, on which we walk when we are outside.
Fakarava : it’s an atoll located in the Tuamotu Archipelago (French Polynesia).
Faaite : it’s an atoll located in the Tuamotu Archipelago, next to Fakarava (French Polynesia).
GPS (Global Positioning System) : it is a worldwide geolocalisation system allowing, thanks to satellites, to know very precisely where we are and to find the road between 2 points.
Guardrails : cables, usually made of steel, running all around the boat’s deck through the stanchions and being part of the rail.
Handrail : metallic structure at the front (and sometimes at the back) of the boat.
IKO : International KiteBoarding Organization.
Keel : kind of « ventral fin » you see under the boat’s hull used as a daggerboard. Weighted, it lowers the vessel’s centre of gravity, offering improved stability.
Knot : it’s a speed unit of measure. It represents one nautical mile per hour, which is 1.852 meters per hour or 0,5 meters per second.
Moor (to) : as it would be described in dictionary, it means tie a boat to a mooring.
Mooring : it’s an heavily weighted object, such as a big stone made of concrete for example, underwater and connected with a chain or a rope to a buoy allowing boats to moor here.
Mooring line : it’s a big « rope » used by boats to dock along a quay or along another boat or to tie to a mooring.
Optimist : it’s a very small boat with a sail, often called a soap box, perfect for a kid (up to 10 or 12 years old) to learn how to sail.
PADI : Professional Association of Diving Instructors.
Pass : it’s a corridor between two lands which connects the lagoon of an atoll with the ocean.
Rail : all the guardrails and handrails running all around the boat ensuring the safety of the persons aboard the vessel.
Rope : prohibited term in the maritime vocabulary, each « rope » having a specific name such as halyard, mainsheet for example.
Sounder : it’s a mesuring device which determines the depth.
Windlass : It is a hoist located at the front of the boat. The chain goes through it. It weighs the anchors. It can be manually or electrically operated.

Art. 1 – Who is Nautigirl ?

Nautigirl, it’s the name of my boat. But why did I choose this name? Well, it’s very simple: I just fell in love with it when I saw it printed on an old T-shirt, hanging among others of the same kind on the wall of a bar located in a remote spot in the Southern part of Fakarava island, in the Tuamotu Archipelago (French Polynesia). The friends I was sailing with and myself were dreaming of an ice cold beer, and our quest had led us to that place, the only one offering this type of service within several nautical miles. While savouring my Hinano, I was taking a closer look around more out of boredom than by real interest. This name printed on a grey T-shirt immediately caught my eye. I found it fitted well ! My mind started wandering and I imagined an all-female crew had donated this garment to the beach bar so it’s owners could add it to their collection of polos, T-shirts, caps with the name of various boats and flags from all around the whole world.

I like the double sense of that word « Nauti-girl » : first, a girl who sails (in latin, we have « nauta » meaning « sailor ») then, of course, « naughty girl ». I have to admit that I’m a little upset that the word has evolved to a «dirtier» meaning when it comes to girls, when it hasn’t changed a bit when it comes to guys : a naughty boy is just a bad boy, not a hot guy showing his ass and pecs to a bunch of hungry girls.

Anyway. I fell in love with this name which I found very original, and swore to myself at this very moment, that if one day I’d own a sailboat, I would name her Nautigirl… not knowing that I was going to buy one six months later…

And here I am, at the end of December 2016, a few days away from Christmas, driving to the Z’abricots marina near Fort-de-France, Martinique, where I will visit the only sailboat I could find that fits within my budget. I am with a friend I met in the Canary Islands just before my transatlantic crossing . He owns the same kind of sailboat, crossed the Atlantic ocean with it, and offered to help me check the state of my potential future acquisition. Unfortunately, we start arguing on the way and he asks to be left on the side fo the road halfway before the marina. I pull over and he climbs out, pretty upset. I drive away, feeling pretty irritated myself. I accelerate and soon his silhouette disappearing in my rear-view mirror.

The cause of the argument? Pretty simple: my appointment is scheduled at 3 pm with the seller and I – of course – have planned to be on time… unlike my adviser who has decided to party a little bit before, even if that means showing up late for the visit. He said we should stop at his friend’s house to drink a couple of beers and maybe have a BBQ, and go the appointement later on because « It’s Martinique, everybody is always late here… we call this the Martinique delay. » I replied that I really appreciated his offer to help me out, but that showing up 2 hours late was not an option for me: I didn’t want to upset the seller and more important, I didn’t want the boat to be sold to someone else before I even had a chance to look at it. So if he wanted to help me, he should totally commit to it, which implied respecting the schedule fixed by the seller. But I added that if he really wanted to stop at this friends, I could just drop him and go to the appointment on my own. My offer, as well as my attitude and tone of my voice, seemed pretty correct to me, but my friend looked more and more upset and finally said « Let me get out right here, right now! » I obeyed, still offering to drive him closer to his destination, but he refused.

Too bad for him, but now I have some extra time to get to the marina which could be useful since I’m still new to Fort-de-France and don’t know the neighboorhood very well. On the way I keep asking myself what I am going to do when I get to the marina and to the boat itself: I have no particular knowledge regarding boats, don’t really know what questions I should ask the owner, nor what I should check before making a decision. I have to admit that the idea of buying a boat came to me a little bit as a whim and I am not really prepared for this thing yet. My transatlantic crossing have gone so well that I just want to go on with that good feeling, only this time on my own boat, with all my belongings and « toys » (read: my kitesurfing and diving gear). I want to sail around the world and stop wherever I can practice my favorite sports, whenever I want. Pretty much what I did most of 2016, when sailing in French Polynesia with my ex boyfriend Patrick.

I am now on the freeway, still a few kilometers away from the marina, when the owner calls me: the couple who just visited the boat fell in love with her and decided to buy her. I hang up, disappointed, and start looking for the next exit. I’m on my way back home, stuck in the traffic when he calls me back: the lady had managed to convince her very enthusiastic husband that the boat was too small for them and they should better buy a bigger one, thus cancelling the sale. I can’t believe it: the boat is free and I am the next visit ! I do a another u-turn with some difficulties … they should definitely put up more road signs over here, trust me ! I eventually get the to marina, quickly park at the very end of the parking lot, close to the dock where I have to meet Frédéric, the current owner.

He opens the gate leading to dock n°6 where the sailboat is located. He walks me to an attractive monohull with a white dress, a sharp nose and a round hull. It is a 28 foot Sail 902, built in 1979. That makes her younger than me but not of many years and she shares the same year of birth with my younger brother, which, I say to myself, is certainly a good sign (when you have no technical knowledge, you tend to cling to whatever reassuring thought crosses your mind…… even if they are not very rational) ! She is beautiful and clean. I like the blue main sail cover and soft top. The paint of the hull, the one of the deck and the anti-skid seem recent. I see the structure of a windvane pilot at the back which already pleases me being used to sail almost exclusively with it while being on my ex’s boat. I go back inside. It looks relatively big to me for a boat of this size, 2m90. At the same time, my only reference is Patrick’s 28 ft sailboat which is much more narrow than this one with a 2m50 width if my memory is good… The side cubbyholes are empty just like the other storages of the boat, which of course reinforces the impression of space that I have (only will I realize it later on).

I timidly ask questions to Frédéric. « Can I can see the engine? » He removes the three steps allowing to get in the boat and hiding the main access to the engine. I ask him to start it. I listen, paying attention to the slightest suspect noise an amateur like me could hear. It seems to operate smoothly. Frédéric turns it off. He tells me that she is a good vessel he bought 6 months ago to learn to sail but now that he has to go back to France for work he is putting her back on the market. He praises her recent 5-year rigging, her complete set of sails (a new mainsail and the former one, two genoas – a heavy one and a light one -, a fore staysail and two storm jibs). I do not know how to use half of them but it doesn’t matter, I am going to learn ! As I try to measure up asking more questions, I realize I really like this boat. Shie is in a good state, she is in my budget and I haven’t found any other one which I could compare to her… even if I have to admit I haven’t looked much. Besides I want to complete this project of sailing to French Polynesia as soon as possible ! So I need a boat, I need to learn, train, get ready, sail to Panama and get to the Pacific Ocean quick ! I am afraid to wait before making a decision. What if the next buyer says yes right away ? I can already see him approaching the boat. What do I do ? Yes, no… yes… no… YEEESSSS ! « OK, I take her ! ».

From now on, Nautigirl is mine. Well, she is not Nautigirl yet. My sailboat is still named “Arwez”, a Breton name Frédéric gave her 6 months ago. He renamed her as well… but not really : he just changed a single letter, the former owner having named her “Arvez”… Aaahhhh, these Breton guys !!! The « v » was simply transformed in a « w ». I personally foound it very strange to have changed only one single letter without even modifying the pronunciation. In fact, the woman who took care of the customs formalities still remembered Frédéric’s visit. She had, too, been taken aback by his choice.

I quickly file all the paperwork. I still need a few more days to obtain a beautiful sticker with the right typography for her new name. I also choose a model of blue eye I stick on both sides of her nose. These two will be in charge of protecting the integrity of the hull and avoiding all floating obstacles we could meet while sailing. I spend a few more hours to unstick the 5 letters making the former name… Bits of plastic stuck with an ultra resistant adhesive ! And finally, I rename my sailing vessel and I give her her two new sight organs.

NAUTIGIRL IS BORN !

You like my adventures ? Do not hesitate to subscribe to my Youtube channel : https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwU7L7ZnpuNSCDIAPr6wFIQ
You want to help me ? Contribute to my adventure through my Patreon page : https://www.patreon.com/dreamchaserandnautigirl and if you do not know what it is about, here are the explanations you need : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SmLBV3KiJe0
Want to follow me on Instagram ? Easy ! My profile is dreamchaser_and_nautigirl.
See you soon !

PS : This story is real but names in the article have been changed to protect anonymity except prior express permission.