#5 Summer reading. Around the world on a 6.50-meter boat. The departure/2

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Screenshot 2016-08-02 at 6:46:24 p.m.On Oct. 23, I note in the logbook the most important things to check, and among these are the status of the watermakers, the presence on board and proper stowage of clothing, all provisions, survival gear, the distress signal kit, nautical charts and computers the sextant and nautical ephemerides, the medicine kit, the Epirbs and GPS, satellite phones and their power cords, the repair kit complete with carbon fabric and epoxy, sails and respect ropes, gas canisters for preparing hot food and drinks, dry suits and cerate. Before launching, I painted the entire keel, rudders and part of the live work with a fluorescent orange antifouling to be more visible in case of capsizing and glued several reflective adhesive bands all over the hull.

Screenshot 2016-08-02 at 6:50:36 p.m.
At dawn on Oct. 26, 2009, the day chosen for departure, Port Olona is immersed in fog. I slept on the boat. I go out in the poz- zect and it’s all wet. A damp grayness envelops my Findomestic Bank. Time to slip on my shoes and here are Roberto and Paolo, two friends who arrived from Biella to assist my departure, coming to meet me on the pier. In the car they drive me to the residence where with my mother we all have a nice breakfast together, the last for me of this kind. Coffee, milk, fresh baguette, salted butter, fruit. I try to fixate on the flavor, greedily taste the “crackling” of the baguette under my teeth and the fragrance of the butter and its perfect marriage with the salt crystals. I shoulder the last bag to load into the boat and off we go to the harbor. From the ramp leading up to the main pier, the boat can barely be glimpsed, immersed as it is in the myriad drops of fog suspended over this antechamber of dark Atlantic, of Tenebrous Sea… A dozen people are already in front of the boat. Some I know, some I don’t. They are there because they heard the news on the radio or television the night before and want to attend my par- ticipation. I salute and thank them. I jump into the boat that hardly seems to notice my weight, loaded as it is. I disembark gear that I will not carry, hoist my flags, check the autopilot and the wheelhouse. Everything is in order. The looks of those present betray their emotions, reveal their thoughts. Someone takes pictures, others observe my latest movements.

My mother is in front of the boat, between them, I can feel her concern. I go inside the boat and to make people smile, I come out holding the two stuffed mascots on board in my hands. A penguin and a small cow, respectively re- galati by my mother and the children of the Ecole du Centre des Sables CM2. People smile, we exchange jokes. I return to the dock to receive ul- time directives from the jury boat. I am again explained how to cut the starting line, which will be materialized by an alignment created between the jury boat itself and the “Nouch Sud” buoy located just outside the channel that introduces Port Olona.

Next to me is Romain, with a dark cap on his head and a backpack on his shoulder. He hands me an A4 sheet binder where he has entered the weather forecast for the next 10 days. I keep it in the boat. Some faces do not hide concern. I go back among the attendees and take a joke, people smile. There is no wind, we wait. After about an hour, a dribble of wind comes up and we decide to go out of the harbor by speedboat to check the situation. It’s about 8 knots outside; I can leave.
Screenshot 2016-08-02 at 6:52:34 p.m.

All that remains is for me to finally communicate it, “C’est bon, j’y vais.” I enter the boat to put on a red oilskin pant, harness, and safety belt. I return to the pier for a final hug to those present. Hugging my mother, I tell her to take it easy, that I will be as careful as I can, that the boat is solid and will make it! These are tough times, you can feel the general emotion, the com- motion, but you have to go.
Time to cast off the moorings, to set sail!
The bowline doesn’t want to untie. I draw my dagger from the sheath on my right leg, like a razor frees the boat from its last restraint under a general “Oooohhh”.
Findomestic Bank is rotated with a bowline attached to the stern of a speedboat to be towed fuo- r from the channel. I raise my arms in the air, hands open to greet everyone, and jump into the boat. I reach the cockpit and take the helm. I wave, take pictures, go over in my head the maneuvers I will have to do once out of the harbor.
The boat parades as if on a catwalk in front of the captain’s station. Some people are outside, sa- luting me, reciprocating.
This is it, I’m out, the cold fog is biting, visibility is down to 30 meters, maybe less. Iso mainsail and jib. The bowline is let go. I lay a little to get the boat up to speed and then set the bow toward the starting line. Another 20 meters, 10, 5… set off!

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