Baby Noah Arrives in Berlin!

How cool - we have a first grandkid!

Baby Noah - born in Berlin. 
13 December 2016.

Iris is Italian. 
My son Mikey was born in Switzerland.
(I was working in Geneva then-)

But he's American, too.
And German. 

Noah will probably be German since HIS Dad and Granddad are also German.
But maybe he'll be American, too.

And with an Italian mother, he'll probably like pasta, so - 

I guess he's an International Edition.

Of course, that means Stan and I have to do a little celebrating here in France. 

We were able to find a bit of wine.
And a place to enjoy it.

Cheers, Noah!

Guess we need to see him in person.
So we're off to Berlin next week.

We'll leave the ol' boat Maggie May to fend for herself over Christmas. 

I think she'll manage.

Welcome to the World, Noah!

South of France: Languedoc: Winter and Wines

Enough boat for a while!

While the work continues at the shipyard, Chantier Allemand,
we leave the coast of the Mediterranean -

- leaving the welder and the painter and the electrician and all those big shipyard machines -
- to somehow manage without us -

Collecting shells on a beach picnic.

and head off on a Small French Road Trip.

Off to explore the Languedoc's prime attractions.
The Pont du Gard. The Tarn Gorges. Stone villages.

We have them all to ourselves in warm December sunshine.

Were we talking about wine?
Did you know the Languedoc is the single biggest wine-producing region in the WORLD?

It grows more than a third of France's total wine!
2800 different wine producers.
2 BILLION bottles a year!

I took part in the grape harvest here in the Corbières in 1974. (!) 

There were a lot of vineyards even then, but the quality has improved immeasurably. 
It's becoming my favorite wine region. 

The "terroir" here contains lots of fossils - and shells. 

Even up on the hills, shells everywhere.

Of course, I said that about Burgundy and Bordeaux, too.

But what blew us away this week was the VARIETY of the landscape.

In just this one little region.
From snowy mountain passes -

- to desert valleys that looked JUST like New Mexico.

 Stone filled medieval towns with crooked cobblestoned alleyways -

- to Roman bridges and Cathar castles. 

Strikingly beautiful.

Pont du Gard - absolutely incredible old Roman aqueduct.

Just to give you a sense of the scale!

It's VERY popular in summer. 
Camping cars and tourist-filled cafés.

In December: 
We have the pleasure of being the ONLY people in many of the most striking sights.

And for once in France:
We even have the roads to ourselves.

Did you know they have pink flamingos here?

We stay in ridiculously gorgeous hotels and renovated palaces.

Again, we're often the only guests, so we have time to chat with the owners.
Discuss their towns and their lives with them.  

Stan investigates delicious breakfast offerings in Pézenas.

This town, St.Guilhem-le-Desert, gets 2 million visitors in July and August. 

And of course - every town has its market. 
Every vendor a specialist.

Temperatures changed from freezing - to 18° C - high 60's - on the same road.

A great way to spend the weekend - while everyone else was out Christmas shopping. 

Roadside picnic. With a small glass of Languedoc rosé.

We Are now French Canal BOAT Owners!

Celebratory picnic on the beach after sale docs are received.

Survey - completed.
Engine oil - analyzed.
Painter - hired.
Funds transfer - initiated.
Documents - sent.
Insurance - quoted.
Bilge - emptied.
Visa - investigated.
Anodes - chosen.
Mooring space - secured.
WiFi on board - researched and found.

Bill of Sale - signed.

The mouth of the Hérault River, flowing into the Mediterranean.

Everything depends on something else.

We can't get a WiFi contract without a bank account.
We can't get a bank account without an address.
We can't get an address (at the mooring) without an insurance certificate.
We can't get the insurance certificate without owning the boat.
We can't own the boat until the documents are signed.

The current owner has signed the documents, but:
The current owner is in the Canary Islands, and doesn't trust the mail.
He finds a friend who is traveling to the UK.
He'll take the documents along with him to mail to France from the UK.

We can't sign the documents until we have the results of the survey and engine oil analysis.
The painter can't start until we own the boat.
We're running out of time before Christmas to have the repair work done on the boat.

And yet - step by step - everything begins to fall into place, like dominos - in a good way.

We now OWN Maggie May.

23 TONS of Durham steel. 
Well designed.
3 cabins. 3 heads. 
Galley and living area.

Pre- paint job. And: It's larger than it looks! And higher!

No, we still don't have a long-term visa to stay in France. 
We still don't understand everything about the boat. 
Maybe - 50%. But: We're learning. We ask questions. 
We read about the differences between magnesium, aluminum and zinc anodes. 
(Surprisingly critical!) 

Magnesium it is! 6 x 1.5 kg.

We read about macerators and generators and battery isolation switches and decide whether to use bituminous or vinyl paint, or whether a corrosive undercoat or an anti-fouling topcoat is necessary.

The painter starts sanding the boat - the minute the contract is signed.

We read inland waterways regulations. Mooring contracts.

Books on wine and cheese (ok, that's probably not technically necessary, but - they were on the boat already, ok? And: There's a LOT to learn on those fronts, too. This IS France, after all.)

Bottom line:
As of this weekend, we own Maggie May.
We have a "home on the river" in France, so to speak.
And we're learning how to take care of her.

Stan follows the surveyor down into the "engine room".

And - although it sounds like it went so smoothly and quickly (and - comparatively speaking, it did-) - it's been a heck of a learning curve. There were times when we felt totally afloat (pardon the pun-). We really only had a vague idea of how much we didn't understand. 
We didn't even know what questions to ask.

It's getting better.
And now: Time to celebrate. 
I'm sure we can find a bottle of French wine here somewhere...

At the Shipyard in France

We really have NO idea what we're doing.

We're kind of living on the boat. IN the shipyard. 
Up a TALL ladder.
While they're working on the boat. 
Until they open the canals again after the New Year. 

It's very weird, (and a very long drop to the ground-) but - I'm getting used to it.

The view is great.

In spite of the sailing lessons, and the boats we've chartered:
We really don't know much about boats.
 And nothing about buying and registering a live aboard boat in France.

It's not something you learn from books. 
Or blogs. 
You really have to spend LOTS of time - hours and hours, days and weeks and months - and slowly, it all becomes normal. -I guess.

We brought the boat down from the Canal du Midi to the shipyard by the Mediterranean, just before the locks close for the winter. No other boats moving.

The famous "Round Lock". Boats go through here. This is the last one before the Mediterranean.

We're learning about the systems: 
The 12-volt low voltage systems, bilge pumps, generators, corrosion, and macerators. We find that half the systems are located under the floorboards, others under the beds, some by removing the steps.
Everything - basically - is a mystery.
There are switches and cables and tubes and wires and ropes and tanks and engines and breakers and buckets and LOTS of old rags.

And remind me how that inverter works?

Stan and the surveyor from Marseilles, under the boat.

Spent a day with the surveyor, who tests the hull and the systems. He was excellent - as a former shipyard owner in Marseilles himself, he gave us a load of advice and information (which I wrote down) as he explained things patiently to us.

We really weren't clear even on simple things like 12 volt vs. shore power. There are propane tanks and a generator and a huge engine and various sets of batteries and switches. So many "Aha" moments - so THAT'S what this hole is for, so that's how that crank works, and that system and those pumps-! 

And the toilets and showers - remind me - where do they drain?

It was a GREAT lesson.  Totally worthwhile!
And: He thinks the boat is in good shape. Solid.

So: In this whole process, there are definite moments of: WHAT are we THINKING?

The guy in blue, Henri, brought up the boat single-handedly. Drove that thing right across the road, too.

There are other moments, where, sitting on the aft deck in the shipyard, up some 18-20 feet in the air, drinking a glass of wine and watching the seagulls chase each other.

 - I'm glad we took the leap.

It doesn't look like it, but Stan is WAY above the water here! I can't believe they let us wander around unsupervised up here.

As the sun goes down over the Herault River and the Mediterranean - it seems like - even though we don't always feel comfortable with the whole process, it's working out. And: even if we left tomorrow, and never went a step further - it's already been a Magnificent Adventure! 

We Found a Boat! Maggie May.

We found a canal boat to live on in France.

Down in the Midi, almost at the Mediterranean.

There are palm trees and the air is clear and clean. 
It's windy, and chilly - but oh so beautiful.

After all - it's still November.

THIS boat fits all the criteria.

It's spacious and is built well.
We both like it. No question.

And Stan can even stand up - even inside it!

Plenty of space inside. 
And a great aft deck outside.

The previous owners had to return to England suddenly, and it hasn't been cleaned up. 

3 cabins, 3 heads. (That's toilets, for you non-nautical types.)

Galley (kitchen) and living room in one open area. -I like that.

A space for a possible art studio. 

Not too tall, too long, too short, too wide. 
The proverbial Goldilocks boat.

It also needs a paint job. And some repairs.

And: wouldn't it be cool to have a wood stove installed?
And solar panels? (I don't even know the names for those in French!)

However: The French canals close for winter.

If we want her, we have to move her NOW - today (!)

To the shipyard to have the inspections and survey done.
Everything is moving fast.

So, like buying a house, we've agreed on a price. 

Now - all these steps and inspections. 
Documents and registrations and agreements.

Hoops to jump through. 

In French. 

But I have a feeling it'll all turn out okay.

Therefore, we've been having small "pique-niques" on the deck of the boat - even though we don't own it yet - complete with a little French wine - celebrating the potential success of the Boat Hunt!

Now: The survey. 
Hull testing. 
Engine oil analysis. 
Nautical testing. 

Figuring out all the stuff we don't know. 
(We don't know much, really-)

She (you have to call her "she"--) 
has to be pulled up out of the water and carefully inspected. 
And then the negotiations continue.

Then, she has to be painted and any repairs done.

And all this - in France.
 I even have to look up simple words like "starboard" and "port"! 

Sometimes, it feels a bit overwhelming. 
Sometimes it's just unbelievable. 

But: There's always a decent bottle of wine. Or two. 

Keep your fingers crossed that all goes well!