Send to Kindle
Michael Hurley aboard Nevermore in Calais, France, May 2, 2016.

Michael Hurley aboard Nevermore in Calais, France, May 2, 2016.

The French have a wonderful way of saying goodbye that seems appropriate for the start of a sailing voyage. It’s not goodbye at all but rather, “until we meet again.”

I write these words late at night in a café in Calais whose lovely and charming wait staff have suffered gladly the use of their facilities and Internet connection long after my moules mariniere were a happy memory. (To be fair, all French girls seem lovely and charming to me.) The Nevermore lies contentedly in the well-protected Calais marina, where the showers are hot and the bathrooms cleaner than those in any home I have ever owned. The harbormaster, Etienne, made sure I was looked after and insisted there was no rush to leave. But leave I must, tomorrow morning, with the tide. The weather and the wind are too perfect not to go. Everything is ready, and so am I. Once again, I recite the words of the classic Richard Hovey poem, “The Sea Gipsy”:

I am fevered with the sunset,
I am fretful with the bay,
For the wander-thirst is on me
And my soul is in Cathay.

There’s a schooner in the offing,
With her topsails shot with fire,
And my heart has gone aboard her
For the Islands of Desire.

I must forth again tomorrow!
With the sunset I must be
Hull down on the trail of rapture
In the wonder of the sea.

The island of my desire is a tiny volcanic eruption named La Palma, in the Canary Islands, exactly 1660 nautical miles from the end of the pier at Calais. From that starting point, I will execute the first of three complicated navigational maneuvers to make my landfall: two lefts and a right.

So it is goodbye at last to Paris, and to Calais, and to France, the country where I have been a happy if accidental resident for more than a month, beginning with a well-intentioned trip to comply with the six-month limit on my British tourist visa, followed by an unintended extension of that trip when Britain decided they’d had just about enough of me and my filthy American money—or, as comedian Stuart Lee might have put it, “comin’ over here, buyin’ the boats we’re tryin’ to sell, puttin’ our trades people to work, not usin’ a penny of taxpayer money, and obeyin’ the law.”

But enough bitterness, even if it is good fun to tease our stoic British allies. Much is right with the world. I have at long last a good ship and “a star to steer her by.” I have kind friends, a loving family, a new novel in the offing, fresh air in my lungs, and a spring in my step. All this and “the wonder of the sea.” What more could any man want?