The French Diaries!

The French Diaries: Part 24 “New Crew for SV Papageno!”

Exciting things are happening- including welcoming our newest crew member to Papageno!

I twist and turn in my seat, the stagnant plane air working its way in and out of my lungs as I try and find a vision of peace in my mind. It’s been 27 hours of flying and my eyes snap open as soon as the pilot tells us we’re about to start our descent into Marseille.

Fast forward another hour and I’m running in and out of baggage claim, hair freshly brushed and shirt changed. I’ve always been ok with looking like a mess in front of Edouard, but after spending nearly a month apart with London and Australia, I’m wanting this moment to be special.

Like it always is.

I walk out into arrivals, my eyes searching frantically for any sight of him. I turn around and can’t see him.

He couldn’t be late… He’s never late…


My eyes snap into the direction of the voice and my face breaks out into a grin.

He’s standing there waiting for me, a bouquet of red roses in his hand. Suddenly I’m transported to the time I walked out into arrivals in Paris airport, seeing him standing there with flowers picked from his grandmother’s garden.

I run up to him and throw myself into his arms, crying immediately as I breathe in his familiar scent.

“Oh God, I missed you so much!”

And suddenly I was whole again.

It’s been a long road since we decided to get this boat together and since he’s been away working with helping the village in Nepal, and I’ve been spending time with family in Australia, we’ve been craving being together again to make a real start.

I sit in his car, the countryside of Marseille streaming past with the windows open, my hair tearing out behind me as the ocean breeze pours into my lungs.

Spring has arrived in the South of France, casting everything in a golden sunny glow. The land seems precious, painted in hues of yellows, greens, blue skies with silver buildings glinting beneath the sun’s rays.

We drive through the Old Port, the boats gently dipping up and down in the water, their masts slicing the perfect cerulean skyline. And there above on the hill, we can see The Good Mother, La Bonne Mere, the church that overlooks the city and protects it. We live just at the base of this church and I feel a sense of joy explode in seeing her again.

For now, I am exactly where I’m supposed to be.

The days pass and we start making plans for Papageno. There was a lot I didn’t realise we had to do. Registration of our boat under England and de-registration of her from Canada. Quotes from insurance companies, as apparently we need insurance to even have her on the hard. Filling out paperwork, trying to formulate a plan of how quickly we can repair her with the shipyard fees being $70 a day. On top of that, we’re looking at the different places we can take her afterwards. Is it a priority to take her to a place we can source parts cheaply to repair her and risk the weather? Or to a place with a good reputation of being safe from hurricanes?

On top of that, we’re figuring out how we can get rid of all of our furniture in Marseille, pack up the car (which needs some repairs) head back to the north of France, taking five days in the process to do so. We want to stop by the lakes and the mountains to say goodbye to some of Edouard’s friends, and then after celebrating the wedding of his cousin in April, we’ll be heading to Britain to do the same.

There are so many things happening, and maybe now is the right time to release another little bit of news.

Our new crew member!

During a visit back to England over Christmas, Edouard and I had officially made the decision that we were going to get a boat together.

Of course, I drunkenly rounded up my friends in England and told them the news over a bottle of rum, soon heading to the pub. It was in this pub that I saw my friend, Laura.

I used to work with Laura a few years ago in a bar in Nuneaton. We were at a strange point in our lives at the time, discontent and not knowing which direction we were supposed to go. I was about to journey to New Zealand, and she was going to go travelling around Asia. We were excited, but a bit lost.

We had kept in touch over the years that stretched out between us and she had even asked me if there had been room for her on Delos, which unfortunately at the time there hadn’t been.

But now?

Now I was getting a boat.

Of course I was going to ask her.

“Do you want to come?”

I think everyone was a little bit shocked when I said what I was going to do. When I spoke of this goal, this aspiration- this dream.

When I spoke about making it a reality.

“Of course I do!” she replied, grinning.

But I could see the same look in her eyes that I knew that was in my own. A hesitation. A fear that all of this was smoke billowing out of my mouth. That it wasn’t going to take shape into anything real, anything touchable.

That maybe I was just dreaming.

“I’m going to make this happen,” I told her solidly, my teeth clicking with every word, my spine cracking as I sat up straight in my chair.

“I hope you do,” she said, her brown eyes flashing beneath the red light of the outside courtyard’s heaters. “Because it would be amazing! You know I’m in, Liz.”

I knew there and then that I couldn’t just be someone that spoke about these things. Someone who claimed they were going to do something and let it fall away like dust. I didn’t want to be full of empty promises.

I wanted to make it real.

And Neptune help me, I was going to do it.


I kept Laura updated with our progress, about what we were doing, about the money I had saved and what boats we were looking at along our journey.

“We’re nearly there,” I told her enthusiastically when I was back in France. She had returned to Asia to teach on a small island. “We’ve nearly reached our target. We’ve even seen a boat we like- I’m going to get a small loan to help us out!”

But I never did get that loan. And the three boats that I sent her I never visited. The plan of leaving from France never happened and then second plan of leaving from Spain never occurred and the third plan of leaving from Britain disintegrated as well.

Until it came to the Caribbean.

I knew I shouldn’t have messaged her before I bought the boat. I should have waited. Been patient. Stable, telling her when it was a done deal.

But I couldn’t help it.

“I’ve found a boat!” I said about three or four times.

Until, I actually found one.

“She’s in the Caribbean!”

I would message Laura about every two weeks asking if she was still up for the adventure, nervously waiting for her to cancel.

“Of course, I am!”

It made me happy to think that I would be taking a friend along for the ride. Especially someone from my hometown. She’s an incredibly patient individual, relaxed, always up for a laugh (or a rum) and full of goodness. (Did I mention she’s also annoyingly beautiful?) You feel happy being around Laura- I think that is the main reason why I believe having her on Papageno fits. I want Papageno to be a positive environment, happy and focused on the good things. And not only that- I want to share this adventure.

And then came the day when I had made something solid out of smoke. I had turned the dream into a reality.

“WE GOT THE BOAT!” I messaged Laura. “Still want to come??”

So far, Edouard is outnumbered, two English to one French. I think he’s coming to terms that he will be living with two Nuneaton girls on the boat, and I’ve assured him he can pick the fourth crew member.

“Does she speak French?” he asked hopefully.

“I don’t think so…”

“Oh no!” he wailed.

And so, here we are. Three people so far in the crew of Papageno. I hope you will all love Laura as much as I do!


Want to help the adventure? You can help towards our boat repair fund for new masts and rigging by donating here! 

You can also help us in this dream by signing up as a Patron. By doing so even for a dollar is a HUGE help. You also get to read early blog entries, extras and videos! Interested? Sign Me Up!

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You can also help another way by buying one of my books or visiting my shop of tees or my NEW section of limited edition art prints and original paintings. I hope you like! Much love!

Thank you as always! Lizbef x


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