My sailing career. Sailing with French friends from La Rochelle.

The big question was whether or not it would be considered murder.  And if it was considered murder, would the murder be justifiable ?  Would the woman die anyway, how long would it take or would some annoying person go and rescue her ?  These are very important questions you need to ask yourself when you are sailing.

My sailing career began on a Friday morning in La Rochelle several years ago.  Our GP had invited us for five days on his boat, a 35′ 8-berther moored in La Rochelle.  With us were his wife, also a doctor, his two brothers, both doctors, one sister-in-law who was likewise a doctor, and a second sister-in-law who was an opera singer.

I had sailed a teeny bit once or twice before and, although I hadn’t particularly enjoyed it, Bruce assured me I would love it (not that he was an experienced sailor either), and we were looking forward for a little jaunt in the pleasant summer seas around La Rochelle and the Ile De Re.  Our idea – indeed our plan – was to sail from La Rochelle over to St Martin on the island, have a little lunch in the exceptionally pretty port there, have a small wander around the port and the little streets, and then set off again, stopping a bit further along the island – or even back on the mainland – for supper.   There were lots of seaside restaurants all along the coast line, lots of dear little ports, plenty of places to sit and watch the sun go down.

But no.  Jean (our GP) and family had other ideas entirely.  It was foolish of all of us to have not discussed it in detail first, but I suppose they assumed we’d want to go as far and as fast as possible, like them.  We assumed that they’d want to have a slow and pleasant little trip, like us.

We headed north.  The sea soon became choppy.  In no time at all I was feeling sick.  Within minutes of my going a greenish shade of grey, Bruce started feeling sick too.  There is nothing as horrible as sea-sickness.  Our hearts sank as Jean announced that we were going to head for a place called Pornic, beyond Sables d’Olonne.

“How long will that take?” I asked, trying to sound keen.

“Hopefully we’ll be there by nightfall,” came the reply.

Nightfall ?!!!  It was only 10,00 in the morning and already I was thinking that childbirth was easier.  Bruce seemed to feel all right if he was at the wheel (or tiller or whatever the thing is called), but as soon as he stopped concentrating on the waters ahead, great waves of nausea engulfed him so much that all he could do was lie down and cling on.

The boat heaved up and down over the choppy seas.

But worse, vastly worse, was the opera singer.

We gathered by now that, to our dismay, our six companions were all trans-Atlantic sailors, and that outings like this were regular events.  And a part of the regular event was the opera singer who would stand at the helm and sing.  Boy oh boy, did she sing!  Like a stalwart Vikingess defiantly facing certain death, on and on she sung. She would not shut up.

The others continued with whatever they were doing, and occasionally one of them would make a request.

“La Traviata s’il te plait,” for example.

And the wretched woman would launch lustily in to a new tirade of exuberant somethingorother.  And I steadily felt more and more sick.

That was when I started to study the possibility of murder.  I calculated that if I hit her legs at the back of the knees from the right, she would topple sideways and from there I could quite easily heave her in to the waters.  I then had to calculate how long it would take us to turn around and go back and fetch her, how high the waves were (not very) and how cold the water was (very).  With any luck she’d be silenced forever within ten minutes or so.  I also had to get it just right …. the hit had to come while the others were all looking the other way and preferably while she was on an extra high note….

Now, there are several difficulties when considering this type of murder. On a sailing boat, and in choppy seas to boot, all people are constantly looking all ways and rushing back and forth at unexpected times.  So to catch a moment when they were all looking the other way simultaneously was extremely difficult.  I would have to create some kind of distraction and, as the only distraction I could create was me, this was clearly not going to work.

I wondered if it would be possible to flush the woman down the toilet. I could lure her in there on the pretext of having a baguette (the French like those) and shove her in.  But she was too fat.  So I considered flushing myself down the toilet … but no, where’d be the point in that ?

“Does your sister-in-law always sing?” I asked meekly between bouts of vomit, “because, you see …”

“Yes, always!” cried Jean, punching the air, “wonderful isn’t she?”

“Ooooh … yes …”

I wanted to discuss the various murder options with Bruce, but he was every bit as sick as I was.  So, bravely, I flung tact and caution in to the sea (as opposed to the opera singer) and blurted out:


“We’ll never get to Pornic by nightfall if we pull in somewhere now …” ventured Jean.


The others were clearly irritated by the feeble anglais, and it took another hour to get in to the harbour at Sables d’Olonnes.  The funny thing with seasickness is that as soon as you are on dry land, you start to feel better.

“Whatever happens,” I whispered to Bruce, “pretend you still feel really ill.”

So that is what we did. Far better than resorting to murder. I have not been on a boat again and don’t intend to.

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Posted on 15/07/2013 by Catherine
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