By the time I arrive from Greece, Ryan has already been in La Rochelle, France for a week, living near the marina where Cheeky Monkey is getting all her post-factory work done. By now, Ryan knows most of the boats on our pontoon, as well as the guys from Uchimata Sailing Services, who are doing all our installations.
I arrive on a Friday, which means the docks are busier than usual as owners arrive to their boats to go sailing for the weekend and crew appear with buckets and cloths to shine the brightwork on their employers’ glistening yachts.
It is my first time on board our Fountaine-Pajot Helia, though I have been on boats like it at the Annapolis and Miami boat shows, and I’m blown away by the sleek, modern look and, oh, the space! It’s hard for me to comprehend that this is “my” boat, so I keep slipping up and referring to it as “the” boat or “this” boat. I say things like, “So, how does the stereo work on this boat?” And Ryan corrects me by saying, “You mean ‘our’ boat?”
And then I giggle. Because, surely, no one in their right mind would trust me and Ryan with a boat like this. It’s too fancy! Have they seen what we used to sail on?
Despite my doubts about this being “my” boat, I manage to go out and buy supplies for the fridge. And by “supplies,” I mean “wine”. And as we walk along the dock with our booze and groceries in hand, I notice a particularly pretty blue-hulled 65-foot monohull with impeccable chrome and wood detailing. And on deck are two 20-something lads and a young girl in matching shirts, standing in the cockpit chatting.
“Crew, I’m guessing?”
“Yeah, I’ve never seen the owners, but I’m guessing these guys are getting ready to deliver the boat to them.” Ryan says.
I smile at the threesome chatting excitedly on the stern and think to myself what a fun job that must be, sailing a swanky yacht for pay. It’s so unlike anything I did for work when I was in my twenties.
Ever seen the show Below Deck about life on a megayacht? This is the cast.
“You know the guys working on our boat thought we were crew,” Ryan says, laughing. “One of the guys said to me ‘Where are you delivering this boat to?’ and I chuckled because he must’ve assumed I knew what I was doing. So I told him he was giving me too much credit. I have no idea what I’m doing; it’s my first catamaran!”
I laugh and look at the twenty-somethings smoking cigarettes off the stern of a fancy boat they have free reign of until the owners show up. And then I look down at my clothes, and I realize I probably wouldn’t look at a shiny, brand-new Fountaine-Pajot Helia and think I came with that boat either. See, there I go again. “That boat.”
The truth is, I keep waiting for someone to come on board and tell me to get my feet off the coffee table.
A week after Ryan tells me that story about being mistaken for crew, it happens again. As we are tugging a dock cart full of 220-volt electrical appliances to our boat, we meet an English woman on the dock, who introduces herself as the owner of the monohull opposite our pontoon. She tells us her story of sailing with her husband around England for many years until they sailed down to France a few years ago, and how they keep their boat docked in La Rochelle so they can go sailing off the coast of France whenever they like.
“Which boat is yours?” the woman asks.
Ryan points to our gleaming Helia across the way.
“Oh, so do you sell these?” she asks.
“No,” Ryan says, smiling. “She’s ours. We just picked her up a week ago. We’re planning to sail her around the world.”
“Oh! Just the two of you?” The woman asks with a hint of surprise.
And again, I look down at myself, and I look at Ryan with his scruffy beard and hoodie, and I realize that this is one of those situations where the world I think I live in doesn’t match up to the world I actually live in. I feel like a vagabonding backpacker who’s just been handed the keys to a Hollywood mansion.
People look at the boat we’re about to sail away on and they look at me and Ryan in the clothes we’ve collected from beach towns we’ve backpacked through around the world, and there is a complete disconnect.
“I take it as a compliment,” Ryan says. “It means people are surprised by us. We don’t look like we belong on this crazy boat.”
“Mmm. But will sailing around on such a swanky boat make it hard to meet people?” I ask.
“Nah,” says Ryan. “We’ll load this boat down with toys, go out and have a blast, and we’ll invite people over for cocktails.” Ryan says. “We’ll be the nice people on the swanky yacht giving away ice and water in the anchorage.”
I nod my head and smile because I remember how excited and grateful I was when Brittany and Scott of Windtraveler let me fill up my leaky five-gallon jugs from their watermaker in Maho Bay, St. John, so I wouldn’t have to go all the way to town for our water. And nothing makes me happier than the thought of sharing water and this plush boat space with friends. Now is our time to give back some of what we’ve gained and bring people along for the ride.
So though she may be way out of our league, Cheeky Monkey is most definitely our boat. And, boy, are we going to have some fun with her!