As we listened to our Pimsleur's French lessons, we felt like deer in headlights. This was nothing like Spanish. We were on our way to Marseille, crossing the Gulf de Leon from Spain, frantically trying to learn some French before arriving the next morning. The French language is beautiful, but it is terrifying to someone who speaks "jeste un peu" (just a little) and understands even "moins" (less).
The thought of crossing the Gulf de Leon was also a bit scary. It is notorious for bad weather. We have heard many tales of horrific passages. Last year, a cruise ship was crippled by unexpected waves crashing through large windows, flooding the ship and injuring passengers. We had constantly been warned about the Gulf de Leon and read about its turbulent weather, so we took our time and waited for a good window to cross. We didn't care if there was no wind, we just didn't want too much wind. And the careful planning paid off. We left Cala Culip, Spain in the late afternoon with beautiful wind on the beam and sailed Berkeley East through much of the night before the wind died and we had to motor the rest of the way. The seas were calm, sometimes it seemed more like a lake than one of the Mediterranean's most dreaded bodies of water.
With the crossing behind us, we excitedly pulled into Marseille's old harbor. It was another new country for Berkeley East. The harbor master met us in his boat, led us to a nice big slip on the mega dock, caught our dock lines, welcomed us to France and expressed regret that we had not docked "bow in" because we would have a better view of his city. Luckily, his English was excellent, as we hadn't gotten very far with our French lessons.
With BE settled next to her new neighbors, a 144-foot schooner called Zaca te Moana, and a 100+-foot, 100+-year-old yawl called Moonbeam III, we set off to find assistance with our faulty depth sounder. One stop at a marine store and we soon had directions: two blocks down, cross the street, down the alley, find the engine store, ask for Pierre and walla! - we had a Ray Marine dealer who knew exactly what to do. Lunch at a local restaurant, dinner with our friends on "Eirene" - it was a good first day in France. And it seems like we are learning more and more French just by being here. Our favorite phrase is "Estce que vous parlez anglais?" (Do you speak English?)