02 May 2019
Preface: I have been sitting on this one for awhile. I wrote this some time ago but hesitated about posting it. True to my pledge, I'm going to write the good with the bad. The tipping point for me to post this was when we were anchored in Moorea with Bill and Judy from S/V Whisper, visiting us from the Bahamas. We went ashore and left our dinghy at the prescribed spot in Opunohu Bay. There was an identical dinghy to ours with two French sailors fussing with their non-working motor. We spent the day in a rental car. When we returned, one of our oars was missing! Their dinghy was no longer at the dock either. Twice now I have heard, “British sailors outfit their boats to go sailing, French sailors go sailing to outfit their boats.” Do the math!
I'm a Francophile. I am part French, love their food, wine, culture and beautiful country. They also have some pretty darn, beautiful islands in the Caribbean and South Pacific. I resist the stereotype of the French as arrogant people. I have had some lovely encounters with French people, cruisers and dirt dwellers. I hope my French Canadian and French friends will not take any offense with this blog. In fact, I know some are in complete agreement with what I am going to spew about.
French cruisers have a bad reputation everywhere we have sailed so far! It started in the Bahamas. We were warned that French Canadian cruisers would anchor too close. They did. They also did not mix much with the Americans and Europeans in the crowded Georgetown Anchorage. But that's to be expected with the language barrier.
The Staniel Cay anchorage was another matter. We anchored during a cold front (bad weather) quite a distance from Sea Turtle, a French Trawler. Before we finished anchoring, they were waving their arms and on the radio, warning us that we were too close. That's a big breach of etiquette. When a crew is anchoring, never interrupt. They need to communicate with each other at that moment. We settled back on our anchor and were certain we were well away from ST. Friends in the anchorage called us on the radio and warned us about ST.
The lady on ST sat on her bow, arms folded and just glared at us for an hour. That evening, we were on River Rat having cocktails and ST called Uproar on the radio. The skipper of RR said, “Russ, take this call, this is going to be good.” The skipper ST again berated me for being too close. All on RR were certain that Uproar was well away. I told the skipper on ST, “My responsibility is to keep clear since you were anchored before us. We intend to do so.”
Another boat anchored even closer to ST than we did. That brought the focus and stares of hate from us to the new arrival....who was also French Canadian. The new arrival was eventually chased away from ST and struggled for hours to find a safe place to anchor. It is sad that these people were obsessed with other boats and not enjoying the Bahamas.
But one incident does not a trend make. That would come much later. When we were in Grenada, we were warned that the French sailors at the marina would steal our water and electricity. I thought that would be impossible. The marina actually warned us about the potential problem!
About a year ago, we were in Shelter Bay Marina, Panama. The measurer for the canal authority visited us to measure Uproar and finalize paperwork for our transit. He said we may be rafted against other yachts. His exact words, “It will be a pleasant experience, unless you are rafted to a French boat.” Wow, this is from a Panamanian official for the Canal! Friends of ours were rafted against a French boat and they did have problems!
Now we are in French Polynesia. There are a lot of French boats here. We have made some nice friends with them. But! When we talked with the manager of the Papeete Marina, he, unprovoked by us, went into a rant about how rude and obnoxious the French sailors were. We were just laughing as he continued. He finished by saying, “Now that they have won the World Cup, it is even worse. We are French of course, but we are Polynesian first. Just because they fly the blu, blanc, and rouge, they think they own the place.” We were flying the French flag under our Polynesian flag. We quickly removed the French Flag.
What prompted me to write this blog is an incident here in Gambier, a remote area of French Polynesia. A friends of ours (French boat btw) anchored in an idyllic spot. Soon after, three, French catamarans anchored all around them. And those boats were full of kids who are a little noisy. Our friend moved their boat to a more secluded spot. You would think that would be a hint to the intruders. It gets worse. The storm of the previous week wreaked a lot of havoc on the gardens and orchard of Pauline and Gerrard, the elderly inhabitants of the island. Our friends (French and New Zealanders) spent two days clearing fallen banana trees and other debris. The three French cats came ashore with their kids and filled huge sacks of fruit and vegetables from Pauline and Gerrard's crops, without asking, and carted them off without a word or offer to pay.
I promised to tell all in this blog. There you have it. Sorry to say, the stereotype of French cruisers as bad neighbors has a ring of truth. Again, we have some wonderful French cruiser friends who will readily agree with the above.
PS. A French boat just anchored...pretty close to us. We aren't sensative about that but their screaming kid is pretty annoying. They don't have very nice potty manners either. They just shit in a bucket and throw it overboard. Viva La France!