So there are eight aboard Aroona which is a goodly number for comfort. Nick serves some bubbly and we unveil our savoury offerings including curry samosas which Liz lovingly made with some mince we needed to use. We’ve barely initiated this ‘cocktail’ moment when the instruction comes that all decorated boats in the marina are to put to sea.
We motor through the open marina gates around which cheering spectators cluster. Heading out towards Ile Tatihou we see that the long pier is lined with people waving madly. As if by reciprocal waves from those of us afloat, the spectating crowd achieves connection and is drawn into the celebration.
Gradually boats spill out of the marina and then we mill around and it requires Nick’s permanent concentration and boat skills to avoid collision. We are like so many potential Bumper Cars as we circulate in the water space between St Vaast, Tatihou and the end of the long pier from which there is a floating pontoon. This will be the platform from which the priest will deliver his benediction to each vessel as she presents herself before him.
Our friends on La Marante seem a long time arriving alongside and we think Francois has been a bit manana about timings. In their haste to leave the house they have forgotten the floral tribute which will be cast afloat at the moment of blessing. We extract half the flowers from our own and with some clever manoeuvring on Nick’s part we manage to hover alongside La Marante long enough to hand the flowers across.
In the midst of all this colourful panoply there is a solitary vessel, a simple rowing boat which has been anchored and bears only a long black box. This is a symbolic coffin which is to honour, and remind us of, those who have sailed from St Vaast and perished at sea. Amidst all the merriment it serves to bring to mind that joyful though we may feel at being afloat on such a bright day, this glistening, clear, brilliant blue sea can transmute into something angry, terrifying, invincible.
One by one the boats are summoned to the point of blessing and soon we hear our name over the loudspeaker. Aroona, her skipper Monsieur Nick Light, and all who sail in her are blessed in the name of Le Pere, Le Fils et Le Saint Esprit and I cast the flowers onto the water.
Back at the house we are scurrying around to put finishing touches to the dishes we will be taking over the road for a supper party chez Poulet. Liz has made a Dorset apple cake and a Pavlova which she can decorate, oh joy, with raspberries and strawberries from our garden. Sue has made a very English Trifle. I’ve made my red lentil tart and a bean salad. Nick has his eyes shut on the bed.
There is a ring at the door and a stranger presents himself as one of the crew from La Marante. He has taken many photos during the afternoon and has put about 60 shots of Aroona on a memory stick, which I invite him to insert into my laptop. Done! I have a delightful set of photos which will form the basis of my final Fete de la Mer post!