Working alone in the galley has its perks. Instead of being squirrelled away in the corner next to the double sink and dishwasher, the main marble island is open for business and has become my new, albeit temporary, domain.
But a downside to the departure of the head chef is that you must become something of a one man band. Undoubtedly, in a few months time I’ll look back on this period and laugh at how inept and immensely suffering it made me. But at the time, it honestly felt like juggling a thousand and one jobs with nowhere near enough hours in the day to complete them. The Carrefour 10 minutes away is an absolute beast of a supermarket, but is supposedly nowhere near as big as others, which dumbfounds me. Monday morning is provisioning day, and involves me in my yacht uniform battling with not just one, not even two, but three bright blue plastic trolleys (‘chariots’, en Francais). Once those suckers get filled up they become rather unruly, and must be parked somewhere near the checkout to be returned to later. It makes my heart flutter when half an hour later I hurry back, dreading if an efficient worker has decided it’s been abandoned and is returning everything to the shelves. Luckily, that hasn’t happened yet.
Going through this charade in France, you attract a lot of funny looks, some prolonged stares, but never does anyone actually lift a finger to offer to help you. Apprently, once we cross the pond to Miami, in Publix you are treated like some sort of demi-God. Employees help unload the trolley, pack the bags, even walk with you to your car to offload the shopping. Doing this all alone in dodge-ville (Marseille) is truly not an enjoyable experience, but sadly a necessary one.
With the doors opening at 8.30am, it is a mad rush to get back to the boat for about 11am. The most important thing on a provisioning trip is to not forget your walkie-talkie. Once the packed van is approaching the boat, it is my time to shine and confidently proclaim, ‘All crew, all crew, the provisioning is here, please can you help unload the shopping, thank you’. It actually gets worse every time, as talking on the bloody thing is simply my worst nightmare. Who wants their voice eminating out of every single crew members’ pockets?!
All thirteen of us (actually, maybe about seven on a good day) make a chain and ferry all of the bags down to the walk-in fridge, freezer and dry store. It is a mission and a half, but with so many people on the job it is done in a flash. Once everything is down there and any refridgerated foods are out of the dreaded ‘danger zone’, it’s time to get lunch out for 12pm. On provisioning days you really only have two choices. To buy cooked quiches, rotisserie chickens, and pre-made salads at the Carrefour, or to do a little bit of prep the night before and get a ‘make your own’ sandwich set up going. I much prefer to do the latter.
The bread is all fresh from the bakery section. Assorted cold cuts and cheeses didn’t quite seem enough, so the night before I whipped up an egg mayonnaise (40 eggs worth), a tuna mayonnaise, and a prawn cocktail. The rest of the salad bits were prepped just before leaving for the provisioning trip.
Miso roasted aubergines with chilli & spring onion.
Roasted chicken legs in a wholegrain mustard, honey & soy sauce dressing, with coriander and chilli.
Classic Caesar salad with parmesan croutons and bacon lardons.
One morning, I was single handedly preparing a full English brunch for the 20 workers, and the other head chef who I had only met once, Olly, came into the galley. He was fresh from his month off back home in Sydney, which he spent with his wife and three children. Funnily enough, he is originally from Bath, so we had a lot of reminiscing to do about our respective West country timez. It was possibly the worst lunch for him to walk in on, as I had a scary looking vat of scrambled egg on the go, black pudding was exploding in pans all over the shop, and every single metal tray we own was covered in either bacon fat or sausage fat. But he saw it was all clearly under control, and was quite happy with the idea of a fry up to welcome him back to the boat. Like the absolute gent he is, he helped me with the massive clean down afterwards. What a hero!
What to do with all your leftover pork sausages? Don’t let them be put away in the crew fridge, and make a toad in the hole the next day.
Brown rice, hummus, coriander & avocado.
Pumpkin & bacon soup, with one of two sourdough loaves. One of my responsibilities at the moment is to look after Michael’s sourdough starter while he’s away. There is a little metal bowl covered in clingfilm that lives in the corner of the galley, containing this live being, and it’s a massive pain to remember to feed. All you have to do is throw away a spoonful of the mixture, then add back in a spoonful of flour and a spoonful of water. But when you are knee deep in lunch prep, the last thing on your to-do list is to faff around with feeding the damn thing. It went a little bit lumpy and mouldy under my care, but now that Olly is here, he is much better equipped with the organisation and ability to give it the love and attention that it needs.
Kobe beef with parsnips, carrots, green beans, roast potatoes and a green peppercorn sauce.
This was undoubtedly the best beef I have ever had the pleasure of eating. It was so marbled with fat that it quite literally melted away into nothingness. Kobe beef is the Wagyu breed of cattle, but to be named Kobe it must have come from that particular region in Japan. It costs over a hundred dollars per kilo, and the owners magically didn’t get through all of it during the Med season when they were onboard. So really, all that could be done was to cook it for the crew. We must be one of the most well fed bunch of workers on the high seas right now.
We’re due to leave Marseille at the end of October, heading firstly for Palma, then Gibraltar, before the epic Atlantic crossing halfway across the globe. My first month off is due to fall around mid February, so my parents came over to France for the weekend just gone, which was simply amazing in every which way. Heather gave me a lift to the airport in Marseille, where I impatiently waited in arrivals for their Easyjet plane to land. My mum came through security first and we had a bit of a teary, emotionally fraught hello. Passers by must have thought it had been years since our last hug, not just four and a bit weeks!
My dad came through with the bags (one little one filled with clothes left behind for me), had a bit of a chuckle at us, and we hopped in a taxi to take us to Aix en Provence.
Aix is about half an hour away from Marseille, and is much more beautiful and far less dangerous. We went there on a cracking recommendation from Michael, who has explored the country pretty thoroughly, having had a house in Monaco for years. Our hotel was the Grand Hotel Roi Rene, which turned out to be in a brilliant location for walking around the town. It is at the end of Rue de 4 Septembre, which is so easy to remember, I don’t think I’ll ever forget the way to and from the town centre. We hit up Zara, H&M and had a little tour of the old town to try and find a good spot for dinner.
And we certainly did! A little place called Lavault was tucked away in the side streets, and provided us with a lovely dinner all in all.
I wore a new skirt, with the most ridiculously amazing trainers that you ever did see, sadly not pictured. They are grey suede, with two massive pom poms on the top. My dream shoe.
As we were walking towards the restaurant around 7pm, we came across what can only be described as a mob of jubilant young people filling the road. There were brave souls climbing up the walls holding onto balconies to try to get a view of what was happening in the hub of it all. We couldn’t get anywhere near close enough to see, and had to take a detour to find our restaurant. After dinner, as we were walking through the square where all the excitement had happened, my mum boldly went over to a group of youths eating burgers in the street and asked them what had been going on earlier. As you can imagine, I was feeling an equal mixture of apprehension and self-conscious embarrassment, but it turned out they spoke really good English and told us it was a local band called Deluxe who were playing an impromptu gig, which attracted every man and his dog.
After the excitement of our night, we had a lovely morning in the old town.
I treated myself to a pair of new Ray-Bans which I’d had my eye on for a while, chosen with the all important seal of approval from someone I trust. Everyone else just says you look good in all the sunglasses you try on, which is simply not true.
We ended our day with a late lunch at La Mado. We shared sushi for a starter, I had a whole grilled sea bass for my main, and a scrum-diddly-umptious Nutella crepe for dessert. After seeing every other person eating one of those over the weekend, there was no way I was leaving without having sampled one myself. After copious amounts of wine (and two Baileys for me, my all time fave) we had to go back to the hotel to say our goodbyes.
At the time, we weren’t sure if I was even going to continue working onboard this yacht, because my application for an American visa had still not come through. But the very next day, on Monday morning, my passport arrived with a big ole 10 year B1/B2 visa stuffed inside it. So my fate is sealed! I will be doing the crossing, to spend the winter months in either the Caribbean or the Bahamas, before moving to South Beach, Miami in early 2017, and then Nova Scotia, Canada in mid 2017. The relief I felt, knowing I wouldn’t have to find another boat, was unreal. This is my boat, and I don’t want to leave any time soon.