Apsara's Log: Epilogue part one of two:
Apsara floats again!
Date: Mon, 4 Apr 2005 09:38:28 +1000
For the first time since January, Apsara is back in her native environment. Today, after her nine weeks on a Dockwise
Yacht Transport ship from Auckland to Toulon, France, I finally met her after my own journey of planes, trains,
automobiles, and boats which began in Sydney about a week ago, and included too-brief 48 hours stops in San Fran and New
York. Toulon is on the Cote d' Azur/Provence/French Rivera depending on your geographic lexicon, about 50 miles
east of Marseilles where I spent last night.
Dockwise Yacht Transport is a pretty cool operation. They operate several 500 – 600 foot ships, each like a
pick-up truck with the drivers seat/bridge deck way up front and an open bed in the back. On loading yachts, the
"tail gate" is open; the entire ship sinks down so that the top of its "bed" is only two feet
above sea level, and the boats motor in. "Boats" maybe an under statement as Apsara's ship was
loaded with 8 mega-class yachts, meaning over 100 feet on deck. In this case, they ranged from a 130 foot
quadruple-spreader sailboat to a 200 foot motor yacht that was so big it was required to have a Toulon harbor marine
pilot aboard just so they could get off. Nonetheless, the simple of definition of a "ship" vs. a
"boat", as taught by my father, still holds: a boat is what can go on a ship.
In total, the Ship takes about 25 to 35 boats, some mega and some as small as "Chief Red Cloud", a
twenty-year old 28-footer I noticed from Florida. The ship accommodates about four yachts across by nine to ten long,
if all were of a 45-65 foot range. But I digress, on loading, scuba divers perform underwater bracing and then weld
secure brackets to hold each boat in place, then the water is pumped out and the ship, "Super Servant IV"
(no doubt a good name to those uber-wealthy mega-yacht owners), is ready to power off across oceans. Super Servant made
three stops en route from Brisbane, Australia to the Med: Auckland, Panama and Ft Lauderdale and took nine weeks.
Here, in Toulon, the unloading process began at noon with a short on-land briefing and by 1:00 pm we 20 owners/crews
were on the ship. Our oldest cruising friends from Venezuela, the Equity family of father and 4 sons had two crew
aboard and it was great to see them with their Sweden Yachts 39. Super Servant's "bed" was dry (and
very rusty) and the owners and crew were able to walk to their boats and use ladders to climb up to them. Some of the
large yachts had live aboard crew who traveled with the yachts. (It is unclear whether these crew include the 14,000
mile crossing as earned sea miles for their log books.) In Auckland, we hired a skipper of one of these to wash our
boat every other day while at sea to keep Apsara clean of smoke stack soot, dirt, salt water, and rusty metal bits that
collect from Super Servant's crew doing on board grinding and painting. This was a very good call.
Apsara was in great health when I arrived with Patrice, a French crewman whom we hired to help me. The beauty of
Dockwise is that unlike conventional shipping one does not have to remove the mast of the boat or hoist it using a crane
into a cargo hold, nearly everything is ready to go. We waited aboard the anchored ship for three and a half hours when
finally they began to sink the ship slowly into the water at 4:00 pm. By 6:00 pm, with the bed flooded, all were
finally floating and the scuba crews worked boat to boat removing the bracing. The wind was blowing 25 knots by this
time, but since the ship was at anchor we did not have cross winds which would have made unloading dangerous. I felt a
bit uncertain at the helm having gone from near-daily operation for the previous 18 months to nothing for the past
three. Nonetheless, the engine started on the first go (damn fine machines these Yanmars) and we motored slowly off
the ship without incident around 7:30 pm. Shockingly, we managed, without incident, to med moor (back in) the boat to
the town quay and I was comfortably ensconced in the local Holiday Inn by 9:00 pm.
Tomorrow I will fit the sails, check all systems and then, the following morning, Wednesday, sail 80 miles east against
the wind to Nice. In Nice Nancy and I will sadly put Apsara on the market and move on to the post-Apsara phase of our
lives. It was tough to ship Apsara back to Europe after sailing "half a lap" - kind of like making it half
way around the monopoly board and being sent home without passing Go or collecting the $200. But the toughest part of
this trip has been moving Apsara, even today's 2 miles, without my co-skipper. I am sure I have screwed-up on
something that Nancy would have helped avoid. Did I open the engine seacock? Did I check the fuel chest? Did I stock
the anchovies, tuna fish packages, and Pringles? In any event, Nanc has other duties and obligations at present. The
gist of these and other details will be forth coming in our final Epilogue.
In conclusion, I can only say that both of us miss the simplicity and complexity of our cruising life. We miss all of
the wonderful cruising friends we will never forget. But also, for a bit less than 2 years and 18,000 miles, we lived
very close to nature, in the rhythms of the moon and sun, in tune with the winds and seas, we got our butts kicked when
we got a little cocky, surprised ourselves with what we could achieve when the chips were down, lived a highly
self-reliant existence (at least for city-folk MBAs), and mostly learned to trust our lives to one another across a
couple of big oceans; I am sure we are totally unprepared for children (whenever that may happen).
Best wishes for a wonderful spring for our land-based friends, and an awesome cruising winter for our cruisers still
living their dreams "out there".
The faithful crew of Apsara
PS to all: Our only e-mail addresses these days are: Nancy@svApsara.com and
PS to fellow cruisers: Please, please add us to your e-mail distribution lists so we can live vicariously – just
don't make us too jealous. And, let us know if you know anyone who wants a 110 pound Bruce or dinghy!