Transition States and Nations

As the American chapter in the life of the Swan 57 Flyer ends, a new one begins, in France.

July 3, 2014

Flyer France

Rick Martell and Marcus Greber talk about Flyer. Elaine Lembo

Leave it to the last 300 miles of a voyage to make the first 3,000 (or 3,263 to be exact) all the more interesting.

At 44 44N, 11 16W, after noticing a small tear in the mainsail near the first spreader, we decided to patch it, taking advantage of the long light of an early summer evening. Then a port winch for the reefing lines blew up. Then the swivel on the roller furling for the jib jammed. All this was followed by bouts of not enough wind and lots of deafening, vibrating motoring, then a freshening breeze followed by squalls, lightning, thunder, and even a double rainbow.

Flyer crew Xabi Lastapis and Todd Mennillo patch a small hole in the mainsail.


All our concern that we’d arrive at the Port du Crouesty off the Baie de Quiberon too late to catch the high tide Sunday afternoon June 29, 2014, was for naught. Flyer barreled through the Bay of Biscay in NNW winds of 15-plus knots all through Saturday night, staying safely away from shipping, and arriving in the Passage de la Teignouse early in the morning. We wound up tacking back and forth to kill time, which was very pleasant and scenic, and I almost forgot we were still on a transatlantic passage — it was like a brisk, bouncy outing on Narragansett Bay, back home in Rhode Island.

But arrive we did, and after the quick step dance of lines and fenders, Flyer was tucked into a slip and we popped the cork off a bottle of champagne that Ursula Brandl, mate Todd Mennillo’s other half, had given us before we shoved off. After so many miles, the end felt too sudden, the way it did after I ran my first 10-mile road race.

We passed the evening in a food-and-wine-infused blur at Equinoxe Café, catching up with Jean-Paul Deloffre, the owner of the Yachtmaster Offshore preparation school Blue Sailing (; students who’d just started up a course with him on Flyer‘s sister Swan, Melody Blue; the school’s staff of instructors; and their families. We even met the waiters, waitresses, and just about anyone else who happened by. It was the kind of night sailors thirst for thousands of miles from land, and we reveled in it. Heck, we deserved it.


But make no mistake, land life has returned with a vengeance. We cleaned the boat, did laundry, packed, and Rick spent a day getting Flyer‘s new captain, Marcus Greber, up to speed. We’ve boxed up items we’re shipping back home, and heading to Normandy for some sightseeing before we fly out from Paris on the Fourth of July — a sweet irony.

As I write this, I’m watching sailboats zip off their moorings from an oceanfront house in Brittany. It’s a beautiful, breezy and sunny morning, and I’m grateful and a little overwhelmed by the intense, rich experiences of the last month. We’ll surely miss Flyer, but we’re heartened that her new life teaching eager sailors about offshore passages promises to be as fulfilling as her former one as a private owner’s pride and joy.
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