Go & Lan

OK my digital stowaways—all hands on deck, batten down the hatches and shorten sail ’cause this next tale is a lulu…

For me, the story starts several weeks ago; for the heroes of the story, it starts several years ago. On March 11th, I entered the British Virgin Islands (BVI) at Spanish Town on the island of Virgin Gorda (middle-right on map below). I spent a couple nights in the Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbor (fancy name for a marina rebuilding after Hurricane Irma’s devastation). On the morning of March 13th, I set-sail to the northeast around Pull and be Damn Point with the destination of Gorda Sound (see red #1 arrow below). I found an absolutely beautiful spot to anchor just south of Prickly Pear Island.

When I get to a new anchorage, I keep an eye out for boats similar to Hazel James in terms of size and vintage, and make a note to stop by and say hello. As I was setting my anchor I noticed just such a vessel lying-to anchor nearby.

A couple days later when I was out on my trusty kayak Sally and passing this vessel, two young men with French accents kindly invited me on-board to share a drink and talk. As I boarded their 35 foot boat I noticed her name “Go & Lan”. I thought, “That’s an odd name, there must be a good story there.”

Go & Lan’s name and well-worn but proud Tricolor

Once on board I started my friendship with Gautier and Lancelot. If you close your eyes for a moment and imagine…just imagine…the image of two, 20-something Frenchmen who would—on a very slim budget—acquire a 35-foot 1988 sailing vessel, take the time and care to refit her, and then take a year away from university to sail from France to the Caribbean (and hopefully back)…you will have the exact image of Lancelot and Gautier in your mind. When you get to the picture of them later in this post, I’m sure you’ll notice that it’s a perfect match of what’s already burned in your mind.

They are both from Illies, France. Gautier has darker hair and is the engineer of the two. Lancelot, blonde, is gregarious, learning the guitar and planning to study medicine. They have been good friends for some time (I’m sure that friendship was tested during the voyage across the Atlantic). They both had a passion for sailing and adventure, and hatched this plan. A couple years ago they found a suitable boat in the peninsular region of Brittany and acquired her. They rechristened her Go & Lan as a combination of the beginnings of their first-names. Their stories of refitting Go & Lan within their budget were priceless. When they acquired her, she was on a mooring ball at a marina in Brittany and the marina owner kept telling them they had to move her out or start paying for the mooring. They kept saying, “Yes, yes, yes, we will move her tomorrow!”, and continued that ruse day-after-day until they finished their work. If you look closely at the picture above, you’ll see the stainless steel tubing superstructure that supports their solar panels. Gautier welded that himself onto the existing rail. I’ve done a bit welding of regular steel and it’s not easy, and I’ve heard that welding stainless is a lot more difficult. Their welding job was tested by the Atlantic and came through it fine.

As they finished their refit of Go & Lan, they both withdrew from studies for a year, found a third crew for the passage and set off from France for the Canary Islands (they were a little vague if the third crew joined them voluntarially or was Shanghaied, I thought it best to not press for details). The trio re-provisioned in the Canaries and set-sail for the Caribbean. They made landfall in Martinique; Martinique’s strong French history and influence, made entry into the country all the easier for them. It was a 20 day passage from the Canaries to Martinique. As an aside, their 20-day passage across the Atlantic compared with my 12 days from the Northern Bahamas to the Virgin Islands demonstrates the power of fair winds and following seas. Given that the Gulf Stream flows anti-clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere Atlantic Ocean and the Trade Winds roughly follow the Gulf Stream in the southern North Atlantic, I was upwind and up-current on my passage whereas Go & Lan had the luxury of downwind down-current sailing.

We talked for a couple hours as only sailors can, about passages, boats and dreams. As we were talking, I thought, “What an awesome story for the blog!” I wanted to get some good pictures of Lancelot, Gautier and Go & Lan but didn’t have my camera with me. Little did I know that the already-good story was going to get 10 times better.

The next morning I was bound for Anegada (yellow #2 in map above)—an 18 nautical mile sail. After I weighed anchor (i.e., pulled my anchor off the bottom and got it stowed in HJ), I snapped this picture of Lancelot (it was early and Gautier was still sleeping).

Lancelot saluting from Go & Lan

So now—as I foreshadowed—the good story gets 10 times better. I sail to Anegada and have a great week there while the terrible Coronavirus pandemic explodes. A couple days after I depart Anegada, I find myself in Little Harbour, Peter Island preparing for 6 days of lockdown (purple #3 on the map above and where I am today). Before the lockdown, there was a ~100-foot mega-motor-yacht anchored just to the west of me. While they were a nice enough crew, they blocked my sunset view and they left the boat’s above and underwater lights blazing all night which ruined my stargazing. When they weighed anchor and departed shortly before the curfew, I waved goodbye but didn’t shed a tear. An hour later, just as the curfew was coming into effect, a small sailing vessel rounds the point protecting the bay. It’s 7:00 PM and dusk; I squint at the boat and say to myself, “My God, it’s Go & Lan.” This was totally serendipitous, no planning whatsoever. They pull up next to me and Lancelot says—as only a joie de vivre French person could say—“Daniel!, may we anchor here?” Another benefit of my lockdown is that I get Lancelot and Gautier as neighbors. Although we are not technically allowed off our boats, we swim and snorkel and talk from a safe distance. The picture below is Gautier (left) and Lancelot (right) saying hello from their dinghy.

Social distancing on a dinghy

One cool thing about this picture is that they are in 13 feet of water. Notice how clear the shadow of their dinghy is on the bottom—the water is that clear.

Of course their challenge to eventually get home during this crazy time make my problems seem like nothing. I was planning to island-hop my way home from the USVI to the Spanish Virgin Islands (part of Puerto Rico), to mainland Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Turks & Caicos, Bahamas, then Florida. However, with borders closed, when I do go home (assuming I go home) I’ll probably sail directly from the Virgins to the mainland US without making landfall anywhere in between. While not to be trifled, that should be a relatively straightforward 7-10 day downwind down-current sail. For Go & Lan, the typical routing for a boat sailing from the Caribbean to Europe has a first stop in Bermuda and a second in the Azores before continuing on to Europe. If borders remain closed and Go & Lan attempts a non-stop from the Caribbean to France, it’s a long, long way. We will stay in touch and apprise all of their progress. For the meantime though we are hunkered-down and buying time.

PS: If that story wasn’t enough for you, try this one on for size. The vessel below is also waiting things out in Little Harbour with us.

Yes, “ROU” stands for Romania and the captain’s name is Zoltan. Zoltan told me he’s actually from Transylvania…but hey, who isin’t. He and a friend sailed from Croatia to the Caribbean. I had to look at a map to make total sense of what he said. Croatia is west of Italy on the Adriatic Sea. They sailed from the Adriatic into the Mediterranean, then into the Atlantic at Gibraltar. Similar to Go & Lan, they also re-provisioned in the Canaries and made their Caribbean landfall in Martinique. Zoltan’s friend flew back home from the Caribbean and his wife and two kids (4 and 1) joined him and together they sailed from Martinique to the British Virgin Islands. Now they are here, happy and healthy but caught in the middle of a global pandemic. Ahhhh, nothing like adventure!

Thanks so much for reading. Hazel James out.

15 thoughts on “Go & Lan

    1. Funny that you and Sarah both asked this question so obviously i neglected to close the loop. I did so in my most recent post “Fauna”. Thanks for pointing this out Kathy.

    1. I am so lucky Dan. It’s a beautiful place and—more importantly—wonderful people in the same situation and very supportive of each other.

    1. Dawn, good thoughts. Before all the border closings, we were making plans for them to stay with us in Pompano Beach for a week or so while they made some repairs and prior to their transatlantic home.

  1. This is EXACTLY what I was asking for, Dan!! Thank you! One burning question….. what happened to Go & Lan’s 3rd crewmember? Did Go & Lan need meat on the long passage? lol

  2. Hi Dan – love reading your updates. Hard to imagine a better place to be during these crazy times. Happy that you are safe and making the most of this opportunity in your life!

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