Fata Morgana

Author’s note

The following legend was born because of a boat.

We named our boat Fata Morgana, but almost no one, appears to know what a ‘Fata Morgana’ is… It has nothing to do with neither fat women nor Arab women called Fatima, but rather with fairies, water spirits, and optical phenomena. Fata Morgana was also the name of another boat which a friend of ours built in the seventies somewhere on the shores of the Black Sea. Years later, this same friend took us sailing for the first time and with tender love and nostalgia in his voice, he would recount fantastic adventures aboard his Fata Morgana. His dream was to cruise the water-world. It became our dream. We are here now, at the edge of this new way of life, thanks to his contagious, incurable vision, his Fata Morgana. Our boat’s name and in fact our adventure are homage to him.

The legend of Fata Morgana

Morgan Le Fay by John R. Spencer Stanhope (1880) (altered)

Morgan Le Fay by John R. Spencer Stanhope (1880)
(altered: Morgana-me)

In medieval times, at the remote other side of the Earth at the antipodes, dwelled nine magical sisters. Nine blessed womb-burdens of the Isles of Apples, daughters of the king of Avallach. At dawn and at dusk they appeared floating inside the waves and lured the unwary to their death. The most beautiful and powerful of the nine was the seductive megalomaniacal sorceress, La Fata Morgana, La maîtresse des fées de la mer salée.

One April morning, between six and seven o’clock, the air calm and ambrosial, the sea peculiarly eerie, a dark schooner, like a bad omen, appeared on the north-western horizon. A crazy alcoholic pirate, Barba Roja, was the captain of the sinister vessel. He had lost one leg and one eye in horrific circumstances, but had two bellybuttons, the second of which, an inch above the first and a bit to the left, he had acquired during a mutiny when he was only sixteen and got stabbed in the stomach. Barba Roja had innumerable children in each port of each land his gloomy ship has visited and many poor women, struck by devastating love for him, have drowned themselves after his gloomy ship has left.

The legend has it, that all but one of the nine magical sisters, daughters of the king of Avallach, had also fallen in love with the pirate, and slowly, one by one, consumed by passion and unbearable sadness, faded away like puffs of mist or like shadows above the surface of the sea. Dissipating from the head down, only their transparent feet slightly visible, they walked slowly to the edge of the land where grey humid rocks meet the fury of the sea, never to be seen again. Only gentle footsteps upon the sands have been noticed afterwards by fishermen every now and then. Of course, Fata Morgana was the one who did not fall for the guy and therefore did not disappear. Plus, the villainess got so furious with Barba Roja because of this situation with her sisters, that only proper revenge could probably calm the small tornado that had gathered around her body disturbing everything in a ten mile radius.

No one, even I who have invented this legend, remembers exactly what happened to Barba Roja when he finally met Fata Morgana, but it is known that for the first time in his lonely life he felt the desire to recite poetry facing the setting sun, small yellow flowers blossoming on his wooden leg. On the following morning, his sinister schooner and all its crew, captain included, vanished, replaced by an unusual vision of an otherworldly object, resembling an inverted phantom-ship ever-changing in its appearance, hovering in the sky. This optical phenomenon: a ghostly mirage or a glorious illusion of a great upside-down schooner with black sails would often appear after that day (and still does sometimes) in calm weather before the eyes of melancholic sailors who would have staked their lives upon its reality. “Fata Morgana”, they would whisper, their hearts full of tender sorrow, nostalgia, and inexplicable love.

Some interesting-looking links to writings on Fata Morgana (most of them I still have not had the time to read, by I will)

1. wikipedia


2. Vanishing Tricks of a Goddess by Imorgen Rhia Herrad


3. Le Folklore breton et les romans arthuriens


4. Vita Merlin, Gaufridi de Monemuta/ The Life of Merlin by Geoffrey of Monmouth, 1973



Marine Survey and Back

From Key West, FL to Montreal, QC the distance is about 1800 boring miles. Baba Ghanoush, cautious and focused as a mule, is capable of going at not more than 50 miles per hour, which means about four long days of driving through three different types of climates, going from tropical through moderate to continental.We have done this trip many times in the past aboard one of those commercial trucks, and so we don’t think it is a big deal. Plus, we have a stop in the middle.

In South Carolina, we detour from our rout to visit Brian and Joyce, our neighbors from Bois-des-Filion and good friends (the guys who helped us repair and clean Baba Ghanoush in October, and prepare for the trip), who are snowbirding in a nice three-bedroom-three-bathroom condo in Myrtle Beach. We spend there two days and nights, enjoying the condo and all its comforts, a walk on the beach, some discount shopping in OldNavy, and Joyce and Brian’s exquisite cuisine&company.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

We are now driving back north on Interstate 95, somewhere in New York state. The heater is on. The sky is the same color as the highway: dirty-grey. So are the leafless trees and the dead grass, and so is our mood. We are even starting to see patches of grey snow. The tiny transparent ants who descended from a tree somewhere in Jacksonville climbing aboard our RV in the beginning of this trip are nowhere to be found. Either they abandoned the premises knowing deep in their guts that we are heading towards below zero temperatures, or are presently hibernating in some cosy unknown to us place in Baba Ghanoushe’s old body.

Going back from Key West, Florida to Canada in the beginning of March sucks. It is like going back from summer trough fall into winter. But we have to return to Quebec and deal with our bank, our house, our stuff, and then go again to Key West by the end of the month to take possession of the boat, and basically, to move aboard.

Her name is B&B Adventure but that will change soon. She is a 2001 Robertson and Cane Leopard 38 owner’s version, which means, she is 38 feet catamaran and has three big cabins. Built in Cape Town, South Africa in 2001, these boats are heavy and stable, not as fast as other catamarans the same size, but very roomy and comfortable. Which is more important to us, as we are not going to race her, but live aboard, spend lots and lots of time in the galley and the salon, in the cabins and in the cockpit.

Haul-Out for Marine Survey

Haul-Out for Marine Survey

We did a marine survey and a sea trial in Key West a few days ago, and we have signed the acceptance papers. The survey showed a number of little things that need to be fixed, and a few bigger repairs, but nothing major or urgent (or that is what we are thinking right now, optimistically…). Still, my head hearts just thinking about what are we getting ourselves into… For sure, every (used) boat needs some taking care of; being a boat owner means also a permanent state of fixing, maintaining, and upgrading (or paying for it). But before the repairs, we need to worry about bank transfers, vessel registration, cruising permit, etc. So, Montreal, here we come!


2013 Miami Boat Show

The Miami Boat Show is considered also The Greatest Boat Show in the World. For five days over 3,000 boats and 2,000 exhibitors from all over the globe can be visited on three locations in Miami Downtown and Miami Beach. It is truly overwhelming. The show features not only boats and marine products, but also seminars and special events.

Catamarans at 2013 Miami Boat Show

Catamarans at 2013 Miami Boat Show

We hoped to be able to go the first day, Thursday, February 14, and meet Bear Grylls at the Convention Center promoting life rafts. He is Viktor and Maya’s Number One Hero, Ivo’s as well (and I worship him too, I have to admit). We have all his shows and when we have nothing to do, and when we have electricity, we watch them over and over again. So when we learned he will be there the first day, we were so excited, and Maya prepared a drawing and a hug for him. But, alas, our RV broke down and we couldn’t meet Bear… Maya cried…

Here Bear Grylls was standing just a couple of days ago...

Here Bear Grylls was standing just a couple of days ago…

We had to deal with Baba Ghanoush the next three days, so we were only able to go to the Boat Show on Sunday and Monday, the last two days. We spent our time mostly in the Strictly Sail section, visiting all the catamarans, from 34 to 82 feet! Each time we had to deal with a broker trying to sell us a boat. It was exhausting, I don’t know if I will survive another Boat Show…

Catamaran Interior (a big catamaran, over 60 feet)

Catamaran Interior (a big catamaran, over 60 feet)

Down bellow, one of four cabins.

Down below, one of four cabins.

Besides visiting boats, we also bought three books on cruising, catamarans, and galley secrets, and we we went sailing on a 2012 Leopard 4800 for two hours, after the end of the show.

Getting valuable books and advise from Corinne C. Kanter, 15 years cooking aboard a catamaran!

Getting valuable books and advise from Corinne C. Kanter, 15 years cooking aboard a catamaran!

Oh, and we also met the broker for a 2001 Leopard 38 Catamaran we are interested in, and we got ourselves an accepted offer and a signed contract! Next week: marine survey, and sea trial. If all goes well, we will have a boat by the end of March.

Sailing on a 2012 Leopard 4800. Lots of wind and waves- fantastic!

Sailing on a 2012 Leopard 4800. Lots of wind and waves- fantastic!

Ivo steering the Cat, shining with happiness...

Ivo steering the Cat, shining with happiness…


People, Drowned Objects. A Photo Essay

Lying on her side on a bicycle path, the first sailboat we see on our journey is a surreal sight.

A sailboat washed up by hurricane Sandy on the bicycle path in Hoboken NJ, November 4, 2012

If I was some creature from a distant land that has somehow appeared in Hoboken, I would think that this is a strange place populated by strange people. I would not know that something terrible had happened here just days ago.

Flooded building, Hoboken NJ, November 4, 2012

I would not know why there are small dead fishes lying flat in the middle of the streets.

A dead fish, Hoboken NJ, November 4, 2012

The sidewalks are full of drowned objects, basement creatures forgotten in dark corners, memories dug up for a last time awaiting their final journey to the landfills of New Jersey.

A damaged painting of the Twin Towers, Hoboken NJ, November 4, 2012

I would probably think that in the beginning of winter a sad and silent spring-cleaning festival has been organized here.

Portrait Gallery

The first person I meet in a dark wet basement is Terrie. She looks like someone from outer space with a gas mask, a flash light on her head and plastic bags on the feet.  Her basement got flooded and she is emptying it all up.


The next person I meet is Enrique from Ecuador. He is helping Terrie to clean up. Enrique doesn’t speak English so I get a chance to practise my Spanish. He urges me to take a mirror with a heavy wood-carved frame.

Enrique from Ecuador

After Enrique, I meet Major Charles Kelly from the Salvation Army. I never thought that the Salvation Army IS an actual army with majors and all…They are here to help people with shelter and supplies, he tells me.

Major Charles Kelly

Next to a public park in a residential area I talk for a bit with Morgan, a volunteer worker on a lunch break helping to clean up the city after the storm . He tells me where I can get some hot empanadas.

Morgan, a volunteer worker

Further down the street a soldier from the U. S.  Army poses for me. His name tag reads Rodriguez. He explains that the Army is bringing in supplies and equipment and his job is to protect a small area on the main street close to the City Hall for these operations. He thanks me for asking. Asking what, I ask him. „Asking if I don’t mind to have my picture taken. Usually people just shoot without asking me.“

Rodriguez, a soldier from the U S Army

I also ask many questions a young guy named Alex from Vinton, Iowa. He works as a volunteer for FEMA, department of Homeland Security, an organisation that is supposed to help people during disasters. I ask him if he has seen a documentary entitled Camp FEMA, a much more sinister explanation of the organisation’s role during times of distress. No, he says. He has come all this way along with many other college kids hoping to help.


Alex from Vinton, Iowa, a volunteer for FEMA

Down the Washington street, I ask a Hoboken policeman to pose for me. Officer Nicholas Burke. Initially he refuses, telling me that he is not supposed to pose for pictures and suggests I photograph him incognito from a distance. But then we start talking about photography and finally he is happy to pose. Tells me he is a photographer himself. We understand each other.

Officer Nicholas Burke, Hoboken Police Department

I am happy to have met all these people who talked to me about helping and carrying for each other in times of crisis.