It’s as if I never left the boatyard: Taputu’s still as helpful as ever, midday lunches with the crew, blazing mid-summer heat, up and down the ladder till my feet ache, and how could I forget: the obligatory French kiss-kiss cheek greetings. The boatyard seems like a rather cruel place to uphold this greeting ritual, as 90% of the time people are sweaty and or covered with some sort of toxin. I’d much rather smile and say ‘Bonjour’ minus the kisses. I’ve learned now that there are the normal greeting kissers, with whom there is hardly even any skin-to-skin contact, just close-ish cheek-near-cheek head bobs with kissing sounds if you happen to cross that person on your way to do something. And then there are the ‘creepy kissers’ who take this cordial French custom and turn it creepy.
They tend to be the older male sailors that are in a constant and prevalent rotation on the boatyard grounds…at the moment this place is crawling with them. They will spot me from across the yard and come completely out of their way to firmly plant two slimy lips on either of my cheeks. It’s awful! My mornings have become a game of hide and seek to try to dodge them. If I’m en route somewhere, it’s often possible to act like I’m really late and just hurry by with a smile and a wave. The unavoidable occurs whenever I try to get anything done on the hull work. The moment I start sanding or chiseling or even setting up my tools, they close in on me and it’s too late: the dreadful ‘creepy kisses’ follow. Ugh! And it doesn’t stop there! Because of my rather mysterious leak problem, they gather round and ponder what my next step in the repair should be—all posing different opinions and then arguing with each other in French too quick for me to understand about why their idea will work. In despair, I often flee the scene entirely and go hide in the office with Karin until they disperse.