Today's French expression: Se donner le mot (also le pointu, manque de chance, la pissaladière...and hangry...)
Veinard, charrier, bienveillance: A colorful story by Cécile about the traditional carénage, or boat maintenance

What does 'carénage' mean? + What wine and boats really have in common....

Port in la ciotat wooden boats or pointus

Today's Word: carénage

    : boat service, boat maintenance, careening

Click here to listen to today's word (and try your luck at writing what you have heard, in the comments box below)

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

To caréner is to turn a boat on its side for cleaning, caulking, and repair--a chore made easier when two or more people are involved (two to do the grueling work, and another dozen to chat with the two workers while sharing bits and pieces of history, and when thirsty, to share apéro with rosé and olives!).

These two brave workers in question were my husband and his soeurette. You may know Cécile through her French stories here and/or through her beautiful woodwork seen on Instagram (she makes furniture out of found wood). We were very lucky to have Cécile--and her love of wood and knowledge for working with it--for the yearly carénage we were encouraged to do for a certain wooden boat....

Yearly maintenance -- that's right! One thing we learned as soon-to-be owners of an historic pointu, is that you must pull your boat out of the slip once a year--and do the weeklong maintenance work--or suffer the consequences (the guy working on the boat next to ours was facing 18 days of of carénage, to make up for 3 years of neglect.

Chrisline pointu wooden boat before
'ChrisLine' - our (almost ours) pointu, or wooden fishing boat -- the 'before' photo. Behind our boat, you can see ever-so-helpful, Henri (one of the managers of Port des Capucins) and Cécile.

This reminds me of how boat maintenance is very similar to vineyard maintenance... Just as vines need to be pruned once each springtime, so does a wooden navire. To leave those vines would mean extra labor the next year, and c'est la même chose for un bateau en bois.

And, just like our former grapevines--which Jean-Marc spent months caring for before the purchase of our first vineyard went through, we are caring for this little boat which still does not belong to us. That means (for our vines) we paid for the clippers and various pruning supplies...and for this boat there have been a lot of back-n-forths to the boat supply store (conveniently located near the old port) for paint supplies. As I said, both the vineyard and boat maintenance required a lot of elbow grease, and how can you put a price on that? Except that in the end, as Jean-Marc points out...

One pays you back in wine...and the other in fish! 

On the third day of le carénage, Cécile and Jean-Marc braved the Mistral, which sent one of the old men in our city to the emergency room (the wind knocked him right over). As for the other old-timers who belong to this particular charming port, Les Capucins, they sat en brochette on a bench, with their hunting dogs and their stories of back when...quand c'était leur tour de caréner....


Chrisline after photo
The 'after' photo!

P.S. Would you like Cécile to write a story, in French, about her colorful carénage experience? She was the only woman caréner in a line up of longtime mariners. Leave her a note in the comments and she just might be encouraged to share about the maintenance she did and the adorable characters she met.   

caréner = to clean and repair a boat
la soeurette = little sister
carénage = to clean and maintain a boat
le pointu = Provencal fishing boat
un bateau = boat
en bois = wooden
quand c'était leur tour = when it was their turn

We've made it through Chapter Three in our memoir The Lost Gardens (about what led up to our decision to sell our vineyard). I planned to publish the chapter yesterday...when suddenly I bent that chapter all out of shape (going back in time, to Jean-Marc and my first breakup...).

Which reminds me of a subtitle I'd been itching to add to the book... The Lost Gardens: A Love Story

But we won't know the subtitle until the book is written... At which point, it could very well be called The Lost Gardens: A Rekindling... Or something entirely different.... If you haven't yet, I hope you will follow us on this memoir-writing journey. I will post Chapter 3 (no matter what shape it is in) by the weekend!

Click here to purchase our book--and follow along as we compose it and ourselves, in the process.


Our historic port here in La Ciotat, depicted in this illustration from 1862. It must have taken a year for that carénage!


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