The Americans said “No!”
They didn’t want me.
I’d spent most of the money I had left in the world on a visa* and without giving a reason, my application was denied.
(No, they did not check my bank account. Yes, I wore shoes).
I stared in disbelief, put on a brave face and exited past the twin sets of security checks, past the long line of patient applicants awaiting their appointments, and across the street to where both my floating family and, in a strange turn of events, a friend I’d last seen in Mongolia or Pai nine years earlier stood with bated breath.
I’d never thought it possible to get an appointment at such short notice and everything had appeared to be lining up all too perfectly for a U.S. adventure…
This was a hard blow!
Selina, our Irish contingent, was more successful.
And Tiaan, her boyfriend and our captain, was forced to wait until the 14th to foresee his fate.
And so it was, with very mixed emotions,
very distressed stomachs, and even more disturbed internal compasses,
that we returned to Papillon, our catamaran home.
To keep the family together as long as possible,
we raised anchor from Nassau and took an island hop cruise to Bimini – a brick throw from the U.S. – and the last island in The Bahamas.
Three final days of epic upon the vessel that had, despite its unexpected coming into my life, been my home and sanctuary for three months.
We tied up at Big Game Marina, North Bimini, in the afternoon.
Papillion would be sailing off at nightfall.
The friendly dock master assured me that there was no chance that there’d be vessels sailing anywhere other than the U.S. any time soon.
I paced the scantily clad docks of mega yachts pondering my fate.
A distant mast lured me over to the neighboring marina where a friendly family not going anywhere in any hurry restored my faith.
Renewed, I disturbed a gaggle of geriatrics lazing by the pool.
“Hi” I smiled nervously. “I don’t suppose any of you are heading anywhere interesting?”
I paused to consider how to finish the sentence.
“Like Europe perhaps?”
“Actually yes.” Replied one of the Americans.
“Not me, but my neighbor. He’s heading for France and looking for crew. But he leaves tonight.”
I followed my new best friend a further three marinas down to where a lone sailing boat lay among the power boats.
My heart sank. They’d only just found crew.
One would arrive in an hour and the other would meet them in Bermuda.
“You have a spare place to Bermuda then?” I smiled.
“Do you speak French?”
“Do you speak Spanish?”
“Nope. Just me… and my teddy bear.”
“Is it a big bear?” laughed the Frenchmen.
“A very big bear!”
And so it was that I was welcomed aboard Grande Ourse (Directly translated to “Big Bear”).
I returned to Papillon for one last family dinner.
And, when nine pm struck, we hugged each other farewell with tears in both our hearts and eyes, cast off her lines, and watched her sail off without us.
Lynn and Todd, after five months of being away, were going home.
The rest of us were about to embark on brand new adventures, to see where exactly the wind would blow us.
Thank you so much Papillon, Lynn, Todd, Tiaan, Selina, and God for such an incredible journey!
For so many laughs, so many amazing encounters, so much soul restoration!
Thank you for taking in my gypsy spirit and accepting my Bearfoot ways!
I fervently anticipate a reunion (who knows, maybe one day The States will accept me too ) until then I hope I have left enough gypsy hair strewn aboard so that I couldn’t possibly slip your minds 🙂
*A B1/B2 tourist visa because you can’t sail into the states on an ESTA visa waiver.