Wednesday, April 4, 2012


What is there to say about feet? Normally not much but as you can imagine on a boat things are different and the way we behave with our feet is no exception. As a general rule we are barefoot all the time while onboard. Reasons are simple; shoes are too dirty, we walk on our cockpit seats almost forty times per day and in the morning and evening the top deck is wet by dew. Walking with shoes would transform the boat into a sandy and muddy platform competing with construction sites for the first place in the filthy contest. Therefore on Chocobo as on every single sailboat on the water people are barefoot. But when thinking about it the vast majority of peoples, in the world, remove their shoes in their house or apartment so what does it make so special on boat? For instance, inside houses people keep their socks or wear slippers, my favorite being the ones in the shape of a football! On boat feet are bare as a born baby and this makes interesting situations when we start thinking about it.

For instance when we call a party on Chocobo guests are almost all the time other sailors. They leave their boat and jump in their commuting device, which is a dinghy, and come to our boat. Of course, wearing shoes in a dinghy is an even bigger no-no than on a boat as most dinghies leaks or always have a puddle of water in the bottom from waves splashing over the edge or from the daily rainy visit of Mother Nature. With all this the first thing we know is no matter how formal the meeting is onboard everybody is going to be barefoot. The good news is because no one wears any socks either there is no smell and the fact that we have our feet in the water all the time for a reason or another they are also clean and this certainly avoids further aggravations of the situation. Besides, there are clear advantages to that practice of feet nudity. This means no worries on what to wear for the party or having shoes that would fit the color of the dress, assuming sailors had the luxury to worry about such things. But the most significant advantage of coming to a ‘soirĂ©e’ barefoot is that we leave the party also barefoot. The tricky part in the departure is to actually go back to your dinghy. If the gathering is important, such as the time we had 19 people on board in Yemen, this makes quite a few dinghies attached on the side of the boat. Chances are that guests have to jump first on the closest dinghy by the steps, walk through it and eventually get to their own dinghy. This shouldn’t be a very big problem if it weren’t from the fact that sailors are not really well known to be easy on the bottle and consequently when comes the time for the dinghy gauntlet contest chances are that their motor faculties would be impaired. This usually end up in a spectacular acrobatic demonstration of flexibility not yet known from the drunken sailor himself and involving lots of water under the oh’s and the ah’s from the fortunate spectators mixed with a good share of laugh. In the end, as it is often the case in such situations, egos are more hurt than people. Although, very often everyone is very happy and even the ego remains intact. Actually, it did happen once that someone came aboard with his shoes and his first reflex was obviously to take them off when stepping on. But even he was not used to wear shoes on a boat and after a few drinks he left Chocobo with his shoes neatly sitting on our side deck.

But since everybody is barefoot all the time we could imagine that we wouldn’t have many shoes onboard but it’s not the case at all. The problem is that we sometimes have to go ashore and barefoot is not always a good idea when we need to walk two kilometers (one mile) to go to the supermarket for instance. If we exclude the fact that people often leave their shoes on the boat when coming ashore, the biggest question is always to decide what shoes we should wear to go ashore. Because we have to get in the dinghy and often beach it to reach the shore, and paired with the fact the dinghy is almost always wet as mentioned before, we cannot wear our shoes until we reach solid ground. Sandals are nice because they can take some water abuse in the dinghy but are not the best for very long walk. Walking shoes with socks are perfect to walk ashore but need to be put on on the beach and this requires that we rinse our feet with water, dry them with a towel then put on socks and shoes. This may sounds simple but try it without putting your feet in the sand and avoiding pouring water on your pants or shorts in the process! Of course having a gentleman to help you with that exercise always helps. There is also watershoes that can be quite useful is some situations but they are good to swim to a rocky shore than walk on the rocks and sand but cannot really be used otherwise. Finally we all, at least at the beginning of our trip, kept with us some more formal shoes imagining we would be able to have such a thing as a nice dinner in a fancy restaurant wearing clean, unwrinkled and freshly colored clothes. This my friends is just a dream for a sailor and dinners are always in the cheapest restaurant, wearing sun faded shirts and wrinkled shorts that most of time do not match and give you an exfoliation when you walk because they didn’t rinse properly due to limited fresh water onboard. We may look like homeless most of the time, which we are technically, but we do this in very exotic places!