Lost in Translation

We’ve been sitting out a little bit of weather for the past four days. A big high down south and one heck of a low around Tasmania have given us re-enforced trade winds, a steady 20-25kts with local gusts upwards of 35kts, so says Meteo Nouvelle Caledonie.  They’ve brought with them low clouds and lots of passing rain squalls, 3 or 4 an hour it seems. The anchorages around here are well protected with tall hills to hide behind and sticky mud, so it’s been all batten down the hatches and keep yourself amused around here lately.

There’s been lots of turning the oven on for hot midday meals. The residual heat warms up the cabin and while we eat Steve thought to put a metal bowl filled with water in the still warm oven so we can have a hot shower! With no hot water on board (the engine driven hot water heater rusted out back in Panama 6 years ago and we thought the storage space was more valuable) we usually use a solar shower bag, but since arriving in New Caledonia a month ago we’ve hardly had enough afternoon sun to heat it up. What a treat.


Ye olde bowl and a ladle shower. At least it’s warm!

And we’ve had plenty opportunity to brush up on our French. I spent a good half an hour deciphering the weather report the other night, stumbling over words like orage storm, or thunderstorms particularly, accrocher hang around, eclair lightening and echapper escape. Weather words they don’t teach you in conversational school French but are awfully handy to when you live on a sailboat.

Steve muddled his way through two pages of a marine guide unassisted the other day and was able to tell me about bag limits, catch minimums, protected zones and anchoring regulations. There were only a few species names he stumbled over; coureur arc-en-ciel which is a very literal translation arc in the sky runner,  or Rainbow Runner, and loche. Loche had a warning that catching one that was over a meter long with yellow spots was illegal. But that didn’t give us enough information. Fish names are often very colloquial, changing with dialect or location within a country sometimes, so it wasn’t until we saw one very near the bag limit swim from under the boat the other morning that we figured out it meant Spotted Cod.

That particular morning we happen to be swinging on a mooring in a marine preserve, so no fishing anyway, but it wasn’t until recently that I learned the term for mooring in French; corps mort. Directly translated it means dead body, which seems a delightful term for the block of concrete on the ocean floor that was our lifeline to the physical world. I peered over the rails into the inky depths early that morning trying to discern the shape of the mooring block, hoping not to see a face.


Hello down there!

But sometimes it is best not to look too hard, not to try and translate every single word. I learned this the hard way while reading the ingredients on a can of “pate de campagne” over lunch last week. Being a fan of pate but not such a fan of liver, pate de campagne has taken my fancy. Made of pork and in the “country” campagne style it is a chunkier, milder version of what most people associate with pate. And at 90 cents a small can is a tasty, inexpensive treat. But reading the list of ingredients I was tripped up with the third thing listed: “gorge de porc”. Obviously a cut of pork, the word gorge seemed vaguely familiar.

It wasn’t in the French for Cruisers book. The dictionary app I had downloaded while in Noumea turned out not to be French-English but just French. I looked anyway.While eating I must add.

Gorge de porc came up blank, but the definition of gorge, in French that is, said it was the inside of the neck of an animal or human. Steve was as impressed as I was that he was dining on pork throats. We looked at our half eaten lunch, and then at the can and then at each other.

Esophagus never tasted so good

Esophagus never tasted so good

I decided that some times things just get lost in translation. And I wasn’t gonna let it ruin my lunch.




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