Nfld. & Labrador

These French adventurers have chosen Newfoundland, but are waiting on the wind

Six French-speaking sailors will soon depart the Lewisporte Marina for a journey across the Atlantic Ocean.

They've got plans, but they will travel wherever the weather takes them

Emilien Bertholet, left, and Nicolas Desforges, right, talk on the deck of the Molly sailboat in Lewisporte. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

They've got dozens of litres of water, about a month's worth of food and no fixed address — except for a temporary berth at the Lewisporte Marina.

But if you're looking to find them, you better move fast. This week, they are hitting the sea again: Maybe to Exploits Island, or maybe to Labrador — wherever the winds and the weather take them.

"We all were doing other jobs before, and I don't know, a day — you choose something else," said Emilen Bertholet, who owns Molly, one of the two sailboats travelling together.

Bertholet stans in the cabin of the Molly, which he has owned since 2013. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

"I don't want to stay in an office all the day long, and working, paper and stuff. Why not become a sailor? And it works."

The crew on the Molly are completely francophone, coming from Switzerland, France and Quebec.

Bertholet met fellow francophone and "travel buddy" Fabien Chipon on a trip in the Caribbean. Chipon captains his own boat, and the pair will travel together for most of the summer.

I have no home. I just have this boat.- Fabien Chipon

They've filled their boats with two crew members each. This summer, they will travel together to Greenland, and then to Ireland, before splitting up for the winter.

They chose the Lewisporte Marina for their starting point, in part, because it's one of the closest berths to Greenland. However, Bertholet said there was a little bit more to it than that.

The Hobo, left, and the Molly, right, wintered in Lewisporte at the marina. (Molly - Sail the world/Facebook)

"Last year, we were planning to go Greenland, and then we arrived in the west coast of Newfoundland, the beginning of the summer," he said.

"Newfoundland people are really friendly, and they want to make us visit this and visit that and that and that, so after a while we say, 'OK, we stay here for the winter and we will go [to] Greenland next year."

No other life, but to sail

The group will spend much of the summer in close quarters: Three men each on an 11-metre ship. But they swear they don't get bored, and don't get sick of each other.

"Sometimes it's good to sail alone, too. But with people it's better," said Bertholet. "You can play cards, and make meal better."

And, besides, he swears, you don't see each other that much.

"It's all the time, one in the cabin, one doing something and one doing something else. So, no, it's OK!"

On this trip, the men won't spend every night at sea: They'll stop in Greenland and in Ireland to visit, too. Their boats are just a way of getting around.

A sailor carries water jugs up a ladder onto the Hobo, where he will be working for the upcoming summer. The crew have weeks' worth of supplies with them. Captain Fabien Chipon said he once sailed with 50 days' worth of food. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

Chipon said this lifestyle is pretty much all he knows.

"I have no home. I have just this boat," he said. "When I go working on shore, I find job, you can make a lot of money in a little time. Like working on fishing boat … I can work four months a year, and it's OK."

Crew of the two boats smoke cigarettes before speaking to a reporter about their Trans-Atlantic voyage this summer from Lewisporte. Bertholet rolls his own cigarettes. The crew on the Molly sailboat are Swiss, French and Quebecois. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

And if someone wants to find him?

"I have an email."

In fact, there's lots of technology on board: On the Molly, you'll find an iPad for music, a VHF radio for weather, and autopilot systems. That's all next to the small kitchen area, between the captain's quarters and the two small couches.

Valuable training

Nicolas Desforges will work with Chipon aboard the Hobo, until the boat returns to France for upgrades.

Chipon needed a crew, and Desforges needed the practice.

"My dream is to sail around the world, by the [Great Capes]," he said. "And I know that's really hard travel, so alI can train before, I take it."

That trip will be even more isolated than this; he's hoping to do it alone, following a route that will take around 200 days.

Chipon sorts through batteries on his boat while one of his crew members lies down in the front of the cabin. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

"In this kind of trip, there is every time some period you are really bad. You feel alone, you say, 'Why, why, why I am here?'" he said. "But after, with the time, I know that it will pass."

He'll be motivated, though, to raise money for an organization that helped a dear friend during his time in need.

In a French interview, he described how his friend fell on hard times and needed to be reintegrated into society. L'Association de Père Jaouen gave him that opportunity, by bringing him on a Trans-Atlantic sailing voyage.

"In a way, that saved his life. Since then, he's had a different outlook on life," he said in French.

Nicolas Desforges stands before a sailboat dry-docked at the Lewisporte Marina. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

He said after his trip, he plans to donate the boat, or sell the boat and donate the proceeds.

"It will be a trade. I want to thank them, and I want to live my dreams, and to show that you can live your dreams. It's enough to prepare and to stay humble."

As for this summer's trip, he says he's not too worried. He's travelled with Chipon before, and there is peaceful travel to look forward to.

"You have to take care of the boat, take care of the people, to eat, to sleep, that's the easy life. There is not all this thing around, and you [leave] your credit card, you [leave] your cellphone, you [leave] everything, you are just with the elements."

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About the Author

Garrett Barry


Garrett Barry is a CBC reporter based in Gander.


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