You know the saying from the old days - "you're not a cruiser until you've towed the Pardeys into port!"
(That's just a delightful bon mot from an earlier and much more innocent era in the sailing game, and not at all a dig at the Pardeys, who, when we met them in New Zealand, were more than kind and hospitable.)
But, having heard that joke from the past recently, I was inspired to coin my own variation: "You're not a real high latitude sailor until you've had Jérôme Poncet on board for dinner!"
We Galactics were recently privileged enough to do just that.
Our mate Leiv Poncet has been operating his sailboat Peregrine out of the Kodiak this summer, and his dad, Jérôme, came to Kodiak from the Falklands for a bit of a sailing holiday with his son. Having been hanging out with Leiv every chance we got this summer, we naturally also got to hang out with his dad while he was here.
In the world of high-latitude sailing, Jérôme is just about as big a deal as there is.
Consider this: his first boat Damien, which he co-owned with Gérard Janichon, sits right next to Bernard Moitessier's Joshua in the Musée Maritime de la Rochelle. Damien was a 10-meter, cold-molded sailboat that more than once went as far or farther than any small sailboat had before. After the Damien days there were the even more groundbreaking days in Damien II with Sally and their kids, and after that the professional years in the Golden Fleece.
It's all quite a record of achievement and derring-do, more wonderful and detailed than what I can do justice to here.
The great part, though, is that all of that means nothing when you're talking with him. Jérôme comes across as a normal guy who happens to be extremely authoritative about high-latitude sailing. He was tremendously kind and interested about our boat and our infinitely more modest sailing ventures. He reminded me of a truism that we first recognized from observing commercial fishing boat captains in Alaska: the very best and most skilled mariners have no need to show off or brag about what they have done.
There was this one difference between Jérôme and commercial fishermen of our acquaintance, though - the commercial fishermen don't have anything like the irrepressible gleam that Jérôme carries around in his eye.