This summer marks 50 years since I first went to Corsica at the
tail end of an exciting month-long cruise of the Northern Mediterranean with a group of twelve other adventurous souls--mostly
students from California colleges. I've recently been in touch with the organizer of that cruise, Robin Williams from Laguna
Beach and here are a few of his comments on that cruise aboard the Widgeon of Fearn, our sturdy diesel Norwegian fishing trawler
From Robin: The time we had on the
yacht in 1963 is one of the richest times of my life. Can you imagine? We were on a yacht on the Mediterranean
Sea and that is something that is only allowed to the SUPER RICH.
If my memory serves me, we each paid $200 for an entire month aboard which included all our food as well
as a spot to put our sleeping bags on the deck (there were only 6 bunk spaces below). The Skipper was British and took along
his pal and drinking buddy, Gawain, who were the first off the ship in any port.
Gunnar, a Swede my age, served as our chief cook and translator. The first group (in July of 1963) brought the boat
down through the French canals to Cannes, where I joined up. I had been staying in Zurich on my own for a week and took the
train to Cannes. I found Robin sleeping on a bench in front of the American Express office!
Each day we decided whether to linger in a port or sail on to the next. To save docking fees, we
put our clothes in plastic bags and swam to shore at some ports. Gunnar shopped for fresh groceries daily and grilled eel
on a little hibachi on the quay.
We went inland to Florence and
Rome by train and then back to the boat at Ostia. In Rome we roamed the city by night and slept (all in one hotel room!) away
the very hot August days.
We survived a terrible mistral storm on
our crossing to Corsica and were stranded in Bonifacio 5 days until it subsided. That's where we tried to sneak two Foreign
Legionnaires off the island. Our mission failed but they gave Robin a beautiful engraved Corsican dagger in gratitude for
The Corsican Dagger was the original title
of my current novel in progress. The dagger is still in the story (a symbol for Corsicans of the fight against evil) but the
title is now Mother Tongue.
An Excerpt from the
Professor walked back over to her desk. She drew open a drawer and retrieved a dagger. Handing it to Liz, she pointed to the
carved inscription on the blade. “It says, morte al nemico, or death to the enemy. The enemy is the Evil One himself.”
Robin had hired a cameraman
to film the entire adventure in 16mm film--intended to be a travel film for future trips. But when he left Bonifactio to go
to Ajaccio to fly home, he had to put his duffel bag with all the cans of film on top of a rickety bus. Somewhere along the
way, it fell off and was lost forever. C'est domage!
the memories are just those left in our minds and in the words of my novel. Robin went on to lead and film many travel adventures
but none the likes of his first endeavor. You can access his travel films (marvelous ones on Turkey) at his website.