Friday, 8 April 2016


The gale wasn't as severe as forecast and didn't reach much over 30knots, so all was relaxed if occasionally a little noisy on board for the following couple of days. Hopefully this summer won't be a repeat of last year with respect to the number of blows that we've sat out. Hopefully being much further south and east this should be the case.

The fortifications around Mahon are simply extraordinary. Particularly around our anchorage which is in a backwater of the harbour next to La Mola, the fort built by us Brits in 1870 or so and later used during the Spanish civil war and WWII and finally as a prison which it was until quite recently. Apparently Franco was still executing undesirables there by firing squad up until 1972.

While Franco clearly has quite a bit to answer for, we are told that he hated Menorca with a passion, as it was the last part of Spain to fall during the civil war. The consequence of this is that it was starved of government funds and thus escaped much of the development that has occurred elsewhere in the Balearics. Fortunately by the time those restrictions were lifted, it's ecological value had been realised and prevented much subsequent indiscriminate development.

Hence there are great swathes of nature reserve to wander in and an extensive network of paths. We strolled around the deserted and slightly eerie fortifications of La Mola with Ricky and Donna from S/Y Patience and then escaped up the coast to Isla Colom which we had more or less to ourselves apart from several hundred nesting gulls.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Beautiful Baleares

I have to admit to being just a little grumpy about coming into the Med this Summer, knowing from experience that the winds are fickle and the sailing involves a good proportion of motoring. However I am forced to acknowledge that so far we've had some really good sailing. Maybe this is a factor of being on the go this early in the season, which while it involves a few cool days, does also have the advantage of being blissfully quiet in an area which is notoriously overcrowded with boats in the Summer.

When a decent weather window for the passage out to Ibiza from Moraira finally arrived, we had a great sail out and arrived to find our planned anchorage in the island of Espalmador north of Formentera completely empty, which it more or less remained for the next week as we roamed the beach and island. We indulged our beach combing fetish and managed to find 3 good snorkelling masks, a beach bucket for Beatrice, a pair of ear defenders a buoy for our tripline and a crab pot which was unfortunately a bit big to salvage..... and 5 Euros in change all found by Lucia in various locations on the sand. It has to be said that all this haul was amongst a lot of plastic garbage which we tried to round up over the days we were there.

Our preconceptions of Ibiza are of non stop clubbing and indiscriminate tourist development but as we cruised from Espalmador around the West and then North coasts we saw precious little evidence of either. San Antonio, where we had to stop for a South Westerly, was undistinguished but apart from that Ibiza seemed to be mostly unpopulated wooded hills. We joined forces with the crew of No Worries and worked our way along the spectacular coastline, stopping in a series of unspoilt inlets (calas, or calais as they became known). After seeing the No Worries crew swimming, I finally braced myself to go in to clean the hull which was fairly furry after a winter in Aguadulce. It took three sessions on consecutive days, with me crawling out borderline hypothermic on each occasion and taking a couple of hours to properly warm up, but the hull is now considerably more slippery which really makes a difference to our sailing speed.

We had hoped to explore Mallorca more than we ultimately did, but we we were beginning to feel the constraint of meeting Lucia's brother Gigi in Menorca. These kind of fixed dates are always more of a restriction than is at first apparent because you can't really risk leaving it too tight as the weather, particularly here at this time of year, is somewhat volatile and there is always the chance of ending up being forced to make passages in less than ideal conditions. So we left Mallorca and parted company with No Worries to cross to Menorca ahead of a forcast gale from the north.

However, in spite of the slight rush, and after yet another fine day's sailing from Porto Colom, we now find ourselves tucked up snugly in Mahon and feeling pleased to be this far east this early in the year and with a day in hand to prepare for two days of forecast 30-40 knots wind.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

2016 – Back on the road again

We quite like cats. As some will know we even used to have a ship's cat before we decided to drop him back in Devon. However, even we have our limits.

Aguadulce turned out to be a pretty good choice as a winter stop. We pitched up there in Early December after rejecting Almerimar as being sad and soul-less. It has to be said that there's not a lot to Aguadulce. Scenic it's not, but it does feel a little more like a real town than a purpose built holiday/retirement/golf complex which is what Almerimar clearly is. The staff in the marina office, principally Jessica, are super efficient and helpful and the facilities work and are clean. There isn't a huge number of live-aboards there, but our near neighbours on one side Derek and Juanita and on the other Pablo and Miriam were lovely.

Most of this coast is backed by mountains which are dry and brown and mostly devoid of vegetation apart from olives and scrub. The coastal strip however sports a lush crop of polytunnels. There must be hundreds of thousands of acres of them, growing everything from carrots and tomatoes to papaya, avocado and mango. In some places there's a sea of shining plastic as far as you can see, which isn't pretty but the upside of this we discovered in the Thursday market in Roquetas de Mar, a couple of Km down the coast from us, where the huge range of fruit and veg must be amongst the cheapest in Europe. Is there such a thing as vitamin C poisoning? If so we must be nearing the limit.

So the only real downside was the cats.

We never counted them, but at a guess there were around 40 in our little herd. I suppose even that wouldn't have been too bad except for the inevitable by product of cats..... most of which, despite my hosing them down whenever possible, they seemed to deposit in the planting strip just in front of us. The smell was powerful.

There was a seemingly endless stream of folks who would stroll down the quayside and strew catfood around for them, out of pity for the poor starving beasts, each presumably imagining they were the only ones doing so. Hence all the cats did was to lounge around waiting for the next food delivery and....make more cats.

Lucia commenced a campaign of terror against the feeders, to not feed them or, if they really had to, then at least not to do it near us. Predictably, it had little effect and culminated in the worst offender threatening her with his stick. Thankfully, shortly before our departure they started disappearing. Nothing to do with me, though I can't in all honesty say I wasn't tempted.

The winter weather in Almeria isn't dissimilar to Summer on the south coast of England, but with less rain, so it wouldn't have difficult to carry on cruising throughout. However we had been ready to stop for a rest when we did, after a longish season starting from our crossing from Holland in April. But after 3 months being stationary, including a month in Italy with family and ski-ing, it felt like time to start moving again.

So on 2rd March we said our goodbyes and headed out across the bay.

A series of (generally) picturesque rolly anchorages took us to Cartagena, where we explored for a few days waiting for weather and socialising. It had felt like we were the only ones out sailing but there were two already there from Gibraltar. The irrepressible Andrew and Steph on Carousel, and the lovely but apparently slightly accident prone ? And ?

We curiously also met Nick and Jen and their two boys from No Worries. I should really stop being surprised at the coincidences we come across.... as they seem to happen so regularly, but I just can't quite manage it. Before leaving Aguadulce, I had flown back to the UK for my daughter Lauren's wedding to Matt. At the wedding I had chatted to amongst others Simon, Matt's brother in law. It turns out that Simon is Nick's oldest friend and Godfather to one of the boys. Now, I still can't quite figure whether this type of coincidence is anything really very improbable... but what intrigues me more is that we happened upon the connection quite by chance after chatting for an hour or so. How many more of these kinds of connections are there but missed?

We motored most of the 25miles around the corner from Cartagena to Mar Menor, managing to dump about 200litres of fresh water from our recently topped up tanks into the bilge via the lazarette locker where a plumbing joint popped. Suffice to say we were not a happy crew when we arrived at dusk to find we had just missed the bridge opening and the unfinished marina outside looked nothing like expected... However we nosed our way into what was basically a huge sheet piling cofferdam and dropped the anchor. At least the following day was dry and calm, as we spent most of it hauling wet gear out of the lazarette and drying it off on deck.

Shelter for anchoring on this coast is a little sparse and we decided that the queen of Spanish package holiday towns, Benidorm was the best bet next as it has a little headland to tuck under. The skyline was visible from 15 miles away and was really quite spectacular as we approached at dusk. This was more than could be said for the shelter provided. The beach had all kinds of obstacles floating around for some distance off, and this severely limited the space to tuck in. Another bouncy night ensued.

Moraira, a further 20 miles up the coast was much more to our taste and we pumped up the dinghy for the first time this season and waited for a good weather window to cross to Ibiza.