Ibiza? 22/08/2013

We left Cala Egos on Mallorca as planned, aiming for the east coast of Ibiza. We were rather surprised by the swell which was quite high and confused, quite unexpected given the general lack of wind to sail by! It was obvious that all the calas on the eastern coast would be open to the swell and rather uncomfortable. We decided to head for Formentera, playgound of the rich and famous, or so I am told. It also has shelter from swell from northeast round to southwest though not from any wind as we are anchored behind a narrow sand spit. Among the many very large motor yachts the Prince Abdulaziz stood out a mile, looking rather like a small cruise liner. According to the AIS it is 147 metres long and registered in Jeddah, obviously the plaything of a rich sheik or someone similar. Many of the boats here are around the 50 metre mark which makes our 13 metres look pretty small. All the small motor boats had left by the time we arrived but they'll be back again tomorrow, towing the inevitable doughnut, jet ski or some other toy to disturb the anchorage. I'm not really complaining but we could do without the noise and rock and roll caused by them. This place is idyllic and peaceful in the evenings. Subsequent research on the web showed I was nearly right. Prince Abdulaziz is the fourth largest motor yacht in the world, owned by the Saudi royal family. Another Saudi boat is here as well, somewhat smaller and older, the thirty third largest motor yacht! We have been surrounded all day by super yachts, both motor and sail, their crews and guests. We had a domestic day, cleaning and auditing stores. It's a hard life but it needed doing. It's a good job Starblazer is only 13 metres, I still have a lot to clean inside and I haven't started outside. The stores audit is important for two reasons: to find where I stuffed things and to find out exactly what I brought on board. I think John was rather surprised at some of the ingredients, now I'll have to get on and use them. We ran the generator this evening to top up the batteries so I took the opportunity to make up a batch of dough in the breadmaker. I'll cook it in the oven tomorrow so fresh bread for lunch, yumm. We had an early start, for us anyway, with engine on and anchor up at 0800. Bread is baked, the water maker ran for over an hour (over 50 litres/11gallons) and by 1120 the wind came up enough to sail. We could have sailed earlier but eta at the anchorage would have been after midnight. Ibiza is now just a hazy lump behind us. We are sad to leave the islands however since Sunday all our journeys have been westbound and will be, more or less, for the next few years! The adventure continues.

Mallorca revisited 19/08/2013

As planned, we left Fornells and motored round to Cuitadella where we refuelled. We might have saved money by anchoring in the Ballearics but the lack of wind cost us a lot! Let us not moan, the wind actually piped up as we came out of Cuitadella. We had a lovely sail to Pollenca on Mallorca. The wind was rather weak and when it backed and dropped we pulled up our pretty coloured cruising chute. Immediately we began to accelerate, catching up with Nina who were three quarters of a mile ahead of us. The ominous black clouds over Alcudia and Pollenca encouraged us drop the mainsail and continue on motor and genoa, not knowing what weather we might encounter under the clouds. We then anchored safely off Pollenca town in brilliant sunshine. Today was the last day of our mini cruise in company with Lynda and Steve on Nina. It started when we arrived at Cala Jondal on Ibiza, where Nina's guests had just left to make their way back to the UK. It really is a very sociable way of travelling, sharing meals out, entertaining on each other's boat, being there ready to lend a helping hand. We have thoroughly enjoyed the time spent in each other's company and are sorry to leave but we have a flight to catch from Alicante next week and need to make our way back to the mainland. The trip from Pollenca to Cala Egos, just north of Andraitx, was a very boring nine and a half hours of motoring, with very little wind. On the plus side, the water maker was still working after two and a half hours, a record. We made just over 100 litres. This area gives us a good jumping off spot for the trip to Ibiza tomorrow. If we get an early start we'll make for Cala Talamanca just north of Ibiza town, otherwise we'll head a bit further north to Cala Boix, where we anchored in 2009. In a way, we really should have made an effort to see more of this stunning island but we did see quite a lot of it in 2009 and I really wanted to explore more of Menorca this time. Facts and figures: on Menorca we stayed in three anchorages and one mooring area and also paid a fleeting visit to Cuitadella to refuel. In Mallorca we stayed in only three anchorages, two of them twice. Our plans were a little scuppered by strong winds and swell which we tried to avoid! More later.

North coast of Menorca 18/08/2013

The seas, or more particularly the swell, have settled down so we decided to head around the north coast of Menorca. Our first destination was Fornells, a large, fairly protected inlet where we booked a buoy in the Poseidonia area. It is possible to anchor here but the holding is reportedly poor due to overuse, if the wind were to come up we wouldn't want another disturbed night of dragging anchors! Additionally, the buoys are the closest mooring area to the town, or perhaps that should be village. There are four bakeries, almost wall-to-wall restaurants and one small supermarket. We enjoyed an excellent meal ashore with Lynda and Steve from Nina. John and Steve shared a 'fish platter', a bit of a misnomer really. It was a huge dish of mussels, large prawns, razor clams, langoustines and two halves of a large crayfish! For a picture see my Facebook page. Lynda chose a 500 gr serving of crayfish while I had a fillet steak. It was all very tasty. It is just such a shame that the pink things poison me so this was an unusual treat for John. We have moved on to another anchorage in Cala Algayerens, off Playa Algayerens Grande. There is nothing here and the beaches will empty later, also many of the boats at anchor will go away so we are looking forward to a very peaceful night. Tomorrow we will leave Menorca, possibly via Cuitadella to refuel, heading for Mallorca on the first step of our journey westwards. We have seen far more of Menorca this time, it really is a lovely island. Postscript: from nowhere a swell rolled on during the evening and set all the boats lolling, some more than others. We deployed the flopper stoppers and it helped a bit. The swell died down towards midnight and we had a comfortable night.

Mallorca to Menorca. 15/08/2013

I've suddenly realised it is just over a week since our last blog, so my apologies. I know how frustrating it can be when someone's blog stops unexpectedly! We finally left Soller, heading northeast around the coast of Mallorca when the swell and winds had subsided. Our intended destination was a really beautiful, and hence very popular, anchorage at Cala de la Calobra. Apart from several tripper boats, there were quite a few boats in the small Cala protected from the swell so we sadly turned away. We motored on towards Pollenca around Cabo de Formentor on the extreme northern tip of Mallorca. As we approached the cape we made radio contact with Farfelu, a boat we had met on ARC Portugal. They cleared the cape and were motoring into a strong headwind and quite rough seas towards Barcelona. We exchanged greetings then continued on to Pollenca where we planned to pick up a buoy. In the Ballearics there are about three anchorages on each island where the government is trying to protect the Poseidonia grass beds so you have to use their mooring buoys instead of your anchor. When they were first introduced most of them were free, this year it costs €29 a night but, after several disturbed nights in Soller, it seemed a reasonable cost to ensure a good night's sleep! Pollenca was a bit like Southend, full of Brits, bars, cricket on the television and souvenir shops. Early next morning we set off for Menorca. The two islands are vey different. Mallorca is much bigger, has much higher mountains and many more holiday resorts. Menorca was under British rule until we gave it back to the Spanish, it had at one time been French. The only obvious British influence is the gin factory in Mahon, plus the fort on La Mola which was built to both French and British designs. We made landfall at Cala Trebaluja where, allegedly, you can see turtles if you take your dinghy over a sand bar and up a fresh water stream. Every day tripper boats arrive, morning and afternoon, disgorging hordes of people into the water or on to the shore but it all quietens down in the evening. Starblazer and Nina were anchored fairly close together and it was very peaceful. We did go up the stream, water visibility was less than a foot and the turtles were not in evidence but it was quite a fun safari amongst the reeds when the stream got narrower. The GRIB files had been predicting strong northerly winds down the east coast which would, inevitably, lead to swell along the south coast. We made the decision to head for Mahon where there is a very well protected anchorage between La Mola and Isla del Lazareto called Cala Taulera. Four years ago we stayed here several nights but now you are limited as to how long you may stay. Officially you are now only allowed to anchor there when all the marinas and pontoons in the harbour are full, and then for a maximum of three nights. We anchored along with a multinational group of other yachts. Next morning a charming man came round to each boat, explaining that the rules have changed, the charts and pilot books are incorrect, that we were not allowed to anchor. He did say so long as we left by 0800 the next morning we could stay one more night. If you could find out the charges for the pontoons, either on their website or over the VHF, we might have been willing to move, however they won't tell you unless you phone them. Cala Taulera is quite a way from Mahon town, but so are the pontoons. Allegedly they have water and electricity but it wasn't obvious on the pontoon we visited by dinghy. We met Andy, Miguella and Beverly on a big Catana catamaran called Aurora. They are doing the ARC this year so we will look out for them in Las Palmas. Based on what they were charged we estimate we would have been charged at least €40 per night. We duly pulled up the anchor and motored out of Cala Taulera at 0820, passing the official on the way! He wouldn't acknowledge us. We tried to refuel but after hanging about for 40 minutes we gave up and made our way up to Cala Grao by Isla Colom. The town is delightful, the swell seems to be reducing and the island is giving us quite a lot of shelter. All in all we expect a peaceful night. By the way, the strong northerlies did come through as predicted, we were secure and suffered no swell at all in Cala Taulera though the seas were still quite rough this morning as we made our way north. Tomorrow we head to Fornells where we need to book a buoy. More later. Wi-fi is unite difficult to find but in Mahon we found a mobile phone shop who sold us a PAYG sim with 1 GB of data for €12 so now I have no excuse not to post regularly. We paid €25 for John's sim at Vodafone in Ibiza, should have gone to Movistar!

Welcome to Mallorca 7th August

We had an uneventful trip from Ibiza to Mallorca, actually managing to sail for about two hours! We made some water but the latest tweak didn't work so we'll try again tomorrow. We made landfall at Cala Egos, just north of Port Andraix. We anchored here last time, the holding is good and most of the boats go home in the evening. We went for a swim and snorkel, all the way to the beach. It was quite a long way, a good workout for the knee. Early evening the wind suddenly whipped up to 22 knots, no problem but the seas also whipped up. Suddenly there were gusts of 34 knots from the opposite direction. The wind blew the tops off the waves, it looked amazing. Fifteen minutes later it all blew over, the seas became smooth again and we had a peaceful night. Next morning we had a leisurely start to motor north east towards Soller Port, another beautiful, sheltered harbour where we stayed last time. Our departure was delayed when Nina pulled up their anchor only for it to suddenly drop off the end of the chain. It is a very smart stainless steel Bruce so well worth fighting for. It was in about 10 metres so Steve free dived down to hook a rope round it. It took three attempts but he was ultimately successful, we were standing by ready to don scuba gear if necessary. Finally we passed a large shackle to rejoin the anchor to the chain then motored all the way to Soller. The anchorage was quite crowded and we kept dragging, finally succeeding on the fifth attempt. It does pay to set the anchor properly with an adequate length of chain out but you can't prevent idiots anchoring too close with inadequate rode! All the French boats seem to be festooned with fenders, I'm not sure if it is to protect other boats from them or vice versa! The second night here was interesting. There was very little wind but, at about 10.00 p.m., the wind started going around in circles, still not much but enough to move the boats. There were close encounters all about us, we were moved to put fenders down both sides to fend off the attentions of a Beneteau 50! They shortened their anchor chain to pull a bit away from us, but they were still rather close. All around the anchorage you could hear anchor chains clanking and see lights moving as boats tried to find safer places to anchor, all in pitch dark. Numerous boats dragged anchor, not surprising given the difficulty we had setting ours. John stayed up, grabbing about an hour's sleep in the cockpit before waking me at 5.15. By about 6.30 we decided we were not going to come to any harm so both grabbed a couple of hours' sleep. There is a tram which runs between Soller Port and the Soller town, about 20 minutes away. It runs along the street between the quayside and the shops, Health and Safety would have a field day here. Additionally, some of the carriages have no rail or chain between the seat and the roadside! It's a lovely little thing, usually grossly overloaded, and well worth the €5 fare per person, each way. (photo to follow) We are staying here a little longer because the weather is a bit unsettled and there is predicted to be some quite strong winds between Mallorca and Menorca tomorrow (Thursday). The northwest coast of Mallorca has very little shelter, Soller is the only port of refuge, so we'll stay here. There are still lots of jobs to occupy us, however one job is finally completed - the dinghy chaps. Now I need to make a matching cover for the outboard. (photo to follow) LATER The GRIB files suggested some wind at 0200 and 0.4mm rain, they were half right. At 0200 the wind piped up and we heard a slight bump. John leapt out of bed, donning shorts on the way to the cockpit, to find us gently nudging alongside Nina. I joined him in the cockpit and the four of us tried to work out what had happened. It looked unlikely that the anchor had dragged upwind, then I spotted the anchor ball bobbing alongside us. We had 35 metres of chain down. Putting the engine into astern had no effect, 1,500 revs had no effect. John went forward to bring in some of the chain to remove the snubber and it suddenly came free and we were blown back on the anchor, a safe distance from Nina. All around us there was mayhem with anchors dragging, chains becoming entwined, bow thrusters, windlasses, engines all working overtime and boats cruising around trying to re-anchor. All this activity was accompanied by lightning, then quite steady rain, rather more than the 0.4mm/hour! All in all it was a very disturbed night with very little sleep. This morning the sea is rather unsettled and we will stay where we are. We know our anchor is firmly bedded in!