Balearics

June 26, 2008

 The first task of the day was to refuel and return the rental car. It was minutely inspected for scratches before a grudging sign off. Back to DoodleBug and rig for sea.

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We dropped our mooring at 1000 hours and set sail for Puerta de Mahon on the southeast coast of Menorca. Menorca is the most easterly of a string of five islands that are collectively called the Islas Baleares (Balearics). The islands lie off the coast of Spain and have been owned by Spain since the Treaty of Amiens in 1802.

We motored in very light winds and after an hour or so, the haze of industrial pollution from the mainland had hidden Corsica from view. The day's excitement was passing a boat length from a large sea turtle who glowered at us, as only a reptile can. At 1930 hours, the radar showed a single track, nearly 12 miles long and from the north. The radar track terminated at DoodleBug and looked similar to that made by aircraft. Only there were no aircraft and it persisted for several hours. It took us several minutes to identify it as a huge, long period swell from the west and the light wind was tilting DoodleBug so that the radar only saw it on the "uphill" side. The swell promised "weather" to the west of us, as did the forecast.

June 27, 2008

0300 hours and we are close hauled under Genoa and Main with 10 knots of wind.

Our position was N 41 12.8' E 006 28.7' at 0431 hours UTM.

By 0900 hours we had reefed back to Genoa and Mizzen and the wind had increased to 23 knots and was just behind the beam. Thus the apparent wind put us on a close  reach with short steep waves in the 4 to 5 feet range. This was not going to last of course and by noon we had 25 knots true with the apparent wind over 30 knots and with waves in the 10 foot range. We were sailing with heavily reefed Genoa plus mizzen and still crossing the ground at better than 8 knots. The steep waves hitting the side of DoodleBug were neither pleasant nor safe and we headed up to a close reach to get more of an angle on them. By 1730 hours the waves were even larger and we turned back to the south to take them on the stern quarter. The wind did drop slightly to around 15 knots true and we returned to full sail with the apparent wind just behind the beam. The waves were out of proportion to the wind speed and out of every dozen or score of waves, would come a near vertical triplet of 15 footers with their tops curling. I sat in the cockpit watching for them and would veer off an additional 10 degrees or so when they arrived.

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Thus it was that we headed into the night and the wind built back up to the 28 knot range as the sun dropped in the sky. The moon would not rise until around 0230 hours and I hate rough seas in pitch darkness. A large pod of dolphins began to jump around our bows and I could see them "surfing" down the faces of the bigger waves. Fun for some but a welcome visit nonetheless.


The heavier than forecast weather also meant that we were approaching our destination much earlier than planned. At 2300 hours we passed into the shelter of "La Mola" and the waves died away. We entered the harbor of Puerto de Mahon shortly afterwards and then turned to starboard to enter the narrow channel leading to the Cala Tauleron. This was made exciting because not only could we not see the channel we were heading into, it was also on the starboard side of a large green beacon. This usually means that you are heading aground but the radar on it's quarter mile range setting showed a clear but narrow passage. We crept along this with cliffs on one side and reefs on the other and with a strange noise that we both heard. Annette identified the noise as the sound of seagulls on the nearby cliffs, clucking their disapproval of our passage. A turn in the channel and then ahead of us were ranks of anchor lights. We could not tell if they were on buoys or anchors, or even on docks, so we just dropped our hook in the clearest spot we found at 2350 hours. We are here! Menorca. Position N 39 52.6' E 004 18.4'

June 28, 2008

Position N 39 52.6' E 004 18.4'
Dawn brought clarity and understanding to last night's arrival. We blearily looked out of the cockpit and found ourselves anchored just east of the center of the channel leading to the anchorage. A few early risers were passing between DoodleBug and the shore without hitting us, so we went back to our bunks. When we finally rolled out of bed, some of the anchored boats had departed and we sat with coffee in the cockpit deciding where we should move and reanchor. The wind was blowing briskly through the narrow anchorage, a fact which discourages dinghy travel. As we discussed the relative merits of two possible locations, two large power boats arrived and occupied both positions. Easy. We let out more chain and decided we were fine exactly where we already lay to anchor.

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The wind blew strongly for the remainder of the day although there was little motion aboard. We called a "rest" day and just hung aboard, catching up on the log and planning routes. We do not like to leave DB for extended periods unless we are sure that she is "safe".  This means at a marina, on a secure mooring or at an uncrowded anchorage with room for mistakes. By this I mean that if the anchor should drag, there are no jagged rocks under our lee. We could tolerate embarrassment but do not want damage. The plan of this harbor shows commercial, military and fishing sections but we are over two dinghy miles from access to stores, restaurants, banks and the like. For our needs, a better anchorage lies to the north of us in Cala Fornells. We decided to head there tomorrow and watched the seagulls as they perched in ranks along the cliff top watching us.

June 29, 2008

Position N 40 03.1' E 004 08.0'
At 0740 hours we raised anchor and set sail for Cala Fornells. The exit from the anchorage was far less exciting in daylight and we were soon motoring to the north, just off the wind and with the mainsail rigged. The coast is all rugged cliffs and headlands and we rounded the "Punta de Es Morter" (what does "Morter" mean?) and entered the Cala beyond, amongst a cloud of surfboarders and Sunfish. The anchorage shown in the guide was filled with mooring buoys and we picked up one of these and tied on. An attendant arrived after we had done all of the work and he presumably felt that his assistance would no longer be needed. He issued us a "permit" to use the buoy. We asked him what was the cost and he responded that "whatever we thought was correct" would be OK. It never is however, so we insisted he name a price. We agreed on a total of 10 euros for the two nights we intend to stay here. This compares with the 34 euros per night in Calvi, Corsica.

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We dinghied ashore for lunch as Annette has been lusting after authentic Spanish Paella. I used to fix paella for her when we were courting. As I remember, I used to brown some rice in butter in a saucepan and then dump the contents of a can on top of this. It turns out that "tourist paella" uses the same recipe. Her search will continue for the Spanish Paella Grail. Somewhere the authentic article is to be found.

We explored the small town of Fornells and found the car rental office which was closed for Sunday. They had a contact telephone number displayed in the window and we called this and booked a car for the morrow.

June 30, 2008

This morning we dinghied ashore and picked up our rental car for the day. The first task was to find a Spanish SIM card for our cell phone. We had bought a card in Corsica but it had to be registered on the French system before we could add pre-paid minutes. By the time we waited through the French working man's week-end and the two working days to update something that was already computerized, we were headed out again. The French update never made it.

The car rental lady directed us to a phone store in the town of Ferreries and although she did not speak English, we seemed to have remembered enough Spanish that we soon found the store. We now have our 6th. SIM card in our phone since it was purchased in Turkey.

Next stop was lunch at a harbor side restaurant at the Port of Ciutadella on the west coast of Menorca. This was one of those memorable lunches and it was excellent (www.recibaria.com). We ordered the "black paella" and Annette has finally achieved her paella goal. The meal is "black" because it is colored with squid ink. I cannot remember ever deliberately eating any food that is colored black. OK, except for liquorice, English blood sausage and pre-school dirt - on a dare. The food tasted fine but I do not intend to repeat the experience. I like my peas green, my carrots orange and no square things touching the round things.....

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Paella sated, we headed to the east end of the island to visit "La Mola". This is the fortress under which we had lain at anchor when we first arrived in Menorca. The fortress was built in 1875 and was awesome. It had never been attacked and was built to dissuade British occupation at the time that relations were not so good between England and France. Because it was never attacked, it remains in pretty good shape. The only damaged section was a tower that contained a powder magazine that had been struck by lightning and had subsequently blown up, big time. The balance of the structure was a fortification that was completed a decade after the American Civil War and four decades before the First World War. In other words, during a time of rapid technological change in weaponry. La Mola was designed for cannon and by the time it was completed, it was already obsolete. Nevertheless it was an amazing maze, with multilayered warrens of firing positions, magazines, barracks, moats, bastions and redoubts. Much of the structure was underground and one section contained underground firing positions stretching for nearly a quarter mile. The defenses had been carved from solid rock and then lined with stone. Annette was excited to note that one well was occupied by a live bat who studiously ignored us.

We were short cutting the site tour route when a young lady driving a van stopped to enquire our intentions. We explained that we were heading for the "Vickers Gun" and she offered us a ride. She was heading there to give a guided tour and we accepted both the ride and the tour with alacrity.

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In the late 1920s the Spanish government bought a dozen 15 inch naval guns from the Vickers gun works in England for Island defense. One of these guns was installed at La Mola in 1935 and one supposes that this was permitted by the British Government because Spain had no warships that could carry such a weapon, Nazi Germany was on the rise and by supplying weaponry to Franco, his allegiances might be swayed (Spain remained neutral). The 15 inch naval gun was used by newly constructed British warships around 1915 and could accurately throw a shell some 20 miles. It was the peak of weapons technology at the time it was made. The Menorca gun was last fired in 1991 and is probably the only one extant on the planet. It was built to be used on a battleship and weighs 200 tons with it's mounting. We toured the magazine that had been carved in solid rock. The machine room was intact and contained racks of batteries for the lighting but the gun itself was operated hydraulically. The "machine room" had a huge hydraulic accumulator and a diesel driven hydraulic pump. The diesel engine still had racks of compressed air bottles to start it. I was fascinated to note that the installation required that the gun be returned to its forward position in order to load it. The shell and powder handling would have rotated with the turret aboard a dreadnought but the magazine was fixed for the land installation. We told the guide that we wanted to fire the gun and two English girls in the tour group nodded their heads in agreement ( they were about 6 years old and 8 years old respectively). Our guide was horrified and exclaimed, "Why would you do that?". "For the noise!", we all exclaimed. The guide said a single shot would cost about one million pesetas. "Do you take credit cards?" I enquired. This was a great visit and a must see for future visits. No, we didn't get to shoot the gun.

 

July 1, 2008

Position N 39 25.3' E 003 16.0'
Last night we hoisted our outboard motor and dinghy aboard and stowed them for passage. I meant also to flight-check the engine but decided to leave it for the morrow. We always check things like engine oil level, ATF fluid, belt tightness, on a daily basis but this morning something was wrong. The belt was missing from our 24 volt alternator and had broken. In the past five years this is perhaps the third belt we have replaced. We had intended to drop our mooring at 0530 hours but the repair delayed this by a whole ten minutes. The sun was just peeking above the horizon as we passed Cabo Cavalleria and marveled at the geologic layers displayed on the sea cliffs.

The wind remained very light all day and we motor sailed from the north of Menorca to the south of the adjacent island of Mallorca. Just after lunch we spotted the first and only flying fish that we have seen in the Med. Annette had just been grumbling about the lack of wildlife sightings when it popped up to taunt her.

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As we passed along the coast of Mallorca, the multi-storey hotels stood shoulder to shoulder, lining both the beaches and the cliff tops. There were dozens of yachts passing along the coast and this should have warned us. At 1500 hours we entered Port Colom and cruised the field of mooring buoys looking for one that was unoccupied. There were none. We dropped anchor in one of the few remaining spots in the harbor where it might be legal to do so at 1520 hours. We are in Mallorca.

 

July 2, 2008

We had a visit from the Port Authorities last night and they had asked us to stop by their office this morning to 

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submit paperwork. I did not mind doing this, because the last time we had submitted boat documents was in Sicily. The lady at the office was very pleasant and did not ask for our Passports or the original of our boat registration but merely typed the contents of the form I had submitted into her computer. She charged us 18 euros for our two nights of anchorage and gave us a card with two reference numbers on it for use in other Spanish ports. I mention this because the guide book says we should have arrived at a "Port of Entry", flown our yellow quarantine flag and stopped by Customs, Immigration and Harbor Master. Naturally we had done none of these. Nevertheless, we are now safely "in the system" and have numbers to prove it.

We wandered throughout the town of Portocolom before tackling our lunch. The lady at the tourist information office had given Annette a brochure which listed "local food specialties". One item was "roast suckling pig with roast potatoes and artichoke" and Annette asked where would be a good place to get some. "Oh, not around here", the lady said, "That is home cooking". She had indicated a possible restaurant on the outskirts of town and the map showed that it might be accessible by dinghy. To reach the fabled eatery, we dinghied outside the harbor and braved the waves to travel east to Cala Marcal, perhaps a mile from the harbor entrance. The waves were in the two to three feet range and were reflected back from the sea-cliffs making a very confused seaway. From a dinghy they look enormous but we were on a mission. We entered the Cala (small inlet) and it's far end was a crowded sand beach with dozens of swimmers in the sea. At the west side was a tiny crack in the rocks and we squeezed through this in the dinghy to enter a dry drainage channel. We had to hike across someone's backyard to the street but they were friendly enough and didn't shoot or anything. We actually found the restaurant, they were open, they had suckling pork on the menu and it was delicious! Reversing our course across the backyard we re-entered the drainage and found our dinghy intact and floating gently in it's hidden channel. "This is how pirates get lunch!" I remarked.

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We plan to leave tomorrow around lunch time for an anchorage at the southwest end of Mallorca. We have been monitoring the weather carefully and are trying to dodge a low pressure system that has formed just north of us.

 

July 3, 2008

This morning I was awoken by a heavy roll on DoodleBug that was putting unexpected strains on my bladder. The wind had dropped and rotated so that the dozen or so vessels that were unable to get a mooring, had all changed headings. DoodleBug was now laying broadside to the swell that was entering the harbor, hence the disturbed night. When I checked the anchor at first light, the two men on the nearby catamaran did not look happy. We were close to them but not that close, what was their problem? They raised their anchor and motored past us. "Good morning", I said cheerily, thinking they were moving because of our proximity. As they passed they explained that during the night their RIB (expensive and heavy type of dinghy) with a new 30 HP outboard had gone missing. It had obviously been ripped off during the night and must have cost better than $12,000. Not happy campers. When I spoke to them later they also mentioned that the 200 visitor's moorings are occupied by local boats on a permanent basis. Even when the latter are gone for several weeks, they tie a dinghy to "their" buoy to lay claim to it.

Annette did some last minute shopping and we raised anchor at 1015 hours to head for Cala Carabol on the southwestern tip of Mallorca. The wind was just off to the port of our heading and we motor sailed with the mainsail. The total distance covered today was only 16 miles but the forecast predicts a wind reversal around 2000 hours with gale force winds to the northeast of us. At 1310 hours we dropped anchor in the bay at N 39 16.6' E 003 02.4'. There were perhaps a dozen or more boats in the bay and beyond a sandy beach with swimmers and sunbathers. The day was warm and I decided it would be a good time to check the anchor, the anodes and the condition of the hull. I dug out my swim fins, mask and flippers and made my first swim of the year without a wetsuit. Annette was finally shamed into getting wet and together we decided to swim ashore and check out the concrete pill boxes we could see, as well as the usual search for interesting shells and buried pirate treasure. We swam ashore and discovered that this is a nudist beach. Now most of those people should really wear clothes, even in private but there were a quintet of goddesses at the south end of the beach - not that I noticed you understand. The concrete pill boxes were the usual receptacles of both inorganic and organic human waste and not that interesting. I assume they were built at the time of the Spanish Civil war.

Around 1900 hours the bay began to empty and the nudists began to put on clothes and move inland. We were now down to just three vessels in the anchorage. We had seen this phenomenon from Italy onwards. It seems that many people book two weeks at a marina. They then motor out to a beach every morning and return back to their marina berth before nightfall. Very few anchor out for the night.

The wind was gradually increasing in strength and we were on a lee shore with two to three foot waves coming at us. It was increasingly uncomfortable and I was beginning to wonder about the weather forecast. At 1940 hours the wind died, then switched direction by 180 degrees and within two minutes, was blowing at near twenty knots. We were now in a "sheltered" anchorage instead of on a lee shore and we took time to reset the anchor. The wind died down to 10 knots but the swells unfortunately remembered the previous couple of days and were hitting our stern. Maybe in an hour or so.....  We sail tomorrow for Ibiza.

 

July 4, 2008

Position N 38 43.8' E 001 24.0' at 1620 hours UTM
Last night the swell obviously did not bother me, as I awoke to the dulcet tones of an alarm clock at 0500 hours. It was dark and quiet in the anchorage and when I poked my head out of the cockpit, I discovered there was only one other vessel in the small bay. We raised anchor at 0525 hours and set sail for Clot d'es Llamp on the east coast of Isla Ibiza. The weather forecast we were using showed winds of 15 knots from behind for most of the day before they swung around to the south. In fact the promised winds held at 7 or 8 knots and thus we motored with the mainsail adding it's assistance of a fraction of a knot. At 0755 hours we reviewed the latest forecast with regard to the expected winds over the next few days and changed course for Ensenada del Cabrito on the Isla de Fermentera. This move would make today a longer run but would cut 30 miles of headwinds from our next leg.

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We celebrated the Fourth of July by firing off three flares that had expiration dates of four years ago. No we didn't fire them into the air. Are you crazy? There would have been helicopters and rescue boats everywhere if we had done that. We checked the radar to make sure that there was no other vessel within 6 miles and then fired the flares at an angle so that they went into the sea. These were 25 mm flares fired from a "Very" pistol just like in the WW II movies. The first flare did not fire, even though I made two attempts. The second flare hit the water about 30 feet from DoodleBug and burned brightly underwater. The third bounced and landed a hundred feet away burning brightly on the surface. I tried the first flare again and this time it did fire but disappeared into the depths without igniting. So much for the fireworks display.

Disposing of flares is problematic, as obviously firing them into the air is not a viable option. Throwing them into a dumpster is also not socially responsible, as these fireworks could get into the hands of children or spark a conflagration at sometime in the future. In the USA you can get rid of expired flares by delivering them to the Coast Guard. This of course brings up the second problem when abroad. The cheapest flares are those that are fired from either a 12 gauge or 25 mm pistol. In certain countries, such as Australia, these pistols are classed as firearms and thus illegal to have on board. The USA coast guard "suggest" that you keep your expired flares on board as well as the statutory number of "valid date stamped" flares. The rationale is that after you have fired off all of your "fresh" flares and need more, the stale ones will probably work just fine and a statistical sampling by the scientific staff aboard DoodleBug have demonstrated that this is true in two out of three cases. In certain antipodal countries, the possession of expired flares aboard a yacht is illegal. The third problem is how do you keep a supply of valid dated flares aboard. You cannot add them to your checked luggage at the airport and the flares have a two year expiration date. If you try buying them at some far flung marina supply, you generally find that the expiration date is three weeks hence and the instructions in Croatian clearly specify that they are not USCG approved.

We would have kept today's celebratory flares onboard except that they were four years out of date and beginning to bulge ominously. When dealing with something the size of a hand grenade that is designed to explode then burn, we decided it was time to part company.

The day continued in a more tedious manner and as we sailed between the Island of Ibiza to the north and Formentera to the south, the radar showed a swarm of ferries and pleasure craft, both power and sail, crisscrossing our path ahead. We planned to cross the shallow bank of Bajo d'en Pou in the pass of Freu Grande between the islands. The wind had remained light all day but the swell had increased to near 5 feet from directly astern and I expected this to increase and steepen as we moved from water depths of over a thousand feet to the twenty feet or so across the bank ahead. It was indeed exciting as we crossed the bank and reminded us of the reef passes in the Tuamotus. We were supposed to make a hard turn to port as we crossed the bank but caution prevailed and we eased a few degrees at a time until we were clear of the steep waves.

At 1820 hours we picked up a mooring in Ensenada del Cabrito on the Island of Formentera. Annette fixed the

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traditional all-America dish of tacos with New Mexico green Hatch chilies in the ground meat, cheddar cheese from the import section of the supermarket in Mallorca, El Paso brand taco shells bought in Darwin, a touch of Louisiana Tabasco bought in Turkey and we were set. Happy Birthday America!

 

July 5, 2008

This morning we dinghied across a shallow, small boat harbor and beached our dinghy on a strip of sand. A few yards from where we had landed was a dumpster to take our accumulated trash and a few yards further was a

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motor-scooter rental store. What a convenience! Scooters are a very practical form of transportation in these Mediterranean countries, provided the weather is clement of course. Many countries we have visited have heard of the "automobile society" but have no clue as to it's actual implementation. Yes, there are cars of every shape and size in profusion but no place to park. Only the French have cottoned on to the concept that a "supermarket" should have a free parking lot attached with shopping carts available. For the rest of the world, the best bet is a scooter parked on the sidewalk.

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We are anchored on the northwest coast of Formentera and our first destination was south, to the lighthouse on Cap de Barbaria. Traffic was very light and we diverted to follow a faded sign pointing to Megalithic ruins. These were dated a couple of thousand years BC and the jumble of rocks outlining the foundations of the ancient buildings were fenced off from tourist attack. Our course was next set for the most easterly point of the island at Punta d'es Far. On our return we stopped for lunch at a restaurant at Raco de sa Pujada. The view from the restaurant perched on high cliffs was fantastic. A pity the food really sucked. Another fifty dollar "Euro-lunch". We did discover the meaning of a sign we have seen on many islands and which had puzzled us. It is a small metal rectangle divided by a diagonal. The upper triangle is painted white and the lower is black. The waiter at the restaurant explained that this means "legal hunting". If you can find anything edible, you can shoot it on that property. We did see pheasants on our Megalithic side-trip but were told that rabbits were a more likely target.

Back at DoodleBug we noticed the yacht anchored behind us sported an American flag. This was SV "Belle". Kenneth and Annalise invited us aboard to share a glass of wine as a belated celebration of the Fourth of July. Annalise has spent the past ten years living on Mallorca. She said that it was a wonderful place to live but for Americans suffering from the dollar / euro exchange rate woes, has become too expensive to remain.