At 1000 we raised the anchor which came up easily and made our way along the coast on the 20 mile run to Mahon. The wind was so light as to be useless for sailing, so we motored all the way until we entered Mahon harbour. We had intended to anchor behind the Isla de Lazereto in Cala Taulera, but the electric windlass for the anchor decided to break down at that point, so we motored further up the harbour to Marina Mahon to find a berth.
The arrival in the Marina Mahon berth was one of the most tragic that I have yet accomplished. Foolishly, I decided to leave the tender hanging on the back of the boat as we reversed into out slot and this proved to be more of an obstacle that I had anticipated. Before we could hook the lazy line and secure the bow, the side wind caught Synergy and we were blown considerably sideways and I was too slow too catch it. Another embarrassing lesson learned.
A quick call to Pete Smith at the East Anglian Sea School identified the electric windlass circuit breaker switch, which I had never noticed before.. With the circuit breaker reset reset the windlass was working perfectly again and we could have anchored after all. An expensive experience as berthing in Balearic Island marinas is cripplingly expensive.
At 1015, which seemed to be becoming our habitual departure time, we left our berth in Ciutadella and moved to the refuelling berth a little way down the Cala. The tanks took 113 Litres of diesel after our marathon run from Calpe and there wasn’t a lot left.
Ciutadella at Night
We then made our way down the Cala to encounter a force 4 to 5 breeze blowing in the open water (Calas are small bays or inlets that can be either wide beaches or narrow coves). Unfortunately, Claire started to feel unwell as it seemed that she is very prone to motion sickness, which did not bode well for the next few days. The wind held and we were able to sail at over 7kts for most of the way to our chosen anchorage, Cala Trebeújer.
This turned out to be a medium sized bay bordered by rocky cliffs, but with a beach at its head and a stream running into the northwest corner. All very pretty. There were quite a few boats there already so we had to anchor a little further out than we would have preferred but we were still in a safe and secure spot.
As Claire was still feeling rough we inflated the tender, plonked the outboard motor on the back and I ferried Sarah and Claire to the beach where they spent the afternoon. Returning to the boat Jac and I went for a swim in the clear, warm water and spent the afternoon lazing in the sun. It’s a tough life at sea. Later Jac swam to the beach and back again to make sure Sarah and Claire were ok and I then ferried them some more drinks in the tender to stock up their supplies. Jac reported that the beach was full of nudists, a fact I could confirm, as the chap on the French boat anchored closer in had been walking around all day with no clothes on. In just a pair of shorts I was feeling overdressed.
Although the wind was quite light as the afternoon wore on the swell increased making Synergy move around quite a lot. Collecting the girls from the beach, Claire’s Mal de Mer returned and she was later violently ill. Sarah magnificently did a clean up job. What a great pal!
It wasn’t the most comfortable of nights and I was concerned that a late arriving American boat might drag her anchor and hit us, so I spent part of the night on deck. However, the day dawned with all the anchored boats pretty much where they had been the previous evening, despite the wind having moved almost right around the clock.
At 1015 in the morning we left Calpe, rounded the eastern side of the impressive lump of rock and turned onto a course of approximately 060° which we would maintain for the next 20 hours or so. The weather was once again relatively calm with clear skies and light winds. We made a note of our position every hour expecting to be out of sight of land for some of the time but the brown hills of mainland Spain were still in clear view when we sighted Ibiza and we were always in view of one of the islands from then on.
Calpe behind us heading for Menorca
Calpe behind us heading for Menorca
We settled into our 4 hour watch system and most of the other traffic disappeared with the exception of a few cargo ships and ferries and after dark we were almost completely alone. The wind was light and quite fickle but Jac was able to unfurl the headsail as we passed between Ibiza and Menorca and we were able to maintain over 7 knots for most of the passage.
Apart from large stretches of water there was little to see, but after a quiet night, during which the wind dropped and the sea turned to a mill pond, Jac saw some dolphins lazily making their way in the opposite direction and I saw a swordfish jump from the water. The north coast of Majorca is very impressive, rocky and mountainous and we passed only 4 miles north of the shore.
The final leg from the north-east tip on Majorca to Menorca seemed to pass quickly even though it was about 5 hours sailing. Menorca is much more low-lying than Majorca and our destination, Ciutadella, was towards the western most part of the Island. As usual, the light wind picked up to force 4 just before we arrived, just before we had to furl the sails. The entrance to the port was quite hard to see, but once we had it identified it, we found ourselves gently motoring up a beautiful little “Cala” to the centre of the town.
Cargo Ship following the coast of Mallorca
Rocky NE tip of Mallorca
Marinas in the Balearics are phenomenally expensive. We had phoned ahead and booked a berth with the Club Nautico who were demanding 97 Euros a night, but a quick call on the radio to the public mooring office secured us a berth in a better position at less than half the price. Still expensive compared with most places we had been, but it would bankrupt us at half the rate!
Ciutadella is a beautiful town, steeped in history, with lots of narrow winding streets and Jac and I went exploring while Sarah and Claire arrived by bus from their holiday flat a couple of miles away. We met them after they arrived at the bus station and found a restaurant overlooking the Cala and the moored boats for an evening meal before Sarah and Claire returned for a last night in their flat before joining us on Synergy.
We fell into bed feeling very proud of ourselves for having achieved our longest overnight run on our own to date, a distance of 199 miles.
8th July 2016 Ciutadella
Jac and I spent the morning exploring the town while waiting for the girls to arrive. We found a supermarket and collected some more fresh food and tried to resolve our ongoing problem of poor internet connection, only to discover that my Samsung tablet was not equipped to take a chip which would have given us a connection. Back to the drawing board, or in this case, the usual lousy internet provided by marinas.
The girls arrived in the evening and, after a meal, we were all set to leave the following day.
With the alternator replaced and everything working normally again we were ready to leave Torrevieja on 4 July. Unfortunately the wind was once again against us, with strong north-easterly winds, which would not abate until Tuesday 5th July. We were now running seriously late as Jacquie’s daughter Sarah and her friend Claire would be arriving in Menorca on the evening of 6th. They were aware of our delays and had booked into a holiday flat for 2 days but we would still be pressed to make Menorca by 8th July.
We had considered a long run straight to Ibiza, but having had the alternator problem, we decided to follow the coast to Calpe to ensure that no other issues occurred. This would give us plenty of available boltholes and Steve Wayman had offered to make the hour and a half drive to Calpe to help us out if any further problems occurred. What a great guy!
With the strong winds having eased down to a maximum of force 3, but in a direction that might fill the headsail, we set off on the 60 mile trip to Calpe. With lots of engine and electrics checks on the way and some gentle motor sailing we followed the very arid coast. This was meant to be the Costa Blanca (The White Coast), but goodness knows where the name comes from as, from the sea, it seems a uniform shade of brown.
We tried to rise the mainsail, but somehow the mainsail halliard had managed to wrap itself around the radar reflector fitted to the front of the mast and nothing we did would persuade it to return to its traditional position on the back of the mast. That would be a problem that we would have to solve when we reached Calpe. For the first time we sailed with the bimini erected to give us some shade as the last leg we had completed to Torrevieja had left us both overheated. We had expected the cockpit cover to restrict our view of the sails, but it proved to be no problem.
After seven hours we saw Calpe ahead and, after refueling, made our way to our berth which was down one of the tightest pontoon alleys we had yet encountered. Having tied up we then had to solve the snagged halliard problem and Jac volunteered to go up the mast in the bosun’s chair. (Actually she didn’t! There wasn’t really a choice, as I had the strength to winch Jac up, but she would have struggled with my weight.) I winched Jac up the mast with a safety line around her chest as a back up. Once up the mast Jac quickly put the line back in its correct place, but then disaster struck. I had managed to get a line jammed around the winch and nothing I could do would free it. Encouraged by a plaintive cry of, “I’m frightened” from halfway up the mast, I finally managed to generate enough slack line to free the jam and lower Jac to the deck.
Jac being very brave.
Jac stuck up the mast
Calpe is a pretty little place, apart from the overburden of high rise apartments. The marina is dominated by a large lump of limestone looking reminiscent of a mini Gibraltar. With this backdrop we had a lovely and inexpensive meal at a fish restaurant while we checked the weather and planned for the following day.
With good weather and light winds forecast and the engine having proved to be reliable once again, we decided to make the 200 mile trip to Menorca the following day.
On 29th June we finally found a break in the persistent north-easterly winds which had kept us penned up in Cartagena . The forecast was for a maximum of 13 knots and in a direction that would enable us to sail for part of the time.
We left Cartagena at 0935 to sail the 45 (ish) miles to Torrevieja expecting favourable winds for the next few days which would enable us to reach Menorca by 6th July. Leaving the harbour we immediately encountered winds of 25kts in the gusts and with 2 reefs in the mainsail, a semi furled headsail and Jac helming, we were scudding along at seven and a half knots and occasionally topping 8, supersonic for Synergy. After a couple of hours we had to turn north-easterly to round Cape Palos and that took us directly into wind so the engine once more did the work.
We arrived at Torrevieja at 1730 and were berthed alongside friends that we had met in Gibraltar,Ted and Chris, on their motor catamaran “Legless” in the International Marina, one of 3 inside the huge harbour at Torrevieja. A quick shower and off to the Nautic, a marina side restaurant, for a meal with Chris and Ted before falling into bed.
Synergy in her berth at Torrevieja
View across Torrevieja Harbour
Synergy moored at Torrevieja
30th June Off to Calpe (Nearly!)
Breakfast at the Nautic with Chris and Ted and then we waved goodbye and tootled across to Marina Salinas to the refuelling berth to top up the diesel for the run to Calpe. As we left I noticed that the engine RPM gauge wasn’t working. No problem, just set the power by ear or for a target speed and we can fix it later.
What I had not appreciated was that the RPM gauge takes its feed from the alternator which had failed. In the bright sunlight the illuminated battery charging light was invisible and, over the noise of the engine, the “No Charge” warning was almost inaudible. Besides which we were busy getting the sails up and dodging some lunatic in a small fishing boat who, inexplicably, cut across our bows and then stopped 100 yards ahead. Jac dodged round the deaf dumb and blind kid, who seemed completely unaware of the carnage that he had nearly generated and we settled down for the trip to Calpe with a wind that was going to give us a bit of a push.
About 4 miles out I thought I could hear a beeping noise from below and investigation showed that the electrical panel was not happy. The battery was not charging, so the only thing to do was return to Torrevieja. Half an hour later and we were back in our berth with the companion way steps off and my head inside the engine. It rapidly became clear that the alternator was a terminal case with a lot of melted wiring evident behind it.
We weren’t going anywhere until we had fixed the problem and we needed professional help. A quick call to Ted who had friends in Torrevieja, but was now on his way back to Gibraltar and he put us in touch with Danny who ran an upholstery business, Skyline Upholstery. As I called him his friend Steve Wayman, of Waymarine and an electrician, (yahoo!) walked into the office. Steve was with us in an hour and a half and quickly confirmed that we would need a new alternator and some surgery on the damaged wiring.
Apart from the technical difficulties, the weather was due to turn on Sunday 3rd July to a howling north-easterly and not abate until Tuesday 2nd July. We had missed our weather window and schedule-wise, we were in deep trouble.
The alternator arrived on Saturday 2nd of July and Steve came straight over to fit it. With the alternator on and the damaged wiring replaced, there were still some anomalies in the system and Steve resolved to come back on the Sunday and sort them out. The following day Steve arrived at 10 am and expected to be done in an hour or two. At 6 pm after a lot of head scratching the job was finally done. There had been a deep snag in the wiring which took Steve hours to pin down and fix. Several beers later and with our grateful thanks Steve left for home. Where else would you get that sort of service? Steve worked the whole weekend to get us going and his charges were very reasonable. A great guy who I can thoroughly recommend.
With the wind blowing hard as forecast, Jac and I spent Monday completing boat and domestic jobs and testing the engine again in preparation for the run to Calpe…….late again!
Jac and I decided to be brave and do another overnight to Cartagena. The wind had finally dropped to virtually nothing and we motor sailed all the way having left Almerimar and our friends Lou and Michael at 1130 in the morning. It was a tearful goodbye, (Jac and Lou) as we had had a great time with both of them and were already making tentative arrangements to meet again later in the year.
Our trip to Cartagena was uneventful until we were approaching the port, just before dawn broke, when we encountered a massive fishing fleet in the dark. With the boats all milling around in various directions it was a puzzle to weave our way through to reach the port, particularly as we had no idea how far their nets were dragging behind them. The sun rose which made the task easier and we were able to find our way through to tie up in the YPC Marina at 0745 in the morning.
Jac had had less sleep than I had so she then slept for 4 hours before we went exploring the town. These overnight runs are great but they leave one exhausted afterwards. Other cruising sailors tell us that you need at least 2 nights at sea to get settled into a 4 on 4 off watch system and adapt to getting sufficient sleep. We shall see!!
25th June to 29th June Cartagena
Attempting to reach Menorca by 6 July when Jac’s daughter, Sarah and her friend Claire were due to arrive, we had still decided to spend a day or two in Cartagena exploring. It turned out to be a fascinating place and surprisingly un-touristy considering its history, which dates back to the Carthaginians in around two-hundred-and-something BC. Hanibal’s brother Hasdrubal founded the city as a Carthaginian base in Iberia before the Romans took the city and changed the name from Qart Hadasht to Carthago Nova. Being the only natural harbour on the Mediterranean side of the Iberian Peninsula, it was, and remains a naval port with a Spanish Naval Base there today.
The town today is a very neat and tidy place with a particularly impressive main street. The Calle Mayor, which appears to be entirely paved with marble, boasts some impressive architecture.
Over the next few days Jac and I explored the touristy bits; the old Roman forum area, the partially restored Roman Theatre, the Castillo de Conception (castle) and the more recent civil war shelters, as well as checking that the standard of the beer and wine were of an acceptable standard.
The town seems to host a non stop stream of musical events and parades. On our first evening there we witnessed a song and dance show staged on a platform erected outside the town hall. The following evening there was a “Beatles Event” with a homemade Yellow Submarine playing Beatles songs accompanied by children and young people from a dance school. We commandeered ringside seats at a café across the street from the Town Hall and, being Beatles fans, we thoroughly enjoyed the show.
The following evening there seemed to be a Gay Pride march with drummers, dancing troupes and floats with some very bizarrely dressed people dancing to their float mounted sound systems. Batman wearing a thong but with no back to his tights has to be a first! He seemed to be very proud of his posterior as he was more than willing to put it on public display.
After Almerimar, our target was to reach the Balearics as soon as we could. Apart from the huge costs of many of the marinas on the Costa del Sol, neither Jac or I were particularly interested in spending much time on the Spanish holiday Costas and our intention was to make our way to somewhere close to Ibiza as soon as we could and hop across to the islands in quick time. However, we found ourselves unable (sensibly) to leave Amerimar for a day or two as the wind was forecast to blow hard from the northeast, exactly in the direction that we wished to go.
From the forecasts the earliest opportunity for us to depart would be 23rd June, (coincidently Brexit Day as it transpired) which gave us a couple of days to regroup and see the sights.
Way back in the dim mists of time in the 1960s and 1970s a series of films were made known as Spaghetti Westerns. They were low budget films made with Italian directors and many were filmed in locations around the Tabernas Desert near Almeria in Spain. Some such as A Few Dollars More and The Good The Bad And The Ugly were filmed at a site called Mini Hollywood not far from Almerimar so Jac and I decided to go and see it. We hired a car and 40 minutes along good roads and we arrived at a wild west town in Spain!
The drive took us through some of the weirdest countryside that we had ever seen. Crammed together over what must be thousands of acres of land, with hardly enough space to drive a truck between are huge greenhouses made of plastic sheeting where, we were informed, most of Europe’s winter vegetables are grown.
North of Almeria the landscape is very arid and it is easy to see why the film directors decided to use this area. It could easily double for the drier regions of the wild west.
Mini-Hollywood or Oasys, as it is also known turned out to be just off the main road and has probably won “The Best Kept Wild West Town Award.” The set was bought by a group of extras after the site ceased to be used for filming and is now effectively a theme park. We wandered around the General Store, the Sheriff’s office and jail, the undertakers and even the cemetery before dropping into the saloon for some light refreshment.
The bank contained a museum of cinema posters and equipment from the past with many familiar film posters on display and a large collection of old cameras and projectors.
At midday a show was staged in the main square depicting the last hours of Jesse James accompanied by gunfights and a hanging. As there were lots of children watching the show the hangee had the good grace to smile and wave before he finally expired. All part of the fun.
Jesse James, Died of Overacting
Behind the town is Fort Apache, now enclosing some gardens and a swimming pool and further up the hill is a quite extensive zoo. Neither Jac or I were comfortable with the sight of a magnificent Siberian Tiger and many other animals cooped up in quite small enclosures, so we didn’t spend much time there and shortly afterwards set off for Almerimar stopping at a supermarket for provisions on the way.