Mahon

11 -16 July 2016                             Mahon

If you have never read Patrick O’Brian’s books about the Royal Navy during the period of the Napoleonic Wars then I can thoroughly recommend them. They centre on the exploits of Jack Aubrey, a naval officer and his great friend, naval surgeon and spy, Stephen Maturin, and they have been acclaimed as masterpieces of historical fiction although, like most great historical novels, they contain quite a lot of historical fact as well. The title of the first of the series of twenty books was used for a Hollywood film, Master and Commander, starring Russel Crowe and Paul Bettany, but despite being a reasonable film it didn’t come close to doing the books justice.

The reason that I am blathering on about this is that the book, “Master and Commander,” was set in Mahon in 1802 at the time when it was a Royal Navy base and being a great fan of the books, I was really looking forward to seeing the town.

Mahon harbour is hugely impressive being some 3 miles long from the cliffs of Cape Mola to the western end of the reach. It is easy to see why the Royal Navy valued it so much as a safe haven dominating the Eastern End of the Mediterranean and within easy reach of both France and Spain both of whom we were then at war with. Much of the history of the time remains, with the old naval hospital on the Illa del Rei, the dockyard (still a Spanish Navy base) and many of the old defences still standing. The harbour is wide enough and deep enough for cruise ships and ferries to mainland Spain to negotiate, which can be quite intimidating to those on small boats.

Over the next few days we explored Mahon, which is a delightful place and, at the top of the steps to the Old Town, boasts the best ice cream shop in the world! We also discovered a great cafe called the Can Xavi which had an extensive menu at reasonable prices. We went there several times for lunch.

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Clare and Jacquie outside the ice cream shop

Sarah and Clare left us to return to the UK  12 July and we then waited for my son, Stephen to arrive on 16th. The weather turned awful as the Tramontana, a wind which howls across the Gulf of Lyons from France blew up. It was blowing up to 50 kts outside the harbour so we were glad that we were safely tied up in a marina. Even so, on 13th July we couldn’t risk leaving the boat as she was moving around so much that there was a danger that she would smash into the pontoon.

On 14th July a Spanish flagged boat called Ermita del Conde arrived alongside us. The lady skipper turned out to be the owner of a vineyard in the north of Spain near Burgos and she gave us a bottle of her red wine to sample. It was delicious. Thank you Marta.

On 16th July Steve arrived from the UK so we could now move from Mahon which was proving to be very expensive.

 

 

 

 

A Digression

It has been a long time since I last wrote a blog post. Last July to be exact, but procrastination has once again taken over on a grand scale. We were having such a great time in Menorca that all thoughts of documenting our experiences was forgotten. However, I have now the time, and more importantly, the inclination to write again.

Temporary disaster! I can’t find the boat’s logbook which we might have left on Synergy and we are now back in the UK. W e use the logbook to remind ourselves what happened and without it all would be guesswork.

All is not lost however as I thought I would try to include a video recording, something that I have never attempted before. This has nothing to do with sailing as I don’t have any sailing videos, so this can be regarded as an experiment.

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My Pitts over Andalucia

Before we bought “Synergy”, I owned an aircraft which I had bought in the USA, had it broken down and shipped across the Atlantic to Liverpool, transported to Wickenby in Lincolnshire where it was reassembled before I flew it down to Jerez de la Frontera in Spain, where I was then working. I kept the little red machine in Jerez until I left there in 2010 when I flew her back to the UK. I sold the aircraft in 2012 as I had hardly flown her for a year. A combination of work and the lousy English weather kept her in the hangar.

This is a video of my Pitts Special S2b, N5329X, which now resides in Belgium. The video was mostly filmed and produced by a Flight Training Europe student, Tom Stebbing, who is now a Boeing 737 captain with Ryanair.

Cala Trebeujer to Mahon

10th July 2016

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.

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Claire and Sarah

 

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 requires taking out a mortgage.

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Mahon Harbour

Ciutadella to Cala Trebeujer

9th July 2016

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Ciutadella

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.

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.

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Cala Trebeujer

 

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.

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The Beach, Cala Trebeujer

 

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.

 

 

Calpe to Ciutadella

6th July to 7th July 2016

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.

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.

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Dawn still heading for Menorca

 

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.

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!

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The Harbour, Ciutadella

 

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.

 

Torrevieja to Calpe

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!

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Costa Browner!

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.

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Benidorm (Aaaargh!) We didn’t stop.

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.

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.

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Calpe Harbour

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.

Cartagena to Torrevieja

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.

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The Casino Torrevieja now a restaurant. Oldest building in town decorated in the elaborate style of 100 years ago.

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.

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.

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Engine with Shiny New Alternator

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!