Palma (Again)

20th August 2016            Puerto San Antonio to Palma

We decided to move back to Palma and spend more time exploring the city. A quick call to the marina determined that they could accommodate us so we motored the 3 miles to Palma harbour. There must have been some communication breakdown as the radio call to the marina was met with rejection. “Come back again in 3 hours,” was the response. With not too many options available to us we motored out of the harbour and along the breakwater and dropped anchor in the bay. We had some lunch, read and killed time until our 3 hours was up. Back into the charter marina we were faced with a last minute panic as the marinero called us to ask us to get our tender out of the water. As we used it a lot we normally dragged it behind us for short routes and then transferred it to the bow as we approached our berth so that it would not impede the stern to mooring. I managed to drag it onto the fore deck, not an easy task as it is very heavy. We tied up safely and the went back to the La Naya for a repeat meal of our first night in Palma.

I now come to the most tragic event of the whole trip. Gentlemen, get your handkerchiefs ready. In the evening I had run out of cigarettes, so I went hunting for some in a bar called the Escape Bar and Bistro in the Placa de la Drassana, just across the road from the marina. The machine was out of action, but the English chap I spoke to directed me across the square. The Escape Bar had looked good so I took the girls back there after our meal. You will never believe what comes next. The beer was free! Yes free! In fact, all the drinks were free. So far, absolutely unbelievable. It transpired that the chap to whom I had spoken earlier during my cigarette hunt was the owner. He had sold the business and this was the last night before he closed the doors for the last time to concentrate on other ventures. The tills had gone so he was giving the stock away and and a magnificent party was in progress. “Fill your boots,”  he said. “You can chuck some money in a bucket if you like.” So, we had a drink and chucked some change into the bucket.

Now this is the tragic part. Jac and Jan were very tired so we walked away from the pub where the beer was free! That is probably the only time in several lifetimes that one might have that opportunity. There is probably a greater chance of being abducted by aliens and we walked away after only one drink. It took me days to recover and has left me scarred for life.

21st August 2016                 Palma 

Still recovering from the shock of the previous night’s events, we decided to go sightseeing. We walked up to the old town near the cathedral, half looking for a shop where I had bought an excellent hammock many years before. In St Eualia Square we found a great cafe selling Paella, Jac’s favorite and then we decided to take a hop-on-hop-off bus around the city. We had found from previous experiences in Porto and Lisbon that this was a great way to see the sights and we were not disappointed. We stopped at the Castell de Bellver, a castle with tremendous views over the city, spending an hour or two looking around.

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Castell de Bellver, Palma

The castle was constructed in the 14th century and has also served as a prison. Today it houses a history museum and the central courtyard is used for concerts.

From the road outside the castle the views over the city were stunning, so we stopped to take some photographs before taking the hop-on-hop-off bus back to the marina.

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Palma Harbour
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La Lonja Marina, just in front of the cathedral

22nd August 2016                 Palma

This was Jan’s last day with us so Jac and Jan went on a tour of the cathedral and we all went to the Born 8 for another spectacular Wiener Schnitzel.

23rd August 2016                  Palma

We all walked through the old town to the bus stop where we would say goodbye to Jan. We were a little early so we stopped at a cafe for breakfast before seeing Jan off. It was going to be some time before we met up again as Jan was leaving for Qatar at the end of the week.

Having said goodbye, Jac and I went shopping. On 28th August it was Jac’s birthday. She had expressed a wish to learn how to play a musical instrument and I had spotted a music shop in La Rambla during our bus trip. We had left the boat early to see Jan off and we had some time to wait before the shop opened so we grabbed a coffee in the Lupe cafe across the street. When the music shop owner arrived we were his first customers and Jac opted for a handsome ukulele together with a hard case and we made our way back to the boat.

24th August 2016                     Palma

We spent a lazy day on the boat with Jac practicing on the ukulele, much to the dismay of our neighbours. Perhaps that is why a departing catamaran clipped our bow as he was leaving the marina. Just getting his own back, I suppose.

25th August 2016                     Last Day in Palma

We had decided that it was time to move on. One last wander around the beautiful old town around the cathedral and we made a detour to go to a shop called Fine Books, which Jan had discovered before she left. This is the most fascinating second hand book shop that I have ever seen with piles of books and papers everywhere in, it would appear, in no particular order. However, the rather eccentric English gentleman who owns and runs the shop seems to know where everything is and can direct you to the item that you are looking for. If you go to Palma, this place is a must to visit, absolutely superb. (Fine Books, Carrer d’En Morei, 7, 07001 Palma, Illes Balears, Spain.)

Palma Bay

15th August 2016                   Palma to Cala Blava

In order to reduce our expenses we decided to get out of Palma and as the weather was reasonably settled, we would cross the bay to Cala Blava, a relatively wide bay where mooring buoys had been laid to protect the sea grass. Another lovely morning and just passing through Palma harbour is interesting with craft ranging from small dinghies to private yachts half the size of ocean liners moving too and fro. We passed Alan Sugar’s boat which, although pretty sizeable, is quite modest when compared with some of the monsters which seem to be almost permanent fixtures in Palma.

Outside the harbour, we unfurled the Genoa and looked forward to a gentle run across the bay. As usual the wind did not cooperate. We had left Palma in almost no wind and by the time we had reached the mooring buoys the wind had increased to Force 5 plus and we were scudding along at over 6 knots on the Genoa alone. The sea had chopped up badly and we were hoping for a bit of assistance in picking up our buoy. No such luck. In Fornells, in calm condition there had been a chap in a rib to help us. Now, in far more difficult circumstances there was no one to be seen.

Try as we might we could not get a line onto the buoy. We tried with Jac on the helm, me on the helm. We tried different buoys, we tried approaching forwards and reversing backwards, but no combination would work. It might be thought that we were incompetent but the buoys should have been fitted with a length of line and a small pilot buoy which could be picked up with a boat hook. None of the buoys designed for our weight of boat had them still attached; all had been torn off. After about 15 attempts and with the air having turned a deep shade of blue for several miles around we finally managed to get tied on.

And would you believe it? Finally, along comes the man in the rib to check that we had paid.

After all that effort we decided that we deserved a treat and took Tommy the Tender to the shore where there was a restaurant in a hotel which produced a good meal.

Sadly, our fun with the buoy had not ended. After dark the wind dropped and left Synergy just drifting on the end of her mooring line. During the night the buoy slipped down the side of the boat and banged against the hull waking us all up. I tried every combination: shortening the line, lengthening the line, putting a spring on the line, but nothing worked to stop the banging. The only variable was which part of the hull it hit.

16th August 2016                            Cala Blava

After such a shocking night’s sleep we decided to have a lazy day, so we spent the day quietly on the boat. I did summon up the energy to get in the water with a scrubbing brush and clean below the water line. The copper coat was still working well with nothing but a bit of slime on the hull.

In the evening  after dark, we witnessed a fire on the shore. It was a few hundred metres inland but looked like a palm tree or a radio mast which was blazing well. we couldn’t see any emergency services in attendance so we called 112, the Spanish equivalent of 999 and reported it. The telephone operator said that they were already attending to it shortly afterwards the fire died away.

“Boris the Bastard Buoy,” as it had now been named, gave us another shocking night. I am sure that inanimate piece of plastic had a malevolent personality.

17th August 2016                   Cala Blava to Puerto San Antonio

Boris wins! We decided that we couldn’t take another disturbed night so we decided to move the 3 miles to Puerto San Antonio. That is the Puerto San Antonio near the airport at Palma, not the one on Ibiza. A quick call to the marina office determined that they had space and half an hour later we were moored up.

The pilot book said that this was a noisy marina being close to the airport, but we hardly noticed any noise at all. Perhaps it depends on the wind direction.

18th August 2016                     Puerto San Antonio

Jac and I found a supermarket and restocked the boat while Jan went off to sort out some administration. She had resigned from her job working as a teacher of modern languages and was moving to Qatar to work in a management role in a school there. By the look of the number of adverts for teachers that are showing on UK TV, she is not the only teacher leaving the British system. After the boring jobs had been done Jac and Jan retired to the beach while I tried to get the stainless steel back to its normal glorious state.

19th August 2016                     Puerto San Antonio

It appeared that we were in a charter boat berth so we were asked to move across the marina which we completed early in the day. We had been so impressed with the Caves of Drachs in Porto Cristo that we wanted to show them to Jan so we hired a car and set off across the island. We had to pass through a town called Manacor, which boasted a Suzuki outboard engine dealer so we went there to try to get 2 rubber straps for our engine over. Ours were badly perished. They didn’t have them in stock so we moved on.

The cave trip was just as good the second time round as the first. In fact it was probably even better as there was less noise and fewer people trying to take flash photographs.

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Near the Dragon Caves Entrance

On the return journey we decided to explore a little bit of the island so we made our way on a roundabout route through Sineu and Inca back to Puerto San Antonio. The interior of Mallorca is really very pretty and, as far as we could see, largely unexplored by tourists. This reflects the situation in mainland Spain where, a few miles from the coast, a very different and largely unspoiled Spain can be found.

Sineu is a pretty little place where we stopped for a drink and then moved onto Inca where we found a restaurant in a central square for dinner.

Back to the coast, returned the car and so to bed.

Palma de Mallorca

13th August 2016                       Porto Colom to Palma

In almost calm and bright, sunny conditions we left Porto Colom and turned southwards on the last leg of our journey to Palma, where we were to meet my sister Janet. We motor -sailed along the coast, a very different sight to the mountainous north coast and much more built up. Turning westwards at the southern most tip of the island we left Cabrera Island on our port side. This small archipelago is a National Park which requires special permission to visit, but it is said to be a very peaceful stop.

The 48 miles from Porto Colom to Palma took us around six and a half hours to complete and, as we crossed Palma Bay, we were met with the magnificent sight of Palma Cathedral dominating the buildings close to the waterfront.

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Palma Cathedral

Palma is a massive harbour with a cruise ship terminal at the western end and, according to the pilot book, 8 marinas inside the breakwater. Jac had found another one. Searching online she had found the La Lonja Marina Charter which, at 72 Euros a night booked through Port Booker, turned out to be as economical as one can get in Palma. Most of the other marinas are considerably more expensive. La Lonja Marina is in the old fishing port, as far east in the harbour as you can go and right underneath the cathedral. It is actually the base for several yacht charter companies and the only disadvantage is that you cannot stay there during the high season on a Friday as the yachts are all being turned around as the crews changed.

We got ourselves settled in and waited for Jan to arrive. Her flight arrived on time, she took a bus into the city and, after a bit of a walk around town, found us at the port. We dropped her kit and went for an explore.

Palma is a lively place with plenty going on and, whilst it is definitely a tourist location, it still has the feel of a working city and there are plenty of places to go away from the main tourist attractions. We found a small side-street restaurant called La Naya not far from the city centre where we enjoyed a very reasonably-priced and delicious meal.

14th August 2016                        Palma de Mallorca

A gentle day. It was a Sunday when traditionally most shops are closed leaving only the bars and restaurants working but Palma, being a holiday town, is slightly different. We had heard that the Corte Ingles, one of a large chain of stores was open so Jac and Jan went shopping. Unfortunately, they found the shop but it was closed and then got hopelessly lost and walking for miles before finding their way back to the boat. However, they did manage to find the supplies that we needed.

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The Cathedral taken on Jac and Jan’s Circumnavigation of the City

In the evening we went to Paseig Born a large and expensive street not far from the boat. In a restaurant called Born 8 (the address) we had the biggest Wiener Schnitzel that I have ever seen; so large in fact that I wrapped up half of it and took it back to Synergy for breakfast.

 

 

 

Porto Colom

8th August 2016                       Porto Cristo to Porto Colom

Day dawned to another potential scorcher with clear skies and a force 5 wind blowing from the north east. Joy of joys, for once the wind was working in our favour. We motored out of the cala, unfurled the genoa, switched off the engine and sailed, yes sailed, the 10 miles down the coast to Porto Colom.

Porto Colom is named for Christopher Columbus who, it is claimed, was born there. (Funny, he seems to have been born in lots of places.) The town sits on the shore of a large natural harbour, protected from the worst of the weather and once again we had booked a berth on the Ports IB website. Arriving at the pontoons there was no one around and no answer to our radio calls, so we tied up and went to the office. The staff were very helpful and let us stay where we were, so we went exploring.

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Porto Colom Harbour

The day had turned out to be very hot and we had little inclination to do much, but we found a great retaurant, Restaurante Mestral, where we ate that evening.

9th August 2016                          Porto Colom

Jobs day. Jacquie wasn’t feeling very well, possibly due to dehydration as the temperature had soared over the past few days. Andrew and Andrea from Chin Chin, who we had met at Porto Cristo were anchored in the bay and they came over in their tender to say hello. In the afternoon we found a launderette and got our washing up to date. Oh how domesticated we are!

10th to 12th August 2016          Porto Colom

We spent the next few days around Porto Colom catching up with admin, cleaning and restocking the boat and exploring the town. On the north side of the bay is the old town which is worth exploring. It is laid out in a grid pattern with a central square dominated by the inevitable church, but on one side we found a great bar/restaurant where we spent an hour sheltering from the rain, which had surprisingly started as we arrived at the bar. Great timing. We spent some time with Andrea and Andrew with whom we were rapidly becoming firm friends. For our last evening we went back to the Mestral for a meal before departing for Palma the next day.

 

 

Porto Cristo

4th August 2016

Our plan, if one can refer to semi-aimless drifting as a plan, was to make our way clockwise round Majorca from Pollensa in the north east to Palma de Majorca in the south west. We had my sister coming to visit so we needed to be fairly close to the airport when she arrived. However with Janet not due to arrive until 13th August and the weather now settled we had time in hand for more stops along the way.

One place that we decided to visit was Porto Cristo. The Cuevas del Drach, or Dragon Caves had been recommended to us so we set off down the east coast of Majorca. In fine weather and a force 3 wind we motored down the coast. The wind, as usual, played games with us. We crossed Alcudia Bay with the wind firmly on the nose. We turned southwest and then south following the coast and every time we altered course the wind moved with us always within 15 degrees of the way we wanted to go. That is of course until we arrived at Porto Cristo five and a half hours later when it rose to a near gale and would have made a perfect beam reach. At least the sails will last a long time.

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Alcudia in the rear view mirror.

Porto Cristo is a pretty little place, built on a narrow, steep sided cala which twists and turns as it goes inland, providing much protection from nasty weather outside. We had finally got the Ports IB online booking system working on our computers, so we had been able to book in advance. They were expecting us and for once we had no worries about finding a berth.

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Porto Cristo

For some reason we were both tired out. (It is tough sitting in the sun on a boat all day.) We grabbed a quick meal in a nearby restaurant and fell into bed.

 5th August 2016                      Porto Cristo

In the morning we walked up to the Dragon Caves which are only about a mile from the port on the other side of the cala. Visits to the caves are very popular and have to be booked in advance so we booked for 1700 the same day. When we arrived back at the boat we met our British neighbours, Andrew and Andrea Waterman on their boat “Chin Chin.” They had just arrived back from the supermarket with a taxi load of provisions so it was useful for us to find out the nearest place where we could restock with groceries.

Returning to the caves for the visit, we had a fantastic experience. I have visited limestone caves in Yugoslavia, Germany and Gibraltar, but never have I seen anything as well done as the Cuevas del Drachs. The visits take place in groups of around 100 people who are loosely guided along the route by a leader and other staff placed along the route. The rock formations are lit for the best effect and there is plenty to see with small underground lakes along the way.

So far, for limestone caves, this was fascinating, but all fairly ordinary. However, then we came to the (as far as I know) unique part that really made the trip. After around 20 minutes walking, we arrived at a large lake with an auditorium built alongside. We were invited to sit down, asked to switch off mobile phones and cameras and the lights were turned down. The water was totally still and around a corner in near total darkness appeared 3 rowing boats. Their gunwales were lined with lights so there was little to see but the slowly moving boats. However, in the centre boat was a quartet playing classical music. It was magical! The show lasted for around 10 minutes and the boats then rowed back the way that they had come. Another 5 minutes climb up the exit path and we arrived back in the open air near the restaurant.

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Back to the boat to recount our experience to Andrew and Andrea who had invited us on board Chin Chin that evening.

6th August 2016                         Porto Cristo

We spent the day exploring the town, cleaning Synergy and then had dinner at Sa Tasca, a little back street restaurant that did an excellent Wiener Schnitzel for me and a great Spaghetti Marinera for Jacquie.

7th August 2016                         Porto Cristo

We had intended to leave for Porto Colom, but the wind had whipped up again and we were not comfortable leaving the shelter of the cala. We had seen others passing the breakwater and meeting some quite rough water. A quick trip to the Port Office and we booked another night, spending the day pottering and waiting for the wind to drop.

Alcudia

1 August 2016                               Pollensa to Alcudia

Having run out of water it was now essential that we filled our tanks. The gale that had been blowing all night had subsided, but as we left our anchorage, the after affects were still to be seen. We had only to travel around a point of land into the next bay to the south, a distance of around 15 miles, but the gale had whipped the sea into the consistency of a washing machine. The ride we experienced became more and more wild so we hooked onto the boat as a safety precaution, something we had rarely felt the need to do in daylight hours before. Turning the boat across the sea to enter the next bay proved to be somewhat difficult and we moved well off shore to slight less confused water before we attempted to do so.

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Night Manager Location as we left Pollensa

However, we completed the manoeuvre and the motion became easier as we entered Alcudia Bay. This was the roughest ride that we had experienced to date. Off the coast of Portugal the swells had been large, but with a long interval between crests they gave a smooth ride. The short confused swells of that two hour trip were far from comfortable.

Arriving at Alcudia we filled up with fuel and water and I made my way to the marina office to see what they had available. No space at all came the reply. “But, but, you said get here before 1200 and there would be a berth available,” was my reply. “Sorry.”

Back I went to the boat. Neither myself nor Jacquie could face another night on the anchor if we could possibly avoid it. We were on the east coast of Majorca with an easterly wind and just about everywhere was exposed to the weather. Jac decided to have another try, so she went back to the office to do some serious grovelling of which she is a master. They did have a berth and, yes, we could stay for 3 nights. Great. Peaceful nights and hot showers! We know who is going to do all the negotiation for berths in the future.

2 August 2016                                 Alcudia

After the excitement and short nights of the past few days we spent a quiet day on the boat and then walked into town in the evening. Quite a nice place, but very much an English holiday destination. It didn’t seem particularly wild though……….more of a family holiday spot and certainly nothing like the carnage of Magaluf which I had the misfortune to visit a few years back. But that is another story. We found an Irish bar and then another one. It’s strange how there are so many Irish bars around the world and few are anything like the ones to be found in Dublin. However, the beer and wine hit the spot.

As we went back to the boat we watched a very impressive group of drummers doing their thing on the beach and we found that the path back to the marina was packed with stalls selling various goods. We bought a collapsible wooden fruit bowl to replace the old one we had that had fallen to pieces.

3 August 2016                                      Alcudia

On the recommendation of some neighbours on the pontoon we went for breakfast to a cafe called, The Boathouse, run by a Brit from Bishop Stortford. It really is amazing what the British will do to get away from the weather. After a full fry up, just the thing in the heat of August, we made our way to Alcudia town. It turned out that we were in Alcudia Port, whereas Alcudia itself was a couple of miles away up the hill. We stopped for a respite from the heat at the Mosquito Bar, unsurprisingly empty with a name like that  and then walked up the hill to the town.

Alcudia is an old Roman settlement and the ruins of that civilisation are extensive, if not much explored. Jac and I spent an hour wandering around the ruins and then made our way into the old, walled medieval town which was equally interesting.

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Alcudia
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Church Front, Alcudia
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Alcudia Street
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Alcudia Town Hall

We wandered around the old town which was very picturesque and decked out in ribbon for a festival. We then visited the museum before heading back to Alcudia Marina, this time by bus.  An evening spent hunting for my hat, which I had inexplicably left in one of the Irish bars and then to a steakhouse for a meal. And so to bed.

 

Pollensa

30 July to 1 August               Pollensa

On reaching Pollensa, our first stop in Majorca, we encountered the overcrowding issue that we had been warned about which causes problems for yachties around the Balearics in July and August. The Islands are expensive at any time of the year, but in high summer most of the privately-owned marinas would be charging around 100 Euros per night for our 11.6 metre yacht. Consequently a month of marina dwelling would cost around 3000 Euros: fine if one has very deep pockets, but for the average yachtsman it is prohibitively expensive. However, there are alternatives. Ports IB, the Iberian Ports Authority has berths for approximately half the private marina rates. These berths have to be booked online and getting registered is difficult. We did everything that we thought we had to on the computer, but it still took a couple of phone calls before we were able to get the system working properly. Another alternative is the fixed mooring buoys which are laid by Baleares Life Posidonia, an organisation dedicated to protecting the extensive sea grass beds which help to keep the water clean. The mooring buoy that we had used at Fornells was laid by that organisation. Again these bookings usually have to be made online but the cost is less that a quarter of the private marinas. Anchoring of course is free, but we found on some occasions that our planned for spot was so full of boats that there was not enough space to anchor safely. We even heard stories of people anchoring with all their fenders down in case they touched in the night.

It was with some  relief therefore that we found our first night in Majorca, if not snuggled up in a marina, at least in a sound anchorage with room to swing.

30 July 2016

The following day we took Tommy across to the town to dump our rubbish and buy some provisions. The town proved to be more populated by German and English tourists and expats than Spanish people, but it served our needs. This was the first time that we had left the boat unattended while at anchor and we became a little apprehensive when the wind and chop in the bay started to pick up. We quickly jumped back into Tommy and motored the half mile or so back to Synergy to find her all safe and sound still with the anchor not having dragged an inch. So far so good and we were starting to develop some faith in the effectiveness of our ground tackle.

31 July 16

The morning’s entertainment was provided by water bombers. On the shore at the western end of the “Night Manager” peninsula stands a water bomber station. Because of the prevalence of forest fires in  Spain during the summer months these aircraft are based in many sites and airfields. We had encountered these big yellow aircraft when they were fighting a large fire near A Coruña. The water bomber base must have been changing aircraft because one came in and landed and, as amphibians can do, taxied over to the shore and up the ramp to park outside the hangar. Later another aircraft taxied into the water and took off across the bay. Neither aircraft was far from us and it is a mystery to me how they avoid collisions between the water bombers and the pleasure boats. They must have some close calls.

In the afternoon we talked to one of our neighbours who was also an expat Briton. He recounted a nasty incident from the previous evening when he and his family had been coming back to their boat in their tender in the dark. A motor boat with no lights, being driven by a couple of young English lads had run them down in the dark. The lads hadn’t seen them and stopped to help. Miraculously no one was hurt and no damage done.

Later in the evening of 31 July the wind and swell really picked up and, even tucked behind the peninsular, we were having a rough time of it. We had laid 5 times the depth of water in chain, which had worked to date, but we were not sure that these conditions were going to cause our anchor to drag. We decided to mount an anchor watch so Jac and I did 4 hour shifts keeping a constant check that the boat was not moving. Day dawned with both of us quite tired but again, we hadn’t moved an inch despite the boat having swung right round through 360 degrees.

By now we hadn’t been near a marina for nearly a week and our water in the tanks had come to an end. We had drinking water but nothing with which to wash and we were worried that other boats might avoid sailing downwind of us. We called Pollensa Marina to see if we could refill our tanks, but they couldn’t even give us access to a hose pipe for half an hour. We had not been able to access the online booking system, but we called Alcudia Marina on the phone and they said if we arrived around 1200 then they might find us a berth. At least they had water on their refueling pontoon so we should start to smell a bit better.