Wednesday 1 September to Wednesday 15 September - Palma to Almeria
Wednesday 1 September
JJ and Em hire a car and disappear with family into the interior of Mallorca which is very beautiful. Caroline and I spend the day getting chandlery and sorting out the remaining few jobs. Soiree at Checks flat in the centre of Old Palma which is very pretty.
Thursday 2 September In Palma, Mallorca Lat : 39 deg 33 N, Lon 2 deg 38 E
JJ and Emma, Sebastian, Tom and Julia leave today. It will be very sad indeed to see them go. The children get on remarkably well, and we have had one of the best cruising months I can remember. A great start to the trip, and we shall miss them very much indeed. Good to know that they will be joining us again in St. Lucia for a month cruising the Caribbean in the December/January. It will be wonderful to have this crew together again for the Millennium celebration, which we plan to spend at anchor somewhere in the Grenadines.
Ian and Kris Murrin will join us tomorrow, and we will head off to Ibiza for a week cruising there.
Friday 3 September
Spent the day in Palma doing jobs mainly. Had lunch with Stephen and Lou Constable-Maxwell, and their children at the Club de Mar. Fun to see them again. Feels very strange on the boat without JJ and Em and the family. We miss them already. I went to pick up Ian and Kris from the airport in Palma. They arrive bringing all sorts of goodies including mail from home which Nicole (assistant and friend in London) has organised brilliantly, including Sarah and Hannah's school reports. Next year I guess we will have to write the reports ourselves and submit them to the school for approval.
Saturday 4 September
Set off at lunchtime for Santa Ponsa, which is a bay on the South West tip of Mallorca, next to Andratx. We go there because the local forecast is for thunderstorms with gusts up to 35 knots and the anchorage holding is reportedly better in Santa Ponsa then anywhere else on that coastline. Just as well we did as it turned out. After lunch on board followed by a walk round town We spend some time cleaning the waterline and the undersea hull, which is looking a bit grubby after being static in Palma harbour for six days. We have dinner at anchor, then to bed for an early night, as I want to start early tomorrow for Ibiza, which is 60 miles away. At about half past midnight I wake up, suspicious of the eerie whistling sound of the wind increasing. It is very dark so it's hard to see what is going on, but to the South West there is a particularly black bit of sky travelling towards us fast. It contains an electric firework display, so must be one of the forecast thunderstorms. Within minutes it is upon us, the wind speed goes up to about 35 – 40 knots and the rain comes down in sheets. I just manage to get the bimini (cockpit sun cover) down in time and lash it up to the backstay before it is ripped from its roots. In the next fifteen minutes while the squall goes through, there is bedlam in the bay. The suddenness of the gust has caused more than half the yachts to drag their anchors and get blown fast towards the rocks. Visibility is very bad, so I can’t see much, but I can hear lots of yelling in both Spanish and German, engines are being revved up, and lights and torches are being flashed in all directions. Thankfully our anchor is holding fast. Sarah and I had been for a snorkel and inspected it, so we knew it was well dug in to the sand. After a while, the boats in danger have all high-tailed it off to find shelter, and the wind dies down as suddenly as it came, swinging back round to the prevailing North East. Its all quiet again. Back to sleep, with one eye and ear open.
Sunday 5 September
Slip anchor and motor out of the bay at 0630, just before dawn. It is quiet and peaceful, with no hint of the chaotic scenes of the night before. No sign of any boats on the rocks, so looks like everyone woke up and got going in time. Hannah joins me in the cockpit for a steering lesson. I know from the forecast that Andy sent me that we should have the wind behind us from the North-East all day, and that is what we get. Soon we are trucking downwind hour after hour at 8 knots, surfing down the waves on a broad reach. The Duck is never happier, and we sight Ibiza by early afternoon. The wind lightens and comes round to the North, so we have to put in a couple of gybes to get to Santa Eularia, the small port that Jose and Katrin Cruzat had recommended. We arrive there early evening and settle the boat down for the night, well pleased with the days work.
Monday 6 September
We motor out to a rocky island outside the port and spend the day at anchor, before setting off for Ibiza town in the early evening. Its five miles down the coast, so an easy downwind hop. We see some dolphins on the way as we arrive at the harbour entrance, which is dominated by the bastioned Old Ibiza town on the hill. It looks amazing silhouetted by the sun at dusk. We moor up in the Puerto Nueva and barbecue some steaks for dinner.
Tuesday 7 September - In Ibiza town, Ibiza Lat : 38 degrees 54 North, Lon : 1 degree 26 East
A day in Ibiza. The morning is devoted to starting school for the girls. They have been on holiday up to now. Their classmates back at Newton Prep are starting at the same time, so we want to start work with them in parallel. We start with writing up diaries and sending an e-mail to The Voyager club, which is the club that Sarah Watson, Miss Hunter-Yetton, and others have set up to track the girls progress to Australia. Both Sarah and Hannah's classes have a wall-map of the world which Caroline has produced which tracks our route. We will use this as a basis for initiating relevant projects along the way about, for example, the Early Explorers, Sea Life, and The Incas when we are in Ecuador. The first lesson goes well, and we set off for a well-earned explore round Ibiza old town. Tomorrow we will head for Esplamador, an apparently amazing beach on Formentera which Nico and Marta recommended.
Wednesday 8 September
Slipped our mooring in Ibiza town at 11 am, filled up with diesel on the way out, and headed South to Formentera. It's only a 10 mile hop down the coast, and with the wind behind us we are there by lunchtime. It turns out to be one of the most beautiful beaches we have seen. Miles of sand, with dunes behind, and very clean clear water. Lots of long walks and exploring followed by a continuation of the geography lesson using the blow-up globe, for which John and Val Woodhouse provided the inspiration. An impromptu anatomy lesson was created by the fact that most people on the beach had no clothes on, much to the girls amusement! We decided to spend the night here, as the anchorage felt very secure. Thanks to Nico and Marta for recommending this beautiful place.
Thursday 9 September
Up at dawn, weighed anchor and headed for mainland Spain. We are lucky again with the wind, which is right behind us, so soon we are up to seven and a half knots. An excellent passage, and we arrive in Altea, which is further than I had hoped to get to, in time for dinner. Ian unfortunately has an ear infection, so off to the local clinic to be issued the necessary potion. Seems to be catching on Lazy Duck as JJ had exactly the same problem. The people next door to us are typical of many English people we came across in the Balearics. A builder from Bradford aged about 40, he lives on his boat at minimal cost, his 10 year old son goes to the local school, and he gets by on about £10K per year very comfortably. He does odd jobs from time to time, but only when it suits.
Friday 10 September
Another day of passage making along the Spanish coast. The destination is Cartagena, and the North Easterlies do the business again, giving us an average speed of eight knots all the way. The highlight of this trip is catching our second sizeable fish, a lampuka (dorado), hopefully the first of many of this type of fish as it is delicious baked or grilled.
We make it into Cartagena after last light, which makes the approach interesting. The pilot book for this coast suggests that the lighting on the marker buoys in the harbours, which is supposed to guide you in, is somewhat unreliable, so we are kept on our toes. Apart from this, there is also the problem that the lights of the town tend to be flashing away at the same eye level as the marker buoys, which makes them very hard to pick out. We moor up safely at 9.30 pm in time for supper and bed.
Saturday 11 September
We spend the morning looking around town. Cartagena is a naval port, home to some of the US navy Mediterranean fleet. It also has, on display on the quayside, one of the oldest submarines ever. Built by a Senor Peral in 1885, it looks highly unseaworthy, but apparently was one of the most successful attempts of its time. The girls are very tickled by this as their Zimbabwean grandpa used to be in submarines in the Royal Navy.
We set off to sea at about 3 pm, with a plan to do the first overnight sail with the Murrins. Kristina is five months pregnant, so we have been trying to make sure we get lots of sleep, but we need to cover some distance, and an overnight to Almeria was voted in as the best option. We had an excellent sail again at about 7 knots with the wind behind us most of the way, until it gradually faded away at about 3 am, and we were flopping around a bit, so we started the motor and headed for an anchorage just off the point at Capo de Gata. Caroline and I are on watch as we anchor up quietly and settle down to sleep off the night watch. It had been quite an eventful passage, as there was an extraordinary amount of shipping activity. All types too, freighters, container ships, fishermen, other yachts, and two huge cruise liners which travel at high speed and come up very quickly indeed. No room at all for mistakes!
Sunday 12 September
Spent the day at anchor doing jobs, such as a dinghy repair, a sail repair, and the renewal of a broken wooden cleat which Ian did a great job of sorting out. The maintenance battle on this trip has been constant, as it is with any yacht that is worked as hard as Lazy Duck. We are definitely on top of it at the moment, and it is a testament to the good job done in the two refits, which John-John masterminded, that we are winning at the moment. Lets keep our fingers crossed that things continue this way. In the evening we motor in to Almeria arriving at last light.
Monday 13 September
Lazy day in Almeria. The Club de Mar has a rather good restaurant and pool, and we fill our boots at the shops. Susannah Dinnage arrives in the afternoon. Great to see her again. She brings news from the UK, and an excellent book on the Stars and the Planets which did not make it in the last minute shop.
Tuesday 14 September
We slip out early again planning to make a long passage to Puerto de Mona. This will give us only a further thirty miles to cover on Thursday to be in position for John and Marilyn Dutton, who are flying in to Malaga to join us. It is another beautiful morning, and the forecast on the Club de Mar noticeboard said to expect Easterly winds again, about Force 4. Perfect for a fast passage. After a long breakfast, the wind speed slowly but inexorably starts to rise, and it is in fact coming from the West, ie bang on the nose, and will make the passage much longer. So much for the Club de Mar forecast! We tighten in the sails, put a reef in and press on, determined to cover the distance, as it looks as though we can make it with a couple of tacks, and the Duck is sturdy and strong.
By lunchtime, the wind was well over 22 knots true, ie Force 6, and the sea was increasing. We shortened sail again by furling in some jib, and started to motor sail, to help push us through the waves. We made some sandwiches, and secured things down below, as the boat was being thrown around a bit by the confused sea. This is caused by the current of 1.5 knots on this coast which is created by the constant inflow of water into the Mediterranean, which is in turn caused by evaporation of the Med.
By early afternoon the seas had increased to the point where we were finding it hard to move at more than five knots, even helped by the engine. The main problem was the size of the waves, rather than the wind strength, which by now was up to 30 knots true, with gusts of up to 37 knots. We still had 30 miles to cover at point and it was clear that we would not get in until 3 or 4 in the morning. I decided that we would have to put in to another port for a night and sit out the storm, as I had no way of knowing how much it would increase in intensity through the night. We headed back downwind (Grrr…. after all that effort beating upwind!) ten miles back along the coast to Almerimar, a purpose built resort with an marina which offered excellent shelter. Its amazing how the apparent wind strength changes as you turn downwind in a blow. From slamming up and down with everything on the boat taut as a guitar string and a cacophony of rattling as the rigging shakes with every wave, it becomes a gliding sensation. With Ian on the helm we surfed at 10 knots touching 11.5 at one point which got a loud cheer from the cockpit. The stresses on the boat are no less however, as we discovered when the kicking strap block gave up the ghost at one point on the way in.
We docked in the early evening after having an exciting time getting the main down in pitching seas, and strapped the boat in to her berth, happy to be in shelter as the wind whistled away. I was a bit disappointed not to have made the port we set out for, which always feels like a bit of a failure, but the listening to the wind howling away all night I slept soundly enough. The boat had performed perfectly, and so had the crew. Particular respect to Susannah Dinnage, who remained remarkably cheerful and positive throughout, despite feeling somewhat seasick, in what was her first ever sailing trip! Gutsy lady. We set about calling the Duttons, re-organising the logistics for them and for the Murrins, who needed to change car –hire arrangements, etc. Luckily Almerimar offers all of this, so we are in good shape.
Wednesday 15 September - In Almeria, Mediterranean Spain Lat : 36 deg 44, Lon 2 deg 22.1
Spend the morning sorting out the boat, with the focus on ordering another Lewmar block for the kicking strap (needs to be couriered in from Barcelona), and repairing some of the wear and tear. The Murrins set off by car for their long weekend motoring round Andalucia, where Kris has planned a busy few days. Their trip includes the Alhambra in Granada, Seville, and a stay in a couple of Parador hotels, which are classic Spanish old houses that need booking months in advance but are truly spectacular. Its so sad to see them go. They have been excellent crew, and have been amazing with the girls. Next time we see them they will have a baby, which the girls are very excited about.
The Duttons will arrive tomorrow night, and we will continue down the coast to Gibraltar as soon as the weather allows. Hopefully we will be able to do an afternoon sailing tomorrow once we have completed all jobs, to show Susannah that not all sailing has to be like Tuesday!