08 September 2017 | Menorca
The wind and sea had calmed down on 22/08/2917 so we left Ratjada and headed for Menorca, some 20 odd miles away; we were sad to leave Mallorca with its pretty coastline and beautiful calas and beaches but we would soon see that Menorca has its own charisma too. We spotted a few pot buoys as we left so Paul reeled out his line- we live in hope! A giant cicada hitched a ride on our genoa; he soon legged it when we unfurled the sail.; after that we saw a massive dolphin swim across our bow, at first Paul thought it was a whale and I was terrified that we were going to bump into him; we watched skuas swoop down for small bait fish but still no bites on the fishing rod! The sun felt hotter than ever today, the deck beneath our feet was scorching. With five miles to go we could see that the island is pretty much flat with some development on the western coast; we turned the engine off for the last hour and glided peacefully into Son Saura on a gentle beam reach; the sound of the waves lapping around Swallow is so therapeutic. It was now 1700 and the sun was glistening on the sea behind us with the silhouette of Mallorca in the distance; this is what I had imagined the Med would be like. There was a slight pink tinge to the cliffs and we could see quite a few masts in the cala and hoped that there would be room for us; we soon realised that all the sandy spots were taken so we set the anchor in weed, which didn’t give us any problems. We met a lovely Spanish family on the boat next to us in Ratjada and they recommended this beautiful cala, which is split into two beaches backed with evergreens; the water was crystal clear. Nightfall was simply a mass of anchor lights and constellations of bright twinkling stars- so tranquil.
The following morning we were up at 0830 and the beach was already busy with sun worshippers, they weren’t to be disappointed as it was another roasting day; at 1030 we left this delightful spot and headed off around the western coast for an anchorage in the north, Algaiarens, so that we could reach Fornells by 25/08/17 as we’d booked the Ports IB marina. This coastline here is much flatter than that of Mallorca; the low, ragged, laminated cliffs are topped with vegetation; there are small developments of low-rise, red-roofed buildings- we couldn’t see much evidence of touristic towns. I watched people walking along the coastal paths, admiring the sea, whilst we were appreciating the land. Algaiarens is another stunning cala, we arrived here early afternoon and paddled the dinghy ashore to explore the paths and sand dunes; we finished off another lovely day sat up on deck with a beer and chicken roasting on the Cobb.
After two nights in Algaiarens we tacked close hauled into the F4 wind for 12 miles to Fornells; we sailed swiftly into the large bay, past Sega, who were there on a mooring buoy, and bounced our way, bow to, up to the pontoon; Manuel, the marinaro, jumped aboard to help Paul haul in the slimy mooring line- the winds were crazy by now and we found out later that they had just closed the harbour; we got in just in time. Later that afternoon a motorboat, who had entered the closed harbour without permission, tried to approach the pontoon next to us to pick up his wife and her shopping- the wind took him and he ploughed bow on straight into our starboard side and completely bent one of the stanchions; I was down below enjoying my book at the time and came dashing up on deck after hearing a loud thump; I asked the Spanish wife, who spoke no English, what had happened and she said it was nothing and all ok- luckily Paul then arrived, he’d been walking back to the boat and saw it all happen; we were jumping up and down trying to get some acknowledgement from the skipper who wasn’t playing ball; eventually the woman gave us her name and contact details, then they swiftly departed! The marinaro in the office was wonderful, he immediately phoned the guilty party and insisted that they send us their insurance details asap, he also took photos of the damage and informed the police. We knew we had a weather window to leave for Sardinia in a couple of days so the insurance company agreed that we could get it sorted there, in the meantime we had to be careful not to lean against the guard wire which was very slack and would not have held our weight. It’s good that insurance helps in situations like this but nothing can make up for the inconvenience and delayed plans that can occur. Most of our time in Fornells was occupied with telephone calls and emails to sort it all out- we did however manage to meet up for a drink with Sega and have a nice walk along the shore of this beautiful, deep bay which has an island in the middle of it. The holiday resort with its ruined castle walls is fairly upmarket, hence the supermarket was expensive; despite this we stocked up so that we could prepare meals for our impending two day trip to Sardinia. We learnt, from the very friendly neighbouring Spanish yachtsmen, that Menorca has been in British hands three times and that many British people have in fact settled here in contrast to there being many Germans in Mallorca and Italians in Formentera.
03 September 2017 | Ratjada
Mallorca welcomed us on 29/07/17 after a pleasant, gentle, 10 hour motor sail of just over 50 miles; just as we reached the headland before Andraitx the wind picked up considerably and we were bombing along on a nice beam reach. After studying the predicted winds we anchored in Cala Egos, close to Andraitx as we’d booked a mooring buoy for the following day. After a refreshing swim we repositioned ourselves a couple of times until we were happy that we weren’t going to swing into the surrounding rocks when the wind picked up; the last time we did this was in the dark with the waxing moon, Venus and the stars shining down on to the sea- this beautiful cala was completely void of life so hence no lights on the shore. We shared this peaceful anchorage for the night with only two other boats; daybreak brought in many high speed motor boats who had little regard for sailors swimming around their yachts!
We spent two days on the mooring buoy at Club Vela, Andraitx; William, the very friendly marinaro, gave us free tokens for the luxurious showers; this was a prestigious club in an affluent area. This is where we first met Liz and David on Yacht Sega; we had been in contact on the Cruising Association mednet as, like us, they were planning to cross from the Balearics to Sardinia; we all hit it off straight away and were looking forward to our onward journey, sailing in company. Also we were delighted to hear that Ali and Trev (very good friends from back home) were on holiday in Palma and would be coming here to meet for drinks- a very emotional reunion for me! The following day we took advantage of knowing that Swallow was safely secured to a buoy and took the bus to Palma; the bus was ridiculously overloaded with passengers which I am sure contributed to the bust tyre we had as we arrived at Santa Ponsa- consequently everyone bundled onto another bus bound for Palma, too many sweaty bodies packed in for my liking! Palma is bigger than I had expected, the old town , with its cathedral and ancient building, is very quaint. We visited an air conditioned (bliss after the oppressive heat outside))art gallery which housed several Picasso paintings, bought a cd from an African street band, meandered around the little streets and finished our day off with some delicious tapas.
On 1/08/17 after stocking up with supplies from Euroski we headed off for Santa Ponsa, a
rather touristy town with a strong German presence. We had a very relaxing time in this beautiful bay swimming off the back of the boat and watching the tiny fish being chased by pipe fish. Liz gave me a lesson on her stand up paddle board (commonly known as a SUP)- what a laugh that was, great exercise too! We stayed on anchor here for three nights and the second night brought in very strong winds; Paul was up most of the night on anchor watch as we , as well as all the other vessels, were kiting around- luckily our delta anchor held fast; Ray, on Kady, had to reset his anchor several times throughout the night. We said goodbye to Kady here and set off to spend one night in Palma Bay with Sega- this was so that we could take a trip ashore to Decathlon; David and Liz had tried Paul’s new all-in-one snorkel mask and were keen to have one too.; there didn’t seem to be anywhere to take dinghies ashore so David dropped Liz and I off in the dinghy onto the littered beach, the sea was rather dirty - I definitely wasn’t going to be swimming here! Well big mistake for the men to leave the shopping ashore to the women- we had great fun buying lots of extra things in Decathlon, including some very bright turkish towels which will act as throws for our sofas ; of course we needed a cold beer on the way back too!
Playa de Trench was to be our next stop 23 miles away so we started the engine at 10.45 on 05/08/17; the chain was wrapped around the anchor so Paul had a tough job hauling it all in and then the luff of the sail didn’t want to go up- once all that was sorted he was exhausted before we even left! Palma Bay is great for sailing, if you have wind of course; we barely had enough to lift the tell tails. As we approached Cabo Blanco the wind picked up dramatically and whipped away Paul’s straw hat ; we managed a close reach but the white horses gave us a bumpy ride. Thankfully we had a peaceful evening; we tucked in to our already prepared Mr D’s spag bol and rice pudding and then paddled over in the dingy to Sega for a nightcap. The next morning brought in 14 knot winds which made swimming quite an effort so I spent my time making a madeira cake; the evening was a little cooler with a fantastic sunset followed by a full moon- a good night’s sleep for the crew! The following day we moved in closer to the beach in the SE corner by a hotel- a great spot; this enabled Liz and I to go food shopping ( not as exciting as our last jaunt ashore together). Later we all went in for a drink at the beach bar; Paul caused much hilarity for the onlookers on the beach as he fell into the water trying to get into the dinghy on our return. Our evening’s entertainment aboard was supplied by a very bad singer at the hotel- and the crew on acatamaran beside us joining in.
High winds were predicted for the next few days and we were booked into Porto Colom marina for 10/08/17 so we booked a mooring buoy at Porto Petro 6 miles before there; this was another rolly passage and we were glad to be secured to the bouy when the storms came in the following evening. Porto Petro is very pretty but the marina staff weren’t particularly friendly; the bouys were quite a way from the harbour and the dinghy ride was a rough one! The passage to Porto Colom was horrible- we were punching against 20knot winds and high breaking waves; we were relieved to tie up at the marina and plug in our electric kettle! Our stay here was filled with back to back boat jobs- cleaning, laundry, engine checks and making new mossie nets; we rewarded ourselves with a delicious meal out with Sega at a seafront restaurant; David and Liz are great company- a fun time was had by all.
After Porto Colom we had a short pit stop for one night at Arenal de San Servera, a long beach lined with a touristy resort which resembled Benidorm ; this anchorage was very rolly and so we departed early the next morning heading for Pollensa Bay, passing Alcudia Bay en route. The scenery in this area with its high eroded cliffs, rolling, tree-topped hills and rocky mountains is stunning. We anchored near an impressive, sympathetically extended castle which was featured as a location in the TV series The Night Manager; we were also opposite the sea plane base and saw several of these aircraft take off and land. The views all around were breath-taking and the strong, cool breeze was so refreshing.; the motor boats and jet skies which came in and out of the harbour were very annoying, passing us way too close for comfort at great speed, and one day made so much wash that I got soaked whilst eating my dinner! The evenings, on the other hand, were incredibly still. Pollensa Bay offers great shelter and holding even in high winds. After a couple of days we moved closer to the port and went ashore to see what Pollensa had to offer: a shallow beach with a pleasing promenade, lined with small hotels and restaurants. We bought some figs and cherries from the large, sprawling market, which were expensive but really yummy. This is another fantastic bay for a day sail- we saw lots of kids out on Optimists having a great time.
On 17/08/17 we set off at 9am for Ratjada, which was to be our last port before heading to Menorca, rather a lumpy close reach but on the plus side Paul caught a fair sized mackerall .Ratjada had an extremely rolly entrance and there was a strong surge making tying up tricky but it gave great shelter from the strong north easterlies so we sat here for five days before heading off again. The harbour wall was about a foot higher than the bow so walking the bouncy plank was challenging. We saw plenty of fishing boats here which gave Paul hope that there may be many fish around. There was a very pretty cala, which we walked to, around the corner from the marina; the tiny beach was packed and boys were diving off the high rocks; we saw a few boats anchored here too. Ratjada was busy with many shops and restaurants, which lined the curved waterfront and seemed to cater mainly for the German tourists (all of the menus being in German as the second language). This is a busy harbour with pleasure boats coming and going, including a glass bottomed catamaran; we saw a couple of beautiful Rivas come in, so sleek. We had a chilled time here planning our next move; we’re coming for you Menorca!
21 August 2017 | Ibiza
On 19/07/17 at 18.30 we waved goodbye to Ula and motored over to Valencia’s fuel berth, filled up with diesel and had our dinner whilst waiting for the wind to change direction as was the prediction on our Windy app. We set off for Ibiza (82 miles away) at 20.00 with a light breeze, enjoying the last of the evening sunshine- it was great to be out there again! The pleasure was short lived as we were against a very uncomfortable swell and I was seasick; this meant that Paul couldn’t take a break and was awake for the whole 16 hours; not the best of passages as we only managed to turn the engine off for an hour half way. At 12.30 the following day Millie welcomed us into Cala Torrent (just South of San Antonio) ; we could tell straight away that this would be another uncomfortable night as we were corkscrewing all over the place, but we were too tired to care. Andrew came and picked us up in his dinghy ( bit of a bumpy ride) and we went over for a cuppa, armed with my homemade madeira cake. Swallow spent the whole night pitching and rolling so we quickly departed the following morning and motored round to Cala Tarida, which wasn’t much better; Millie sailed back over to mainland Spain for a trip home- hopefully we will catch up with them again soon.
A couple of days later, accompanied by Kady who had sailed over from their lovely anchoage at Sardenera on the mainland, we motored down the coast whilst enjoying the beautiful scenery - lime and sandstone cliffs scattered with greenery; we passed the Isla Vedra , which towered over the Isla Vedranell, stunning! We anchored in the western corner of Cala de Port Roig amongst super yachts, whose tenders were the size of Swallow, and sleek motor boats which looked they were straight out of a James Bond movie! We pulled up our dinghy onto the little beach, the only facility here was a very expensive restaurant which obviously catered for the elite, we did stretch to a beer though. To our delight we found a water tap in the carpark; the elation was short-lived as the water was extremely salty. We also spotted a rubbish bin but Paul was kindly asked by the restaurant not to dispose of his rubbish there as there were public bins over in the next bay. So the next day we ventured in the dinghy onto the other beach in the corner; this was lined with disused fishermen’s’huts , some of which had been restored as beach huts. Paul got talking to a Bulgarian guy, Galin, and had a go on his paddleboard; before we knew it we were all piling in to his jeep for a 20 minute drive to Sanit Josep to stock up with supplies; what a lovely man he was- he worked for an Italian family who had a £15 million house overlooking the bay! The anchorage was beautiful and very still, sheltering us from the northerlies; the days were busy with tenders ferrying guests on the super yachts back and forth to the shore and kids enjoying a variety of water toys! Having a shallow draft we were able to be close in to the shore and enjoyed swimming off the back of the boat to keep cool; the starlit evenings were very quiet and we enjoyed listening to the waves lapping on the shore- this is why we do it, idyllic!
On Wed 26 July 2017 we motored ( only 1 k of wind!) down the coast to pass Isla Esplalmador through the Freu Grande; we regret missing out Formentera but the winds just didn’t fit with our schedule- we’ve realised that you could spend months cruising these islands and still not see all of the attractive calas; hopefully one day we will return. This stretch of water was as busy as the Solent; there were lots of ferries crossing to Formentera and most of the motor boats, who were ‘flying’ at us from all angles, were extremely inconsiderate causing massive wash. The sea became very rough and we were punching into swell on a close haul with 10 k of wind- not pleasant! We spent the night in Cala Llonga, which, as the name suggests, is a long narrow bay; we didn’t venture ashore as we were quite far back, since then Locomotion told us that it was their favourite cala. The following day we had a great downwind sail as far as Pta Grossa, we reached 6k on the passage past Isla Tagomago; then the wind died so we motored on up to Portinax, a fantastic anchorage. We spent two nights here, the stillest anchorage so far; the bright blue sea was crystal clear and the glistening sand was golden. Ray cooked us a delicious curry aboard Kady on our first night and we reciprocated the following evening with one of my ‘upcycled’ chillies. There was a shower on the beach so we went ashore armed with our shower gel- bliss! We managed to get some supplies here although the small supermarkets really only catered for the tourists; we did manage to get several 5l bottles of water into the dinghy as we weren’t quite sure when we’d next be able to fill the tanks. Our next passage was to be some 50 miles over to Mallorca. Thanks for the memories Ibiza!
19 July 2017 | Valencia
On 16/06/17 we left Gandia for Valencia where we were to leave Swallow for two weeks to return home for Jack's graduation- he got a first in his script writing degree; very proud mum! It took us a while to negotiate our way out of the berth at Gandia as the wind wanted to push us down into the cul-de-sac; we managed to communicate with a Spanish lady on the boat next to us so that Ed could jump on board and take a line from our bow to push us round the right way to get out around the mooring lines. This was an uneventful 31 mile motor sail and we were happy to be here with a week to relax before going home.
Valencia, being the third largest Spanish city where Catalan is widely spoken (bit of a variation on our school Spanish), is full of life with lots of history, playing a major role for the Republican Government during the Spanish Civil war; I found this of particular interest after reading The Return by Victoria Hislop, a brilliant novel featuring a family caught up in that dreadful turmoil. We are in the Marina Real Juan Carlos which was built for the Americas Cup and also houses the original Grand Prix circuit; a friendly marina albeit a little tired. They've had a heatwave here, 40 degrees some days, so Paul has set up our windscoop and we've been to the Chinese shop to buy an extra fan; fly swotting has become our latest sport!
Our first impression on wandering around on our first day here was one of a great party atmosphere; in all the back streets families were dancing and bands were playing, we also stumbled across a comic fayre. The following evening we took the metro into the old town to witness the Corpus Christi procession from the cathedral, the streets were lined with locals on chairs for this ancient tradition of people dressed up as biblical characters, decorated carriages and army members dressed in 16th century style; the cathedral was full of people, it was very hot and all of the Spanish ladies were making full use of their ornate fans.
Sue and Ed were returning home before us and so we all went out for tapas at the Casa Guillermo, a tavern, which has been open since 1957, renowned for its anchovies; so of course we tried the anchovies, they were delicious; we rounded off the night with a drink by the beach- a 'jolly' evening all round!
Miles of busy, sandy beach stretch out along the coastline next to the marina; on 23 June the midsummer Pagan festival lit up the beach all night- literally, as the common custom is to light a small bonfire and jump over it for luck, and then jump over the waves, presumably to cool down the burns! This was a fantastic atmosphere with families eating, drinking, playing cards or volley ball and partying around their little bonfires. We stumbled across this at midnight after a day out in the old town. Valencia has some magnificent architecture including the post office building, which is beautiful inside and out, the Town Hall (whose facade has shrapnel damage from the artillery shells bombarding it during the Civil war), Mercado Central, Bull Ring and the Cathedral. There have been a few concerts a couple of hundred metres from Swallow, one of them being Luis Fonsi; we were also treated to a magnificent firework display- reminded me of Aviles; the Spanish really do know how to celebrate.
We had a wonderful couple of weeks back home seeing our family and friends and have spent the last few days preparing for the Balearics. The large supermarket is a bit of a trek from here so I was very pleased with myself when I managed to successfully set up a Mercadona account online and have all the heavy provisions delivered to the boat- fantastic, just like being at home! The washing machine is free here so everything has been washed as not sure how easy it will be getting water over there. The Captain has done an oil change and I've baked a madeira cake today so we're all ready to go tonight- Ibiza, bring it on!
Alicante, Calpe and Gandia
19 July 2017 | Gandia
We left Santa Pola on 13/6/17 for Alicante; bit of a slow start as the wind, although strong enough to sail, was on the nose! We passed between the mainland and the Isla de Tabarca and we could see the bottom as we were only in 8m of water; after this we were on a starboard close reach and managed to turn off the engine- peace at last! This was a great sail accompanied by Locomotion. We found Alicante not massively attractive although the promenade had beautiful mosaic paving and the old town was nice; the two crews enjoyed a few alcoholic beverages that evening and Sue successfully bartered for a folding b
The following day we fancied a night at anchor and set off for Calpe; bit of a slog today with only a F1 wind and the large undulating swell rippling into the bay like a giant crinkle cut crisp impeding our progress. As we motor sailed past Benidorm we enjoyed a pleasing view of the mountainous skyline fronted by high rise buildings of similar muted colours along the shore; the hazy pale blue sky contrasted the deep blue Mediterranean sea. We were quickly jolted out of our dreamy mood when Locomotion radioed us to say they had engine trouble, so we changed course to head into an anchorage at Greenwich; we were now crossing the Greenwich meridian where East meets West. This change of course gave us a fantastic sail, we were now on a great beam reach-thank you Locomotion. We sailed into the anchorage, started the engine and circled around waiting to assist Ed and Sue, we knew that it would be difficult for them as there wasn't a lot of room for manoeuvring here without an engine. At the eleventh hour Locomotion radioed to say that a plastic bag had just floated out from underneath them- it had been wrapped around the prop, so they started their engine successfully and both yachts headed for Calpe. We arrived at 1900 and all jumped in to cool off, blissful! The view of the rock here, the Penon de Ifach, is stunning. Our Captain's Mate app told us that this was a very still anchorage but we suffered a fairly rocky night so were both a bit grumpy in the morning when we set off for Gandia.
The sail to Gandia was another close reach but we wanted to get around Cabo de Nao today for our home run up to Valencia. This rocky coastline is stunning; we sailed past steep cliffs and caves, the odd village was nestled into the mountains; after we rounded Cabo de Nao we saw lots of little beaches and beautiful anchorages, we could also see the striking Montana Mongo in the distance. We were now 12 miles from Gandia and were picking up transmissions from Ibiza on our radio, this reminded us of how close to the Balearics we now were. I managed, using my limited Spanish, to secure us a berth, over the phone, in the Club Nautico; as soon as we entered the marina we felt like we had stepped into an oven, it was so oppressive but to our delight there was a great swimming pool at the club which we very quickly made use of. Tomorrow we will be in Valencia.
13 June 2017 | Santa Pola
On our one year anniversary we left Cartagena and headed for Santa Pola (58 miles), another step closer to Valencia (another 100 miles). Locomotion followed us out at 0730, they tacked out quite a way to get around Cabo de Palos, as usual the wind was on the nose! We decided not to do this and managed a close hauled motor sail around the point, we had to put a few tacks in and eventually got past Mar Menor and around a large marine reserve; the early morning sun was glistening on the choppy sea. We turned the engine off for an hour and a half for a bit of peace and quiet and to let Locomotion catch us up, we were only making 3 knots. After that we ploughed through the troughs, listening to Jackie disco, on a starboard close reach with the engine on to sustain5 knots; with only 5 miles to go the wind picked up to about 10 knots and we had a great motor sail, at 6knots, in the early evening sunshine. Both crews were relieved, after a 12 hour stretch, to be welcomed into the Club Nautica by a very friendly marinaro who helped us tie up and pass us the pick-up lines, which were the cleanest we have seen so far! Well done to both crews- time for a sun-downer! Another great little sailing club with impeccably clean facilities and offering use of their washing machine for 2 euros- bargain!
On Saturday morning we visited the extensive local market with its vast array of delicious fruit and vegetables; there were also lots of dried fish stalls, something we haven't seen before. We saw a strange, curly vegetable (pictured ) , a cross between a courgette and a green bean, not really sure what it was; if any of you recognise it please let us know. There is a great beach here, right next to the marina; we had a couple of evening swims here in the shallow water, Paul tried out his new Tribord all-in-one snorkel mask.