The drone of the engine was exhausting. We had been motoring for 26 hours, through black lumpy seas, towards Menorca, Spain, the light of the moon frequently slipping behind dense clouds. The air was heavy, the decks were damp, Berkeley East smelled like a wet dog. At least the sun was beginning to glow in the distance, signaling the end of a long night passage; we had just four more hours to go.
We heard Kenny Chesney serenading us from the stereo, "boats, vessels of freedom," a favored song with romantic lyrics, but we had been experiencing just the opposite of late. We had things to do, places to be, so sailing BE "any way the wind blows" was not an option. And with recent weather issues, "sailing, takes me away to where I'm going" made no sense at all. "I'm on a boat, on a boat, I'm on a **** boat" was more relatable.
We were especially cranky because it had been nine days since we had spent any time on land. The sway of Berkeley East, while normally soothing, was getting on our nerves. Regardless of how pleasant we both are to be around, or how comfortable Berkeley East is, nine days of constantly moving a 54-foot boat long distances in spirited conditions, without other people or outside stimuli, tests ones sanity. At least there was the occasional dip in the sea, and glass of cool vino, at the last wink of the day; "harbors of healing."
Our plan for a land break in Sardinia was thwarted upon arrival by an unexpected weather pattern, the typical prevailing northwest wind was nowhere to be seen; in its place we had a feisty breeze with energetic waves literally pushing Berkeley East to Spain, albeit, in a less-than-comfortable manner. Climate change perhaps, but more likely just the typical unsettled September atmosphere. And it was better than bashing BE into a northwest wind, so we didn't complain.
We were crossing 215 miles from Sardinia to Menorca, the eastern-most island in the Balearic Island Archipelago, on our way to Barcelona, Spain where Berkeley East would be spending her winter break. She was expected in Port Vell on October 1st, so we had to time our movements carefully. A couple of weeks in the Balearics would cap the season nicely; a little relaxation, a little activity, very little moving, or so we thought.
Our first landing in the Balearics was set just outside the capital of Menorca, in Mahon. As we wove Berkeley East through the small anchorage, people waved enthusiastically from their boats, civilization at last. Having just settled BE, we were approached by a tender, an English gentleman wanting to have a chat. While fatigue was setting in, all plans for a nap were postponed for some welcome interaction with a complete stranger. We talked about boats and weather, politics and Brexit, as if we had been mates for years, our new friend hanging onto BE's rail as the wakes from passing boats rocked his rib.
We saw another boat arrive, the owner quickly tossing his dinghy into the water to rush to shore. We couldn't imagine the urgency after such a long passage, then we saw the dog that clearly had crossed its legs for some time. Lyle Lovett sang from the stereo, "And if I had a boat I'd go out on the ocean. And if I had a pony, I'd ride him on my boat." Love that song, but we had to laugh. While Berkeley East was emitting the scent of a St. Bernard, we were thrilled that there wasn't actually a pooch, or a pony, onboard; we had enough to deal with.
The next morning, we took Berkeley East into a marina in town (we needed time on land, and BE needed a bath) where we were met by Americans from South Carolina. We were in heaven, not just the English language, but also American-English conversations with cruisers, and nice ones at that. And there was land, glorious las tierras.
Mahón (or Maó as the locals call it) is set around the second largest natural harbor in the world, with islands, fortifications and eclectic architecture built throughout the ages. The upscale waterfront was bustling with shops and restaurants where we indulged in long lunches and dinners; it was as if the menus were written especially for us featuring ceviche, squid, and Spanish tomato bread. The historic town up the hill was cozy and oozing of charm with views over the magnificent harbor below.
We would likely still be in Mahon, getting fat, and possibly purchasing a condo, but the weather, and marina lady, told us otherwise. A blow was on the way, and the marina didn't have room for a massive, stunning boat like Berkeley East to wait out the storm. So while we wanted stay, or go to some beautiful calas in the south, we needed to move north to unknown territory.
We spent the next week trying to stay out of the fray, but quickly discovered that the weather forecasts were never accurate for the area, and we were constantly finding ourselves "sailing into the mystic" spray of the sea. Routes and destinations were often changed while underway when conditions were less than desirable. Our plans to make just a few hops to get in position to cross to Barcelona turned to seven moves in 10 days. Through it all, we found some interesting places to hide, and learned a lot about Spanish architecture.
From the drone perspective, Arenal d'en Castell was amazing, but pictures can be deceiving. A large, almost circular bay, it had one good side with attractive homes on the hill, the rest of the landscape was riddled with ugly apartment blocks and giant hotels. It was obvious that it was a popular holiday spot by the number of people on the water. We tried to always keep our gaze in the more pleasant direction, not a simple task with Berkeley East spinning in the constant wind.
Puerto de Fornells was a long inlet that offered cover from the strong breeze, and kept the heavy seas at bay. From the anchorage, we could see white cubes clustered on the shore, unlike Arenal d'en Castell, development there has been a bit restricted. When the weather calmed, our "dinghy of freedom" took us in where we found a small resort and fishing village surrounded by unspoiled natural beauty.
The town of Ciudadella is an architectural gem, a successful blend of old and new. Its harbor is the most ancient in the Balearics, notorious for its current and tides, which can rise and fall very quickly.
While much of the town caters to tourism, there is still a small very active fishing fleet, delivering their fresh catches daily to the local markets and restaurants.
A couple of days on a dock in Ciudadella was a welcome respite from the erratic wind and waves before making the crossing to Mallorca, where we would wait for good conditions to do the 115-mile passage to Barcelona.
After a short search of the northeast tip of Mallorca, we found what we hoped would be our final anchorage of the season in Cala Formentor, a large, shallow bay that would provide protection and allow for an easy departure in the dark. We spent our remaining bits of summer reading, swimming and deciding which of the striking homes on the shore we would prefer to live in. Then, on September's last morning, at 3:oo am, we raised Berkeley East's anchor and set a course for "one particular harbor" - Barcelona.