Cala Grazio – Ibiza
20 September 2012 | Ibiza
July 21-22 2012
Like Cala Portinatx, we really enjoyed our brief stop in Cala Binarras and were very tempted to hang around a few more days but the grib (weather) files Karen downloaded indicated some good sailing winds headed our way. So on Saturday morning July 21 we eased our way past the tall rock sentry standing guard at the entrance of the inlet and out from the protection of the high cliffs. We quickly found the 15 to 20 knots of predicted wind may have been a little on the conservative side and were glad we’d headed out with first reef in main and reefed genoa.
Alcheringa revelled in the conditions and we were soon zooming along at over 8.5 knots. Our course took us a little out to sea to make the most of the wind strength and direction. After having to motor on our last hop down the coast we were all really enjoying the sail. Ahead of us we could see a group of seven yachts closer in shore sailing downwind together all flying no mainsails but reefed headsails only . We guessed that were probably a flotilla charter group where the leader sets the plan and all follow along.
Rob and Marc immediately saw the seven boats as a challenge and set about planning on how to pass as many as possible before we reached our destination at Cala Salada, a bay on the other side of the headland we could just see in the distance. Of course Karen being female can never see any need to race anyone and suggested chill pills and a relax all round but there’s no fun in that. Rob further justified the urgent necessity to get in front with ‘We’d rather get in ahead of them and have the pick of spots to anchor wouldn’t we.’
Keeping a close eye on the progress of the charterers bobbing up and down in the shadows of the high cliffs, the boys constantly tweaked our sail trim looking for all possible speed. They also debated just how far we should continue on our present course away from the coast before tacking back inshore to hopefully round the headland before the enemy. Maintaining course for longer than we needed to would see us wasting time sailing away from our target but if we tacked too soon we wouldn’t clear the point and would be forced to tack out again. Oh the pressure of making decisions..
We duly put in our tack and, despite a few moments of self doubt on the way in, we found ourselves successfully clearing the point and heading into the bay well ahead of the charter fleet. Wohoo! Puffed out chests and high fives. Boys will be boys.
In the middle of the bay we furled the genoa and dropped the main before motoring into the anchorage in Cala Salada. There were about eight or ten boats moored so we did our usual slow circuit between them all looking for the best place to drop. Like our three previous stops, the water here was also very clear so we were trying to find a nice sandy patch between the fields of thick seaweed where we could plant our anchor and also have swing room to clear the yachts already there.
Unfortunately there really wasn’t anywhere. We tried three different times but either found ourselves hanging too close to other boats or the anchor simply wouldn’t hold in the mix of sand and weed. In the end we decided we’d give up and move on further along the coast. When we plan our moves we always select alternative anchorages to suit changes in weather or instances like this. Plan B was a small bay called Cala Grazia just a couple of miles west, so off we went.
Of course as soon as our bow was pointed back out to sea we spotted the last couple of the charter fleet boats disappearing around the western point in front of us. They obviously were never headed for Cala Salada in the first place. Given the boys previous desperate efforts to get ahead, the thought we could discover them all at anchor clogging up our Plan B by the time we got there appealed to Karen’s sense of irony
Cala Grazia is so small that we almost sailed straight past it. The charter fleet had continued west and there were no boats in the bay at all when we reached it. We motored in and found the cove opened to two small inlets on its left, each with a lovely sand beach at the head complete with the obligatory beach café. In the bay itself there was lots more weed on the bottom but we managed to drop anchor in good patch of sand right in the centre of the bay.
We’ve all read numerous horror stories of boats dragging anchor in the middle of the night and drifting with, at times, horrendous results including ship wreck on the rocks. As a result we are particularly cautious. Every time we drop anchor Rob gets in the water and snorkels down to make sure it is well dug into sand and nice and secure. Occasionally the anchor will land upside down and if we’re in less than about eight meters of water he can swim down and flip it over. A blast of reverse will then dig it in nicely. Only when we are happy that we are well hooked in with the appropriate amount of chain out and ample room to swing with the wind and current do we relax at the end of a passage.
Now happily anchored, we took a better look at our surrounds in Cala Grazia and all agreed it was a much more pleasant spot than Plan A so our move was all for the better. We were a little low on bottled drinking water so we decided to head ashore and see if we might be able to buy some. We got the dingy off the bow and in the water and prepared to get the outboard down of its mount on the stern rails. The thread on the outboard clamps was very tight and when unscrewing them Rob had taken to slipping the spark plug tube spanner over the handles to provide more leverage. It had worked well so far and the threads were gradually loosening up with use. However on this occasion, one slip of the hand was followed by the sound of one bounce on the swim platform then one splash in the water as the spark plug spanner disappeared below the surface. Bugger! One very unhappy Rob.
Time for that Irishman, Murphy, and his aggravating Law to make another appearance. By now the morning’s brisk onshore wind had disappeared and been replaced by a gentle offshore breeze that saw the boat hanging at the end of her anchor chain stern towards the sea. Rather than the six metres of water where we dropped the anchor, the spark plug spanner went down in over ten so there was no way Rob was going to be able to free dive down and find it in the thick weed. We’d just have to buy one in the next port.
The boys got the outboard off its mount and down onto the dingy where Rob went to start it, but Murphy wasn’t finished with us yet. In our admittedly short time on the boat our little 2.5 horsepower outboard motor had NEVER failed to start easily on the very first attempt each and every time we pulled the cord, until now. Pull - nothing, pull - nothing, pull- nothing. Check the fuel, check the breather, pull – nothing. Pull - nothing. More choke, less choke, closed throttle, wide open throttle, you name it, it was tried. But despite what seemed a thousand attempts, the engine flatly refused to exhibit the slightest sign of life. As Rob got more red faced with a mixture of exhaustion and only just subdued anger, Marc couldn’t resist offering his suggestion, ‘Maybe we need to clean the spark plug Ahh! That could present a problem now’.
So Rob and Marc paddled the dingy into the beach and headed up the path through the trees to try to find a shop. Beyond the tree line they came upon a huge resort very obviously catering for Britts and Germans. It was packed with hundreds and hundreds of people spread over sunbeds around a series of very large swimming pools. It was actually difficult to find space to walk between the masses of lily white, and occasionally bright, bright burning red bodies reclining in the strong sunlight. The boys wondered why all these people would cram themselves around swimming pools when there were two beautiful beaches just a couple of hundred metres away. Then the answer was discovered. All these people were prisoners.
Trying to find a way out to the road Rob and Marc were blocked by a huge chain mesh fence at every turn. Time and time and again they would follow a path through the lush gardens only to be suddenly confronted by barriers that would do any concentration camp proud. No wonder none of the guests could escape the resort. Eventually they found themselves trapped again in a far corner of the grounds by the kiddies pool with no idea where to try next. It’s not exactly clear whether the smiling young female staff member who then appeared and guided them out through the main foyer of the big high rise building did so to be helpful or simply to quietly remove two suspicious looking men from the presence of young children.
A small convenience store was located, water obtained and successfully returned via a road bypassing the maze of the resort then it was definitely time for sundowner drinks.
After a nice morning snorkel around the shores of the bay we all paddled ashore for Sunday lunch at the café behind the nearest beach. Rob was instantly in heaven when he found the German Grand Prix showing on a big screen TV in the restaurant. Since heading off on our travels he has been suffering extreme motorsport withdrawal symptoms so with food on the table, a drink in hand and Formula One in front of his face he was a very happy boy. In two hours he only took his eyes of the screen long enough to post another photo of us in paradise on facebook to piss off even more people back home. And he wonders why people are de-friending him.
For more info and picture go to www.dremetimesail.blogspot.com/
18 September 2012 | Ibiza
July 19-20 2012
After three very enjoyable days at Cala Portinatx it was time to move on but where to? We’d originally only planned to be away from Palma for about seven to ten days, but that was a week ago. So far we’d only been to one bay on Ibiza and we were definitely not ready to sail away back to Mallorca. No rush. What the hell. Palma would still be there next month so we resolved to circumnavigate Ibiza and take in the neighbouring island of Formentera in the process.
Now any cruiser will tell you that one of the most important pieces of equipment on board is the cruising or pilot guide for the area you’re sailing. These publications provide all sorts of useful information on subjects from customs and immigration procedures, historical background down to where to find a supermarket and absolutely everything in between. Most importantly they list just about every conceivable anchorage on the relevant coasts with detailed maps, photos and descriptions of what’s there, how protected it is from what wind directions, where to anchor in how much water and numerous other tips.
In our case we found the Imray guide by Graham Hunt of the ‘Islas Balearas’ absolutely invaluable. Consulting it to find our next stop we discovered the anchorage at Cala Binarras looked very well protected from the prevailing North Easterly breezes. It was a long, narrow inlet between steep cliffs open only to the west which was guarded by a high rock pinnacle rising out of the middle of the entrance. There was little development other than a few restaurents behind the beach at the end of the inlet. Yep that sounds good. Lets put it in the chart plotter and see how far we have to go.
OK so at just five nautical miles down the coast our passage that morning was not going to rival any Atlantic Crossing but why sail past somewhere nice just to clock up miles. There was almost zero knots of wind and what little there was blew from directly astern so we never even unzipped the sail bag. We need to run the engine a couple of hours a day to charge out batteries anyway so at least we were moving while our 75 horse Yanmar did its thing.
Almost as soon as we left Cala Portinatx we found ourselves rounding the high rock walls of Cape Bernat and spotted the impressive Islote Bernat rising out of the water in the middle of the bay. From some angles it actually resembles a statue of the elderly Queen Victoria on her throne. We motored past into the inlet flanked by high cliffs and found only a handful of yachts already moored. We’d just started to mosey around to pick a suitable spot to drop our anchor when the boat nearest the beach started pulling theirs up to leave. Perfect timing. It’s like being in the right place at the right time to score that parking spot right by the shopping centre door on a Saturday morning. As he left we slid into place and dropped us. Lovely
The place was certainly popular with day visitors packing the full length of the beach while the rocks lining the sides of the bay appeared the favourite perch for those working on their all over tans. . Marc and Rob were again kept visually entertained by the number of naked young ladies on the rocks but although she wasn’t not saying too much, Karen also seemed to appreciate some of the buff young Spaniards on display. We could see a string of beach front café/bars but there were no resorts visible from the water at all. It was very nice to be away from apartment blocks for a change.
It wasn’t long before we were in the water snorkelling across the bay to explore some sea caves we’d spotted on the far side. There appeared to be two deep caves side by side. Swimming into the right hand cave we were surprised at how much the water temperature dropped once out of the sunlight and by the total change in the colour of the marine growth. Outside in the bay all the seaweeds etc were fairly bland shades of brown but soon as we entered the cave we were surrounded by a world of bright pinks. We were able to swim about fifteen metres right to the back of the cave where we discovered it linked to its partner. Diving down we found that we were in fact in a single cave but the central roof reached down to about a metre beneath the surface creating the illusion of twin caves. We could snorkel under the dividing overhang from side to side. It really was great fun and not like anything we’d experienced in Australia. We really do need to get a waterproof camera.
By the time we returned to the boat we were surprised to find we’d been snorkelling for over two hours. After such a good workout we’d also developed a pretty good appetite. Marc joined us for a trip ashore to check out the cafes where we enjoyed some local Spanish fare and large jug of refreshing Sangria.
Back onboard that evening mother nature turned on another outstanding light show as the sun dipped over the horizon in a blazing display of reds, oranges, yellows and pinks. The sunsets just seem to get better all the time.
Friday July 20th was a very special day for us as we celebrated our 27th wedding anniversary with a morning swim then snorkelling along the base of the cliffs before cracking a bottle of Cava (Spanish Champagne) with lunch aboard.
We then capped it all off with more of the same at the best restaurant ashore accompanied by a massive seafood paella. As we struggled to justice to the huge pan of delicious food, we noticed that the beach had again filled from end to end with people apparently assembled to watch the sunset. In the centre of the beach a bonfire was lit surrounded by a dreadlocked troops of bongo drum playing, fire eating, belly dancing ferals.
Once again the sky turned all hues of colour as the sun descended. As it approached the horizon the hub bub of conversation on the beach became subdued. Even the bongo drums were rested and by the time its rim appeared to touch the sea the beach was virtually silent. Finally the last remnant of the burning globe dropped below the horizon and in unison the whole place broke out in enthusiastic applause. How weird. We just looked at each other in amazement. People, the sun went down. It was nice but it's been doing it for millions of years you know. Get a grip. The clapping was so loud and prolonged we almost expected old Sol to reappear for a curtain call. It’s one anniversary we definitely won’t forget in a hurry.
Cala Portals to Ibiza
17 September 2012 | Ibiza
July 16-18 2012
As the sun rose over the cliffs of Cala Portals, Mallorca on Monday July 16 we pulled Alcheringa’s anchor off the sea bed and made our way out between the headlands, our destination - Ibiza. Once clear of the shoreline we wasted no time in getting the sails up and the engine off, the way all good yachts should travel.
There was only a light 10 knot breeze blowing from the East but it provided us a very comfortable downwind run through the morning with the boat managing an average speed of over six knots. We were naturally delighted with her light airs performance on this point of sail and took great delight in seeing the high mountains of Mallorca disappear into the light sea haze behind us. With our view from the deck now being an unbroken, 360 degree horizon of nothing but the sea all around us, we truly felt that we were finally on our way and could really call ourselves cruisers.
We were passed by a few inter-island ferries and periodically by huge motorboats carving through the water at much better than twenty knots heading to or from Mallorca. However comparing our current fuel consumption (zero) to theirs (guzzle – gulp) it was very easy to feel good about our more relaxed pace. Unfortunately the wind eased in the mid afternoon. We furled away the genoa and hoisted our light cruising chute but we weren’t even able to keep it filled in the dying breeze so in the end we resigned ourselves to motoring the last couple of hours into port.
As we rounded the headland into the open bay of Cala Portinatx we found the smaller inlet we’d selected on the chart to anchor in absolutely full of small boats sitting on moorings. With no room for us there we headed towards the larger part of the bay to find a spot amongst the dozen or so yachts already there. At 1.6 metres, Alcheringa has a relatively shallow draft for a 43 foot (13m) yacht so we edged through the fleet and found we had plenty of depth under our keel to anchor much closer in shore. As a result of past problems mostly with speed boats and jetskis, most beaches around the Balearics now have buoyed lines to mark the swimming areas with no boats of any kind permitted within the zone. After a great day’s sail and 66.3 nautical miles added to our log book, it was very nice to be able to anchor with our stern hanging to within a couple of metres of the line and have a great view of the cala’s two beaches, the nearest only about sixty metres away.
Cala Portinatx has a number of smallish resorts lining the bay and great beaches of very fine white sand which are understandably very popular in summer. We found it hard to be believe but the water was even clearer than that we’d just left at Cala Portals in Mallorca. We could clearly see every detail on the sea bed and our anchor chain stretching away 12 metres or so into the distance. There were also hundreds and hundreds of smallish fish, and a few larger ones, that converged around the swim platform on the stern whenever there may be a morsel or two of left-overs available.
The bay is open to the west and after dinner that evening we were treated to the anchored fleet being silhouetted by a fantastic sunset enjoyed from the cockpit with a glass of wine in hand and the boat’s stereo emitting a few mellow tunes. Not heaven but just about as close as you’ll get to it here on earth.
After a nice swim next morning we went exploring ashore. We walked over the hill to the bay’s third beach and beyond to where we could see the lighthouse guarding the low cliffs of the island’s northern coast.
While there were plenty of tourists around, the whole area had a very quiet, relaxed atmosphere. When we suggested to Marc that it was all a far cry from the image of Ibiza as a drunken, sex and drug fuelled, techno music, party hangout we’d seen portrayed on TV he replied very quickly ‘Ah! You’re talking about San Antonio. It’s further down the coast.’
We had a great, cheap ‘menu of the day’ lunch ashore at one of the cafes overlooking the small cove we’d originally planned on anchoring in and the spent a relaxing afternoon swimming and snorkelling in the fantastic clear water around the boat.
Alcheringa just beyond the swim line at our first anchorage in Ibiza
Sometime during the night the anchor light on the very top of the mast stopped working so it was out with the bosun’s chair again next morning and Rob winched Marc aloft. After having blown a steaming light bulb in Palma we’d made sure we’d bought a pack of spares before we headed to sea. Unfortunately after getting all the way to the top Marc discovered the anchor light actually has a totally different type of bulb to the steaming light and every other light on board. Of course, in full compliance with Murphy’s law, we didn’t have a spare one. Bugger! We then headed ashore and went on an exhaustive but totally unsuccessful hunt for a replacement before giving up and having swim. That night we switched on the steaming light located half way up the mast and hung an L.E.D. lamp in the cockpit. Not quite regulation but it would do until we found a new bulb.
Another great day capped off with another excellent meal afloat and another stunning sunset. Life truly is good on Alcheringa.
Sailing the Mediterranean at last
16 September 2012 | Portal Vels
With Alcheringa fully provisioned with fuel, food, water and, of course, wine, we finally left the La Lonja Marina at Palma on the morning of Friday July 13 and headed out into Palma bay for the first time with just the three of us on board our boat. There was no containing the smiles all around as we all savoured the moment.
Now many superstitious people will say you should never start a voyage on a Friday and for some the very thought of Friday the 13th would of have them staying firmly tied to the dock. We however were very keen to get away from the marina before all the charter boats started arriving back in from about lunchtime. It may have been nice and quiet during the week but Friday and Saturdays are absolute bedlam.
We decided we wouldn’t technically be starting a voyage on a Friday if all we did was move a short 14 nautical miles west along the coast to a little bay called Cala Portals or Porto Vels. For some reason nearly every anchorage on Mallorca listed in the cruising guide has two names. We’ve have no idea why. There’s even more than one way to spell the island itself with official paper work we saw going with Mallorca while many signs and books etc had it as Majorca. Either way it’s pronounced May-Yorker so go figure.
Conditions were perfect for our first time out with the breeze light but more than enough for us to sail along nicely downwind towards our first anchorage. We all took turns on the helm and revelled at simply being on the water in our own boat. Sailing peacefully past bays packed with big resorts and all the hurly burly that goes with them was a fantastic way to unwind after the past month’s dramas buying the boat.
We furled away the genoa and dropped the mainsail just outside the high cliff headlands that protect Cala Portals and motored in towards what was a fairly busy anchorage for a Friday. We were able to find a secure spot to drop the anchor in four metres of water with a nice sand bottom. We were a little close to a couple of small powerboats but we correctly assumed they would disappear by sunset leaving us with plenty of room to swing around during the night.
Cala Portals is a small but very beautiful bay with nice clear water surrounded by high rock cliffs on all sides. Inside the headlands it splits into three fingers with great beaches at the end of each. A very small boat harbour was tucked into the Eastern side of the bay. It was backed by some apartments stretching up the hill and a row of luxury houses along the cliff top. The rest of the bay however featured no development other than small cafes behind each of the three beaches. It really was as nice a first anchorage as we could of possibly hoped for.
One thing we noticed very quickly was that either Spain’s economic woes were worse than we thought and the majority of people can no longer afford bathing suits or sunlovers in the Med simply don’t bother with them. We learned that apparently the centre beach is a designated nudist beach but, to be honest, all of Cala Portals seemed to be very clothes optional. Karen was particularly bemused by the number of males that had proudly embraced the Brazilian trend while just thought of the back, sack and crack wax had Rob and Marc wincing. While the boys clearly enjoyed some of the young eye candy on offer, the old saying that many nudists are the last people on earth you really want to see nude was the case.
In July summer in the Balearic Islands is unquestionably superb with mostly clear, warm days and magnificent sunsets that light up the sky in an ever changing array of colour stretching into prolonged hours of twilight. With all but a few yachts and larger motorboats disappearing well before nightfall we were left to enjoy a magnificent, very peaceful evening with one of Karen’s great meals and a glass of wine or two. The very best of cruising life and really what we’d all been hanging out for.
The following day being Saturday we found out just how popular Cala Portals is with pleasure boats and hundreds of beach goers that descend down the cliff paths. By early afternoon new arrivals through the heads often found nowhere to anchor and simply turned around and went. The beaches and rocky ledges were covered in tanning bodies literally of all shapes and sizes while out on the water there was a vibrant atmosphere as hundreds more enjoyed themselves on the vast array of vessels from small speedboats to multi-million dollar super yachts.
After plenty of snorkelling in the crystal clear water, Karen and Rob went ashore for a while exploring some of the tracks and headlands and took the obligatory photos of Alcheringa resting peacefully in our first anchorage. Meanwhile Marc was content to sit back onboard, relaxing and taking in the atmosphere.
The bay pretty much emptied out again that evening and a small swell made its way around the headlands making things a little bit rolly at times during the night. However, we found the new rear cabin layout with its super-wide bunk perfectly suited to laying across the bed to minimise the effects of the roll and we still enjoyed a good sleep
Sunday morning was spent doing much the same as the previous day but in the afternoon we did take the opportunity to go ashore again. This time we explored caves cut into the western headland during the Phoenician occupation of the island around 300BC. They were ancient tombs that are huge and stretched well back into the solid rock. They contained some very elaborate rock carvings that we were surprised to find were not protected in any way from possible attack from vandals. Some of the cave roof has collapsed around one of the entrances during an earthquake but overall the whole system is in very good condition. We were amazed again at what ancient people had been able to achieve without any form of mechanisation at all. We really are soft these days.
Our other activity on Sunday was planning our first passage because the following morning we were going to really head to sea for the first time on Alcheringa and sail across to the western most of the Balearic Islands, Ibiza.
Living on board at last in Palma de Mallorca
15 September 2012 | Palma de Mallorca
On Thursday morning July 5 we loaded up with cleaning gear and Rob's laptop and headed for the marina to start work on the yacht soon to be known as 'Alcheringa'. We began by creating a comprehensive inventory of the boat's equipment, spares, tools etc as an excel file which listed every storage space onboard and exactly what it contained. Not only is it nice to know where things are but it also allowed us to begin an equally comprehensive list of what we didn't have and would need to buy.
On Thursday morning July 5 we loaded up with cleaning gear and Rob's laptop and headed for the marina to start work on the yacht soon to be known as 'Alcheringa'. We began by creating a comprehensive inventory of the boat's equipment, spares, tools etc as an excel file which listed every storage space onboard and exactly what it contained. Not only is it nice to know where things are but it also allowed us to begin an equally comprehensive list of what we didn't have and would need to purchase.
Then below decks were treated to their biggest spring clean since the boat came out of the factory. We started in the forward cabin and worked our way all the way to the stern. It's not that the boat was filthy but rather a bit like the difference in the way a rental house is kept in comparison to an owner occupier. From the following day this was going to be our home and we all wanted it just right.
We got a message from Juan mid afternoon saying he'd like to take his wife and daughter out for a last family sail on the boat that evening. That was no problem to us. After all, they actually still owned it until the final payment went into their account overnight. Not wanting to intrude on their family time, we locked the boat up and made sure we were gone before they arrived.
First task the following morning was humping all our worldly possessions down to the marina. Alcheringa was now officially ours and this was moving in day. Following the scant instructions in the owner's manual, Rob and Marc set to unscrewing various walls and re-erecting them in different positions to convert the four cabin layout to two large ones. The transformation was amazing. Marc now had a very nice private space in the bow complete with good sized double bunk, settee, wardrobes and ensuite. The two aft cabins became our huge single stateroom, far more spacious than anything we've seen on a boat of comparable size.
After lunch Marc took a walk to the Port Office with Juan to witness the application for removal from the Spanish Register being lodged and then got busy with the online registration of the boat onto the British Small Ships Register and getting the insurance in place. We had not been able to organise the cover in advance of the purchase so we were a little nervous that we were initially uninsured but the risk level sitting in the most protected marina in Palma was fairly low.
Meanwhile our afternoon project was a taxi ride to Ikea with Karen's very long shopping list. Linen, pillows, kitchen utensils, storage containers, cockpit cushions, etc, etc were piled high in two huge trolleys that made the checkout girl shudder as we approached. We were only just able to squeeze all our purchases into the taxi for the trip back. By late afternoon a second great transformation had occurred as the bunks were made up with their nice, new coverings and all our acquired goodies found their way to their respective spots on the boat leaving her looking lived in and loved.
Now Alcheringa was ready to be our home and it was finally time to mark the occasion with a celebratory bottle of champagne sitting in our cockpit. It was a great feeling. That night we also enjoyed our first meal on board followed by three weary bodies sleeping soundly in our new home afloat.
Day two saw us attack the decks and topsides with boatwash and scrubbing brooms giving Alcheringa's exterior the sort of going over below decks had already undergone. Rob got stuck into scrubbing some life back into the teak which was looking sad. Fortunately only the cockpit deck and swim platform are teak. The timber decks may look stunning when they're new or very well maintained but they take a lot of looking after. Teak foredecks also get extremely hot in the sun to the level of being painful to walk on. The fact this boat had anti-slip fibre glass decks was a real bonus as far as we were concerned.
After half a day of Rob being down on his hands and knees scrubbing seven years of ingrained dirt and oxidisation from the timber Marc took over the scrubbing brush and continued the process. When the final rinse had dried off the end result was well worth the effort. We finished a big day's work with a slightly less physical but equally tedious task, peeling off the charter signage from the boom and old boat name off the stern. Boy do those vinyl letter stickers hang on. We all had sore fingers before the last letter was removed.
Being a Saturday, we were surrounded by the charter fleet all in for their quick clean, check over and crew change. Looking at our sparkling boat we couldn't help feel just that bit superior as we settled in for sundowners.
Early that evening, once the charter hordes from all over the world had made their way out of the marina, we took the next step in making Alcheringa ours. The British Ensign was raised on her stern to the strains of God Save the Queen. We didn't actually have a recording of the British National Anthem but were able to substitute the Sex Pistols version. We're not sure what Lizzie would think but we liked it.
Apart from getting some of the stainless stanchions and fittings polished we had a pretty quiet Sunday aboard. With a nice breeze blowing we were very tempted to go out for an afternoon sail but with no confirmation of registration or insurance back yet it would have been a little foolhardy so we settled for some homework reading through the operating manuals of our navigation systems, engine etc. We couldn't wait to wave goodbye to Palma and be on our way cruising the Mediterranean Sea the way we'd all dreamed of. However, we really couldn't go anywhere until the wheels of bureaucracy had turned.
On Monday morning Marc phoned the Small Ships Register in London to make sure our online registration had been done and to obtain our SSR number. He found himself speaking to a perfect example of a Yes Minister public servant with a flat monotone voice complete with plum in the mouth. 'Yes Mr Beerts I can see your application is in the system. Oh No! Registration is not issued online merely applied for online. How long does it take? Oh it varies. All registrations have to go through due process of course. It could be up to three weeks. We're very busy here you know. You'll be notified in due course. Thank you for your call. '
This is where we started running into Catch 22. We needed our SSR Registration number to apply for a British radio license, which we needed before we could be issued with our unique MMSI number, which we needed to transfer the boats EPIRB emergency beacon to our details, which we also needed to change the distress button transmission on our vhf radio. If we ran into a Sir Basil at every link in this chain we could be in Palma until Christmas.
At least the insurance brokers were more positive. We'd printed out their application form at a nearby internet cafe, filled it in , scanned it then emailed them an electronic copy. When Marc called they confirmed that yes they had received it, no they didn't need to be posted the hard copy in the mail, yes it had the information they needed, they did understand our position and they would be chasing the insurance company to issue cover as quickly as possible. Oh the difference between government and private enterprise.
Despite the bureaucratic obstacle course we were negotiating we did celebrate another little milestone that afternoon when, with due offerings to King Neptune and the winds gods, Alcheringa was officially renamed and the signage was ceremonially affixed to her stern.
Days started to slide by a little as we waited for the various wheels to turn. We did visit just about every ship chandlers in Palma picking up bits and pieces and considerably improving Spain's economic status in the process. One major purchase were three new automatically inflating Personal Floatation Devices, harnesses and tethers. Safety always comes first.
Meanwhile we also had almost daily visits from either Juan or his wife Sassa delivering the spare sails, cruising chute and other bits and pieces that had not been kept on the boat. On stepping aboard for the first time after we'd completed our big makeover Juan looked around at the teak, foredecks and gleaming stainless steel and said to Karen 'It's very nice. My boat looks very clean.' To which Karen took great delight in replying 'Yes. Our boat looks lovely.'
We took the opportunity to work through a lot of the systems on the boat including hoisting the cruising chute in the calm of one evening to check how it all works. Rob went up the mast in the boson's chair to see why our steaming light wasn't working and have a good look over all the rigging on the mast. He also took his camera aloft and got some nice seagull's eye view photos from the top.
Meanwhile Marc had discovered just how much hard work it is for a heavy smoker to winch an 83 kilo man to the top of our mast by hand and was looking decidedly fatigued by the time Rob was back on deck with the good news that the light simply needed a new bulb but the bad news that he'd have to go back up to replace it. Funnily enough Marc quickly volunteered for the job. Being much lighter it made sense anyway so he is now officially the boat's boson's chair man.
The insurance company came back to us with a couple of questions about sailing history etc which we promptly answered and by midday Wednesday we were covered. Phew! What a relief. However there was no sign of progress from the small ships register. After discussing things with Juan we decided we wouldn't sit around any longer but now we were insured we would head over to Ibiza for about a week and then come back to Palma and hopefully by then we'd have our SSR and MMSI numbers and we'd get the radio etc changed over when we were back.
Now we were getting excited. We spent the day loading up with final provisions, making sure everything on board was ready for us to go to see and poring over grib file weather reports working out our plan. Next day we were actually going to get out there on the water and sail away.
The Joys of Buying a Yacht in Spain - Part 2
15 June 2012 | Palma de Mallorca
It had taken seven days but we now had deal to buy our dream boat in Mallorca and sail off to begin our cruising life as owners. We may have had a deal but we didn't have a contract, the boat was yet to be put under the microscope of an out of the water survey inspection and sea trial, we didn't have insurance organised and we didn't actually have a name to re-christen her with yet so we had enough to keep us busy while she was in the hands of hopefully her final charterers. It was a little irritating looking out over the harbour from our room and watch 'our boat' head out for a sail each morning and return that evening with someone else at the helm.
It was time to get organised though. First up we decided as nice as the view was, we just could not put up with the nightly noise at our backpackers any longer. We had to find somewhere else to stay. Once more the three of us trawled the internet looking for somewhere cheap but acceptable to stay. Marc won the google award this time having discovered an apartment available from a private British owner which looked very nice and was actually fractionally cheaper than what we were paying for our two rooms at the hostel. It looked fine so we booked it for a week which would take us through to Wednesday of the following week, hopefully long enough to either wrap this thing up or we'd be walking away in any case.
We moved house the next morning and discovered our new home was an amazing renovated apartment in a heritage building right next to the cathedral in the centre of the old part of the city. It was only a five minute walk to the marina where the boat was moored instead of thirty five from the hostel. With air-conditioning, high speed wfi, great views from the roof terrace and very little noise at night it was perfect. We certainly wished we'd found it sooner.
Then we were back on our electronic devices in research mode, firstly chasing information on removing the boat from the Spanish register. We quickly decided the boat would have British registration. This could be done online at very little cost as soon as we bought the boat. While we two proud Aussies weren't thrilled with the idea of looking at a British Ensign flying from the stern every day the alternative was to enter a typically Australian bureaucratic nightmare.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority handle registrations. AMSA requires the original or certified copies of the purchase and deregistration documents (scans emailed or faxed are not acceptable). Any documents in Spanish, such as the contract, have to be translated to English and certified. Physically getting the paperwork to Canberra would take a week via Fedex or DHL and is not cheap. Then you wait for the wheels to turn for who knows how long before you have another week to get them back. Finally for the cruncher, to register the boat as British, which can be done on-line remember, cost the equivalent of thirty-eight Australian Dollars. To register her in Australia would cost almost $1000.
We were also searching for the best insurance options. An immediate stumbling block was that one of the first pieces of information required on all the online forms was the name of the boat. Bugger!! We didn't have one yet. So that decision got moved up to the top of the priority ladder.
We had always planned to call the boat we eventually bought 'Dreamtime'. While we intended to be 'living the dream', the name also was intended as a reference to our Australian heritage of the 'aboriginal dreamtime'. However this boat was not just our boat. It was Marc's as well and we didn't feel the name we'd decided on years ago should be hoisted on him. After trawling the net for name suggestions and not really coming up with anything we really liked it was Marc that came up with an idea asking 'What's the aboriginal word for dreamtime?' A good question that we explained there would not be a single answer to as the original Australians were many different peoples spread across a vast continent with an equally vast array of languages and dialects.
We all started a new search. Karen instantly looked for information regarding the language of the indigenous Stradbroke Islanders, her great, great grandmother's people. Unfortunately it appears there was not a single word for the dreamtime in their culture but rather a very lengthy phrase. If we went with this one we'd need a lot bigger boat to fit the name on it. Eventually Rob stumbled on information on a book published in the 1800's by an anthropologist who had spent a lot of time with aboriginal people in what is now the Northern Territory. He was the first European to write of the dreamtime and its legends. The people who were the subject of his book referred to the dreamtime as Alcheringa. Further googling found many more references to Alcheringa as being widely accepted as an aboriginal word for the dreamtime.
It instantly struck a chord with all three of us. So now we had a name. Our boat would reflect the nationality of her owners. Alcheringa would sail under a British flag with London listed as her home port but would have an indigenous Australian name. Perfect. Rob then went to work on creating appropriate artwork for our boat's new name.
Amongst all this boat activity, we found time to enjoy our surroundings in the old city and were treated to a bird's eye view of the changing of the guard in front of the royal palace opposite the cathedral. Apparently the royal family still use the place for their holidays. Why not. It's a very impressive weekender.
We also joined in the fun in the town square watching the final of the Euro 2012 soccer on a huge screen with thousands of jubilant locals as Spain thrashed Italy to take the title. They love their football in Spain. Especially when they're winning. It was a little raucous in town that night with much singing, drinking and celebratory fireworks going off all over the place. This included a number of parachute distress flares fired from building tops. Naughty, naughty. The favourite form of celebration though seemed to be packing a small car with four too many people then all hanging out windows waving Spanish flags and screaming 'Espania! Espania! Espania! Espania!' while the driver hurtled around the streets at break neck speed with one hand planted firmly on the horn button. It was a great win for the Spaniards and great fun to watch.
The week passed very quickly. We met with our agent Patricia again and got further advice on clauses we should have included in the contract if things proceeded. The boatyard and surveyor were booked for the Monday morning and we sorted through the widely varying insurance quotes we were then supplied and chose Pantaenious who offered clearly the best value cover after close examination of the policy inclusions and conditions.
Over the weekend we played tourists and checked out the beach etc but we also couldn't help ourselves and spent a bit of time in a café/bar beside the marina from which we could sit and stare at what we hoped was going to be our boat.
We were on the dock bright and early on Monday morning and went with Juan as he motored the yacht the short hop over to the boatyard. We were booked to be lifted out at 8.30am but in true Spanish style it was closer to 10 by the time we watched the slings placed under the hull and all 13 tonnes of boat rise up out of the water on the travel lift. The hull was relatively free of marine growth having been last anti-fouled in January. However below the water line was pressure washed and then it was time for Ian, our surveyor, to get to work.
He was very methodical in the way he went over every inch of the hull looking for damage or signs of osmosis, a problem where moisture enters the fibreglass then causes layers to delaminate and separate. Where the keel is joined to the hull came in for extra attention as he searched for any signs of movement or cracking. Next all the brass through hull fittings for the boat's various plumbing were closely inspected and all found to be in excellent condition. Attention then moved to the stern and the condition of the propeller, prop shaft, electrical anodes and rudder. When all were found to be in very good condition the boat went back in the water and was returned to its mooring where Ian continued his inspection above and below decks.
He was using a micro voice recorder to make all his notes and an indication of how thorough he was in his examinations is the fact that the written report he delivered to us 24 hours later went for many, many pages. Like any boat, new or second hand, a few minor things popped up but overall he was pleasantly surprised at the condition of the boat in light of the fact she had been in the hands of charterers. The last time he had surveyed a charter boat on this dock he'd found so much wrong in the first thirty minutes, the prospective buyers pulled out there and then without bothering to have the survey finished.
We then took a late lunch break at a local café that caters for the boatyard workers. They provide a 'Menu of the day' for Nine Euro ($11.50 Aus) which includes three courses, mineral water and a bottle of wine on the table. No wonder the Spaniards still have siesta in the afternoons. They need the three hour break to eat all the food and get over the booze before they go back to work. Having said that, the café did become one of our regular haunts when in Palma. It was great value and after a lunch like that we rarely needed more than a very light snack for dinner.
We threw the lines off and headed out into Palma Bay in the late afternoon for our sea trials. There was a modest 10 to 12 knots of wind blowing which was ample for us to test all of the boats running rigging and navigation systems etc. Once more a few minor things were discovered such as the boat's log (speedo) not working. Only a few years ago this would have been a major problem but in the era of GPS, electronics provide a much more accurate indication of true speed over the ground rather than the speed through the water shown on the log. In addition the little drive wheel that spins to provide the log with its information often get stuck by sea weed or other foreign matter and is not usually a big issue to clean out and get working.
We all had a play on the helm to get the feel for how she performed and really just enjoyed being under sail again. We were actually a bit disappointed when Ian said he'd finished everything he needed to do and we could go back to the dock. We would of happily sailed around for another couple of hours in the long Mediterranean daylight.
On shore Ian provided us with a recap of his overall impression of the boat and said we'd have the written report the next evening. Of the list of minor issues he'd found he indicated which he felt should be addressed straight away and which were things we could look at in due course. Things such as a broken hinge on an underbunk storage locker were hardly serious safety issues but the missing screw in the anchor swivel could see us set adrift at most likely the worst possible moment in the worst possible place.
Time for round three with Juan. Yes we'd like to buy the boat but need a few things fixed first. We could fill a few pages with the back and forwards on this but suffice to say haggling with a Spaniard is always far from straight forward. Various issues we raised were 'no problem. You just do this and it works.' Our point of view that we wanted things to work the way they were intended to, such as by flicking a switch rather than reaching into the bilge and lifting a sensor, held little sway. If something could be made to work by any means it was fine by Juan. He did agree to fix the safety issues such as the anchor swivel but to the issues with the boat we'd describe as the minor irritations he came up with a final play. 'No problem. I'll fix everything you want on the boat. You pay me 135,000 Euro plus tax.'
The smug look on Juan's face showed he knew he had taken the points in round three but Rob couldn't resist a last counterpunch, "OK Juan we can fix the little things but we have a more serious problem and can't buy the boat until it's fixed.' Juan's expression changed quickly to concern as Rob strung him out for effect. 'We still have no contract. Our accommodation here runs out Thursday so we need to move onto the boat on Friday. The contract will have to be signed by Wednesday for you to have the first transfer in your account by Thursday and the rest on Friday. We need to have the contract checked before we sign it and time's running out.'
He then assured us he'd call his solicitor straight away. We returned to the apartment exhausted but relieved that the boat had come up well in the survey. We talked through every detail of the deal and threw in some devil's advocate scenarios just to make sure this was really what we wanted. The boat didn't have some of the things we would like but they could be added later. We'd have some work to do to get her looking exactly the way we wanted but that was also all achievable. She was not perfect but if we walked away would we ever find one better within our budget and how much might we spend searching? All agreed? All system's go. Then we received a text from Juan saying the Solicitor would email the contract first thing in the morning.
So, surprise, surprise, at quarter to five next afternoon we messaged Juan 'Still have not received contract'. We can only imagine the phone call he made because ten minutes later we had a contract, in Spanish only so we couldn't actually read it but at least we had a contract. Wednesday morning Patricia confirmed that all was in order with the contract including the clauses we'd asked for to ensure the de-listing from the Spanish register was handled by the seller and a copy of the de-registration certificate would be provided to us. This could be required by any future purchaser of the boat and could be very difficult to obtain a few years down the track.
We left the UK hoping to inspect, survey and, if the boat was OK, buy this yacht in four or five days. Finally after fifteen days on Mallorca, at 6.00PM on Wednesday July 4 we met in the solicitor's office, signed the documents and performed the first transfer on the spot. Juan agreed for us to be able to have access to the boat from the following day so we could get it ready for us to move onto on Friday. It was actually happening. We then went and had our own little Independence Day celebration and tried to let it all sink in.
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