Meanderings around Menorca
06 June 2023 | Menorca to Mallorca passage
It's not like others haven't walked along this tiny secluded beach tucked inside the beautiful anchorage of Cala Pregonta, yet at the moment it is only me, and the crusty yellow sand beneath my feet.
From the beach, Paikea Mist nudges her nose ahead of a large rectangular black rock which looks likes it's been dropped from the skies; a loner amongst the carved golden limestone and smooth worn red rock that shapes this landscape. I search my visual memories of past anchorages, but can't find a clear reference from past explorations.
"I feel like we've arrived on the moon!" I call back to Michael as I watch the anchor splash into the crystal waters and gently nudge itself into the rippled sand 30 feet below.
Over the ages, the tramontana northerlies have created an utterly unique combination of tumbled carved rock and cave gardens. To us it's magical, and as Paikea Mist swings and opens up another angle on the surrounding vista, we keep pinching ourselves.
It seems we may have been magically transported into a random window of perfection: a collision of landscape, clear and exceptionally clean azure waters, soft and gentle sea breezes, along with warming and long days. And here is where we find ourselves, the two of us, and our Paikea Mist providing the platform for this slow and gentle discovery.
Three sandy beaches surround the anchorage. Two of the beaches start to see sunbathers arrive sometime late morning, yet the long sandy stretches offer plenty of room for everyone. Anyone who arrives here has earned it, having hiked at least a few kilometres to the beach. At night the beach is sometimes used by kayakers or hikers who are camping out. Despite this we find the beach spotless in the morning as we head out to explore the coast along the Cami de Cavalls, a walking path that wraps itself along the entire coast of the spectacular Menorca island.
The third beach is the one I am standing on, and is only reached by water.
Over the next few weeks, we explore the northern coast in every direction. We kayak, swim, run, hike and bike. The coastline especially invites exploration by kayak with tiny secret coves which open up from narrow entrances, unannounced sea arches and sea caves galore.
From our anchorage at Cala Pregonta we cycled to the most northern lighthouse, about 25 km return. The start of the ride included a private road (oops) which swept us down and through pastures and farm homes, and eventually to an electronic gate which thankfully opened with motion detectors and led us to a small paved public road.
With the lighthouse looming above, we climbed steadily. We were joined by others, many in cars, but also several hikers and bikers making their way to the same destination. From the lighthouse you enjoy sea vistas and can also explore an underground tunnel which leads you out to the edge of the cliffs for a peek a boo view. On the way back in order to avoid the private road, we took the Cami de Cavalls and used our folding Dahons like mountain bikes across the last 2 km to our awaiting dinghy.
Looking back on our time in Menorca, we marvel at our luck, and feel so grateful to have had this experience. When we first made passage from Tunisia we arrived in Port Mahon, which distinguishes itself as the second largest natural port in the world. Along with a couple dozen cruising boats, we anchored up in Cala Tuelera, one of the most protected gunkholes we've ever found (see illusion re interesting facts below). The virtually landlocked bay was surrounded by fortified walls which dated back to the mid 1850's but looked like they were made last year!
The crossing had been fun, with our friends Allan and Alison aboard, our watches were short and the passage fast under sail most of the way. After cool and unpredictable weather in Tunisia, the sun shone down as we dinghied to the authorities across the bay to check in. That first impression counts. Menorcans are friendly, in a relaxed way. They are neat and tidy, even the streets looked like they had been vacuumed clean! The customs office where the polite official cleared Paikea Mist back into the EU was one of the cleanest and efficient we have encountered in our travels.
We could stay here!
Yet other islands await. Today we are off to the north eastern tip of Mallorca. We are currently in that expansive moment where one door closes and another opens.
Interesting rumour/fact # 1: A local told us that Menorca is run by a handful of mafia like families who want the island to remain unchanged, and recently voted against encouraging any further tourism on the island. They want to keep Menorca just as it is for the next hundreds of years!
Interesting fact # 2: In 2004, as a result of an earthquake in Morocco, the entire bay of Mahon completely emptied of all its water. When the tidal wave returned it swept boats 1/2 km inland.
Interesting fact # 3: Remember that protected gunkhole of Cala Tuelera? On our last night anchored by the Cituedella, a Dutch sailor invited us aboard his beautiful 50' Hunter for drinks. As sailing stories unfolded, John told us that last year, near 4 am one morning in late August, he along with 30-40 other boats were hit by a 20 minute weather bomb which included heavy winds and hail. With 25 or so of the boats adrift it was a nightmare - anchor chains fouled with each other, yachtsmen yelling while doing their best to navigate the ensuing chaos . He ended up on the rocks but was able to motor off albeit with damage to his keel and rudder.
This is what I now ponder - how the exact moment you happen to be in, where you are and who you are sharing it with, serves to form and inform your perspective of and in that very moment.
Reflections on 10 years in the Med
29 May 2023 | Port Addaia, Menorca
SV Paikea Mist at one of our favourite anchorages near Fethieye
It's hard to believe that 10 years ago, SV Paikea Mist and crew arrived in the Med. We came by different routes. After sailing across through the South Pacific to New Zealand, we enjoyed another round trip to Fiji and back to New Zealand before opting to continue westward through Vanuatu, Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. The next logical step would be the Red Sea and into the Mediterranean. Unfortunately the story unfolding in the area was not an inviting one. Sailboats and crew, some of which we had crossed the Pacific with were being hijacked for ransom. Families were being separated and held for months.
With this in mind, we opted to ship Paikea Mist from Thailand to Turkey. Other cruisers headed south, taking the gutsy option of sailing around the bottom of Africa.. With our careers and business partners calling us back, (our one year sojourn had already morphed into four) the southern route with its longer passages was not one we could easily entertain. Simultaneously we were also becoming first time grand parents and we wanted to be able to spend time in Vancouver with our grand-baby in waiting!
While Paikea Mist travelled atop the guarded freighter across the Red Sea, Michael and I took a trip through Vietnam and Egypt before meeting up again in Marmaris. There were several sailboats atop the freighter, all tucked in like a complicated jigsaw puzzle. Paikea Mist was wedged between a container stack and the stern of another large yacht. Off loading was a challenge, our vessel was the last to get off the boat, but eventually she splashed and we began our Mediterranean adventures.
Over the past 10 years we've spent the shoulder seasons sailing through Turkey, Greece, Italy, Montenegro,Croatia, Malta and Tunisia. You simply can't travel this slow without experiencing a cultural immersion. This is slow travel at its best, and I sometimes muse that it can almost be considered a semi-nomadic lifestyle. On the flip side, while at home we've both worked hard, and enjoy our time home with family and friends.
Over the years our travels to and from the boat has allowed additional explorations as we tagged other countries to our routes back and forth from the boat. We were fortunate to spend loads of time in Istanbul, one of my favourite cities, and meet with Michael's mom and dad on what would be his dad's last trip to Germany. We especially loved the people of Turkey and Greece, and we began to return to favourite anchorages along the Turkish coast and Greek Aegean Islands as they became more and more familiar.
Before covid, we were in the early stages of formulating a plan to leave the Med and head North to complete the big northern loop through Great Britain, the Faros, Iceland, Greenland and down the coast of Labrador and Newfoundland. With the arrival of the covid pandemic, our plans stalled out with Paikea Mist still in Turkey, luckily being well cared for by the kind folks at Technical Marine in Marmaris. The minute air traffic opened we flew back and experienced Turkey through the vaccinated part of the pandemic. Here people still wore masks in crowded stores, but had largely left the pandemic behind.
Next up was the war in Ukraine. Somehow in our minds, the Med became really small when the war in Ukraine broke, and we began to seriously search out a way to bring PM home. We lined up a freighter from a port near Athens, and completed a fast passage there from Marmaris, ducking through 3 major systems in as many weeks. Once there we readied her for another trip on top of a freighter. As fate would have it, the ship home never materialized. Demand for freighter space after covid was so high that many turned around fully loaded long before reaching the eastern Med. Still chasing the freighter, we even hired crew sail her to Malta, yet still it was not to be.
When we flew out to Paikea Mist in Malta last fall, she was on the hard. I climbed the ladder and sat in her familiar cockpit. It's hard to explain how sitting in this cockpit transforms me. A mixture of contentment, hope, and excitement grips me. Sitting high above the waters of the ancient harbour of Valleta, we began again to plan our passage home, to our shores.
As we look westwards to our eventual journey out of the Med, there are new "hijackers" on the horizon. These come in the form of Orcas. Who would have thought Orcas would begin attacking and disabling sailing boats in the Straits of Gibraltar?! The attacks have steadily increased since the first was was reported in 2020, and the phenomenon is high on our radar.
The irony of possibly being disabled by the very creature and mythical story our boat is named after is not beyond me, it's both humbling and terrifying at the same time,
We will continue to monitor the situation and can only hope that either the orcas lose interest in the sport of eating rudders or that the sailing community and powers that be agree on an effective tracking system by the time we are ready to head out of the Med.
Whatever happens, the reality is ours to face. Ageing places a slowly shrinking bubble wrap around life. As surely as the clock ticks, the sailing window on our life will also naturally and gradually close. Before then, we still hope to sail Paikea Mist in our home waters of the beautiful Pacific Northwest.
For now, Paikea Mist has another 18 months in the EU, and we look forward to our explorations here in the beautiful Balearic Islands of Spain.
Night watch somewhere between the northern tip of Africa and the Balearics.
23 May 2023 | Southwest med
We are on our way, having left Tunisia, sailing a course to the Balearics, Spain. We are somewhere roughly south of the Italian island of Sardinia, and northwest of the northernmost tip of the African coast line. The sky is peppered with stars, the night moonless. And yes, it's a wee bit rough. With 20-25 knots of wind in our reefed main and our Genoa furled away we are moving through steeply troughed waves at over 8 knots.
Life is constant motion, adapting to it is another story, and a reflection of our resiliency and willingness to accept, distract and tackle those very aspects that shape us as we move towards that ever changing horizon.
At night the sounds a sailboat and the ocean create together while underway, is unimaginable, an endless cacophony of expected and unexpected sounds, especially notable alone on night watch. Some noises can be super annoying and repetitive, like when the small cans of soda and beer clang back and forth as the boat pitches and coasts down a wave. I stuff a couple of towels amongst the cans and this is taken care of. While the creaks and groans of the boat and her rigging might sound alarming to a landlubber, these are all valuable data points used to inform the passage-making decisions, as they tell the story of the power of the wind as it pulls the boat through the water.
We are sailing without valuable wind speed data, our mast top anemometer is spinning, however information unfortunately is not being transmitted. Through a honed sense, a combination of interpretation of the both the feel of the movement on rigging and sounds of the boat herself, we get a sense of when to reef, and when to shake out more sail. Tonight we take in the Genoa first , and later reef the main. And yet on she goes, like a sled down a windy toboggan run, making a steady and powerful run towards our destination.
I pull on my life jacket and click my harness onto the D ring on the floor of the cockpit, I'm alone on night watch and my senses are alive.The waves peak and crash up from behind us, the boat surfs, and the bow rolls and lifts into a foamy trough . Together the orchestra of wind and waves unfolds as it will, and we sail along, singing the song as if we've known this tune all all our lives.
Some interesting facts:
Michael and Gloria have been married 39 years, and have owned Paikea Mist for over half of these years. We sailed away from Vancouver across the Pacific in 2009 embarking on a slow voyage of discovery. We have sailed to over 20 countries, and always look forward to the next!
Tunisia and Travel Advisories
05 October 2016
Most likely many adventures I have undertaken in my life, and certainly our entire voyage aboard Paikea Mist could have warranted a travel advisory. After all, "Oceans are known for deadly storms, one should avoid all non-essential travel". For many, a trip like ours, which has taken us across vast endless oceans to discover some of the smallest communities in the world would be just too much of a perceived risk.
But consider what would life be worth without any risk at all?
I've noticed something out of sync with our fast-paced screen-glued culture before, and I will say it again. The rest of the world is just not as scary as our western news makes it out to be. And what, I ask, is the ultimate risk if we believe everything we hear, that we fear everything, everybody and every culture or religion that is different to us?
Before leaving for Sicily, there was a lot of bad news in the press. In Nice, a crazy man had driven a truck through a crowd of innocent people. Trying to make sense of such a hideous crime, the sole fact that the man was from Tunisia gave me pause for thought. Do I want to travel to a country that harbours people who would do such a thing? Our Canadian Travel advisory, typically fairly cautious by nature, warned against all non-essential travel to most parts of Tunisia. Hmmm.
Our reason for wanting to go to Tunisia was essential, at least to us. We needed to leave the EU to avoid paying the VAT (value added tax) on our Canadian registered yacht. We had alternatives, but Tunisia was both a country we had not visited before, and very close. Hovering with our decision, we opted to buy both the Albanian and the Tunisian courtesy flags.
When we arrived in Marina Di Ragusa, we happened to be dock neighbours to Dave and Trish, US citizens who had also needed to renew their cruising permit. They had sailed to Monastir just recently and said they enjoyed their travels, and felt totally secure. In one hand I weighed the crazy Tunisian in his truck, to the English speaking Tunisian tourist guide they highly recommended. Should one good man not outweigh one bad I thought? The thought was enough to swing the pendulum, and as soon as we could raise our sails we were off to Africa!
We used Malta as a stepping stone for the passage. When the weather presented itself with a safe weather window, we pointed our bow to Monastir, a 172 nm passage. We had less wind than we hoped for and motor sailed most of the way. In the early morning, approaching land, we were met by a small Tunisian Navy boat, who stood off our starboard side as they took photos and who knows what other information about our vessel. Eventually they contacted us on the radio to ask where we were headed, before speeding away. An hour or so later, the city of Monastir came up over the horizon. The Bourgiba mosque with its double minarets and the huge Il Rabat fortress beckoned us back to the land of morning prayer.
Clearing into Tunisia at Monastir was the typical smiles and stamps garnered in most entry ports, and very quickly we were cleared into the country and securely situated in the marina. Good thing as no sooner had we arrived than Tunisia received its first rainfall in over a year! Wow did it pour. We waited out the rainstorm most of the afternoon and ventured out for dinner at a dockside restaurant. I have to admit, that the travel advisory warning was still a red flag in the corner of my brain. But in looking around, all I could see was everyday people enjoying the seaside town, with no hint of aggression, or anything but a welcome mat laid out for us to their tourist stripped town.
The next day we organized a private tour through the marina and met with our tour guide for a 3 day trip through southern Tunisia. Every single town we visited or stayed in was named and referenced on the Canadian Travel Advisory to avoid all non essential travel. What were we thinking? Every where we went we saw men with Jihadist paraphernalia, carrying guns, sneering at us, calling us out as infidels- NOT! The most annoying moment of the three-day trip was when the boys at the Star Wars lookout with their vultures accosted Michael as a group, placing their vultures all over his arms and shoulders and then insisted he pay them each a dinar. Do not attempt to negotiate with an Arab. You will lose. This was the risk you face travelling through Tunisia.
I don't mean to make light or insignificant the risk of a terrorist attack, anywhere. But truly we all know that it could happen anytime, anywhere in the world. Knowing ahead is not something that comes with the territory anyways. But why do our western governments single out some countries and not others? Why are there no cautions about travels in France who obviously has terrorist cells waiting for the next strike?
We thoroughly enjoyed our private tour with Mahir, especially our long and easy conversations during the long drive through the south. Mahir told us so much about his country, his hopes for his country and his faith in his fellow citizens to overcome adversity. He also told us that his religion has been hijacked, and the Koran misinterpreted by non-arab speaking people from other parts of the world. He is proud of the tolerant form of Islam that his country follows, especially the rights women have there. He feels his country is utterly safe and secure. I hope he is right, not just because I am in Tunisia, but because his country needs security to stand a chance.
Tunisia is a country in transition, the only Arab democracy after the Arab Spring. They are proud and finding their way, but they have a new constitution and an elected president. There is good reason for hope.
Tunisia has a long way to recover. With tourism down, unemployment high, ISIS through the terrorist attack on the beach got exactly what they had hoped for. A scare, a downturn, and a crack.
But a crack is what lets the light in, and I hope it shines on Tunisia and its people.
Where'd you go Paikea Mist?
09 June 2016
Sometimes life knocks out a curve ball, and sets you on a path you were not quite anticipating. After six years of uninterrupted cruising, we have found our life mainly focused back in Vancouver, with short bursts of cruising time on Paikea Mist. Without going into the details, suffice to say that we are both healthy and more than happy to base ourselves in this beautiful city once again.
Vancouver at its finest
The spring of 2015 saw us sailing through one of the most spectacular cruising areas in the Med, finally leaving behind Turkey (after 57 anchorages) and sailing though the Aegean Greek Isles, past Albania, into Montenegro and Croatia. We left the boat in a small but reasonably priced Marina Batisda for summer months before returning in September to sail the boat south to Sicily.
Funny part was, when we arrived back to the boat in Croatia, we found that we were aground in the protective corner berth they had given us, and had to wait for high enough waters before we could literally scrape our way out of the place! For a while we wondered if we would ever float again!
Looking pretty aground
Our plan was to sail the boat to Marina di Ragusa, which is found along the south eastern end of Sicily, where we would leave the boat for the winter. The distance is not too far, but the weather was the most complicated part. We first sailed south in big winds to an anchorage just north of Split, where we made arrangements for a quick rendezvous with my brother and wife on the islands. We enjoyed a great 24 hours with them before dropping them off in Hvar. From Hvar, we sailed directly out to the southwesterly island of Lastovo where we waited for a big system to pass over before we checked out of Croatia. Lastovo turned out to be a bonus, where we enjoyed a well protected anchorage close to a WW2 submarine hide.
We had an outstanding sail across the Adriatic in calm sea conditions and ideal sailing on a comfortable and fast broad reach. We nosed our way (well and kind of bumped, running lightly aground on the sandbar near the entrance) into the small port of Crotone, Italy in time to weather out the second storm system in as many weeks. While everyone else hunkered down, Michael spotted a small weather window between successive fronts to continue our journey towards Syracuse. As we passed by Mt. Etna, on my early morning watch a fireball screamed across the sky ahead of me, and fizzled out in the water. I will always wonder what exactly that was!
Storm coming in Crotone, Italy
Syracuse offers a huge and secure bay for cruisers, and indeed we saw more cruising boats anchored here than we had since leaving the marinas of Turkey. We loved the old town of Ortigia and especially enjoyed the food there.
But nasty weather continued to pummel in, with adverse and strong winds which made our progress towards Marina di Ragusa impossible for days! No matter, the anchor was well stuck, the city was gorgeous and we rented a car to explore Sicily instead!
We finally left for a calm overnight passage which carried us into Marina di Ragusa in the early morning hours. We spent the next few busy days taking down sails and bringing in all of the lines. Our friends who had already wintered here had told us to beware of the damaging red sand which covers and stains everything. We were able to make arrangements with another cruising couple who ran a small business looking after and cleaning boats over the winter. Perfect! We had a final dinner out along the beautiful waterfront, enjoyed our chocolate croissants in the morning and in the blink of an eye, we left our cruising life and Paikea Mist behind for the longest period since leaving Vancouver in 2009.
Back in Vancouver we took advantage of the red hot market to sell our home in the suburbs in favour of a small apartment on the Vancouver waterfront. We also jumped back into the work a day world! Lucky we both love our careers! Over the winter months we enjoyed weekend skiing from our Whistler home, and the chance to reconnect with our family and friends. Our new location and turnkey lifestyle is more than perfectly suited to us. From our apartment we can cycle and walk everywhere. We even have some opportunities to cruise! Our daughter and family left Vancouver in September to do a one year cruise south to Mexico, up to Hawaii and then Alaska. In the middle of this endeavour, they also provided us with our second grandchild! (For a more active blog go to www.svasunto.com) In January we flew down to spend time with them in the Sea of Cortez, which very sweetly sharpened our cruising memories of those early days. In March, we met up with our cruising pals from Fly Aweigh, staying with them in their waterfront home in Oxnard and enjoying a short sail in the Pacific Ocean with them on their new boat Risa. In July we have plans to go out sailing in our local Pacific Northwest waters with our good friends Beth and Norm on SV Sarah Jean 2, and finally we will head to Alaska to rendezvous with the kids again near Juneau.
But for the moment, we are back on board Paikea Mist exploring Malta! Life is good.
Last night on the hook in Croatia
10 June 2015
Last night was our final night anchored out in Croatia, and today we will head to the marina where we will get Paikea Mist ready for her time alone at the dock.
We were treated to an amazing thunder, lightning show last night with dark clouds which were literally pouring and plunging over our anchorage. Very dramatic. In the middle of it all, this guy decided to make lemonade out of lemons, enjoying the stiff breeze which came with the storm. He timed it perfectly and exited the water just as the first few drops of rain started.