Our arrival at Benalmenda marina signaled the end of our first leg of the delivery. It was here that the constant race against time and arguments with Boris would force Manny to make a difficult decision. Although he certainly believes that a delivery skipper never abandons ship, something had to change.
Malaga Spain lies on the Costa del Sole and the heart of this country's tourism. The Benalmenda marina was built around a hotel complex and surrounded by rental units, a casino, chip shops, Irish pubs and dollar stores. Nothing here beckoned to explore. So, while Boris ran Ilia to the airport, the rest of the crew were happy to spend the day resting and organizing ourselves for the next leg.
Just before he left, Boris announced that we had only 24 hours to get ready because his family was flying in to Palma de Mallorca for a five day vacation aboard Ellen and we needed to get there on time.
Boris was constantly on the move, as if his life was a race against the clock. That held true not only for his deadline for arriving at Malaga, or Palma, but also for every small thing - provisioning, a walk around town, making supper. Once I found myself joining Boris to help with a conversation with the dock master at a large marina. As I tried to keep pace, I found myself racing down the dock, my short legs making two steps for every one of his long legs. I decided to slow down. "For heaven's sake" I thought, "what am I doing? He can run through life, but I don't have to."
So it was that the next day we parted with another crew member, Noam, who made a quick decision to step out of this race and to fly home from Malaga too. Now we were a crew of four.
Before we left, I checked the weather forecast and found that within forty eight hours a Levanter (gale force winds from the east) was expected. I put forth the suggestion to sail eighty miles up the Spanish coast to a good marina and to put in there for twenty four hours. We could provision, do laundry, prepare the boat for Boris's family visit and allow the bad weather to pass. Then next day we could take advantage of the friendlier seas and better wind direction to make course for Palma.
Boris quickly replied: "No way! We have no time to waste in marinas. We will head straight for Palma."
Manny took him aside for a talk. I wasn't there, but Manny assures me that the conversation was short and to the point. Manny had had enough. Either Boris could leave us to deliver the boat on our own, or he could find another delivery skipper to replace Manny in Palma. Manny would even help him find someone. Boris readily agreed to be the one to leave and told Manny that he would fly back home with his family at the end of their vacation. We would complete the rest of the delivery on our own.
With lighter hearts, Ellen and her remaining crew sailed out of Malaga under clear skies and flat calm seas. Soon enough we all began to notice the difference of sailing in the Med. The weather was warmer allowing us to go barefoot and to wear shorts and T shirts throughout the day. Night watches still required wet weather jackets and sweatpants, but we could put away our overalls.
By noon the first day out, we were motor sailing at seven knots. I heard someone call out "dolphins to port!" and when I came on deck there was the biggest pod of dolphins we had seen so far. There were more than forty of them diving, surfing the bow waves, chasing each other far off to the side and racing back to surface between the hulls. For well on half an hour we filmed and watched them entranced by their play.
Later that evening Mosheko finally caught his first fish! After weeks of trolling lines he was ecstatic and patiently reeled in a three kilo tuna. That night's watches were full of fish stories and cooking advice.
Throughout the night the wind built in strength and veered to the east until the next day when the Levanter was in full force. Bang on time. Throughout the day the motion on board once again became miserable. The cat's motion made doing even the smallest thing a chore. Just moving from one place to another was tiring. Climbing up to the fly bridge became a slippery test of balance. Soon enough, those of us with queasy stomachs just gave up and retired to our bunks. Most irritating was the knowledge that this weather could have been avoided.
After twenty four hours the wind abated and the sea began to calm down. Mid day we stopped for a swim and the chance to have a cruiser shower. On my night watch, I was greeted by the lights of Ibiza and we were able to change course and sail for Palma. Just a couple of hours before arriving we caught another tuna - ten kilos this time. So on July 27th, we arrived in Palma de Mallorca with our freezers full of fish, ready to greet our new guests.
Palma is the major harbour on Mallorca, the biggest island in the Balearics. For many years Palma has been a favourite destination for visiting yachts and today sports over 3000 berths in various marinas. Our heads swiveled in all directions as we ogled the huge mega yachts lining the piers. We were arriving in peak season and available dock space was limited with prices reflecting the demand.
Along with Boris's family we greeted Dima, our new crew member for the rest of the delivery. While they settled in, Manny set out to find a Yanmar dealer that could service Ellen's two engines. Being a new boat, her engines were still under warranty. When he finally found a shop, he was quoted 300 Euro per engine for an oil and filter change. That quickly changed the picture and he did the job himself. My laundry bill for two bags of sheets, towels and few personal items added up to 46 Euro and our marina berth was the most expensive yet at 160 Euro a night. At the dock and throughout the town, Palma is all about money.
We had finished our dockside chores and it was time for some peace and quiet. That evening we set off for a nearby anchorage. For the next three days Boris' family lounged in the sun, read books, and played in the sea. Between cooking and cleaning the crew also found time to relax. We lowered the dinghy into the water and took turns exploring the coastline. Dima tied off a halyard and we all took turns swinging off of Ellen's fly bridge and jumping in the water. I began each morning with an asana practice. We swam and rested.
By Saturday evening we all felt ready to carry on for the last half of our delivery. First we had to return to Palma. We intended to drop off Boris and his family and then get a marina berth for the night. Five days with eight people on board had left us without any fresh provisions or water. Two hungry teenagers had wiped out our night watch locker and all our bread. We needed to refuel, fill our water tanks, give Ellen a good wash and take on some stores.
However we arrived back in Palma smack in the middle of regatta weekend, the busiest four days in all the year. As we circled the bay, I radioed marina after marina only to be told the same news. There wasn't a berth to be had. Once again Boris had ignored our advice and refused to reserve a berth in advance. As he stepped off the boat, my relief at finally being on our own was tempered by Boris's parting shot. Ellen had empty fuel and water tanks and we would have to make do with canned food until we reached our next port.
This was where having an Israeli crew had its big rewards. When we pulled into the gas dock and were stubbornly told that although we could take on fuel, we could not tank up with water, or sit dockside even for an hour while we provisioned, I was taken aback. We went straight to the dock masters's office to plead our fate.
NO water from the fuel dock we were told. "You have to take a berth."
"Okay" we said.
"Sorry there are no berths available tonight. Regatta Weekend."
"We'll pay for the water."
"NO water from the fuel dock."
Round and round we went, but they wouldn't budge. Then we approached the yacht club's commodore and had a repeat of the same conversation. Outrageous as it seemed, my Canadian upbringing led me to accept our inevitable fate. At least we had had the sense to take on lots of bottled water back in La Rochelle, I thought. We had drinking water, but we'd have to do all our washing in salt water for the next few days.
Back aboard Ellen, Manny handed me our shopping bags, some Euros and the handheld VHF. He called Dima to help me and sent us off to the supermarket. "Take your time!" he urged. As we walked down the dock, I looked back over my shoulder wondering what he was up to.
Dima and I spent a couple of hours hiking to the supermarket and shopping for provisions. As we headed back towards the marina, we radioed Manny who assured us he would be waiting for us alongside the fuel dock when we arrived back. Sure enough, as we arrived at the end of the dock, Ellen came alongside. We threw our bags of groceries on deck, climbed on board and Manny motored off. We found Ellen clean from a wash down, with full fuel and water tanks. As we pulled away from the dock, Mosheko and Manny were all grins. "How did you pull that off?" I asked.
"Well, first we offered the gas attendant fifty Euro to fill our water tanks. - It's amazing what a little baksheesh will do - Then just as the tanks were full, Mosheko grabbed the hose and told me to stand in front of him. He began to quickly hose down the decks as I walked in front of him shielding him from the gas attendant's view. When we were finished we tried to linger dockside, but we could see we were really trying their patience, so we motored over to the commercial dock - the dock for tugs - opposite. We threw a really long line over one bollard to keep us parallel and then let Ellen fall off. When the security patrol passed, it looked to all the world like we were motoring by, but we were really tied off their dock. We cracked two beers and sat there until you called. Then we slipped our dockline, started our engines and timed our arrival at the gas dock to just coincide with yours. "
As Ellen pulled away and we passed by the surprised gas attendants, I called out "Muchas gracias" and they laughed giving us the thumbs up. We'd beat the system.
We motored out of the Bahia de Palma and Manny set our course for Sardinia. The crew shared smiles all around. We had completed half our delivery and learned many lessons along the way. Ahead of us lay new countries, more adventures and finally - the time to enjoy each day.