Saturday, August 11, 2007

Back to Fornells

We’re back in Fornells today after three nights at anchor in the Cala Taulera on the edge of Mahon. The wind has gone around to the south-west, not ideal for a sail back to Mallorca, and it’s the weekend, so we’ve taken the easy option and come back here. At the moment it’s quite windy and also quite choppy but usually the wind starts to drop by around 8pm so we’re hoping for a less splashy dinghy ride to the town – it will be the first time we have eaten out since we came here last time, 10 days ago.

Three days at anchor is a record for us and fortunately last night was quite calm so I got a bit of sleep. Sam didn’t though – he said he kept waiting for me to wake up! There was a huge concert up at the fort but fortunately it was really barely audible and the only disturbance was the police arriving at 5am. The anchorage was jam-packed, with boats continuing to arrive after dark.

We spent a bit of time chatting to Tony, who is anchored waiting for friends to arrive. His 49-footer has 11 berths but he says only two of them are usable – the rest are full of “stuff”. He used to have a Moody 33 and says he was much more disciplined in those days. You do wonder about people’s lives – he’s divorced, has various possessions and motorbikes in storage and used to have an apartment in Spain somewhere but doesn’t any more. If you ask him a question he gives you so much detail there’s not time to follow up with questions like “why are you sailing around the Balearics single-handed in a superfast racing 49-footer?”

9 August 2007

We’ve just been to visit the vast fortress on the Ila de la Mola, next to our anchorage. For the second day running it has been grey and cloudy, but unlike yesterday when it was very windy, today is close and still with spots of rain. Unfortunately we haven’t picked up a forecast for this area on the Navtex, although I am getting dire warnings for the area north of Corsica where there is a deep depression and Force 8s. I think we’ll stay here tonight but it would be good to know what to expect tomorrow. Personally I’d like to rush back to Mallorca and tie up in a nice, solid, safe, expensive marina. I can’t believe I can be such a wimp.

The fortress is extraordinary – built in the mid 19th century at a time when artillery was developing rapidly, it was out of date as soon as it was completed and has never seen serious action. It also houses some enormous Vickers cannons from 1931 which could probably be put out of action by any WW2 bomber, as they could hit a ship 35km away but couldn’t be pointed up at the sky. Hard to tell if the fort was an enormous waste of money or an effective deterrent – a bit like most other military activities then.

The visit was a good way to spend a few hours and reminded us that last year we made a big effort to do educational things, especially for Ben’s benefit, and we need to do more of the same this year. It does make the whole trip seem much more worthwhile. We’ve been lucky in that this has probably been our coolest day so far – only 25 deg. We couldn’t have contemplated it in 32 deg and blazing sunshine.

8 August 2007

Following our two expensive nights in the middle of Mahon we’ve now moved back to the anchorage near the entrance to the harbour. It’s forecast to be quite windy until tomorrow morning and we’re lying to two anchors. In spite of the fact that we’ve hardly moved since we set them I twitch every time there is a gust or a creaking noise and am unable to relax at all. I think I need treatment. Mind you, it did take us three goes to set the first anchor.

Unsurprisingly given the forecast it’s very busy in here. Sam has just counted 30 yachts, and nationalities we have spotted so far include Spanish, French, Italian, British, German, Danish, Swedish, Belgian, Austrian, New Zealand and South African. Quite a few of the boats were here when we came in a few days ago – not sure of the appeal as it’s at least two miles to the town by dinghy, but there you go.

In spite of the cost of the Sunseeker berth it probably was worth it. (I notice the price halves in June and September and goes down to about a fifth the rest of the year). If we’d been stuck in this anchorage we probably wouldn’t have seen Mahon at all. Every evening we were there we saw desperate boats cruising up and down looking for a space, and the port authorities really weren’t interested. We got to hobnob with the millionaires in a top spot. Sam got chatting to the British family next to us, who have a permanent mooring there, and reckoned their relatively modest 45ft motorboat was worth about £800,000. He was too embarrassed to tell us how much it costs him to fill up with fuel.

The biggest sailing and motor yachts have to anchor off or go to the cruise-liner berth, but there are loads of massively ostentatious boats along the harbour front. Many have uniformed staff, and I don’t think they have to trot up to Spar for their groceries. It must be a strange life.

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