Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Why we love Sunseeker, and other tales

We’ve spent last night in the most expensive berth in the world, probably – the Sunseeker pontoon in Mahon, capital of Menorca. It’s costing us €79 a night which is four times as much as we were paying in Galicia this time last year, for traffic noise, dirt, passing ships and minimal facilities. And the good thing is, we’re really pleased to be here.

Mahon was due to be our next step after Port Addaya and after our various technical issues the good news was that it has the best yacht spares in Menorca. So we set off on our first hazy morning heading into a light south-easterly. The entrance to Mahon, which is one of the great ports of the Med, is spectacular and full of fortifications built by the British when they ran the place in the late eighteenth century. We were hopeful of finding a berth and arrived at the visitors’ pontoon about 2pm to be told by an unhelpful marinero that there was no space in the entire port – all “complete”, despite many visible spaces.

We headed back down to the rather bleak visitors’ anchorage, about 1.5 miles out of town, while Sam tried various options by phone and VHF, including the port authorities, Sunseeker who maintain a base here, and the Marina Menorca who didn’t answer their phone, without success. We anchored – naturally it took three goes to get it right – and wandered what to do next. After a while, the phone rang. It was the man from Sunseeker (he’s called Ash – buy a boat from him if you happen to be passing), whom Sam had called earlier, saying that a berth had opened up if we wanted it. Imagine – he took the trouble to find our number and call us back when he could just have given a berth to the next caller. So here were are.

Mahon is a really nice, amazingly Spanish town. We managed to find a pump servicing kit for the Lavac from Pedro’s Boat supplies, bought some local gin from the distiller where you just help yourself to samples, and went to the big Spar supermarket underneath the church cloisters which have become Mahon’s market. It is however stonkingly hot, and we were forced to stop several times for cool drinks. When we got back to the yacht we were exceedingly hot and dusty, and the Sunseeker showers don’t open until tomorrow. Also, were are a tourist attraction – the trouble with being right on the promenade at the front of the town. Maybe tomorrow we’ll save our €79 and go to an anchorage.

5 August 2007

We spent a couple of nights in Porto Addaya, only about 10 miles east of Fornells – one in the marina, which we thought was expensive at the time, and one anchored in the cala. It’s a very pretty and very sheltered bay, and the marina people are very helpful, but the town itself consists almost entirely of new, albeit tasteful, residential development around two long inlets, which is a bit depressing – just one bar, and one small commercial centre with supermarket and restaurant, all very English. (No local butter in the supermarket - only Kerrygold and Country Life, although Menorca is a big dairy producer). The cala (bay) is a better place to be, apart from my usual nervousness about anchoring.

The day getting from Fornells to Addaya was a bad one. When we set off, we thought all systems on the boat were working OK. We filled up with water at the port in Fornells. Shortly afterwards we discovered the bilges were full of fresh water, then we discovered that the manual bilge pump wasn’t working (although the electric one was fine) and that the pressurised water system wasn’t working at all (fortunately we have a fallback system with a footpump from the front tank, but it is nice to be able to turn on a tap to get water). The diesel gauge was registering a quarter full instead of almost full. And finally we discovered that our dear friend the Lavac (loo) wasn’t emptying properly.

Eventually we discovered that a tiny pipe under the sink had come adrift and had probably pumped quite a lot of the Fornells water straight into the bilge. The Lavac problem seems to relate to various seals which have given up the ghost. And the diesel gauge was disconnected at the back. The bilge pump seems to have died, though.

3 August 2007

Today has been a very nothing day so far. We’re still in Fornells and sitting out a forecast northerly force 5-6 – here at the bottom end of the inlet we’ve seen a maximum of around 21 knots which is at the top of a force 5. Going ashore in the dinghy would mean getting very wet, so we’ve just been on board doing the things you always do on a boat in bad weather. The really odd thing is doing them when it’s 28 degrees C – playing Scrabble etc should really be done when it’s cold or raining.

Yesterday we went over to the little settlement closest to where we are, where there’s a sailing school (or possibly two) and a posh restaurant. We had a pleasant lunch in a little hostal which seems to be entirely occupied by dinghy-sailing English people. No showers at the sailing club but that was probably just as well, since we got soaked again on the way back to the yacht.

In the evening we had planned a beach barbecue but with the wind already starting to get up that didn’t look like a very good idea. So for the first time we used our new Cobb barbecue on board. On the whole it was pretty successful, although Spanish barbecue meat leaves something to be desired. We also discovered that if you put on the lid straight after lighting the barbecue the whole thing goes out instantly and you have to start again. We celebrated our successful meal by having a rather chilly solar shower in the gathering darkness and increasing wind – the coldest I’ve been since we arrived! At least my hair is a bit less salty.

This is the longest time since we left England that we have been off shore power and haven’t had the engine running either. The solar panels do what they can but we have had to turn off the fridge which was draining its battery comprehensively (it has a dedicated battery). We ran the engine for an hour this morning but even that wasn’t really enough to chill the fridge down. However now that we’ve eaten the meat other things in the fridge will probably survive fine at higher temperatures… warm beer isn’t so good, though.

Planning is proving challenging. We have to collect Guy and Beth from Palma Airport on the 21st so it makes sense to be somewhere within easy reach, but the marinas closest to the airport look pretty grim, or likely to be full, or both. Also the western side of Mallorca only has one port, Soller, while the eastern side is full of sheltered inlets. So we might not do a lap of Mallorca but instead stick to the eastern side, just heading south to collect the youngsters, retracing our steps, and then perhaps leaving from Bonaire to go to Barcelona. We’ll see.

1 August 07

Yesterday we sailed from Mallorca to Menorca. We aimed to go to Ciudadella, a very attractive small town which seems to have abandoned interest in visiting yachtsmen as its visitors’ quay was closed. We anchored in an extremely pretty little south-facing W-shaped bay on the edge of town, which was so small and full that we had to take a line ashore. I swam to the rocks, climbed up them with the rope in my teeth and tied it to a tree. Unfortunately during the evening the wind came around to the south and the bay was filled with the sound of sloshing waves all night. The anchor held fine but as ever at anchor I got very jittery and didn’t get to sleep until around 1.30am when the wind dropped a bit.

This morning, with continuing southerly winds forecast (fortunately we picked up a rather broken French forecast on the Navtex – I find the radio forecasts in Spanish a bit hard to follow), we abandoned plans to sail around the south of the island and instead headed around the north – Menorca is only 26 miles long. Good choice as we had an excellent sail most of the way in a relatively calm sea. We rounded Menorca’s most northerly cape and hit an unpleasant patch of south-easterly gusting up to about 18 knots – on the nose at that point - and bumpy, confused seas.

Fornells, where we are now, has a lovely inland sea stretching back from a narrow entrance. It was still quite windy when we arrived but we headed right down to the south of the inlet where it’s more sheltered. The pilot book says the weakness of Fornells is that the bottom is so churned up by anchoring that the holding is not very good. Fortunately there are dozens of what seem to be visitors’ moorings and we’re on one now. It’s not spectacularly beautiful (unlike Mallorca) but very pleasant and peaceful. There are loads of sailing schools so if watching people capsize turns you on there’s always plenty to see!

This evening we took the dinghy up to the supermarket in the village for stores – just under a mile. Getting there was fine, but on the way back we were heavily laden with bags and heading into the wind and we got amazingly wet. What a good thing that the water is nearly 30 deg C. The groceries survived pretty well too, although we were forced to eat the fresh bread straight away.

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