Monday, 14 May 2012

Palma, Mallorca and Ibiza - Spain.

28 March – 6 April 2012

It doesn’t take the full crew to get underway so we got to stay in our bunks as Richard, Tim and Phil slipped the lines in the darkness at 5.00am and headed Moksha out through the breakwaters of Carloforte and set a course for Mallorca. The forecast wasn’t great indicating light winds on the bow for at least the first half of the trip. Richard decided to head south of the direct rum line in the hope of finding some better wind later. Calm seas are always very relaxing but we’d all rather be under sail than motoring anywhere, anytime.
 The original plan was to make the island of Menorca our first Spanish stop but as we were still running behind Richard and Jayatma’s schedule it was decided to bypass it and head straight into the yachting capital of the Mediterranean, Las Palma on Mallorca. By late morning there was still no sign of any useful wind and we were still relying on the engine to push us towards our destination. Rob was on watch which in these conditions really just means keeping a good lookout for other boats and any possible hazards that may be floating around while the autopilot maintains our heading.  After all the cold weather sailing, it was also an opportunity to relax a little on the transom seat and soak up a bit of sunshine.

Looking behind the boat however Rob spotted something that didn’t appear right. From the port side of the stern it appeared something was streaming small bubbles and disturbed water behind the boat about a metre or so under the water. At first it looked like the stream we leave behind when we pump out our black water holding tank (sewerage) at sea but when the stream didn’t disappear he started to think we may have hooked something and were now towing it behind. Checking with those below confirmed we weren’t and hadn’t recently been jettisoning black water. This led to six sets of eyes straining over the stern with their owners debating what our mysterious trail could be.

Don't let the sunshine fool you - water temp was a very cold 15C
In the end the consensus was that it was probably a line of some sort hooked around the port rudder so we put the engine into neutral and lowered the swim platform for a better look. Richard and Tim jumped down on the platform and spotted a rope in the water which was promptly grabbed with the boat hook. Richard then hauled in about 30 metres of line to discover what treasure was at the end. The large concrete block that surfaced wasn’t the lobster pot full of lunch we hoped for and unfortunately the other end was still firmly wrapped around the rudder. This forced a quick dip in the not so balmy 15c water by Tim who was able to unhook  it and two plastic bottles being used as floats.  Whatever fish trap or pot was originally on the line was long gone.
This area of the Med is quite deep with the charts indicating well over 2,000 metres of water so it didn’t take Einstein to work out that we must have hooked the line up in the shallow waters as we were leaving Calleforte in the dark.  We’d been dragging it for many hours ever since. We committed the concrete to the depths and stowed the rope and bottles with our rubbish for disposal later and then speculated on how much our unplanned sea anchor had slowed us down.

Great sailing with the huge Code 1 headsail pushing us along.
We motored on into and through the night with no other excitement and finally found some usable wind in the morning. We raised the big Code 1 headsail which is flown from the extending bowspit and once again Moksha showed her light air abilities producing  10 to 11 knots of boat speed in just 12 knots of breeze as we started to gobble up the remaining miles. Unfortunately soon after we reached the south eastern tip of Mallorca the wind changed direction and then faded away leaving us a less exciting but very relaxing motor along the spectacular cliffs of the coast to Las Palmas.

Approaching the city two things dominate the skyline, the spectacular cathedral and literally thousands of yacht masts protruding above the breakwaters. Las Palmas certainly lives up to its reputation as the hub of yachting in the western Mediterranean. Here you will find marina after marina with hundreds of very nice cruisers dwarfed by scores and scores of Superyachts and even Mega Yachts that rival some of the cruise liners for size. Late in the afternoon we tied up in our Marina and at a paltry 72 feet, Moksha was the smallest boat on the finger finger.

We shared lots of laughs with Phil and were sorry to see him head home.

Reaching port on this occasion was a slightly sad time for us as Phil was going to be leaving us here and flying home to England. We’d had some great times together on and off the boat and were going to miss him so we headed out to a nearby bar that evening and enjoyed a few farewell vinos.
As always after a passage, next morning was boat cleaning time and we got into it while Phil finalised his travel arrangements for that evening. When we finished early that afternoon, Moksha’s decks, windows and copious amount of stainless steel were gleaming once again – at least for a little while. There was a reasonably stiff breeze blowing off the island and with it came a superfine yellow haze we hadn’t seen until we noticed it settling behind us all over the areas we’d cleaned. It turned out to be pollen blowing from the big pine forests. The whole boat ended up totally coated in a thick coating of yellow that continued to settle for the next five days. It also triggered another bout of asthma for Karen. After virtually no problems for years it was particularly frustrating for her to suffer two occurrences in short succession.  Damn spring!

View from our hotel room was not too bad. Talking about the boats of course

Next afternoon Richard got a phone call from his daughter, Asha, who decided to fly in for a few days visit from Germany where’s she’s attending university. As she normally has the cabin we were in when onboard Richard asked if we’d mind staying in a hotel for three nights. Out of peak season prices are very reasonable so next morning we were able to check into a nice place a little way down the road with a great view over the harbour. It was a good opportunity to kick back for a few days and have some ‘us’ time.

We had a great time wandering around the cathedral and old town. The streets are lined with fantastic buildings designed when architects were artists and not bland block builders. We also really enjoyed exploring all the  marinas having a good look at a great range of boats. We learn a lot walking down all the fingers looking at different makes and models of yachts and the myriads of personal tweaks owners make to them. In Palma there are hundreds of boats of all shape and sizes for sale and it took great restraint not to start calling brokers to have a closer look at quite a few.

Our day at Puerto de Soller was as good as it gets

We also took a day out to catch the narrow gauge heritage train up and over the mountains to the very picturesque harbour at Puerto de Soller on the other side of the island. The train travels through very pretty olive groves and historic villages before climbing the ranges providing dramatic views from the heights. On reaching Soller we transferred to a very quaint heritage tram for the fifteen minute ride down to the port where we found a beautiful natural harbour complete with nice beaches, marina and an excellent range of waterfront cafes. A fantastic tapas lunch enjoying the warm, sunny weather topped off a perfect day.
Before we knew it we were back on board and doing various jobs to get the boat ready for the next passage as well as more study of her various systems and equipment. On our return we also met  our new British crewmates, Mark and Joanne who were joining the boat for the passage through to the UK.  Joanne has been crewing on yachts for a number of years while Mark’s previous experience was on power boats so he has been looking forward to his first real sailing adventure.
After a couple of false starts due to some last minute work on the Mastervolt control we finally cast off a little late on Good Friday to sail to the infamous party island of Ibiza. With fresh headwinds all the way we had a fast if bumpy ride. We were taking a fair bit of water over the bow as we punched through the waves and even got one big one that made it over the spray dodger drenching everyone sitting in the cockpit and even knocked Karen’s glasses off. Sitting in his favourite spot on the windward rail right at the stern Rob was spared all but a slight splash and found the whole thing very amusing much to everybody else’s chagrin.
About halfway to Ibiza we heard Las Palmas coastguard relaying a mayday in our area but due to language difficulties we didn’t catch the full details. Before long however we did see what we assumed were search aircraft and vessels on the horizon so altered course slightly so that we’d pass through the area. Everybody onboard then lined the railings keeping a very sharp lookout but we never spotted anything. Eventually all the boats dispersed leaving us none the wiser of what went on.

The full moon rising over our anchorage on Ibiza

Our delayed start that morning cost us at the other end of the day and as the sun was beginning to set it was clear we weren’t going to reach the anchorage we’d planned. Instead we picked a secluded bay on the north-eastern corner of the island and dropped anchor under the shelter of high cliffs. Moments after the sun dipped below the western horizon, the moon began to appear from the east as a huge, orange ball reflecting across the sparkling waters. Very nice.
In the morning Richard and Jayatma donned full wetsuits and plunged into the crystal clear but still quite cool waters of the bay to go snorkelling around the rocks. Meanwhile our job list item for the day was working through the pilot guide for Southern Spain to develop an excel spreadsheet of marina options, facilities and attractions between the Balearics and Seville. After checking the afternoon forecasts Richard decided rather than move around the coast and see a bit more of Ibiza we’d strike early next morning for the port of Alicante on the Spanish mainland and make up some more time.
 So much for the party island.

Rob & Karen enjoying flying along with the huge Code 1 headsail

Super and Mega Yachts at every turn in Palma
Our train trip through the mountains to Soller was fantastic

Tram to Puerto de Soller - Mallorca
Puerto de Soller - Mallorca
We even found a gallery of Picasso ceramics in Soller
We had the bay to ourselves but it was all we saw of Ibiza

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