Monday, 24 September 2012

Ibiza City and beyond


August 1-2  2012

We managed to get up early for our short hop up to Ibiza City on the east coast. Again there was no wind so it was just a case of motoring on over. The main harbour at Ibiza City is full of very high priced marinas with no room at all to anchor out. We decided we’d try our luck just around the northern point in the next bay, Cala Talamanca, rather than pay HUGE marina fees. We actually expected it to be crowded with boats but were very surprised when we arrived to find the large bay fairly sparsely populated and had no trouble anchoring fairly close to the shore.

Being a bay in a major city, the water was nowhere as nice as we’d got used to but was still easily clear enough for Rob to snorkel and check the anchor set. Satisfied all was secure we took the dingy in to the beach then walked over the point and right around the marinas and port to visit the old walled town part of the city. It was extremely hot with no breeze at all to provide any relief and long before we actually reached the walls of the old town we’d already decided a taxi would be in order for the trip back later. We had lunch at a quiet little bar just outside the old walls and watched the world go by while we recovered after the hot walk.
It's an imposing entrance to Old Ibiza
Ibiza City existed as a significant settlement long before Roman times but although the current Old City only dates back to the 1600s it is packed with interest and charm. It covers all sides of the high headland on the southern side of the harbour and is well protected behind huge stone defensive walls. Crossing the moat and entering through the town gate gave us a real sense of the old world. From there it was up, up and up the narrow but steep streets and fairly hard work. Behind the high walls the day’s heat seemed greatly amplified. It was well worth the effort however we did pull up short of making it all the way to the big church right at the top. Rehydration was a priority and after a couple of hours wandering around in the heat, the much cooler harbour side bars were calling loudly.

Rob on the walls of Old Ibiza City
This is what you call waterfront living

Ibiza City is the epicentre of the club scene that the island is so well known for but during the day it’s much quieter as the holidaying clubbers are either sleeping the previous night’s activities off in their rooms or have headed out of town to the nearby beaches.
There's no shortage of charm in Old Ibiza

The place was certainly close to Marc’s heart though. He had come here as a 39 year old for what he described as one last, big blow out before turning old (40) and had been one of those clubbers sleeping all day and raving all night. Walking the streets of Ibiza City again stirred many happy memories for him. He was sorely tempted to hit the clubs again that night just for old times’ sake but, by the time we actually got back to the boat, the day’s exertions reminded him that he really wasn’t 39 anymore and of course there was another major hurdle, ‘What would I wear?’ Apparently the Helly Hansen sailing shorts his locker is full of aren’t exactly de rigueur in Pacha.

On our return to Alcheringa we were really disappointed to discover our first loss through theft whilst in the Med. We always lock up whenever we leave the boat even though we had previously encountered no sign of problems anywhere on our travels. Unfortunately, here, Rob had left his mask and snorkel hanging on the stern safety rail to dry after diving to check the anchor when we came in and they disappeared while we were ashore. They were his good set he uses scuba diving and far from cheap so he was very  unimpressed. The thought that someone had been on our boat was also very disconcerting.

The dissapointing thing is that most thefts from yachts in the Med are actually perpertrated by other yachties. A former skipper of ours had even told us of a supposedly well known saying amongst English cruisers, 'We British equip our yachts to go cruising. The French go cruising to equip their yachts.' Apologies to our Franco friends. We personaly are not so sure about the acuracy of that statement but regardless, we now leave nothing on deck whenever we leave the boat.

We had planned to spend a couple of days in the city but a low swell swept around the point into the bay all night causing the boat to roll quite uncomfortably making sleep a very interrupted affair. Next morning we decided we’d grab a few fresh food supplies from the nearby supermarket and head further up the coast to hopefully to a more comfortable anchorage before saying goodbye to Ibiza . After our extended period of windless weather, the forecasts now indicated that we may get a sailing breeze good enough to take us back across the sixty miles to Mallorca the next day but the wind was likely to be short lived. It was now or never if we wanted to sail.

With the galley reprovisioned we motored on up the coast and made as short stop in a marina at Puerto de Sta Eulalia to visit the fuel dock and fill up our 200 litre diesel tank and then moved on to nice little bay between steep headlands, Cala Boix. We arrived in plenty of time to enjoy a good snorkel around the rocky cliffs and into the beach which was comprised of very dark sand. It was obviously some sort of mineral base and we watched many people sit along the waters edge and literally  coat themselves in a thick layer of the wet sand. They would then let it bake on in the sun before washing off in the sea.
Cala Boix - Our final anchorage on Ibiza

A moderate wind blew through the night but came straight over the cliffs so we were well protected from any swell and enjoyed a well needed sleep because we were heading to sea early in the morning.

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Sunday, 23 September 2012

Formentera and the story of the Anchor Nazi


July 30-31 2012

On Monday July 30 we finally pulled up our anchor and left beautiful Cala Bassa. It was time to make our way around the south western corner of Ibiza and on to our next stop. The island of Formentera and the adjoining small island of Espalmador to its north, lie just two miles off the most southerly tip of Ibiza. Formentera is only ten miles long and eight miles across at its widest point but its narrow, northern peninsula that links with Esplamador via a long sandy spit is reputed to have some of the best beaches in the Mediterranean. It had gone on our must visit list very quickly.
No wind doesn't mean no fun. Motoring in flat seas isn't too bad sometimes.

With absolutely no wind at all in morning we motored away from our happy home of the last week and set off down west coast in near glass flat seas. While these conditions are far from ideal for people like us who prefer actually sailing, we have to admit it was extremely relaxing cruising along and taking in all of the wonders of this very picturesque coastline and its offshore islands.
Just a glimpse of the spectacular coast of Ibiza

Our trusty cruising guide informed us that one of these island we were going to pass, Isla Vedra, is actually the third most magnetic spot on earth. When we first started reading up on Ibiza, Marc had spotted this and had been looking forward to going there for weeks just to see if our compass spun in circles or whatever. It’s amazing the trivia you discover when the sails are furled with the engine and autopilot doing all the work. You suddenly have all the time in the world on your hands. If this was the third most magnetic spot, we really should find out where are numbers one and two. Well we didn’t all have nothing to do. Karen was keeping watch on the bow (ie: working on her tan) and Marc was ensuring we didn’t become hermits cut off from the outside world (ie: reading the London newspapers he’d just downloaded onto his I-Pad) so it was left to Rob to trawl google for more information about this intriguing subject.
Karen keeping watch on the bow as we approach Isla Vedra and Isla Vedranell

After extensive research the best explanation he found was this ‘The magnetic field of the Earth goes from one pole to the other so the magnetic field is strongest near the poles. However, it is still not fully understand what gives the Earth its magnetic field. Many claim its to do with the rotation of the iron core and molten core above. But regardless, the magnetic field varies over time and so the actual 'most' magnetic places will depend on when you ask the question!

Mmmmm! So is Isla Vedra really the third most magnetic spot or not? Back to google.

Many myths and legends are told about Isla Vedrà The claim of being a "special magnetic place" is a mere urban legend without any scientific geological base. The myth reads that this island has mystical powers, therefore it is the inspiration for many artists around the world.’

Marc was so devastated when Rob gave him the news he struggled to be able to concentrate on the Times crossword, for about six and a half seconds at least.

However the good news was that the island and its neighbour are actually pretty special anyway. ‘With a height of 380 meters, the magnificent Isla Vedrà is towering high above sea level and dwarfs everything around it, including her smaller sister Isla Vedranell which is 127 meters high. The island is a nature reserve and is uninhabited. Although it is well known thanks to both popular legend and the goat populations that live there, the reason for protecting these islands in fact resides in their endemic botanical species, their lizards and their colonies of Eleonora’s falcons (Falcon Eleonorae). This falcon is a rare bird counting merely around 600 couples in the world.’

 OK! So now you know it is actually possible to find yourself bored on the odd occasion whilst cruising the seven seas.

Our compass did not even twitch but the best thing about passing Isla Vedra and her sister was that between them and Ibiza the wind came up and we were able to set sails and turn the engine off. Definitely a much more pleasant way to travel. There’s simply nothing better than getting along nicely under sail.
Marc was almost finished his crossword by the time we raised the sails
and left  the islands of  Vedra, Vedranell and Ibiza behind.

Due to the wind direction we weren’t able to steer directly towards Formentera but that never worries us any way. It’s no problem to sail a course to suit the wind and then tack back to your destination at the appropriate time. However, sometimes the wind gods like to play games with sailors and this was one of those occasions. As we were getting close to where we estimated we could tack and head straight in to our planned anchorage the wind direction swung. Of course it was now blowing directly from where we wanted to go. No problem,  so we were going to have to tack back and forwards all the way. We had plenty of time. But the wind then had another trick for us. It simply knocked off work for the day and left us bobbing on a flat sea again so we ended up motoring anyway.

We intended to anchor in a nice protected bay on the south western side of Isla Espalmador. There was a photo of it on the front cover of our pilot guide and it looked great. The guide book advised that the government had put down a number of moorings in the bay, ostensibly to protect the sea grasses. These could be booked in advance online however anchoring was also permitted in clear water areas away from the weed.
You can actually just make out the sand patch at the north end of the bay we
anchored in at Isla Espalmador in our pilot guide photo.

As we approached we could see there were a lot of yachts and big motorboats already there but we figured we should still be able find a place and would do our normal, slow meander around and through the anchorage to locate potential spots. We’d just begun our recognisance when an official looking rib sped toward us. Unlike Cala Basa where Robert’s rib meant a free ride to the beach or the delivery of another round of drinks, here in Formentera the rib was manned by a floating version of a parking inspector. In very broken English he indicated that we could not anchor near here. OK. No problem and we asked politely where could we anchor. ‘Clear water. Clear water. There. There’ he said pointing to the northern end of the bay before powering off leaving us to rock wildly in his wake.

So we headed to the northern end as directed and moseyed around until we found a spot where we dropped the anchor right in the middle off a patch of sand on the bottom. As always we were letting the boat settle in the wind to make sure we hung clear of any nearby boats before Rob snorkels down to check the anchor set. We never got to that stage though because the Anchor Nazi reappeared at great speed and began screaming at us, ‘No anchor, no anchor, no anchor’.

Now we were confused. We’d gone where he said to go. We’d anchored in sand, not weed and we were clear of other boats around us, which by the way were not on moorings but also anchored. When Rob asked why we couldn’t anchor here we simply copped a broadside in Spanish. We obviously weren’t going to win this one so we again tried to ask where we were allowed to anchor which only spurred Fredrico the Fascist into another burst of vitriol ending with ‘You no anchor. No anchor anywhere. You go. You go. You go now or I report.. Big fine.’

We have no idea what we actually did wrong. As pointed out, we dropped in sand and were surrounded by other boats at anchor but we clearly had no choice but to up anchor and clear out. By this time the SS Storm Trooper was frothing at the mouth and doing high speed circuits around our boat making things very uncomfortable. Marc went forward and winched up the anchor but as Rob steered us away from the shore under close escort by our jackbooted mate, he couldn’t resist one parting shot across the rubber ducky version of the Bismark’s bow with ‘Thank you so much for all you assistance arsehole. We love our welcome to your country.’

We’re currently still waiting to receive our fine in the mail.

We now had a bigger problem than our Apprentice Adolf though. When Marc had raised the anchor the electric windlass (anchor winch) had not stopped when he lifted his finger off the up button but had kept running until the electrical safety switch below had tripped when the motor began to strain against taut chain. As we headed south in search of somewhere to anchor off Formentera, we tried it a number of times. It was definitely jammed in the up position. Rob pulled the hand control apart and could find nothing wrong there but gave everything a squirt of WD40 magic spray just for good measure. Nope that didn’t help which only left the electrical relay beneath the deck at the motor itself. Having a look at that would have to wait.

It was getting late in the afternoon by the time we eased the anchor down by hand near a small islet just off one of Formentera’s long beachs. It may sound like a broken record but the water was as clean and clear as any we’ve seen anywhere in the world. When Rob got in to snorkel down to check the set of the anchor he really didn’t want to get out. The sea bottom was fine white sand and schools of small fish were plentiful. Other than a very large motor boat about a hundred metres away we even had this spot to ourselves. We quickly decided that the Fuhrer had actually done us a favour because it was much nicer here than back in his Stalag.
Alcheringa and our neighbour at Formentera. It was so big we actually watched
a crew member ride a bicycle along the deck from the stern up to the bow.

We may not of had neighbours that night but next morning a steady stream of boats began arriving that never seemed to stop. With absolutely not one word of exaggeration there would have been well over a thousand boats of all shapes and sizes anchored off the beaches of Formentera’s west coast by lunchtime. It was incredible. We all agreed that one huge ‘thing’ that arrived was without doubt the ugliest craft afloat any of us had ever seen and dramatic evidence that obscene wealth does not equal good taste.
Just a small section of 1000+ boats along a five mile stretch of Formentera
 
Our nominee for world's ugliest boat. Check out the 'dingy' garages at the stern.
If we dropped our mast we'd fit Alcheringa in there without a problem.

Rob spent the morning squirming around in an awkward spot on his back removing the relay box from the windless. Inside he discovered a set of burnt points welded together which needed to be separated and cleaned up. Not having a points file in the tool kit he asked Karen for her nail file to do the job which generated a quick, spitfire reply ‘Nail file? What the hell makes you think I’ve got a nail file? Have you looked at my finger nails lately?’ Mmm. Apparently not. Otherwise he would have noticed that Karen had forsaken the finely manicured girly look for the far more practical closely clipped nails to go with her calloused hands from pulling on ropes etc. She really is a yachtie now.

Luckily Marc discovered an emery board in one of those little bags of goodies he’d kept from a hotel stay somewhere. This did the job admirably. Unfortunately the end result was still a dead windless as an electrical coil had also burnt out when the points stuck. We would be pulling the anchor up by hand until we could get a new relay box. Time to harden up boys.

We then all went ashore and had a great wander along the beautiful white sand beaches and a couple of swims before a light lunch at one of the cafes. This place was very, very nice. It was not surprising that so many people head over here from Ibiza every day.
Karen in for another cooling swim. It doesn't get much better than this.
Despite the number of boats the beaches weren't over crowded.

Back on the boat Rob went off for a long snorkel around the islet while Marc caught some sun laying out on the bow. As we seem to be constantly surrounded by people showing off their all over tans, the boys have decided they don’t really like having lily white backsides that contrast so starkly with their now deep brown tans. As a result they are trying to even things up so to speak by getting some “bum time” tanning. Rob’s strategy is to snorkel naked (because his bum is always on top of the water facing the sun) while Marc goes for a good book some extended bow time away from Karen. Results so far – Marc with a mild case of cherry arse sun burn after staying out too long one afternoon and Rob with only the faintest hint of any colour at all at this stage. With both bums having been hidden from the sun for over half a century this could take a while.
West coast meets east at the northern tip of Formentera

Formentera was another place we could have easily stayed a week or longer but we all reluctantly agreed we really did need to move on the next day. The calendar pages were turning and we still had plenty of places we wanted to sail to this summer before the weather turned cold and and the seas turned rough. This was only ever going to be a short stop just to see what it was like. We now knew the answer to that question, absolutely beautiful.

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Sunrise over Formentera on the morning we left.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Cala Basa – Ibiza


July 24-29 2012



We had identified two possible anchorages on the western side of the large San Antonio Bay, far away from the city itself. We edged Alcheringa out of her tight confines in the marina and made our way towards the first, Port del Torrent, but found it a little too small to offer any real protection so we move on further to Cala Basa at the far end of the bay. We arrived in the early afternoon to find a very attractive bay with a long beach packed with people.
Cala Basa proved to be our longest and most enjoyable stop so far.

There were a fairly large number of boats already at anchor but once more most had avoided going close inshore. We could see that further out much of the bottom was covered in thick weed that is hopeless getting an anchor to hook in. By going inside most of the other boats we were able to drop our anchor not too far from the swim line in about five metres of water and were quickly nicely dug into the sand and secure. High cliffs adjacent to our spot also provided us with good protection from the predicted northerly winds.
Alcheringa anchored just off the beach at Cala Basa

After the foul water in the marina it was fantastic to again be able to look down at the sea bed through very clear water. This was going to be a great place to snorkel. There were a number of sea caves visible on the far side of the bay and we quickly decided we’d be exploring those before long.  A number of obviously upmarket restaurants stretched along behind the beach and right in the centre a DJ was pumping out the dance music across the beach.
This was the Cala Basa Beach Club packed with the ‘beautiful people’. We’d only had the anchor down five minutes when a young Spanish guy came over to us in a big rib to let us know his name was Robert and if we wanted to go ashore to the bars or restaurants we could just radio him and he would run us to the beach. It was a free shuttle service for all the boats in the bay provided by the beach club. In fact we could even order drinks by radio and he'd deliver them to the boat. It was incredible watching him manoeuvre alongside a yacht one handed as his other was occupied balancing a tray of cocktails. How civilised. We were beginning to like this place already.
Cala Basa Beach Club - where the beautiful people come to be seen

By the time the sun was setting the beach was almost deserted and most of the boats had also departed the bay back to where ever they came from leaving us to have a nice peaceful evening.
We do it tough on Alcheringa - another of Karen's masterchef meals

Next morning a constant stream of tourist boats ferried beach goers across from San Antonio depositing them on the rocky point right beside us. Before long the sand was packed again and another day of beach partying well underway.  We spent the morning on a long snorkel across the bay to the caves. Again we had a fantastic time and got a very good workout in the process.. Swimming far into one of the caves we could see lots of light towards its end where we found the roof had collapsed and it was now open to the sky. Very cool.

Not having an outboard we lazily made use of Robert’s services to go in and check out the beach club that afternoon. The centre of the beach in front of the main bar and DJ was THE spot for the beautiful people. The sun lounges were much more luxurious, linen table clothes adorned the beach tables with super attentive waiter service running around the sand all day topping up crystal champagne glasses or mixing more cocktails.
This is how to really enjoy a day at the beach

For us this was a spectator sport. With a beer costing five euros ($6.00) compared to the 50c per can our supplies on the boat had cost us, and a glass of wine priced simarly, this was definitely a place to people watch rather than be one of the watched. We treated ourselves to a drink each and enjoyed watching the world go by.


Away from the centre VIP area though, the beach was packed with overseas tourists and local families alike, all soaking up the sunshine and very obviously enjoying themselves. There were also more than enough bare breasted pretty young things to give the boys eye strain while Karen pretended not to be staring at the hordes of, tanned, very fit, six pack equipped young blokes that were parading like peacocks vying for the attention of those pretty young things.
Eye candy for all at Cala Basa
With the music pumping, the whole place just had a great atmosphere and we quickly congratulated ourselves on picking an excellent location to sit out a couple of days until the outboard was ready. The one mistake we had made was neglecting to get the phone number of the place we’d left it for repair so we couldn’t ring to check if it was ready. It was supposed to be done on the Tuesday but we decided not to push the issue and we’d wait a couple of days before going in for it.

Rather than taking Alcheringa back across the bay and hoping we could stay on the fuel dock long enough to pick up the outboard, Rob and Marc caught the ferry back into San Antonio on Thursday morning to fetch it. On arrival we were reminded this is indeed Spain and things happen slowly. 'The mechanic has been very busy, engine not done yet, will fix it tomorrow morning'  the man said. So we left, with a phone number this time and caught the next ferry back. Time for more swimming with the beautiful people.
Friday July 27 and a peaceful sunrise over Cala Basa with no hint of what
was to come that afternoon

We rang at lunch time on Friday, 'mechanic has been very busy, engine not done yet, will fix it this afternoon; the man said.  Late that afternoon a totally unexpected storm suddenly appeared over the headland and almost instantly gusts blowing 30+ knots created havoc in the bay. Ashore beach umbrellas, sun beds and all sorts of beach gear was blowing everywhere and people were running for any shelter they could find.

Out on the water boats were dragging towards each other all over the place. Every morning we’d watched people drop anchor in the thick weed and others put down almost no anchor chain. Many dragged and required multiple attempts before holding  even in the calm conditions. We had not worried about it too much because we knew they were not going to be staying overnight. But now the potential for serious collisions was very real. One good thing appeared to be that very few people had left their boats unattended so crews were getting underway and managing to avoid each other reasonably well.

Fortunately most of the mayhem was occurring further out from the shore and away from us. Alcheringa’s anchor was dug in rock solid and we were holding very nicely. The two yachts closest to us had been in place overnight and Rob had actually snorkelled around and checked the set of their anchors the previous afternoon just so we knew they didn’t pose any risk to us. There was an older live aboard Spanish couple on board the nearest who obviously knew what they were doing and had been quite friendly since they’d arrived despite all our limited language skills.

We were actually feeling reasonably secure and were being entertained by the range of flying beach toys etc heading hell, west and crooked. Boy those blow up air mattresses can sure get airborne.

But that all changed in a flash as we heard a very loud crack sound and the Spanish boat was suddenly bearing down on us very quickly  bow first . It had clean snapped its anchor chain less than half a meter from their bow roller and was now adrift. The shocked Spaniard, who we should mention at this point was not a fan of clothing, was racing stark naked to his bow to see what had happened, all the while heading straight at us at fairly high rate of knots. Halfway to the bow he looked over to us and Karen pointed and called out to him that his chain was broken and he only had this much hanging down, indicating about a foot with her hands. There being a significant language barrier, momentarily a very confused look came over his face until he realised Karen was referring to the length of anchor chain hanging from his bow and not what was dangling between his legs. He then reacted extremely quickly, racing back, getting the engine started and reversing away from us at full revs with only about three metres to spare before heading out to sea. Well done naked Spanish man. Great job.

The storm was gone almost as fast as it arrived. The wind dropped to nothing, the sun returned and within twenty minutes the beach looked like nothing had ever happened with everything set back up, the music pumping again and champagne flowing. After our short but intense excitement we also settled in for a couple of sundowners to relax  while watching Robert and his Rib, redeployed from their normal duties for a while and now towing a motorboat out from where it ended up tangled in the swim line after dragging its anchor in the storm.  
Robert and his rib tow a motorboat out of the swim line. The weed clumped
on the anchor may just explain why the boat dragged.

Saturday was Karen’s birthday and time to celebrate. When in San Antonio Rob had considered buying her a nice game fishing rod and reel he spotted at the chandlery for her birthday present but wisely reconsidered. A real splurge was in order so instead she was in for some luxurious indulgence with a looonnnngggg birthday lunch ashore at the Cala Basa Beach Club. It was time for us to be the beautiful people being waited on with champagne, awesome food, more champagne and even Gin & Tonic Sorbets for desert. We had an absolutely fantastic afternoon that stretched into the evening and remarkably Karen did not seem the least bit upset about not getting a fishing rod.
Karen fielding bithday calls on the I-Phone and facebook birthday wishes on
the I-pad before having a great I-Spoilt party at the Cala Basa Beach Club
Outstanding birthday lunch in the centre of the action.
Gin and Tonic Sorbet - what a genius idea for a desert
Oh! Rob did squeeze in time to ring about the outboard and ‘mechanic has been very busy, engine not done yet, will fix it this afternoon’ the man said. Oh! and Karen did slip away from the table briefly to greet some people arriving on the beach in Robert’s rib. After having just narrowly avoided colliding with our boat as they anchored theirs, it was still swinging perilously close. After the words ‘Hello, do you speak English’ answered by a nod of the head, the rest was not so much a welcome but more a ‘What the hell are you thinking anchoring so close to my boat. Go and move.’ We’d already watched them fail to set properly and drag almost hitting other boats twice in previous attempts to anchor and were far from confident they’d got it right this third time. As Karen had stormed down the beach to protect her baby, Alcheringa, a concerned Marc asked whether she would be alright or should we all go down. Rob just replied ‘Don’t worry about Karen. Worry about the poor bastard that’s going to be on the receiving end.’  

The  macho skipper of Jabato didn't feel he'd anchored too close to
our Alcheringa but Karen pointed out the error of his thinking.

The gentleman concerned seemed a bit taken a back at having his seamanship questioned in front of people and by, of all things, a woman. His efforts to patronisingly explain to the little lady that she needn’t worry her pretty little head about these things, he was a very experienced captain and her boat was in no danger weren’t going down to well but were then totally undermined when the resort’s boat staff stepped in and expressed the opinion that he was indeed too close. They’d be keeping a very sharp eye on it and would take action themselves if need be. The scorecard then read Birthday Girl 1 vs Male Ego 0. Time for more champagne.

Amazingly we did manage to rise reasonably early on Sunday morning and right on nine Rob made our now daily phone call about the outboard, all the while expecting the standard reply but instead ‘Yes no problem is fixed’ the man said. He and Marc then jumped the first ferry over to San Antonio and hot footed it to the charter office. Sure enough the motor was ready to pickup but there was a small problem. The guy in the office was only filling in and had no idea what the bill was.  It didn’t take him long’ he said. ‘Just leave what you think is OK for the mechanic.’ Not having a clue what was a fair figure we really tried to push for some sort of guidance but in the end left a crisp Fifty Euro note for the very busy mechanic. As we headed out the door Rob turned and asked the obvious question, ‘Do you know what was wrong with it?’ and Marc almost choked when he replied ‘Spark plug all dirty.’

Back on the boat the trusty Yamaha was quickly on the dingy and, of course, started first pull again. Of we went over to the far headland for a test drive and to checkout a huge sea cave we’d seen on our way into the bay the previous Tuesday. The motor never missed a beat and the cave was very impressive. A nice finish to the day.
Have outboard will explore. Here we're deep in a huge sea cave
Definately a banana tube ride with a difference for these tourists

Rob’s slip of the hand in Cala Grazio may have cost us a spark plug spanner, an expensive 153 Euro marina stop in the awful Club Nautico San Antonio, a 50 Euro repair and a week hanging around waiting for the mechanic to spend ten minutes cleaning the spark plug. But it had been a  fantastic week spent in the glorious Cala Basa so maybe it was all worth it anyway. We still needed to find a new spark plug spanner though.

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San Antonio - Ibiza

July 23 2012

After two very nice nights in Cala Grazio we were on the move again. Right from the start of our planning for the Med we’d decided we would avoid staying in marinas as much as possible. Not only is it much nicer to be anchored in a lovely bay somewhere, but marinas in this part of the world have a reputation for being very expensive. We want to spend our meagre funds on cruising, not making marina owners even more wealthy.

Unfortunately a visit to a marina every now and then is a necessary evil as we have to fill our tanks with water. Although not at a critical level, we were running a little low by now and as we wanted to find somewhere to get the non-starting outboard fixed we decided to head into the marina in San Antonio for just Monday night. We planned to get the most out of of our time in port by topping up our water, putting the outboard in for repair, doing our washing, having some long hot showers, replenishing our fresh food supplies and making the most of the marina’s wfi to skype family and friends. With this great plan in place we motored the short distance around the point and arrived in San Antonio harbour by 9.30am only to be told over the radio  that we’d have to wait to be called into the marina and it would not be before mid-day. We found a spot amongst the masses of moored boats and anchored to wait, kissing goodbye to the productive morning we’d planned.

Almost all marinas here feature stern-to mooring often referred to as ‘Med Mooring’. We were a little nervous about this as we’d never actually done one yet. Sitting in the bay waiting we had plenty of time to plan our steps but unfortunately also plenty of time to worry about what could go wrong. In the end we weren’t called in until after one o’clock and found we’d been allocated a very tight spot with almost no swing room to get in between a big motorboat and another yacht. Yikes! This was going to get interesting.

It may not have been totally pretty, but we were able to manoeuvre Alcheringa into her berth with no damage to any craft or crew. We could now put a tick in the Med mooring box but the nerves were a little frazzled by it all.

With the boat now securely squeezed into her place on the finger we then headed for the office to check in only to find it closed for Siesta from 1.30 to 6.00pm. Great. No wfi password, no key to the amenities block, no one to ask for directions to find an outboard mechanic so all our plans for a super efficient marina stop were now totally out of the window. What next?
Alcheringa Med moored in Club Nautico - San Antonio
And you thought supermarket car parks were tight.

We weren’t very happy sailors when we returned to the boat and became even less so when a huge ferry berthed on the other side of the wharf directly behind our stern and almost blew us off the finger when it reversed its engines to stop. Thankfully there were a lot of fenders between the boats because we were all crashing and bashing together from the wake. The ferry was loaded to the gills with holiday makers cars and at least twenty semi trailers which made for extremely long and noisy unloading procedures.  
After almost blowing us off the dock, each ferry then took hours to unload and load

We headed out of the marina in search of an outboard mechanic and a supermarket to try to salvage something out of the day. One of the yacht charter companies along the water front said they’d be happy to have their mechanic look at our outboard when he came in the next day. As our next intended stop was an anchorage just a couple of miles away we decided it would be no real problem to come back in on the Wednesday and pick it up. Marc and Rob then got a good workout taking turns lugging the engine the half mile or so from the boat. While Karen headed off to the supermarket the boys dropped in to a ship chandlery and discovered a whole new world of good stuff to drool over. They were able to source the right spare bulbs we needed for the masthead anchor light and also bought an inverter to step up 12 volt to 220 so Rob could use his laptop on board. Unfortunately though there were no spark plug spanners to be found to replace the one laying in the bottom of Cala Grazio.

When the marina office did finally open there was a line up of crews waiting to check in so it was well after seven by the time we finally provided copies of the boats papers, insurance certificate, and our passports. When we asked for the wfi password we were told we could have it but the signal doesn’t reach to our side of the marina. We then asked about laundry and were told it was leased to a service and was only available to marina guests on Wednesdays. We could however pay an exorbitant fee to have our laundry done but the service had a 48 hour turn around.

Fantastic, can’t get in till mid-afternoon despite vacant berths around the place but MUST be out before Noon, office closed, no key for amenities until after 7.00pm, blown, bashed and crashed every few hours by the wake from huge ferries, no wfi, no laundry and how much did we have to pay for the pleasure of one night in Club Nautico San Antonio? How about 153 Euro ($190). What a rip off. The clincher though was being handed a customer satisfaction survey to fill in as we left the office.  Our advice to other cruisers,  Avoid this place like the plague!

We did finally get our hot showers though and then walked into town to get some dinner at one of the many cafes. After sunset the streets, lanes and bars of San Antonio fill with predominantly loud, young British tourists getting a skinful before they head to the big clubs such as Pacha, Eden and Es Paradis that don’t open until late but go to dawn. Now we saw glimpses of the Ibiza we’d heard about. This place was very Triple B, Brits behaving badly, all brought to you by low airfares, very low cost booze, very, very low cut clubbing outfits, and many extremely low IQ individuals parading in t-shirts emblazoned with the likes of Shit that happens in Ibiza stays in Ibiza and Fuck me I’m famous in Ibiza. No doubt their Mum’s are very proud of them.

It really is not a very attractive place and we couldn’t wait to get out of there.

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Thursday, 20 September 2012

Cala Grazio – Ibiza


 
July 21-22 2012

Like Cala Portinatx, we really enjoyed our brief stop in Cala Binarras and were very tempted to hang around a few more days but the grib (weather) files Karen downloaded indicated some good sailing winds headed our way. So on Saturday morning July 21 we eased our way past the tall rock sentry standing guard at the entrance of the inlet and out from the protection of the high cliffs. We quickly found the  15 to 20 knots of predicted wind may have been a little on the conservative side and were glad we’d headed out with first reef in main and reefed genoa.

Alcheringa revelled in the conditions and we were soon zooming along at over 8.5 knots. Our course took us a little out to sea to make the most of the wind strength and direction. After having to motor on our last hop down the coast we were all really enjoying the sail. Ahead of us we could see a group of seven yachts closer in shore sailing downwind together all flying no mainsails but reefed headsails only . We guessed that were probably a flotilla charter group where the leader sets the plan and all follow along.

Rob and Marc immediately saw the seven boats as a challenge and set about planning on how to pass as many as possible before we reached our destination at Cala Salada, a bay on the other side of the headland we could just see in the distance. Of course Karen being female can never see any need to race anyone and suggested chill pills and a relax all round but there’s no fun in that. Rob further justified the urgent necessity to get in front with ‘We’d rather get in ahead of them and have the pick of spots to anchor wouldn’t we.’

Keeping a close eye on the progress of the charterers bobbing up and down in the shadows of the high cliffs, the boys constantly tweaked our sail trim looking for all possible speed. They also debated just how far we should continue on our present course away from the coast before tacking back inshore to hopefully round the headland  before the enemy.  Maintaining course for longer than we needed to would see us wasting time sailing away from our target but if we tacked too soon we wouldn’t clear the point and would be forced to tack out again. Oh the pressure of making decisions..

We duly put in our tack and, despite a few moments of self doubt on the way in, we found ourselves successfully clearing the point and heading into the bay well ahead of the charter fleet. Wohoo! Puffed out chests and high fives.  Boys will be boys.

In the middle of the bay we furled the genoa and dropped the main before motoring into the anchorage in Cala Salada. There were about eight or ten boats moored so we did our usual slow circuit  between them all looking for the best place to drop. Like our three previous stops, the water here was also very clear so we were trying to find a nice sandy patch between the fields of thick seaweed where we could plant our anchor and also have swing room to clear the yachts already there.

Unfortunately there really wasn’t anywhere. We tried three different times but either found ourselves hanging too close to other boats or the anchor simply wouldn’t hold in the mix of sand and weed. In the end we decided we’d give up and move on further along the coast. When we plan our moves we always select alternative anchorages to suit changes in weather or instances like this. Plan B was a small bay called Cala Grazia just a couple of miles west, so off we went.

Of course as soon as our bow was pointed back out to sea we spotted the last couple of the charter fleet boats disappearing around the western point in front of us. They obviously were never headed for Cala Salada in the first place. Given the boys previous desperate efforts to get ahead, the thought we could discover them all at anchor clogging up our Plan B by the time we got there appealed to Karen’s sense of irony

Cala Grazia is so small that we almost sailed straight past it. The charter fleet had continued west and there were no boats in the bay at all when we reached it. We motored in and found the cove opened to two small inlets on its left, each with a lovely sand beach at the head complete with the obligatory beach café. In the bay itself there was lots more weed on the bottom but we managed to drop anchor in good patch of sand right in the centre of the bay.

We’ve all read numerous horror stories of boats dragging anchor in the middle of the night and drifting with, at times, horrendous results including ship wreck on the rocks. As a result we are particularly cautious. Every time we drop anchor Rob gets in the water and snorkels down to make sure it is well dug into sand and nice and secure. Occasionally the anchor will land upside down and if we’re in less than about eight meters of water he can swim down and flip it over. A blast of reverse will then dig it in nicely.  Only when we are happy that we are well hooked in with the appropriate  amount of chain out and ample room to swing with the wind and current do we relax at the end of a passage.

Now happily anchored, we took a better look at our surrounds in Cala Grazia and all agreed it was a much more pleasant spot than Plan A so our move was all for the better.  We were a little low on bottled drinking water so we decided to head ashore and see if we might be able to buy some. We got the dingy off the bow and in the water and prepared to get the outboard down of its mount on the stern rails. The thread on the outboard clamps was very tight and when unscrewing them Rob had taken to slipping the spark plug tube spanner over the handles to provide more leverage. It had worked well so far and the threads were gradually loosening up with use. However on this occasion, one slip of the hand was followed by the sound of one bounce on the swim platform then one splash in the water as the spark plug spanner disappeared below the surface. Bugger! One very unhappy Rob.

Time for that Irishman, Murphy, and his aggravating Law to make another appearance. By now the morning’s brisk onshore wind had disappeared and been replaced by a gentle offshore breeze that saw the boat hanging at the end of her anchor chain stern towards the sea. Rather than the six metres of water where we dropped the anchor, the spark plug spanner went down in over ten so there was no way Rob was going to be able to free dive down and find it in the thick weed. We’d just have to buy one in the next port.

The boys got the outboard off its mount and down onto the dingy where Rob went to start it, but Murphy wasn’t finished with us yet. In our admittedly short time on the boat our little 2.5 horsepower outboard motor had NEVER failed to start easily on the very first attempt each and every time we pulled the cord, until now. Pull - nothing, pull  - nothing, pull- nothing.  Check the fuel, check the breather, pull – nothing. Pull - nothing. More choke, less choke, closed throttle, wide open throttle, you name it, it was tried. But despite what seemed a thousand attempts, the engine flatly refused to exhibit the slightest sign of life. As Rob got more red faced with a mixture of exhaustion and only just subdued anger, Marc couldn’t resist offering his suggestion, ‘Maybe we need to clean the spark plug Ahh! That could present a problem now’.
A victim of Murphy's Law

So Rob and Marc paddled the dingy into the beach and headed up the path through the trees to try to find a shop. Beyond the tree line they came upon a huge resort very obviously catering for Britts and Germans. It was packed with hundreds and hundreds of people spread over sunbeds around a series of very large swimming pools. It was actually difficult to find space to walk between the masses of lily white, and occasionally bright, bright burning red bodies reclining in the strong sunlight. The boys wondered why all these people would cram themselves around swimming pools when there were two beautiful beaches just a couple of hundred metres away. Then the answer was discovered. All these people were prisoners.

Trying to find a way out to the road Rob and Marc were blocked by a huge chain mesh fence at every turn. Time and time and again they would follow a path through the lush gardens only to be suddenly confronted by barriers that would do any concentration camp proud. No wonder none of the guests could escape the resort. Eventually they found themselves trapped again in a far corner of the grounds by the kiddies pool with no idea where to try next. It’s not exactly clear whether the smiling young female staff member who then appeared and guided them out through the main foyer of the big high rise building did so to be helpful or simply to quietly remove two suspicious looking men from the presence of young children.

A small convenience store was located, water obtained and successfully returned via a road bypassing the maze of the resort then it was definitely time for sundowner drinks.
Sunset at Cala Grazia - Ibiza   Click on any image to see larger versions

After a nice morning snorkel around the shores of the bay we all paddled ashore for Sunday lunch at the café behind the nearest beach. Rob was instantly in heaven when he found the German Grand Prix showing on a big screen TV in the restaurant. Since heading off on our travels he has been suffering extreme motorsport withdrawal symptoms so with food on the table, a drink in hand and Formula One in front of his face he was a very happy boy. In two hours he only took his eyes of the screen long enough to post another photo of us in paradise on facebook to piss off even more people back home. And he wonders why people are de-friending him.

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Alcheringa in Cala Grazia as seen from our Sunday lunch spot.
And Rob wonders why people at home in Australia are de-friending him on facebook
when this is what pops up on their screen as they arrive for work on a Monday morning.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Cala Binarras - Ibiza

July 19-20 2012


After three very enjoyable days at Cala Portinatx it was time to move on but where to? We’d originally only planned to be away from Palma for about seven to ten days, but that was a week ago. So far we’d only been to one bay on Ibiza and we were definitely not ready to sail away back to Mallorca. No rush. What the hell. Palma would still be there next month so we resolved to circumnavigate Ibiza and take in the neighbouring island of Formentera in the process.
We now had a plan.
 

Now any cruiser will tell you that one of the most important pieces of equipment on board is the cruising or pilot guide for the area you’re sailing. These publications provide all sorts of useful information on subjects  from customs and immigration procedures, historical background down to where to find a supermarket and absolutely everything in between. Most importantly they list just about every conceivable anchorage on the relevant coasts with detailed maps, photos and descriptions of what’s there, how protected it is from what wind directions, where to anchor in how much water and numerous other tips.  

In our case we found the Imray guide by Graham Hunt of the ‘Islas Balearas’ absolutely invaluable. Consulting it to find our next stop we discovered the anchorage at Cala Binarras looked very well protected from the prevailing North Easterly breezes. It was a long, narrow inlet between steep cliffs open only to the west which was guarded by a high rock pinnacle rising out of the middle of the entrance. There was little development other than a few restaurents behind the beach at the end of the inlet. Yep that sounds good. Lets put it in the chart plotter and see how far we have to go.
With no wind we motored along Ibiza's northern coast

OK so at just five nautical miles down the coast our passage that morning was not going to rival any Atlantic Crossing but why sail past somewhere nice just to clock up miles. There was almost zero knots of wind and what little there was blew from directly astern so we never even unzipped the sail bag. We need to run the engine a couple of hours a day to charge out batteries anyway so at least we were moving while our 75 horse Yanmar did its thing.

Almost as soon as we left Cala Portinatx we found ourselves rounding the high rock walls of Cape Bernat and spotted the impressive Islote Bernat rising out of the water in the middle of the bay. From some angles it actually resembles a statue of the elderly Queen Victoria on her throne. We motored past into the inlet flanked by high cliffs and found only a handful of yachts already moored. We’d just started to mosey around to pick a suitable spot to drop our anchor when the boat nearest the beach started pulling theirs up to leave. Perfect timing. It’s like being in the right place at the right time to score that parking spot right by the shopping centre door on a Saturday morning. As he left we slid into place and dropped us. Lovely
Marc kept an eye for hazards as we anchored in Cala Binarras but the only
possible danger appeared to be a few white pointers

The place was certainly popular with day visitors packing the full length of the beach while the rocks lining the sides of the bay appeared the favourite perch for those working on their all over tans. . Marc and Rob were again kept visually entertained by the number of naked young ladies on the rocks but although she wasn’t not saying too much, Karen also seemed to appreciate some of the buff young Spaniards on display. We could see a string of beach front café/bars but there were no resorts visible from the water at all. It was very nice to be away from apartment blocks for a change.
Cala Binarras is a popular beach with day trippers but we certainly liked having
no ugly appartment blocks in sight.

It wasn’t long before we were in the water snorkelling across the bay to explore some sea caves we’d spotted on the far side. There appeared to be two deep caves side by side. Swimming into the right hand cave we were surprised at how much the water temperature dropped once out of the sunlight and by the total change in the colour of the marine growth. Outside in the bay all the seaweeds etc were fairly bland shades of brown but soon as we entered the cave we were surrounded by a world of bright pinks. We were able to swim about fifteen metres right to the back of the cave where we discovered it linked to its partner. Diving down we found that we were in fact in a single cave but the central roof reached down to about a metre beneath the surface creating the illusion of twin caves. We could snorkel under the dividing overhang from side to side. It really was great fun and not like anything we’d experienced in Australia. We really do need to get a waterproof camera.
Cala Binarras with Alcheringa in the foreground with the cliffs and
caves we snorkelled behind. Another magic place.

By the time we returned to the boat we were surprised to find we’d been snorkelling for over two hours. After such a good workout we’d also developed a pretty good appetite. Marc joined us for a trip ashore to check out the cafes where we enjoyed some local Spanish fare and large jug of refreshing  Sangria.

Back onboard that evening mother nature turned on another outstanding light show as the sun dipped over the horizon in a blazing display of reds, oranges, yellows and pinks. The sunsets just seem to get better all the time.

Friday July 20th was a very special day for us as we celebrated our 27th wedding anniversary with a morning swim then snorkelling along the base of the cliffs before cracking a bottle of Cava (Spanish Champagne) with lunch aboard.
 
Some Spanish bubbles to celebrate 27 years of weddded life
 
We then capped it all off with more of the same at the best restaurant ashore accompanied by a massive seafood paella. As we struggled to do justice to the huge pan of delicious food, we noticed that the beach had again filled from end to end with people, apparently assembled to watch the sunset. In the centre of the beach a bonfire was lit surrounded by a dreadlocked troops of bongo drum playing, fire eating, belly dancing ferals.
More paela than we could jump over, champagne and a beach full of crazies

Once again the sky turned all hues of colour as the sun descended. As it approached the horizon  the hub bub of conversation on the beach became subdued. Even the bongo drums were rested and by the time its rim appeared to touch the sea the beach was virtually silent. Finally the last remnant of the burning globe dropped below the horizon and in unison the whole place broke out in enthusiastic applause. How weird. We just looked at each other in amazement. People, the sun went down. It was nice but it's been doing it for millions of years you know. Get a grip. The clapping was so loud and prolonged we almost expected old Sol to reappear for a curtain call. Then the bongo drums started again which appeared to be the signal for all the non-ferals to go home.

It’s one anniversary we definitely won’t forget in a hurry.

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