Sunday 21 October 2012

At the boat doctors in Palma - Mallorca

September 14 – 26  -  2012

From Cala Portals Alcheringa found her way home to Palma harbour yet again with no trouble at all. By lunchtime she was lifted out of the water and sitting in Audax Boat yard ready to have her repairs done. We were told the job should take eight days and as they didn’t work weekends September was going to be all but run and done before we got her back. Between the delays with the VHF radio and now the collision repairs, our planned schedule for the late summer of cruising Menorca, Corsica, Sardinia and then on to Monastir in Tunisia to bed down for the winter was looking well and truly stuffed. We were going to need to give some serious thought to what we were going to do now.

If you haven't read the story of how Alcheringa suffered her damage click back to the chapter here

You can’t stay on the boat while it’s in the yard so we also had to get some accommodation in Palma. Luckily enough we were be able to get an apartment in the same block we’d stayed in right next to the Cathedral back in June. It was in a great location, extremely well priced with its own kitchen and laundry facilities and had excellent wifi. All of which certainly helped keep costs down.
Karen at the window of our Palma appartment beside the Cathedral

As we started reconsidering our plans for beyond Palma a new factor also came into play. The release via You Tube of an anti-Muslim movie produced by an idiotic extremely bigoted moron in the USA had sparked Islamic protests in many parts of the world including Tunisia. We had loved the country when we were there earlier in the year and at no stage felt threatened by anything worse than our encounter with the rug mafia in Monastir. Catch up with that story at

But now things appeared to be getting a bit dodgy. There had been a couple protestors killed by security forces at a big demonstration in Tunis, the capital, and there were also reports of some extremist attacks on businesses catering for western tourists. As a result we began looking at possible alternative places to spend the winter in case things didn’t settle down in a hurry.

Karen embarked on extensive web research regarding facilities and prices at suitable marinas where we may be able to spend the winter months. One distinctly limiting factor is that as Australians we can only spend a finite amount of time in countries covered by the Schengen visa zone. Karen found a number of very good and cheap marinas on the Spanish coast but while Marc and Alcheringa could stay there for the November to February period, we couldn’t.
Couldn't resist this shot. Poor girl on the wall has had a serious brain explosion

Meanwhile Rob got stuck into a serious blog catch up and was getting a new chapter posted nearly every day. Considering we were approaching three months behind it was probably about time. It wasn’t all work though as Rob made the most of the wifi and caught up with some of the television coverage of Australian Drag Racing that was available to view online. He may have retired from it but  a lifetime addiction is hard to break. We also spent plenty of time on Skype catching up with family and friends back at home.  Of course Karen continued to wade through numerous books on her IPad.
On our self guided audio tour. If we had a cent for every tourist photographed in this
guard box we could retire and go sailing. Oops - too late, already done that.

We also spent a day doing a fantastic, self guided audio walking tour around the oldest parts of the city. We downloaded the app (Mallorca Deluxe V2.0) from the Apple App Store direct to both Karen’s I Pad and Rob’s I Phone for $4.49, plugged in our headsets and were guided from spot to spot complete with very comprehensive historical information and even appropriate music selected for each place we went.  The Royal Palace,  Cathedral and ancient Moorish baths were great highlights but many of the lesser known spots were equally as interesting. We could move at our own pace and stop along the way and were enjoying it so much we felt sorry for the tour groups we passed being herded like mindless sheep from place to place by their guides.
The Cathedral is almost as impressive inside as out.
Another very serious set of doors.
The Moorish Baths and gardens dating back many hundreds of years
were a real highlight of our walk

Discovering parts of the old town we hadn’t previously been, we also found an amazing second hand book store run by a very eccentric old Brit. He had every form of literature imaginable spread over four levels was keen to tell us about much of it. We had over an hour’s entertainment just wandering through the lines and lines of floor to ceiling bookshelves. Karen stocked up on a number of cheap paperbacks but Rob had spied something he thought might be more interesting. Published in 1930, ‘Child of the Deep’, was an autobiographical narrative by a woman, Joan Lowell, who’d been raised from infancy to her late teens by her ship’s captain father in the totally male domain of a four masted, windjammer rigged, schooner engaged in the copra and sandlewood trade between Australia, the islands of the Pacific and the west coast of the USA at the beginning of the Twentieth Century.

His interest waned considerably when our strange old host said he wanted 28Euros ($35) for it. When Rob balked at the price he said ‘You know books have a life of their own and become more valuable over the years.’ Rob explained he understood that but wasn’t a collector and simply thought it might be nice to read if he could of bought it for ten Euros or so. This produced a reply of ‘Oh well. You are Australian and seeing you chaps can’t play cricket too well anymore I’ll let you have it for a tenner. I suppose I’ll still have plenty of books left won’t I.’ Done deal.
The old parts of Palma Mallorca are spectacular
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Rob and Marc visited the boat yard most days to keep an eye on progress which thankfully was proceeding nicely on schedule. The only hiccup was that it would take four weeks to bring in a replacement section of aluminium toe rail from France. Seeing this particular damage was limited to a couple of dents and a long scratch and was in no way structural, we got agreement from the insurance company that it could be done elsewhere over the winter and struck it off the job list.

We’d been ashore a full week by the Friday but were all still finding it strange being off the boat. Discussing what we should do with ourselves we asked Marc what was a normal, pre-sailing days, Friday in London for him. He came back quickly with ‘Friday’s POETS day. (Piss Off Early Tomorrow’s Saturday). Let’s have lunch.’

So we did. A very loooong lunch at a quaint little outdoor cafĂ© we’d come across during our wanderings. It was in a small plaza in front of yet another impressive old stone church but away from the main tourist areas. Lined with trees whose leaves were just starting to change colour and drop in the early autumn, un-intrusive flamenco music filtered through the square from a busking guitarist playing in one of the doorways. Three bottles of very enjoyable local wine disappeared along with a feast from the menu of day as we simply relaxed after our stressful week at work.
A fine way to spend a Friday afternoon

OK. We didn’t work and our week wasn’t stressful but it was definitely a great way to relax on a Friday afternoon. So good in fact that Rob thought maybe we should continue the theme. ‘So Marc, back in London what happens after POETS day lunch? Again he was forthcoming with a short but speedy reply, ‘Wine bar.’

Karen, being the practical one at this point, declared that faded t-shirts, sailing shorts and rubber flip flops probably weren’t appropriate evening wear, even in relaxed Palma.  It was a good call so we trooped back to the apartment to smarten ourselves up before heading out on the town. Karen jumped through the shower first but by the time Rob had followed she was fast asleep in the bedroom having a rejuvenating nanny nap. Very wisely the boys decided to let her have an hour or so to recharge her batteries. The wine bar would still be there and besides, pop!, there was wine in the pantry.

Bottle emptied, Karen woken and now wearing one of the two dresses she has with us with the boys in their best (read only) jeans-trousers and most respectable shirts, we made our way into an area of Palma below the Royal Palace. Narrow cobblestone laneways run between old stone buildings that have been given new life as boutique hotels, restaurants, apartments, clubs and bars. We made a bee line for an establishment we’d noticed previously but not yet explored.

 Wining’ is a wine and tapas bar with a difference. Three walls are covered with a fully computerised wine dispensing system. At the bar we were issued with a ‘Wining’ card and a large wine glass each. We were then able to browse the hundreds of inverted bottles mounted along the walls. If we’d had any Spanish language skills we may have even been able to read each wine’s accompanying description. Once we’d made a selection we simply inserted the card and chose whether we wanted to purchase a quarter, half or full glass of that particular tipple. The price of each was shown on a digital display and whichever was chosen was dispensed into your glass and the charge recorded on your card.
Karen and Marc sampling the good stuff at Wining

How cool. Try a quarter of this, a half of that. That’s nice, give this one a go. We were having fun here. Definitely a grownups’ version of filling your lolly bag at the cinema candy bar. Most of the wines were priced from about two or three Euros a glass but with some ranging up to 40 and 50, if you weren’t careful you could be in for a nasty surprise when you handed over your ‘wining’ card to pay the bill.

We were able to escape without any serious damage done to the back pocket and walked a little way down the lane to a bar that had been recommended to us by Will and Margaret off the boat Atlantia that we’d crewed on from Bali to Malaysia last year. They’d originally bought Atlantia here in Palma a few years ago and when we emailed them to let them know what we were up to Will responded with a few recommendations of things to do while we were here including describing Abaco as ‘one of the best bars in the world.’ Now that’s a big wrap so we thought we’d better take a look.

Located in the centre of the old town, you enter by swinging open a huge wooden door and are instantly transported to a different world. It feels like you have walked into a theatrical Seventeenth Century Mallorca house. The bar is ornately decorated with huge candelabras, sculptures and large overflowing displays of fruit and vegetables in the entrance area. The wait staff flitting around are all dressed in crisp black trousers and starched white shirts separated by bright satin cummerbunds adding to the extremely impressive visual impact as you enter.
Impressive decor - Unimpressive service

We found a table, sat and perused the menu/wine list with prices that produced a rapid decision to have one drink each and get out of the place just so we could say ‘been there, done that.’ We never actually got that far though. After being overlooked, ignored or deliberately avoided by the aforementioned flitting wait staff for almost half an hour we got pissed off enough and simply walked out. (We’ve since read a number of reviews on the tripadvisor website recounting similar experiences regarding the service so obviously impressive looks isn’t everything. Somewhere along the way, one of the world’s best bars forgot about customer service)

Instead of dying of thirst at Abaco we had a few pleasant nightcaps at the far less salubrious but much, much friendlier establishment around the corner, O’Briens Irish Pub.

Funnily enough, after our first and only big blowout in Palma we had a very quiet Saturday lazing around the apartment.
Museum of Contemporary Art is a very succesful fusion of new and old structures

We made the most of our time on Sunday though and while Marc headed to the beach we embarked on some more cultural exploration. First stop the Palma Museum of Contemporary Art. This fusion of a totally modern building into the original fortifications of the ancient town walls is an architectural masterpiece in its own right and a very cleaver melding of new and old spaces.

New meets old at the town walls

While Karen certainly enjoyed the rather out there exhibition of works by revered local Mallorcan artist Miro, Rob was underwhelmed and far more impressed by the building itself as we made our way from gallery to gallery with each displaying different facets of both the new and old structures. As you wander the building you’re lead to different areas and levels winding your way up to the parapets of the old walls and then back down to the lowest floors.

The basement level of the Museum featured a spectacular exhibition by Joan Bennassar entitled ‘The Wine I Drink Tastes of the Sea’ made up of a number of large works exploring the history of wine in the Mediterranean. His work was very impressive, this time gaining a big thumbs up from both of us. This lowest level gallery also flowed through to join with what was originally a water storage cistern in the 17th century fort and now a multi use exhibition space.

The museum is much larger than it looks from the outside and what we thought would be an hour or so visit stretched far beyond that and proved to be extremely enjoyable.

With all the back and forth we’ve done by now we’d actually lost track of how many times we’d been in Palma this summer but there has been a constant running through each and every visit. Every time we’ve been here we’ve said ‘We really have to go and see that round castle up on the hill.’
Next stop, the castle on the hill

After out visit to the Gallery we were now in a taxi and finally on our way to do just that. The cab driver wound his way through narrow back streets at break neck speed and then gave his best hillclimb impersonation up to the castle and near screeched to a stop at the base of a set of stairs leading to the entrance. After handing over the 5Euro fare we got out and were considering kissing the pavement in thanks for our divine delivery from near certain death when we noticed a big sign indicating the ticket office was in the car park 250 metres down the road. Bugger! As we trudged along in 38C heat Rob was verbalising his displeasure that Fernando Alonso’s brother had dropped us at the entrance instead of the ticket office. That was until we got there. It was closed. There’s free entry on Sundays so we didn’t need a ticket. Double bugger! Turn around, walk back and no further mention of our racy driver made.

 The castle and the views over Palma from its upper levels were outstanding. Different areas contained a series of galleries dedicated to laying out the history of Mallorca from the its earliest human occupation right through to the current day including the origins, various stages and uses the castle itself had gone through. Again it was a lot longer visit than we anticipated because there was so much to see. We were extremely pleased we hadn’t sailed away and not got up the hill to experience it.
The stone masonary work is amazing

The castle featured an impressive collection of ancient sculptures
It looks like Lady-Boys might have been around long before the Thailand
This is a model of the stone walls of the oldest man made structure unearthed on Mallorca
dating back thousands of years. Mmmm! Would you like frys with that?
All in all a great day of playing tourists
Further disturbing reports coming out of Tunisia made it clear that it was too risky for us to be contemplating spending four months there at the moment so we had to finalise our winter location. ‘The weenner eeezz – Gibraltar.’ We will now head the opposite direction to what we’d originally planned and sail along the Spanish coast to spend the winter at Queensway Marina in the shadow of the towering rock of Gibraltar. The marina’s off season’s rates are not as cheap as Tunisia but still quite reasonable and, very importantly, it is not part of the European Schengen visa zone so we will be able to comply with our requirements to leave and then re-enter in the northern spring.

When we went to the boat yard on Monday morning we were pleased to find the repairs all but completed other than a few final fittings. However looking at the bright white areas of the bow and starboard side that had been repaired and nicely polished we quickly decided to get the entire hull cut and polished so everything was even. This meant another day in boat yard but what’s one more day now.

We spent that day on another massive provisioning buy up at the supermarket and transporting everything back from the apartment.
It was great to be underway and undersail again

After fantastic service by the crew at Audax Boatyard, the yacht was lifted back into the water late afternoon on Tuesday afternoon looking so very bright and shiny. We were able to spend the night aboard on the dock at boatyard which was also much appreciated. The following morning we were up early and had a spirited upwind sail up to Cala Portals where we sat out the day as the winds were far from favourable offshore.
Big seas smashing against the rocks outside Cala Portals while we sit out the rough stuff.
They love their big RIBs over here. This one's only functionality was as a
very expensive, high speed floating sunbed. Who said Spain is broke?
Alcheringa is proving to be a very popular backdrop for
photographers. The model didn't look too impressed in the bikini
shots later. It was windy and cold.

However, early on the morning of Thursday September 27th we finally pointed Alcheringa’s bows away from Mallorca towards Ibiza, the first step on our 480 nautical mile trip to Gibraltar. We certainly hope that her Palma homing device is no longer operational. We’re kind of over it.

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