To Corfu And Back

Sunday 13 – Saturday 19 June

We definitely chose the right day to move on again, Sunday being daytripper bedlam.  As usual we waited for the wind, and set off North again with full mainsail and genoa in a pleasant WSW F2-3, making water as we sailed.  With a brief top-up from the iron topsail as the wind became light and variable, a common precursor to it changing direction, we were able to maintain sail into a NNW F4, before losing the wind properly as we came into the lee of Corfu.  To maintain standards, we played with the genoa briefly, before conceding defeat but keeping the main up to give us a slight lift until we were ready to drop all sail for the final approach into the anchorage.  We tucked in under the old fortress at the outer extremity of Corfu town, dwarfed by enormous superyachts and gin palaces.

Corfu Town

We spent a happy week on the edge of civilisation, comfortable apart from violent rolling from frequent ferry wash, and outdoor music playing loud until late.  We made several trips into town to explore and shop, enjoying the attractive Venetian architecture, excellent shopping – including M&S and Body Shop! – and a Jewish synagogue where the simplicity of decor was a soothing contrast to the heavy gilding and plethora of icons in Greek Orthodox churches.  We even found Oriental street food at a noodle bar, and less British influence than we’d been led to expect by the pilot book.

On Friday it was time to head South again, as we needed to be in Levkas town for our first Covid vaccinations on 24 June.  We made good speed all the way back to Karani on Antipaxos, our longest passage this season at 33 Miles!  Saturday found us back in the anchorage just North of the marina in Preveza – the bungee (of good shopping and good friends) just too strong to resist.

Properly Back At Sea

Sunday 6 – Saturday 12 June

We waited for the wind to fill in on Sunday 6 June, before heading down-channel and finally out into the Mediterranean, a full seven months since we’d left it.  We hoisted the mainsail for the first time this season, Skipper relieved to find he’d rigged all the lines correctly, and turned North to follow the mainland shore towards Parga.  In a perfect Westerly F3-4, we set the staysail and enjoyed a close reach, until the wind veered to 300˚ and dropped to a bare F2.  We fired up Trevver to get us into our chosen anchorage before dark, and settled peacefully in pretty Two Rock Bay after a great sail and another turtle sighting.

Monday was less comfortable as a windless swell rolled in and rolled us around, so on Tuesday we set off again for our next destination, Mourtos, opposite the Southern tip of Corfu.  Once again the wind was a feisty SW F4, and the genoa with the mainsail soon established an uncomfortable angle of heel, so we changed down to the staysail.  After correcting the accidental backing of the main during the change, we gradually climbed back to a very satisfying five knots’ speed, completed a couple of tidy tacks amidst frustrating wind shifts, and finally decided to head for Antipaxos instead.  The first cruise ship we’ve seen in a long time passed a long way behind us as we settled to anchor in clear turquoise water in Karani Bay, looking over to the mainland.

Wednesday started well, with a sighting of a whole pod of dolphins feeding early in the morning.  The day deteriorated, however, and became not among our better ones…but on reflection could have been a whole lot worse.  Other yachts sharing our anchorage all had lines ashore, so we decided to do the same and give a departing boat room to retrieve their anchor.  However, we did not make enough allowance for how far off we’d anchored – our usual 50 metres scope for swing room – and soon found we didn’t have enough line in the dinghy, by about five metres.  We brought the tender back to the yacht, dug out some extra ropes, and finally got ourselves secured to rocks on the shoreline…or so we thought.

We’d intended to go ashore for a walk, but it was now late enough to decide to have lunch first, and it’s just as well we did, as we looked up to find we were about a boat length from said rocky shore.  This is when we remembered how long it takes to retrieve a shore line to make an escape: never a speedy possibility.  We got there in the end, and then spent nearly an hour trying to re-anchor in a spot of sand without rocks or Posidonia sea-grass, the right distance from the edges of the bay.  We ended up exactly where we’d begun the day before.

Postcard from Antipaxos

On Thursday we paddled together onto the pebble beach, pulled l’arrêt well up above the water line in case of waves from swell or wash from trip boats now beginning to appear again, and set off up the steep rocky path to explore the island, all 2×1.5 miles of it.  The sun shone, wildflowers were abundant, birdsong was clear and the fragrances were warm pine and grasses, sweet wild honeysuckle and jasmine.  Buildings were few and far between, set among olive groves and vineyards, and at the end of a sloping track was the most beautiful turquoise bay, and a beach taverna open for lunch.  Eventually we set off back up the hill, enjoying the views across the sparkling sea to Paxos and the Greek mainland.

Approaching Gaios, Paxos
from the South
Sunset on Paxos

Friday was a day of two halves, the morning spent motoring an hour North to anchor just South of the harbour of Gaios on Paxos: a sheltered delight, and blissfully quiet when we realised we’d timed it right and were leaving just as a trip boat was disgorging its day’s load of tourists.  We made a brief tour of the shops before motoring another couple of miles up the East coast to a peaceful, pretty anchorage. We stayed through Saturday to enjoy a refreshing swim to the beach, Mate’s first of the season, to cool down after some strenuous needlework.

In the Gulf of Amvrakikos

Tuesday 1 – Saturday 5 June

We landed the dinghy on the edge of a convenient tiny harbour for local small fishing craft, and strolled along the beach walk into Vonitsa town.  Our first stop was the town quay, to check out the options for coming in to top up our water tanks, as the water in the Gulf did not look clean enough for us to make our own onboard.  There we found our old friends ‘Why Not!’ from the boatyard, and were invited aboard for coffee and a catch up.  Their cute puppy is now a mostly grown good-sized dog, but still well-behaved and friendly.

By the time we left it was lunchtime, so we tried out Molos, the taverna on the quay they’d recommended, and enjoyed a very good lunch, in spite of Mate managing to throw a full glass of water all over the table – even before starting on the wine.  We then made our way to the top of the high street to the supermarket, and took it all back to the boat for a quiet evening.

On Wednesday we went ashore again, this time in walking boots, to hike up the hillside to the chapel built into the rock face.  It was painted white and clearly visible from the (first) approach path, but the track was closed off by a very makeshift, but no less clear, fence barring our way.  We tried another route with equally little success, and a short skid back down the scree by one member of the team, before slogging up the edge of the main road to the last option, a sort of forestry track passable by an all-terrain vehicle.  Here we disturbed a black snake on a patch of dry bare soil, and were later advised that this species is the only poisonous one in Greece.

Looks promising…
…or not

The sign from the road did not suggest the chapel was inaccessible, but far enough along not to be visible from the road, it became apparent that we were not welcome, and we gave up and returned to the boat.

On Thursday we pottered around the islet and completed our second successful Med-mooring, stern to the quay with the anchor out front, to fill up with water and buy fresh bread.  On this occasion we tucked between other yachts, but all went smoothly.  Mate took the opportunity to use the water we were taking on to clean the heads (bathroom) and galley (kitchen), and Skipper ensured the decks were dusted off and the windows offered a view once again.

On our way back out into the Gulf, we struggled to raise the anchor and discovered we’d managed to hook an old, discarded concrete block securing a redundant ‘lazy line’.  These make Med mooring easier as they substitute for the anchor, and are picked up with a boat hook as the yacht is slid into the space.  We dragged the block several metres away from the quay in our attempts to release our anchor, but eventually we were free with no damage done to our boat or the town quay.

Once out on the water, we found the wind had blown up to its usual afternoon strength, which would give us a reasonable sail to the ‘top right’ ie NE corner of the Gulf, but a hard beat back to our planned anchorage in the lee of a lagoon midway along the North shore.  As the direct line was only six miles, we decided to give the engine a good run, which would give us plenty of hot water to enjoy showers later.  The new Brunton’s Autoprop, a feathering model where the blades fold in when not in use, improving our streamlining and hydro-dynamics, was put through its paces in a choppy sea, and we were glad to settle at anchor in shallow water out of the line of fetch from the wind.

On Friday morning, Mate was again delegated the job of anchor retrieval, after Skipper had decided the sea bed was sandy and we’d lay out all the chain that had acquired unpleasant growth and muck on Preveza town quay – 40 metres was about twice the length we actually needed.  Unfortunately, the chain came up thick with slimy green pondweed and other grime, that took ages to pick and poke off, along with copious quantities of mud.  She was rewarded with several sightings of turtles on the way back to Preveza, where we ended up two slots South of our previous berth.  We made the docking difficult for ourselves by leaving the dinghy tied up alongside, which affected our approach line, but we got there in the end.

We made the most of one night back in civilisation with a quick dash around all the services and shops we’d enjoyed on our extended stay here, and dinner with the lovely Tina at Taverna Mythos on the town quay.

On the Saturday we escaped the clutches of the town (without having been charged for our stay), and once again enjoyed a much quieter night in the nearby anchorage.

And…we’re back!!

Monday 31 May 2021

Yes, it has been a long time since anything appeared here – because we haven’t been sailing, and have filled the time doing things other than bringing the blog up to date.  Mate will attempt to rectify this situation over the next few weeks, but meanwhile we are delighted to be able to report – at last – that we are not only back on the water, but actually travelling again!

Having spent a mostly comfortable eight weeks enjoying the hospitality of Preveza town quay, roughly in the middle of the Greek Ionian Sea, we finally let go late on Thursday afternoon to motor around the perimeter wall of the marina to the anchorage just to the North.  It was wonderful to feel the boat moving with the will of the water again, turning gently to keep her bow to the wind while at anchor.

We spent Friday and Saturday replacing all the running rigging – the ropes that pull the sails up and control them when they are flying – that Skipper spent the last few weeks soaking and washing in copious amounts of fresh water and clothes washing liquid, and now l’escale smells clean all around her decks from the fabric conditioner he also applied liberally!  The foresails went back on the furlers at the bow on Sunday morning, and after lunch we pulled up the anchor and set the genoa for a lovely downwind sail into the Gulf of Amvrakikos.

The bridge to Nisis Koukouvitsa – the arches are lit by the setting sun

The summer afternoon sea breezes are well-established here already, and the wind was a good F5 westerly at times, allowing us to skim along at an exhilarating six knots.  We made two clean gybes to navigate the curve of the channel, seemingly the only yacht on the water, and tucked into the welcome shelter of the Eastern side of Nisis Koukouvitsa, a pretty wooded islet joined to the shore near Vonitsa by a five-arched stone bridge and a land spit.  A tiny chapel nestles among the fragrant pine trees, and we’re already clocking up wildlife sightings: one large dolphin, and several turtles, plus pelicans and herons.

On Monday morning we prepared the dinghy to go ashore, which wore us out so we lazed around in the cockpit for the rest of the day, enjoying the peace and quiet.  Tomorrow we’ll go ashore early before the wind fills in, do a few errands and perhaps explore the Venetian castle on the hill at the other end of the town, or even find the chapel that is built into the facing hillside – literally into the rock wall…

September in Sardinia Part III

After a couple of days of maintenance and rest, we enjoyed a pleasant afternoon’s sailing while the wind lasted, and when it gave up for the evening, we tucked into a very pretty anchorage off Nora, Sardinia’s famous Roman city.  The following morning we visited the site, beautifully preserved and a fascinating insight into the lives of this ancient civilisation.  We walked into Pula for a supermarket shop, and on the way back made the mistake of trying to pick prickly pears growing wild on the roadside.  A very kind local man stopped his car when he saw our discomfort, and managed not to laugh at our foolishness as he tried to mime and explain in impossibly rapid Italian, or possibly Sardinian dialect, that we should have put thick gloves on first.  We were still finding painful spines days later.  As we returned to the beach and our dinghy, a wedding was in progress on the sand – very romantic in the sunset.

On Sunday 20 September we returned once again to Marina Piccola with a pleasant afternoon’s sailing, and the following day took our bikes ashore, to cycle a round trip of 30km on some of the worst main road surfaces yet encountered, to fill one of our 20-litre (10kg) gas bottles and check out the ‘local’ Carrefour.  We made this trip twice in a matter of days, the best bits being the ride along the 7km of beach, on designated and smooth cycle tracks, and through the protected reed-fringed wetlands of the Parco Naturale Regionale Molentargius towards Quartu Sant’Elena.  These freshwater and brackish pools attract nesting, migrant and wintering birds in their thousands. We were lucky to spot flamingos, little egrets and marsh harriers, but the sandwich terns, black-winged stilts and purple herons proved elusive.  A dolphin visited the anchorage whilst we were there.

Finally on Thursday 24th we made our way into Cagliari marina, mindful of some inclement weather forecast as imminent.  This would be the first time we’d have to pay for berthing since we left Valencia three months ago – a boost to our budget in the interim.  We chose Marina del Sole and were welcomed by a friendly and helpful marinero, which made up somewhat for the curiously unsophisticated facilities at this city port marina.  On our first morning we suffered a rude awakening from a German yacht arriving alongside our berth in strong winds, and later on our other side an Italian school boat returned to his berth without heed of the unsociable hour.

Two days later we suffered another rude awakening as the German boat attempted to leave, snagging  across our bow lines in a difficult crosswind.  After a lot of failed manoeuvring, the marina staff resorted to cutting our upwind lazy line to free them, having first roped us to the upwind yacht.  Unfortunately, Skipper hurt his back trying to help.

Altogether we spent nine nights in the marina, and made the most of easy access to land to enjoy a variety of walks, explore the attractive old city, indulge in some delicious meals out, visit the fascinating museum Museo Archaelogico Nazionale with artefacts and information illustrating the ancient Nuraghic civilisation unique to Sardinia, and get haircuts.  In between, we made new friends of a British couple who live in the French Alps and sail an Italian-named yacht, caught up with some routine chores and tackled some more tasks on the maintenance list.  We saw more dolphins in and around this marina than anywhere out in the open sea during the whole season – an indication of where they’re finding food, perhaps, or that they’re becoming bolder nearer land as a result of fewer boat movements?

September in Sardinia Part II

Heavy rain – before we realised
we were dragging

While waiting for our quarantine clearance to be able to go ashore and explore, we pottered to the Southwest corner of the island for a few days’ change of scene in a series of sheltered inlets.  Well, they were mostly sheltered, until Thursday 10th when a fierce squall blew in from nowhere in the middle of the afternoon: torrential rain and a fierce williwaw of around 36 knots.  Visibility was nil but it was obvious our anchor was dragging, so we got the engine started to try to motor into the wind to take the pressure off the anchor chain, but we were too late, and within a few moments the wind had dragged our anchor 300 metres towards the beach at the head of the inlet, until we came to a stop on an underwater reef between the land and a tiny island.  Thankfully the worst was over very quickly, and Skipper donned his wetsuit and literally stepped off the back of the boat to inspect below the hull, and nudge us away from the danger.  Yet again, thank goodness for the strength of the aluminium hull and lifting centreboard.

Our ‘drag track’ is the yellow line that starts on the right and ends near bottom left of this screenshot

Later we were to discover some damage to the propeller blades and edges of the rudder boards, but this was not immediately obvious and didn’t greatly impede our passages for the remainder of the year.

The rather bland exterior of Sant’Antioco church leads to a wonderful interior

It took a week for our negative test results to be confirmed, and we then spent another few days near Sant’Antioco, a little further up the SW coast of Sardinia, an island joined to its big sister by a causeway.  We enjoyed a wander around the hilly town, and a visit to one of the most memorable churches we’ve been privileged to explore.  From the outside it looks like many another, but the interior is truly ancient and built of huge grey stone blocks: unadorned, ungilded, unpainted and all the more spiritual for its simplicity.

Later reading a novel set on this tiny island, Mate learned of a unique and ancient craft that is still practised today, that of Bisso, or sea silk, spun and woven from the ‘beard’ of a marine bivalve.  If you’re interested, look up Chiara Vigo – she’s the craftswoman famous for this stunning textile work.  Sadly, the museum was not open when we were there – like so much else at the moment.  We were also delighted by the wildlife hereabouts: a large flock of sheep and goats wearing bells were shepherded along the nearby beach each dusk, and behind the beach the salt pans were home to a large number of flamingos.  It was the first time we’d seen them in the wild, and were entertained by their dance – a fast-stepping dabble paddle to stir up the mud to release their food, followed by that distinctive upside-down beak in the water to scoop in a range of delicacies.  Another particular thrill was a brief visit by a kingfisher, who perched on our guardrail.

Flamingos: wild and funky; European Bee-eater hitching a rest stop

On our way back to Malfatono Bay, a European Bee-eater took shelter on our sprayhood for a much-needed rest from being chased remorselessly by a sparrowhawk: it was visibly panting like a tired dog.  The hawk circled us for several frustrated minutes, but when the bee-eater took its chances back on the wing, the pursuit continued until both birds were out of sight towards land.

September in Sardinia Part I

Part I – Stretching our Sea Legs, and Quarantine

On Wednesday 2 September we upped anchor and were away for Sardinia by 0915.  Within the hour we’d threaded our way down-channel and back out to sea, where we set the first reef in the mainsail and accessorised with the staysail, in a keen NNE F4.  The wind remained lively and gusting to F5 through the morning, but mid-afternoon it eased quite suddenly as it swung to the North, although the sea was still rolling.

As the evening wore on towards a red moon and red sunset, the wind continued to back and reduce to NNW F2-3, and by dawn the following morning the log reads “wild ride”, as we were back to NW F4-5.  At noon on 3rd, Mate changed the courtesy flag from Spain to Italy, none too soon as the former was looking very windworn and bedraggled. We had just under 100M left to sail to the waypoint off Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia at her Southwestern tip.  During this stretch we were happy to accommodate a tiny tired bird in need of shelter and rest.

Sunrise over Sardinia’s SW coast, 0500

Although the wind remained in the North, it was now right down to anywhere between F1 and F3, and a little help was required from Trevver here and there.  By evening the sea state was a comfortable ‘slight’ and the wind a steady F4, although it dropped completely during the second night at sea, and by the early hours of Friday morning, 4th September, we were motoring again.  By 0800, however, we were back to full main and genoa, enjoying close-hauled sailing along spectacularly mountainous coast.

Spectacular Southern Coastline

During the afternoon we motor-sailed as we checked out a possible anchorage, Mate still loving being at sea after 51 hours.  It was deemed too rocky on the seabed so we carried on into Cagliari Bay and settled just South of Cagliari harbour, behind Capo Sant’Elia, completing 273 Miles in just over 58 hours, a respectable average speed of 4.7 knots.

This was a passage of Firsts: in 39 years of sailing, it was the first time Skipper was seasick while Mate was fine; we reached a point furthest yet from any land: 100M from anywhere, with the closest 3km – straight down!

It proved not to be the most comfortable anchorage, and the following morning our first encounter with the islanders was the local police, one of whom fortunately spoke English and was able to explain to us that we’d anchored too close to the rocky shore – in fact we’d swung a little in the night and stretched out our anchor chain.  We were happy to note the courteous advice for future reference, and soon made our way into the harbour, to make arrangements for our entry paperwork and to meet Covid-19 regulations.

After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing it was established that a local agent would contact us to let us know how and where we should obtain the required tests, and we rounded the headland to the South, the Sella del Diavola (Devil’s Saddle) to find shelter off the Marina Piccola del Poeto.  We later discovered this was the ‘city beach’: “the hub of summer life with its limpid blue waters and upbeat party scene.”  Admittedly it was towards the end of the season, and there was some activity from the early morning aquarobics classes off the beach and the local sailing school, but the party scene was (thankfully) distinctly lacking…except on Sunday evening, when the Coastguard helicopter and then officious grey high-speed vessel came to a yacht nearby that was hosting an apparently Brazilian-themed bash for the pretty young things – with no evidence of adherence to coronavirus masks, social distancing or limits on numbers congregating, never mind shattering the erstwhile peace of a Sunday evening.

Sunset at Poetta Beach, 1800 hours

On Monday morning we moved back closer to the marina to take the dinghy ashore and hail a taxi to take us to the local hospital for our swab test.  Technically, by this point we were in quarantine until the test came back negative, but we were able to make a quick trolley dash for a few supplies from the small supermarket opposite the hospital, to make the most of our expensive taxi ride.  Needless to say, even this became a small adventure, as Skipper managed to leave his treasured Tilley hat in the store, and had to make a return trip to retrieve it – successfully.

On Tuesday 8 September we were approached by a Guardia Fiscal vessel, who reached across a fishing-style keep net to collect all our boat papers and passports for inspection.  Much to Mate’s consternation, they moved off without returning them, but checked in a few other boats nearby and eventually delivered the plastic wallet back safely.

Cruising Menorca – Week Four – Last days

Wednesday 26 August – Tuesday 1 September

The lighthouse at Cabo Favoritx

On Wednesday we topped up the provisions supplies, and on Thursday set off yet again to make water, this time heading North and anchoring at Playa d’en Tortuga, Turtle (or Tortoise) Beach, which is just South of Cabo Favoritx, where the lighthouse is a twin of that at Portinatx, on Ibiza, with diagonal black stripes on white.  During the afternoon, we enjoyed a brief swim and snorkel while the wind built, producing an uncomfortable chop, so it was decided to head a little further to the sheltered inlet of Addaia.  Carefully following the buoyed channel through an interesting maze of rocks, the scenery is reminiscent of the West coast of Scotland, with sunshine, and becomes increasingly Baltic-like as the mini fjord penetrates the land for a good couple of Miles.  This impression was heightened by the sight of Danish and Norwegian flags on yachts in the anchorage inland of the small marina at the foot of a cluster of houses.  We continued right to the top of the navigable water, and anchored at dusk in masses of space on mud and weed in a beautiful spot, all round shelter and 2.5 metres of water – oh, the joys of a lifting centreboard.

Friday was spent relaxing, swimming, re-anchoring (twice), trying and failing to lay the anchor onto sand, ever apprehensive about the Posidonia police, and enjoying the ripples reflecting along the shoreline, a curious sight of light and shadow rolling along the shore.

In the early hours of Saturday morning, we were woken by the forecast storm – lightning rolling continuously around the sky and torrential rain – we know how to celebrate our Silver Wedding Anniversary!  Having disconnected the VHF radio as a precaution, there was no danger, but the boat was washed thoroughly and we were glad of the cockpit tent, de-bagged for the first time since January, to provide some shelter and air while all the hatches below were closed.  The storm passed through, as they always do, eventually, and we spent the weekend relaxing.  On Sunday we ventured into the small port and had lunch on the quayside – an impressive vegetable timbale with patatas bravas for Mate, and a whole bass for Skipper, washed down with some local beer, and on Monday we went ashore again, to see what the small store in the small town could offer in the way of provisions.  The first day of another new month, Tuesday was spent preparing for the next long passage, while we reflected on the weather having ‘broken’ into Autumn, with softer light and cooler temperatures, although the water is still deliciously warm for swimming.  We’ve also been looking at a variety of options for over-wintering, and thinking about what we might do next year, post-Brexit – more on this to follow.

Cruising Menorca – Week Three – City visit on land and high drama on the water

Thursday 20 – Tuesday 25 August

The following morning, Aurelie had obviously given up any hope of quality rest, and was away very early on their long passage Westwards.  They arrived safely a few days later.  Meanwhile, we headed out to sea to make water, finding it lumpy and uncomfortable outside the harbour.  We managed to set the staysail once we were able to turn South, parallel with the coastline, and anchored off the Illa de l’Aire lighthouse, that stands on a tiny island off the Southwestern tip of Menorca.  The water was incredibly clear, so we were able to see that we were trying to set the anchor onto rocks, never a good idea, but we held steady long enough to make some water, at least until the machine broke – again.  Poor Skipper spent most of the afternoon trying to fix it – again, and made a temporary repair, but we’d made so little water we hoped to stay overnight.  However, a quick snorkel inspection revealed that the anchor was snagged on a rock, and couldn’t be trusted to hold if the wind changed direction overnight, which is always all too likely, so we headed back to Mahón.  We didn’t even try to sail, as it was still lumpy in a strongish Northerly, and we were very tired.  Back in Cala Taulera, we managed to find a comfortable spot well away from the Black Marlin.

On Friday, 21 August, we took ourselves back up the harbour to the city, for an extended look around, some shopping and a pleasant lunch from a menu del día, the daily set menu which are good value, at a restaurant on the quayside.  The island has been occupied variously by Spanish, French and English.  Also known as Maó, the city was designated the capital of Menorca during the British domination of the island during the 18th Century, because its extensive harbour and deep water offers much better protection for the Fleet, stationed at this strategic point in the Mediterranean, than that of Ciutadella on the opposite side of the island.  The naval history of the area is apparent, from the military buildings painted ‘English Red’, a distinctive deep shade very different from the whites and muted pastels of local facades, to the classic lines of the Naval Command Centre on an island opposite the city.

Mahon: the city’s version of Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid;
the oldest gateway; a church window; street art;
attractive architecture

There are many examples of ornate cast iron railings decorating balconies, while a large number of residential properties have shutters and doors in a uniform dark green, which gives a pleasing harmony to a mix of styles and paint colours.  Interesting architecture of many eras is around every corner in this lovely city, from the only remaining piece of the original city wall, the 14th Century Sant Roc portal, to the elegant Art Nouveau façade of Casa Mercadel, owned by a noble Menorcan family and built on the site of an ancient castle overlooking the harbour, to the attractive exterior of the ancient dwelling on Plaça del Princep that faces you as you walk along the side of the Esglesia del Carme.  The cloisters of this ancient church are an unusual venue for a highly browsable market, offering everything from local food specialities like cheese and salami-like sausage to Xoriguer gin (introduced by the British to keep the sailors’ whistles whetted), clothing, jewellery and the unique Avarca sandals worn by both genders and all ages.

Saturday morning saw us away early for another attempt to make water.  We found a likely spot just a little beyond the lighthouse of the other day, and tucked in to Cala Biniancolla for a successful afternoon’s production, in spite of the comings and goings of locals enjoying their weekend on the water.  We tucked back into Cala Taulera once again, for a quiet Sunday followed by laundry detail for Mate on Monday – by hand, with as little as possible of our lovely ‘home made’ water.  Waving hello to a British-flagged small motor boat that came in near to us, it soon became apparent that their anchor was dragging, of which fact they were duly warned.  They relocated a little further away, but on lifting their anchor to head off, we noticed that they’d managed to hook the anchor of a 52-foot Beneteau yacht, that they seemed unaware of towing halfway around the anchorage.  We dashed over in our dinghy to help, and were able to restore calm and order to a potentially damaging and expensive situation: the skipper of the yacht was not aboard when this situation arose, and the boat was heading towards an equally large catamaran, also without any crew in evidence.  Fortunately the yacht skipper returned during the debacle, and allowed us to manage the untangling and safe replacement of his anchor, whereupon Cheeky – yes, really – sloped off somewhat shamefaced.

As always, we were watched by an avid audience, including a French 40’ Dufour, with whom we chatted briefly on our way home.  Her skipper jokingly asked if he could call on us should he need assistance the following day.

During the morning of Tuesday 25th, we noticed we’d drifted too close to the shallows again, and reset our anchor once more in deeper water.  By strange coincidence, while the French man’s wife was in town on the Tuesday, his anchor dragged and he ended up where we’d touched bottom when we first arrived here.  In trying to regain control, the line of his secondary anchor became caught around his prop (are you sensing a pattern here?) and once again it was l’arret to the rescue, along with a kind Spanish gentleman in another dinghy.  Skipper was invited aboard to render assistance, while Mate towed the yacht – one hand steering and the other clamped to his bow line – away from the shallows to safety.  Later he expressed his gratitude by the gift of a bottle of French fizz – how kind!  We exchanged boat cards, and have heard they arrived safely into Corsica.

Cruising Menorca – Week Two – Sailing in Company

Wednesday 12 – Wednesday 19 August

On Wednesday morning Mate had just about finished up a batch of hand-washing when the lovely lines of Tendrel-Aurelie hove into view around the corner of the cala.  They settled quickly to their anchor and came straight over to say hello – huge hugs and smiles all round.  One of the wonderful aspects of this life is that sometimes we meet people with whom we bond immediately, and know we’ll remain friends – this German couple are two such special people.  We had a lovely afternoon catching up, and supper together onboard l’escale.

Aurelie, an Ovni 455CC (yes, very unusually she has a centre cockpit – only seven were built) is also an aluminium yacht, and was purchased in Greece in 2018.  During her homeward voyage to Kiel in Northern Germany, she stopped off in the Balearics, and her Mate had also had a holiday there with her daughter, so they knew the island and its harbours well, and proved excellent guides to us first-timers.  On the Thursday afternoon, after a lazy morning visiting and chatting, we all set off for a fabulous sail East to the deep inlet of Fornells.  We took slightly different approaches to our passage, and some excellent photos of each other in a variety of sail plans.

Sailing in company
L’escale on the left, Tendrel-Aurelie on the right

On arrival, Aurelie was soon settled to her anchor, while we continued to seek an elusive patch of sand on which to drop, mindful of earlier warnings from the ‘Posidonia Police’.  An hour later, we gave up, and came to rest just behind our friends, who invited us over for sundowners along with another German couple they’d met elsewhere, who were here in their brand new (to them) Moody.

Undisturbed by any authorities, we enjoyed a day’s rest and further conversation at anchor during Friday, and on Saturday sailed in company again, to the anchorage at the seaward end of the long inlet that leads to the island’s main port of Mahón.  Cala Taulera lies in perfect shelter under the watchful eye of Fortalesa (Fort) de la Mola, and across the channel from Illa del Llatzeret, nicknamed Quarantine Island for the hospital where those with infectious diseases were admitted for treatment, almost before they disembarked their ship.

The only drawback is that close in to the Eastern shore, where the land narrows and masts of yachts at anchor on the seaward side peep above the marsh, the bottom shelves rapidly, as we discovered when attempting to follow our friends without paying enough attention to their actual route.  Never mind, within moments a kind Dutch gentleman from a nearby catamaran came over in his dinghy to join our friend who’d barely anchored his own vessel, Skipper stepped off into waist high warm water, and l’escale was wiggled gently off the rocks and back into deeper water.  Ignominious though this arrival was, it encouraged our empathy for others who repeated our mistake, of which more later.  With a few more scars to the underwater areas of the hull, we were soon settled for a visit to the capital.

La Mola fort (courtesy of Tendrel-Aurelie); Mahon harbour

On Sunday we enjoyed a scramble around the outlying areas of the fort (ignoring the No Entry signs onto the ramparts), and took in the glorious views up the harbour, and on Monday we made the long dinghy ride up into town at the head of the inlet, followed by a hot climb up into the old city, which necessitated a reviving lunch at a pavement restaurant.  We saw a little of the city on the way to a largish supermarket, the spoils of which thankfully needed carrying only downhill back to the tenders.

On Tuesday evening we hosted supper onboard, and Mate spotted a kingfisher flitting along the nearby shoreline.  Wednesday being our last day together before Aurelie set sail again back towards Gibraltar, we tried a road walk away from the fort, but weren’t very inspired and returned to the boats, where Mate completed a set of face masks and hemmed two lengths of Majorcan-design fabric as cockpit seat covers, in exchange for a batch of bedding in their onboard washing machine – such luxury.

Hoping for an early night before their dawn departure on the Thursday morning, our friends, along with the rest of the crews around us, were unimpressed when a large charter vessel, Black Marlin, attempted to enter the anchorage in the dark and managed to achieve a prop wrap – when a line or rope becomes caught and wound around the propeller shaft, rendering the vessel unmanoeuvrable.  Insults and abuse were flying through the night air, and it was after midnight when they were settled and calm was restored.