Captain's Log, Stardate:
I haven't written for so long because, mercifully, there haven't been any very exciting events in the past two months. I debated about writing an update at all, knowing I would be criticized as a bad writer because the following is so boring, but decided to do so anyway. Hope you don't mind.
Mary, Teresa, (no, not "Mother Teresa" but close!) and I arrived in Barcelona after a pseudo maiden voyage from the Catana boat yard near Perpignan, France.
The four preceding weeks spent in the boat yard did not go unrewarded. Escape Cay is now better than new, literally. A low point during the warranty work was the NYC bombing. But the following Monday was something of a high point as a hundred or so Catana workmen gathered at noon to participate in a moment of silence for the dead, missing, and wounded in New York. Very touching. Ironically, a couple of weeks later, the French themselves suffered what appeared to be a terrorist attack on a chemical plant in Toulouse. I suppose the world will never be the same again.
The sail to Barcelona involved two stops in "calas" (essentially narrow bays like mini fiords). First was an anchorage in Bahia de Rosas, Spain, some six hours from the boatyard in France. Then it was on to Palamos, Spain, a very picturesque and truly "off the beaten track" Spanish ciudad--very quaint and unspoiled. The next day, while I visited the very nice Aquarium de Barcelona, Mary and Teresa took the bus tour of the city including stops at the Basilica and more. A few shopping bargains were not to be passed up either.
Then it was on to the Balearics, a group of beautiful islands off mainland Spain some 100 NM to the SSE. Since catching the small tuna on our passage from Malta to Crete, we have not had the fishing line out because all guests since then have either been allergic to sea food or didn't care for it. But our present guest, Teresa, said she would enjoy sampling some fresh fish and together with me, we had a majority. So out went the line with a brand new lure purchased in Barcelona. Three hours later, while still some 30 miles out from Minorca, we got a good strike! One hour later, we had landed and filleted a 15 pound tuna! (For those who care, we used a dazzle yellow and green "skirt" with a streamlined lead head which caused it to travel just below the waves as we glided under sail at some 7-8 kts.) Not long afterward, we pulled into a beautiful, secluded anchorage on the NW shore of Minorca. Nearby was a deep cave beckoning to be explored and so we launched the dinghy and did just that.
Another half-day sail brought us to the second largest city on Minorca, "Ciudadela." While Mary and Teresa were exploring ashore, I remained aboard. Soon, a mature couple came swimming by and said the magic words always good for a free beer aboard Escape Cay, "nice boat." Come to find out, Fritz and Marie were both Spanish citizens spending summers in Barcelona and winters in Ciudadela. We had a nice visit but too short and soon they dove back in the water and headed for shore.
About 10 minutes later, there was a shout from the water and when I looked, Fritz had swum back out to the boat where he issued an invitation to join he and Marie at their home that evening. I accepted on behalf of our crew who, at the time, were ashore exploring. Fritz picked us up at one of the ubiquitous "Club Nauticals" there are in Spanish speaking countries and drove us to his home. We had no idea what to expect as we walked down the cobblestone street lined with row houses or, as we say in real estate, houses with "zero lot lines." He proudly pointed out the entrance marked unpretentiously with a "7" painted by the door. (The door to number "5" was only about 20 feet further down the very narrow cobblestone street.)
I don't know about number "5," but as we entered #7, we were treated to a very warm living room with a concave or coved ceiling showing bare stone blocks. We soon learned the house was 400 years old! (The oldest building in Europe is claimed to be located on Minorca.) Fritz restored it over the 23 years they lived there but left much of it in the original state. He saved a cross section of a wall he renovated showing a full inch of paint layers. You could count the 100 or so layers just like you would the rings on a tree.
Walking through the kitchen, there was a door opening to a lovely back yard with bougainvilleas abloom and otherwise immaculately landscaped. We sat at a table, sipping the local drink of gin and lemon sour, under an olive tree said by Fritz to be 500 years old! Later, he proudly showed us the rest of the house. It was huge! The second floor also had two bedrooms and coved ceilings (as in a chapel) made of stone blocks key stoned together, as it was when it was built hundreds of years ago. There was even a loft above the second floor housing two more sleeping areas. Fritz invited us to the basement for a look-see. Reluctantly we walked down a stairway that would not meet today's construction codes for pitch nor head clearance. I couldn't imagine what to expect and then it hit all of us. Of course! It was loaded from floor to ceiling with racks of wine. We weren't in a basement, per se, we were in this old home's "wine cellar."
Back in the living room, I was admiring a very old model of a sailing ship (complete with working rigging, swinging doors, etc, when I learned Fritz owned two antique stores in town. When it was time to leave, we insisted on walking back to the dinghy and so he joined us, to make sure we found the way along the winding, cobblestone streets. Soon we came across one of his stores, which he unlocked so we could look around. Being retired, he opens his stores by appointment only. Realtors have nothing on Fritz! (Here ends the real estate analogies.)
We were anxious to get to Majorca so, sadly, we sailed out of Ciudadela the next morning for the 4 hour hop across the sound. Three days later (after making three stops at various "calas" along the east coast of Majorca), we anchored off the famous "Palma de Majorca." The day-sails along the way revealed breathtaking views of steep cliffs with villas of the rich and famous perched on top along with rugged caves. Palma had enough shops, museums, bars, and cathedrals (not necessarily in order of importance) to tide us over for three full days and then it was off to Ibiza.
More and more as we got deeper into the fall of the year, winds began picking up as a precursor for the stormy winter ahead and so it was that we had 25 kts on our port quarter most of the way to Ibiza. However, at first we only had 10-15 kts (we left at 7 a.m.) so Mary and I hoisted the spinnaker. Unfortunately, the internal halyard got jammed so that I had to let go (after it lifted me two feet off the deck) and let it fly to the wind. In 15 kts, we were doing 8 and then it increased to 20 as we sped along at 10-11. The "internal halyard" is the one that raises the "sock." The idea is to hoist a sausage-shaped bag containing the spinnaker all the way to the top before the sail is unfurled. The internal halyard is then pulled to lift the sock to the top exposing the spinnaker to the wind. The method used just 20 years ago was to pull the spinnaker out of a locker onto the deck and then try your best not to let the wind scoop the thing over the side or worse while you tried to raise the halyard as fast as possible.
But now the wind was blowing 20 kts and we didn't know how we were going to get the spinnaker back down again. As we rounded the southern tip of Majorca and headed for Ibiza, Mary suggested we duck behind the tall cliffs and take it right back down in relatively calm waters rather than get caught in 25 or 30 and let the wind tear it apart or, as likely, keel haul the thing. That turned out to be a brilliant idea since the wind dropped to 10 kts and the waves to nil as we moved into the lee of the land. We made a fast passage afterwards on jib alone and still arrived in good light.
There were several more wonderful anchorages as we sailed clockwise around the island to Palma (there are actually palm trees on the beaches). One of the nicest was in the lee of a small island off the southeastern tip of Ibiza called Isla de Formentera. We weren't the only sailors who thought so, either: This unfortunate island has been the raided by barbarians, Moors, Saracens, and even Scandinavians (on their way home from the Crusades)! The residents of Ibiza did the usual thing in those days: They built a church, stocked it with valuables, and then built a mammoth fort around it for protection.
Mary and I hadn't had a "fort fix" for quite a while so we really enjoyed exploring its many nooks and crannies. There is an anchorage right below where Escape Cay sat bobbing gently. From that height, it looked more like a Chiclet than a catamaran. You know we're off the beaten track when there are no opening and closing hours for the fort and nobody there to sell you tickets as you enter or prevent you from entering after hours!
This fort was so well designed and built that, in 217 BC, the Romans failed to capture it after a two day siege. However, most of the walls we viewed had been rebuilt in recent times . . . 1235 and again in 1555, a mere 450 years ago. The last time it was rebuilt, they enclosed most of the city within its walls (probably because when the Romans couldn't seize it in 217, they plundered the town itself).
Tomorrow, October 18, our guest flies home and Mary and I will make the final leg of our tour of the Med and set sail for Gibraltar. There we will take on three more guests/crew for the 4-5 day passage to the Canary Islands. Will keep you posted.
Hope all is well with you,
Lee and Mary