October 2004
 
Menorca, Cabrera, and Mallorca

We enjoyed Fornells so much that we stayed for several more days, doing some boat work and enjoying the charming scenery and town, and the kind and hospitable populace. Rob hitchhiked about 10 miles to the nearest gas station to refuel the outboard, but we were running out of provisions. There's a butcher shop and grocery in town, but it only gets resupplied on Thursday mornings, and we had been in the UK that day, so we were out of luck. We still had a couple of meals' worth of fresh food, but had started to explore the bilge for those old cans of Dinty Moore.

In any case, it was time to be on our way. We had arranged to meet our friends Tom and Vicki on 'Tempest' out of Houston, Texas, whom we had met for the first time in the Azores in '02 and had met twice more in Europe. They were en route to Barcelona from Gibraltar and we planned to sail west to meet them in Mallorca or maybe even Ibiza. We had an easy passage from Fornells back to Mahon, where we filled our water tanks but were unable to reprovision because the stores were closed. We spent the night there and sailed around to Cales Covas the next day. It's as pretty as advertised, and tiny - 3 boats in there would be a crowd! We dropped our anchor into a big sandy area and tied a stern line to a big mooring block, so we were quite secure. The cliffs are so close you can almost reach out and touch them, and they're filled with square and round holes where people have made caves - more than 100 of them - starting in the 4th Century BC. These were originally funerary caves, though they were re-used by the Romans, and later by pirates, as dwellings. Some of the more accessible ones are occupied by hippies in the summertime. Others have been closed off with sheets of iron both to preserve them and to prevent the hippies from using them, though any artifacts have long since been removed to museums. We spent Sunday and Monday nights there, and Monday Rob took his spear gun and shot enough fish for a nice bouillabaisse, thus warding off the dreaded canned ham for another night.

We set sail next day to Porto Colom, Mallorca, about 50 NM away. We close-reached in 10-15 knots of wind, and made harbor by late afternoon. To our delight, we were met at the dock by our old friends from Barcelona's Port Vell, Bill and Gala on 'Soleil de Minuit'. We joined them for dinner ashore, thus saving ourselves once again from dinner out of a can.

We finally re-provisioned and did our laundry in Porto Colom, then spent a few days working our way around the east coast of Mallorca and then up to Palma. 'Tempest' had reached Ibiza and we were in regular communication by mobile phone; each day, however, either one or the other of us was stuck in a harbor with adverse winds.

We finally met up at the National Park of Cabrera, off the southeastern tip of Mallorca. We spent five days in the beautiful protected bay there. You need a permit to go there (the permit and the moorings are free of charge), and they only allow 50 boats at a time, so it's peaceful and beautiful. There's a great castle dating from the 14th century, high on a rock above the harbor. It looks quite dramatic, especially in the early morning or late afternoon sun. One day, we combined our two crews and sailed Akka around the islands, in hopes of seeing the very rare Eleanor's falcons. There are only around 30 pairs, which nest on the outlying islets. The sail was lovely but we didn't see the falcons. The next day, we took a nature walk around the island with a park ranger and saw some falcons from the clifftops.

We reluctantly left Cabrera and headed for Palma, Mallorca. Rather than going into one of the marinas in the huge port, we went to Illetas, a small anchorage just two miles away where we had anchored twice before.

We rented a car for a couple of days to drive around Mallorca with Tom and Vicki. The day we intended to go, the weather was so awful that we postponed a day. The next day started out better, but where we went -the western side of the island - it was as bad as the previous day. Rob drove the windy roads as we peered out through the rain and mist to see glimpses of dramatic rocky crags and wild, spume-covered seascapes. We went to an ex-monastery where, famously, Chopin and Sands had stayed. We paid 7.50 Euros apiece entry, which we regarded as an outrage but forked up because we had driven all that way to do it (plus getting soaked between the parking lot and the entrance). Rob began a lecture on "sunk costs" but nobody was listening.

After an interesting tour of the Chopin/Sands lodgings, we dashed across a courtyard in the pouring rain to the original monastery building. A guide told us that the "concert is about to begin, at 5:30." It was 5:15 at the time, so we went through the ornate, over-decorated rooms at a pretty good clip and ended up at the auditorium just as the "concert" was to start. There was nobody there but us! We sat down damply, and presently a young man in a black suit appeared on the stage, sat down at the grand piano, announced in English that he was going to perform 2 etudes and one other piece by Chopin, and started to play! It was fabulous! We applauded vigorously at the end of the first piece, which was pretty clear (coda, repeated chords in the original key, no more playing), but then didn't see any opportunity to applaud again until the end, after which the young man stood up, bowed, and walked offstage without another word. So we four sailors had a private performance of Chopin.

We read an article that calls such incidents "Christophers" after Columbus, who, after all, discovered a new land while thinking he was doing something else entirely. A classical Christopher is when you attempt to get somewhere on your travels but are foiled (e.g., the bus connection doesn't work) and find yourself in a lovely place not mentioned in the guidebook with a fantastic historical connection and a great lunch besides. The delightful private concert in the monastery definitely meets the criteria for a Christopher.

We went back to our anchorage on a more direct route than we had come by, and after 15 minutes broke out of the rain into blinding sunlight. We had apparently gone to the only part of Mallorca in which it was raining (definitely NOT a Christopher)! By this time we were all wet, cold, and tired, so we returned to our boats (still in place despite high winds) and spent a quiet evening aboard.

Next morning the wind came up again, and an unoccupied boat in the anchorage drifted away in the gusty winds. We joined a young Finn who was anchored nearby and went aboard the dragging boat. We put out more rode and then another anchor we found on board, and all was well.

The wind subsided by midmorning and we took a drive through flat farmlands of eastern Mallorca. We visited an old (17th-18th century) manor house on a working farm (sheep, pigs, etc.). Though it was not as dramatic as the day before, it was nice just to get inland for a day. We are more or less trapped on the coast of wherever we go, so this gave us a feeling of freedom. We also took advantage of the rental car to visit a big supermarket and returned early to the boats, loaded down with groceries.

That night the wind came around to the southwest, the only angle from which our little anchorage was unprotected. Then it started to blow. By about 6:00 AM it was steady over 40 knots, with gusts near 50 and seas over 6 feet (at least one broke over our decks). The barometer, meanwhile, was lower than we'd seen it in the Med. Needless to say, we didn't get much sleep, but our anchors held and the one nearby boat that dragged managed not to hit us on the way past.

The night before, a big motor yacht (of the kind we call a "gin palace") had gone to the other end of the bay, where there's really no anchorage but there's some protection from the seas. We noticed that there seemed to be a party underway aboard her, as her lights were on into the early morning and the sound of music occasionally drifted down to us. Alas, the protection must not have been enough. Just before dawn she dragged right onto the rocks down at our end of the bay. According to the Finn, who was on deck at the time, she was on the rocks for more than 30 minutes before anybody poked their heads above deck. This, despite the Finn's shouts and horn-blowing to awaken the crew. They must have had some party! By the time they called for help, the boat was holed and had begun to roll over. In the end, she capsized completely. According to the newspapers the next day, she was worth 13 million euros - a total loss.

We had a pre-dawn discussion with Tempest on the VHF about moving around to the other side of the nearby peninsula, to get into its lee. In the end, we decided to wait until dawn, seeing as how both boats were secure if uncomfortable, and getting both anchors up in those conditions, at night, would be challenging. At about 8:00, we noticed that our dinghy was deflating -- it had surged forward and hit Akka's stern, holing one flotation tube. This was our fault, as we had tied it closer than usual. As we hoisted the dinghy on board, the wind suddenly died, and then shifted by 180°. As a result, we were now in the lee of the main shore, the seas calmed, and the wind went down to about 20 knots. We dragged a little at the new angle, but then seemed to be holding steady again.

Tom came over in his dinghy to take Andi to the shore to return the rental car, leaving Rob aboard in case there were problems. Sure enough, as soon as Andi was away, Akka started to drag again, this time toward the nearby rocky island. Tom came to help, and they managed to get both anchors up without hitting the island, moored up into the bay again, and dropped the Fortress (which we hadn't got fully up into the boat). It started to drag -- and then Akka's motor overheated! They put out huge amounts of scope on the Bruce, jumped in Tempest's dinghy and deployed the Fortress again.

At noon, Andi returned with International Herald Tribunes and croissants, the anchors held, the engine returned to normal temperature, the sun came out, the barometer rose and the wind fell, and all was well.

We patched the slash in the dinghy with the help of the Finn, who loaned us his large wood clamps to apply good pressure to the glue. (It's always curious to learn what tools, equipment, and "stuff" that various cruisers have found essential to have aboard.) The repair worked like a charm. The wind continued heavy, so we decided to move to a nearby bay to be in the lee of Mallorca. Our anchors, which are great in sand, wouldn't stay set in the heavy grass. We'd set them well, they'd hold a few hours, we'd nap, then they'd break free and we hauled them up, moved, and re-set. Spent a very long day, especially after we wore out the battery on the anchor windlass and did a few re-anchors by hand.

The heavy winds and deteriorating weather led us, in discussion with "Tempest" and a third American boat we had met in Palma, to decide to change plans for more cruising in Mallorca and Menorca, and instead to find the next good weather window and go to Barcelona. The opportunity came the next day, so we all set sail. We set up a radio schedule to talk to each other every few hours to make the overnight passage safer and more companionable; it was a nice comfort. The wind was moderate, but the sea was very lumpy and confused following all of the high winds, so it was an uncomfortable sail, with at least one of us sick on each boat. But as dawn came, Barcelona was in sight, and by noon, all of us were tucked safely in our berths in Marina Port Vell, settled in for the winter.