Sunday, 20 August 2017

Pollensa

Forget what the guide says, there are no summer mooring buoys behind the Punta de la Avanzada. Once you round the oint, the bay opens up before you as one huge anchorage with hundreds of boats scattered everywhere. Almost – there is still a swath left free stretching from the jetty of the military zone for sea planes to take off and land.





As you round the Punta, you may be tempted to plop your anchor down in the turquoise water exposed by sand patches, but you shouldn’t. Those rather small patches are surrounded by posiedonia grass and the patrol boat from the Government of the Iles Baleares will soon come to tell you off. Even if your anchor is in the sand patch, your chain will drag through the grass. Smaller motor boats are tolerated, which makes it a bit frustrating, but that’s the way it is.

Beyond that zone, the bay is about 3 meters deep everywhere and the ground is mud and stubbly seaweed. We found the holding to be hit and miss, even with a chain:depth length of 5 – 7.

The bay itself is beautiful. We tried to visit some of the other calas but this being August they were all more than full. The town is touristy but agreeable. Just one street back parallel to the shore road across from the port is one of the best hardware stores we’ve found this year, and has almost everything you could ever need for a boat. There is a very good farmers market on Wednesday as well.  And of course, if you've read the previous post, you know there is a very good shipyard here, too.

While safely tucked into a berth in the port, we rented a scooter to visit the surrounding areas, particularly the UNESCO World Heritage Sierra Traumontana range and the Cap Formentor. This was not the smartest thing we’ve ever done. Not being expert scooter drivers and being confronted with hair-pin turns, sheer cliffs and tourist buses, we had our eyes riveted on the road in front of us, only occasionally risking a glimpse at the scenery. Pull-offs are few. This is surely one of the most beautiful mountain roads in the world, and I regret that we didn’t organize better to rent a car to visit the full range.



We had hoped to spend our last day in one of the calas but the winds that day left them all exposed. One big cala (Formentor) looks particularly inviting but it is filled with private mooring buoys with anchoring limited to the 15 meter depth outskirts. We met a couple from Palma who said they regularly go to that cala and that the buoys can be rented but are intended only for “locals” (from Majorca). They suggested you find a buoy and circle around until the mariniero arrives and try your luck, but normally it’s not intended for visitors. We were frustrated, but the couple went on to tell us that they have had to abandon their annual summer cruising around their own islands because the visiting tourists take up all the space.

That really put things into perspective, and also supports my own state of mind about the last 2 months in the islands. The stress involved with navigating here in July and August – few ports, few berths, over-crowded calas, bad manners and bad seamanship – have made me want to point Mareda’s nose towards the coast and head straight home. I haven’t lost my enthusiasm for sailing, but cruising in the Baleares in July and August is absolutely foolish. While we have had a few moments of grace and taken in some breath-taking scenery, the accumulated stress of the whole endeavor hasn’t been worth it for me. We are told by friends who have sailed in the area for the last 14 years that the area is unbearable until around 15 August when the summer vacation season winds down. I hope we will see a different side to the Baleares at that time, but I can tell you I am very eager to make our way to Sardinia and Corsica in September, and will definitely rethink cruising in popular areas in July and August for our future cruises.


Posted on Sunday, August 20, 2017 | Categories:

Friday, 18 August 2017

Fresh Water Pump Problems Resolved

One often hears that cruising is "fixing your boat in exotic locations."  Exotic or not, repairs must be made, and making them in a foreign land and foreign language can be frustrating.  Or not !  Here is a feel-good story about a simple and cheap fix to a big problem.

The pump : Jabsco Par-Max 3.5 fresh water pump (frankly, the following information will apply to any pump).

Important clue : installed on new boat (or boat with new tanks)

Symptoms : After 15 months of loyal service, our water pressure began to decrease. For the first few seconds, the pressure was good, then the flow would slow to a trickle. Even after the tap was turned off, the pump laboured to reach it’s cut off pressure.

And yes, we regularly clean our filter.

Diagnosis : We were lucky enough to be in Pollensa, Majorca (reasonably exotic), berthed just across the street from Astilleros Cabanellas, and had a 2nd stroke of luck to have Senior Cabanellas himself (grandson of the founder) take a look at our problem early one morning. He spoke perfect french and, although we didn’t test him, probably speaks pretty good English, too. If you are planning to have problems in Majorca, have them here. 

He had seen the problem before… especially on new boats. The problem is a blockage in the in-line check valve located upstream of the filter (red arrow in photo below). When the tanks were fixed in the boat and holes drilled into the plastic reservoirs to attach fittings and gauges, the technicians failed to vacuum out the little shavings left behind. Over time, these made their way through the system and got stopped here.


Senior Cabanellas knew exactly where to look, and sure enough, we had a big plastic ball of bits there. He shook his head and said that many shipyards will simply tell you that your pump is going bad and that it needs to be changed. In changing the pump, they open up and clean out the surrounding fittings, so it appears that the problem has been resolved with a new pump when in fact the pump was fine all along.





With the blockage removed and the accumulator tank pressure topped off with our bicycle foot pump, we reprimed the system to chase out the air bubbles and the pressure was as good as new. The pump now runs beautifully, only turning on and staying on half the time it did with the blockage, so we are saving on battery energy as well.

We contacted our Jeanneau boatyard in France to let them know that this was a problem somewhere along their assembly line. They thanked us for the information and are reimbursing our costs. (When we bought our boat, we were told that the 2-year guarantee and the Jeanneau service-after-sales were excellent. Now after 2 years we can tell you it is TRUE!)


Problem resolved in 30 minutes, cost 35 Euros. Happy ending.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Anchor Watch in Paradise

For the first time in our sailing careers, Patrick and I sat out in the cockpit on “anchor watch” as the wind began gusting violently at 1 a.m. in Cala Calobra at the mouth of the Torrent de Pareis in northwest Mallorca. As we went out to survey the situation we saw that the other 10-15 boats sharing the cove all had at least 1 person in the cockpit or on the bow, checking the anchor and position relative to their neighbors. Within 15 minutes, 3 large yachts hauled up anchor and left. (To do what? Circle slowly offshore waiting for daybreak?)





To be fair, larger boats are at a disadvantage in these situations. They have a larger surface area above the water line and get pushed around by the wind more strongly than smaller boats. Their weight also means that the strain on the anchor and chain are greater. We didn’t think the situation justified leaving and we seemed to be holding quite well with our anchor in sand at 11 meters depth with 40 meters of chain and 12 meters of rode out (we would have liked to put out more but we were limited by our nearest neighbors.)



As we approached our nearest neighbor, a small 8 meter French boat, Patrick called out to the young skipper inspecting his anchor and asked how things were going. He said he’d had better nights. We asked how much chain he had out and he replied “25 meters + 10 meters of rode” but I was thinking of adding more. Yikes !! We suggested that MORE would be a good idea and informed him that we had 55 meters out. He added more rode and we felt much more comfortable for all concerned.

Comfort is such a relative word, though. At 3 a.m., we reached an all-time record: 34 degrees C / 93 F with only 25% humidity in the air, blowing past us in short-lived gusts up to 30 or 40 knots. The winds were from the southeast, and as we were on the northwest of the island, the wind picked up the heat from the sand and rock along the full length of the island before hitting us. It was like being blasted by a powerful hair-dryer. We could feel ourselves desiccating, turning into raisins. We kept dousing ourselves with water. The boat was dusted with fine red sand blowing off the island. Our eyes stung. Metal objects on the boat were hot to the touch. I tried sleeping in a wet towel.




As the morning progressed, the temperatures dipped down to a more manageable 31 C / 88 F. The weather forecast announced a high of 37 C / 100 F for the day. I enjoy hot temps in the day when I’m near water and can swim to cool off, but eating and sleeping become very problematic in these conditions.

The next day, we moved to Cala San Vicente and had the same phenomenon again: southerly blasts during the night with temperatures climbing and humidity descending. This time, however, we had the cove to ourselves and only 5 meters of water so we had fewer worries than in the deep and crowded Calobra.

We were told that the "torrent" is usually just behind this pool...when there's water.

Patrick let out a little cry of victory when I announced that this situation makes me nostalgic for Brittany!   
Posted on Monday, August 07, 2017 | Categories:

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Soller and Mallorcan Scenery

We left Sa Foradada with a mixture of regret and relief as we headed up the coast for 5 days in the port of Soller.  Port stops are, in general, hot (ports are designed to protect from wind and the water quality is such that you do NOT want to go swimming anywhere near the port) and noisy (close-packed neighbors.)  One such neighbor got a bit too close as he pulled in and his fishing pole support gouged out a thumb-sized chunk of our gelcoat.  As I was mentally preparing a blog post about the steps to take to make an insurance claim for such an event, the skipper of the offending boat asked if we could just arrange things between ourselves without contacting the insurance company.  He gave us 100 Euros in cash and we invited him on board for a beer.  (Turns out he was a fascinating person.)  But now we have another repair to do and it's not easy to reach.  We will probably just do a quick filler job and wait until we pull the boat from the water in Corsica to make it pretty.




We really enjoyed the port of Soller and the town of Soller.  We took the wooden train to Soller town and later took the longer one down to Palma for the day.  We also took a side trip to the Alfabia gardens, once the home of one of the Moorish lords from the 1200s, taken over by the Spanish royals after the Christian conquest. The area gives a good idea of what the interior of Mallorca looks like, away from the main tourist tracks and beach scenes.






Almohad ceiling, 1170.








Posted on Saturday, August 05, 2017 | Categories:

Friday, 28 July 2017

Sa Foradada

These are the calas that make it all worthwhile.  For sailors visiting Sa Foradada cala, instead of trying to squeeze into the main anchorage at the base of the restaurant and playing bumper boat with all the others, there is a very nice large patch of sand in the southeast corner in 11-12 meters of water and fewer boats go there.  It is less protected from swell but you have space to put out as much chain as needed.  Stay about 100 meters off the shore to avoid some large boulders submerged at a depth of about 1.5 meters.  Enjoy !


Mareda nestled into the main Sa Foradada anchorage (way too close to that blue boat to the right of us).




The cala attracts the rich and famous.  The restaurant has photos of Rafael Nadal and Bruce Springsteen dining here.





Sa Foradada Restaurant.


Posted on Friday, July 28, 2017 | Categories:

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Andraxt and Sant Elm

We've had a wonderful couple of weeks hanging out on mooring buoys and a few calas along the way.  Just a few pics for the scrapbook.

Stone stairway, Cala Blanca

Andraxt back yard

Andraxt front yard

Andraxt side yard

Andraxt with Tramontana mountains

Fete de Carmen, Andraxt

Dragonera island

Sant Elm

Sant Elm

Up the west coast to Soller



Posted on Wednesday, July 26, 2017 | Categories:

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Bye Bye Ibiza

If the weather forecast holds, we will be leaving Ibiza tomorrow for the 54 mile trek to Mallorca. Because the winds have been easterly all but 2 days in the last 20, we never made it over to the east coast of the island except by bus to visit the old town of Ibiza. Neither of us is too sad to leave, though. I’m sure there are other spectacular calas and coves to explore but we’ve seen enough of them to have a good idea of the place.

Here are some of our impressions and things we’ve learned this month in Ibiza:

There is, in fact, very little boom-boom techno noise around, even in the calas the most exposed to mass tourism. We worried about that. In the San Antonio bay, we heard music from the surrounding nightclubs but it ended at a reasonable hour and was never too loud.

Ibiza fort and ramparts

View of Punic Necropolis from Ibiza ramparts
Anchoring in calas: people arrive en masse at 2 pm to swim, lunch, and spend the day, and then they all depart at 7 pm, leaving the cala to a few foreign sailboats. This means that if you want to have a good spot, you have to arrive before 2 pm or after 7pm.

Once you are anchored in one of the prized sand patches in the mooring area, your job for the day is to defend your patch. Idiots will try to put their anchor on top of yours or will try to anchor too close. We have chased off numerous would-be neighbors, and if we hadn’t been on the boat, there would have been big problems. We always leave a full rail of fenders out.





There are only 3 marina areas in Ibiza and only 1 (San Antonio) with a municipal port and relatively cheap rates. This means that when bad weather comes, you either need to get to a good cala before the others or reserve your spot in port well in advance.

Holding is poor and space is limited in the San Antonio bay. Do yourself a favor and don’t even try. (See our earlier post about the guy who dragged into us…). The Club Nautico has buoys for rent (30 euros including water taxi and use of showers and facilities).

All of this adds up to stressful cruising, in fact. The calas are gorgeous, the waters warm and turquoise, the surrounding hillsides spectacular, but you spend most of your time fending off idiots or worrying over whether the next cala will have room. We have only left the boat at anchor on a few occasions to go ashore because you just never know.

The weather prediction with Windfinder has been amazingly accurate, only getting it wrong once in awhile and only by a few knots. We use a combination of Windfinder, windguru, and grib files.

The saying “in the Med, there are 9 days of calm followed by a gale” is fairly accurate, but you can still sail in the calm days if you don’t mind sliding along at 3 knots.

Isla Conejera

Isla Conejera with dinghy tied up next to sign saying "no debarquing".

We have had a couple of occasions to test our parahoule flopper stopper and so far we have not had much success. In fact, this morning after a very rolly night, Patrick discovered that the vanes of one of the flopper stoppers were missing. I dove around and got them back, but I’m none-too-keen to put them out again. We’ll keep trying with different configurations. The problem is that we keep swinging in circles, never pointing in the same direction, so the swell hits us from different sides every 15 minutes.

Tomorrow we will head to Mallorca. We decided even before we left for this year’s cruise that we would keep the boat in marinas or on buoys

Time to go survey the neighbors, who, I discovered while diving this morning, have only gingerly set their anchor in the sand with NO chain out. As we swing around our 35 meters for 6 meters of depth, we risk backing into them.

Anchorages in Ibiza and Formentera visited: Cala Hort, San Antonio Port, Cala Bassa, Cala Gracio, Cala Tarida, Cala Cubells, Isla Conejera, Cala San Miquel, Formentera just north of Port Salvina inside the channel markers.


Addendum: Owing to a bum computer battery, the above post was written over 10 days ago but was locked away in my computer until I could get shore power.  We made it to Mallorca a few days ago, half sailing, half motoring. We went to the Santa Ponca mooring area, described as a large well-protected bay with ample mooring space. Evidently everyone else read the same thing. It was unbelievably crowded. We anchored too-close-for-comfort to the shoals the night we arrived but managed to move up into the cala the next morning. And then we had to start the whole business of chasing people away all day long. The next day we moved 3 miles north near Cala Blanca. In between Blanca and Cala Camp de Mar is a large sand patch with almost no one around ! There is no beach and no restaurant, so that eliminates a lot of the crowd. We had a gorgeous setting and watched wild goats ramble along the cliffs as the sun set. Why did we go to Santa Ponca? We are now in Port Andraxt (enjoying the town and the Fete de Carmen) and will be here on a mooring buoy for a week to visit friends and the surrounding area. Our experience with overcrowded calas has confirmed our plan to stay on buoys or in ports for the next few weeks while all the charter boats enjoy their vacations. We will be in Soller and then Pollenca over the next 3 weeks with a few cala days in between each, hoping to find those rare unspoiled and not-too-crowded spots. They DO exist, but finding them where/when you want is tricky.

San Miquel

Posted on Thursday, July 13, 2017 | Categories: