Saturday, 23 June 2007

Back on mainland Europe

We arrived at our first port in mainland Spain this afternoon – Santa Pola, a fishing port on the Costa Blanca, just along from Alicante. It’s also the first time that we’ve stayed in a marina so far. This is a very new one, opened in January this year, and the shiny bathrooms were much appreciated during our first freshwater shower in six weeks! We also had to do a mammoth hand wash as the laundrette shut at the same time as we arrived – 1400.
Before we set out from Mallorca, people had told us repeatedly that there are only two kinds of wind in the Mediterranean: too little or too much on the nose. Well, we’ve had nice wind on our first offshore passage setting out from Mallorca – right on the nose – followed by no wind at all. We therefore decided to make for the nearest anchorage, which happened to be on the northeast corner of Ibiza, and it turned out to be a super spot. Surrounded by high basalt cliffs in fantastic formations, white sand with friendly fish next to some rocks and a cave to go snorkelling in. And the best thing: we had the whole place to ourselves. Unlike Porto Colom where we re-anchored twice in one day because of charter boats anchoring too close to us.
From Clot des Llamp it was only a 30-mile hop to Espalmador, a private island just north of Formentera. This is a popular anchorage and was pretty packed, but well worth it. The island is undeveloped – no shops, discos or anything, only three or four houses, a long sandy beach and shrubs. Plus the crowning glory, pools of warm mud that are a tonic for the skin (and the rest of the body, too). You rub the dark grey sulphurous mud all over yourself, walk back to the beach among rosemary bushes and rinse yourself off in the sea. The effect was amazing. We liked it so much we went back first thing in the morning and were the only ones at the mud pools.
These two stops washed away some of our cares. On the sail around Mallorca, we had discovered that the two genoas off Paul’s 27-foot Catalina were slightly too tall and we were faced with trying to find a genoa at the last minute. Luckily, Jim realised it was possible to tinker with the attachment points for smaller genoa and it has been giving us great service since. We now have a nice racing genoa with 10.5 meters luff length for sale – any takers?
Our plan is to get to Gibraltar quickly and take it slow in Andalucia and on the Algarve. Now it’s time to catch up on some snooze after our 110-mile overnight passage. Dunno why, but it always seems that the wind conditions change right around the same time as the watch is supposed to change, thereby robbing one or the other of us of some precious off-watch time. Anyway, the night sailing is beautiful, with glowing phosphorescence streaming off the boat below us and the open starry sky above.
We have now tested nearly all of the gear aboard, including the radar set, which has been rather fun. Not just fun, though. Last night, as the wind was coming up again and we were re-setting sails, we suddenly found ourselves in the middle of a shipping lane. The radar was very useful to determine the position and relative courses of all the lights we could suddenly see around us. Today too, as we made the approach to Santa Pola, it proved useful for avoiding some foul ground off a little island we had to pass.
And now, photos.

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