ROWDY PENSIONERS ON A SAILING TRIP TO
PUERTO POLLENSA, MAJORCA MAY 2008
DETAILS OF THE PUNCH UP IN ALCUDIA HAVE NOT BEEN INCLUDED
The meeting at Heathrow’s terminal one was long awaited, it was a sorry sight, unfortunately John had severe gout and had to rely on a walking stick for the entire trip, Bob (the younger) had a broken finger, Bill had debilitating sciatica, Mike had tennis elbow and Bob the elder was very old but, it seemed, fitter than the rest. Mike set about his breakfast with gusto hoping that a pint of vinegar on his fried bread would cure his ailments.
Their destination was Puerto Pollensa on the North East coast of Majorca and the task was to navigate a Bavaria 46 around Menorca and catch a fish.
On the quay at Puerto Pollensa Claus and the lovely Cecelia made the crew very welcome and introduced them to Ventum (German for wind! I think).
Following a trip to the local supermerkat for provisions and a pleasant evening meal at a recommended restaurant, cabins were allocated according to some inverse formula that nobody complained about.
Sunday 19th May Puerto Pollensa - Cuidadella
Ventum was a magnificent example of the Bavaria stable, she was only a year old was extremely well fitted out complete with twin wheels, 5 cabins, 2 heads with showers, inflated dinghy with an air cooled 2hp Honda outboard, autohelm and a comprehensive instrumentation package. A slab reefing main would be no problem for this dynamic quintet.
Bob the (fit!) and ancient, much to his surprise, was elected skipper for the trip.
Following a reasonable amount of checks and chart checking, plan A for the first day was to get to Cuidadella on Menorca, this meant a 35 mile trip roughly on 080 degrees. The forecast was zero wind and a reasonable swell from the east, Plan B was to divert to Alcudia on the coast of Majorca but expectations were high for better weather so plan A it was.
Ventum moved easily through the swell powered by her 47hp diesel, Mike’s vinegar diet hadn’t prevented the onset of seasickness and he slept for hours on deck unable to go below, only to succumb to a nasty attack of sunburn.
Slowly but surely following triple GPS cross checking, Cuidadella light house crept nearer. Cuidadella harbour is a narrow, rocky, fairly long inlet, which meant close attention to the pilot book for hazards and ferry movements. Ventum was approached by the Espanic harbour master in his rib and informed the crew that there was no room at the inn. This news was not what any of the crew wanted to hear following 7 hours of motoring, a cosy marina obviously was not to be.
A quick check in the Pilot book revealed a possible option to anchor up in a nearby rocky cove, an attempt was made but the skipper decided that the walls were too adjacent and gingerly reversed Ventum out into deeper water. The only option now seemed to wait until the last ferry had departed and moor up on the ferry dock, the last ferry departed at 10.15pm!
Night fell and Ventum with her knackered crew and nav’ lights on cruised up and down, up and down (sometimes sailed) waiting for the last ferry to emerge. Diving in behind the ferry Ventum was just pipped at the post by another yacht obviously with the same idea. Despite tiredness the crew tied up and took a stroll around the lower parts of Cuidadella (the upper parts were unattainable in their present state).
No fish were caught on the first day.
Monday 19th May Cuidadella - Fornells
An early start was advisable as the first ferry was due in at 8.30am and also an early start meant that Pedro would not be around to collect his dues so 06.30 it was.
Plan A for the second day was to sail to Fornells on the North coast of Menorca, plan B was to motor there, again no wind so plan B it was. Breakfast on the run with George (autohelm) at the controls was enjoyed by all – except Mike who was only slowly recovering from the seasickness.
Ventum sliced easily through the swell. Almost unnoticed by the crew, storm clouds off the stern gathered ominously, finally urgent plans were hatched for plan C, D or E, which was to shelter from the imminent typhoon. The skipper telephoned Claus for a weather forecast from Majorca but Claus’s accent made it sound like ‘zere iz no problem, you vill be OK….’ but his voice was lost in the ventum.
An approach was made to what appeared to be a safe ‘cala’ to weather the storm but the skipper decided that it would be better to carry on to Fornells. The entrance to Fornells harbour eventually hove into view and was safely reached via the leading lines on 178 degrees by midday. The harbour master on Channel 9 easily understood the skipper’s Spanish and Ventum was allocated an orange buoy to tie up to just off the pontoon. All the crew felt that at last they were welcome and with gusto launched the dinghy, clamped on the 2hp outboard and ferried themselves ashore.
The weather looked even more ominous, so it was decided that Ventum would be better tied up on the pontoon rather than suffer a wet and windy dinghy ride out to the mooring. Luckily a space was available so Old Bob, Bill and Mike dinghied out to the mooring, heaved the dinghy on board, let go forward fired up the engine and with Mike at the helm headed the short distance to the bow-on, lazy line mooring. Mike expertly counteracted the wind as he delicately approached between two other craft. Too delicately, Ventum decided that she would tangle her keel with three lines from one of the adjacent yachts, no amount of bow thrusters, reverse thrust, opposite lock or reverting to the helmsman’s in depth knowledge of similar situations manoeuvring in amongst the gin palaces between Chertsey and Sunbury Locks could prevent Ventum from completing a bowline round her keel. The Harbour Master on shore decided that it was a job for the diver to undo the knot and disappeared, the rain was now falling in bucket fulls, the full complement was now on board frantically trying to erect the bimini in order to afford some shelter.
The harbour master re-appeared through the driving rain in his dinghy and had obviously decided that his 15hp outboard might just pull Ventum clear and save the crew diver expenses. He attached a line to Ventum’s stern and miraculously Ventum responded and floated clear, undid the knots around her keel and nestled in between adjacent yachts.
Reputations were saved.
No fish were caught that day although a fisherman fishing from the end of the quay caught a greedy seagull who tried to pinch the bait, he reeled the seagull in and luckily the hook had only pierced the beak and with the help of other friendly fisherman the seagull was launched into the air to live another day.
Ventum’s crew strolled around the small but pleasant town of Fornells, descending on a suitable restaurant for some well-earned sustenance and discuss the plans for the following day.
Tuesday 20th May Fornells - Mahon
The night aboard was one of wind, rain, rocking and rolling which didn’t bode well for a pleasant sail. However by breakfast time things had quietened down, at least within the harbour. Following a leisurely breakfast, another stroll around town to pick up a few loaves that would be needed to go with the fishes later on! and a punishing jog for young Bob around town, the crew reassembled and made ready for departure.
With a friendly wave from fellow yachties Ventum pulled away from the pontoon and headed for the narrow rockstrewn exit from Fornells. The waves thundering up against the rocks prompted the skipper to order full wets, life jackets and lifelines. Ventum began to bite into the heavy swell with at times wash breaking over the bow, slowly she cleared the rocks and with a good margin from the cliffs Bill the navigator called for a heading of 090 degrees, fortunately the wind was a healthy force 4/5 from the west which was exactly what was needed to propel boat and crew to Mahon, the planned destination.
After a short while the headsail was set, engine cut and Ventum settled into a creditable 6 knots with a following swell with barely half a genoa. At this point Old Bob decided it was porridge time and proceeded to prepare his porridge lurching from one side of the cabin to the other, a manoeuvre which clearly John had mastered many years ago as he was able to muster up many a delightful menu at the drop of a hat despite the gimballed stove on full lock.
Spirits gradually lifted as at last Ventum could demonstrate her fine qualities given a fair wind. With Mike on the helm good progress was made along the North Coast of Menorca, that is apart from a lurch to starboard when Mike tried to avoid a number of ‘grey pipes’ or maybe ‘submarines’ that suddenly appeared from nowhere, on closer inspection the submarines turned out to be a pod of friendly dolphins which didn’t seem to respond to John’s morse code tapped out on the side of the yacht, nevertheless their appearance were a further lift to morale.
Gradually as Ventum turned on a more southerly course to round the eastern tip of Menorca the wind dropped and a sense of satisfaction descended on the crew. The approach to Mahon harbour was full of interest, which meant close attention to charts, pilot book and cardinals as Mahon is a narrow, busy deep-water harbour, which is host to many of the largest cruise ships afloat. Sure enough a floating city gradually overhauled Ventum on the narrow approach, passengers peered from high above marvelling at how such a small boat could exist beside such a mighty vessel and not get swallowed in the wash, at this point the Pilot boat swept past Ventum performed a swift 180 and deposited the pilot on to a ladder, through a door on the waterline all at about 20 knots, a feat which surely would be the highlight in any circus.
Bill’s earlier homework had identified the Sunseeker Marina as the final destination at Mahon. Being the second largest natural harbour in the world, Mahon had many such marinas; even Nelson had tied up here complete with army’s, navy’s and sleevies back in the early 1800’s although he probably didn’t need to hook up to shore power or mess about with a lazy line.
As Ventum approached the marina Old Bob once again hailed the marina on Channel 9 in fluent Spanish but this was totally lost on Ash’ from Brum’ who was the harbourmaster. Only two attempts were needed at mooring as Old Bob on the helm needed a bit of practice. Mahon greeted the crew handsomely, a friendly welcome, many a restaurant beckoned, welcoming hot showers, a beautiful sunset and best of all it was cheap. The atmosphere unfortunately turned sour as an adjacent gin palace decided to pump out the toilets right under the noses of Ventum’s crew, representations were made to Ash’ who apologised and got it stopped, eventually.
Mike once again threw his lures into the murky waters and tried to catch dinner but the myriads of fish all around preferred to suck on the harbour wall.
No fish were caught that day.
The weather for the following few days looked fairly settled which would mean that the crew could take a day off as they now were one day ahead of schedule.
Wednesday 21st May Mahon – Binibeca - Mahon
The following morning plan A was to anchor up in a cosy Cala and spend the day sunbathing and fishing, Old Bob remembered just such a cove from his visit some 35 years ago, which was only about 6 miles around the coast.
John and Old Bob being early risers set about firing up the engine and slipping moorings at 06.15 while the others slept but the rest of the crew were soon to rally once realising that the day had started. Ventum cruised lazily towards the harbour mouth as the sun appeared over the horizon.
Hugging the coast, between the islands on a glassy sea Ventum slid easily towards Binibeca in the early morning light.
Binibeca turned out to be an even more cosier cove than Bob remembered, the same unspoilt beach, the same roof of dried palm leaves over the bar/café, the same rustic seats and tables gave the place a definite South Sea Island flavour, unfortunately droves of jellyfish put pay to any frolics in the water.
Ventum dropped anchor in No. 1 position as it was still only 7.30am and too early for any visiting German in his gin palace to grab the spot. John set about producing a full monty breakfast which was enjoyed by all on deck in the early morning sunshine. Following breakfast the crew once again threw the dinghy overboard and Old Bob made ready the dinghy for all those who wanted to go ashore. John elected to remain on board with his Bill Bryson while the rest poured themselves into the dinghy and headed for the beach and a pleasant café con leche at the beach bar.
Mike and Bill hiked off the beach to the nearest supermerkat for a few provisions while the two Bob’s finished their coffee. Old Bob suddenly spotted a couple of local Dego’s manhandling the dinghy off the beach and sprinted (ambled) across the beach closely followed by Young Bob in order to confront the thieves, however the two ‘lifeguards’ as they turned out to be, explained in broken English that dinghies are ‘prohibido’ on the beach and ‘you should go NOW’. The two Bob’s ferried back to Ventum to await the return of Mike and Bill from the supermerkat. The dinghy coped admirably with all the demands placed on it (see pictures).
A pleasant lazy day sunbathing and fishing drew to a close as Ventum headed back to Mahon for another night moored up in the same spot at the Sunseeker Marina. No fish were caught that day.
Thursday 22nd May - Mahon – Alcudia
Plan A for the following day was to get back to Majorca in order to return the boat on the Friday. The destination was to be Alcudia a largish port on the east coast, which would allow a short trip around the headland for the final day, should the weather turn sour. Mahon to Alcudia is a 60 mile trip on a heading of 273 degrees, a somewhat daunting exercise if it means motoring all the way.
The weather forecast was a light southwesterly meaning that it would in fact be motoring all the way.
Lines were slipped in Mahon at 05.45 and Ventum pulled away from the quay still with a full tank of fuel indicated. With Bill on the helm and nav’ lights on Mahon harbour slipped by as if to say Buenos Dias in the early morning light.
Some 6 hours later young Bob appeared from the chart table and alerted the crew to the fact that was a 12 knot wind across the beam, and suggested hoisting full sail. For the next two hours Ventum once again in her element showed what she could do but about 13.00 the wind died as suddenly as it had arrived and once more sails were dropped and furled and the starter button was pressed.
Alcudia was finally reached by 17.15, the now confident crew tied up and congratulated themselves on achieving their goals and broke open a few beers, bottles of wine, vodka’s and bacardi’s in order to celebrate.
Alcudia was a busy, expensive port, full of merchants selling their wares to all the yachties but nevertheless pleasant enough mainly due to a South American Pipe band serenading people on the quayside with haunting melodies from the Andes in the fading evening glow.
No fish were caught that day.
Friday 23rd May Alcudia – Puerto Pollensa
The final day was to be an all out effort to catch a fish; Mike went off to purchase new lures and weights in order to plumb the depths. Old Bob who also had tried many times to tempt a fish with his plastic sand eel was also keen to claim the prize, which was the lion’s share of a Portuguese fish soup rashly promised by John made of course with the day’s catch.
At the conclusion of the competition some hours later Mike had lost most of his gear snagged on the bottom, Bob had lost his sand eel and enthusiasm disappeared. Rounding the headland into Pollensa Bay Ventum sensed the wind pick up to a force 4/5 for a period which provided her crew with another form of competition i.e. who could get the most out of Ventum on the fastest point of sail. Ventum hoisted her skirts and flew. One by one each crew member took the wheel and demonstrated their sailsmanship.
Fortunately all competitors clocked a creditable 8.2 knots and shared the prize of the fish soup – which is eagerly awaited!
On the quayside back at Puerto Pollensa, Claus and the ravishing Cecelia (well they had been away at sea for a very long time!) breathed a sigh of relief as they welcomed Ventum’ back without any damage, dents or scratches, that is apart from 2 glasses that had been smashed accidentally.
Saturday 24th May Puerto Pollensa
Bags packed by 09.00 the crew assembled on the quay for a final farewell to Ventum, Claus and Cecelia. Claus stood the crew a glass of Schnapps on the quay bar, Cecelia resplendent with her new lipstick handed back Mike’s deposit, hand shakes all round, a final photograph of Ventum and the satisfied crew headed off for an all day breakfast, an update on the week’s news and a stroll around Pollensa old town in between the showers.
Bob the Elder, Bob the Younger, John, Bill, Mike.
On the quay at Puerto Pollensa.