Eastwards into the Mediterranean

9th March to 26th March 2004 - Portimao

We returned via Faro on 9th March to find the boat looking fine and it was nice to catch up with marina news from the live-aboards who had thoroughly enjoyed their winter in Portimao Marina, including Christmas festivities and a spectacular New Year party, mainly paid for by the Marina.

Over the next couple of weeks we had lovely sunshine and put back on the sails, the hood etc and hauled the boat out for a few days to clean off the bottom.

Boats were gradually setting off for their various destinations, some back north, others to the Canaries and the Azores, and others, like us, towards the Med.

Friday 26th to Sunday 28th March - Alentejo District by car

We hired a car with Ken and Shirley of 'Midnight Drifter' and drove up to the medieval city of Evora. On the way we called in at the little walled town of Monsaraz, which perches high on a hill on the Spanish border, overlooking the River Guadiana and the huge new reservoir in the flooded valley. It has wonderful views, narrow cobbled streets and whitewashed cottages and the remains of a castle, which has seen a lot of fighting in the past. The central part of the castle is now used as a bull ring. Evora used to be occupied by the Portuguese kings before they moved to Lisbon. On approach Evora doesn't look special but inside the walls it has lots of attractive buildings, and interesting sights. The best is a rather macabre chapel built in 1600 by three Franciscan monks who apparently collected the bones from thousands of bodies from the overflowing cemeteries around and used them to decorate the chapel. The leg and arm bones form the walls, laid floor to ceiling so just the ends of the bones are seen. A pattern of skulls is interwoven, and skulls are also used to line the vaulted arches overhead. An inscription, in Portuguese, over the entrance says 'our bones await your bones'.

On Sunday we toured the local megalithic sites. At Guadaloupe there is a large oval of about 90 standing stones, some of which have just discernible carvings. The second at Valverde is a huge edifice made of enormous stones arranged to form a burial chamber.

29th March to Sat 3rd April - still in Portimao

The weather has turned cold and occasionally damp all week. We carried on doing jobs around the boat and on Saturday night we all went to a farewell barbecue organised by the live-aboards, most of whom are now moving on.

Sunday 4th April - Portimao to Albufeira

We set off under fairly blue skies in a south easterly direction - against the wind of course - in company with 'Thursday's Child' and 'Fyne Tyme'. It felt great to be out on the water and on the move again. Because we hadn't got far to go we tacked for about three hours over a pretty lumpy sea, and then motor sailed into a virtually deserted Albufeira marina. This is a smart brand new marina, which has been dug out behind the old, tiny fishing harbour, with a narrow entrance between training walls. One side of the marina is lined with about 40 terraced villas, in a brightly coloured sort of cubist architecture with strangely shaped arched, triangular or flat roofs. On the opposite side are several five or six storey apartment blocks which look as though they have been designed by a Leggo addict on LSD. Underneath is a row of potential shops - only one of which was occupied so far as a café. We discussed how strange it was that people are mad enough to build such weird and wonderful edifices and expect them to sell - especially as all around the area, dozens of other apartments are going up at speed. Then we decided to go to the sales office and ask to see one, only to find they had all been sold! Wrong again and another investment opportunity missed!

Monday 5th April - Albufeira

We waved goodbye to the other two boats as they went on to Faro lagoon whilst we stayed for a second day and went for a walk along the coast to the west. Here the high sandstone cliffs have worn into a tangle of inlets and arches and other exotic formations surrounding occasional little beaches of fine gold sand. It is difficult to follow the cliff path because the coastline is so indented, but much of it is like walking through a giant rock garden with a profusion of wild flowers, lupins, cistus, broom, white daisies and huge spikes of aloe vera.

Tuesday 6th April - Albufeira to Olhao

A light wind meant motoring again but in pleasant conditions under a blue sky and with only a slight swell. The lagoon at Olhao lies between the low lying island of Culatra and the mainland and forms a large safe anchorage. It is wise to anchor away from the village to avoid wash from the local fishermen and tripper boats and young men in 'look at me' motor boats who drive at high speed through the anchored boats.

Wednesday 7th to - Saturday 10th April - Olhao/Culatra

On Wednesday we moved up to the 'new' marina at Olhao. You have to wind your way up a fairly narrow buoyed channel and, just past the last green buoy, you need to carry on right up to the ferry berth before turning left along the wave breaks of the small boat harbours. Unfortunately we turned too soon and amused a number of people by going aground - it is obviously a popular spectator sport here. In the marina the pontoons are all installed, as is the water and electricity but these were not yet connected and there were no showers or security gates. The big plus was that no charge was being made and a lot of boats seem to have wintered here for free. The town has a good supermarket as well as vegetable and fish markets and is very lively especially as we were here for Easter and the local cockle festival was on.

We cycled out with two other crews to the local nature park, which was interesting - with some good views of birds from the hides. The park advertises itself as caring for some of the few remaining big black web footed aquatic poodles, which used to be used locally to chase fish into the nets. There were about four of these large woolly dogs kept in cages about 12 feet square. Their footprints didn't look webbed to us and there was no sign of any water for them to swim in.

Sunday 11th April - Olhao to Ayamonte (River Guadiana)

We left, in a convoy of 6 boats, with a NE on the nose forecast. We sailed, close hauled out to sea for an hour then tacked and were doing quite well against the other boats but at about mid-day the wind dropped and so Mike put the engine on and we motor sailed for an hour. At 2 pm we got a good SWly sea breeze, which put us nearly on a run and we more than matched the speed of the Sadler, Dehler and Bavaria 34 (until he put up a cruising chute) with which we were cruising. We arrived in Ayamonte, three miles up the river Guadiana at 6.30 pm. Four of us moored up to the hammerhead on the visitor's pontoon and broke out the wine. Unfortunately an officious guard came over and told us we should have checked in before the office closed at 6 pm and we couldn't stay so we all moved round the corner to an anchorage just below the suspension bridge which joins Portugal to Spain. We took the dinghy ashore next day to shop and liked what we saw of Ayamonte, which is a bustling holiday town. I had been hoping to use a laundrette but as there was none available and since we were short of water I had to confine myself to emergency washing only - 6 pairs of knickers and three tea towels.

Monday 12th to Saturday 17th April - Rio Guadiana

Next day we set off up river, again in convoy, and ghosted peacefully upstream at 4 knots in front of a southerly wind on the genoa alone. The river really is beautiful, winding between gentle green hills and past very occasional small hamlets some of which have a single pontoon to moor to. We saw only one development area where 24 cranes are building some monstrous holiday village. The banks are lined with reeds and bamboo. We anchored with 'Midnight Drifter', underneath a hill where the nightingales sang all night. In the morning the mist was curling up off the water into another perfect blue sky. We set off again, on engine this time, after removing a 15 feet long, 1 foot diameter, tree trunk and its associated raft of bamboo canes from round the anchor chain. It was very cold for the first couple of hours but at 10.30 we arrived at the point where the ancient castles of Alcoutim (Portuguese) and Sanlucar (Spanish) face each other across the water. The two villages, sparkling white in the sunshine, wind up the hillsides on either side of the river. One side of the river is in Spanish time and the other an hour behind in Portuguese which makes it quite confusing listening to the church clocks chime. We anchored just south of the villages and spent the next 3 days walking along the riverbanks.

The biggest of the castles is on the Spanish side atop a steep hillside covered with cistus plants, which have large white flowers with a yellow centre and a brown spot on each petal. There are also wild sweet pea, lavender, and lots of potentilla and many wild herbs. It is nice to be back in Spain. We never achieved more than about 20 words in Portuguese, and most of those were probably pronounced incorrectly. Here we managed to ask the way to the castle and order lunch with comparative fluency, were understood and, what is more, understood the replies.

In this area, every high chimney or church tower bears a large stork's nest, and there is a giant one on the church here. A colony of swallows are squatting there, having built their houses on the underside of the nest. On our walks we also saw a thin black snake, a giant cicada, swallowtail butterflies and a couple of hoopoe birds which are rather splendid with black stripy wings and a crest on their heads. I scrumped a few huge oranges, which appeared to be going to waste.

On Friday, the rest of our 'party' decided to go a few miles further up river but we stayed behind and took the evening tide back down river to anchor again off Ayamonte. On Saturday morning we managed to raise the marina on VHF to confirm there was a berth we could use. We entered at low water and once again went aground, despite the fact that the pilot book says there is four metres of water at the entrance. This time the wind was pushing us on rather than off and we remained firmly stuck until a friendly Spanish fisherman dragged us off at great pace with a rather worn and fragile warp! When entering keep well in to the town side.

Saturday 17th April to Monday 19th April - Ayamonte and on to Mazagon

Sunday was forecast to rain and was pretty chilly so we stayed an extra night in Ayamonte. On Monday we watched two boats go aground while trying to get out of the marina - again at low tide, so waited until they were safely out before setting off ourselves. We had light winds to begin with and had to motor, but for the last three hours we managed to sail at just under 6 knots with the genoa alone. This was very pleasant until we approached Mazagon when the swell began to build up and we were tossed around a bit. One wave rolled us so much that the contents of all the cupboards were thrown onto the floor. Mazagon harbour is quite pleasant, with no obtrusive flats and some nice greenery around. It seems to be better prepared for visiting yachts and - ah wonderful - a washing machine at last!

Tuesday 20th and Wednesday 21st April - Mazagon

Near to Mazagon on the road to Huelva is the Columbus trail, so on Tuesday we set off on our bikes with 'Thursday's Child' to investigate. Having ridden through a vast area of oil refineries and gas storage etc. we found La Rabida. Here there is the very attractive 14th century 'Monasterio de Santa Maria de La Rabida' where the abbot lived who interceded with Queen Isabella of Spain and convinced her that Columbus' expedition should be funded. I am sure everyone knows that he was looking for a new route to India when he accidentally bumped into America, with dire consequences for all the original inhabitants. After a spell as Governor of Hispaniola he was thrown into jail for killing off too many of them. In the 'Muelle de las Carabelas' there are life size replicas of the three ships he took, the 'Pinta', 'Nina' and 'Santa Maria'. These 'ships' seem incredibly small for what they did being only some 20 to 25 metres long yet housing crews of between 30 and 40, some of whom didn't make it having been shot for mutineering when the journey took longer than expected. These replicas did in fact sail to Boston to commemorate the anniversary a few years back. There is also a geography book with annotations by Columbus in the margin. (Columbus wasn't very good at geography, or perhaps maths, having under-estimated the diameter of the earth and hence the distance to the Indies by a factor of 4ish).

Thursday 22nd and Friday 23rd April - Mazagon to Chipiona and at Chipiona

We left Mazagon at about 0930 in light winds and motored until mid-day when the wind went round to the west with enough strength to set all sail. We got into Chipiona at 1530 having logged 30 miles. Again it seems that the entrance has silted up since we reckoned there to be only 0.5 metres soundings but with the tide we were OK. Mike says we will have to watch the timing of our exit to prevent yet another grounding!

Chipiona is a pleasant town with a long, pedestrianised shopping street. In the evening we all ('Thursdays Child', 'Jubilant 2', 'Torontes' - a Moody 376 also from Portimao - and ourselves) had a pot-luck supper on board 'Fyne Tyme'. This is a party where each boat prepares a dinner for two and it is put on the communal table for anyone to sample. Of course everyone cooks enough for four so you end up very full - and as the wine is also over-provided, the evening is very merry. It was a lovely evening being one of the warmest we have had. We now want to push on and are planning to go to Cadiz bay tomorrow if the weather is fit. There have been gales in the Gibralter Straits for the last few days due to a Levanter. Our forecast is F4 to 5 but E or SE, which won't help.

Saturday 24th - into Cadiz Bay, Puerto Sherry

We left Chipiona, early as planned, with little wind despite a forecast F4 to 5. We were motor sailing when within a 5 minute period around mid-day the wind increased from something near zero to F6, on the nose of course. The wind kicked up a vicious sea into which we ploughed our way for the next 4 hours averaging only 3 knots with the boat pounding into waves which all but stopped us on occasions so that we lost steerage way. Things were not helped by a problem we now seem to have with the stern gland. This is now leaking if we use too much power on the engine - it is OK at cruising revs but not if you want lots of urge against a head sea. It was purgatory and enough to raise seriously the idea of selling the boat and buying a motor home. We eventually managed to enter Puerto Sherry and get a berth for the night.

Sunday 25th April to Thursday 6 May - Cadiz Bay

Puerto Sherry is a huge, modern well maintained marina, with cafes and a large hard-standing but the surrounding commercial area seems to have hit funding problems. Some of the water-side apartment blocks are complete and occupied. Others, next door, have never been finished and are declining into dereliction. There are no on-site shopping facilities. I insisted we move to Puerto Santa Maria which is a private, laid back 'family' type marina on the Rio Guadelete run by the local Real Club Nautico. The area is better for shops and transport (but see later) and we took the local ferry boat from here to Cadiz and spent a very pleasant few hours walking around the old part of that city and climbing several of the profusion of towers that it boasts, including a camera obscura which was fun.

On Monday we caught the train to Jerez and looked round the Gonzalez Byaz Bodega, which makes Tio Pepe sherry among other things. The whole atmosphere of Jerez is permeated with the smell of sherry and there are something like 120 sherry producers in the area. We also explored the Alcazar, which has some nice Moorish architecture, though none of the delicate painting and tile work we had seen on a holiday in Granada. We also 'did' the cathedral, which is very grand but somewhat chunky.

When we returned to the boat we found the fleet had caught up with us. 'Thursday's Child' and 'Fyne Tyme' were tied up in the marina. The Levanter wind has continued to blow and was gusting F6 again today. Since Mike won't leave until the headwind goes away, we may be stuck for a few more days.

Thursday 29th April

We have all decided to move back to Puerto Sherry to get a good night's sleep. Pleasant though Santa Maria is, the local fishing boats go up and down past the pontoon from about 3 o'clock in the morning until dawn creating a huge amount of wash and making sleep impossible. Back in Puerto Sherry we have found there is a good supermarket about a mile up the hill but also that there is a nice, not too long, walk or cycle ride along a promenade to the shops in Santa Maria.

The poor weather continues. Mike has realigned the engine and done some adjustments to our stern gland and we will trial it as soon as the weather is fit. If it has not worked we will have to haul the boat out and fit a new one.

Sunday 2nd May

The weather has continued to be very unsettled but as Sunday is the last day and supposed high point of the fiesta in Seville and because yesterday had turned out reasonably sunny in the end, we ignored the fact that it was raining this morning and set of with Rod and Julia of 'Fyne Tyme' by local train. Needless to say it drizzled all day - but at least it was warm drizzle. Our map disintegrated but we managed to find the very attractive old town centre and the cathedral, which is magnificent, and then the fiesta area. Here we found several hundred tents decorated in green and red stripes on the outside, lined with lace or other decoration on the inside and filled with tables and chairs at which the Spanish girls sit in their bright frilly 'flamenco' dresses with matching flowers in their hair. Overhead there are lines of lanterns in red and white, which all light up at night There are many old coaches drawn by matching sets of Andalucian high stepping horses with pom-pom head-dresses, taking visitors around. Unfortunately, because of the weather, there were very few people around, most of the girls were trying to keep their pretty dresses out of the mud, the lanterns were gradually falling apart and dropping like autumn leaves. What coaches and horses there were, were shrouded in plastic and the horses looked exceedingly sorry for themselves. When I asked the man in the information bureau what time anything would happen, he shrugged, looked at the rain - and said "Nothing until the fireworks at midnight - the feria is cancelled!" So, we went home. The day was actually more fun than it sounds.

A gale had been forecast for Sunday and it arrived in the evening after we got back. The wind howled all night and the rain came down in bucketfuls.

On Monday we went out and tested the stern gland and, fingers firmly crossed, Mike seems to have fixed it. The forecast for the coming week shows no improvement until Thursday at the earliest, so we are passing the time as best we can but we are getting badly behind schedule.

Friday 7 May - Puerto Sherry to Barbate

We left Puerto Sherry at 0845 under a clear blue sky but again there was quite a lumpy sea running in the shallow bay of Cadiz. This has not been our favourite sailing area. About 10am the wind got up from the west at about F4 and we were able to sail We spent some time on the approach to Barbate looking for one of the tunny nets which are laid annually by the fishermen hereabouts and which the pilot books warn can be a considerable hazard to yachts. This was our first encounter and none of us knew what we were looking for. Once we had found it, it was pretty obvious with lots of boats anchored as markers and bright orange floats between the boats supporting the nets. Now we know what we are looking for it should be easy to find them in future. Once past the net, the entrance to Barbate was easy and there were very friendly staff to help us moor up. From now on all the mooring will have to be stern to or bows to a pontoon with a haul off line. This is difficult in any sort of cross wind so we are always grateful for assistance. We were greeted by 'Wild Oats', another ex-Portimao boat, who has apparently been stuck here for some 10 days by a combination of the bad weather and boat problems. We had sundowners aboard 'Fyne Tyme' and agreed to carry straight on tomorrow for Gibraltar since the weather seems set fair for the next day or two.

Saturday 8 May - Barbate to Gibraltar

We left Barbate under a clear blue sky and from mid-day we had our best sail yet with the wind a little too far aft for comfort, but sailing on a calm sea with little rolling. There is an almost continuous East going current here on the approach to and in the Straits of Gibraltar, with water flowing into the Mediterranean to replace that lost due to evaporation. This flow is strong enough to counter the normal tidal effects but the net effect varies depending on the timing and how far from the shore you sail. We were able to check the help we were getting by comparing the log speed with the speed over the ground as measured by our gps navigation system. Most of the time we had nearly 2 knots of tide with us. The scenery was good with the misty mountains of Africa very close on our right. We passed Tarifa, the most southerly point of Europe, and then at 1325hrs we got our first glimpse of 'The Rock' appearing from behind Punta Carnero. Exciting times. We really felt a thrill at being so close to entering the Med. at last. The Rock is certainly an amazing sight.

The sail into Gibraltar Bay was exciting, since the wind was gusting 4 to 5 and we were now on a reach and sailing at well over 7 knots much of the time. There is so much big shipping anchored in the bay it is difficult to see where you should be heading for on the shore. It took us some time to work out where the Port Authority pontoon was and you have to have good eyesight to read their tiny sign. Yachts must check in with customs and immigration here before going to a marina. We cleared and then berthed in Queensway marina. 'Fyne Tyme' and 'Thursdays Child' have gone to Marina Bay, which means we will see less of them and Mike's liver can have a rest. Incidentally, until recently we were not aware that Spain still has a couple of enclaves in Morocco it refuses to give up, which makes their claim to Gibraltar even less convincing.

Sunday 9th to Tuesday 11 May - Gibraltar

Queensway is known to be a bit rolly but we found that this was mainly due to the wash from large ships out in the bay and that if you keep your lines really tight the motion is not too bad. Also there seems to be little traffic at night so we slept well. Getting on and off the boat is a problem. We use the anchor as a step but it is a long way down to the quay from the bow (and even longer going up) and we have now bought a small set of aluminium steps to park on the quay to assist.

On Monday we walked along Main Street, Gibraltar, which reminded us of London's Tottenham Court Road. Dozens of shops, mainly run by Asians, offer duty free cameras, audio equipment and jewellery. We are interested in buying a better digital camera so Mike bought a magazine to compare prices and found that the prices on offer were usually considerably higher than the UK prices in the magazine.

We also found a Safeways, looking exactly like the one in Malvern. It even had compost on sale on the way in, and all the usual foods - flabby chicken, anaemic looking tomatoes and lots of baked beans. Prices were at least 10 per cent higher than in Spain, except for alcohol, cigarettes and petrol. The latter was 45p a litre! Mike was in his usual bad temper by the time we got out to the checkout, so it was quite a nostalgic trip.

On Tuesday we took the cable car up to the top of the Rock. Unfortunately the view over the Straights to the Atlas Mountains of Morocco was obscured by rain but was still spectacular. We said hallo to the Apes and explored the huge St Michaels Cave, which has wonderful stalagmites and stalactites in fantastic shapes. We also explored the long tunnels carved through the rock in the 1790's by the British in order that canons could be trained down on the French and Spanish armies laying siege below. The Rock has been besieged 14 times during its long history.

By late afternoon it was raining and really cold, so we retired to the boat to sulk. Apparently it has been the wettest, coldest spring in Andalucia in living memory.

Wednesday 12 May - Gibraltar to Estepona

We were not sorry to leave Gibraltar, which we thought was rather dowdy and expensive. Our sail to Estepona was excellent with a Force 3 from the west which pushed us along at 5 knots most of the way over a flat calm sea. Even so, it was cold, and Mike at the wheel, on his first day in the Med in May, was wearing his fleece lined Musto jacket.

Thursday 13th to Friday 21st May - Estepona

We are now really well and truly behind schedule and doubt we will make the Balearics by end June let alone have cruised them as was the plan. We have strong easterlies forecast for as far ahead as the forecast goes - some 5 days - and there seems little point in bashing our heads against a brick wall when it is sheltered, comfortable and reasonably cheap here. Friends we met in Gib recommended a trip to Ronda and so we decided to get off the boat for a night or two, hire a car and explore inland. This part of Andalucia is renowned for its 'Pueblos Blancos'. These towns and villages of whitewashed houses make splashes of brilliant white on the bright green mountainsides. They cling to tall, isolated lumps of rock with a Moorish castle at the highest point or tumble down the hillside from the narrow winding mountain roads. We started with Casares then went to Gaucin and Jimena de la Frontera before heading off to Ronda for the night. Ronda is built on a ridge, overlooking a plain and surrounded by mountains, which are split by a gaping river gorge, El Tajo. The gorge is spanned by a beautiful 18th century bridge, the Puente Nuevo. We walked down along a track almost to the foot of the gorge, up the hill again and down to the Banos Arabes, reputedly the best Spanish example of the Roman based system of cold, tepid and hot baths dating from the 13th century, and then visited the Casa del Rey Moro. The latter has a stairway, the Mina, of 365 steps cut down through the rock on which the house is built, by Christian slaves working for the Moors in the 14th Century. The steps lead down to the river and provided a source of fresh water in times of siege. After lunch we drove to the Cueva de la Pileta. This is a series of linked caverns with massive stalactites and stalagmites and with prehistoric cave paintings of animals, fish and supposedly mystic symbols said to date back to 25,000 BC. Entry is only allowed with a guide and no permanent lighting is installed so several of our party were given paraffin lanterns to carry. During the day we must have gone up or down well over 2000 steps and our knees certainly felt it. On Sunday we took a walk on the hills at Grazalema National Park and visited Olvera and Setenil, two more of the white towns. Setenil has houses built into the cliffs, so that the rock actually forms the roofs of the houses. We went to El Torcal, said to be the most geologically impressive of Spain's National Parks, and walked one of the trails through the Torcal Alto, a massive high plateau of glaciated limestone boulders worn into fantastic shapes by wind and weather. Finally, and perhaps most impressively, we drove along the twisting mountain roads to El Chorro and the Desfiladero de los Galtanes. Here there is a very narrow, very tall, five kilometre long cleft in a limestone mountain across which a bridge has been slung, joined to a dilapidated concrete walkway which threads its way along the gorge. The area is very popular with walkers and the scenery is stunning.

Friday 21st May - Estepona to Benalmadena

Today we managed to move on and motored all the way to Benalmadena, some 35 miles, in coldish weather with occasional rain. The sierras form a dramatic backdrop to the lines of hotels and apartment blocks all along the coast. Benelmadena runs without pause into Torremolinos. It has a nice marina, very cheap at only 8 euros but the town is kiss-me-quick and horrid and the beach has dirty looking shingle.

Sat 22nd May - Benalmadena to Marina del Este

Next day we arrived in Marina del Este after a further 40 miles of motoring over a calm sea. This time the sun shone and we saw lots of dolphins though none came to play. Mike managed to sail with his shirt off which always cheers him up. In contrast we could see that snow was still lying on tops of the Sierra Nevada. The marina at del Este is very smart, purpose built, and backed by a concrete cliff of apartments. A sea wall has been built to surround it incorporating a very large off-lying rock. If you sit in the cockpit with your back to the apartments, it is actually very attractive and green, but expensive at 31 euros a night.

Sunday 23rd to 28th May - Marina del Este to Almerimar and around Almerimar

The journey to Almerimar was a further 45 miles of motoring under a lightly cloudy sky, again with no wind. As you move along this coast the mountains get more and more arid and there is less tourist development, but the flat land at the foot of the mountains begins to be covered by huge areas of plastic. Plasticulture, as they call it, has taken over and hundreds of square miles have disappeared under plastic to grow enormous quantities of vegetables and fruit with water piped from artesian wells.

On Tuesday we took the local buses to Almeria. The Rough Guide says it has a huge Moorish castle, which should not be missed. Perhaps because it was a sticky hot day, travelling on an uncomfortable bus through plastic covered countryside, which must be in the running for the ugliest place in the world, we decided we would have been happy to miss it. It is a large castle, with nice gardens inside, but seems to have been very largely reconstructed and the town itself has nothing else to recommend it.

Ever since I inherited my brother's bungalow, we (Mike in particular) have been toying with the idea of trading in Sundancer for a bigger boat, and the kind we had decided we liked is a Moody 376. I have been saying that if fate intends us to buy one then it will fall in our way at some point. In Almerimar I got into conversation with the lady on the next boat - a 376 - to discover her husband had died in an accident a few weeks before and she was planning to sell the boat! I spent a couple of days feeling as though I was personally responsible for this bit of fate. We stayed on an extra day to look round it in great detail but in the end neither of us could contemplate the wrench of parting with Sundancer just to get a bigger fridge and more space for visitors. Well - there goes Mike's dream - he'll have to find another one now! Having saved £68,000, we spent 189 euros on a foot wide metal plank, a passarelle, which connects the boat to the quay when mooring bows to. Since it wobbles a bit as you get to the top, I decided I actually still preferred climbing onto the anchor to get on the boat as we have been doing up to now.

28th May to 1st June - Almerimar to Cartagena

Three more days of motoring! However the skies were mostly blue and Mike was able to work on his tan on the way. We had imagined that the concrete coast continued all the way along here, but in fact there are large stretches, which are undeveloped and the coastline is quite dramatic in parts, with mountains stretching almost down to the sea. Mike saw a marlin leap out of the water and a flying fish and we saw several more dolphins. We anchored on the first evening in the Cala de Genoves, which is totally undeveloped and very quiet. The next night we moved on towards Aguilas and dropped the anchor behind a headland in an isolated spot, called the Cama de Novios (bed of the newly weds). Next day we moved on to Cartagena, which is an industrial port with a marina at the north end, quiet and handy for the town. Incredibly summer has at last arrived, it is very hot, sight seeing is off, and siestas are now essential between 1 and 5pm.

Wednesday 2nd June, Cartagena to St Pedro del Pinatar, and Thursday 3rd June to Alicante

We actually sailed close hauled for a couple of hours on Wednesday, past the inland sea called Mar Menor, which is surrounded by high rise apartments and hotels, but it was back to motoring after that. (We should have spent time in the Mar Menor but were determined to press on). We stayed one night in San Pedro del Pinatar then moved on to Alicante which has a very large marina and has finger pontoons instead of the usual haul-off buoys. It is nice to be able to climb over the side of the boat again instead of up and over the bow.

We are beginning to think about places we might leave 'Sundancer' for July and August when we find it too hot to stay aboard. There is no space here in Alicante and locals advised that we would not find anywhere in the water around here. We decided to hire a car for two days to try and find somewhere. The first place we tried is just west of Alicante, called Puerto de Espato, and is described in the pilot books as more of a service station than a port. We asked if it would be possible to leave the boat here on land and were told 'no problema'. However it was very scruffy and we were worried about security so we then drove up the motorway (narrow lanes and incredibly fast drivers) to Denia. Once again we drove through some beautiful mountain scenery, despite passing Benidorm where a mass of skyscrapers reach for the sky. Denia is a very good jumping off point for the Balearics being only 60 miles from Formentera. We arrived to find the Club Nautico has a large hard standing with lots of room and we were told we could have a space.

We had booked into Alicante marina for three nights, but decided to stay an extra night, which was very fortunate as Mike discovered a huge puddle of oil under the engine. He spent all morning mopping out, and eventually traced the leak to a small split in a metal pipe, which he managed to solder up as a temporary repair. It could have been really disastrous if we had set off without him noticing. Somebody recently gave me a definition of Cruising as 'mending things in exotic places'. It sounds about right!

Although Alicante is very touristy, we rather liked it. It has a nice, wide promenade where the local elderly sit on folding wooden chairs under the palm trees and gossip all day. A handsome castle looms over the marina and there are nice old buildings and lots of shady squares and a Spanish air despite all the Brits.

7th to 10th June - Vilajoyosa

We had a difficult journey from Alicante to Vilajoyosa with contrary winds and large swell. The 15 miles took us over 5 hours.

11th June to 13th June - Altea

Another short hop took us past the skyscrapers of Benidorm to the small town of Altea. This has somehow escaped Benidormisation - perhaps because it has a shingle beach. It has a nice marina, complete with outdoor swimming pool, which we enjoyed using. There is a pleasant promenade with palm trees, and low and behold, no unfinished buildings and NO CRANES in sight along the front and the town is backed by some dramatic mountains. The pretty, old centre is on a small round hill, topped with an attractive church with blue tiled domes sitting in a pleasant square where we saw the inevitable wedding. The little houses on cobbled streets are sparkling white with lots of elegant ironwork balconies and bright flower baskets.

14th June - Altea to Moreira

We now have 12 days left in which to do about 40 miles so we are taking it very easy. We anchored off Moreira - a rather more upmarket tourist town with some very splendid villas on the cliffs above us, and a nice beach. The first night we had a thunderstorm with buckets of rain, which stopped about 8 pm. We then had a comfortable night. We had a further two very restful and enjoyable days and nights at anchor, reading, swimming and sunbathing. It is much too hot to go exploring but we took the dinghy in towards the beach and anchored off some rocks to snorkel. There are quite a lot of fish but not many colourful ones. On the third night, about 6 o'clock, a swell began to come into the bay, and we should have escaped into the nearby marina, but didn't. It got worse and worse and we bucked and rolled all night long, getting virtually no sleep. Next morning we took refuge in the marina and moored alongside the long visitor's pontoon. We prepared to have a good night's rest, only to find it was the start of the fiesta weekend (Thursday to Sunday) - Moors versus Christians. The disco started at the normal time of 2.00 am (when all good Christians should be well abed) and finished at 5.00 am. However, with all hatches firmly shut and the aid of earplugs, in my case, and several vodka and tonics in Mike's, we managed to sleep through the battle on the beach, the firework display and the disco.

On Sunday evening there was a parade. Plastic chairs for onlookers had been set out, lining the half mile route. There was a series of tableaux backed by enthusiastic marching bands of dubious musical ability. The costumes were very elaborate and colourful, and the 'paraders' were of all ages. There were many middle aged men thoroughly enjoying themselves waving their swords and scimitars (and occasionally mobile phones) and children as young as 18 months taking part. We returned to the boat and got a good view of the firework finale about 11 pm.

22nd June to 24th June - Morarira to Denia

We set off towards Denia over a fairly smooth sea with little wind and anchored just north west of Cabo de St Martin in a bay called Calla Sardinera, at the deserted western end of the Ensenada de Javea. We had a peaceful night after the wind dropped at midnight, but woke at 7 am to find the boat snatching at its anchor in a north-easterly chop and wind coming straight into the bay so we left in a hurry. Again we had swell and wind on the nose, and made slow progress, but eventually arrived about 11.30. There was plenty of room in the new Marina de Denia, next to the Club Nautico, where we had arranged to leave Sundancer.

24th June to 30th June - Denia

We spent the last few days taking off sails, etc and languishing in the sticky heat. Sundancer was due to be hauled out on the Tuesday 29th at 17.00 hours. We then planned to leave on the Wednesday for a night in Alicante before an early flight home on the Thursday. On Tuesday morning Mike walked over to the Club Nautico to confirm arrangements, only to be told that the travel lift was broken and they would not be able to lift us out until the next day - if it was repaired by then. Mike lost his cool, cancelled the lift out and booked us to stay in the water in the Marina de Denia (no problem over space - just the second mortgage to pay for it). We then watched the travel lift next door in Club Nautico hauling boats out all day. Would fifty euros in the driver's back pocket have helped I wonder?

To sum up, the scenery, on the coast and in land, has very often been spectacular and there have been lots of interesting and beautiful places to visit. However, the wind has been determinedly on the nose most of the time and we have had a lot of the short, steep seas and swell which knock the motoring speed down below 2 knots. The weather took a long while to settle, with people telling us this was the worst spring in Andalucia for very many years. It then went from cool and wet to sticky hot very quickly.

The marinas get a lot more expensive as you move east and into June and there are not many pleasant and secure anchorages along this coast. On the whole we shall be glad to be moving on when we return at the end of August.

Tuesday 24th to Monday 30th August - Denia

On returning to Denia after a couple of months back in UK we found the boat was covered in red sand, the forward heads wasn't functioning too well but otherwise everything was OK. Because of our previous experience with the Club Nautico's travel lift booking we decided to forgo hauling out and cleaning off despite there being a nice crop of barnacles just below the waterline.

We really haven't taken to Denia as a town. It sprawls for miles with a rather tatty promenade and a shopping centre choked with traffic. The beach near the marina looks a bit dirty and the beach on the northern side of town goes on shapelessly into the distance.

Tuesday 31st August - San Antonio, Ibiza

We got tired of waiting for a fair wind for the Balearics - each day easterlies were forecast, which as usual is just what we don't want - so we got up at five and set off at six to get a good part of the 59 miles to Ibiza completed before the wind set in. It was a beautiful warm early morning with a very nearly full moon when we left, and we motored steadily over a smooth sea, with slight swell, until lunchtime. Eventually a SE wind got up and we had a splendid sail, reaching under blue skies for the last three hours to the anchorage at San Antonio.

Wednesday 1st to Friday 3rd September - to and in Espalmador

We slept through the inevitable shore based disco and set off again at 10.00 a.m. next morning for Espalmador which is the small island between Ibiza and Formentera.

We called in at the attractive, but somewhat overcrowded Cala Badella where we picked up a buoy and ate lunch. We then motored on past some impressive spiky rock formations to Puerto del Espalmador, just north of Formentera. This is a beautiful anchorage, in a sheltered, wide, circular bay, with a fine sandy beach, turquoise water, and no tourist development. It reminded us very much of some of the Caribbean beaches. There were another 30 or so boats anchored off and several tripper boats coming and going, but nevertheless it was very pleasant. We spent a day sunning and swimming, and then another day sitting out a Force 6 from the NE. Even through this, the anchorage was very free from swell.

We settled down for our third night with the wind steady from the northeast, only to be woken at about 1.00 am by a noise like an express train coming through. This was a Force 8, gusting from the south, which sped through in the space of 15 minutes or so and caused a couple of neighbouring boats to drag. We held fast but since the winds then stayed up at Force 6/7 or so for most of the night, Mike spent the dark hours getting up and down to check we were not dragging. It is very confusing when you come up on deck on a dark night, to find all the other boats and the scenery rearranged due to a 180° wind shift. At daylight I relieved Mike so he could catch up on a little sleep. Saturday 4th Sept. - Espalmador to Santa Eulalia. The forecasts were for further high winds so we decided to head for the marina at Santa Eulalia, half way up the east coast of Ibiza.

Tuesday was windy, but much cooler so we set off by local bus from Santa Eulalia to Ibiza town and strolled up and down between the tall, whitewashed cottages in the narrow streets, inside the massive walls of the old town. People have been fighting over the Islands for hundreds of years and the museum has relics of prehistoric settlements, and Punic, Roman and Moorish inhabitants. The town walls are very impressive and from the windblown top, we watched several ferries being buffeted by large waves on their way into Ibiza. There were also a number of exceedingly large gin palaces in the harbour bearing British flags.

Wednesday was another cooler, windy day. In the morning we enjoyed a lovely walk for several miles along the low red cliffs, and through occasional cool pinewoods, in and out of several pretty bays. As it got hotter, I finally announced I had had enough and luckily we managed to find a bus back to Eulalia.

In the evening our neighbours in the marina, Andrew and Hilary, introduced us to Canasta, which we enjoyed, and as we still had winds and waves against us on Thursday we had another session in the afternoon and went out for a meal together in the evening. They say that the present weather is not typical of Septembers in the Balearics, being windier and more thundery than usual. We don't think we have had 'typical' weather since we left England three years ago. Santa Eulalia is a pleasant town with handy shopping, though not much of interest in the way of history.

Saturday 11th Sept - Santa Eulalia to Porto Adriano, Mallorca

On Saturday the wind was finally in the right direction and the seas had calmed down and we had a wonderful sail from Ibiza to Porto Adriano in Mallorca. The sea was a bit lumpy to start with but improved during the day. The wind was SE backing E at Force 3 and we sailed close hauled at some 6 to 6½ knots for over 6 hours of the 10¼ hour passage. Porto Adriano is a small, purpose built marina, peaceful, but with little character, and at 46 euros for the night, was our highest payment yet.

Sunday 12th Sept - Santa Ponza

We moved on next day and anchored in Santa Ponza bay, tucked down in a Cala by the marina. It is quite a pretty spot despite the hotels and apartment blocks. There were many boats at anchor here but plenty of room. As it was Sunday there was a lot of activity from passing pedalos, water skiers etc. We had an enjoyable day sunning ourselves and watching the sun go down during the evening. The bay looks very pretty at night when the buildings fade away and the lights come on. We watched a splendid firework display on shore, and the disco only lasted from 10 until midnight. In the morning I found I had been feasted upon by mozzies - we had had no problem since we returned in August, and had become lax about putting up the mozzie screens at night.

Monday 13th to Friday 17th Sept. - Palma

I wanted to get into a marina in order to make the necessary advance booking to visit the restricted Island of Cabrera, so we moved over to Palma. There is a choice of about 6 marinas here, and we decided to go to the Real Club Nautico where Andrew and Hilary are based. This is a large marina with very good facilities including a swimming pool. The weather had turned thundery again and high winds were forecast for the Menorca area, which seems to have an impact on the seas locally. There is plenty to see in Palma, so in the end we decided to stay here until the first of our late summer visitors arrives from UK.

On Tuesday we took the little old train from Palma to Soller, on the north coast. This railway was built on the profits of the 19th century orange and lemon trade and still uses the old rolling stock. About 500 other people had decided to take the same trip, so it was standing room only when we left. The train rattles along the streets of Palma, out past fruit and olive orchards, through the mountains, and eventually clatters through a very long tunnel at high speed, to emerge on a hilltop above the town of Soller, which is built in a natural amphitheatre. Soller has a lively central square where we enjoyed a coffee and then we wandered round the old streets, peeking into courtyards and admiring the elegant old houses with their iron balustrades. We then took the even more rattley tram down to the harbour at Port Soller. This is a large circular bay with a narrow entrance between two headlands, and is entirely surrounded by hills. It is the only safe harbour on the north coast of Majorca and if you use your imagination you can picture how beautiful it must have been before it was afflicted by tourism. The influx of tourists has increased since a road tunnel was built through the mountains a few years back, bypassing the long switchback mountain road and opening the area up to easy access by car and coach from Palma.

We had the most tremendous storm on Wednesday. We watched the sky get blacker and decided to take in the washing. Then the wind got up very suddenly and it rained viciously so we were below when a tremendous gust of wind hit the boat and there was a thump as the bow was pushed hard against the concrete quay. We dashed out, getting completely soaked and managed to push a couple of fenders between bow and quay, then dripped back into the cabin and rang out our clothes. Mike has now decided he must modify our passerelle so that it is easier and safer to use for getting on and off the boat. We currently moor close enough to the quay to be able to leap off the bow using the anchor as a step. Using the passarelle will enable us to keep the bow of the boat further out at a safe distance from the quay.

On Thursday we met up with 'Fyne Tyme' again and walked along the front to explore the Castell de Bellver, which sits up on a little hill tufted with pine trees, with a wonderful view of the town and port. It was built at the beginning of the 14th century and has been at times a place of royal residence, a fortress and a prison. It is very well preserved (renovated?), and of unusual design in that the ramparts are built in a circle, around a central courtyard. Two tiers of elegant arches run round the courtyard, a dainty arch links the main building to the highest tower, and a deep moat, now without water, surrounds the castle.

We spent some time on Friday emptying out the front cabin to make room for our visitor and Mike fixed the passerelle, putting a removable steel bar through a couple of steel hoops, across the bow of the boat and affixing the passerelle to this. It is very steady, completely demountable, and makes getting on and off the boat very much easier. The thunderstorm really seems to have cleared the air and we are now getting lovely blue skies and pleasantly hot days with moderate winds.

Saturday 18th Sept - El Arenal and Sunday 19th Sept - La Rapita

We motored on to El Arenal marina hoping to pick up the permission to go to Cabrera but discovered the FAX number I had found for Arenal in the Pilot Book was incorrect so goodness knows where our permission has gone. In the end we decided to forgo Cabrera and set off on Sunday for La Rapita - which turned out to be a purpose built marina with little character - although set in an attractive wide bay. We had a great sail on the way, with the wind strengthening gradually as we moved along. A couple of dolphins did a few circuits for us but disappeared as soon as Jackie got her camera out. When we arrived there was only one other boat on the visitors' pontoon but over the next few hours another 30 or so turned up and the poor marinero was tearing his hair out trying to find spaces for everyone. Somebody is making money here since we were charged 52 euros for the night and then discovered they wanted us to put in another euro to get into the showers! Jackie and I waited until someone came out and let us in!

Today we heard a 'pan pan' call on the VHF about Gary on 'Wild Oats' who we last saw in Barbate. He was apparently overdue in Sardinia where two other boats, 'Noble Lady' and 'Knight in Gale', had been expecting him. We heard later that he was safe, having been towed into port by the Italian Navy.

We have been having problems all this year with our Raymarine ST 4000 wheel pilot. Other cruisers had advised it might be the drive belt needing replacement and Jackie had brought out another one (the first we got was the wrong size!) so I had high hopes that this would fix the problems. Mike fitted it and we tried it out as we set out next day. Unfortunately the boat still weaved from side to side veering up to 20 degrees off course in each direction. (Raymarine have now advised us to fit a rudder position sensor and have provided us with one free which we will fit Spring 2005 - watch this space.)

Monday 20th Sept. - Porto Colom

Next day we moved to Porto Colom, which the Pilot Book insists has lots of mooring buoys. This is true. In fact all the best anchorage is now filled with these buoys. The problem is they all seem to be taken up by permanent residents and none are available for visitors, at least they weren't when we were there. We found a space opposite where we could anchor, just outside the marked channel but it was very shallow and Mike was not at all happy. There are low rise villas all around the bay but as they are built among trees it is still very pretty.

Tuesday 21st September - Porto Colom to Porto Cristo

Another cloudless sky and still hot as we headed for Porto Cristo. We had a lunch stop and swim in Cala Magraner, which has low cliffs, no houses but a small sandy beach at its head and clear, turquoise water. The Guardia Civil turned up during the afternoon, but chose to board the German boat at anchor near us rather than us - they did give us a cheery wave as they left. At Porto Cristo we found a medium sized marina and space opposite, on the town quay. The marina is 100 yards from the town as the seagull flies, but about a ¾ mile walk around the quay.

As the self steering is still not working, and there have been lots of high winds between Menorca and Sardinia coming down from the ill famed Gulf of Leon, and the barnacles on our bottom are taking a knot off our speed, we had decided to try and find a wintering place in Mallorca, leaving the 180 mile journey to Sardinia until the Spring. There is a hard standing tucked up at the landward end of this marina where a small river runs into the cala. There are high cliffs on either side of the v-shaped hard standing, so it looks very sheltered. There is no real security at night but it seems very quiet and a far enough walk from the town to deter the vandals. On enquiry we found the manager of the hard standing is English and that we could haul out here for a reasonable price and so have decided to book in for 5 to 6 months from mid October.

On Wednesday we visited the Coves del Drach (Caves of the Dragon) - about 500 yards from the marina. We were accompanied by the usual 500 other tourists (literally) as this is a major attraction, but the caves are so large it was not a problem. These are truly wonderful caves, quite the best we have ever seen. They consist of a series of huge caverns full of stalagmites and stalactites in weird and wonderful formations. There are cathedral-like columns, little family groups, weird faces, banners, chandeliers, caverns and castles. Thousands of very thin stalactites hang from the ceiling and an excellent lighting system, put in during the thirties, illuminates it all. There is a large subterranean lake and at the end of the tour everyone sits in a vast auditorium to watch illuminated rowing boats drift across the water to a live recital of the Barcarolle played by a lady organist, a violinist and a cellist who are in one of the rowing boats. The description sounds a bit naff, but it is actually rather attractive.

Thursday 23rd Sept. - Porto Petro via Cala Barcas

We made a lunch stop in Cala Barcas - very pretty, and undeveloped. There were a few people on the beach and several big sea caves in the bay. We swam in the clear water and were happy to find there were none of the jellyfish we had seen in large numbers over the previous days. We motored on down to spend the night in Porto Petro. This is a really pretty, fairly large, well protected Cala. Four cranes on the western side were being used to build some high rise apartments but on the eastern side there were only low rise properties built among the pine trees. We definitely fancy one of these. According to the pilot there should have been buoys to tie up to but they had all been taken away at the end of the summer, leaving lots of room to anchor (but watch out for the mooring blocks) and we had a very quiet night. Sitting in the cockpit, vodka and tonic in hand, watching the sun go down, the lights coming on around you, and the moon rising from behind the cliffs, rapidly blurs the memory of the hours spent fighting through swell and wind on the nose, at a speed of 2 knots to get here.

Friday 24th Sept. - Porto Cristo via Mitjana, Arsenau and Barcas

On Friday we explored a few more Calas on our way back to Porto Cristo. Mitjana is very attractive. It is very narrow and you need a second anchor or a line ashore to stop the boat swinging on to the rocks. There is an exceedingly posh villa on one cliff, with a green velvet lawn and floodlights on the rocky edge of the garden to light up the water. Next was Arsenau, which is a long narrow dogleg between attractive grey cliffs covered in pine trees and well sheltered. Then we passed a really built up area with some multi story buildings before reaching Barcas again where we anchored for lunch and then motored four more miles into wind and waves to Porto Cristo. The wind had done a 180 degree shift from yesterday so we were motoring the wrong way as usual. Back in Cristo, strong winds are now forecast for three days. Mike and I went into town to pick up a hire car and I managed to sprain my foot by slipping on a diesel spill in the petrol station.

Saturday 25th to Thursday 30th September

On Saturday winds of Force 6 to 7 and swell of 2 to 4 metres were forecast but the sun came out towards lunchtime, so after lunch we set out by car to look at the north-east corner of Mallorca. The approach to Alcudia was a five mile strip of hotels, apartments, supermarkets, tobacco and alcohol shops and burger bars which runs behind what is reputed to be an attractive golden beach. It is the kiss of death for any village in this part of the world to have an easily accessible sandy beach. However we persevered, and drove out the other side to Bonaire and then followed the twisting road alongside the craggy, grey, pine clad cliffs, out towards Punta Sabate and were rewarded by the lovely view across Pollensa Bay towards the barren Cape Formentor. The sun shone, and despite the large waves, which were crashing onto the rocky shoreline, the bay was most beautiful, a turquoise blue flecked with white and with the spiky range of mountains on the other side fading to purple in the distance. On Sunday we swapped crews, Jackie leaving and Katey and Mike arriving, and over the next three days we revisited many of the Calas and looked at one new one - Cala Mondrago, just south of Petro, a pretty, four armed, barely developed Cala where 6 yachts appeared to have spent the night.

I forgot to pick up our new digital camera from the floor of the hire car when we handed it back and we spent an hour with a very nice Spanish policeman, who showed no resentment at all at these stupid tourists wasting his time because they need a piece of paper to show their insurance company. (Saga paid up in due course on our house insurance with no argument - very impressive).

Friday 1st Oct to Sunday 3rd Oct. - Alcudia

After our last guests left we motored the thirty miles up the coast to Alcudia We passed the gaping entrance to the Caves d'Arta, complete with several parked tourist buses, and the very built up Puerto de Ratjada. Once past here the backdrop of hills is very windswept and barren but even so tourism has just begun to find the area.

The approach to Alcudia from seaward is much more attractive than the approach from the land and the marinero in Alcudia marina was very welcoming. We had quite a conversation in our halting Spanish after he accepted one of our cold beers. The marina is large, with lots of cafés, chandlers and boat servicing facilities of all kinds. It even has power showers in the spotless loos. On Sunday we took the bikes into the old town, which was very crowded as a big street market was taking place. We tied the bikes to a rail and then wandered through the streets for a couple of hours. Nothing is left of the old Roman and Moorish ancestry (apart from the foundations of the old Roman Theatre) but the tall houses are elegant and the narrow streets attractive

Monday 4th and Tuesday 5th Oct. - Pollensa Bay

From Alcudia we sailed on to Pollensa Bay, stopping briefly in a totally unspoilt Cala called Engossaubas close to the end of Cape Formentor. This has very high, grey granite cliffs and lots of pine trees. Also jellyfish. At Pollensa we tied to a red buoy, one of several marked 'privado' but apparently unused at this end of the season.

We caught the bus to Pollensa town on Tuesday. Pollensa town was built some way inland from its port to keep it safe from the brigands who regularly invaded. This is a pretty town - with substantial buildings built in cream to coffee coloured blocks, or faced with matching stones. We climbed the hundreds of steps up to Calvary to a tiny church and a great view over the city.

Wednesday 6th and Thursday 7th October - to Porto Cristo via Alcudia and Ratjada

On Wednesday we said goodbye to 'Fyne Tyme' who are going round Formentor towards Soller and then to the mainland for the winter. We returned to overnight in Alcudia where I persuaded Mike to leave our life raft to be serviced over the winter and then on to Ratjada. where facilities for visitors seem very limited with mooring only alongside a very short length of wall in the outer harbour. We decided it looked very unwelcoming and not very sheltered and carried on back to Porto Cristo.

Friday 8th to Friday 22nd October - Porto Cristo

We are now preparing the boat for the winter ashore here and so are involved in a raft of maintenance jobs that have built up over the year. Mike has spent three days stripping out the forward heads, which has become a bit smelly and doesn't operate very well, cleaning out pipes and pumps and valves and putting it all back together again. It is now in prime condition for future visitors. We discovered that you can buy a diluted form of hydrochloric acid called Agua Forte here, at Ferreterias, (ironmongers) and even some supermarkets. Dropping a gunged up valve into a bucket of water to which this acid has been added, results in an exciting display of froth and, hey presto, the gunge has gone and the valve works once more! On Tuesday we managed to get the sails off and bagged, the dinghy deflated and stowed, removed a lot of the running rigging and washed the boat down thoroughly before a thunderstorm arrived.

It is here in Porto Cristo that we first meet Bev and Dave on 'Wight Egret', a Moody 376. We have become very friendly with them and will spend much of the next two seasons sailing in their company.

Some may have seen a report in Yachting Monthly of a fire that destroyed the Bavaria 44 charter yacht 'Libelle' in Porto Cristo. We were on the same pontoon when it happened. We were in bed at 10.30 pm when we heard a bang and then loud voices outside. Mike looked out of the hatch thinking a new boat had come in late and hit the pontoon but there was a crowd at the bow of 'Libelle' which was on the opposite side of our pontoon and was well ablaze. It seems an electrical fault had started the fire in the battery compartment. Smoke had spread rapidly through the boat and the crew had 'abandoned ship' to safety but with only the clothes they stood up in and 100 euros in someone's pocket. Some brave man from another boat climbed on board and got the gas bottles out and the burning yacht was manhandled away from other boats to the end of the pontoon. The marineros brought a fire extinguisher and turned on a couple of hoses but it was hopeless, the fire just spread until the whole yacht was ablaze. Luckily for us the wind was blowing the huge clouds of black smoke away from us, towards some unoccupied yachts. The mast collapsed, again fortunately away from the pontoon, and the marineros, breathing in a lot of smoke in the process, fought to get the rigging wires cut and eventually managed to get it free. After about 20 minutes fire engines and crews arrived, none of who seemed to have breathing equipment, and got hoses along the pontoon. and spent about an hour pouring foam onto the blaze before eventually getting the fire out. Finally they dragged the boat off to a point behind the breakwater where it quietly sank. On all of the previous three nights the pontoon had been crammed with boats shoulder to shoulder and if the fire had occurred then, it would inevitably have spread. We were very lucky.

On the 15th we were lifted out onto the hard-standing very efficiently, cleaned off the barnacles and sanded the anti-fouling ready for next season. Before leaving for home we hired a car for another three days and visited the very pretty town of Valldemosa where Chopin and George Sands live for a while, the walled city of Capdepera and the Caves of Arta, which are also spectacular. We flew home on the 22nd October, regretfully leaving the lovely sunshine and arriving home to pouring rain.

Incidentally, Mike discovered from the local brochure, picked up from the Tourist Office, that our nice sheltered marina in Porto Cristo had to be rebuilt after being destroyed by a flash flood in 1989! Could that be why there is plenty of room here?

In general our lovely weather has continued. The local press are saying that this is the warmest, driest, October in living memory in Mallorca. For once we are on the right end of a statistic - up to now in our three years of cruising, it has been 'the wettest' - 'the windiest' - 'the coldest or 'the most scorching.' We have really enjoyed our time in Mallorca. Despite its many built up areas, much of the coastline is still very beautiful, with many lovely anchorages in the Calas. There is often a wonderful backdrop of mountains, and lots of pleasant marinas, which varied in price from about 20 - 50 euros a night in September. The northern side must be wonderful walking territory - providing you are fit.

Pauline and Mike Nixon


Porto Cristo, Mallorca

October 2004.