Yacht Retreat - Passage Reports 1999



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Passage Report Number 1


Moored in Almería Marina, Costa del Sol


Tuesday 16th February, 1999




At long last we are under way again!  It seems an eternity since our last passage from Marina del Este to Almerimar Marina on 12th October 1998 though, in reality, it is only a shade over 4 months.


We left Almerimar Marina this morning at 1100 and motored the 21 miles to Almería in warm sunshine over a calm sea.  Whilst it would have been lovely to have sailed, a calm passage under power is infinitely preferable to a rough passage under sail as the first passage of a new season.  It is amazing how rusty one gets even after such a short period away from the sea:  moving about the boat is difficult and nothing seems to be in the right place!  Fortunately, it all comes back quite quickly and we confidently expect to have fully re-gained our sea legs within a week or so.


The weather has been quite varied since our return to Almerimar.  On our first two days back we found ourselves sitting huddled up on board in the boatyard for two solid days of rain.  Apparently it was the longest period of rain here for quite some long time.  However, it soon cleared up and we had glorious weather for the next week - warm enough for shorts and T shirts for 2 to 3 hours around mid-day but cool enough to require the heater in the evenings.  Since then it has been a little cooler but still very pleasant indeed – much like spring in the UK.


On Monday 26th January we were re-launched as planned.  It was a very tiring day but we felt much happier once we were back in the water.  It was very dirty in the yard and its not much fun living at the top of a long ladder!  The next day we drove up into the mountains with some friends, Lynn and Jerry from South Africa, to see the snow.  Although in her 40's, Lynn had never seen snow before so it was very exciting for her.  To find snow so close when it was so warm here was really very strange.  Since then we have kept ourselves busy with a myriad of routine jobs including putting the sails back on, servicing the loo pump (very tasty!), cleaning and sterilising the water tanks, varnishing the outdoor woodwork and putting the Bimini sunshade back up.  We have also mounted the new solar panels that we bought at the Boat Show and wired them into the battery banks.  It's a hectic life down here on the Costa del Sol!!!


We hope to spend a couple of days here and then work our way slowly northwards along the Costa Blanca.  As the weather is still a little unsettled we may have to spend a few days sheltering from the wind from time to time but no matter – we are under way once more!





Passage Report Number 2


Moored in Puerto de Tomás Maestre, Mar Menor, Costa Blanca


Thursday 25th February, 1999




As I sit and write this Passage Report, the sky is overcast, there is rain in the air and there is a gale forecast for tonight.  However, we are not worried.  We are tucked up safely in Puerto de Tomás Maestre at the entrance to the Mar Menor where we intend to spend the next week or so.  By way of contrast, the weather over the past 10 days has been dominated by the Azores High which has given us west to south-west winds with warm, sunny weather – perfect conditions for our passages along the Costa Blanca.


We spent two nights in Almería giving us time to visit the Alcazaba (a ruined castle) and the Cathedral.  Neither was particularly inspiring though, on our visit to the Alcazaba, we did see the Cable and Wireless Round-the-World Balloon as it took off from nearby Aguadulce.  We could not help but wonder how far they would get on their seemingly impossible quest.


On Thursday 18th February we motored for 21 miles around Cabo de Gata to the tiny harbour of San José.  (You may recall that we visited both by car on David’s birthday last October.)  Cabo de Gata is a headland that, in a way, you all know for it forms the bottom right hand corner of Spain when you look at a map.  In reality, it is the south-western tip of a wild and beautiful range of mountains known as the Sierra del Cabo de Gata.  Rounding the cape was very inspiring, not just because of its majestic beauty, but because it took us into a new cruising area – the Costa Blanca.


We stayed for three nights in San José and could easily have stayed for more.  It is one of the nicest harbours that we have visited – small and quiet and set amid spectacular scenery.  We spent our days walking and our evenings swapping yarns with an English couple aboard a Challenger 35 moored alongside.  (The Challenger has the same hull as Retreat but a different deck.)  They (Clive and Jane) had over-wintered in Aguadulce and, after a few days in San José, were intending to turn about and head for Madeira, the Canaries, the Cape Verde Islands and, in the autumn, across the Atlantic to Barbados for the Millennium celebrations there.  They are planning to continue around the world allowing themselves five years to complete their journey.  And we thought we were being adventurous!


On Sunday 21st we enjoyed our first sail of the season, on passage from San José to Garrucha.  As the wind filled in from the south we hoisted our spinnaker and were soon bowling along at over 6 knots.  Although we enjoyed many miles of down-wind sailing last year in the Portuguese Trades, this was a real treat.  The trade winds were accompanied by an ever-present Atlantic swell which made working on deck a real battle; here we had a flat sea and a stable deck.  Superb!


I think that the best thing that I can find to say about Garrucha is that it is a useful port of passage.  The town itself is dull and even the Fiesta which took place whilst we were there was not very festive!  It does have a very good supermarket, though, in easy reach of the marina.  We made good use of that stocking up on heavy items whilst we had the opportunity.


The next morning we enjoyed another spinnaker run in warm sunshine under blue skies, this time to the Puerto Deportivo de Mazarrón.  This is a fairly new marina just outside the town of Mazarrón on a very interesting section of coastline.  Although still very much built for the tourists, the surrounding housing is all bungalow-style chalets rather than the apartments that we have found every where else.  We enjoyed our stay there.


We awoke on Wednesday 24th to find that our Navtex had produced us a forecast of SW3 increasing to SW6/7 by 1600.  To go or not to go?  That was the question!  The Azores High had given us a week of glorious weather, but it looked as if its reign was nearly over.  If the weather was going to deteriorate it would be good have reached the Mar Menor as it is an inland sea protected from the worst of the weather.  On the other hand, force 6 to 7 sounded a bit fierce and, even if not a problem at sea, would almost certainly cause us problems getting into harbour.  It was warm and sunny outside with not a breath of wind though we could see thick cloud to the south and east of us.  Strong winds by 1600 – we would be there by then.  We decided to go!


In the event, it was not strong winds that produced the excitement on our passage but fog!  We ran into a thick bank off Cartagena and soon found ourselves surrounded by deep-throated foghorns.  As the fog lifted it revealed the Spanish Armada - five warships and a submarine.  Now we know how Sir Francis Drake felt!  Clear of the fog we soon rounded Cabo de Palos and enjoyed a brisk broad reach into Puerto de Tomás Maestre at the entrance to the Mar Menor.  Once through the swing bridge we had an easy berth alongside a long, empty quay with a Marinero on hand to help us.  Our decision to go had proved to be right- well, this time anyway!





Passage Report Number 3


Moored in Puerto de Altea, Costa Blanca


Sunday 7th March, 1999




One of the most exciting features of sailing is rounding headlands.  Our Passage Reports last year told you of many including Cabo Finisterre, Cabo de São Vicente and, of course, The Rock of Gibraltar itself.  These were all big and bold and dramatic as well as being significant points along our way.  However, as with life, some significant milestones can slide by un-noticed until something brings them to mind a while later.  As I sit and type this report in Puerto de Altea, our GPS tells me that our longitude is 000° 03'.27 West – the first time that Retreat has been East of Brighton since we left on 31st March last year.  We crossed our home meridian whilst we ate lunch on our passage here today and we didn’t even notice!


The gale warning I mentioned in our last Passage Report was true to its word.  North-easterly gales kept us in Puerto de Tomás Maestre for a full three days before finally giving way to fair weather.  We spent our time aboard writing up Port Reports for the Cruising Association, playing our keyboard and trying hard to improve our Spanish.  We discovered that the Capitán de Puerto was working on a correspondence course in Advanced English so we were able to spend some time helping one another.


On Monday 1st March we motored six miles across the Mar Menor to Los Nietos to meet up with friends Jimmy and Claire on Phæcian.  The next day we travelled by train to Cartagena, a delightful city with an excellent shopping centre and a very pleasant atmosphere.  Whilst there we walked up to the castle from where we had excellent views over the harbour.  However, it was the journey there and back that proved to be the highlight of the day.  The train was a modern diesel that took us up quite a steep incline as it wound its way between the ancient volcanoes that lined our route.  All along the way were signs of mines, most of them now disused, where the locals once found gold, silver and other precious metals.  The whole landscape was dotted with ventilation shafts topped by low, circular parapets.  Had we not seen pictures of this scene many years ago whilst watching children’s television with Katy and John?  Of course we had.  These were not for gold and silver – these were soup mines.  What is more, I am fairly certain that I saw Tiny Clanger peering over one of the parapets.  If you don’t believe me, come and see for yourself!


Strong winds, this time from the south-west, kept us in port for the next two days so we used our time doing the laundry and a repair job on our main hatch that has needed doing ever since we bought Retreat.  Without the occasional few days of bad weather, such vital jobs might never get done!


The forecast for Friday 5th March gave SW7 reducing to 5 or 6 in the afternoon.  In port we had nothing!  Even though the winds would be strong, they would be offshore and abaft the beam (behind us).  We decided to go, and how pleased we are that we did for we had our best sail so far this year.  We had little or no wind during the morning enabling us to cross the Mar Menor and pass out to sea through the canal at Tomás Maestre without problems.  However, during the afternoon it increased to a steady force six on the port quarter giving us a very fast broad reach across an almost flat sea.  It was such superb sailing that we abandoned our plans to sail to Torrevieja and sailed on a further ten miles to Puerto de Santa Pola.  Brilliant!


Did I say our best sail so far this year?  And so it was, until the next day!  Once again we had a strong offshore wind abaft the beam and once again we had a fast reach, this time across the Bahía de Alicante to Campello.  When we arrived we found a brand new marina in a very pleasant small town.  We might well have stayed for a day or more but we were enjoying the sailing so much and the forecast suggested that we might have one more day of west to south-west winds before the weather pattern changed.  So it was that at 1100 this morning we set sail from Campello, between Benidorm and its offlying island and around the Sierra Helada to Puerto de Altea where we now lie.  In the last three days we have covered 72 miles all in pleasantly warm weather under clear blue skies and almost entirely under sail.  That, for us, is as near to perfect as cruising under sail can be!





Passage Report Number 4


On passage from Puerto Dénia on the Costa Blanca towards Puerto San Antonio, Ibiza


Sunday 21st March, 1999




As I type this Passage Report on my Psion we are enjoying a superb sail from Dénia towards Ibiza in near-perfect conditions.  We have 15 knots of wind on our starboard beam and we are making good progress towards Ibiza at 6 knots or more over a slight sea.  A few degrees warmer wouldn’t go amiss but then, it is only March and all the books say we should still be laid up ashore!


We have had a very busy two weeks since our last Passage Report.  On Monday 8th March, after exploring Altea in the morning, we caught a train to Dénia, about 20 miles to the north.  The train journey proved to be quite spectacular, especially the section near Calpe where the track cut through a mountain ridge.  The views were superb.


The following morning we made an abortive attempt to catch a bus to Guadalest, an historic town about 20 miles inland.  The bus eventually arrived 45 minutes late only to turn out to be full!  We decided to cut our losses and press on to our next port of call – Calpe.  This proved to be a delightful spot where we spent a very happy few days despite some poor weather and a blocked loo to sort out!


The harbour at Calpe is tucked in behind a huge rock known as the Peñón de Ifach.  This spectacular outcrop of limestone rises to 328 metres sheer from the sea – rather like the Rock of Gibraltar on a smaller scale.  The Peñón is joined to the mainland by a narrow isthmus with beaches on both sides giving the resort the benefit of at least one calm beach whatever the direction of the wind.


During our stay at Calpe we surprised ourselves by walking to the very top of the Peñón.  We knew there was a path that went part way up and then through a tunnel to the seaward side.  However, it had never occurred to us that it was possible to reach the top – it looked quite impossible from our side.  However, once through the tunnel we found a steep, rough path leading all the way to the top.  It was quite breath-taking, in every sense of the phrase!


We slipped our moorings at Calpe on the morning of Saturday 13th March and looked back with awe at the peak we had climbed two days earlier. The light and variable wind soon filled in to give us a northerly force three and our first beat for many a mile.  With long tacks out to sea and short tacks inshore we soon rounded Cabo do la Nao, the prominent ‘nose’ half way down the east coast of Spain.  We were then able to ease sheets and reach into Puerto de Javia, just south of the massive Cabo de San Antonio.  Another excellent day’s sailing.


As if to remind us of its power, the next morning (Mothering Sunday) the sea dealt out what proved to be our roughest passage since leaving Brighton.  As we rounded Cabo de San Antonio we were faced with a 25-knot headwind and very confused seas caused by the waves being reflected back from the vertical cliff face only half a mile inshore.  Fortunately, we only had six miles to go, but never the less, it was two very relieved mariners who brought Retreat safely into Puerto de Dénia an hour and a half after leaving!


Our intention had been to remain in Dénia for one night and then press on towards Valencia in time for the climax to their week-long Fiesta on Friday 19th March.  However, the weather had other ideas, and two days of wind and rain saw us revising our plans. So it was that on Wednesday 17th March we arrived in Valencia aboard, not our own vessel, but a hired car.  What a memorable day it proved to be!


As we walked in towards the city centre we were swept up by a tide of humanity flowing towards the town square.  We have encountered crowds before, but never quite like this.  Most were in family groups, and everyone was there - Mums and Dads, Grannies and Granddads, teenagers, children and babes-in-arms, and all dressed to kill!  The event that they were all on their way to witness was a ‘Mascleta’, a daytime firework display, or so we thought.  We had seen and heard exploding shells on our way around north-western Spain last year and wondered how they formed part of a Fiesta.  We were about to find out!


The best way I can find to describe a Mascleta is to liken it to a virtuoso performance on a massive set of drums.  It began with four or five beats on the big base drum - massive explosive shells hurled into the air from launching tubes staked to the pavement.  ‘Booooooooom’ went the launching explosive as it propelled its shell into the air high above the roofs and spires below which the wide-eyed families were shaken by the vibrations that spread outwards through the ground.  ‘Bang’ went the shell as it exploded with an ear-splitting sound, a blinding flash of light and a giant ball of smoke.  ‘Rat-a-tat-tat’ went the smaller explosives released by the shell.  Boom ..... Bang ..... Rat-a-tat-tat.  Boom ..... Bang ..... Rat-a-tat-tat.   Boom ..... Bang ..... Rat-a-tat-tat.  Out of the deafening noise a rhythm was building up.  Boom ..... Bang ..... Rat-a-tat-tat.  Faster and faster, louder and louder.  Pat and I exchanged glances of total disbelief as if to say ‘this can't go on - the whole town will come down.’  But it did.  Boom ..... Bang ..... Rat-a-tat-tat.  Boom ..... Bang ..... Rat-a-tat-tat.  For ten long minutes the tempo increased until finally great strings of explosives hanging from ropes in the centre of the square were ignited to produce, like a roll on massed timpani, a crescendo that shook the city to its foundations.  That was the Mascleta!


The Fiesta is known locally as Las Fallas. (The Fires)  It originated in the town of Valencia but is now celebrated throughout the province.  During the long winter months, carpenters worked by the light of candles held in elaborate wooden candelabra.  To celebrate the arrival of spring the candelabra were burned.  Later the candelabra were dressed up, rather like scarecrows, and they became more and more elaborate over the years. From these beginnings evolved the building of huge effigies by local Societies vying with one another to build the biggest and the best.  From the very early days the effigies were very political in their content pouring scorn and ridicule on local priests and civic leaders.  They are all burnt in massive ‘Crema’  (bonfires) at the climax of the celebrations on the night of 19th March - St Joseph’s day.  [Those of you reading this report in Sussex will appreciate the strong parallels with your local Bonfire Societies.]


Following the Mascleta we walked around the centre of Valencia to view several ‘Fallas’.  Just as with the Mascleta, their scale almost defies description.  Each main effigy stands 40 to 50 feet high towering above the crowds gathered around it.  Its base is surrounded by a series of tableaux each one a three-dimensional cartoon of some local issue.  It would be no good being a politician in Valencia without a very good sense of humour!


At 4 o’clock we walked to the cathedral to witness the presentation of flowers in honour of ‘Our Lady of the helpless.’  That will be a bit less demanding on the superlatives to describe, you might think!  Not so, for this was a procession to end all processions!  Having started at 4 it was still in full swing when we left at 9 and was not due to end until after 11!  It was made up in sections, each formed by one of the Societies.  The sections were all led by their ‘Junior Queen’ followed by the young children all carrying flowers to present to ‘Our Lady’.  Then came the ‘Senior Queen’ followed by her female courtiers, also carrying flowers.  Behind the ladies came a band and the men-folk, many of them carrying babes-in-arms.  It was as if the whole world was there, and all in traditional dress!  As each section reached the cathedral square the flowers were presented before a 40 foot high effigy of ‘Our Lady’ constructed from slatted wood.  Teams of men clambered up and down the effigy placing the flowers according to colour to form a living tapestry.  And was it complete when we left?  No way!  The whole operation was repeated between 4 and 11 the next evening with a further group of Societies.  The people of Valencia do not do things by halves!


Before leaving Valencia we had one more treat in store, the take off of five hot-air balloons from a park in the centre of the town.  The overall ‘Queen’ was supposed to be taken up but whilst we were there she remained resolutely to one side.  Perhaps being ‘Queen’ provided sufficient excitement for one day!


After all the excitement in Valencia, Thursday was destined to be a quiet day, and so it was.  We drove south from Dénia to see Cabo do la Nao and Cabo de San Antonio, this time from the land.  We then drove inland across a spectacular mountain pass to Guadalest, the historic town we had failed to visit from Altea.  The visit was well worthwhile with some dramatic views from the castle perched on a very narrow ridge high above the valley below.


Friday 19th March was St Joseph’s Day and the climax of the week’s celebrations.  We decided to spend the day in Dénia so that we could retreat to Retreat at regular intervals throughout the day.  It proved to be a wise decision for it was 3.00 a.m. before the day was finally over!  We walked to all ten of the ‘Fallas’, every bit as large and imposing as those we had seen in Valencia.  We also watched the ‘procession of flowers’ and the Mascleta, both very similar to those described above.  In the evening there was a firework display from the harbour wall (pretty ones this time!) and, starting at midnight, the ‘Crema’ began.


Throughout the day we had wondered how the giant effigies could possibly be burnt in such confined spaces in the centre of the town surrounded by pressing crowds.  It just didn’t seem reasonably possible.  Perhaps they would take them down and burn them section by section?  Not a chance!  They strung firecrackers around the effigies, scattered them with polythene bags full of diesel and set light to them as they stood.  As the flames shot 100 feet up into the air the fire brigade (rather disconcertingly, they all had the Spanish word ‘Bombers’ printed on their jackets!) played jets of water on the surrounding buildings to damp them down.  At one of the ‘Fallas’ there were eight hoses in action to keep the fire at bay.  So what was all that I read about harmonisation of European Health and Safety regulations?  Don’t tell the people of Valencia!


After all the excitement, Saturday was a day for recovery and preparation for our 55 mile trip to Ibiza the next day.  By 10.00 a.m. the streets were cleared, the shops were open and the town was back to normal.  Whilst we had slept, others must have worked right through the night.  They certainly know how to party in Valencia!





Passage Report Number 5


Anchored in Puerto del Espalmador, Las Islas Baleares


Wednesday 31st March, 1999




At 1430 today (1330 BST) we were lying peacefully to our anchor off the tiny island of Espalmador just north of Formentera.  The sun was shining, the wind was light, the sea was smooth and the water was crystal clear.  Five metres below us we could see the spot where our anchor was buried in the sand.  This was what we had sailed two and a half thousand miles to find!  As we relaxed in the sun we could not help but think back to our departure from Brighton exactly 12 months ago.  Then it was still a dream; now it is reality!



Our passage from Dénia to Ibiza on Sunday 21st March proved to be one of the fastest we have ever made under sail averaging 6 knots over 56 miles almost entirely under sail.  We made fast at the marina in Puerto de San Antonio Abad on the western side of Ibiza.  Although San Antonio has a reputation of being very noisy and boisterous in the season, we found it to be almost deserted and very quiet.  That was just as well really for the same bad weather that created problems for the Harriers over Kosova kept us firmly in port for a week.  We found plenty to do though, including finishing the computer game ‘Myst’ which we started about five years ago!


On our last full day in San Antonio we hired a car for the day and explored the island of Ibiza.  From the reports we had read we were expecting to find high-rise tourist developments all over the island.  They do not exist!  The vast majority of the island is covered with small pine trees growing naturally – not in the straight rows that one finds in the managed forests of northern Europe.  There is some high-rise development around Eivissa (Ibiza town), Santa Eulalia del Río and San Antonio, but otherwise the impact of tourism is minimal.  With the profusion of spring flowers growing everywhere, we found Ibiza to be quite delightful!


On Monday 29th March we sailed from San Antonio to Puerto de Sabina on Formentera.  Most of the passage was under power as if to prove the adage that there are only too (sic) winds in the Mediterranean – too little and too much!  However, we did manage a couple of hours under spinnaker, so the soothsayers didn’t have it all their way!


For those of you who have visited Alderney in the Channel Islands, Formentera is easy to describe for it has a very similar feel.  It is the smallest of the four main islands in the Balearics and it does not have an airport.  Although there is a profusion of hire-cars, walkers and cyclists rule the day, and there are many footpaths and cycle tracks to help one explore.


This morning we motored just three miles north from Sabina to Puerto del Espalmador where we now lie.  Despite its name, it is not a port at all but a large bay surrounded by sandy beaches.  The pilot tells us that there can be over 100 boats anchored here in the season, but tonight there are but four:  Retreat, two other sailing boats and a large motor-yacht.  As I conclude this report, the sun is setting over our stern, a full moon is rising over our bow and the flames of a beach barbecue are flickering on the shore.  An idyllic scene.  Unfortunately, the cloud is gathering and the wind is rising a little so we might even yet have to leave what is our first anchorage in the Mediterranean and scuttle back to port for the night.  Such are the joys of cruising!





Passage Report Number 6


Moored in Puerto de Sabina, Formentera, Las Islas Baleares


Saturday 10th April, 1999




You will be pleased to hear that shortly after sending our last Passage Report the wind died away and we spent a peaceful night at anchor in Puerto El Espalmador.  The next morning we inflated our Tinker Tramp for the first time this year and used her to go ashore and explore the tiny island of Espalmador.  There is always something exciting about exploring islands and this was no exception.  Other than a small collection of cottages near the beach it was totally deserted with only gulls and lizards to keep us company.  Delightful!


We stayed a second night at anchor in Puerto El Espalmador and then, on Friday 2nd April (Good Friday) we made the nine-mile passage through the ‘Freu Grande’, the narrow strait that separates Espalmador from Ibiza, to Ibiza Town.  This was a journey with a purpose, for we knew there was to be a ‘Procession of Penitents’ through the town that evening.


In marked contrast to the festivities in Valencia and Dénia the Procession was slow and solemn.  Each church from the town had their own section led by their banner.  Next came two long lines of ‘hooded penitents’, one each side of the street, all dressed in full-length black or purple robes and tall, pointed hoods covering their faces and shoulders.  Following the penitents came a band and a huge ‘Paso’, a float bearing life-size wooden statues depicting one of the stages of the Passion.  Some of the floats were supported on wheels but many were carried on poles by teams of up to 18 men.  Behind the Paso came the clergy and behind them, members of the congregation.


As the procession made its way slowly down the long, steep hill from the cathedral the bands played solemn music with the rhythm of a very slow march beaten out on the drums.  Many of the penitents handed out sweets to the onlookers, we suspect as a token ‘giving away of their riches’.  A few walked bare-foot and one carried a heavy wooden cross and had his legs shackled together.  Having reached the bottom of the hill the whole procession circled around and then made its way back up to the top again.  Most of the onlookers, including us, remained at the bottom, for it was now past eleven o’clock at night, but we were filled with admiration for those who completed their ‘penance’.


On Saturday 3rd April we returned to the anchorage in Puerto El Espalmador where we spent four very comfortable nights.  On Monday 5th we motored south to explore a little more of Formentera but we returned to El Espalmador for the night.  Some people are very nervous about anchoring for the night, but for us there is absolutely nothing to beat it.  From time to time there can be problems if the wind gets up too much in the night, but the benefits are enormous.  When moored in a marina one is cheek-by-jowl with the boat next door and there is the inevitable noise from traffic ashore.  By contrast, in an anchorage, especially this time of the year, one can be entirely at one with nature.  The situation will change as the season progresses and the anchorages become crowded, but at the moment we are making the most of the peace and quiet.


One of the things that we become very conscious off when anchored is the use of electricity, our fridge being our main consumer of power.  On board we have one large battery dedicated to the engine and two large batteries to supply all our domestic needs.  The engine has a high capacity alternator so we can charge our batteries quite quickly whilst motoring and, when in harbour, we have a battery charger that we can plug in to the ‘shore power’ that is usually available.  However, whilst at anchor, neither of these sources is available.  To help remedy this problem, we have this year fitted four solar panels which are able to provide us with much-prized amp-hours, even whilst swinging to our anchor.  Their main benefit is to extend the time we can remain at anchor from two to three days to five or six.


On Wednesday 7th April the weather forecast warned of strong winds overnight so we returned once more to Ibiza Town.  We spent a couple of nights in one of the marinas there using the opportunity to top up our water (another precious resource), our food, our fuel tanks and, of course, our batteries!  We also spent time exploring the town and the surrounding area a little more.


Yesterday we returned to El Espalmador once more and spent another night at anchor.  I think you might be right in concluding that we rather like it there!  However, beautiful as it is, rather than exploring, today was spent doing a number of maintenance jobs on the engine and wiring in a regulator to make the use of the solar panels fully automatic.  The sun might shine every day, but the jobs still don’t do themselves!


This evening we have put into port again on Formentera so that we can hire a car for the day tomorrow and explore the island fully.  More about that in our next Passage Report.





Passage Report Number 7


Anchored in Cala Portals, Mallorca, Las Islas Baleares


Thursday 22nd April, 1999




As I write we are rolling rather heavily as we lie to our anchor in Cala Portals on the island of Mallorca, our fourth Balearic Island in as many days.  The cause of the rolling is a mystery as the night is still and warm:  we just hope it will calm down a little as the anchorage is beautiful and we hope to stay here for a day or two.


We hired a car for the day as planned on Sunday 11th April and explored Formentera travelling the full length of every metalled road on the island.  We have seen it described in travel brochures as ‘the enchanted isle’ and we would not disagree with that.  Having no airport, it has not yet succumbed to mass tourism and it is still possible to find complete peace and quiet amongst its narrow lanes and sandy beaches.  Local agricultural practice leaves some land fallow each year giving rise to some spectacular carpets of spring flowers.  It has two areas of high ground, one in the south-east of the island and one in the south-west.  Between the two is a low isthmus, three miles long, with a rocky shore to its north and a sandy shore to its south.  Running north is a very narrow strip of land, in places no more than 40 metres wide.  Here one can walk through sand dunes with spectacular views across the island of Espalmador and beyond to the pine-covered hills of Ibiza.  We love it!


The next day we sailed north again to explore a little more of the south-east coast of Ibiza.  We spent two nights anchored in Cala Talamanca, just north of Ibiza town.  With winds up to 25 knots on Monday night and throughout Tuesday the dinghy ride ashore would have been very wet so we remained aboard Retreat.  Before leaving the UK we upgraded our ground tackle, as it is called, to include a 20kg Bruce anchor and 60 metres of 10mm chain.  Whilst any reference book on the subject would say that this is way over the top, we were certainly glad to know that we had had a substantial link with terra firma when the winds started to whistle through our rigging!


By Wednesday the wind had abated and we were able to continue north-east to Santa Eulalia.  This is very much a tourist resort though it does have a fairly pleasant ‘paseo’ along the sea front.  However, as the marina was the most expensive we have encountered so far this year, we only stayed for one night and then sailed back to Puerto Espalmador once more.  After the concrete jungle we were looking forward to a night of peace and tranquillity, but it was not to be.  Just after 6.30 p.m. the wind suddenly increased from 5 to 25 knots and our favourite anchorage became decidedly less friendly.  We weighed anchor quickly and motored the 3 miles across the bay to Marina Formentera where the wind, now gusting up to 32 knots, made the process of berthing very difficult indeed.  However, after almost two hours of struggling with wind, ropes and rain, we were secure with no damage done.  We slept well that night!


With more strong winds to come we stayed in Marina Formentera for three more nights taking advantage of their policy of making every seventh night free, even if they are not consecutive.  We spent much of the time aboard though the weather did clear sufficiently for a couple of very pleasant walks to the East Beach.


By Monday 19th April the winds had eased and we were able to set sail once more.  We made a final pilgrimage to Espalmador where we anchored for lunch before continuing north-west to re-trace our wake towards San Antonio on Ibiza, the port where we had first made land-fall almost a month before.  With the wind a southerly force four, increasing to force five, we had a brisk sail all the way.  We anchored for the night in Cala Basa, a beautiful bay a mile and a half west of San Antonio.


The next day we sailed the full length of the rugged north-west coast of Ibiza.  We had seen glimpses of this coastline when we had hired a car from San Antonio and we had very much wanted to sail along it.  With continuing south to south-westerly winds our wish was granted and we enjoyed every mile.  We anchored for the night in Port de la Caletas, a remote bay on the north-east corner of Ibiza, the closest point to Mallorca.


So it was that on Wednesday 21st April we made the 45 mile crossing from Ibiza to Mallorca.  The trip was not one of the most comfortable that we have experienced as the wind had dropped leaving a sloppy sea that rolled us unmercifully.  However, under power the motion was easier and we made good progress.  We made our landfall at Puerto de Andraitx, a pretty harbour on the south-west corner of Mallorca where we stayed for only one night.  Perhaps we had been spoilt by two beautiful anchorages on Ibiza.  Perhaps we were not ready for the faster pace of life on this, the largest of the Balearic Islands.  Whatever it was, we did not find Andraitx very welcoming so today we sailed east to Cala Portals in the Bay of Palma where we now lie.  Despite the rolling, which is much less pronounced now, it is great to be anchored again!


If the weather holds we shall probably stay here for a day or two and then, during next week, we plan to hire a car for a day and search the island for somewhere suitable for Mum to stay when she comes out to visit us on 15th May and somewhere suitable to leave Retreat when we return to the UK in July.





Passage Report Number 8


Moored in Puerto de Cabrera, Las Islas Baleares


Tuesday 4th May, 1999





After writing our last Passage Report the rolling reduced and we had a good night’s sleep anchored in Cala Portals.  In the morning we went ashore in our dinghy and explored the impressive caves that overlook the bay and walked south along the cliff-top path.  Although close to Palma, this is a beautiful, unspoilt section of coast, at least for the moment.  Kerbstones have been laid for the service road to a large development but, fortunately, nothing has been built so far.


That evening was to prove to be the opposite of the one before.  By dusk the wind had died away and the water was smooth and all looked set for a comfortable night.  However, around midnight, a new wind sprang up bringing an uncomfortable swell into the bay.  At 0045 we weighed anchor and motored north for 5 miles to search for calmer conditions.  An hour later we re-anchored in the lee of the sea wall at Puerto Portals, a very expensive marina catering for very large powerboats.  We were pleased to be secure though we had to admit, we had quite enjoyed our late-night passage.


The following day we returned to Cala Portals for lunch, this time under sail on a very fast beam reach.  During the afternoon we sought out a suitable anchorage for the night, finally settling on a delightful spot tucked behind two small islands known as Las Illetas.  It was quite crowded when we arrived but by 2000 all the other boats had left and we had the anchorage to ourselves.


On Sunday 25th April, after a day of glorious sunshine, we weighed anchor and made our way into the huge harbour of Palma.  The harbour is the self-styled ‘sailing capital of the Mediterranean’ with three marinas and half a mile of sea wall where mooring is allowed.  It was thus a real surprise to find that all the marinas were full, a problem created by a boat show that was taking place at the time.  However, with the help of a local, we eventually found a place where we were able to stay for the next five nights.


The next morning we hired a car and explored the northern coast of Mallorca looking for somewhere suitable for Mum to stay when she visits us later in the month.  Once again we were taken by surprise as we found hotel after hotel to be fully booked.  However, our persistence eventually paid off and we found a delightful apartment in Alcúdia.  On our way back to Palma we made full use of the car by visiting an out-of-town hypermarket and stocking up on all the heavy goods that are so difficult when shopping on foot.


During our stay in Palma we made several visits to the city centre, but were not very impressed.  Despite being Spain’s sixth largest city its centre is very spread out making shopping very difficult.  We would prefer Stamford any day!  The cathedral had some beautiful stained glass but was not otherwise anything to write home about.  You will not be surprised to hear, therefore, that the highlight of our stay in Palma was when we left it – on the mountain railway to Soller on the west coast.  This was a fascinating journey in a fairly elderly cross between a tram and a train.  The journey began through the streets of Palma and then north-west across the plain to the foot of the mountains.  It then climbed steeply through dramatic scenery and a succession of tunnels eventually taking us down the other side into Soller.  If you ever find yourselves in Mallorca and you like trains, this is a journey not to be missed!


On Friday 30th April we motored out of Palma and set course for the island of Cabrera.  An hour into our journey we found ourselves crossing tracks with a British-flagged Moody.  We could see them waving wildly and thought that they must be in distress so we altered course towards them.  It turned out to be Jimmy and Claire on Phæcian, two friends that we had made in Almerimar and had last seen in Los Nietos.  We hove to alongside them for a while and exchanged news and then we each continued on our way.  By 1530 we were moored to a buoy in the stunningly beautiful Puerto de Cabrera.


The Archipielago de Cabrera is a 10,000 hectare marine-terrestrial park administered by the Spanish Government.  Permission to enter the park has to be obtained in writing in advance of one’s visit, a process we carried out painlessly by fax from the marina in Palma the day before we left.  Anchoring is forbidden anywhere in the park so the authorities provide colour-coded mooring buoys to suit a wide range of boat size.  They are all in a natural harbour known as Puerto de Cabrera and their use is entirely free.  From our point of view, a perfect arrangement!


Cabrera is uninhabited except for four guides, two guards and eight soldiers.  Walks around the island can only take place in organised groups with one of the guides.  We were concerned when we discovered that the minimum number for a guided walk is four but fortunately, an American family on a boat called Phlyer (they are from Philadelphia) came to our rescue and between us we made up a party.  The guide was a young Spanish girl who spoke English with a Geordie accent having been to university in Newcastle.  It’s a small world!


Our stay in Cabrera has been idyllic, particularly after the hustle and bustle of Palma.  We have seen the rare Audouin’s Gull, an Osprey and large numbers of the black Balearic Lizard.  David has also been snorkelling and seen many brightly-coloured reef fish in the crystal clear waters.  Unfortunately, there is a limit of three days stay for yachts though we have managed to sweet-talk ourselves two further nights without too much difficulty.  However, if the weather is suitable, we shall probably move on tomorrow and gradually work our way northwards along the east coast of Mallorca for our rendezvous with Mum on the 15th.





Passage Report Number 9


Moored in Puerto de Ciudadela, Menorca, Las Islas Baleares


Saturday 29th May, 1999




We left Puerto Cabrera as planned on Wednesday 5th May and sailed northwards along the east coast of Mallorca to Porto Colom.  This small port is set within a deep bay largely protected from the open sea by a narrow, dog-legged entrance.  It boasts a small marina, some local-authority pontoons and a large area suitable for anchoring so it is understandably popular.  As we needed water we really needed to be moored to a quay for at least one night but, finding the local authority pontoons full and the visitors’ quay at the marina affected by a strong surge, we opted to anchor instead.


We spent four nights at Porto Colom enjoying some very pleasant walks in the surrounding area.  We met up with the American family on Phlyer once again and spent some time with them.  We also met a couple from Rye, Tom and Jill on a Westerly Sea Lord called Kama, who know Chris and Monica Steward, our friends from Hastings.  Even when sailing distant parts it is still a small world.


On Sunday 9th May we sailed the short distance to Porto Cristo, the next well protected port along the coast.  Although there are many beautiful anchorages along this coast in small, deeply-indented bays known as Calas, the easterly component in the prevailing winds made most of them unsuitable for an overnight stay.  However, the dog-legged entrance at Porto Cristo kept out the swell and we were able to find a vacant berth on the local authority quay.  This was as ridiculously cheap as many of the private marinas are expensive – 500 pesetas for the night (about £2) rather than 4,000 pesetas (about £16) or more.


We stayed for two nights at Porto Cristo, which is a very pretty port set in a river estuary with cliffs along one side.  Just outside the town are the Cuevas del Drach, one of several large complexes of caves to be found along this coast.  Visits to the caves are very regimented and commercialised but their beauty is none the less for that.  We could have perhaps managed without the live musicians being rowed across the underground lake as they attempted to compete with the cries of babies who did not appreciate being plunged into darkness as the lights were dimmed for the performance.  I don’t know though – even that caused us to smile, as we were no longer in charge of either the children or the lights!


On Tuesday 11th May we enjoyed a superb passage of 33 miles from Porto Cristo to Pollensa.  The passage, much of it under spinnaker, took us past some beautiful, wild, mountain scenery that many visitors to Mallorca would never imagine existed here.  Upon arrival at Pollensa we made fast at the local authority quay where we hoped to remain for the duration of Mum’s imminent visit.  That plan was dashed the next morning when we discovered that there was a three-day maximum on the quay.  However, with the help of a co-operative harbourmaster – he extended our initial three days to five – all was not lost.  We moved Retreat to the neighbouring Yacht Club for three nights part way through Mum’ visit and were then able to move back to the local authority quay for another three nights, this time extended to four!  As the local authority quay is fully protected inside the harbour and the visitors’ berths at the Yacht Club are somewhat exposed on the outside of the harbour, we were pleased with this arrangement.


We hired a car for ten days from Thursday 13th May until the end of Mum’s week.  On the first Thursday we visited a number of marinas looking for the most suitable place to leave Retreat when we fly back to the UK in July.  It was not a very exciting day.  At one point we found ourselves driving along the road that runs behind the Playa de Mallorca, which is billed as “Mallorca’s finest beach”.  It was horrific!  The beach was packed solid with sun worshippers and the area behind it was a vast concrete jungle.  We couldn’t leave it fast enough.  However, by contrast, the next day was breathtaking!  We drove through the mountains that run down the west coast of Mallorca, a journey that took us into some of the most beautiful mountain scenery that we have ever encountered.  Mallorca really is full of surprises.  We particularly enjoyed the spectacular pass that leads to Sa Calobra.  From here we walked for a couple of kilometres along the floor of the Torrent de Pareis.  This path took us through a narrow, steep-sided gorge where the cliffs towered a thousand feet and more above our heads.  The walking was difficult but the rewards were huge.


We met Mum at Palma airport on Saturday 15th May and drove her straight to the apartment we had found for her in Alcudia, just a few miles from the harbour in Pollensa where we had left Retreat.  The apartment was on the fourth floor (there was a lift) right on the sea front so we had a balcony with an uninterrupted sea view.  The wide sandy beach was gently shelving and protected by a harbour wall so it was always calm.  It will not surprise you to know that Mum was in the water within a few minutes of her arrival!


Our week with Mum went very well indeed.  She swam in the sea every day and we went for a short drive most afternoons including a return visit to Sa Calobra.  The weather was kind and a good time was had by all.


We had intended to set sail for Menorca the day after Mum left.  However, with a good choice of anchorages and a harbour nearby in case of bad weather, the Bahia de Pollensa is a superb cruising ground in its own right.  The scenery is magnificent and the whole bay is protected from most winds.  We decided to stay for a while and we enjoyed a further week alternating our activities between sitting and reading at anchor and going on long walks across the Formentor Peninsular.


On Wednesday night we received an e-mail telling that an old friend, Harold Spriggs had died, aged 99 years and 10 months.  Harold, who was married to the Head of Music at Battle Abbey, was a great character and an inspiration, not only to both of us, but to all who met him.  As a retired priest he was still in demand for officiating at services, particularly funerals, right up until his death.  His great wisdom and his unswerving faith in God gave him a serenity that one does not often have the pleasure to encounter.  To the extent that man can ever aspire to the qualities of our Lord, Harold was, in the words of St John’s Gospel that I shall read at his memorial service in July, “full of grace and truth.”  May he rest in peace.


Today we sailed the 33 miles from Mallorca to Menorca.  With light winds we had to motor most of the way but at least we arrived safely.  As I write we are moored to the Public Quay in Ciudadela, Menorca’s cathedral city.  From here we shall begin our exploration of the most easterly of Las Islas Baleares.  More about that in our next Passage Report.





Passage Report Number 10


Anchored in Cala de Addaya, Menorca, Las Islas Baleares


Sunday 20th June, 1999




We only stayed for one night in Ciudadela for, although it was a fascinating old town, our berth on the town quay was very noisy.  So it was that on Sunday 30th May we motored a few miles south to a long, narrow inlet called Cala Santandria.  This rocky-sided bay is typical of the many ‘calas’ that are so characteristic of the Menorcan coastline.   As it was so narrow, we anchored ‘fore and aft’ in order to ensure that we did not swing into the cliffs when the wind changed.  This entailed using not one, but two anchors, one from each end of the boat.


We enjoyed a quiet night in our peaceful cala but, when it was time to go, one of our two anchors was reluctant to let go of the bottom!  We tried all the tricks that we know to release it but it was firmly entwined with what appeared to be a chain or cable of some sort.  Just as David was about to don his mask and snorkel, Muscadet, a boat we had met in Ciudadela, came into the cala and anchored close by.  Seeing our predicament, Chris, their skipper and a keen diver was in the water in a flash and within 30 seconds we were free.  Such is the camaraderie amongst fellow sailors.  We waved goodbye and, hoping that we might have the opportunity to return the favour one day, set off to sail around the north coast of Menorca to Cala Fornells, one of the largest calas on the island.


Our passage around Menorca was uneventful and largely under power in a light south-westerly wind.  However, as the predominant northerly winds usually make this coast inaccessible, we did not complain.  We even had the spinnaker up for a few miles.  Around mid afternoon the visibility deteriorated and we found ourselves in fog more reminiscent of the Channel Islands than the Mediterranean.  Once again we were reminded never to take the weather for granted and always to expect the unexpected!


We spent a week in Cala Fornells spending much of our time walking in the surrounding countryside.  Our first two nights were spent at anchor off Isla Sargantana, an island in the middle of the bay.  Around mid-morning on Wednesday the wind increased from 5 knots to 35 knots in less than 10 minutes causing mayhem amongst the huge dinghy fleet from the nearby sailing school and near-disaster for us.  As the wind rose we started to drag our anchor and within seconds we were in less than 2 metres of water.  Fortunately we were able to weigh the anchor quickly and motor out of trouble, but it was a nail-biting few minutes!  We motored across the bay towards the little harbour where we managed to find a vacant mooring buoy.  David donned his mask and snorkel to make sure the mooring was sound and we stayed happily and securely attached to it for five nights.  One drama is quite enough for one week!


On Monday 7th June we made a short passage along the coast to Cala de Addaya.  This is a completely land-locked cala reached from the sea through a gap in the cliffs.  Once the tricky entrance has been negotiated a large, peaceful, totally-protected anchorage opens up: a real haven for yachtsmen and fishermen alike.  Here we met up with friends we had made in Almerimar over winter, Jimmy and Claire on Phæacian.  This is their eighth year in the Mediterranean so they are interesting people to talk to.


On Thursday 10th July we attempted the passage from Addaya to Mahón, the capital of Menorca.  However, once clear of the protected entrance we encountered a two to three metre swell making the sea extremely uncomfortable.  We turned back and enjoyed another day in the tranquillity of Addaya and made the passage in much calmer conditions the next morning.  One of the major advantages of cruising without any time constraints is the ability to pick and choose when one makes passage.


Mahón is built on the banks of the largest cala in Menorca, which reaches over three miles inland.  A couple of islands ensure that the inner reaches are totally protected from swell explaining why it has been one of the most highly-prized harbours in the Mediterranean throughout the centuries of its turbulent history.  There seems to be hardly a sea-faring country in Europe that has not laid claim to Mahón at some time!


During our stay in Mahón we hired a car for a day and explored inland. We saw many of the megalithic sites for which Menorca is renowned: Taules (T-shaped monuments akin to Stonehenge), Talayots (towers) and a Naveta (burial chamber) said to be the oldest building in Europe.  We also visited several of the south-coast calas, the lighthouse at Cabo Caballeria and the top of Monte Toro, the highest point on the island.  From Santa Galdana on the south coast we walked a couple of miles up the Algendar Gorge where we encountered a large herd of free-roaming horses including two suckling foals.  Altogether, it was a good day out.


We spent most of our time in Mahón moored to a visitors’ buoy opposite the town centre.  Whilst there we were able to rescue a fender that fell over board, unnoticed, from Muscadet as they left harbour: their favour returned!  We spent our last two nights anchored in Cala Taulera, a fully-protected anchorage tucked behind one of the islands that guards the entrance to Mahón proper.  Here we saw young men on National Service undergoing firearms training, the noise of gunfire making us wonder if we had strayed a little too far east in the Mediterranean!


On Thursday 17th June we made a short passage to Cala Grao, a beautiful anchorage protected from the prevailing northerly winds by an island, Isla Colom.  Here we enjoyed walks along the banks of the Albufera lagoon, a beautiful lake designated as a Natural Park.  We also visited Isla Colom where we spent an idyllic couple of hours with the whole island to ourselves.  If it were not for the forecast of stronger winds to come we could have stayed for a month!


Yesterday we made the short passage along the coast back to Addaya where we shall stay for a day or so until the winds subside.  Several of the boats that we have met during the last few weeks are here so we shall plenty of opportunity to swap a few yarns.


P.S.  Since sending our last Passage Report we have learnt that David’s writings have been appreciated by an even wider audience than we had imagined.  We have received two e-mails, one to say that he has been awarded the Cruising Association ‘Brittain Cup’ for the provision of pilotage information and another asking him to contact the editor of ‘Cruising’ with reference to last years’ Passage Reports.  We shall let you know the outcome in a later report.





Passage Report Number 11


Laid up ashore in Marina de Bonaire, Mallorca, Las Islas Baleares


Thursday 8th July, 1999




We only stayed in Addaya for one more night following our last Passage Report as the forecast on the morning of Monday 21st June was for strong winds from the North by the end of the day.  Our previous experience had taught us that the entrance to Cala Addaya could be very rough in such conditions so we decided to set sail.  It turned out to be a good decision in more ways than one as we enjoyed some fine sailing on our way back south to Cala Taulera just outside Mahón.


The forecast proved to be absolutely correct and we were pleased to be anchored in such a well-protected cala.  The wind increased to a steady force six overnight with gusts to gale force.  Our anchor held firmly, though those of several other yachts nearby did not.  We learnt in the morning that one had attempted to re-anchor close to our bow and that we had had a very narrow escape when she dragged for the second time.  Despite getting up at regular intervals throughout the night to check our position we had seen none of this.  It’s perhaps just as well!


On Wednesday we motored the short distance to Mahón and moored to Isla Cristina.  This ‘island’ is, in reality, a square made up of floating pontoons with mooring lines attached.  It is thus possible for boats to moor to the pontoons just as they would to a solid quay.  What is more, there are garden seats and a lamp post on the ‘island’ so it is possible to get off one’s boat and go for a short walk to visit the neighbours or to make use of the water and electricity which are also provided.  It is a method of mooring that we have not encountered before that produces a marked community spirit amongst its temporary neighbours.  It must be something to do with the concept of an ‘island spirit’ that we Brits so often talk about.  We used our time there to water ship and to wash down Retreat including much of her running rigging, which we cleaned by using our dinghy as a wash tub.


The next day we caught a bus to Ciudadela to see a little of the Fiesta de Sant Joan.  We had deliberately stayed away from the main part of this fiesta the day before as we did not fancy the idea of 100 stallions being ridden through crowded, narrow streets where the ‘fun’ seemed to be to frighten the horses and make them rear up.  The town was still very crowded on the day that we visited but we were able to see the horses and their traditionally-dressed riders in reasonably calm surroundings.  Never the less, we still encountered a great deal of evidence of one of the other ‘traditions’ of the fiesta – drunken youths carrying lemonade bottles on their shoulders, the lemonade strongly diluted with local gin.  Given their state at noon we were quite pleased the last bus back to Mahón left at 1900!  This was the first time we have encountered such behaviour in Spain where generally we have felt far safer in the streets than we do back in the UK.


On Friday, after re-fuelling at the Club Maritimo de Mahón, we returned to Cala Taulera where we anchored for a couple of nights.  On our first morning there we saw, close in shore, what appeared to be a dinghy that had been left with its sails partly up.  On closer inspection with the binoculars we could see that it was not a dinghy at all, but a yacht – and it was sinking!  David jumped into our dinghy and rowed over towards it but, just before he arrived, it rolled over and sank.  Tapping on the hull revealed no one aboard but a row around the wreck revealed a large hole where the keel should have been.  We later learnt that the boat belonged to a sailing club in Barcelona and that she had struck rocks on her way into the cala in the middle of the night.  She had been beached on what was at the time a lee shore but, unfortunately, she had not been secured.  When the wind turned in the morning she had been blown out into deeper water where she sank, just before David reached her.


On Sunday we went on an organised tour of the fortifications on La Mola, the promontory that stands guard over the entrance to Mahón.  One of the most remarkable features was the precision with which the stone buildings had been constructed.  Despite the complexity of curved ceilings and walls there was barely room to slide a cigarette paper between the joints.  What a contrast to the hastily built concrete buildings that characterise Spain today.


After lunch we motored back to Mahón, this time picking up a buoy just off the town centre.  We went shopping the next morning and then returned to Cala Taulera to await suitable conditions for our trip back to Mallorca.


On Tuesday morning we weighed anchor and set off for a passage around the south-east corner of Menorca and westward along the south coast.  Although we had to motor for much of the time this turned out to be a very enjoyable passage.  We nosed into several calas during the day just to have a look and anchored in one (Cala Porte) for lunch.  After 27 miles we anchored in Cala San Saura for the night from where we were able to visit two of the ancient stone shepherd’s ‘huts’ that are found all over the island.  These are best described as a cross between an igloo and a pyramid and, though on a different scale to the fortifications on La Mola, they too are impressive for the precision with which they are built.


On Wednesday morning we continued around the coast to Cala Santandria, thus completing our circumnavigation of Menorca.  We then turned west and headed back towards Mallorca.  With little wind and a smooth sea we had a calm passage, albeit under power all the way.  At 1610 we dropped anchor behind Punta de la Avanzada in the Bahia de Pollensa, Mallorca.


We spent a week anchored in the Bahia de Pollensa, one night in a small bay just west of Marina de Bonaire and the remainder behind Punta de la Avanzada.  We spent our time sorting through the lockers on Retreat and generally preparing her for her summer lay-up, including servicing the engine.  Our work was punctuated with interesting breaks to watch the sea planes from the nearby base take off and land and practise their manoeuvres to pick up and drop water for fighting forest fires.  With day-time temperatures up to 30°C we also needed breaks to swim several times a day just to keep cool!


Over the weekend we learnt that friends from Almerimar, Trevor and Shirley on board Concord, were on their way to Pollensa.  We had telephoned them earlier in the week and they had altered their plans in order to meet up with us.  Their visit proved to be one of the highlights of our cruise and underlined the camaraderie of the sea that is so evident amongst live aboard sailors.


On Wednesday 7th July Retreat was lifted out of the water at Marina de Bonaire bringing to an end the first half of our 1999 season.  During the frenetic 36 hours that have passed since we have completed all the jobs that can only be done whilst out the water and packed ready for our trip back home.  Tomorrow morning we shall travel by taxi to Palma airport and by evening we shall be back in England – home and dry!  We shall return to Pollensa on 13th August in company with Katy and Nick who will be joining us for 10 days.  Look out for details of their visit in our next Passage Report around the end of August.



Our cumulative totals for the first half of our 1999 season are as follows:


Distance logged:                                                           840 Nautical Miles in 142 days

Time spent at Sea:                                                           180 hours

Time spent under Sail:                                                        60 hours

Time spent under power:                                                  120 hours


Average distance travelled per week:                                41 Nautical Miles

Average speed:                                                                   4.7 knots

Proportion of time sailing:                                                  33 %





Passage Report Number 12


Moored in Puerto de Mataró, Costa Dorada


Monday 23rd August, 1999




We flew back to Palma, Mallorca on 12th August in company with Katy and Nick.  We landed at dusk and a taxi delivered us, and all our luggage, to Marina de Bonaire an hour later.  Retreat was in good shape, the only evidence of our having deserted her being a thick layer of Sahara sand covering her decks, brought over by what is known locally as ‘red rain’.


We were launched at 0930 the next morning without any problems and, after using the marina’s water supply to wash away the Sahara sand and to fill our tanks, we headed off to Pollensa where we anchored just off the town.  Four full supermarket trolleys later, the contents of which all had to be ferried out to Retreat by dinghy, we were once more stocked up and ready to sail.  We motored across the bay and re-anchored behind Punta de la Avanzada, a delightful spot with extensive views of the mountains that run along the north-west coast of Mallorca.  Katy and Nick’s holiday, and the second half of our 1999 cruise had begun!


We spent the next three days day sailing in Bahía de Pollensa, a beautiful cruising area in its own right.  We spent each night in a different spot and sailed Retreat on every point of sail in a variety of wind and sea conditions.  The introductions were over – it was time to make the ‘big passage’.


On the morning of Tuesday 17th August we motored out of the Bahía de Pollensa at the start of our 101 mile passage to Puerto de Garraf on the Costa Dorada, 15 miles south-west of Barcelona.  The passage was completed half under sail and half under power and included a full night at sea.  Although we could have wished for a smoother sea at the start of the passage, it was much flatter once we were clear of land and we made good time arriving just after dawn.


The next day we visited Tarragona by train; an excellent day out.  Spanish trains are cheap, clean, fast and run on time and travelling on them makes a day out in itself.  When we arrived at Tarragona we discovered that it was a ‘Fiesta’ and entry to all the towns monuments and museums was free for the day: a real bonus as there were four of us.  We visited the Roman Amphitheatre and Circe and we walked around part of the ancient city walls. We also came across some teams competing in the local tradition of ‘human tower’ building.  This spectacular event took place in a square in front of the cathedral and involved teams of men and children building a human tower, seven layers high.  The bottom layer comprised a hundred or more people interlinked in a huge circle to produce a soft landing should the tower collapse.  The central figures upon whose shoulders the next layer stood were solidly built men any one of whom could give a Suma Wrestler a run for his money!  On their shoulders stood eight men, and on their shoulders, four more.  The next two layers comprised either two or three men and the final two layers were young children aged no more than 8 or 9 years old.  As we watched one of the towers collapse just as the youngest child reached the top we wondered what the Spanish equivalent of the NSPCC had to say about it all.  No such qualms here, though there were some extremely anxious looking Mums to be seen around the square!


The following day we sailed to Puerto Olímpico on the northern edge of Barcelona where we stayed for two nights.  This modern marina was built for the 1992 Olympic Games and proved to be an ideal base from which to explore the city.  We made use of the ‘Bus Turistic’, an eminently sensible system that could well be copied by other cities.  Special buses run around two separate routes at 12 minute intervals and a day ticket allows you as many journeys as you wish on either or both routes.  These include all the major sights which you can visit for as long as you choose and then catch the next ‘Bus Turistic’ to come along.  The highlight of our tour was undoubtedly ‘La Sagrada Familia’, an as-yet unfinished cathedral designed and partially built by Antoní Gaudí.  It was at one and the same time both magnificent and grotesque.  Not surprisingly it has aroused great passions amongst the locals, particularly over the huge expense of the continuing work of building .  All who see it must either love it or hate it – none could fail to be moved.  When all the arguments have raged the ultimate question would seem to be ‘was it built for the glory of God or for the glory of man?’  We have our opinions, but each must form his or her own.


Yesterday we made a final passage in ideal conditions from Barcelona to Puerto de Mataró where we are now moored.  This afternoon we travelled with Katy and Nick by train to Barcelona airport and waved them goodbye at the end of a highly successful ten days.  Tomorrow morning Nick will be back at his desk and Katy will be driving to the cattery to pick up Rhubarb.  If the weather allows, we shall be setting our bows north-east towards the Costa Brava, but for more about that look out for our next Passage Report.





Passage Report Number 13


Moored in Port Cap d’Agde, Languedoc-Roussillon, France


Friday 3rd September, 1999





In the five days that followed Katy and Nick’s departure the weather was kind to us and we made excellent progress north.  On Tuesday 24th August we set sail from Puerto de Mataró towards Blanes, the southern-most port on the Costa Brava.  However, with a force 4 on the beam and a slight sea the sailing was much too good to stop.  We waved to the good folk of Blanes from half a mile off and continued for another fourteen miles to Puerto de Sant Feliu de Guíxols.  Other than being at a suitable point on our journey and taking the record for the longest port name visited so far, Sant Feliu de Guíxols had little to offer.  Our berth was alongside a high, rough wall, which had a protruding ledge just below the water-line.  We tied our fenders into ‘bunches’ of three to hold us away from the ledge, made ourselves as comfortable as we could and resolved to give Sant Feliu a miss if we ever cruise this coast again!


The wind was lighter the following day and we were only able to proceed under power.  We motored north-east along the coast of the Costa Brava picking up a buoy for lunch off Las Islas Medes.  This group of islands is only half a mile offshore and is designated as a Marine Reserve.  From here northwards the coast of the Costa Brava, which had been disappointingly built up until then, began to live up to its name with high cliffs and interesting rock formations.  A further eight miles brought us to Puerto de L’Escala, our chosen port for the night.  At over 7,111 pesetas (£30) it proved to be our most expensive port to date, but thinking back to the cheap but uncomfortable wall at Sant Feliu de Guíxols helped to reduce the shock.


The next morning, whilst still moored at Puerto de L’Escala, we visited the ancient Greek and Roman ruins at nearby Empuries.  Like so many before us, we marvelled at the sophistication of the buildings, particularly the underground water and sewerage systems, and the complex social structure under which the city was run.  Much has been written about the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, but to see first-hand evidence of all that was lost for so long was a stark reminder of the fallibility of man.


After our return to L’Escala (we travelled to and from Empuries by ‘Dotto Train’) we motored just 10 miles across the Bahía de Roses where we anchored for the night off Puerto de Roses.  We had not expected to find any anchorages on this section of coast so to do so was a real bonus.  A free night also lessened the impact of record-breaking L’Escala!


On Friday 27th August we enjoyed one of our most spectacular passages to date.  From Puerto de Roses we motored first east, then north and finally west around the spectacular coast of Cabo Creus.  This most easterly point on the Spanish mainland is where the Pyrenees run into the sea and in bad weather it is a place to be avoided.  However, for us the sun shone, the sea was calm and we were able to enjoy the scenery in comfort, albeit under power.


We arrived at Puerto de Llansá, a delightful marina only five miles south of the Spanish/French border, by lunch-time and from there caught a train to Figueres.  There we visited the ‘Teatre-Museu Salvador Dali’, an experience that we are very pleased to have had, but which is very difficult to describe.  The whole building, constructed around a burnt-out theatre, was designed by Dali and contains many of his works.  ‘Weird’ would seem to be as good a word as any to describe it, though hopelessly inadequate.  If one had a penchant for grossly distorted figures with drawers in their skulls or pillars made from tractor tyres or old televisions then it might be termed ‘interesting’.  However, for us the over-whelming emotions were of confusion and sadness, the latter that such an obviously talented artist was not able to see the world in a less disturbed light.  We do hope that whichever world he is in now, he is feeling a little better!


Ever since we first planned to cruise along the Costa Brava and around the south coast of France we have kept an eye on the weather forecasts for the Golfe du Lion, the extreme north-west corner of the Mediterranean.  The gulf has the highest incidence of gales in the Mediterranean and, true to form, forecast after forecast showed winds of force 6 and above whilst the rest of the basin enjoyed balmy days with gentle sea breezes in the afternoon.  Even in those forecasts that predicted force 4 or less in the gulf, there usually seemed to be a rider adding ‘but force 6 or 7 around Cape Béar’.  The latter is on the Spanish/French border and marks the northern edge of the foothills of the Pyrenees.  It was, therefore, with some trepidation that we embarked upon our next passage, from Puerto de Llansá in Spain to Port Leucate in France, around Cape Béar and into the Golfe du Lion.


In the event, the bear was a pussycat and we enjoyed an exhilarating sail around the cape under full sail at 6 knots over a flat sea.  The only drama of the passage was being approached by a French customs launch the moment we crossed the border and being ordered to pass over our papers for inspection.  This we did whilst continuing at full speed and they were returned in the same manner ten minutes later.  However, not to be outdone, the lion did give a roar with a ‘tramontane’ building up from force 4 to force 7 in less than an hour.  Fortunately, it was not until the evening and by then we were safely moored at Port Leucate in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France.  We had made it back to the country that we sailed out of on Monday 25th May last year.





Port Leucate is one of a series of five ‘unités’ built on the Languedoc-Roussillon coast around the Golfe du Lion.  These developments were started in the sixties and seventies and are huge tourist cities, each with its own marina complex.  Although they are, in many ways, soulless concrete jungles, they do provide a series of ports along what used to be a barren, desolate, featureless coast.  As Archibald Lyall puts it in The South of France:  “if this coast had been left to its own fragmented and unbridled devices, it would have become an ugly, uncontrolled rash of shacks, shanties and pestilential lagoons filling with garbage.”  A good example of positive thinking!


One of the great joys upon arriving in Leucate was being able to communicate with the locals once more.  Our French is not very good, but it is infinitely better than our Spanish!  Even when we do not understand the words being spoken, they do at least sound familiar and we can make a stab at giving an answer.


The following morning we travelled by bus from Port Leucate into Perpignon from where we hired a car for 24 hours.  We drove into the Pyrenees along the long valley of La Têt and crossed into Andorra mid afternoon.  We have both had a long-held wish to visit Andorra, and we were not disappointed.  The scenery is spectacular with high mountains and steep V-shaped valleys.  Ski resorts abound in the higher mountains all looking somewhat forlorn without their coating of snow.


Andorra is a tax-free area and ‘doing a trip to Andorra’ appears to be as much a local pass-time as the British doing a ‘booze cruise’ across the channel.  The main town, Andorra La Vella, is a shopper’s paradise with shop after shop selling expensive consumer goods.  There is also the biggest concentration of petrol stations you could ever imagine: at one junction there were six within 100 metres!  Both Francs and Pesetas are accepted as legal currency, a situation no doubt helped by the introduction of the Euro producing a fixed relationship between the two.


We crossed from Andorra to Spain and then, only about 25 miles further on, back into France once more.  We stayed the night at a very pleasant small hotel in Bourg Madame on the Spanish/French border and, the next morning, drove back to Perpignon.  On our way we walked a short distance along Le Risseau de la Caranca, a spectacular narrow gorge running into the valley of La Têt.  We would have loved to have stayed for longer, but the dead-line on our hire-car beckoned!  However, the tour was a great success and we were delighted with our brief glimpse of the Pyrenees and Andorra.  Perhaps one day we will return for a longer visit.


From Leucate we motored 30 miles, once more in calm conditions, to one of the oldest unités, Cap’d’Agde where we now lie.  Since arriving we have stocked up from a local hypermarket and made full use of the first launderette we have found for many a long mile.  Overnight the weather took a turn for the worse and, as I write, there is rain beating down on Retreat as if to strip the treadmaster from her decks!  The outlook for the next few days is for more rain and strong easterly winds so we could be here for some time.  Perhaps this will be the opportunity for me to make a start on my book of last year’s cruise which is due to be published next Spring. Archibald Lyall’s positive thinking must be catching!





Passage Report Number 14


Moored in Port du Frioul, Marseille, France


Tuesday 14th September, 1999




It’s funny stuff, weather!  Despite the forecast of more gales to come, the storm that released a torrent of water over Retreat in Cap d’Agde blew itself out overnight and we were on our way again the next morning with not enough wind to sail.  Thirty-three miles on we made fast at Port Camargue, a huge marina and apartment complex at the western edge of the Rhône Delta.  Despite its size it has a pleasant ambience so we stayed for three nights, sitting out two further storms in the process.  As I said, funny stuff, weather!


La Camargue (the lakes and marshes of the Rhône Delta) was an area that we both wanted to visit, if only to reconcile some of the conflicting stories that we had heard.  Holiday programmes had left an impression of a haven of wildlife including galloping white horses, wild bulls and flocks of flamingos whilst friends who had visited the area spoke only of mosquitoes.  Who was right?  On Tuesday 7th September we set out to discover the truth by making a passage from Port Camargue to Les Saintes Maries, a small town in the centre of the coastal margin of La Camargue.


Les Saintes Maries is a fascinating town whose name is based upon the claim that not just one, but a veritable boatload of saints landed there including Mary Jacobé (sister of the Virgin Mary), Mary Magdalene and their servant Sarah.  From the town we were able to walk deep into the centre of La Camargue to see the wildlife for ourselves.  We were delighted.  Amongst the birds we saw pink flamingos by the hundred, gulls by the thousand, herons and egrets.  We also saw galloping white horses and bulls, though we must confess that the horses were ridden by humans and the bulls were in a fenced off area.  Still, a pretty good score we felt.  Oh, and the mosquitoes?  There were none!


We stayed an extra day in Les Saintes Maries in order to walk into La Camargue again and then, the following day, motored over a mirror-like sea to Le Golfe de Fos at the eastern end of the Rhône Delta.  We stayed the night at Port Napoleon, a favourite wintering spot for yachts that have spent the summer travelling south through the French canals.  Whilst there, we invited some fellow yachtsman on board for a chat so that we could quiz them about the port as we may yet end up there for the winter ourselves.  (More about that later.)  Whilst they were most welcome on board, our later visitors were not – the dreaded Camargue mosquitoes had found us after all!


From Port Napoleon we made a 24-mile passage to Port du Frioul where we are now moored.  The port is situated between two islands that, although they lie two and a half miles offshore, form part of the city of Marseille.  During our stay here we have walked from one end to the other of both islands enjoying the stark beauty of the sculptured limestone from which they are formed.  We have also visited the centre of Marseille by ferry.  Most of the old buildings were destroyed during the war though a few still remain, the most spectacular being the church of Notre Dame de la Garde which stands on the top of a high hill overlooking the city.


With autumn approaching our thoughts have begun to turn towards our resting-place for the winter.  When we left Mallorca we had in our minds the possibility of reaching Elba, a popular spot for overwintering.  However, although we still have time to travel that far, we are now thinking that we may not.  After a year or more of struggling in Spanish it is quite a treat to be back in a country where we can make ourselves understood.  Whilst our knowledge of French, on a scale of one to ten, may be only three or four, our knowledge of Italian is zero!  We are thus more than a little tempted to remain in France though, as always, there is a dilemma!  Port Napoleon, though geared up for live-aboards and very cheap, is in the path of the Mistral and very bleak over winter.  The ports a little further east on the French Riviera enjoy a far milder climate but are much, much more expensive.  C’est la vie!


To find out whether or not we have solved our conundrum, look out for our next Passage Report.





Passage Report Number 15


Moored in Port de Saint-Mandrier-sur-Mer, Toulon, France


Thursday 30th September, 1999




We left Port du Frioul on Thursday 16th September en route for Cassis, 15 miles to the east.  However, as often seems to happen when we have spent more than a few days in harbour, we were enjoying being at sea so much that we decided to continue.  Within half an hour the wind started to increase so that, instead of motoring in a flat calm, we were enjoying a superb sail down wind under genoa alone in a force five.  It was one of our most enjoyable sails for some time and, had we put into Cassis, we would have missed it!  Berthing at our next port, St Pierre-des-Embiez was a little tricky in the strong wind but we managed without any mishaps.


Île des Embiez is a beautiful island that owes much of its prosperity to Paul Ricard who made his fortune producing pastis.  Ricard, who is buried on the island, built the marina and a centre for marine research and turned the whole island into a nature reserve.  It is very well worth a visit.


The next day we continued eastwards, past the entrance to Toulon, around the Presqu’île de Giens and north to the marina at Hyères-Plage.  This huge marina marks the beginning of the French Riviera, the haunt of super-yachts with prices to match.  We only stayed one night!  However, our next harbour was a delightful contrast.  Port Porquerolles is situated on the largest of Les Îles d’Hyères, a group of islands designated as a nature reserve.  We spent five days in the islands enjoying many walks in magnificent scenery.  We also enjoyed the rare pleasure of being moored to a buoy rather than to a quay or a pontoon.


On Thursday 23rd September, warning of strong winds sent us scurrying back towards Toulon.  Though the passage was short we once again enjoyed a force five from abaft the beam giving us over 6 knots under genoa alone.  The pilot book was somewhat dismissive of Toulon, but we were pleasantly surprised.  It is home to the French Mediterranean Fleet and, much like Plymouth, is at the head of a huge area of protected water behind a long outer breakwater.  Within ‘La Petite Rade de Toulon’, as it is called, there are a number of ports of which Toulon itself is the largest.


Once moored our thoughts turned once again to the question of where we might leave Retreat for the winter.  Could La Petite Rade de Toulon provide the answer?  The area is certainly more beautiful and better protected from the Mistral than Port Napoleon, surrounded as it is by mountains.  We decided to find out.  For the last week we have remained in La Petite Rade investigating all the possibilities, both for our periods of time afloat and ashore.  We have discovered a ‘Port à Sec’ where we can leave Retreat when we return to England and the delightful harbour at St Mandrier where we now lie.  This harbour is in a small village overlooking the mountains but is connected to Toulon by regular ferries and buses.  There are some delightful walks along the coast and most facilities to be found in the village including two supermarkets, a bank and a laundrette.  What more could one ask for?  We have paid our deposit to the ‘Port à Sec’ and checked that we can stay in St Mandrier from mid-October to mid November.  Our decision has been made at last!


Strong winds seem set to keep us in port for a day or two, but we hope to set out on a ‘mini-cruise’ back to Les Îles d’Hyères before returning to St Mandrier to begin the process of laying up.  To find out whether or not we manage to do so, look out for our next Passage Report in a couple of weeks time.





Passage Report Number 16


Moored in Port de Toulon, France


Sunday 17th October, 1999




The strong winds that were blowing when we wrote our last Passage Report lasted for a further 36 hours.  However, by Saturday 2nd October they had abated sufficiently to allow us to leave Port de Saint-Mandrier-sur-Mer and set sail for Île de Porquerolles, the nearest of Les Îles d’Hyères.  We would have loved to stay for a few days, but the five-day forecast indicated that a strong Mistral was on its way and the harbour on Île de Porquerolles is open to the north-west, the direction from which the Mistral blows in this area.  The next morning saw us under way again, north and east to the Port Public at Cavalaire-sur-Mer, but promising ourselves that we would return.  We berthed stern-to and made fast with our heavy ropes and chains as the forecast was now predicting a force 9 over night.


The wind did, indeed blow hard that night, though probably not as strong as force 9.  However, it was sufficient to keep us in port for three nights.  Cavalaire-sur-Mer is a pleasant enough little town, but after a half-hour stroll we had covered most of its attractions!  Our mini-cruise was beginning to look as if it might not have been such a good idea.  However, determined to make the most of our time, we caught a bus on Tuesday morning to St Tropez.  What a superb day out that turned out to be!  The journey itself, which took only 20 minutes, took us through vineyards growing the grapes for the local Provençale Rosé.  When we arrived we found that the Mistral had delayed the departure of many of the traditional boats that had been in St Tropez for a ‘Festival of the Sea’ the previous weekend.  The harbour was a spectacle of colour with huge wooden yachts packing the quayside from wall to wall.  After lunch at a pavement restaurant (Pat’s delayed birthday present!) we were treated to the sight of several of the largest boats leaving harbour for an impromptu final race in what was by then only a light wind.  The way the skippers and crew handled their boats as they manœuvred out of the crowded harbour filled us with admiration, as did the standard of upkeep of the acres of beautifully varnished wood.  Owning one of these vessels must be either extremely time consuming or extremely expensive, or most probably, both!


St Tropez itself was not at all what we had expected.  It is an old town with quaint little back streets harbouring a large number of artists, both in studios and on the quayside.  The only sign of the ‘beautiful people’ for which it is famed was amongst the cast of a film being shot on the waterfront.  The ‘real’ people were all pleasingly ordinary, rather like us! 


The following morning we set sail once again, this time towards the narrow passage between Île du Levant and Île de Port-Cros.  Île du Levant, the most easterly of Les Îles d’Hyères, is largely military and landing is forbidden.  There is, however, a small village at the western end where one is allowed ashore though cameras are still strictly forbidden.  The village, known as Heliopolis has no military secrets to hide, but it is entirely naturist having been founded as such by two doctors in 1931.  The remnants of the swell from the Mistral meant that the anchorage off the village was untenable so we are unable to report on how it is faring in the 1990’s.


The next three nights were spent at anchor in the deep U-shaped bay of Port-Man at the eastern end of Île de Port-Cros.  Our time there was idyllic.  As we mentioned in our last Passage Report, Les Îles d’Hyères are designated as a nature reserve and Île de Port-Cros is uninhabited save for a small hamlet at the western end and an observatory on the top of one of its highest points.  Our anchorage therefore, was totally unspoilt with no sign of human habitation to be seen.  We spent our time walking along the well-marked paths and enjoying the return of warm, sunny weather.  David swam every day in the beautifully clear water though, at 23°C, it proved too cold for Pat!


On the morning of Saturday 9th October we awoke to find the forecast south-westerly had become a north-easterly and was blowing straight into our anchorage.  We weighed anchor and motored the short distance around the island to the port of Port-Cros.  Here we made fast to a mooring buoy which we were delighted to find was free of charge during the low season.  On Sunday David went snorkelling over an under-water ‘path’ laid out with marker buoys as part of the nature reserve.  He saw many different species of fish including an ugly-looking spiky one sitting on the rocks.  He kept well out of his way!


By Monday we were running short of food and water so a trip to civilisation was called for.  We motored the six miles back to the mainland and spent a night at Port de Bormes-les-Mimosas where we replenished our stores and tanks.  However, anxious to make the most of the beautiful weather, by Tuesday afternoon we were once again moored to a buoy in Port-Cros.  The magic of the islands had certainly caught us in its spell.  To add interest to our return visit, we came across a British couple whom we had met several weeks earlier in Port du Frioul, David and Pam on board Verity, a Victoria 34.


On Thursday morning the forecast predicted a return to north-westerly winds which blow straight into the harbour at Port-Cros.  Very reluctantly we cast off our mooring and set sail for Île de Porquerolles, eight miles to the west.  There we anchored in a bay just to the west of the port where we spent the night well protected from what turned out to be a westerly wind.  The next day was the perfect finale to our mini-cruise to Les Îles d’Hyères.  The sun shone brightly and the wind died away to a whisper.  We stayed aboard all day soaking up the sun, catching up on some of our reading and enjoying the magnificent views.  Who could ask for anything more?


On Saturday morning we rowed ashore and walked to the port to read the forecast.  It was not good with predictions of gale-force winds by Sunday evening.  We returned to Retreat weighed anchor and set sail for Toulon where we now lie.  The predicted gale has not yet arrived though the sky has clouded over and the barometer is dropping.  It looks as if our 1999 season may well have come to an end though perhaps, not quite.  The locals frequently go on weekend passages to Les Îles d’Hyères and so, if they can, why not Retreat?  To find out if the weather permits a final, final cruise, keep an eye on your in-tray for our next Passage Report.





Passage Report Number 17


Laid up ashore in the Port à Sec, La Petite Rade de Toulon, France


Saturday 13th November, 1999




For two days after writing our last Passage Report it rained without pause.  However, the morning of Tuesday 26th October dawned bright and sunny and David and Pam took advantage of the break in the weather to set sail for Port Napoleon on board Verity.  We looked wistfully towards Les Îles d’Hyères once more, but then looked at our list of jobs and the calendar.  With great reluctance we concluded that there was no longer time to consider a further trip, not even of a couple days.  Our 1999 sailing season was over.


Our work on laying up Retreat for the winter began that afternoon and has continued with hardly a break until today.  A detailed list of all our jobs would not make very exciting reading, but suffice to say we have taken down our sails and washed, mended and stowed them, re-painted and packed away our dinghy, re-varnished much of the woodwork both above and below decks and, of course, serviced the engine.  Much of this has been done whilst dodging the showers that have been an ever-present feature of the past month.


Despite the long list of jobs we have managed to find some time to explore the city of Toulon and the surrounding area.  Amongst our most enjoyable excursions has been a trip by cable car to the top of the hill that stands behind Toulon and a day out by ’bus to the town of Hyères.


We were originally booked to be lifted out of the water yesterday, but the medium-range forecast issued on Wednesday morning spoke of rapidly deteriorating weather and impending gales.  After a hasty telephone call we cast off our moorings from the quay at Toulon harbour and by mid-afternoon Retreat had been craned out of the water at the Port à Sec.  It was all a little frenetic as time was short and Retreat was built to swim, not to fly!  At least we did not have too much time to worry about it all before hand!


Over the last three days we have completed our sorting and packing together with some of those jobs that can be done only when on dry land such as cleaning and greasing the seacocks.  At lunchtime tomorrow a taxi will arrive to take us to Toulon Railway Station to catch a train to Nice, the first leg of our journey over-land to Munich.  More about that in what will be our final Passage Report of 1999.





Passage Report Number 18


On Board Flight GOE258 from Munich to Stansted


Monday 6th December, 1999




The morning of Sunday 14th November was spent making ready for our departure and closing down Retreat for the winter.  Fortunately, the sun shone and we were able to complete our tasks in the dry.  Our taxi arrived to collect us from the Port à Sec at 1200 noon and we hardly had time to wave goodbye as we left Retreat and sped off towards Toulon station.


Our first stop was in Nice.  As soon as we arrived at the station we sought out the Tourist Information Office to enquire about a hotel for the night.  They were able to direct us to a two star hotel less than a kilometre from the station where we left our bags before setting off to explore the town.  Nice’s most notable feature is its very long promenade that extends for several miles along the sea front.  We enjoyed our walk along it on what turned out to be a glorious sunny evening, though we did seem to be the only people there not haring along at break-neck speed on roller blades!


On Monday morning we caught another train, this time to Milan.  Much of the first part of the journey was along the coastline of the French Riviera which we hope to sail along next year.  We passed through Monte Carlo and Genoa and then turned inland towards Milan.  When we arrived, the Tourist Office directed us to a one star hotel only a hundred metres from the station.  It was superb!  Why it had only one star we cannot imagine for it was one of the best hotels we have ever stayed in anywhere!


When we planned our journey we chose Milan as a convenient stopover rather than as a specific place we wished to visit, but it proved to be one of the most interesting stops on our journey.  It is a very elegant city full of very smart shops and equally smart people.  It also has a clean and efficient Metro making getting about very easy.  It is well worth a visit.


On Tuesday we boarded a train once more, this time to Venice where we spent two nights.  As we donned our raincoats and woolly hats to explore the city it was hard to remember that just three days earlier we had been walking along the promenade in Nice in our shorts and T-shirts!  On Wednesday, our full day in Venice, we bought one-day tickets for the ‘vaporetti’ – the water ’buses that ply their way to every corner of the city and the surrounding islands.  We used them to visit the Piazza San Marco and the island of Murano, home of Venetian glassware.


Our train journey on Thursday was everything we could have ever hoped for.  With such unsettled weather whilst we were in Venice we had feared we might see nothing, but the day turned out to be clear and bright.  We travelled first from Venice to Verona and then caught a second train to take us on to Innsbruck.  As we climbed slowly but surely into the Alps we were treated to what must surely be some of the most magnificent views obtainable through a train window.  It was breathtaking!


When we arrived in Innsbruck we found ourselves in a different climate yet again with deep snow all around.  We enjoyed our short stay in this beautiful city and, as with each of the stops on our over-land journey, promised ourselves that we would return and stay a little longer next time.


On Friday we travelled from Innsbruck to Munich, this time under heavy cloud and thick, swirling mist.  We got off the train at München Ost and caught the S-Bahn to Baldham where Chrissy was waiting to pick us up.  Our over-land journey had been a great success.


We very much enjoyed our two weeks in Munich.  Kathy, Tamara and John were excellent company reminding us that time spent with children is a privilege to be enjoyed, not a chore to be endured.  During our fortnight we visited many of the sights of Munich and, on one day, enjoyed a spectacular drive deep into the Austrian Alps.  This morning we caught the S-Bahn to Munich airport and we are now on our way back to England.  We hope to visit many of you during our stay there but if we don’t manage to see you, do have a very happy Christmas and enjoy the final year of the millennium.  We shall be returning to Retreat around the middle of February, so look out for our next Passage Report sometime around the 29th February – always assuming the millennium bug allows that date to exist wherever you find yourself on that day!



Our cumulative totals for the second half of our 1999 season are as follows:


Distance logged:                                                           619 Nautical Miles in 65 days

Time spent at Sea:                                                           123 hours

Time spent under Sail:                                                        28 hours

Time spent under power:                                                    95 hours


Average distance travelled per week:                                67 Nautical Miles

Average speed:                                                                5.0 knots

Proportion of time sailing:                                                  23 %



Our cumulative totals for the whole of our 1999 season are as follows:


Distance logged:                                                           1,460 Nautical Miles in 207 days

Time spent at Sea:                                                           304 hours

Time spent under Sail:                                                        88 hours

Time spent under power:                                                  216 hours


Average distance travelled per week:                                49 Nautical Miles

Average speed:                                                                4.8 knots

Proportion of time sailing:                                                  29 %