Yacht Retreat - Passage Reports 1999
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Passage Report Number 1
Moored in Almería Marina,
UNDER WAY ONCE MORE
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
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
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
HIGH PRESSURE SAILING!
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
We stayed for three nights in
On Sunday 21st we
enjoyed our first sail of the season, on passage from
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
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
Passage Report Number 3
Moored in Puerto de Altea, Costa Blanca
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
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,
THE FIRES OF
As I type this Passage Report on my Psion we are enjoying
a superb sail from Dénia towards
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
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 –
The harbour at
During our stay at
We slipped our moorings at
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
Our intention had been to remain
in Dénia for one night and then press on towards
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
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
Following the Mascleta we walked
around the centre of
At 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
After all the excitement in
Friday 19th March was
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
After all the excitement,
Saturday was a day for recovery and preparation for our 55 mile trip to
Passage Report Number 5
Anchored in Puerto del Espalmador, Las Islas Baleares
ONE YEAR ON
At 1430 today (1330 BST) we were
lying peacefully to our anchor off the tiny
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
On our last full day in
On Monday 29th March
we sailed from
For those of you who have visited
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
Passage Report Number 6
Moored in Puerto de Sabina, Formentera, Las Islas Baleares
AMP-HOURS AND POINTY HATS!
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
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
In marked contrast to the
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 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
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,
ANOTHER DAY – ANOTHER
As I write we are rolling rather
heavily as we lie to our anchor in Cala Portals on the
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
The next day we sailed north
again to explore a little more of the south-east coast of
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 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
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
The next day we sailed the full
length of the rugged north-west coast of
So it was that on Wednesday 21st
April we made the 45 mile crossing from
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
RARE BIRDS AND REPTILES
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
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 , 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
The next morning we hired a car
and explored the northern coast of
During our stay in
On Friday 30th April
we motored out of
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
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
Our stay in Cabrera has been
idyllic, particularly after the hustle and bustle of
Passage Report Number 9
Moored in Puerto de Ciudadela,
LINKS WITH HOME
We left Puerto Cabrera as planned
on Wednesday 5th May and sailed northwards along the east coast of
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
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
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
We met Mum at
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
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
Today we sailed the 33 miles from
Passage Report Number 10
Anchored in Cala de Addaya,
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
Our passage around
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
On Thursday 10th July we
attempted the passage from Addaya to Mahón, the capital of
Mahón is built on the banks of
the largest cala in
During our stay in Mahón we hired
a car for a day and explored inland. We saw many of the megalithic sites for
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
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
HOME AND DRY
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 we were quite pleased
the last bus back to Mahón left at 1900!
This was the first time we have encountered such behaviour in
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
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
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
On Tuesday morning we weighed
anchor and set off for a passage around the south-east corner of
On Wednesday morning we continued
around the coast to Cala Santandria, thus completing our circumnavigation of
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
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
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
RETURN TO THE SPANISH MAINLAND
We flew back to
We were launched at 0930 the next
morning without any problems and, after using the marina’s water supply to wash
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
The next day we visited
The following day we sailed to
Puerto Olímpico on the northern edge of
Yesterday we made a final passage
in ideal conditions from
Passage Report Number 13
Moored in Port Cap d’Agde,
THE BEAR IS A PUSSYCAT BUT THE LION GIVES A ROAR
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
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
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
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
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
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
THREE COUNTRIES IN THREE HOURS
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
We crossed from
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,
FLAMINGOS AND MOSQUITOES
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.
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
With autumn approaching our
thoughts have begun to turn towards our resting-place for the winter. When we left
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
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
On Thursday 23rd
September, warning of strong winds sent us scurrying back towards
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
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
AN INDIAN SUMMER IN LES ÎLES D’HYÈRES
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
The next three nights were spent
at anchor in the deep U-shaped
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
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
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
Passage Report Number 17
Laid up ashore in the Port à Sec,
La Petite Rade de Toulon,
RETREAT TAKES FLIGHT FOR THE WINTER
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
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
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
Passage Report Number 18
Board Flight GOE258 from
BY LAND FROM
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 and we hardly had time to wave goodbye as we left Retreat and sped off towards
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
When we planned our journey we
On Tuesday we boarded a train
once more, this time to
Our train journey on Thursday was
everything we could have ever hoped for.
With such unsettled weather whilst we were in
When we arrived in
On Friday we travelled from
We very much enjoyed our two
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 %