The Scarlet Papers - 3 - Menorca - All good things must come to an end.....

andromeda of plymouth
Susan and Andrew Wilson
Wed 22 Nov 2017 12:56

The Scarlet Papers – 3 – Back to Menorca – all good things come to an end - Aaahhhhhhhhh.

Thursday 17th August and it was time to head back to Menorca saying goodbye to Carlaforte, Sardinia and Italy. We had a fine time and enjoyable visit and have left many places to explore and things to do for another time, including the national park around the Madelena’s. But now we were hoping for some wind. We left the marina at 9am and once out the harbor and off shore we put up the sails. It was fine for a while but the wind was not consistent so on went the engine and we motored sailed, settling into the day and enjoying the sunshine and meals – a very important part of any passage. The Mr D has certainly come into its own and worked well for us; it is so very satisfying to get to the end of the day and have a meal that just needs serving up. We will try and source one for aboard Andromeda. Today’s delight was a lovely Tuscan bean, chicken and chorizo creation that Andrew put together and very yummy it was too. We then went to bed first as our watch started at 2am.


For the first time ever we were late for our watch, (eek!) we are not sure what happened but neither of our alarms went off, or we were so fast asleep that we didn’t hear them, not sure which, but we became suddenly aware that we should be up, before being keel-hauled!!! Quickly getting our act together we relieved David and Lyn and took over the watch. It was another beautiful starry night and when the moon rose it had a definite reddish/pinkish tint to it – Saharan dust maybe. Not a lot was happening and it was soon time to head back to our bunk for another couple of hours at the end of our four hour watch. Still no wind was to be found, so we kept on chugging along. Keeping an eye out for any vessels not showing on the AIS, we spotted some whales spouting in the distance and then we had a visit from a few dolphins. Interestingly, so far from land, we had a very small stowaway for a short time when we saw a red dragon fly taking a rest on the guard rails for a while; there is other life out there, though quite what it was doing at sea was a little puzzling. We all gave some thought as to when we thought we would spot land and wrote down our estimates and once again Andrew was the nearest and we spotted Menorca at 11.44am.


Our land fall on our return to Menorca was the bay at the entrance of the passage to Mahon from whence we had left, and we motored into Cala Taulera to drop the anchor. However, trying to reverse to set it, there was an awful racket. Fortunately, and a relief to us all, we found the cause quite quickly; David donned his snorkel and went into the water and discovered that somehow a huge plastic sack had caught round the propeller; it didn’t make its presence felt when in forward gear but in reverse it was quite another matter. With our stress levels back down to a more normal level we settled into the anchorage enjoying a lovely dip in the 28 degree water, very refreshing. Quite when we picked up the plastic is something we may never know – it didn’t look too worn, nor ripped, so a mystery of sorts – we hope it wasn’t Italian.


The wind increased in strength overnight but we were well clear of other boats so that was good. We watched as a few more yachts came to squeeze themselves into any available space until the anchorage was just about full up.  Lyn and I decided that, as the water looked a bit rough for taking the dinghy to shore to get supplies, we would cycle round the bay to Mahon and do a bit of provisioning. Looking it up online we knew we had about 9kms to cycle, which didn’t seem too bad, but on folding bikes with no suspension or gears and small wheels it was a bit of a challenge, especially with the hills between us and the shop near the marina. We  made pretty good time and were really relieved once we got down to the harbor as it was flat all the way round to the shop at the other end of the bay; having loaded our various rucksacks and bags we headed back again. This time however there was no way we were cycling up any of the hills, our saddles were a bit sore. Eventually we were nearly back when Lyn spotted that there was a shop at the resort just along from the anchorage, we didn’t know because the sign is angled for people coming the other way…….we will know another time. The last part of the ride was an exhilarating downhill plummet to where David was arriving with the dinghy to take us back to Scarlet, we were tired and sore and so pleased to get off the bikes.


Meanwhile it had all been happening back in the anchorage. David wanted to check that the anchor was secure but couldn’t spot it from the dinghy so Andrew got into the water but the visibility wasn’t clear enough, even when diving down several meters and it was decided to just reverse and pull down on it to make sure it was well dug in; Scarlet  certainly didn’t go anywhere. Two more yachts had arrived but once they had dropped their anchors they ended up swinging round too close to Scarlet and had to be fendered off, one making some small scratches on Scarlet from its anchor chain. After all the excitement we had a lazy, snoozy afternoon as the wind calmed down. For once the local national park police didn’t cruise round warning folks that they could only stay in the anchorage for a maximum of three days, which is usually the case. The reason was because of the strong winds, all the marinas in Mahon were full! Quite something. It also turned out that at the end of the month was a big regatta involving the king of Spain, so the marinas would be full for quite some time.


In the early hours of the morning the wind got back up and as the light came up some boats left the anchorage, we were securely swinging about nicely and as there wasn’t much fetch we weren’t rolling or bouncing about which was great. We had a lovely lazy day after the previous exertions and then a little disaster. Andrew and I were taking down a temporary sunshade as it was getting windy when said wind took hold of my hat and threw it in the water. By the time Andrew had leapt in to retrieve it it had gone below and sunk out of sight. The water visibility isn’t brilliant in Cala Taulera, certainly at that time, so after over 3 years of wearing it almost daily, I had to say a sad goodbye to my hat. I had bought it in St. Martin in the Caribbean on the way up to join ARC Europe. It was a brilliant hat. It had a SPF rating of 50 because of the weave, it kept the sun off my face, it kept the rain off me and when windy it stopped my hair flying about. It fitted perfectly and a fair few people stopped me and asked how it stayed on in the wind……We snorkeled several times and checked the shore line in case it got washed over by the rocks but no it was gone, it felt like the end of an era; I had lost a friend of sorts.


We left Cala Taulera the next morning and went into Mahon to refuel, right by the marina shop so I could nip across and get us some more of the lovely bread they stocked there, then we were on our way again. Contrary to local cruising guides, there were a fair few yachts anchored in the harbor; we assume because of the poor conditions on the northern coast, they couldn’t move yachts on out of a secure and safe anchorage – not being the seamanlike thing to do. Having gone anti clockwise round Menorca last time we were headed clockwise this time and were looking forward to visiting places we hadn’t stopped at previously. First up was lunch at Cala en Porter after a lovely sail along the southern coast. Cala en Porter was very picturesque and fine for a short stop for lunch, but we were soon on our way heading into Cala Galdana, somewhere we wanted to check out as photos in the pilot book showed a very pretty place and after another brisk sail we dropped the hook in the bay. It turned out to be a lovely cala with gorgeous turquoise waters to swim in, but was much more built up and touristy on shore, with a huge hotel complex overlooking the cala, so not quite one of our favourite places, but definitely worth a visit.


After a surprisingly calm night, not much rolling at all, we set off again heading for the anchorage outside Cuitadella. We got our timing absolutely right and found a lovely sheltered spot close to the shore, and soon had the hook down and a line ashore to stop us swinging about too much. We were even in the right place to get ashore, and so we loaded up the dinghy with our washing and shopping trolleys and headed off to do some housekeeping. We had a busy time as whilst the laundry was going round in the machine we went to the hypermarket and filled the trolleys with supplies before collecting the washing and heading back to the landing spot. It was a bit trickier getting down to the water’s edge with all the provisions and wet washing but we managed it and were dinghied back to Scarlet to unload our goodies and put out the laundry to dry. Andrew had a near escape when his foot slipped and he twisted his ankle while sliding down the rocks on his posterior – after a little rest his ankle survived ok. The rest of the day was spent snorkelling and swimming in the turquoise waters until we spotted a jelly fish…then we were watching the antics of various people coming to enjoy the sea. A fair few were leaping from the rocks and small cliffs into the water, others were swimming, snorkeling and generally having fun and boats were going in and out of the anchorage, it kept us pretty well entertained. After our evening meal we all piled into the dinghy and went round to Cuitadella itself for a last wander round.  This was a really good move as I managed to find a replacement hat. It’s not quite as good as the other one but is certainly better than any of the others I have, so all I need now is a nice orange scarf to put round it. We didn’t spot an orange scarf but I did manage to find a pair of the traditional Menorcan sandals in my size and more importantly the right colour to go with my wardrobe…yippee. Lyn in the meantime was tempted into buying her second pair. Returning to the dinghy we discovered we were blocked in but after a bit of tugging and pushing we managed to get ourselves out and navigated our way back to Scarlet in the, by now, windy and lumpy anchorage.


An early start followed the next day after Lyn had walked Maisie and reported back she had seen two hoopoes, very colourful birds and ones we are used to seeing occasionally on our morning walks round Lagos. The coast line from Cuitadella northwards much more rugged than the south with lots of caves, narrow cala’s and interesting rock and cliffs formations in all sorts of shapes and colours. Cala Morell, where we had lunch, was quite a narrow, steep sided, busy cala but we found room to anchor for a short while and all enjoyed a swim and a snorkel in the crystal clear water. Here we saw the most fish of our trip so far. The Cala obviously had some springs feeding into it as well as there were some patches of much colder water here and there.


Pulling up the hook we carried on our way and sailed up to Cala Algaiarens where we anchored more in the middle of the bay this time.  It was so calm and warm that Lyn and I got out the inflatables we had bought. Lyn has Gordon Gecko and I have Larry Lobster and after the effort of blowing them up we had a great deal of fun in the water with them, eventually learning how to stay on top for more than a few seconds. We really didn’t mind being thrown in the water as it was a great temperature and the sun was shining warmly. Andrew and I snorkeled to the rocks but there wasn’t a lot to see and once again we had timed things right. Once back on board and after lunch we saw many “fried egg” jelly fish (as they are known) in the water. Having “googled” them we found out that they were poisonous to a degree but we were very wary so didn’t go back in the water, but just watched as they swam and floated past us, and there were quite a few. As they came very close to Scarlet we were able to get some great photos. They caused quite a stir in the anchorage and folks on rented paddleboards were soon off back to shore.


Pregonda was the next place on our agenda and by consensus, our favourite anchorage of the trip. The rocks around the Cala are a spectacular reddish colour, the water is turquoise and balmy, the beach is sandy, lovely. There are lots of nooks and crannies to explore and during the day there is a lot to watch and of course the opportunity to buy an ice cream from one of the tripper boats. Then it starts to empty out as people have to walk a fair way to get there from the carparks, and so leave at a reasonable time, early evening to go back. Then the day boats leave too so there are only a few boats anchored overnight. Bliss….the moon rising over the rocks into a starry night……..


This particular night we were in for a treat. There was another boat in the anchorage that we had spotted in several other places and as dusk settled, someone picked up a violin or viola and treated the anchorage to a few tunes. First up was the theme to Game Of Thrones, very surprising and, to our uncultured ears, really well played; this was followed by a Guns and Roses tune, Sweet Child of Mine. A lovely end to a great day, and the boat, well we never found out it’s name but it was the orange one in the photos. The initial sound across the water was quite magical and the player, on a dutch boat (it was orange after all) had a great round of applause – a very special moment.


We had now almost reached the end of our trip and our final passage on Scarlet, and fortunately it was a lovely sail that took us round to Fornells again, where Andrew and I caught one of their nice buoys at the first attempt – hurrah. It was lovely in bay, a gentle breeze was blowing and keeping us comfortable and once we had Scarlet settled we took the dinghy into shore so we could arrange a hire car for our trip to the airport. We had a little hiccup with the dinghy when David had to return to Scarlet to get his passport for the car hire. On arriving at the boat he found he couldn’t stop the engine or it wouldn’t start again so he got his passport and came back and fortunately Lyn was at the dock so could keep the engine going while he sorted out the paperwork. We then high-tailed it back to Scarlet to investigate the problem which turned to involve the starter pulley. A temporary one was put in place for the time being and just in time as we saw yet another dinghy escape from a yacht. Andrew and David once more went to the rescue…they were getting good at this.


With everything sorted out for our departure on Tuesday, including our boarding passes we enjoyed the next few days. It was a bit overcast so we went into town and did some shopping and made some plans for David’s birthday. It was actually the day we were leaving to return to Lagos, so we decided to celebrate it on Sunday 27th so we had the day to keep plotting. In the meantime as it was the weekend and the bay was really busy with many different boats being out on the water. We went for a dingy ride round the whole bay, it really covered quite an area and the local sailing school was out in full with several races taking place so we were dodging Lasers, Laser Funs, Picos, RS Vevas to name a few. We stopped off at a tiny beach and had a swim and a snorkel and then dodged some windsurfers before coming back to Scarlet.


Sunday we had a fairly relaxing day, swimming round Scarlet in beautifully calm water and then heading into shore to do some “internetting” etc. Once back on board we got things ready and surprised David with a bit of an impromptu party with bunting, cake, presents and bubbly. The bubbly was delicious and we all had at least 4 glasses each and a merry time was had by all.


Monday morning came and getting up first we discovered that the bunting I had put up had bled dye all over the cockpit. (Aagghh…..eeek!!!) It took quite a bit of work to get rid of it all but eventually Scarlet was back to her normal self and we could go ashore and pick up the hire car.  Phew!


Before we arrived on Menorca, David and Lyn had hired a car and explored a little of the island, so off we went to the parts they didn’t get to last time.  We had a fine day; first of all we went up Mount Del Toro, where there is a monastery – all white and cool; we had seen the building from all over the island so it was lovely to go to the top and see the terrific views from up there and I managed to source an orange scarf for my hat. Next we headed to Mahon and went to the chandlers before heading down to Binibeca and had some lunch there. It was mentioned as an anchorage, but is pretty full with local boats, and pretty rolly. Our next stop was the quarry at Porta Ponca – this was featured in the calendar we had bought David  - which was very interesting, peaceful and quiet and with some beautifully ripe figs waiting to be picked. Yum. Much of the stone went to building of Mahon and the quarry itself had been active for a few hundred years, so it was possible to see the evolution of stone quarrying hereabouts in the quarries walls. Following this we went up to the lighthouse near Pregonda. When we were anchored there we could see the headlights of the cars heading up to the lighthouse in the evenings and so we were curious as to why. It was well worth the trip for the lovely views round the headland and could imagine the magnificent sunsets you could watch from up there so a little mystery was solved. Heading back to Fornells and Scarlet we had time for a dip in the sea before taking Lyn and David to dinner to say a heartfelt thanks for a great trip. The meal was the best we have had out on this trip, many of our own creations we enjoyed as much if not more (!?) and to finish off yet another lovely day we had a last swim round Scarlet before a cup of tea and bedtime.


Tuesday 29th August – we were up early – the alarm went off at 5.15am and we did hear it this time – and by 5.30 everyone was up. After a welcome cup of tea we piled into the dinghy and headed for the shore through lovely flat water – made easier by the fact that we had loaded our main bags into the car the previous night. The road down to the airport was clear and so we arrived at 6:40am in plenty of time for our flight. Now after 57 days it was time to say good bye to David, Lyn and of course Maisie. We had had a great time but it was now time to go home. We were in Barcelona by 9.50 and had a bit of a wait for our next flight to Faro. Everything worked well and we landed at Faro at 2.05pm collected our bags, got the bus and then the train and were on board Andromeda again by half past six. We were really going to miss Lyn, David and Maisie, but it was good to be home.


We had forgotten to pack Andrews hat – duh!


Some thoughts and perspectives:


On this 57 day trip we saw less life at sea than we had anticipated – much fewer Shearwaters and Gannets and other winged beasties that we have seen on previous years trips in the Atlantic and Biscay, not many dolphins (though it was surprise to see a couple in Cagliari and Arbatax harbours), nor turtles (only one), etc. and we were surprised to see the spouts of whales – though we were not close enough to them to figure out what they were. Though this was the height of the summer season, there were less yachts around than we had also led to believe we would encounter, though plenty motor boats and quite a few 100metre plus superyachts – yikes, the bills! There were, however, lots of jelly fish!!! The water was mostly clear of plastic and rubbish, and around Menorca there are regular patrols picking up any sea borne litter they find. Ashore in some of the cala’s it was a different story – some were definitely not nice, perhaps in part due to the lack of amenities in many of them. The highest water temperature we recorded was 32.2C, on the eastern coast of Sardinia. The winds were as reported – blowing hard for 4-5 days at a time (30-40kts), then easing away for some 6-7 days (often less than 10kts), before picking up once again. While we had mostly fine weather, there was a day or two when spots of rain found us, but we brits can cope with that sort of stuff. The marinas were pricey, often more than regular cruising sites and guides would have you believe. The quality was varied, but survivable, ranging from the “moving” and fairly basic facilities in Cagliari, the Portakabins and poor internet in CalaForte, the open communal showers in Cuitadella, to the more reasonable facilities in Navaresse and Arbatax. All were regularly cleaned however, and provided hot water - bliss. Potable drinking water in the marina was non-existent in Cala Forte marina, and provided by a separate water supply (10Euro deposit for a special connector) in Arbatax, where the general supply was only suitable for washing boats and dinghies. Food was a little more expensive than we were expecting, but we mostly ate and cooked aboard so could make the most of our innovative menus. Wine was inexpensive, beer usually 5Euros in a bar, but around 50cEuros per can in supermarkets. Mahon Gin (one of Britain’s legacy from its occupation in the 1800’s) was around 12 Euros a bottle – yes we brought some back, of course!! We rescued quite a number of dinghies and inflatables and helped pull a yacht off the bottom when he had gone in too close – we were quite accomplished international rescuers (!!), though it does say something about folks ability to tie secure knots perhaps and read a chart. There were not that many British flagged vessels in evidence, far outweighed by the French and Scandinavians – it could also be down to where yachts are registered, but it was noticeable all the same. The cala’s in Menorca were an unexpected delight to us; we thought we would be spending a good deal of time on a mooring buoy, so we were really pleased. Sardinia had its fair share of good anchorages, but once you started down, or indeed up, the east coast, opportunities become much more limited, as did marina’s – do not go into Porto Cuelva unless you want a heart-attack. Our favourite cities; Algherro and Cuitadella. Both wonderful, atmospheric and a delight to wander around. As noted earlier, our favourite anchorage was Pregonda on Menorca, with a good many others close behind. Best Marina – probably Navaresse, with Arbatax close behind, though both had a fair old hike to get supplies. Best purchases; Larry Lobster, Gordon Gecko, the Decathlon face mask for snorkeling and Susan’s new hat. Most disturbing; folks ability to anchor (not) and their evident lack of spacial awareness and resultant boat movements in a small and sometimes busy anchorage – a good many of these yachts were charters, and therein lies a challenge. Other challenges – finding Post Offices! Few and very far between and those you may find have very odd opening hours on both Menorca and Sardinia, but Sardinia presented the most challenges. We saved a bit on postcards on this trip as a result – stamps are quite pricey for the UK. In addition, getting “items” sent to marina’s in Sardinia was a bit of a challenge as the ability to track and indeed figure out where it was and when it may arrive was a bit of a lottery. We were enormously grateful to the marina lady in Arbatax who managed to translate our gearbox problem into Italian and find then someone who could fix it – she was a gem. In response to the question “Has a package arrived for us?”, the response was “Look in the post box”, followed by “And where is the post box?”, the response was “On the gate” – Arbatax marina office – truly a delight. The “marineros” looking after the mooring buoys in both Menorca and Sardinia however, were very friendly, very helpful, and spoke pretty good English, even if we hadn’t booked!! The buoys were regularly checked and well spaced. Andrew now requires a sea temperature of 28C before swimming – Alice and Isaac know this!!!!


We were now going to get prepared for the Bluewater Reggatta with John and Brenda from Garretty!

More in due course…………….