I give in!!!
OK, OK, I’m sorry that it’s been so long since the
last blog. Being at anchor has a timeless quality about it (until one starts to
run out of water), and all of a sudden, nearly a month has gone by and we
haven’t updated the blog and I’m getting e-flack for not giving you blog addicts
a fresh fix. So, I have slaved over a hot keyboard to bring you all (relatively)
up to date with the current state of the sea toilet, so to speak. I have also
been in trouble with David for not thanking Dave Sturdy (he of superb bow roller
fame) for talking him through the alternator episode. So, thank you
Land of turquoise
As the wind stayed firmly from the north, we
explored the south coast of Menorca. Cala Macarella and her baby sister, Cala
Macarelleta, are considered (according to the guidebook) to be among the most
beautiful calas in Menorca.
These coves can only be reached on foot by a
30-minute walk over the cliffs from the nearest holiday resort (Cala Galdana), a
20-minute walk from the car park – or by boat. Unfortunately, this doesn’t put
people off, and we had to share the calas with hordes of other people as it was
peak holiday season and a Spanish public holiday.
Sharing our anchorage with hoards of
Our very own beach babe with CAPE in the background.
Luckily, all the holidaymakers had homes, hotels
or apartments to go home to, so in the evenings we had the calas to ourselves.
This was a great place – with no light pollution – from which we watched the
(partial) lunar eclipse.
Menorca has more than its fair
share of caves. Cala Macarella has a number of caves that were used as burial
chambers in the past, but are now used as holiday homes in the summer.
The caves in Cala Macarella are kitted out with
all ‘mod cons’ – with more room and facilities than we have on CAPE!
Mmmm, I think our first aid kit is in better shape
As the wind swung around to the south, we scurried
around the southwest tip of the island and tucked in below Cuitadella, in the
narrow rocky Cala Santandría. In contrast to the soaring, cave-riddled cliffs
further south, the landscape here is low, rocky, limestone ledges. We set our
anchor out in front over 5 metres of sand and backed close to the limestone
ledge, using stern lines attached ashore to stop us swinging.
Our first taste of taking stern lines
The three kids continued to have great fun with
the little dinghy…
…particularly once the floor gave way (there is a
limit to how much abuse a little dinghy is prepared to take). The game then
became diving through the dinghy – preferably from a great
For her next trick, Bethany will now dive through the dinghy,
hopefully without decapitating her brother…
Sunset over Cala Santandría.
Captain Fantastique saves the
It was in Cala Santandría that I learned a bit
more about anchor handling. The first occasion was when the boat next door left
and took our anchor with it – I will not forget in a hurry the sound of the
windlass paying out chain at great speed when our bottom was only 1.5 m away
from a sharp limestone shelf (and David’s bottom was parked firmly on the loo –
typical!). Luckily conditions were calm and CAPE managed to keep her bottom out of reach of the
limestone while we winched the boats close enough together to disentangle the
anchors with boathooks. The second occasion was when we picked up a submarine
cable with the anchor (the pilot book did warn us…). Our expensive
anchor-tripping hook – bought precisely for this eventuality – was useless, so
Captain Fantastique dived in and released the cable the ‘old’ way (put a rope
around the cable, secured the rope on a cleat back on the boat, dropped the
anchor until it cleared the cable, hauled the anchor back on board, and steamed
off). If the residents of Cala Santandría were without telephone, internet and
cable TV after we left – we apologise.
The children continue to practice their culinary
skills, and Bryn has even started writing his favourite recipes down in a
special book. I can see there is going to be a race to publish the CAPE cookbook – I’d better get my finger out and get on
with 101 things to do with a dead
Pizza à la Bryn.
Flapjack à la Bethany.
Sizzling bananas à la Bethany.
Expedition to the beach and
Working our way back east, we stopped in the even
more remote Cala Trebalùger, which is backed by a limestone gorge and small
freshwater river. The expedition theme started when B&B announced that they
wanted to camp under the stars on the beach. It took two dinghy loads to get all
the equipment to the camp (including the boule set, rucksacks, sleeping mats,
moosie, nightclothes, water bottles, torches, camera, hand-held VHF, bar of
chocolate for a midnight feast), as Daddy was dispatched back to the mother ship
for the sleeping bags (forgotten in the excitement the first time around).
B&B’s base camp on the
We stayed for a couple of games of boule before
retiring to the mother ship to watch the camp through the
They lasted 1 hour before the mozzies got too much
and we were radioed to collect them – but not before the chocolate had been
The expedition theme continued the next day. We
got up early to at least start in the cool of the morning. We carried the dinghy
over the sandbar at the mouth of the little river, and rowed silently (well, OK,
as quietly as the Smith family can) as far as we could up stream, disturbing
moorhens, herons, black-legged egrets, dragonflies and water-boatmen. The still,
quiet water, whispering grass and traumatized moorhens were a sharp acoustic
contrast to our usual soundtrack of wind, sea, and the gentle slap, slap of
waves on the dinghy’s (fine aluminium) bottom. We finally ran out of river and
drifted back to the beach (munching tuna mayo butties for breakfast – doesn’t
everyone have that for breakfast when on expedition?).
Rowing silently upstream…
…through a still, lush
…and whispering grass…
…until we ran out of river.
That night, we shared the anchorage with one other
boat – obviously Batman’s secret holiday hideout. Even superheroes need a
holiday every now and again!
Batman’s secret holiday hideout.
Even more caves
Our next stop was Sant Tomàs, where we anchored
off the beach and went on expedition in search of even more caves.
The anchorage at Sant Tomàs.
We took a path that followed a limestone gorge
inland, climbing steadily for about 2 hours. Eventually we found the entrance to
Cova des Coloms (Pigeon Cave) just as the guidebook said it would
be – well hidden behind a strategically placed fig tree and hanging
“Do you think that vampire bats live here,
Once inside, the cave opens up into an enormous
single cavern, which is also known as ‘the cathedral’ due to its high, vaulted
ceiling. It wasn’t too damp inside (by cave standards anyway). The walls and
ceiling were blackened and there was a faint smell of wood smoke – presumably
from fires lit by people (ancient and modern) sheltering there over the years
Inside Cova des Coloms, you can imagine cooking
sausages/wild boar over your camp fire while a winter storm raged
Once inside ‘the cathedral’, the enormous scale of
the cave is revealed.
Heading back down the gorge, we went in search of
another, less visited (for that read hard-to-find) cave, Cova de na Polida.
Into the unknown – luckily, we had our torches
Luckily, in true Famous Five style, we had brought our
torches with us and were able to explore deep into the interconnecting chambers
of the Cova de na Polida. At one time, this cave had been famous for thousands
of stalagmites and stalactites of all sizes, some of which were incredibly
fragile. Unfortunately many of these ancient structures have now been harvested
very professionally – and presumably very illegally – and removed through a
shaft cut into the roof.
Some of the surviving stalagmites and stalactites
in Cova de na Polida.
The marks in the rock showing where huge chunks
had been cut away.
“School today, kids, is about how limestone caves
We meet PYXIS at
After leaving Sant Tomàs we headed back to Cala en
Porter for a couple of days to stock up on fresh food and for me to finish some
work. We were delighted to see a boat called PYXIS anchored there when we
arrived. PYXIS also has a blog on the mailasail website and we have been
following her progress closely as she has taken a similar route to us. We swam
over to introduce ourselves and it turns out that Karen and Richard have also
been following our blog. We met up a couple of times to swap experiences over a
glass or two of wine. Karen and Richard are also heading east towards Sardinia in the near future and we are hoping to meet up
with them again at some point soon.
Back to the
Near Cala en Porter there is an extensive cave
system that now houses a bar during the day and disco at night. Local legend has
it that Xoroi (pronounced ‘shore-eye’), a Berber pirate who was shipwrecked on
that coast, abducted a local girl and kept her hidden in his cave for 10 years,
during which time she bore him four children. One particularly cold winter, his
footprints in the snow gave away the location of the cave, enabling the girl to
be rescued by her family. Xoroi threw himself into the sea.
Xoroi’s cave – visible only from the sea – is
reached by flights of steps (now painted white) cut into the cliff
Did we mention the
Continuing the expedition-to-caves theme, David
and the children went off to find the most famous of Menorca’s caves at Calas Covas (while I worked). The 8 km
round trip (in the heat of the day of course), took them over rugged terrain and
through stunning scenery, to a stony bay with a fresh water spring and limestone
cliffs riddled with caves (a sort of Swiss cheese made out of rock). There are
reported to be more than 100 Bronze Age caves here, formerly used as burial
chambers and dwellings, with the oldest caves dating back to the 9th
One of the caves has Roman decoration and
inscriptions dating back to the 2nd century AD.
On the way back, the children were delighted to
find a wild tortoise.
From Cala en Porter, we headed back west to
Mallorca to say goodbye to Altika – but that’s
another blog entry…eventually, possibly, maybe (but no