Thursday 10 May 2012

The season starts

We arrive in Mallorca and there is a very different feel in the air. The airport is busier, the queues are longer and everyone seems in a hurry as they push their trolleys laden with golf clubs, bicycles and suitcases towards the exit and the sunshine.  The weather has also changed and a hot midday sun has replaced the cooler days of the winter, bringing with it tourists of all nationality. Down at the port the marinas are now a hive of activity as yacht crews prepare for the arrival of demanding owners who are also infected by the excitement of the first sail of the season. We are making final preparations to leave Palma for our summer cruise towards Corsica and Sardina and i am once more processing lists. We are delighted to have my mother with us for a few days and while i do the chores, she and Caroline visit the cathedral and take the train through the mountains to Soller on the northwest coast. Finally the jobs are done, the tanks are full, the weather forecast is good, and its time to cast off our lines.

Leaving Palma was rather dramatic. Having been based there for 6 months over the winter it feels very strange leaving at last with the prospect of not returning for the foreseeable future. Our actual departure is rather disastrous, as we catch our keel around a mooring line and go aground in the shallows trying to get our dinghy back on the davits. However no harm is done and having paid our bills and said our farewells, we finally escape and sail southeast to the island of Cabrera. Cabrera is a marine park, unspoilt by tourism and it is even more peaceful than on our last visit here last October. A walk up to the ruined castle followed by a cold beer in the only bar in the port and we return to Juno for spicy fish stew. The following day we slip our lines from the mooring buoy and head North up the East coast of Mallorca to Porto Colom, a sheltered natural harbour where we tie up to a buoy in a fresh southerly breeze. Ashore, the little town of Porto Colom is quiet and picturesque as it is early in the season and the tourists have yet to invade the further reaches of Mallorca. We walk up to the church and eat ice cream in a café in the harbour, watching the cormorants preening themselves and drying their wings in the sun after a fishing expedition in the fruitful waters of the harbour.

The next day we aim for Cala Ratjada, a small harbour on the north eastern tip of Mallorca, which serves as a departure point for Menorca, our next destination 40 miles to the North East. We arrive in pouring rain but by late afternoon the sun is shining brightly down on the port out of a clear blue sky. Glum German tourists, atrociously dressed in ill-fitting clothes, armed with waterproofs and umbrellas have emerged from the bars and restaurants shedding unsightly garments, and are now promenading along the pathway that winds around the port. Although we enjoyed a terrific sail in 25 knots of wind it felt very much like the Solent, wearing our foul weather gear with rain lashing down and the coast obscured by low clouds and grey mist. But then in the evening sun, oilies hanging on the guard rails, towels drying in the warm breeze, Juno looks her usual glamorous self, showing off her lines as she dominates this little port. We are too big for the marina itself so we are alongside the ferry dock, next to the catamaran that runs from here to Menorca. We celebrate our 22nd wedding anniversary at Es Mollet, a fish restaurant in the port where we share a large pan of Paella and all is well with the world.

We leave Mallorca on a beautiful sunny morning, sailing at 8 knots on a beam reach in 15 knots of wind. We decide to sail directly to Mahon as we think that the port of Ciudadela might be too small for us. As we enter the harbour we read in the pilot that after Pearl Harbour, Mahon is the second largest natural deep water port in the world, and as we clear the point, the distant outline comes into focus and the details of this huge bay begin to emerge. The harbour has a 3 knot speed limit, ferociously enforced by Caroline who is at the helm, and we slowly but inexorable drift into the upper reaches of the harbour. The beauty of Mahon is that the harbour itself is covered in lush green vegetation, with only a speckling of houses on the hilltops that overlook the water. As we motor further in, the harbour seems to go on for ever and now we see the old town of Mahon perched on the skyline, high above the sea. We call Mahon Marina on channel 9 and a marinero catches our lines and we tie up to a floating pontoon.

My mother has been with us from Mallorca, which has been a great treat. She is such a sport and has joined in the sailing, walking and sightseeing with her usual enthusiasm and energy. Now that she has to return to the UK she can watch our progress on the web and visualise our itinerant existence. We hire a car to take her to the airport which is new, clean and empty in the early season calm. We spend the rest of the day motoring around the island, visiting Ciutadela, Fournels and then back to our new home in the port of Mahon. We spend another day doing chores: this time its fitting a non-return valve to the grey water pump and I cycle up the hill to the huge business park outside the town, up a steep tarmac road which gets my heart pounding. The temperature has increased in the last couple of days and now its 29 degrees and I am feeling the heat as I peddle up the road that winds it way out of the port and up to the industrial zone where all the modern hyper markets are housed, safely out of sight of the historic sights of Mahon. I find the crucial non-return valve and after the usual too'ing and fro'ing for jubilee clips, lengths of hose and obscure plumbing tools, eventually the pump is fixed and Fatty and I walk up to the old town for a dose of culture.


Its early evening and the views from the top of the harbour walls are glorious as the sun starts to set. Tomorrow is our last day here as Paul and Consuelo arrive and we set sail early on Saturday morning heading for Bonifaccio on the Southern tip of Corsica.

This is the first blog of the new season and I feel rusty. Must do better next time.


  1. I live vicariously through many online sailing blogs, and must disagree with your rusty comment. I've checked in often looking for another installment of your journal and once again find myself immersed in your eloquent story telling and illustrations.
    I look forward to following your progress, and joining you in your adventures, albeit in a virtual sense half way across the globe.
    Fair winds...

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