4 Mar - Under Orders
Not really - but do have our tickets for Valencia in early April. Looking back we have had a busy winter in Burntisland - the supposedly empty months rapidly filled leaving several well intended aspirations unmet. I had a January week on Selkie Dancer for the maintenance that is incompatible with Jinti - that is everything out and up - not a horizantal space without a dirty mug or tool to grace it. With the help of Dan I resealed one saloon window and rearranged the nav station (again). Selkie Dancer is virtually ready for the coming season.
We intend to spend Easter in Valencia - then a gentle work up before sailing for Ibiza at the end of April, Balearics until the first week in June and then ...... . Well we have charts as far as Malta and courtesy flags for France, Italy, Tunisia and Malta. Watch this spot.. We have some time blocked out for friends and family while in the Balearics but ‘nada’ from June onwards - the problem being that we don’t know where we will be - but a short notice rendez-vous could be fun.
Meanwhile we intend to enjoy a week on the slopes - hopefully without winging Jinti’s other collar!!
Is this a change to maritime law or reality for the crew of Selkie Dancer ? The latter! Jinti had a good winter teaching NIA dancing in Burntisland but really wanted a dedicated area in which to dance. The old co-op building had been on the market for almost 6 months - its upper floor a neglected store for the coffee shop below. To cut an exciting story short she now has a potential dance studio and a shop to rent. There is much to be initiated over the coming week - meanwhile Sir Alan Sugar need look no further than Burntisland for his next apprentice - no one has more excited energy than Jinti. Meanwhile Selkie Dancer sits awaiting us - our amended ETA Valencia 231800B Apr 09.
We are back aboard Selkie Dancer in Valencia. The ‘Apprentice’ is busy exploiting email, skype and text as she drives ahead on the dance studio to be known as ‘The Space Upstairs’. Thankfully modern communications allow for a very long screw driver! We found Selkie Dancer in excellent shape - dry and without a single frayed line - our thanks to Dan our neighbouring skipper.
Our intentions have changed yet again - we now intend to spend May and early June in the Balearics before making passage to Malta to arrive in early July. We want to leave Selkie Dancer there until early September while reviewing progress on The Space Upstairs. The Space has great potential but in the short term it is a financial drain in need of a plug. We would be delighted to have company on the June passage from Mallorca, via Minorca, Sardinia and Sicily to Malta - easyjet/ryanair available to all these islands - as ever you need to catch us - if you are interested we will try and make it easy. Andy
Back to Selkie Dancer and I, unlike the boat but like the winter seals, have put on a layer of blubber over the dark winter months at home. Sadly I find the temptation of cheap red wine all too easy to succumb to. I ‘m just hoping that the abundance of delicious salad ingredients will help me effortlessly shed my extra padding.
We spent a week in Valencia preparing to sail, doing all the little odd jobs and stocking up for the trip. We left on May Day, auspicious you might think but.............. no I’ve had to earn my days in paradise. I think I am probably repeating myself from previous trips but forgive me and remember that the good times far exceed the bad. The passage over from Valencia to Ibiza was 15 hours of HELL. It started off slowly, particularly since the engine was not performing at full throttle but soon the wind had picked up and with it a lot of very confused and angry waves. I haven’t been so ill since Biscay 1!! The boat corkscrewed through water as the waves licked hungrily at the hull. Water crashed over us, I tried to shut it all out, huddling under the dog house, muscles tensed, clutching the winch with eyes closed and mind turned to beautiful things. However my strategies failed and I succumbed – to the wet, the sickness and the cold as I was now very damp. This was my own fault as I should have anticipated it and dressed accordingly. But as Andy knows, even after all these years, I’ve still not quite sussed out what to wear when! I passed out for a few hours which was merciful. As I thought of the beautiful things it occurred to me that I might now be quite good at resistance to interrogation! I could withstand torture for 15 hours! But what kept me going was the thought of the reward. This peaceful bay with its crunchie coloured rocks, is the bay from which we left on our sail back to Valencia last October. It is lovely. At sunset the rocks and the sea turn a molten gold in one corner and a burnished copper in the other. During the day the unbelievably clear water is turquoise and purple and the birds sing here before the heat of the day gets to them. I read loads of books and in the late afternoon we go ashore and have a pleasant walk. The wild flowers at the moment are gorgeous and the roadsides abound with wild rosemary, curry plant and fennel. The smells are resinous and honeyed reflecting off the baking dry stone walls that surround the gated villas.
We’ve been here four glorious lazy days, I have been in Edinburgh at the heart of Kate Atkinson’s ‘jolly murder mystery, empathised and marvelled at an incredible Cornish woman who, in 1791 or thereabouts, made a successful escape from Sydney to Indonesia in an open boat and have joined Laurie Lee walking through a Spain on the brink of civil war. Andy has fixed the underperforming engine, made a shelf in a galley cupboard and unblocked a very necessary pipe! But............... we cannot afford to loll around any longer. The wind is set to shift and we do have to be in Palma for the 19th May for Nick and Emma’s visit.
So we will go to St Antonio tomorrow and, hopefully, post this on the web.
Cala Crunchie at sunset
After a flurry of visitors, we are awaiting the ‘right’ weather ‘to make passage’ (I love that phrase) to Sardinia. We are in Menorca, in Cala Taulera underneath La Mola the Fortaleza of Isabella II. We anchored here last year and last night made a happy re-acquaintance with Alberto, the Supermarket delivery boatman. It seems that last winter he spent three months in Manchester and has fallen in love, with the city, not a girl as far as I could make out. He couldn’t be more effusive in his praise for the transport system, the cleanliness and the friendliness of the people.
We left Ibiza three weeks ago and had an uneventful motorex (1) to the anchorage in Santa Ponsa. From there we went to Soller. We were aware of the special celebration that is held every year to re-enact a victory over Moorish pirates in 1561 but, looking at the pilot, we understood that it took place on the second Sunday in May. Oh dear, we would miss out on yet another festival – in our experience either they are just going to happen or have just happened!! So off we went on yet another uneventful motorex. However as we nosed our way into the deep natural harbour that shelters Soller we heard the crack of a ricocheting bullet and saw tracer fire, heard the beat of the drum and the roar of the crowds. As we went further it was apparent that the battle was in full swing and we were right in the middle of it. Moorish pirates were hanging off yardarms, mustering on the beach, commandeering little boats; there was constant movement of troops from one side of the bay to the other, on foot or by water. The ‘Cristianos’ were in short supply, history seemed about to be re-written, they were going to lose!! We decided it was all to do with the costumes – dressing up as a pirate is so much more fun!
We had a memorable walk from Soller town back down to the Port, repeating the one we had done with Juliet and Denis last year. The highlight was stopping at a Finca (2) for freshly squeezed orange juice. The 18th century buildings tumbled down the hill, the colour of the sun and with a shady private interior courtyard. The valley below was covered with orange and olive groves with orange and yellow splashes punctuating the green. The chatelaine, there must be an equivalent Spanish word, was so very attentive and simpatico and as we sat under the shade of the trees, amidst flowers and cats, she disappeared down the hill, returning laden with a bucket load of oranges, which she carefully pressed and served to us. The juice was sweet and refreshing and I bought more oranges for the boat, she added some lemons as a ‘regalo’. She told us that every year there was snow on the top of the highest peak but it was only every twenty years or so that it actually snowed where she was.
Our visitors have included Nick and Emma, String and Ben and Tim. If we could have picked bits from each of their visits it would have been the perfect Balearic holiday. Cala Calobra, which had been initially glorious last year and then turned on us, didn’t even give us a glimpse of sun as low cloud swirled around the tops and we felt sick in the constant swell – we didn’t linger! Then there was going aground in Pollensa, our new crew completely unfazed - or were they? I expect we’ll find out! Cala en Gossalba which we hadn’t visited last year was a classic, the rocks undercut by the constant lap of water, birdsong, pigeons cooing and observing the progress of a delicate baby shag as it was sent off to fish on his own overseen by mum watching from a suitable distance; the morning arrived slowly and gloriously with the strong smell of pine trees and the sun just beginning to come up and sweep around, kissing light onto the rocks - swimming was irresistible. Sometimes there was no wind, sometimes too much; often there was a slight swell in the anchorage or on one dramatic moonlit night caught in a massive surf which involved heroic action by TWB - sent forth in a dinghy to release the kedge anchor (3) amidst HUGE rolling surf and a horribly pitching vessel. I’m happy to report that we all remained cool under pressure. However it meant leaving what we had initially thought to be THE perfect place - I know! How many more can there be - no road to it, a little river running into dense vegetation, sandstone cliffs and water so turquoise that the seagulls flying low over the water appeared to be blue. Then we had dolphins for some and not for others. Identified as bottle nosed, they were about 3 metres long and played along with us and posed for our photographs for about fifteen minutes. I missed a brilliant leaping blue swordfish, probably slaving away in the galley as usual! Talking of the galley we invested muchos dineros in a sturdy stainless steel gas operated American BBQ, this to save me from the heat down below. The advent of which meant, of course, that the weather has never been right for it. On the two occasions we have used it, the first was in the dark and Andy couldn’t see what he was doing, well that was his excuse for a burnt offering!! The second was the beginning of the big surf when we were trying to tell ourselves that the sea would settle Ha! Ha!
In Port Pollensa we were back cheek by jowl, nay beam to beam with other boats. It is odd after anchorages. We were next to boats that have obviously spent the winter together, and looking along the line of them was funny, every vessel had a woman on board, it struck me as being like a zoo, we were all in cages. People wandered along the quay, we were safe in our pens but then there would be a disturbance and the heads popped up like meerkats (4) alerted to possible danger. Out of the depths of the cockpits, heads emerged to clock something or communicate with neighbours.
After two years of being in Spanish waters we feel quite sad that this time has come to an end. We have really tried with the language and last night I made a little ritual of changing the books around. Out went all the Spanish dictionaries, phrase books and guides and into their place went the Italian ones. The weather looks fine for Monday so......................................................Adios Espana! Buongiorno Italia!
1. Motorex – or (stolen from Yacht Yannina) ‘Mediterranean Motoring’ which means motoring with both sails up.
2. Finca – a country residence.
3. A kedge anchor, for the uninitiated, is an additional anchor which is deployed from the stern of the boat. It keeps the boat perpendicular to the swell so that we pitch rather than roll.
4. Thank you Nick for the image!
The elusive Dolphin shot !!!
It took two days to motor from Menorca to Sardinia. Boredom was relieved by striped dolphins, a turtle – what a venerable and wise creature it looks, a mola mola fish and the most extraordinary phenomenon by far - literally thousands of tiny sail jelly fish - well we know that now, having googled them. Gazing at the sea, as there was nothing much else to gaze at, the microscopic examination of the surface of the sea took on fascinating appeal! I noticed that the sea seemed to be carpeted by little bubbles of varying sizes as if someone had emptied suds in the area. I thought it must be manmade rubbish for a while - bubble wrap or something similar. Half moon shaped, they resembled delicate little origami sail boats, ancestors adrift in the Med. After many miles of them still coming curiosity was satisfied by closer observation of one, scooped up in a bucket, then we realised they must be a sort of jelly fish.
By way of contrast on the next passage from Sardinia to mainland Italy my attention was drawn to what looked like a large plume of smoke. Tracking this through binoculars I saw that it was the blow of a whale! Sadly it takes some time for the brain to register what you are seeing and then by the time excitement has built, and you are ready to be impressed, the blinking thing has departed - it’s a big tease! But it WAS a whale – large and brown, no fins visible. Other strange sights included the night I saw a boat that I hadn’t noticed before - something about it caught my attention, there was something odd about it – it seemed to be parked on some rocks! - high and dry - a fish out of water!
On the approach to Palau, Sardinia, there is a famous rock that appears in the shape of a bear. The sea, the rain and the wind have worked magic on the softly coloured granitic rocks here. Wherever I looked the rocks took on strange and fantastic shapes. From our mooring there was a cluster of rocks that metamorphosed into a group of elephants at a waterhole; here, on the top of a hill, a warrior keeping watch; there dolphins leaping out of the sea, at other places strange Daliesque shapes - really whatever your imagination will come up with.
We spent a week cruising around the Maddalena islands and the north and east tip of Sardinia – the Costa Smerelda. Sometimes we were the only boat in tiny little anchorages. On the whole, what development there is, moulds itself to the landscape in both shape and colour. There are contrasts too, in the newly deserted American Base at San Stefano to the down at heel and empty Club Mediterranee and the ostentation of the bay of Porto Cervo where you can buy Tiffany jewellery and furs. Actually I am being unfair about the latter - it was tasteful luxury. One cannot deny it is certainly a lovely setting, a deep natural harbour with wooded hills rising from the water’s edge. But that’s about the only thing natural about it; the manicured and cultivated grounds of discreetly arranged houses nestle around the bay. Apparently in the winter it is all totally dead, the beautiful people, the actors and celebrities, the politicians and bankers have all gone off. The motor yachts there were MASSIVE, their fenders bigger than two men. It was all so tasteful we couldn’t find the recycling or rubbish bins and had to deposit our rubbish in mini bins - one on each of six pontoons.
On our final passage to the mainland the wind got up and we had a very lively sail, storming along through the night at 7 knots for a lot of the time. We got into Riva di Traiano just before amazing surging surf developed making the entrance both dramatic, if not hostile, for others later in the day.
Riva di Traiano is a huge marina just north of Rome. Walking up the pontoon to the office on the first morning we were delighted to recognise ‘Counter Girl’ an Oyster Heritage (one of four) with friends Gill and Malcolm whom we had met last year in Palma. It was such a nice surprise to see them and spend some time with them.
Selkie Dancer will be lifted out and kept in the yard here for a few months, flights are booked and now many tasks have to be done before we can leave in good order. After some thunder and lightning storms and torrential rain the boat has been well washed. We have to eat up the stores that I bought ‘just in case’ – part baked baguettes, pitas and cheeses stored for a rainy day – YES! It’s here! So it’s pasta with queso, rice with formaggio, pizza con quatro formaggio, pan con Roquefort, pitta with gouda, till we’re thoroughly cheesed off!
We seem to have changed our plans often this year. So here’s the most recent plot. We will return in late September to head north for Elba and then south to southern Sardinia to leave Selkie Dancer in Cagliari for the winter.
Autumn bunks available!
JINTI AND ANDY
Abrupt stop -
A career change ?
Elephant watering hole ?
for Andy : What are your intentions for 2009 ?
A good question !! Selkie Dancer is wintering in Valencia. I intend to do some maintenance and minor modifications to her there in January. We will both return in April with the intention of departing for the Balearics at the end of the month - May in Balearics, June in the Tyrranain Sea to be in Malta/Sicily/Tunisia for mid July. We want to come home for the late summer and return to the boat for September and October - by then we will have a clearer idea of what we might do for the winter.
Sounds a bit loose -
We call it flexible - it is the safest way. Tighter plans become a noose.
for Jinti : Are you happy about this ?
¿ Que? - por favor, habla español !
Click here for a link to google earth and more detail of our route
Click here for a link to google earth and more detail of our route
Click here for a link to google earth and more detail of our route