Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Summer Season draws to a close ..... Oct 2010

Along for a free ride, 40 miles offshore! 
06 - 10 October 2010

We enjoyed our 8 night 'minibreak' anchored at Palmanova on Mallorca. Skipper had a tearful farewell with the owner of the 'Welsh Mosquito' having been camped there for three days watching the Ryder Cup. The strong sou'westerly winds had died away and the swell was down but there was more bad weather coming in a few days so it was time to head ever westward once again and make the long jump from Mallorca to the next island of Ibiza.  It was a 55 mile run so we were up at 'O dark hundred' (well it doesn't get light until 8am at the moment) and on our way by 7am.  We had a forecast for 12knots from the east increasing to 20knots late afternoon and building more overnight,  so we poled out the headsail and sailed downwind all day. Skipper was a happy bunny despite getting overruled once again when requesting a spinnaker hoist. This was champagne sailing running before the wind heading west but every now and again a yacht would pass us going the other way, bashing into a steep choppy sea towards Mallorca - at least we had the elements with us. 

We pulled into Portinatx,  a small cala on the nor'eastern tip of Ibiza.  Luckily there were only 3 other yachts in there as some of these anchorages are not very big, but it was a scenic little spot with a couple of hotels and a small town ashore.  Most importantly we had flat water, just tucked up out of the swell.  We didn't go ashore at night, we had had a long day and there was always tomorrow.  But sometimes tomorrow doesn't quite come, well not for going ashore anyway.  Overnight the wind had come around more to the north making the cove a little more exposed so we checked the weather again first thing, then sat down for a serious breakfast board meeting.
The Silver Fern might just last until Spain
The low pressure system we were expecting in 2 days was still coming but would pass through in a day and we should be able to find somewhere to shelter from it, but 3 days later the Balearics were due to get severely hammered by a series of thunderstorms and 40 knots winds lasting for several days, and from various directions. 

The seasons they were a changing, it was getting cooler, the sunny days were being outnumbered by the cloudy ones and the approaching thunderstorms did not look good.  On top of this I had been suffering from toothache for too long, no amount of painkillers was dulling the ache (but straight brandy does!!!) and I really needed to sort it out.  It did not take long for the board of Balvenie  to make the unanimous decision to use the northerly wind we had and head south to Cartagena our Winter base. The famous party island of  Ibiza and its small neighbour of Formentera sadly would be missed, but we can not see everything and the changeable weather is very hard to deal with when there are very few all round protected anchorages.

So we never did go ashore on Ibiza, at 8.30am on October 07 2010 we weighed anchor for the last time this season, motored out of the cala, raised the mainsail, bore away downwind, set the pole, rolled out the headsail and headed for the Spanish mainland. 
Glad to be tied up in Cartagena
It is around 160 miles to Cartagena and with the short weather window we had, we decided to go straight through and do an overnight passage.  We had wind behind us and besides having to gibe the pole had an uneventful and comfortable day.  We could see the bright lights of Spain as darkness fell, our 2nd overnight passage this season with a new moon - it sure was dark out there, "as black as the inside of a cow" as skipper says. But the stars were glistening and it was a clear night.

The lights on shore faded  as the mainland curved away from us and we ran down the outside of the shipping lanes.  We crossed the meridian at 1.35am on October 08 2010.  After 6 years we had made it to the Western Hemisphere phew!!  Just minutes later our northerly wind died and a southerly filled in, this was not in the forecast!  By the time we had dropped the pole and reset the sails the southerly too had eased and by 3am we were motoring with no wind.

The sea state was easing with the calming of the wind and shelter from the mainland but the shipping was busy and kept us on guard.  Dawn broke around 7.30am and as the sun peaked over clouds on the horizon it looked like it would be a lovely clear day.  I went below to switch off the navigation lights and radar and when I came back up, not a minute later we had been totally engulfed in heavy fog.  This is the first time we have experienced fog at sea, I knew there was nothing at all around us but it's a weird feeling not been able to see anything.  Even on the darkest of nights you can see something!!   I woke skipper for some moral support and to make sure I wasn't dreaming, then shortly after it cleared as quickly as it had arrived and the sun came out to play.

Diet? I don't think so!!!
 We motored in calm seas, those last few miles seeming to take forever.  At last at 12.30pm we entered the bay where the town of Cartagena is nestled.  We passed the refinery and naval yard and entered the inner harbour.  It's a working port so there are ships coming and going but it's small and not too busy.  We found our way to the marina and contacted Yacht Port Cartagena on VHF Channel 09, Alberto the marinero came to take our lines and to welcome us.  This will be home now for several months over the Mediterranean winter.  First impressions - it looks good.  I'll add more info when we have  settled in.

So that it is the end of our cruising season for summer 2010, it has been an outstanding season.  We have seen some wonderful places, cruised with some exceptional people, eaten and drunk our way across the western med and will now take some time to diet, exercise and sleep!!!   Stay tuned though - there will be more updates soon.

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