Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Arrived in Bonifacio

Sailed to Bonifacio today which is a medieval town in the south of Corsica. The entrance to the harbour is spectacular as the town is perched on top of the cliffs which open up to provide a small channel into the town.

The boat traffic entering & leaving the harbour was quite amazing with day tripper boats passing in every direction. We were trying to take in the amazing scenery whilst taking avoiding action.

As always we are on a budget & rather than head straight for the marina we headed to a small Cala, surrounded by cliffs. With the aim of mooring to the cliff! Yes this sounds like madness but there are lazy lines from the cliffs which should assist. So Mark gets the dingy overboard & rows ashore to check the lines! Whilst I nervously try to maintain our position. After some consideration we attempt to motor Magnum at the cliffs! Mark takes our lines ashore (in dingy) & we pick up lines to take to the stern (sorry for all the boat jargon). It was all a bit fraught but the outcome was we were safely moored. What a challenge but definitely good practise.

More to follow on the town but attached are a few photos - Magnum moored to cliffs, view from town over marina & view from Magnum out of Cala with town on the cliffs above.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Lazy days at the beach

Ile Lavezzi is perfect for a few lazy beach days, so we have made the most of it but we are not alone.

The beach lovers start to arrive about 10am with a ferry arriving around the other side of the island about every hour, thankfully it is about a 20minute walk so not many make it round to our beach but at midday a huge ferry arrives in our anchorage, yesterday there were probably around 20-30 people on board but today closer to 50-60. But thankfully these depart by 4pm & peace is restored.

There is not much room in the anchorage so we have moved everyday to try to get a good spot out of the way of the ferry & with swinging room. We saw 2 50ft catamarans get into great difficulty yesterday as they were blown onto some rocks which then meant one had to dump their anchor & retrieve by diving from their dingy, we also witnessed a lovely Brit flagged boat plough into a rock under the surface so we are trying to be cautious with any manoeuvres.

We've had some time to explore the island but not much to see apart from the Seagulls, Lizards & more beaches & the spectacular views of both Corsica & Sardinia. After a week of not being on land it has been nice to get off the boat. The snorkelling has been fantastic, shame it is still a bit chilly but at least we have wetsuits. There is a huge variety of fish definitely the most we have seen in the Med which is probably due to the fact it is a nature reserve & the majority of fishing is prohibited - 80,000 hectares of sea around Bonifacio are protected.

Again we feel very lucky.

We only have Internet access on our phone at the moment so photos are limited to ones we have taken on the phone but when we are on wifi we will share some more.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Corsica - Ile Lavezzi

After getting beaten back by the wind the following morning brought no wind & flat calm seas. It seems like it is going to be all or nothing! We still wanted to make progress so we gentle motored towards the Straits of Bonifacio, the wind filled in a little and we were able to motor sail. There were a limited number of sail boats around which was a bit surprising as it was a beautiful sunny Sunday.

We could see the cliffs surrounding Bonifacio in front of us with the high mountains of Corsica in the distance. Behind us was the rugged coastline of Sardinia & it's rolling hills - just beautiful!

It was about 20 miles to reach Ile Lavezzi which is an uninhabited rock island in the Straits just south of Corsica (belongs to Corsica). It is a nature reserve & the sea is crystal clear. It was a bit of a challenge navigating around the rocks to get into a pool where there were already quite a few local boats anchored, thankfully we did so successfully.

Being the weekend we did have to share the anchorage but it was still stunning with only a limited number of people on the beach. The sea is still under 20 degrees which is still a bit chilly, so out came the wetsuits. We had some amazing snorkelling around the rocks, at one point I turned around to find over 100 fish following me ! It is a bit scary with them all looking at you!

There was a mad panic at about 7pm with the boats remaining trying to find a buoy to pick up for the night. They are all labelled reserved but we assume this doesn't apply overnight so grab what we could which we were grateful for when the wind picked up overnight.

Currently sat in the sunshine watching the world go by in this beautiful place, we are so lucky!!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Menorca to Sardinia

We finally had a weather window to leave Menorca, so spent the day getting ready for the passage - dingy packed away, hot meals ready to go, weather checked & checked & checked again! We decided to wait until late in the day hoping that the swell from the days of northerlies would have calmed.

We excitedly set of from Mahon around 6.30pm on Wednesday 23rd May, we optimistically hoisted the mainsail in the harbour. Whilst motoring out we saw a sail boat on the horizon with no sails up being swung from side to side by the swell. We motored into the swell desperately trying to keep down our dinner!

A few hours in & the wind started to fill in with force 4 from north west, engine off. The night was long but we both managed to sleep but there was little to see, one cargo ship on AIS which was over 5 miles away but a super yacht 215 feet long passes within less than a mile.

Rest of the sail was uneventful apart from seeing 2 whales the size of Magnum & having an owl land on Magnum, tired & 100 miles from the nearest land. (they are not as wise as they make out) & there was no sign of a cat or a green boat.

Made landfall in Cala Yacca (North West Coast) at 10.30 the next morning (Friday) in thick fog.

Sardinia - Coast hopping

Left Cala Yacca on route to Capo Testa a 45 mile trip. The sun was shining but there was no wind. We motored for 5 hours waiting for the wind, then is arrived bang on the nose around 7-8 knots. Within half an hour this was 25 knots on the nose & we still had about 15 miles to go. With the wind still building we looked for an alternative destination & here we are at Isola Rossa. Pretty anchorage with clear water & backdrop of Sardinian hills & expensive villas.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

More Menorca

Here we are in another country with my parents paying us a visit, they were saddled with bringing us a whole load of boat bits which included the critical item of our new instruments which we were desperate to have before we can move on. 

Display for our super new Garmin instruments

Really nice to spend some time with my mum and dad and we also were able to see a bit more of the island.  So where did we go - Biniancolla Vell was a really pretty white wash village with little bars and restaurant tucked away, good for a relaxing drink. 

Biniancolla Vell
Son Bou one of the main tourist resorts has with long sandy beach back by a large hotel (on Menorca's scale of low rise hotels) with its shallow waters it looked like it was a popular beach with the locals at the weekend.  
Son Bou Beach
We also ventured back up to the highest point on the island to admire the views, it was a beautiful clear day so could see the entire island.

Mark, Mum and Dad at highest point
We drove out to Fornells, funny how peaceful and beautiful it seemed without any wind!  But there were still only 1 or 2 boats anchored.  We went on to Es Grau as we were really keen for mum and dad to see the nature reserve unfortunately no tortoise this time but we did some baby Coots which was nice.
Baby Coots

Amanda, Mum & Dad at Es Grau
The next day whilst mum and dad visited La Mola Mark fitted the instruments he made a start the night before by taking up floor boards and taking down ceilings! The first exciting step was fitting the transducer, basically this is the instrument which measures the depth of the water so it fits into a hole in the boat and to fit the new one we had to remove the existing one which involved a fountain of water gushing into the boat, it was a bit of a shock! Mark spent over a day fitting all the kit which in addition to the depth included a wind instrument on top of the mast so he also spent a couple of hours at the top of the mast which is especially fun when a glass bottom tourist boat passes and cause a wave to roll through the anchorage J  Good news is it is all fitted and is working, hurrah!!

The final day with mum and dad and we went to a couple more lovely places along the South coast first we stopped at Cala Porter which I had expected to be quite a large resort but again it was small.  It was very hilly with a lovely sandy beach surrounded by cliffs, it would have made a lovely anchorage but not sheltered from the southerly swell or wind.

Beach at Cala Porter

We then drove further along the South coast of the island to Cala Galdana, this again is another tourist resort with a few large hotels which all look very nice.  The Cala would make a lovely anchorage surrounded by high cliffs and the water was crystal clear.  We were treated to a lovely lunch overlooking the beach.

Cala Galdana

Walk around headland at Cala Galdana

Overlooking beach at Cala Galdana
Sad to say another goodbye but had a lovely few days which we didn't expect to get (we were supposed to have left for Sardinia).

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Could summer be approaching in Menorca

The weather has gone from one extreme to the other this week; we started with a wet & windy weekend.  We hunkered down on the boat watching DVDs whilst Magnum and the other boats danced around the anchorage hoping that we would all swing in the same direction so not to collide.  We were  sharing the anchorage with 2 French and one German boat – we liked the look of the French power boat it has a bit of character.

Our French Neighbours
As the weather improved on Monday we had to make a mad dash in the dingy into town to provision for the week, we are very glad that there is a large supermarket in walking distance.  We then decided it was time that we give the water a try and after struggling into winter wetsuits, boots, gloves, hoods and snorkels we bobbed around the anchorage.  As expected the water initially was not too bad but with about 20 minutes is was just too chilly.  The sea life was scarce we only saw one fish! But lots of sea cucumbers!

The Tuesday was another windy one so again we were confided to the boat, thankfully our DVD collection is not running low as yet and it was sunny so we still had enough solar power to keep up with the laptop demands.

Hurrah for the sunshine! Wednesday saw a change in the weather, it was too hard to resist going for a sail.  We refuelled, and filled with water (10 Euros for 400 liters water and that was the cheap op tion!) and headed out of Mahon harbour with the wind building.  As we left the harbour in the beautiful sunshine our hopes for a sail started to die along with the wind but thankfully as we rounded the first headed landed the wind increased to force 3-4 which made for a lovely couple of hours sailing to Es Grau.

We tucked in and anchored behind Isla Colom with beautiful clear water with only one other boat which soon left as it approached dusk.

Isla Colum
We prepared our dinner and set off to the beach with a bottle of bubbly.

Our lovely picnic
Next day we dingyed into Es Grau a small fishing village with a couple of bars/restaurants on the edge of the S’Albufera Natural Park. We had a lovely walk through the Nature Reserve, one area is salt marshes with a large lagoon.

Lagoon S'Albufera Natural Park
We saw a range of wildlife including this freeky looking thing! It was about 5 inches long.

We then walked out onto the beach and out along the headland, we had some spectacular views of the Cala.

Beach at Es Grau

We walked up and down the various headlands coming across tiny little beaches which were mainly empty apart from the odd naked person. We eventually came out on a headland over looking Magnum.

You can just Magnum in distance
Many of the beaches still had piles of seaweed which has been blown ashore in the winter, not sure what must happen to this is the summer, on the more populated beaches you see this being cleared by tractors but unsure how this would be done in these more remote locations.

Beach piled high in seaweed
We saw a handful of other walkers, most seemed to be tourists rather than locals but the paths are also bridal ways and saw a beautiful horse trotting down a steep path behind us followed by a little dog, when they pasted us we noticed there was another dog sat on the saddle!

Look closely there is a dog standing on the back of the saddle
By the time we returned to the boat we were both baking hot (best weather since we arrived a month ago!) and were considering taking a swim but even dipping our feet in the water was freezing! So we battled with our wetsuits, not easy in over 20 degrees and jumped in for a swim.  Sea life was limited but there were a few weed patches which gave us something to explore.

The following morning we headed in the opposite direction (towards Cala Mesquita) from the village for a walk, this headed inland for a few kilometres but we were soon up and down the headlands overlooking the beautiful blue sea where the countryside often resembles the UK in the spring with the buttercups and other wild flowers.

Again the sun was baking and Mark was in trouble for forgetting to pack the cold drinks but we both forgot about any thirst when we came across a wild tortoise! We knew that they lived in the Natural Park and joked that we wanted to see one but never thought we would come across one on the path! It made our day.

Wild tortoise 

Look how excited Mark is!
Another great day out and even nicer to dingy back to see Magnum happy at anchor.

Monday, May 7, 2012

More in Mahon

Have you ever been to a circus? Well we might have years ago but couldn’t really recall so we all (Mark, Alex, Carol & I) decided to pop along to the local circus.  We had seen the posters and they did have various animals on them but not sure we were prepared.  When we arrived there were steel bars surrounding the circus ring, as we all sat excitedly waiting.

As you can see we are all already sporting a sailing tan!
We were not disappointed when on came 3 female lions, a male lion and a tiger, we were not in front row seats but our jaws dropped as  they still seemed very close! Unfortunately no photos as they were not allowed! They did all seem in good condition as the trainer had them sit and stand on various platforms around the ring.  He looked like he had a good relationship with them and at various points gave them a cuddle, but we also saw the male lion have a swipe at his head!  We were all astounded by the performance and although I do no agree with animals in the circus they did look well cared for.

As the bars were removed we were treated to various other circus acts, the kids loved the clowns, some amazing woman trapeze artists – so strong, jugglers, plate spinners, sword balancers.  Not long and it was back to the animals, first 3 Shetland ponies pranced around the ring, then 3 camels – how do you train a camel! But what came next was even more of a surprise, a fully grown hippopotamus! Yep, it ran on ate a whole watermelon and off it went.

We continued to be amazed when on came a brown bear, not even on a lead just walked on with his trainer although he did have a muzzle on  He was huge and looked so cuddly, his coat was glossy and his trainer obviously adored him but it did still upset me when he had him clapping to the music and then he sat in a plastic garden chair. He then sat in the middle of the ring and children were invited to have photos taken with him, he did not look worried although there is no way I would have let a child get that close to those huge paws, they were cuddling him!

The night was an experience and glad we went but not sure I would support it again but I can’t say that from anything we saw the animals were any less cared for than in a zoo.


We are back anchored at Cala Taulera, frustrating that we are not getting to sail around the island as much as we would like but even if we are lucky to have a light wind day they swell still takes about 24 hours to die down. At least here we know that we are sheltered and the holding is good so we can leave Magnum and explore a few other places.  Boats come and go here, often the same cruising boats returning probably doing similar to us.

Magnum at anchor - middle boat
It is about a 20 minute dingy ride into the town which is about as far as you want to go on the dingy and if the wind gets up you end up soaked!

We have also cycled from the Cala into the town, we knew it was quite a trek so not really do-able with too much shopping at it is a bit hilly but great exercise. Especially needed since we have consumed quite a few of Carols delicious cakes - Lemon Tart, Chocolate puddings, Pineapple upside-down cake & Strawberry cake, over the last couple of weeks and all cooked on the boat, amazing!

We have done another lovely walk, we took the dingy across the harbour to Cala Pedura, we then joined the Cami de Cavals, we walked through tiny pretty Cala Sant Esteve which was very sleepy, very much a locals village.

Cala Sant Esteve

Pretty walk
We walked for a few hours along what is mainly a walled path through fields, passing various farms but not much else.  We finally reached S’Algar which is a small purpose built urbanisation on the coast with one large (slightly run down) hotel and various apartment blocks.  The beach is rocky but there is a concrete area which is obviously used for sun beds, etc in the summer, with a restaurant and pool directly on the sea front.  
S'Algar harbour
None of which is open at the moment and looks like perhaps a couple of apartments are occupied.  Whilst there we came across a dive school, so perhaps we will complete our Padi next week, watch this space!

The following day we headed off on our bikes (not quite as easy as at home as they have to be taken to shore on dingy!) we cycled to Cala Mesquida, yet another beautiful undeveloped beach with a few houses. Not quite summer weather but we did enjoy a sit on beach although not quite sunbathing weather.

Cala Mesquida

Cala Mesquida
Lovely clean sandy beach at Cala Mesquida

Saturday, May 5, 2012

27th April 2012 – 1 year at Sea

We have reached our one year anniversary of setting off on our big adventure. Some days you can hardly remember what life was like back in the UK and others it seems like yesterday but the boat does definitely feel like home now.

We have sailed almost 4000 miles and visited 6 countries (UK, France, Spain, Portugal, Gibraltar and Morocco).  In mainland Spain we have visited about 25 different ports plus all the places we have visited in the 3 months spent in the Balearics. This is pretty good going since we spent over 4 months in Gibraltar during the winter.

One day can vary so much from the next but most of the time we are enjoying every minute and excited to see what a new location brings.

The year ahead will hopefully be a big one with lots of new place, new people and great experiences.

The (loose) plan for this year is to continue eastward to Corsica and Sardinia, to meet some visitors in June/early July and to explore the area around the straights of Bonifacio.
Then we will head back to Gibraltar and on out into the Atlantic to Madeira, assuming we haven’t scared ourselves silly by then and all is good with Magnum we will turn south to the Canary islands and then on to Cape Verde with a view to crossing the Atlantic to the Caribbean in late Dec making landfall in Antigua.

First we need to get our instruments fixed and wait for a decent weather forecast as the 200 mile stretch of water between Menorca and Corsica has a bit of an evil reputation with the Tramontana wind howling down from the NW at up to F11 !!

Still enjoying ourselves

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Out and about in Menorca

As it looked unlikely that we were going to get to sail to Ciutdella we visited by car. There has been a settlement in this location since before the Phoenicians settled in 1600-1200 BC.  Ciutadella which means little city was the capital of Menorca until 1722 when the British changed this to Mahon. It has a really pretty old town and harbour.

We walked out to the entrance to the harbour with the Punta De Sa Farola lighthouse surround in beautiful blue sea which looked even nicer as we were lucky to have a sunny day. 

The other side of the entrance was the Torre de San Nicolas.

The harbour was very quiet with mainly local boats and very few of the restaurants were open which I expect is very different to how it looks in the summer when we know we would struggle to find a berth.

The old town with its narrow streets has some lovely little shop and restaurants and again was very quiet.

Ciutadella Cathedral

It was a bit disappointing that we did not get to visit by boat but maybe some other time.

On the drive back we went out to Cala En Bosch which is a tourist resort close to Ciutadella and where my parents are holidaying in 2 weeks. Looks very nice but obviously not open for the season yet, the hotels/apartments are 2 story rather than high rise and look really nicely maintained and are close to the beach.  We did venture onto the beach which was full of the winter seaweed, lovely place to anchor but the weather is still not settled enough and the swell along the coast would make for an uncomfortable stay.

We then drove to the middle of the island through Es Mercadal and up El Toro which is the highest point on the island at 358 metres.  Here we had some beautiful views although I know in the small photos below it will be difficult to see the lovely green countryside.

After being able to see Fornells from the top we decided to drive out to the scene of the near disaster as we had never made it into the town/village. Pretty little fishing with a few restaurants, bars, etc. We had also been liaising with the dive school about our Padi course and they were very helpful but if we are not able to anchor in the bay this unfortunately are not going to happen. Alex & Carol also had a great experience with the chandlery at Fornells, extremely helpful for those of you who might end up cruising in this area – in more settled weather.

Fornells from the highest point on Menorca
Fornells Harbour