23 September, 2012

Night Passage to Mainland Spain

Formentera in the south of Ibiza is definitely the party island of the area.  The beaches have white sand and the water is turquoise blue.  If the wind blows from the west you sit on the eastern shore of the narrow peninsular if it changes you stroll over to the opposite side.  Unfortunately it is much further for the vessel than the 400 meters the sun lovers have to walk.  After a few days R&R I set off for the Spanish mainland on an all nighter sail.  The wind was behind me and Malua fell into a gentle rhythm as I sailed down wind with the genoa winged out with the spinnaker pole.  The main was full and drawing well. 

As is always the case in these situations the wind and swell increased as the sun set.  I pulled one reef in the main and put a few turns in the genoa as the wind increased to over 20 knots.  At about midnight the wind again increased with a true wind almost 35 knots.  It was time for the second reef but I had to turn side on to the waves to get the sail free of wind.  That was when all hell broke loose down below.  The many days of quiet cruising came to a sudden and loud bang as all unsecured items in the cabin came flying off shelves and bunks and landed on the floor.  I pulled the reef in and set the bow down wind for a smoother ride but by this time the swell had increased and we where surfing down the short waves, still going like a train.

Cartagena Bay was in sight as it became light and I was able to duck behind a large headland out of the wind to drop the sails and get Malua ship shape again.  The wind was now blowing right out of the bay and I motored slowly into the large harbour and headed for the marina.  There was no one to be seen at 7:30am so I chose an easy berth to get into a Malua was soon secure alongside.

I took off the wet weather gear, had a shower and settled down to a good breakfast, pleased to have completed another crossing of more than 150 nm without incident.
Cartagena is a lovely town which a number of cruisers have over wintered in so there is no need to describe it.  While I was there a few yachts were preparing for the winter.  The majority to be left while the owners flew home.  I stayed a few days then set off south along the coast.  Not a very anchor friendly place with marinas widely spaced.

15 September, 2012

Death in the Afternoon

When Hemingway romanticised the bull fights and bull fighters of Spain many years ago they were, I am sure, not as scripted as the fight I saw in the small Plaza de Toros of Torrimalimos.  I had read Hemingway's account many years ago and thought I understood the ritual but as the afternoon wore on I realised that today the authorities have ensured that the script is followed.
The arena in Torrimamilinos is quite small, it was only half full and the event has held on a Thursday afternoon.  We had taken a bus to the town and walked up the hill to the venue arriving early to purchase our tickets “Sombra” in the shade.  We joined a good crowed at a local pub to have a few beers before the event.
After a parade of carrages around the ring and the traditional sounding of the trumpet fan fare the bull enters.  He runs out of the dark tunnel into the bright light of the arean and is attracted to a scarlet cape in the far corner held by a toreador, he charges over only to see the cape disappear behind a sturdy wooden barrier, then an other cape appears opposite and he charges towards that, but that too disappears, then a third when at last the matador with the same colour cape appears and does some rather nice passes with the bull who at this time is fresh with no wounds.  The crowd love this section and ole and call out.  This is what I came to see.  
But the script prescribes that the cape again appears from behind a barrier and the bull's attention is held as two well padded and blindfolded horses plod into the arena.  One stand in front of the judges box and a man on foot attracted the bull's attention.  The matador flashes a cape and the bull again charges then he sees the horse but he is only a few meters away so he charges the horse and tries to lift it off its feet but during this session the picador stabs him in the top of his neck with a long lance and inflects a massive wound in the top of his neck.  The dark red blood flows down his side read for a skilled matador to brush against.
Now the real brave blokes come into the arena with two long barbed sticks.  The stand with arms raised and call the bull, he rushes towards them but they scamper off to one side and as the bull passes stick the ??? into his neck.  Brave men.  They disappear behind the screen as the bulls attention is taken by the capes.
Now is the time of the matador who is supposed to spend time judging  the bull and his charge, and if he charges straight or tosses left or right.  The matador has now changed to a heavy red cape which is held out  with a sword.  The bull charges at the red movement with is head low but to no avail, it is always in front of him.  Charge and turn. Charge and turn.  No Matador or movement in front of him.  At times he stops just to get his breath.  The top of his neck is just a mass of blood as the initial jab bleeds and the ??? swing from side to side.  I understand that they are used to lower the bulls head so that the matador can get a clear sword strike behind the shoulder right into the heart.
The next ritual is for the matador with the sword drawn get the bull to charge closer and closer to his body and to turn at the end but not to fall.  The closer and the better the turn and the crowed roar their approval.  Finally when the bull is exhausted and his head has dropped the matador stand ready with a new sword outstretched towards the bull, cape lowered and the bull charges with head down.  A good matador will insert the sword with one swift movement right up to the hilt and the bull will turn, look at the matador and fall over dead.  That occurred once of the six bulls that entered the ring.  On more than one occasion the sword hit bone and sprang away.  On another the matador missed and the bull got his cape while a particularly brave bull was given a reprieve by the judge, first a orange then a green handkerchief over the front of the judges box and the matador backs off and the bull runs out of the arena.
As soon as the bull falls over the assistances run in and cleanly kill the bull with a sharp knife to a spot behind the head.  The two mules then come in and the butcher drags the bull out of the ring to be slaughtered.
The ritual occurred six times during our afternoon, scripted almost to the minute.  The matador had very little to work with and in my opinion the bulls moved quite slowly with little initiative.  I must say the bull that got the reprieve did charge more than the others and did not look down but held his head up high.  It was never an even contest but the script ensures that it does not get out of hand.  The crowed in the arena was quite thin and I would say not very well educated so we did not get the response that I would have expected.
I doubt that I would go again but bull fighting is so much part of the Spanish national tradition I could not miss the event.

01 September, 2012


Malua is at 39:06,67N 01:30,79E
After a long slow beat into the wind Malua covered the 66 nm miles from Islotes Columbretes to the northern coast of Ibiza and I dropped anchor in the wide bay of Cala Portinatx along with a number of other yachts and stink boats. It was good to get back into the cruising frame of mind. How close are you to me and into the calas and coves of the Balearics.
Malua handled the crossing from mainland Spain to the Balearics in the true style of a cruising yacht – with easy.
A magical moment on Malua

Malua in Cruising Mode
Malua is currently at 38:52,07N 01:18,09 at Cala Port Roig
The wind rose in a few minutes as it always does in the middle of the night and I found myself close to a lee shore. I was sure the anchor was well dug in to I lay listening to the wind in the rigging. Just to be sure I got up and to my surprise the 54ft Halber Rassie which was anchored next to me was right on the rocks. The family was from Panama and we had spend a few minutes discussing the cruising in his country the previous day. Their lights came on and a torch was shone on the ever closing rocks. Before I knew it there was a bang and then the master fired up his engine and steamed away from the shore, dragging his anchor as he moved forward. On the bow was his son of not more than 12 years – handling the situation well. They came away from the rocks but the over large catamaran that – of course anchored after dark was now bearing down of the same lee shore. It was time for Malua to start up her engines just in case we had to move at a moments notice. I must say the cat master skilfully manoeuvred his craft away from the rocks and re-anchored all in one move. The Halber Rassie on the other hand circled the anchorage not making his mind up as there where he would try to re-anchor. After a long time he chose a spot on my port side a good distance off. Down went the anchor and it held. I could now switch off the engine and return to bed.
After the sun was will up I decided I needed to get out of this anchorages and find another place for the following night. Up anchor and up sail and off we went down wind along the northern coast of Ibiza.
It was a great sail until I had to turn the corner and sail up wind along the eastern coast. There are a number off lying island which had to be negotiated. One passage had only 10 meters of water and as the cruising guide said the wind funnels between the mainland and the island and the sea can get quite rough. Yes in excess of 27 knits of wind and a very choppy sea. Malua struggled onto the choppy sea but after about 2 hour popped out the other side into the open sea. Now to find a sheltered anchorage for the afternoon and evening.
Malua is now in a Cala Port Roig along with more than 20 other vessels but there is no rock and roll and I will sleep well again tonight.
Another magic moment on Malua

Malua crossing the Greenwich Meridium
Malua was at 37:54.306N 0:00.0W on 29/08/2012 at sea off Spain
The moon is full, the wind at 23 knots is aft of the beam and we are running down the coast of Spain to wards Gibraltar touching our hull speed of 8.4 knots. What a great sail.
I was watching the GPS as is ticked down 0:00 East to 0:00 West so we crossed the Greenwich meridian and Malua is again in the Western Hemisphere. Not since 2006 has Malua been in the western hemisphere but then we crossed the international date line at 180 – exactly the other side of the world. We were sailing along the coast of Fiji when we moved from E to W on the GPS now we are back.
The next great crossing will be back into the Southern hemisphere

Malua is at 37:35.761N 00:58.74W at Cartagena
The ocean and weather is so unpredictable which makes sailing challenging and rewarding. Having posted the last blog when Malua crossed the Prime Meridian the weather started to change and change it did. The wind rose from the pleasant 15 knots to 20 then 30 and finally at the height of the storm the gust where a lot more than 40 knots. Malua was running before the wind with the genoa poled out and the full main. Well first I put one reef in which is easily done. Then as the wind increased I pulled the second reef in the main. Now that is not so easy because one has to get the main off the stays so it means changing course more side on to the wind and of course the waves which had by this time build in to white cap rollers. Denny is usually in charge of stowing all things down below and not having her on board I had not done the usual diligent job so turning side on to the waves to pull in the reef resulted on a few major bangs from down below as items rearranged themselves either in cupboards, bookshelves or just on counter tops landing on the floor. My cupboard which I usually bolt flew open and deposited most of the items on the floor. Remember to prepare Malua for the sea not just going to sea.
Having pulled in the second reef and furled the genoa Malua was still surfing down the waves at more than 7 knots. But the moon was full and the wind aft of the beam, its warm so what more could one ask for..... well a lot of thunder and lightening, rain is of course what came next. So out with the wet weather gear.
I arrived at Cartagena at about 5:00 am and the wind is still blowing but the bay gives one protection from the sea so I slipped behind a high headland and dropped and stowed the sails and cleaned up down below.
With things ship shape I motored into the port just ahead of two tugs dragging a large ship into the entrance. I arrived at the marina with not a sole in sight and the wind still blowing at 25 knots so I just nosed Malua into a dock and made her secure. Now for a good sleep.

The Spanish Mediterranean Coast

The following are an extract from the post on my new sat phone blog found at www.blog.mailasail.com/harryws20

Start of the cruise.
Malua left Port St Louis three days ago for a dream crossing of the gulf and we are now on the coast of Spain on the boarder with France. The coast line is very much like that of the Balearics with rocky coves and indents. As always in August there are a lot of day trippers who thankfully leave in the evening and a few cruisers stay to enjoy the tranquillity of a great anchorage.

First days in Spanish Cala
Malua is at 42:19.35N 03:18.55E on 10/8/2012
We left our initial point of arrival and started into the cruising mode by moving to one of the less popular Calas along the coast. There were as always the day trippers and a few extra. My sunset the day trippers had left for the night spots and restaurants of the flesh pot and a few cruiser settled down to a quiet drink in the calm of a wonderful anchorage. The sun soon dropped behind the cliffs and the night was upon us.
Tomorrow the same but this time we will sail down/ south along the coast to another inlet and they day will be repeated – hard life this cruising.
A magical moment on Malua

Water Wheels
Malua is at 42:18.34N 03:17.43E at Playa Guillola on 12/8/2012
My water wheels finally said enough. The Yamaha 8 HP outboard purchased in New Zealand decided to stop never to go again, just when it was needed most. Malua is now in the Costa Brava of Spain which is rocky with few places to stay but all requiring a dingy to get to shore. A day or two ago I had to swim to get the us back to the boat so yesterday we went to Cadaques, rented a mooring and took the water taxi to shores to acquire a new outboard. The Information Centre’s map indicated a marine chandler so off we walked to find it.
There right in the front of the shop was a selection of small outboards. The lady assistant, in her best Spanish tried to tell be the advantages of one over the other but there is only one outboard for me – Yamaha. I had looked at purchasing a similar one before in Greece but the time was not right then but now there was no option. Hand over the plastic, entre the PIN and I am the owner of a brand new 2.5 HP fourstroke outboard. Up on my shoulder and back to the water taxi and we are mobile again – with less chance someone would steal the outboard.

French Parcel Service
Malua is at 41:50.7N 03:07.6E on 15/8/2012
Today was the first time I could connect to the Internet and to my dismay I typed in the Tracking number of my AIS parcel and found it has been sitting in Marseilles' Customs for a few days waiting for some documentation which would materialise from somewhere without any contact. Amazing. My second experience with French postal service not delivering.

Malua is at 41:50.54N 03:07.59E on 21/8/2012
Stopped in here to get out of the wind and rock and rolly sea. Spend one day in Euro 75 per night with very poor internet. Frustrated by French Customs and inability to communicate with them.
Crew not cooperating and off on her own thing. Finally resolved to dump her when she refused to make phone call to French Customs. Dropped her on the dock. Not a sight her fans would like to see.
An improving moment on Malua

Malua is at 41:23.22N 02:12.04E Port Olympic Barcelona on 21/08/2012
Great marina at a reasonable price and in a area to get fruit and food. Have dined out two nights in a row. The Restaurant on Malua is still the best in town although the tapas in some bars are great.
Plenty of room with only self on board.
Watchmate problem solved and now on its way to Sydney. The issue is grounding the GPS antenna which is a known issue but not communicated to me the installer burnt the component in the unit. The designer has been very helpful with almost instant email. Now to see what the cost will be.
Toured Barcelona on the bike but it got too hot so took a tourist open top bus. Commentary is very good but very slow.
A magical moment on Malua

Rio Ebro
Malua is currently at Puerto del Fangar 40:48.9N 00:44.3E
The day started early with the tasks to leave a marina, fill the tanks with water, collect bread and disconnect the electricity. Today I also had to return the electrical plug and access key. The plug was a French special which is only supplied by the marina for a euro 70 deposit so returning it is an essential part of leaving.
I called in at the fuel dock and with one word handed over the belongings of the former French crew. Not a work of thanks spoken. Hopefully the end of that chapter in the French story.
Off out the marina past the huge dock of Barcelona and south down the coast. The wind did not come up as expected and 13 long hour later and 89 nautical miles I dropped anchor outside the delta of the Rio Ebro as the clock struck four bells – mid-night.
Another long day tomorrow towards Valencia and then across to the Balearics.

Isolates Columbretes
Malua is at 39:53.75N 00:41.18E on 23/8/2012
Yesterday I set out from Barcelona on passage to Ibiza. It is some distance and as usual on these occasions in the Mediterranean there is either no wind or the wind in on the nose. I pointed Malua’s bow south along the coast heading for the delta of the Rio Ebro which appeared to give me some respite from the consistent southerly swell over the shallow waters of the delta. I left this anchorage early the following morning and headed out again right into the wind with a very choppy short sea. Not much progress into the swell and little wind but as the afternoon progresses the wind filled in and I started to sail. 12 then 14 knots of wind on the nose. I chose an angle into the wind in the direction of my destination Ibiza but expected to have a long all night passage.
As the sun started to sink into the west I noticed a black dot on the horizon and zoomed in on the chart plotter. There right in front of me was an island. The cruising guide indicated that it was a marine reserve and the remains of an extinct volcano. The centre is deep, deep but the authorities have laid some mooring buoys that one can pick up. So with the light fading Malua entered the circle of rocks which is the extinct volcano of Isolates Columbretes. Much to my surprise it is much larger that the chart indicated. There where a number of mooring buoys to which a few yachts and fishing vessels where attached. I chose one and make myself fast. I took a quick swim to inspect the condition of the mooring and retired to cook myself a well earned steak and have a sip of some good French wine. Off to sleep to the gentle rock and roll of the swell. Much better than a long night at the helm.
Tomorrow it is the cruising grounds of Ibiza