August 2008 Letter

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August 2008

Dear Friends and Loved Ones,

It was exciting to leave Gibraltar and officially enter the Mediterranean Sea!  This will be our cruising ground for the next few years.  We spent this month cruising up the Southern coast of Spain (known as Costa del Sol and Costa Blanca), and then crossing over to the islands of Ibiza and Mallorca (the Balearic Islands are part of Spain).  We are currently anchored in a beautiful bay in Mallorca.  Now that we've been in the Med for about a month, we're wondering if we are the only American-flagged boat here!  We got excited last week when we saw an American flag enter the anchorage.  Mike took the dinghy over to say hello, but the boat was full of French guys who didn't know what Mike was saying.  Guess it was a chartered boat. 

This is the peak vacation season and it appears that all of Europe is here.  The marinas are full, the hotels are booked, and the beaches are jam packed with people and umbrellas.  The buses, restaurants, shops, and sidewalks are filled to capacity.  The voices are speaking Spanish, German, French, Italian, Austrian, Belgium, British English and a variety of other dialects.  Fortunately, many people speak at least a little bit of English, and with my limited knowledge of Spanish and our ability to point, we have been able to communicate enough to get by.

As overwhelming as it sounds, all the people, music, and activity create a festive energy which has been fun.  We have discovered that there is always room for one more - whether it's the number of boats in the anchorage, the number of people at the beach, or the number of tapas (appetizers) on the table. 

Costa del Sol, Spain

At the beginning of the month, we worked our way up the Costa del Sol of Spain, stopping in Fuengirola, Motril, Aguadulce, Garrucha, Cartegena, Torreviejo and Greenwich.  We pretty much had to stay in marinas each night.  There aren't many (or any) anchorages on the mainland.  With the weak American dollar, and the inflated prices of the peak season, staying in a marina each night was getting expensive.  So we were eager to get over to the islands where we could anchor.  Still, we made sure that we explored and experienced each town along the way.  We loved walking the narrow cobblestone streets, touring the historic buildings, eating at sidewalk cafes, and shopping at the markets full of unfamiliar products.  (By the way, you cannot find sweet pickle relish here.  So much for my favorite tuna salad recipe.)  In Cartegena, we toured the ruins of a 2000-year-old Roman theater with an incredible museum.  Then hiked to the Castillo de la Concepción (Castle) high on the hill for spectacular views of the city and sea.

In Torreviejo, we had a great spot in the marina.  We were tied to the end of the dock for an open air feeling and perfect view of the waterfront street scene.  We walked to a permanently setup summer carnival with all its lights, noise, rides, games, vendors and vacationing families.  We wished our kids and grandkids could be there with us.  We went back to the marina to eat at a little cafe that had a great guitar player that looked sort of like Sting.  His voice wasn't that good and he sang with an Austrian accent, but I was amazed at how good he played the guitar.  Then he started doing the Eagles.  He sounded just like them!  Wait a minute, that IS the Eagles!  We realized that he was faking it with a sound track.  Oh well, it was fun anyway.  At  least we were listening to some really good music, even if it wasn't coming from him!

Our last stop on the coast of Spain was Greenwich.  We wanted to go there so we could say we've been to Longitude 000.00.00.  It was our only disappointment so far.  The marina was the most expensive of any we have been to and it had no personality, no grocery store, no internet, no town, and no breeze.  They put us on the mega-yacht dock, and we were dwarfed by the huge power boats.  The laid mooring line held us out so far away from the dock that we couldn't get off the boat!  It was 100 degrees out and hot, hot, hot with no breeze.  We finally figured out a way to get off the boat and convinced the marina staff to drive us to the grocery store in the next town.  Mike had to ride in the back of a pickup truck, but at least we got our provisions for going to the islands.  We left first thing in the morning and had a fabulous 65-mile fast sail to Ibiza on a nice reach.


Anchored in the lovely Cala Bedella on the island of Ibiza at 6 p.m.  The sun is still high and hot at that hour.  The beaches don't empty until after 8 p.m. and it doesn't get dark until about 10 p.m.  I love the long days!  We are so happy to be at anchor.  The water here is warm and crystal clear.  We can see the bottom 35 feet below us!  We are anchored next to a beautiful cliff with a white sand beach at the end.  We took the dinghy off the deck for the first time since Bermuda almost 2 months ago!  Couldn't wait to get ashore and have a beer at the beach bar with free wi-fi.  Yeah!  Called home on Skype and caught up on emails.  Back on board we grilled hamburgers, ate salad, listened to music and slept soundly while we rocked gently at anchor.

Next we anchored at Cala Tarida.  This is where we will come back with our kids and grandkids in two years on our return loop.  They will love it.  It has a great beach and village.  A low cliff to jump off.  A couple of small coves to snorkle around.  Paddle boats with slides for rent.  And a lot of families with kids.  However, we notice that they don't have the beautiful and plentiful tropical fish and coral reefs here in the Mediterranean like we have been spoiled with in the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America.  But the water is very clear and warm.

It took us over 2 hours to get our anchor set in Puerto de San Antonio with its grassy bottom.  We had to drop our 66 lb. bruce anchor at least 7 times before we could get hooked!  We finally found one little sandy spot.  Whew.  At least we are diligent about getting a good set.  We have noticed that many of the boaters here don't anchor very well.  They come too close, they don't let out enough scope, and they don't back down to set the hook.  It is frightening to see them come in to the anchorage, drop their anchor right next to you or in front of you, then when they think the anchor hits the bottom, they turn off their motor and take their dinghy to shore!!  Yikes!  Must be charterers. 

While we were in San Miguel, a boat with 3 couples did just that (I think they were French).  After they went ashore, their boat went sliding through the anchorage and was going to hit a German boat.  Mike and I quickly put our motor on our dinghy and rushed over to prevent the wayward boat from damaging the German boat.  The strange thing was that no one on the other boats was doing anything!  Everyone was just watching it happen.  Even the German couple just stood on their deck watching this boat drift toward them.  We pushed the drifting boat so that it would go beside them.  We asked them if we could raft the boat to them until the owners came back, so that the boat wouldn't crash onto the rocks.  When they finally understood what we were saying, they raised their hands in the air and yelled "NO! NO!!".  They didn't care if it hit the rocks.   They just wanted us to push it away.  It was moving faster and we didn't have much time to do something.  Mike jumped on the boat to let out more anchor chain.  Their windlass was turned off, but Mike found the manual release.  It stopped drifting, but then it started swinging back toward the German boat.  We used our dinghy as a bumper and pushed them off again, and Mike jumped back on the boat and dumped all their chain over.  Then we tied our dinghy to their stern and pulled them back away from the Germans.  We just couldn't believe that not one other person helped.  It would have been a total team effort if we were in the Caribbean or the Pacific.  The German couple thanked us.  Someone must have told the other folks what happened because they came over later in their dinghy and managed to say 'thank you for saving our boat' in the little bit of English they knew.

Another time, Mike rescued a French boat's dinghy which came untied and was drifting through the anchorage.  Mike was able to hook it with our boat hook as it floated by us.  However, it was my ear-piercing, two-finger whistle that got the French man's attention.  I was trying to signal to him that we would tow his dinghy over to him, when he jumped in the water.  He swam over to retrieve his dinghy with a grateful "Merci Beau Coup!".

And while I'm on the subject of Good Deeds, I have to tell the story of Mike saving the drowning kitten.  It was when we were in one of the marinas in Spain.  We were walking along the marina, when we heard the frantic mewing coming from under the floating dock.  I about freaked out when I saw the kitten trying desperately to get out of the water.  His little claws were scratching frantically at the slippery wall and his little head kept going under.  I told Mike he had to save him!  Mike had to climb over a locked gate to get on the dock and then had to climb on someone's boat to reach the kitten.  Each time Mike tried to reach for him, he hissed and jumped further away.  Mike finally saw a towel and hung it over the side.  The kitten was able to grab ahold with his claws and Mike brought him up to safety.  He hissed and slashed out at Mike in gratitude.  Poor little thing was so confused, but alive.  Thankfully.

We spent several relaxing days at San Miguel until we woke up one morning with 5-foot waves rolling into the anchorage!  All the boats had left.  The swell was going to continue from the north for another 2 days, so we moved around the corner to the small cove of Cala Binirras, which was more protected.  Then we sailed to the other side of the island to Cala Boix.  We were so excited to meet an Australian couple, Peter and Sharon, sailing and home-schooling their 2 sons, Tom and Henry, on a catamaran, s/v Bella Vita.  They invited us over for drinks.  It was such fun to have a social evening with English-speaking new friends!


We skipped taking Aquila to Palma.  It's such a large harbor with so many marinas and commercial traffic.  We decided to sail directly up the west coast of Mallorca to Port Soller.  We immediately fell in love with this place and we've been here for almost 2 weeks now.  It is so pretty.  We had a romantic dinner by candlelight at a outdoor table overlooking the waterfront and watched the full moon come up over the hills and shine across the water in the harbor.  There is a marina here where we can tie up our dinghy when we go in to enjoy this wonderful waterfront, or catch the bus or the tram to other parts of the island.  We have really enjoyed exploring Mallorca.  We rode on an old Victorian train that travels a scenic route through the mountains from Soller to Palma.  We rented a car for 3 days to visit all the places in our guidebook.  This place is so picturesque! 

There are festivals going on at almost every place we've stayed, which provide even more entertainment in the evenings.  A couple of nights ago we went to the Plaza, which was decorated with hundreds of white streamers strung overhead, to listen to an orchestra and watch Latin dancing.  We ordered drinks and dinner at a sidewalk restaurant next to the dance area with a view of the stage.  The "orchestra" turned out to be a trio -- a female vocalist, a guy with a guitar, and a guy on a keyboard with lots of electronic help.  When the music started, dozens of very old Spanish matrons started dancing together doing the foxtrot! The highlight was when they started doing the electric slide, even the men and children joined in.  It was hysterical.  Everyone was having such fun and I could feel the joy in the air.

We went to Palma and rode the double-decker sight-seeing tour bus to see the magnificent Cathedral de Mallorca, the Bellver Castle and other highlights of the city.  We returned to Palma a second time to leisurely walk around the old historic part of the city with the pedestrian streets and sidewalk cafes.

We got a personal tour and wine tasting at an award-winning winery on our excursion to the northeast section of the island.  We also toured a 250-year-old estate, Els Calderers, and learned how noble families lived 2 centuries ago.  We had drinks at the German hilltop Bella Vista Restaurant in Cala Millor.  We had planned to eat there, but the kitchen wasn't going to open for another 2 1/2 hours!  So we drove to Portocristo and ate a delicious seafood paella.

We got an email from our friends on s/v Agua that they had arrived in Mallorca and were anchored in Palma.  We had no way to call them, but we decided to drive over to Palma anyway and figure out a way to reach them.  We could see them anchored out there, so we stood on the seawall of the marina and yelled and whistled.  We tried for 20 minutes to get their attention but they didn't hear us and it was getting late.  Then I saw a Spanish fellow leaving the marina in his dinghy and asked him if he would give us a ride out to the catamaran.  Mike Mak and Marquise were so excited when we pulled up!  We had a great time visiting for a few hours.  Marquise will be flying home to California in 2 days and Mike plans to meet up with us in Soller after he gets his mast rigging fixed.

Another day we drove the southwest coast on the winding scenic drive to artsy Deia and romantic Valldemossa.  We had seen a brochure about a Chopin concert in Valldemossa.  Mike decided to take me out on a dress up dinner date.  Mike shaved and switched his tee-shirt for a polo.  I put on mascara and faked the appearance of a skirt with a skort.  Mike even insisted on buying the good seats for the concert.  Why didn't I get a picture of us?!  Darn it.  We looked so good!  It was a beautiful evening.  We had a fantastic white tablecloth dinner on the patio outside the Cartuja de Valldemossa, which was the concert venue.  This is a grand monastery which was turned into rental accommodations after its monks were expelled in 1835.  Frederic Chopin lived here in 1838.  Our pianist was Jean-Philippe Collard.  And even though Chopin isn't my favorite, it was a wonderful evening.

After all the touring these last few weeks, it was time to focus on boat chores.  So we've been doing laundry, cleaning, boat maintenance and repairs for several days.  Mike worked on the water maker for 7 hours today and finally got it working again.  Now he's been working on the aft head for the last 3 hours.  There has been a lot of 'blue' language coming from that direction.  I don't even want to know what he's dealing with right now.  After ten straight hours of hot sweaty working conditions in tight cramped quarters, he's not a happy camper.  The entire boat is in disarray with cushions and beds upturned in order to get at the tools and spare parts stored underneath.  Besides fixing his lunch, his only requirement from me has been to keep the music playing.  If I don't notice when the MP3 stops at the end of an album, he yells "music! to soothe the savage breast!".  He just found the problem with the head and is finishing that job.  Well, yea!  Now we can put the boat back together and enjoy the rest of our evening.  It's only 8 p.m. .. we've still got another hour of sunshine left!

Just another day in paradise.

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