Wind, wind and yet more wind.

May 14, 2010

Today is dark and stormy, so we’re confined to the boat as we’re at anchor.  With changeable, strong winds, we need to be on board in case the anchors drag so that we can do something about it there and then rather than coming back to a boat lying on the rocks….  There’s thunder and lightening going on outside and rain coming down in buckets full, so there’s not much incentive to go ashore anyhow; we’d just get soaked!  This means that we now have time to catch up on the blog and give you the next instalment of the voyages of the good ship ‘Rampage’.  Looking back, we last told you about goings on out here just after the last storm had passed through but didn’t tell you much about what happened, so I’ll start there.

Water bomber taking off - note proximity to sailing boat!

The storm that we caught was a belter.  We had winds from the north (originating in France) that touched about 60 miles an hour at times, although most of the time it a little bit less than that.  We were anchored in Pollenca quite close into the northern shore of the bay so the waves didn’t have time to build before they reached us.  Nevertheless, we were swinging violently on the anchors and the boat was heeling from side to side as the winds pushed her from one swing on to the other.  We got coke all over the deck and smashed a wine glass, which we had thought was well stowed.  In the end, I kept watch on our position with the radar whilst J got some sleep.  Then the foresail came partially unfurled and started to flap; before we could get it re-furled it has given itself a big rip.

Meanwhile the dinghy, which was tied off to the stern, decided to join in the general fun and games and was rolling over and over on its line, complete with outboard motor.  There was nothing we could do about it, just watch in amusement as it continued to flip from upright to inverted every couple of minutes.  I thought that the oars had gone but it turned out that they were still present but the blow up seat had gone off on a trip of its own, so if rowing is required now you either have to kneel or sit on the bottom with the oars round your chin.

The storm had blown itself out by mid morning with no further excitements and the weather started to pick up a little.  With the wind down to sensible levels, we could venture ashore and see about getting the sail repaired.  First though, I had to strip and rebuild the outboard motor as I didn’t fancy rowing to and from the shore – about ¼ mile off.

We then spent the next few days in Pollenca, as the sail maker couldn’t fix our sail until Friday.  We didn’t do a vast amount, other than walking round the town and exploring the surroundings.  It’s a lovely little bay but mainly focused on the package holiday trade, which means lots of bars and little shops but not too much else.   That said, there’s a sea plane base in the bay, where planes are based during the summer for water bombing fires.  A couple of planes came and stayed for a few days whilst we were there, exercising most days by taking off, then landing to scoop up water and dropping it later in the flight.  Great fun to watch them and they do get quite close to the boats in the bay!

Cala Vall de Boca, where we stayed and then ran away.

By Friday, we’d had enough of Pollenca for the time being and the weather was changing.  Since the storm, we’d had light westerly to north westerly winds but the wind was due to pick up and swing round to the south, which would make the bay here a bit uncomfortable as it’s open to the south.  We left mid afternoon after picking up our repaired sail and had a cracking sail for the 10 miles to Cape Formentor.  We then rounded the headland and started to sail down the north coast of Mallorca; as we did so, the wind disappeared and we had to motor for the rest of the trip.

Looking down into Cala de San Vicente, Rampage at anchor below us.

We’d identified a little Cala or cove from the chart and pilot book where we dropped anchor in perfectly still conditions.  It was a lovely little place, completely deserted apart from a couple of girls on the beach who left not long after we arrived.  However, just as we were thinking how nice the bay was and thinking about getting some supper together, the wind suddenly got up and started making the place most uncomfortable.  It was threatening to blow us into the side of the cove so I decided that we should move on to the next cove round as it was somewhat more open and offered a better escape route to the open sea should the anchor drag.  It took us about an hour to move and we arrived in the new anchorage just as it was getting dark, anchored up and went to bed without bothering with supper as we were both too tired.

In a bar in Cala de San Vicente, waiting for the beer to arrive.

The following morning, we woke to blue skies, no wind and the sight of Blank Canvas, a neighbour of ours from Barcelona anchored across the bay.  We stayed there for 2 nights, enjoying a couple of drinks on Blank Canvas with Jack and Tanya on Saturday night.  On Sunday, we sailed for Port de Soller, a lovely old port about half way down the northern coast of Mallorca.  We were aiming to stay there for a few days whilst I went back to UK to attend a medical board hearing for my War Pension.

We arrived there mid afternoon, having had to motor most of the way as there wasn’t enough wind.  Just as we were getting the anchor sorted, we were hailed from a passing dinghy by an American couple who we’d met in Barcelona.  We hadn’t recognized their boat but it was anchored just in front of us in the bay.  They told us that the local fiesta was taking place that weekend and that there were various events due to take place in the town of Soller (which is just inland from the port with the same name) that afternoon and on Monday.

Rampage at anchor in Port de Soller

As a result of this, J and I made out way ashore and caught the old tram which runs from the port to the town.  The town itself was full of little stalls selling all sorts of stuff, excited youngsters letting off firecrackers and generally fairly buzzing with excitement.  However, no ‘cultural’ events were taking place that we could see, so we had a very pleasant coffee before walking back down the hill to the port.

Soller tram

The following day, I was due to fly back to UK, so we left by tram which took us to the narrow gauge railway that runs from Soller town to Palma – OK expensive compared to the bus but great fun.  I left J in Soller, where she made her way back to the boat whilst I went on to Palma.  I arrived very early at the airport but didn’t worry about that, as I found a comfy seat and read my book.  When I arrived, the flight was all OK but by about 9.30, it was suddenly cancelled, presumably due to the dreaded ASH CLOUD!  By this time of day, public transport has packed up and gone home so I caught a taxi back to the port and rejoined J on the boat.  We had booked 3 days mooring in the local government run marina so at least she didn’t have to come and get me in the dinghy!

Duncan (and some random Spaniard) bid farewell as the train sets of for Palma.

The following day, we took the bikes and rode to the local big supermarket to do a bit of a basic resupply and rode back down to the port well laden – I had a large pack of kitchen paper rolls secured to the outside of my back pack and, according to J, looked a little bizarre!  That evening, we joined a Danish couple on their boat for drink.  They are travelling for a couple of years with their children (aged 3 and 5) before planning to return to Denmark when their son has to start school.

Some of the hordes of inebriated locals re-enacting the defeat of the Moors as part of the fiesta,

On Wednesday, we took the bus to Deia, a little village about 18 km from Soller, where Robert Graves lived for most of his life.  His house there is now a museum and we had a happy time exploring the village and his house.  J has been reading an autobiography of one of his daughters, so she really enjoyed seeing something of the area described in the book.  Both the bus trip and the village of Deia were well worth seeing.  The scenery was spectacular and unspoilt.  The 56-seater bus wound its way up and then back down a switchback mountain pass, built many years ago before cars or 56-seater buses!  Every time we met a vehicle on a bend coming the other way, there was a cautious manoeuvre that usually involved everyone but the bus having to reverse some distance.  All around us were imposing grey mountains, covered in olive and cypress trees with every available inch of land terraced where possible.  Everywhere was very green and dotted with wild flowers, particularly yellow patches of gorse and bright red poppies.  Deia itself was compact and delightful.  We wound our way up to the church, perched atop a small hill where we admired the view in every direction and failed to find Graves’ headstone in the tiny cemetery, (OK, we didn’t look that hard.)  We then made our way to Graves’ house, a short walk out of the village.  Afterwards there was just time for a cold drink on a vine-covered café terrace before making our way back to the bus stop.

Landscape round Deia

The trip back to Soller was entertaining, as the bus – when it appeared – could only just cope with the number of people who wanted to get back down to Soller.  However, in a most un-Spanish display of efficiency, we were met by a minibus just outside Deia which took all of the standing passengers down to the town!

Station of the Cross in Deia

That evening, we hosted Tanya and Jack from Blank Canvas and Karyn and Steve from Threshold to drinks and nibbles on Rampage.  As always happens amongst cruising folk, the talk soon turned to the weather and it soon emerged that we were all planning on leaving Soller the following day to make our way back round to the eastern side of the island as there were strong winds from the north and west forecast for the following days.  Soller is too tight to sit out a storm from that direction, as there is no way to escape to open sea if it all goes wrong.

Robert Graves' study in Deia.

Having topped off our water tanks, we left Soller at about 11 am the following morning.  We made sail as we left the port and had a great day sailing up the northern coast of Mallorca, which is all cliffs and spectacular coves.  We ended up sailing on just the headsail as the winds came round to sit astern of our course, making 6 – 7 knots.  We rounded Cape Formentor and beat our way back to the west into Pollenca where we dropped anchor by about 8 pm.

The garden at Robert Graves' house.

We had an early night last night, just as well as it turned out, as the wind suddenly got up in about 3am and we had to mount an anchor watch to make sure nothing dragged.  J did the first stint, watching the radar screen to make sure that we weren’t moving but didn’t need to wake me to take over, as the winds died down again.

Today, we woke to overcast skies and the promise of more wind, so we put out a second anchor and decided to update blogs, do knitting and other such domestic things.  As I write now, we have force 7 – 8 winds blowing down from the mountains to the north.  The anchor on the catamaran just inshore from us has  broken out of its hold and she’s had to make out to sea but ours seem to be holding at present, so although we’re moving about a fair bit and the wind is shrieking in the rigging, it’s now lunch time!  I’ll get this up on the blog after we’ve eaten.

The Tall Ship 'Sir Robert Baden-Powell' looms out of the rain today.


One comment

  1. Oh, memories – I have swum (whilst being fiercely mocked by my children) in Cala Vicente and we stay in a gorgeous house about 2 miles inland. How lovely to see Rampage in the bay!

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