Home Alone.

June 30, 2010

Be warned – this is very long and has few pictures.  You may wish to make a cup of tea or wait ‘til you’re having difficulty sleeping one night!

Yes, he abandoned me!  I mean, I know I can be a bit tricky to live with at times but that is largely down to my age and hormones.  I have finally realised that one of the few bonuses of being female is the option to blame your hormones for your bad behaviour and/or ill humour at virtually any stage in life that you happen to be.  Not only does the slightest hint of any girly complaint cause everyone to clam up or quickly start talking about something else, but in addition, it leaves you completely innocent and in no way responsible for anything you may chose to do or say!! 

Evidence that Duncan does occasionally swim!

Anyway, I haven’t been sufficiently grumpy, (in my opinion,) for him to high tail off back to UK.  That said, it was probably no bad thing as the sun and heat were obviously starting to get to him.  Despite our chosen lifestyle and location, Duncan is not really a huge fan of very hot weather and tends to retreat inside or find any possible segment of shade.  In addition, notwithstanding the 1000 odd logged dives he can now boast, he doesn’t often feel moved to go for a swim.  This being the case, you will understand my concern one day when he suddenly leapt into the sea whilst I was solemnly circuiting the boat and tender.   However, he probably only stayed in the water 5 minutes or so before clambering out again.  Fair enough.  The next morning though, he leapt out of bed, donned his swimming trunks and was plunged into the sea before I had barely surfaced.  Unheard of!  I hastened to join him, lest he should suddenly need medical assistance but shortly after I dived in he was clambering back out and I started to feel reassured.  Consider then, my alarm, when he suddenly bombed back, almost on top of me, from the great height of the pulpit.  Without a shadow of a doubt it was time for Duncan to return to a more temperate climate and recover his equilibrium.   In addition, I had the comforting knowledge that the purpose of his trip was to be poked and prodded by a medic in order to establish what, if any, lasting damage he had incurred as a result of his 30+ years unswerving loyalty and service to Her Majesty. 

After his previous abortive attempt to get home for his medical, we decided that he should allow a greater time margin for contingencies, (ie Ash Clouds) so he set off by bus for Palma and the airport on Friday 18th, his appointment not being until the following Monday.  He set off with an empty bag, a long shopping list and a light heart, knowing that the weather forecast predicted flat calm and his beloved wife should be able to survive a few nights without him there to hold her hand.

Now most of you will know that it is not something new for us to spend time apart.  Indeed, this is an integral part of life with HM Forces so it wasn’t loneliness, per se, that might potentially cause problems.  What you have to understand is that dealing with things mechanical, electrical or in any way technical does not come naturally to me.  One morning a week or so earlier Duncan had gone ashore to buy bread for breakfast and was alarmed, on his return, to see that the engine was running at full throttle in reverse, straining at the anchor.  I had been feeling very proud of myself for thinking to turn on the engine in order to charge up the batteries and generate some hot water for showers while he was gone.  I thought he’d be most impressed.  I just failed to take the engine out of gear, a simple mistake…  Thankfully, all I had succeeded in doing was bedding in the anchor extremely effectively so no harm done.  He came below to discover that I had gone to the trouble of ironing an outfit for our planned day ashore.  As I have mentioned previously, I am not a fan of ironing but occasionally it does lend a certain sartorial elegance.  What I hadn’t appreciated was that an iron is not something that should be run from a twelve volt battery, not even with an inverter.  Ah well, got away with it thankfully without frying the battery or the inverter and now have a cast-iron (forgive the pun) excuse for the crumpled look for the remainder of the summer or until such time as we once again have 240v shore power.  On another occasion he gave me the camera memory card to put into the laptop in order to download some photos.  “It will only go in one way,” he says.  Not true.  It fits perfectly when inserted sideways.  Indeed it is a very snug fit and not terribly easy to remove again… (Oh God, it took me about ½ an hour with 2 sail needles to extract! Skipper)

So you will understand that he probably had one or two concerns about leaving me for 4½ days in sole charge of his beloved sailing boat – and even if he didn’t, I certainly did!

We had studied the GRIB files (weather forecasts) before he left and were reassured to see that sunshine and light winds were predicted for the coming week.  This being the case, together with the knowledge that Porto Colom is probably the most protected harbour on Mallorca with excellent holding, I had elected to remain at anchor, rather than retreat to a mooring buoy or marina for the duration of his absence.  This wasn’t sheer Swallows and Amazons type bravado – it also saved us quite a lot of money as we knew his trip home would inevitably mean spending outside our normal budget.

So I waved him off, bought a piece of fish for my supper and returned to Rampage feeling slightly smug.  I had arranged with Naomi that we would have a Skype phone call the following morning (Saturday) when the children were around so that I could have a chat with them.  As a result I stayed aboard all morning.  Duncan, bless him, had left me a little project while he was gone.  I was to plan our route from Mallorca to Rome working out distances and timings to ensure that we arrived there in good time to fly home to UK for Polly and Tommy’s wedding in August.  Thus, armed with a pair of dividers, I spent the morning pouring over 4 charts, three pilot books and various sets of notes from fellow cruisers, busy making copious notes of my own.  I was so engrossed that I failed to notice the dark clouds gathering and my first indication that all was not well was a flash of lightening, followed by a rumble of thunder.  Oh bother, I thought, or words to that effect.  This was not what I had been led to expect, and summoning a new GRIB file, I found that the picture had changed somewhat.  I decided I had better go ashore and stock up with provisions before it got any later and the shops closed and the weather worsened. 

A salutory warning that things do sometimes go very wrong - even in Porto Colom!

On my return I decided I had better take the outboard off the dingy as I had no wish for it to drown if the dingy turned turtle in the wind.  Did I mention the wind?  Yes there was some – quite a bit really!  Manoeuvring with the outboard is not that easy.  I knew what to do in theory but had always looked on appreciatively whilst the boss did the heavy work.  Now it was down to me.  I found that lifting it off the back of the dingy was actually the most awkward bit because I had to do it whilst sitting on the bottom of the dingy to avoid falling in myself or dropping the motor into the somewhat lumpy sea.  Having secured the outboard on board and checked that headsail was not going to come unfurled in a hurry, I then retreated down below for warmer clothes and lunch.  I spent the afternoon and evening hunkered down, listening to the wind.  This was emphasised by another boat anchored close by with a wind generator.  For those of you who have not encountered one of these, suffice to say, they are noisy.  The windier it is, the noisier they become.

The anchorage was pretty crowded as obviously quite a number of people had sought refuge.  As I was preparing for bed, I was concerned to see that another boat had appeared and anchored very close off our stern.  I slept fitfully, making silent petitions to heaven that the anchor would hold and planning how I should cope if it didn’t.  About 4am I was woken by a lot of noise from our stern and peered out of the cabin hatch.  The boat from the previous evening seemed to be trying to climb into our cockpit.   There was someone on the bow deck so I called out and asked if they were moving.  “We’re letting out more anchor chain, to pull away from you a bit,” I was told.  They still seemed very close to me so I decided to go and take in a few meters of our chain and pull further forward away from them.  Taking in anchor chain is probably not the favoured course of action when faced with strong winds but I could think of no better alternative and I knew that we tended to let out more rather than less and therefore was likely to be OK doing this.  And so I was.  We held on about 15 metres of chain for the remaining week that we were in Porto Colom but this didn’t stop me worrying for the remainder of the night and much of the next day, until the winds dropped. 

Then as suddenly as they had appeared, the grey clouds vanished, the sun came out and by late Sunday afternoon, I was able to abandon my sweatshirt and warm clothes and go for a swim. 

Looking towards the harbour entrance in Porto Colom from the old town. The small fishing boat on the left is called Lluc, pronounced (we believe) Yuk. Seems a little harsh.

On Monday I decided I really must deal with the accumulated dirty laundry.  We had identified a service laundry up round the headland from the main town of Porto Colom, in a rather down-at-heel tourist development that may have seen better times.  Largely deserted, grass and weeds poking through cracks in concrete and pavement, with uninspiring cafes offering English breakfasts and Sky Sports, it is possibly what led our friends Nicky and Paul to describe Porto Colom as “grim!”  I was amused when I first spotted this in the notes on Mallorca that they gave us, because we had decided we rather liked the place.  It’s quiet but attractive with several nice restaurants, all the shops we needed and some pleasant walks around.  Anyway the bit by the laundry is certainly rather grim and it is also a considerable hike from where we were anchored, right at the far side of the fairly large harbour.  I shoved one load of washing into our glamorous, wheel-along shopping trolley and balanced the second precariously on top and staggered up the hill away from the water front, only spilling it all once, when a large German Shepherd suddenly woofed at me unseen from behind a hedge.

I spent the rest of the time before D’s return scrubbing the decks, cleaning inside, shopping and continuing to plan our route.  Well OK, I did manage to fit in a bit of sunbathing and the occasional swim and my thanks to all those who helped to keep my spirits up by phoning to chat while I coped with my solitary ordeal.

J looking smug after a busy morning bottom cleaning.

D returned in good order, laden with bits and pieces including a new GPS antenna for the chart plotter which he fitted the next day (Wednesday.)  To our delight and relief it has resolved the problem.  I kept out of his way while he did this by donning my scuba gear and finishing off the work I’d started on cleaning the hull.  I am proud to report that we now have probably one of the cleanest bottoms in this part of the Mediterranean!

On Thursday we finally left Porto Colom and sailed (well motored actually – there being no wind,) to Ciudadela on Menorca.  We had not realised until we arrived that we had just missed seeing a horse race through the narrow, twisty streets.  This takes place annually as part of their fiesta in honour of St Joan, the local patron saint.  Nevertheless the town was in party mood and all shops firmly shut which was a bit of a blow as we had just about run out of fresh food by Friday.  Thankfully we found a little Spar shop open which was able to tide us over and we were lucky enough to be in prime position to watch a most spectacular firework display that evening which took place right next to the bay where we are currently anchored.

Looking down on the harbour at Ciudadela

Yesterday morning Duncan patiently accompanied me to a short organ recital in the cathedral.  The organ recital was fairly mediocre.  Indeed I had my misgivings when it started with Bach’s “Tocata and Fugue” but I thought the cathedral was rather nice – light coloured stone, clean, simple lines and some attractive stained glass.  Preferred it in fact to the much-praised cathedrals of Palma and Barcelona!  Afterwards we walked a long way in the heat of the day to find a decent supermarket before staggering back to Rampage to relax – me in the sun, the boss below in the shade!  Sadly, I am cautious of swimming here having been stung on Friday by one of the many small jellyfish about in the water.  Duncan of course has steered well clear of such rash behaviour.

Today we set off round the north coast which has numerous small bays.  As the GRIB files are predicting flat calm for most of the coming week we shall probably have strong northerlies and all sorts of problems but you will have to wait for our next exciting instalment in order to find out!

Since writing this blog on Sunday, several days have elapsed, during which time we have had no internet connection, so our apologies for the delay.  We left Ciudadela that day and moved to Cala Algayerens on the north coast.  Nothing there but a couple of beaches.  Very beautiful bay where D was moved, yet again, to go for a swim!  After a couple of nights there, we moved on yesterday to Addaya, which again, is very attractive.  It seems to be entirely populated by British people but at least there is a very decent little shop here where we can restock on provisions.  Only drawback is that there’s a considerable climb up the hill to get there!  However, we must face it before the day gets any hotter.  NB the wind is still almost non-existent but threatens to get very exciting just about the time we had hoped to set off on the 180 odd mile trip to Sardinia.  Such is life.

Our current anchorage at Addaya


One comment

  1. I’m sure you should get a badge for managing so wonderfully with so much weather and with storm-driven, gate-crashing neighbours whilst home alone!

    Still chuckling. Must be my hormones. We must stick together with the hormones script, girls – even we mermaids.

    xxxx Love to the Patfields when they arrive

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