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Crossings, Meetings and Geocaching

May 15, 2013

 

Finally, finally, we managed to find a hole in the weather systems that plagued us after our return from UK and on 1 May 2013 the good ship “Rampage” set sail from Sant Carles de la Rapita just after midday, heading for PollencaBay on Mallorca.  This is a trip of just over 140 miles which we reckoned would take us about 28 hours; in fact it took just on 26.  We did get some wind to start with and got about 5 hours or so under sail before the wind did the usual Med thing and died away with the sun.

 

A nice, clear view of a dolphin off the port bow of "Rampage" en route from Mallorca to Sardinia

A nice, clear view of a dolphin off the port bow of “Rampage” en route from Mallorca to Sardinia

We motored on and had a quiet crossing, arriving in Pollenca bay at about 2.30pm.  En route we saw dolphins twice during the crossing, once not long after reaching the open sea when they were obviously busy about something else and just crossed our path.  The second time was at night when J was on watch just after 11pm, when they came to visit properly, playing round the boat for some time.

 

On this trip the Aquair towed generator also proved itself.  Whilst sailing, we towed the water turbine and it generated more electricity than the instruments and autopilot were using, thus enabling us to cruise under sail indefinitely without needing to run the engine to keep the batteries topped up.  A result!

 

We dropped anchor in Pollenca and managed to stay awake until about 10pm before collapsing into bed to catch up on the sleep lost during the crossing.  We posted a safe arrival on Facebook but our internet access ran out after that as we’d used all our data allowance on the iPad.

 

Ian and Linda from "Sunbeat ll" join us for a drink aboard "Rampage"

Ian and Linda from “Sunbeat ll” join us for a drink aboard “Rampage”

The following day we awoke to a lovely day with brilliant sunshine and clear skies.  As we bumbled about the boat thinking about breakfast and getting dressed, we spotted an adjacent boat shouting at us and making gesticulations about getting on the radio.  It turned out to be “Sun Beat II”, crewed by Linda and Ian who had been in Sant Carles with us.  We’d hoped to meet up in Soller with Iain and Terri but – well read the last blog but one for the full story on that!  They invited us over for coffee and we had a great time catching up – they’ve decided to sell “Sun Beat II” and replace her with a larger Amel (a no-compromises French boat), so they had a lot to tell us.  We then went ashore to shop and top up the data sim for the iPad.

 

The next couple of days were spent doing a bit of geocaching, shopping and getting together with Ian and Linda for drinks, meals and general chitchat.  We also met up again with Jack and Tania off “Blank Canvas” from our Port Vell days.

 

"Rampage" off Formentor Island where we went to do a spot of caching

“Rampage” off Formentor Island where we went to do a spot of caching

All this time, we’d been watching the weather forecasts quite closely, looking for a window in the weather that would allow us to make the 2-day crossing to Sardinia in time for J to fly back to Dublin on 16 May.  Our initial plan had been to go from Pollenca to Fornell on Menorca and then cross to Sardinia but the weather started to look a bit iffy over the weekend of 11/12 May, so rather than wind up getting stuck in the wrong place, we decided to go straight from Pollenca to Sardinia.  This added about 8 hours sailing to the 40 odd hours we would have taken had we launched from Fornell.

 

We intended to remain in the anchorage of Porto Conte in Sardinia before entering Alghero on 14 May to stay in the marina, so we stocked up with food for about a week before setting off.  We also topped off the water and fuel tanks in Pollenca Marina before setting off at about midday on 7 August.  As we left Pollenca, there was a Puma Search and Rescue (SAR) helicopter doing recovery drills in the bay and at the same time 2 of the water bombers were doing circuits, landing on the water, filling their tanks and then dropping the water in a great spray.  Great free entertainment from the Spanish Civil Defence folks!

 

SAR drills in Pollenca Bay as we departed

SAR drills in Pollenca Bay as we departed

And the seaplanes joined in the show!

And the seaplanes joined in the show!

 

Our plan to remain away from civilisation was almost defeated as we were departing from Pollenca when the main chartplotter/radar controller decided to develop a hissy fit.  First the screen went blank, then recovered itself then died again.  Luckily, it was still transmitting data to the repeater at the helm so we could manage without its display.  However, it was clear that it would have to be replaced and before too long.  This meant that we would have to get internet access to find a replacement as a matter of urgency.

 

The crossing was made in flat calm; we got a few more hours of sailing in between Mallorca and Minorca but otherwise all was on the motor.  During the crossing we saw only 2 other vessels: a distant cargo ship and a sailing boat that passed within about 100 metres of us.

 

Our cheeky hitchhiker!

Our cheeky hitchhiker!

 

Again, we were visited by dolphins who stayed for about 10 minutes before disappearing off on their own business.  At about 4 pm on 8 May, a small bird joined the crew.  It was incredibly bold: hopping round the table, checking out our meal, thinking about settling in for the night on J’s knitting and giving both of us exploratory pecks to see if we were good to eat!  It turned its nose up at bread crumbs but enjoyed some jamon de Serrano before going below to roost by the passage berth.  Seeing as it was so settled, we slept in our cabin that night, rather than disturb it.  The following morning, it had a good lie in before coming up on deck at about 7 am.  It then waited until we were about ½ a mile offshore before flying off to complete its journey.

 

Our feathered friend settles down for the night, just above the passage berth in the saloon.

Our feathered friend settles down for the night, just above the passage berth in the saloon.

We anchored in Porto Conte and slept in until about 11am, after which we took things easy until going ashore in the late afternoon to explore a bit.  The following morning we had an enjoyable sail into Alghero where we shopped, got ourselves a SIM card for the iPad and did a heap of laundry.  The following morning we bought yet more food and then headed back to Porto Conte into an increasing wind.

 

Entering the harbour at Alghero, Sardinia

Entering the harbour at Alghero, Sardinia

We anchored in a small bay in the inlet, having had a great sail into the wind to get there (covering 14 miles to make just over 6 miles as the crow flies.)  We were so tired that J had an afternoon nap as well as me!  The wind continued to strengthen and we went to bed that evening to the tune of howling rigging and creaking anchor chain.

 

At about 4 am, the anchor alarm suddenly went off and we awoke to find that the anchor had been broken out by the wind and wouldn’t dig in again, so we started the engine, lifted the anchor and decided to head into a jetty by the shore for the night, taking things very gently and watching the echo sounder closely to avoid running aground.  J then spotted a mooring buoy, which we made fast to as an alternative to running into the jetty.  An hour or so after the alarm went off found us tucked up in bed again.  Phew – ain’t technology great?

 

Torre del Bolo with Porto Conte Bay behind

Torre del Bolo with Porto Conte Bay behind

The winds continued through much of Sunday so we stayed aboard and took things easy.  Monday however, dawned calm and sunny so it was time to go ashore and do a little more geocaching.  The Italians, it would appear, are not yet much into this activity so caches are few and far between.  Nonetheless, there are three on the headland of Capo Caccia so off we set.  The first was relatively straightforward and took us to one of the several watchtowers that are dotted around this section of the coast.  Having found this, we tried to be too clever and cut across the headland to the next but having walked uphill some considerable distance we found that the route was not open to us because it crossed military land.  We therefore had to retrace our footsteps almost down to sea level before scrambling up a poorly defined route to the cliff tops looking down onto Neptune’s Cave.  On the seaward side of Capo Caccia is a small island with an opening right through it at sea level.  The cliffs here are fairly uncompromising and even on a calm day the sea foams and churns at their base.  We had seen this spot three years ago from the sea as we made our way north but it was almost more impressive looking down from above.  The climb had been worthwhile for the spectacular views it afforded.  The cache too, was relatively easy to find once we’d made our way up to the top and in both cases we were thankful to find a pen since we had forgotten to bring one.  We then slithered and stumbled our way back down to the beach bar at the foot of the hill for a well-deserved if fairly pricey drink, having walked for 2½ hours.  Thus fortified we walked the final couple of kilometres back to our dinghy in Cala Tramariglio.  There is a third cache on the headland, as I mentioned above but this requires full climbing gear in order to reach it.  Enough said!

 

D up on the cliffs above Neptune's Cave after finding our second cache of the day.

D up on the cliffs above Neptune’s Cave after finding our second cache of the day.

Yesterday, not content with our achievements on Capo Caccio, J decided we should try to find the cache located on the opposite headland which rejoices in the splendid name of Punta del Giglio!  J’s first idea was that we should take “Rampage” across Porto Conte and anchor on the far side.  However this was swiftly vetoed by the skipper as being a poor place to anchor.   Instead we donned lifejackets, armed ourselves with a couple of flares (just in case!) and set off across the bay in our doughty little dinghy.  The trip of just less than 2 miles took about 25 minutes and we then had a delightful walk up through pine forests enjoying all the wild flowers, butterflies and little green lizards that scuttled across our path.  The entire area is a conservation reserve so utterly unspoilt and very beautiful.  The walk was far less strenuous than the previous day and within half an hour we’d reached the headland.

The barrack block at Punta del Giglio

The barrack block at Punta del Giglio

There was an artillery unit based here during the last war, part of the defence against a possible Allied invasion on this piece of coastline which, in fact, never materialised.  The barrack block is still there and largely intact so we had a brief look round it before continuing on to find the cache and return to the dinghy.  We’d left her pulled up on a small and deserted beach but when we got back we found that a large walking party had chosen this spot to stop for their lunch.  They were all somewhat bemused to see a pair of lunatics climb into this tiny craft and set off across what was now a rather choppy expanse of water but they duly waved us off.  I doubt very much if they could still see us by the time we reached the safety of Cala Tramariglio once more and climbed aboard “Rampage”, both of us soaked to the skin.

 

Looking back along the path to the headland with the anchorage at Cala Tramariglio on the far side of Porto Conte Bay in the background

Looking back along the path to the headland with the anchorage at Cala Tramariglio on the far side of Porto Conte Bay in the background

Today we left the mooring at just after 09:00 and made our way back to the marina in Alghero in order for J to catch her flight to Dublin tomorrow.  Once again there was no wind so we had to motor but there was an uncomfortable rolling swell which made it a less than enjoyable, though thankfully, fairly brief trip.  D will remain here while J goes to spend time with Naomi and the grandchildren and we will then head south.  The decision has yet to be made as to whether we will go back to the Ionian via the Straits of Messina, or south of Sicily and on to Malta.  Watch this space!

"Rampage" berthed in Alghero marina

“Rampage” berthed in Alghero marina

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