The next morning, we set about delivering laundry and provisioning up. We left at about midday for Skopelos, the island where some of Mamma Mia was filmed. We arrived in a large bay on the west coast but after trying to anchor unsuccessfully decided to go in a secluded inlet off to the south and took a long line ashore. Soon it was beer o’clock. What a lovely quiet spot – oh, apart from a noisy bunch of Romanians larking about and having fun! How very rude!!
The wind was good from the south the following day so we had a fantastic run to the northern tip of the island and then tacked down the eastern flank. We were in strong winds so couldn’t stop to take pictures of the headland with the church at the top of hundreds of steps where the wedding scene was filmed but the whole thing put us in the mood for watching the film as we listed to the score and sang along with all the tunes.
‘Do you think that’s it?’ Alice asked me casually, as we approached the headland from afar and were trying to pick it out from its backdrop through the binoculars.
‘I do, I do, I do! I replied. Which set us off – hooting hysterically.
Ah, little things…
We had a great dinner out and a leisurely start in the morning -this time aiming to close the circle and set of up the west coast again. We parked up in a little harbour called Nea Klima. It looked like a nice place, however, the constant slop from the waves rolling right in the mouth of the harbour would make for a noisy and uncomfortable night so we returned to the same inlet from the other night. There was a bit more of a performance this time getting parked up but it was all good practice and I am now more confident about using the dinghy and tying up lines and bringing them back to the boat as Ian reverses in. I dare say that we could even manage to do it with just the two of us. But for now it was luxury to have Ian and Alice’s help and support.
On the Thursday morning, we set off back to Skiathos and arrived early enough to find a place on the town quay. All too soon it was time to say goodbye to Alice and Ian. They headed off to the airport after kindly helping us with laundry collection and shopping, including the purchase of a huge new gang plank from a Greek version of Merrit and Fryers.
Ian checked the recently occupied cabin and found Daggett items. So, we wandered round to the bottom of the airport runway, a mere kilometre from the quay as they walked down from the airport and we met in the middle. Just in time to witness a plane come in to land literally metres from our heads.
As if that wasn’t excitement enough, there, minutes later, coming straight at us down the runway was a plane preparing to leave. After a neat pirouette it faced away from us into the oncoming wind. We, along with about forty other onlookers were standing there taking selfies and holding up cameras to record the take off. I wimped out and walked back a few meters to hide in a drive way whilst the jet engines roared to life and the full force of their power could be felt as a blast of hot air, sand, dust and small stones shot back over the people and pebble-dashed every one of them.
Back at the boat, we met David and Sarah on Rozinante as they came in to a space beside us and we soon struck up conversation over a couple of beers. We had a further three nights here enjoying the town, harbour and company. We had yet more boat jobs to do. The bowsprit that holds the genaker down had come adrift recently so we needed to try and find something substantial to hold it back in place. Our kind neighbour David Beanie dug around in his useful bits and bobs box and came up with something that might just do the job – a huge bolt, complete with nuts. Perfect. From now on, in memory of Bob Monkhouse and the Golden Shot, between us (and maybe to his face) he will for ever be referred to as, ‘Beanie – the Bolt’!!
After our top week in the UK, we scooted back to Sicily, leaving Erin behind, as she had to attend interviews for ski season jobs. We met up with Kim (Carnegie friend) and Ollie (Kim’s son) at Wetherby services and travelled with them to Ragusa where we met up with Sheena (Coo-eee!) (Another Carnegie chum). This was to be the super crew to help us sail from Sicily to Kephalonia in one hit – three days and nights at sea.
We had a fantastic crossing, great laughs and pleasant sailing on very convenient winds. We had a stowaway for a small part of the trip…a swift, soon named Taylor, who came into the boat for a sleep and then, as suddenly as she had arrived, disappeared off in the vague direction of Africa.
We arrived in Kephalonia to be greeted by the most amazing smell wafting on the breeze from the island of cypress trees, rosemary and jasmine! Gorgeous! The church bells were peeling exactly as we sailed into the bay at Argostoli.
We were soon tied up and jumped ashore to have a hearty breakfast in one of the many cafes.
We walked down the quay to see the giant loggerhead turtles that frequent the bay. Simply stunning. The conservation group were there telling us all about them. www.wildlifesense.com
Erin flew in to Kephalonia for a holiday on board and we set off around the island. (We met her at the airport and saw this interesting sign.)
Leaving Argostoli we headed south. Unable to get into the planned port of call on the south coast we had to divert to Zakinthos. A fortunate diversion it proved to be. Almost as soon as we arrived alongside, Kostas helped us tie up and offered us discount at his restaurant and hotel and Nicolas arrived on his tractor offering us tastes of his wares. We ended up buying heavenly olive oil, wine, honey, feta, olives, dried sage, fresh bread, tomatoes and currants! Perfect.
From there we headed north to Effimia on east Kephalonia. We were bossed loudly into our berth on the town quay by an officious but efficient marinero/harbour master, who really knew his stuff. He gave us our best lesson yet in mooring Med style with an anchor and lines to stern.
We pottered further north and stopped en route to swim and relax in a gorgeous bay. The sea bream were out so grabbing my line and rod and stale bread supplies I set to catching fish. Within seconds I had my first bite. Two fish at once. In the next 30 minutes Erin and I had caught another three. They were duly gutted, prepared, marinated, and cooked by Sheen, and eaten by us all for lunch.
Next stop was Fiscardo in the north. We moored stern to the Northern part of the bay with long lines ashore. And had an anxious time trying to get the anchor to bite and to get the lines ashore in a dinghy with a broken rowlock!
Sadly, after a couple of days relaxing and exploring the village, it was time to say goodbye to my mates
and then it was just the three of us again.
On the first evening in Cala Portals Vells I announced to Ian that I was going to do some fishing! He smiled ruefully, remembering his frustrating childhood experiences of fruitless fishing trips, perhaps?
Well, I prepared my line, which is four little hooks and a wine bottle cork, for a float, a very rudimentary affair. I happened to have made some popcorn the night before and thought that it might make good bait, especially since it floats quite well. Looking down I could see shoals of sea bream all around the boat. I tested their hunger levels by lobbing in a few morsels of popcorn. They were immediately snapped up.
No messing, this was the time to get my line in. Ian walked away to do some kind of job. I threw out my line with another handful of popcorn and immediately I felt a tug. Disbelieving my own luck I looked down to see a silvery wriggle below the boat. I shrieked over to Ian who thought I was having him on as he had barely had time to walk the full length of the boat. He rushed back in time to see me pull up my line with not one, but two sea bream on it!
We dispatched the fish, removed the hooks and dipped the line again.They were only small….we needed more. This time I just caught one more unsuspecting fish.
Subsequent attempts revealed that the fish can learn. They would not come near my popcorn bait until it had drifted far off leaving my constellation of popcorn hooks looking so obviously fake.
They did not bite.
So we made do with three. I gutted them and de-scaled them and we had three little fishes on a little dishy, for us tea!
Next day, buoyed by my success I had another go and caught one more fish. Just enough for a small lunch. But after that the fish had wised-up. No more were tempted by my popcorn, bread or tortilla wraps.
We finally managed to drag ourselves away from the turquoise waters and the comings and goings in Cala Portals Vells and, on the morning of our departure, a huge motor cruiser pulled into the bay and dropped anchor.
Staff were busy polishing the stainless steel, laying out fluffy towels on the sun beds and frothing the bubbles in the top deck jacuzzi. Speculation mounted on our boat that this could be Bruce Springsteen since he played in Madrid the night before! Apparently, he had a similar kind of holiday in Mallorca three years ago between gigs. So, we hung around a bit more and sticky beaked through our fabulous binoculars but just saw lots of white uniformed crew members. A quick look on the internet revealed that the cost of chartering this cruiser for a week, low season, was $470,000 plus expenses which would add a further $70,000 on top! Mere bagatelle! We sat in the same cove, with the same sun rise for a lot less than that!
We set off towards Andratx (and thence to Palma) and our surprise assignation with Ian’s parents who had rung the night before to tell us they had booked a last minute cruise to the Mediterranean.
We anchored in the bay and I went ashore in the dinghy to restock supplies as we were virtually out of wine, and less crucial supplies, like fresh fruit and vegetables!
It was sad to see the poor Frenchman’s boat moored up and collecting a light dusting of Saharan sand and salt.
The next day we retraced our route and dodged the race regatta boats that were skimming along around us, and then headed round to Paguera but on looking at the small Cala we decided it wouldn’t offer enough protection against the forecasted strong northerly and northeasterly winds so we continued round towards Santa Ponca which is a wide bay surrounded by tall, sheltering buildings.
We set both anchors just in case and had a very good night with no buffeting at all. Ian had even figured out how to stop the wind turbine so I wouldn’t feel the vibrations from it rotating all night!
We spent three lovely days here. Although the beach front and town are not so attractive as other places we’ve seen, we were able to replenish food stocks again and suss out a great anchorage. All jet skiing is regulated here and must be done from a floating pontoon way out in the bay, so it is a really quiet place to be, even though it’s so huge. Whilst sneaking in to the marina to do our laundry we were pleased to meet up with fellow Soller pontooners on Moondance of Cork. We had a lovely catch up chat, and their dulcet tones reminded us once again of Fascinating Aida’s rendition of Cheap Flights! If you’ve not heard it, please do Google it!
On the 25th we sailed round to Palma de Mallorca, to one of the many marinas there and predictably arrived in time to park up in the strongest wind we had had for days!
We were down to our last drops of water which we had eeked out. So whilst Ian sorted out the recycling and the gas cylinder, I refilled the tanks. We then set too scrubbing the decks, windows and covers so that the boat would look her best for Henry and June’s visit.
Meanwhile, we spent some time marvelling at the super yachts parked up around us. Across the way, in the boat yard, an enormous yacht was having it’s mast stepped. There are 850 berths in this marina, there are eight marinas in total here – that’s a lot of boats and a great deal of wealth is evident. This must be one of the nicest back drops for a marina though. Here we are tucked under the Cathedral and beside the Museum of Contemporary Art and four incredible old windmill towers and sails.
Such a beautiful city.
We were up and at ’em early; my first proper shower in five days! Bliss. Then we walked all the way along the fantastic promenade, people watching the whole time, to meet up with Henry and June outside the Cruise Ship terminal building. It was soooo lovely to see them and we all had little weep. So bizarre to be unexpectedly together in this lovely city, chatting as we wandered back in the warm sunshine. We gave H and J the full guided tour (which takes about two minutes, by virtue of the fact that everything is very compact) In fact, it probably took longer for us to shoehorn them both down the hatch and into the main saloon! ‘From the sublime to the ridiculous’ springs to mind when I think about the difference in size of their ship (20 floors high) and our dinky little boat.
We wandered through the old part of town to eat in a lovely tapas bar called 13 Prozent which had been recommended by a friend of a friend who lives in Palma. Delicious and reasonably priced lunch and then back to our respective ships.
By the time H and J had walked back to the Ventura, we had left our mooring and were motoring across the bay within the breakwaters. We did a sail-by and happened to spot them as they were boarding the ship. We were all waving like crazy things. It was a very special moment!
We then made our way out to the bay to hang about whilst the ship departed. We sailed along with her until she sped away at 16 knots towards Italy. We waved again but couldn’t make out anybody on the port side promenade deck as it was in the shade.
We continued to sail across the bay to our anchorage at El Arenels. The evening sun warm on our backs. As soon as the anchor was down we dived in to cool off and check it was well bedded in.
We watched the sun go down over then distance hill and gazed up at the stars. It is simply heavenly tonight. Very little wind, safely anchored, only one other yacht, and a view of the lights around the whole of Palma Bay!
We left the bay of Palma and sailed off out round the Cabo Blanc with the dark clouds brooding overhead. It was akin to driving the wrong way down a one way street. We passed so many charter boats that were returning to Palma after their week away.
Keen to try out my tuna hooks I carefully removed my new line from my fishing tackle box and tied on my hook and lure. Within minutes I had created the most confounded and inexplicable mess and tangle of line from what was a perfectly looped coil! Confident that I could untangle it I had a go, but no, it became even more mangled and knotted.
I gave up, threw it away and reverted to using my mackerel line.
We trawled that hook and lure most of the day. Not a bloody thing!!!
Since arriving in Mallorca
we have not seen any dolphins or tuna. We have seen sea bream, jelly fish and Velella Velella, (the jelly fish with the sail on their backs!)
Tomorrow, we set off to Porto Pollenca to meet up with the Chown family.
We have come to learn that buying a boat is all about compromise. A centre cockpit boat generally has a large aft cabin with a queen size bed you can get out of either side, but the cockpit tends to be smaller; mass production boats such as Beneteau are lighter therefore better in the light winds of the Med and Caribbean but less than optimal in big seas; longer boats, more living space but higher marina fees and bigger sail area to handle when short-handed; and so it goes on. Of course, for us, price was also a big consideration. Continue reading Buying a boat – it’s all about compromise→