The Balearices, friends at last and the trip to Gibraltar


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October 16th 2012
Published: October 20th 2012
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We left Mahon after spending a few days sorting ourselves out, a few jobs, some school and getting to know Freddie, Tim and Mia and Alessia. Alcohol consumption has re-risen to Sally and Richard days but the Pomardo (Mahon gin and Fanta lemon) just need to be regularly sampled! Samuel enjoyed a sleepover with the girls aboard Open Blue and was on very best behaviour.

We left Mahon for Cala En Porter where a local festival was in swing. Fiestas seem to be little more than a money-spinning activity which promote tourism but it was a fun-packed day on the beach building sandcastles to compete for a prize to be judged and prizes awarded by Neptune himself. The kids worked together to create a sand-octopus (following the octopus sighting that morning on Fabiola’s anchor). Unfortunately due to our late arrival and positioning on the wrong end of the beach we were not in the running for a well-earned prize – if only to reward the solidarity with which all the children worked, under Cameron’s artistic lead. It was a great octopus so I thought it deserved a personal visit from Neptune regardless, who drunkenly wandered over to assess our efforts.

The early evening sees the festivities commence with a troop of performing horses, brushed to give them a splendid black shining coat. The horsemen, following the not-so-stringent Spanish legislation on Health and Safety make their horses stand on their two hind legs, and for want of a better description, wheelie through the tourist-packed streets. The horses froth at the mouth, not through not wanting to do their cunning stunts, but probably from the close proximity of the camera waving throngs and screaming kids. Following a dinner with the Penfolds it was impressive to see the kids hoover up crepes, especially Alesia who left not a forensic dot on the plate, as she licked the plate clean.

The following morning we left for Cala Macarella, reliably one of the nicest anchorages on the Southern coast. It did not disappoint. Menorca’s beaches are stunning, and possibly the most liberally dressed / undressed – depending on your preference. Nudity is commonplace. Samuel, collecting shells had a close encounter as an attractive lady showed kindly showed him a whelk she had found and it was only as her nipples nearly poked his eye out that he ran for cover!

Nonetheless it was fabulous for the kids to be free from the constraints of their watery homes and able to play on the beach together. We have really felt a pressure to get moving and have stopped having more than a day in one place to truly explore, like we had in Greece. Coupled with dodgy weather we have felt the need to get moving as autumnal unsettled weather has confined us to safe, less child-friendly, havens rather than enjoying the stunning calas (or anchorages) that we might otherwise have done in the height of the windless summer. The kids have largely gone back to school and in judging the wrinkles on the there-to-see flesh (like the rings on an oak tree) it would appear that the Saga / “blue rinse” set are in town.

As Macarella became rolly we cut around the corner to Ciutedela (a walled town on the Western end of Menorca (with Mallorca visible in the distance). The town has a very narrow approach, renowned for a huge surge on entering when the wind comes from the South West (we’ll revisit this later...) and then into a tightly packed inner harbour with stern-to moorings. It is very pretty and once inside feels wonderfully secure. However with bundles of dirty dhobi to get done the Monday morning explore became an exploration to exploit the local amenities such as the local lavederia (laundrette). We have done laundry in some wonderful places now (Bonifacio, Ibizia among others) and if we ever have to play a “Where is the most glamorous place you have ever washed dirty knicks in a bucket” Competition there are few who will be able to beat us. I have, after too many occasions of stopped shore-leave now realised that a better matrimonial relationship is enjoyed when one’s dhobi wallah has the chance to use automated services rather than a bucket in the cockpit. This time I got it right – in Ibiza I was not so lucky. This is why they do not call these “lessons-learned” – simply “lessons” as I regularly need to relearn this to my emotional discomfort.

I did however remedy the watermaker’s problems with a lengthy flush and a sanity check that watermaker water is not supposed to taste nice. In a taste test with Open Blue our freshly made water tasted equally unpalatable (albeit not toxic) as theirs. The key is to use squash or lemon juice to liven the taste from nothing to something masking the nothingness.

Menorca to Mallorca – take 1...(Cameron)

Today we were going to Mallorca with friends who we met recently. They have two girls aged 3 and 5, who are a lot of fun. We left just before lunch. When Dad and Mum were trying to leave the harbour it looked quite hard, so I kept quiet. As we were leaving the mouth of the harbour the waves were 2 or 3 meters high. Dad said it would improve, but it didn’t seem to feel like it would, and then Mum gave me a seasickness pill to make me feel better. In half an hour I felt better. Soon after that Mum and Dad decided to head back. By then I had had a sandwich but Mum and Dad were still feeling rough. Dad said we had gone back because of the conditions. Now I’m in a nice anchorage writing the blog and Samuel is playing on my DS. Both Mum and Dad are sleeping.

The same episode (Gill)

Feeling very yellow-bellied we ended bailing out of a lumpy beat to Mallorca. The sea was very unpleasant following a couple of days of building swell and the wind had dropped giving us insufficient drive to make decent headway. Fabiola needs, in cruising trim, more breeze to shift her 26 tonnes and the waves ensured we could not get near hullspeed. Instead we left Open Blue to continue their trudge to windward and turned for an anchorage of the northern coast of Menorca to wait for a better day. Tim and Fred pushed on for several uncomfortable hours, reaching Mallorca with all bar Tim feeling extremely unwell so we felt vindicated in our decision making. Better to delay a little and not have a hateful time – unless we truly have to. As it was we sneaked into narrow Cala Formentor and enjoyed a beach day.

Unfortunately the following day as the wind swung around to the north earlier than the forecast had predicted we were forced to vacate the anchorage, as we were in danger of swinging into a French yacht that had utterly selfishly and unnecessarily chosen to take a stern line ashore meaning that they would not swing with everyone else. Nowhere else in the immediate vicinity was remotely tenable we had no choice but to return to Ciutadela, which now had a hideously unpleasant south westerly running heavy swell running into it. Our entry into the harbour has to be one of the most unpleasant things I have ever had to do on a boat and will be indelibly etched into my memory as we shot through a very narrow gap with a 2 – 3 metre swell surging through the same narrow hole with waves crashing either side of us and spray bouncing across the 50 foot-wide entry. Watched by 2 or 3 midnight onlookers we clung on and once through the gates of hell we tied up alongside, opposite the berth we had left the day before. That said the relief of a safe pontoon and a flat and peaceful, if short, night is extremely welcoming after a seemingly near-death experience.

The Girls (Cameron)

We woke the next morning and after checking the weather decided to head for Mallorca. The sea had thankfully calmed down and we headed for Porto Collom on Mallorca. Here we moored up in a large natural bay alongside “Open Blue” and were soon invited to a very welcome dinner on board our friends’ boat. Next day was not such good weather so we decided to hire a car and do some exploring with Tim, Freddie and the girls. So off we headed to a lovely beach called Cala Mondrago followed by an inland explore up into the mountains where we visited a mountain top monastery. This magnificent clifftop building was high up the hillside and had the most amazing views over the coast and down to Porto Colom. After this small bit of culture we decided to head for dinner and I suggested we go to a restaurant in Colone just outside Cala D’or where Gill, Cameron and I had been on holiday before in our friend Brenda’s villa. I had such fond memories of the pretty vine covered courtyard and more importantly their suckling pig, which seems to be one of Mallorca’s specialities. Luckily after a good memory and some luck we found this back street restaurant and thank goodness it didn’t disappoint. It was still as lovely as I remembered and we tucked into some delicious Iberica ham (where the pigs eat only acorns and red berries?!) and again I treated myself to the famous suckling pig washed down with an equally lovely Rioja or two!

Next day Fred and Tim left for Palma and we spent a lazy Sunday doing school work, emails/admin and ended the day with a classic sausage, mash and gravy on board followed by a DVD!

As Monday came we had itchy feet so we decided to make our way to Ibiza. The Balearic island I most wanted to visit. Not only as the clubbing Mecca of the world, but also having the reputation of being very lush and beautiful. We left at 10am and had a very trying sail with head winds all the way and in Samuel’s word “tippy” passage, which resulted in a 17-hour sail arriving into Cala Lloma on Ibizia at 0320 the following morning. OMG - totally shattering. After a few hours of sleep and a well-deserved hot chocolate in bed we made a plan for the next three days and headed to a lovely small anchorage called Cala St Vincente where the boys played on the beach and Gill and I tried to recover from the night before!

Ibiza (Gill)

Ibiza is so different from Mallorca or Menorca. It is small and green and very English by comparison to the German influences of the other two. We find ourselves now pressed for time so each day begins with a sail to get further south west and towards Gibraltar. The Open Blue crowd were still dealing with technical issues in Palma so we found ourselves enjoying a few quiet calas – mostly alone, bar a few kids one day on Cala Llonga (who were clearly absenting themselves from school). We made our way into Ibiza Town, constantly full within the summer season, and now luckily sufficient space for us to squeeze it. Open Blue was enjoying a following wind from Palma to join us and so the dhobi shop opened again. This was a massive error of judgment from which I narrowly avoided a considerable mauling by forcing the crew to wash rather than sight-see, whilst waiting for the Penfolds. It was not a good call and it would have been better time with a quick trip to the laundrette to enable the crew to explore this lovely town, free from the summer ravers. The opportunity was missed and as Fabiola once again became the water gypsy of Ibiza the afternoon passed us by.

Open Blue squeezed in alongside us and we went ashore to eat tapas amongst the slightly older “cool crowd” of July and August. Nonetheless tapas eaten (I think – seems far too measly a meal for a red-blooded male!) and suitably watered we decided to get the kids to bed in order that we could be spritely the following morning... at least that was the plan. 0300 the following morning and Freddie and Lisa still setting the world to rights I bailed. Tim had lasted until 0200 (lightweight) and the following day we found ourselves amongst the shabby set and not the spritely set monging whilst eating uber-pricey croissants, priced only to catch the unwitting, drunk or stoned out. I hope that we fell into both of the first two categories and not the third.

Eventually fully paid up, shoddily provisioned we decided that we need to leave the clubbing to the clubbers and made for Espalmador, a privately owned sandbar to the south west of Ibiza, joined by a narrower bar to Formentera. This was just what the doctor ordered. Fabiola crept through the shallows (she’s a big girl!) and found an idyllic spot in a crescent-shaped sandy anchorage and marvelled at the beauty of the place. Equipped to survive from man-fire we had set aside two beach days to expunge the kids energy before locking them in the hold for the trip to Gibraltar which was looming large in our minds. Being careful not to wish away the days we had available to us we neglected outstanding jobs (Tim was far more focused) and we hit the beach with guitars, buckets and spades, mats, towels, beach-rugby ball and anything else that we could squeeze into the dinghy and off we went! The kids had a lovely time in the dunes and the water, despite the age difference the kids played with each other and collected shells, feathers, beach-combed for bow and arrows for the forthcoming production of Robin Hood and did their bit for the environment by trawling the shoreline for rubbish. The barbeques were great. The kids made their own Ibiza-stylee chill-out zone and raw sausages were guzzled down with sundowners aplenty. It was a really cool and fun way to spend two days – including smearing malodorous sulphur mud over our bodies and washing (most) of it off. A bohemian and hedonistic weekend before the trudge west – too soon over and a quick jaunt into Fomentera for fuel and then off in light winds.

We set off it very close company with Open Blue. The winds were light and we eked out a few knots of boatspeed before we needed to motor. In light airs Open Blue disappears over the horizon with her freshly-scrubbed squeaky clean bottom and good sailing tactics by Tim to leave Fabiola and Gill tweaking every line and sheet possible to keep in touch with them.

The following day was spent in much the same way. Light airs, dodging the fast-moving shipping and motoring. Without our reserve tanks we were mindful of fuel consumption and as we got further west it became apparent that we were going to struggle to get to Gibraltar without a top-up and a plan was made to sneak into Puerto Amerimar the following morning for a pit-stop. On the second night the fog descended and was as thick as anything we’d ever seen before (we could not see the top of the mast). We closed into Open Blue and their AIS signature which would guarantee other navigators would see them and we would sit in their immediate shadow. It was then that our radar decided to retire from service with a blown fuse. Nonetheless we were making steady, safe, progress with Tim vectoring us around small fishing vessels from his radar. Finally by following the sea-wall of Armerimar we made the sharp right hand turn into the entrance and into the silt on the bottom at slow speed. The 6 metre depths were coming up a little short! We reversed off and very gently followed Tim and Freddie into the marina for fuel and a full English breakfast – oh the Spanish costas!

Within two short hours we were back out again. The fog had lifted so we continued to potter to Gib. The fog descended again that night and this proved a real challenge for all aboard. Lisa on watch in touch with Tim on Open Blue and me on watch with Freddie – two great double acts and really comforting to have someone looking out for you and vice versa. It was damp and cold as we approached Gibraltar cutting around anchoring and drifting leviathans as they waited for the fog to lift in the Gibraltar Straits. It was a little like being a German U-Boat commander avoiding the much larger destroyers out there in the gloom.

That said it was not all doom and gloom. The meeting of the Med and the Atlantic makes for a very rich marine environment. The dolphins cam visiting during the day and night. Diving in the bows and all around us. At night they were like fluorescent streaks diving through the phosphorescence to make quite the most amazing sights that we have ever seen in nature. This continued all the way into the mouth of Gibraltar where we tied up next to the airfield and with much excitement and a little exhaustion we went ashore to see what was to be seen.

Gibraltar (Cameron):

The day we got to Gibraltar we didn’t quite know what to do with the rest of the day so we decided to go to see the Gibraltar apes. We thought we’d take the cable car because Mia and Alessia don’t like to walk that far. We did manage to walk through the main street. As we were walking a man suddenly came up to us and started saying that if you take the cable car you have to walk the rest, then he started speaking to the adults saying that it would cost £14 for the cable car and cost £14 to get into the reserve to see the apes, and if you take my tour bus you see everything, for example there’s a gateway to another world which is something made up when people believed in Greek mythology there’s Saint Michael caves which were formed by water and deeper than there’s a big reserve of water which could keep Gibraltar going for 5 years. There’s also a theatre inside which has 3 or so orchestra’s in the summer playing underground. They also say that there’s a tunnel going from Gibraltar to Africa that is how the apes got here but that is just for the tourists and the monkeys are just great fun and there are British defences it will be lots of fun.

We first went to see the gateway that had a great view and it looked quiet weird then Saint Michael’s caves that had a prehistoric man skull and the theatre was so cool and it also echoed in there that was funny. Then the monkeys - they were the best I thought, there were 2 babies’s clinging to their mummies that was quite cute. We were not supposed or allowed to feed them but we did anyway with a couple of packs of peanuts that we had bought. The apes climbed on Samuel and my shoulders. Then it was the British defences it was a long, long tunnel and at the end was a big open space with old Nelson kind of cannons which Dad said they could stretch about 2 or 3 miles. When we came out there was a monkey eating an apple I said he was having 1 of his five a day. That was the end of the tour he took us down the mountain we had an amazing time.

Jobs galore...

Gib was always to be where we resolved a number of ongoing technical issues. Jonathan had brought a number of parts out with him which needed to be fitted. In addition we needed to prepare the boat for the ARC safety inspections. The list was seemingly endless, which occupied Gill for 3 solid days. A few jobs remain outstanding but the major jobs are now done.

Unfortunately the weather has turned against us and the planned trip to Madeira is less than likely now as a tropical storm in the Caribbean is affecting weather in the Atlantic. We are therefore stuck in Gib. There is enough to do and we may also hire a car to visit Malaga or other parts, perhaps Tarifa for a day on the beach. Jonathan has arranged a flight from Malaga and we will have a few day sails to check a few systems and give Jonathan a little bit of a feeling of what it is like to sail a big boat and give him a little of what he came here to do.


Additional photos below
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20th October 2012

Peg face competition is on!!!
Yo Duncan's more great adventures loved reading your entries Cameron well done and how exciting to read all the amazing things you are seeing and learning. I would have been scared stiff having monkeys running all over me! The competirion is on for when you get back on who can get the most pegs on thier face!!!!I'm already practicing!!Looking forward to hearing more and will start looking at where we can meet up next year on your travels???Must love and adventurous kisses Liz & co xxxxxx
21st October 2012

Hello from the Duncans
Guys, So sorry that we have taken so long to get back to you. We are still weatherbound in Gibraltar, which is getting a little tiresome but we have hired a car and been to Ronda (nice), Marbella (disappointingly not at all TOWIE or glam), Seville (stunning) and Malaga (airport pretty much the same as every other set-down at every other airport!). That said the technical woes have nearly been resolved and we are ready to head out into the Atlantic and the next leg - if the hull is not anchored to the bottom after all the weed-growth having been here 10 days or so. It would be lovely to see you all. How about quitting work for a week or two and coming to see us? We think we are going to ramp down our programme for the Caribbean as the kids are finally meeting other ARC kids and beginning to enjoy being live-aboards. If we charge off like headless chickens at the other end they will distance themselves from all that. Why not see when you are likely to be free and we can then try to judge where we are likely to be. Sounds like work is going great for all of you. Well done all the Cs industrious at both school and the office. The boys find “boat-school” a pretty hard concept to grasp and the head-mistress finds it perhaps even more stressful. Liz, she'd love to have some female company as it's all a bit willies and bums with all boys on board! Try to get her on skype (luluduncan1), particularly in the next week or so if we're still here as the iPad is nearly always online. I’ll get Cameron to respond separately to Aidy. Again our apologies for being so late in responding and thank you so much for your messages. Lots of love, The Duncans xxx
20th October 2012

Hi Boys, Looks great and seems really fun aswell Hope you're all having loads of laughs!! See you soon Aidan
26th October 2012

Hi Aidan
Hi Aidan did you see the monkey on my back and the lizard to, we have met lots of friends we have seen dolphins to we have had BBQs on the beach and played in sandduens seen jelly fish gone swimming and had loads of fun. my Email is: cameronduncan2002@Yahoo.co.uk
21st October 2012

It looks like its about to get exciting
We love the pictures. Boys amazed to see a lizard on Cameron's back never mind the monkeys. Zoe would like that. Life here much as usual. Rugby going well. Missing Cameron's drive!
29th October 2012

Enjoying reading the weekly summary from the team. Really missing it all. Enjoying the life but looking forward to being back on the side lines next Sept. love to all
23rd October 2012

Dear All Loving your blogs and pictures - please keep them coming. Love the picture of the boys ice skating - we too have been ice skating recently for Poppy's birthday - think I'm a natural!! Boys looking really full of life and very healthy. Keep having fun and stay safe. Love Jackie & Family xx
23rd October 2012

Dear Ploughmans
Thanks for continuing to follow our exploits. The boys miss all their BSPS buddies, including the girls, and looking forward to seeing you all again soon. Samuel took to skating, Cameron took a little longer. Understand it is pretty cold at home and while the weather is poor we are not taking the 21 degrees for granted yet. It would be lovely to see you all if you could escape... Half term is coming...? Best wishes, Gill & The gang x
26th October 2012

News to the girls
Dear Girls, We are in Gibraltar. We are going to sail to the Caribbean for Christmas where it will be nice and sunny. We have school every day on the boat in the morning. There are children aboard other boats that we play with. They are from England and New Zealand and Australia. What are you doing for half-term? How was school. Samuel x

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