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Published: September 21st 2012
Corsica to Menorca
We were, in many ways, glad to leave Bonifacio. We have loved it but we have been there some time awaiting crew and the dissipation of the mistral that had been blowing so hard from the north. That said, by hiring cars we had explored the hugely rugged and beautiful island and basked on some of its most lovely beaches, notably Porto Pollo where we will return on Niki if we move to Toulon.
Lisa and I enjoyed a fabulous meal at the Kissing Pigs restaurant in Bonifacio. An extravaganza of local meat and cheeses, washed down with Corsican red. It also marked a first for us – being the first time that we have been able to leave the kids with a baby-sitter in the fleeting form of Richard and Sally. Occasionally it is so nice to escape the little bleeders! There may be a chance to use Elliot in a similar way too... tapas here we come!
Richard and Sally departed by ferry from Ajaccio, the island’s bustling capital, and Elliot arrived 24 hours later. Our first “changeover day” and Fabiola is transformed into a
Chinese laundry. Passers-by dipped their ensigns and wondered if we were “dressed all over” to mark the end of the 2012 Paralympics or some other event. The dhobi done and the boat scrubbed from bow to stern we turn to some of the more unpleasant outstanding jobs; a leaking loo, refuelling and watering and even a little schoolwork with the kids.
Alongside us lies Lola, a Sun Odyssey 40 with former policeman Alan and wife Michelle with their two substitute children / Jack Russells called Mildred and Erik. Company for all, which was most welcome. The boys walked with them and even did schoolwork with Michelle – amazing how kids are angelic for other adults (other adults not being their parents!). They even had a games afternoon afterwards while we played loos and internet access problems – think that there are German websites that pair these two activities...
Finally the day has come to leave Corsica for the Balearics, destination Menorca if possible... The wind is north westerly and the sea is finally flat again. Fabiola is shedding her weed from the bottom and Mildred (our self-steering) is re-earning her place aboard in flat
seas and with a steady breeze as we head close hauled at 6 knots towards Mahon. To employ a phrase that “Old Man” Duncan christened on a cross-channel passage “if it doesn’t get any worse than this I shalln’t complain!” Invariably it always does but remaining upbeat is definitely the way forward.
Shortly after this the dreaded observation, and true to form, our evening was marred by seeing sunset through the stitching of our beautiful, but aged Kevlar headsail. One of the existing patches at the foot is parting. It will need to have, hopefully only, minor surgery in the Balearics. It strikes me as slightly odd that it is a traditional cross-cut foresail using Kevlar which should be laid down in a radial cut to exploit its strength. Fingers crossed we can get it back on line or we are back on the old faithful for the rest of the year – which will see us through but needs a new sacrificial UV strip.
We are noticing the change of climate as we head into the autumn. Lisa pulled out the cold weather clothes and we reacquainted ourselves with fleeces
and tracksuit bottoms that I suspect we’ll be in tonight. It is comfortable at a gentle angle of heel and the below-decks temperature has become very bearable and, dare I say it we are almost finding it cool at night. Can’t believe we might need jammies soon!
The wind dropped to nothing last night. There was no moon and once clear of the north western tip of Sardinia we were becalmed and had nothing other than the iron foresail to propel us. Elliot alternated within the existing watch system, coming on watch halfway through Lisa’s first watch and then sat with me for the first half of my dogwatch. I’m sorry to say that a night-watch with no sailing is pretty dull, occasionally checking the AIS to see what is out there but little more. We spied a few yachts returning from the Rolex Swan Regatta at Porto Cervo, bound for Palma for the winter or St Tropez for the City of Sails regatta.
We finish the night watches around 0800 and then prepare for team breakfast. This is a really nice time of day when everyone
sits together, this time down below as it is still absolutely flat calm and not yet very warm. The boys are not early risers at sea. They recharge their batteries while we draw down heavily on ours.
After breakfast the school bell rings and parents become teachers and begin English and mathematics lessons. School at sea is remarkably well-received. It relieves the kids’ boredom and if done while captive at sea they are free at the other end to explore. Elliot is not let off either – times tables on the stopwatch for all.
After lunch the wind has built sufficiently for us to save fuel and fly the gennaker and ghost along. We have worked out that at current speed we will arrive at Mahon in darkness. This is not ideal so the chance to slow our arrival to get in shortly after dawn is welcome. Mahon is one of those natural harbours that needs to be seen in daylight as it is such a attractive harbour. Waiting for us is another ARC participant (Open Blue) with younger kids than ours but would like to cruise in company. We are aiming for Cala
Taulera to marry up with Freddie and Tim and their two girls.
This evening we are joined by a single dolphin who comes by for a quick frolic at the bow and then immediately after his departure two yellow and brown birds come to join us. Sitting next to us and on us and then even below decks. They are 70 miles from anywhere and very tiny. One’s sat on the top of the laptop screen as I type now – amazingly with no fear. He’s not keen on the cereal that we are putting about us for him to eat but even so it is a really nice animal encounter and Mrs D is ecstatic.
The second night is spent alternating between squall conditions and dead calm. Lisa’s watches are those with too much wind for her to be happy and mine are dead calm. Elliot flits between the two, sleeping equally well in both! By six in the morning I am back on watch and we have 25 knots of wind coming from behind us blasting us to Mahon. On the cape it is blowing hard and the waves are short and
steep. Fabiola is crashing through them with a reefed headsail and the mainsail set to spill the excess wind and we’re still rolling on at 9 knots. It is a nice end to the passage, too bad it comes when we are all pretty tired.
Mahon is still a stunning harbour to enter and having ensured that we sailed as much as possible we are more tired this time than after any passage to date. Knowing that we were going to arrive at night if we motored at a steady pace we realised that we needed to slow down to have a daylight landfall on Menorca. This was frustrating at first but well worth it when we enter the very narrow channel to Cala Taelera and we find the chart plotter is at least 60 metres out and we would otherwise have been motoring up the narrow island that separates our anchorage from the rest of Mahon. We finally anchor in shallow water with the wind still blowing hard into the anchorage for 0900 and breakfast. After breakfast the boys are informed that the Warner Brothers will be looking after them while Mummy and Daddy sleep. When
revealed that this means belt-fed DVDs until we are restored to some form of grumpy normality they are delighted.
While gonking in our cabin the boys respond to a call of “Fabiola! Fabiola!” and greet Freddie and Tim from Ocean Blue (not an Elton and David couple “cruising” on the Blue Oyster from Police Academy) and their 2 girls, another ARC boat that has waited for us and hopes to cruise in company. Their girls Mia and Alessia are 3 and 5 respectively but nonetheless the boys are delighted to see someone that speaks English and are very good hosts. We run-ashore for dinner together in Mahon. Our first Spanish meal is somewhat familiar, not because we have an excellent tapas restaurant in Exeter, but because we have a curry! We may hear more of that...
Tim and Freddie are similar ages to ourselves. They have left work (IT and journalism) to pursue a year aboard a boat. They bought Ocean Blue in Greece. She is a sturdy girl that well-suits their live-aboard lifestyle until they return or sell the boat elsewhere. The girls will not complete the ARC but fly home
and then return once Tim arrives in the Caribbean for Christmas. It is a concept I shall have to quickly quell as this form of contagion will only lead to my Admiral returning on spurious orders spuriously generated by the fictitious Admiralty to return only when she fancies it! Needless to say this is not on offer aboard the “Hellship-Fabiola!”
It is always nice to meet new people. Despite the age difference the boys have had a lovely time with the girls with Samuel enjoying a sleepover last night. He managed to not irrigate their mattress. Mia cries as “the little one” leave. Early morning runaways from girls’ houses and tears – a sign of things to come! Tim spent his gap year sailing when he was 18 and over a drink we realised that it had been the same year and that we had run into each other on the way to the Caribbean in Madeira in 1991 and gone for a drink – how weird.
Last night we also heard that Tris will not unfortunately be joining us for the ARC so we are now email scurrying to see if we can
find a replacement with some sailing experience. We have 10 days until the ARC crew register closes... Any volunteers? The ARC starts on 25 Nov, although there are preparatory seminars and a comprehensive social programme in the week preceding the start. I expect our ETA to be around 14 / 16 Dec in St Lucia. Lisa would love it if we were able to rebalance the X & Y chromosomes and have a girlie come and join us but at this stage beggars can’t be choosers.
Tomorrow we head to the festival at Cala Del Porto. This includes a parade of stallions and sandcastle competitions. We will leave early and be there for the start. The kids are excited. Elliot left today and has been an excellent crew-mate. He has really worked hard and learnt a great deal. He has a great way with the boys and there are hugs all round as he jumps on the bus for the airport.
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