Across the Mediterranean, lie you sitting,
In a pensive and reflective poise of your own
And here I by this shore,
Hearing the roar
Of the surging sea
And you by that shore
Of the Mediterranean
Lost in the waiting and pensive reflection of yours,
Seeing the waves rise and fall
And from this seashore,
I hearing the music man and humanity.
Bijay Kant Dubey
“Pan pan, Pan pan, Pan pan,
All ships, all ships, all ships
This is “..” radio
Several small ships have been reported, drifting or underway, with an indeterminate number of people aboard in the “..” area
Ships are asked to keep a careful look out and offer assistance as necessary and to report to Radio “..”
This call went out over the VHF almost every hour in the Straits of Gibraltar area and gave us all a sobering shudder each time. People fleeing their homeland in search of a better life in Europe in rubber dinghies, no engines, no sails, little food, water and shelter from the sun and certainly no safety equipment. I could not bring myself to imagine the conditions for them and the fear especially at night with constant super tankers and container ships speeding by. So vulnerable. I had noticed on my newsfeed on social media, posts from friends back home who were going to great lengths to help these people, be they refugees or simply migrants trying to cross the sea to a better life, at least we are doing what little we can to help. I made a mental note of where extra water, food and clothing were on the boat, so we could offer assistance as necessary should be come across any of these little vessels. Many folks had warned us not to interfere and said to stay away but I could not do that, these are humans like us on the sea and you do what you can to help those in peril on the sea.
We had decided to do the crossing from Gibraltar to the Balearics as a non-sop crossing as the hop along the Spanish coastline was longer and way more expensive with berths at over E100 per night so we had taken on crew to do the crossing so we could go overnight. Two Johns answered the call.
John No 2 arrived in La Linea first, tall, lean, very experienced sailor with over 38 years sailing in Scotland and abroad. He had owned various boats over the years and we instantly felt at ease with this fellow Scot from the south side of Glasgow. John no 1 had found a new best friend as they talked of nothing but boats, boats’ bits and boat trips. Ah peace for me! He fitted in perfectly and went off to Gib for a wander and to buy his mum some tax free fags to take home.
John No 3 arrived the following day, a jovial ex-fire fighter from Devon, experienced and professional who was sussing out this sailing lark to see if he wanted to commit to buying a boat for his retirement. We spent the day getting to know the boat and each other and went out for a last supper before departing at first light the following day. No one slept too easy that night, partly the heat and partly the noisy marina so I went for a shower at 4am as I knew I would not get a good until we reached Majorca as we would be on water rations again.
I had it easy with the crew doing the night watches so I elected to cook for the team which I enjoy anyway and they enjoyed eating it so a win win. We also took part in recycling games by attempting to get as much material into a water bottle!
Lack of wind meant a lot of motor sailing which was annoying but at least offered calm seas for me to cook. Leaving Gib felt good as we were now entering the Mediterranean proper, a real goal achieved. The sad thing was there was a lot more plastic rubbish floating around making our commitment to get a net to clean up what we can stronger.
The 3.5 day crossing was fairly uneventful, smooth seas, a little wind and a lot of open sea. A few cargo ships around initially but as we were taking a direct route we were mostly off the main shipping lanes. Plenty dolphins joined us and we saw a huge sunfish wallowing around on the surface. Big excitement to see a large turtle as well, about 1m across, on the surface swimming gently along. I hoped the plastics were not affecting him.
John No 1 decided we should refuel at Cartagena as we did not want to run short on the crossing and it was not too much out our way so we called in at 4am to use the 24hr fuel pump. She is only using around 2l/hr so not bad at all. A huge sword fish leapt clear of the water, its silvery side catching the sunlight and sword lancing high towards the sky, as we motored out to open waters again. A few cruise ships passed us by, decks strewn with sun loungers and water slides on the top decks. I recalled the times Mum and I had cruised, my initial scepticism overruled by the luxury of travel and convenience for mum. We had such fun in the South China seas for her 80th birthday, exploring the Philippines, Borneo, Brunei, Singapore, Hong Kong, Vietnam and China. We did not bother with the very expensive company day trips and I organised our own day trips which were much more fun and cheaper. We ended up on speed boats, eating noodles in town bars and drinking Singapore Slings in Raffles Hotel!
Back to reality and making salads for lunch for the Johns and even a lamb tagine inspired by our recent Moroccan visit.
It was nice to chat to different folks again with fresh stories to share.
John no 2 had lots of stories and one that had me in stitches was the time in his early sailing days when he had a small sailing boat based on the Clyde and he decided to take his mum for a wee sail down the coast to Little Cumbrae. He took his pal “Wee Bert” for company too. They set off in very light winds and he spent the whole voyage trying unsuccessfully to get his boat to sail while his pal and Mum enjoyed watching the world go by with not an ounce of sailing knowledge between the two. His mum had spied a bay ahead and mentioned her pal lived there so could they “pop over to say hello” No problem so John no 2 set course and asked Wee Bert to take the helm and “You can’t go wrong just point the bow towards that bay and I’ll put some tomato soup on for lunch”
He went below to make the lunch and happily busied away until he looked out the pothole to see large rocks looming ahead.
He shot up to the deck and grabbed the helm but too late, they were in the rocks. As his boat was shallow hulled it nestled in the shallow rocks, he tried to start the outboard engine to attempt to run them way however as he pulled the start cord, the prop caught the rocks and the pin flew out rendering it useless! Try the anchor he thought, put it down and pull them off, he let the anchor down but did not know it was not connected to the boat so it dropped to the bottom rendering it useless. Nothing for it he thought so he jumped ashore on to the rocks to push it off, his pal Wee Bert and Mother staring at him! As he pushed it off and lifted his leg to jump back in, when a gust of wind from nowhere filled the sails and off she went like a shot – leaving him perched on the rock!
“ I saw her sailing away back up the Clyde, Wee Bert looking back at me with a look of horror and Mother, nonplussed, sat down and lit a cigarette! I thought, typical I’d spent all day getting her to sail and this is the moment she chooses!
Luckily he found a fisherman along the coast with a small boat who gladly took him out to chase his boat and got him aboard to take control.
“I went back the following weekend and recovered my anchor too!”
We passed between Ibiza and Formentera in the early hours and spotted a large sperm whale lying on the surface blowing rhythmically, we floated gently past it so as not to disturb it and it humped its back and dived down lifting its tail fin as it did – spectacular!
Arrived in Palma, Majorca early evening, good time for John no 2 to jump ashore, bag on shoulder and off to get his flight that evening back to Glasgow. We anchored out in Palma Bay in front of the cathedral making a stunning back drop. We went ashore to the chic beach side restaurant in front of us which ended up being very expensive but hey ho, we saved on berthing charges in Palma Marina! John no 3 went off to watch a boxing match in town leaving us to enjoy a Mojito at sundown.
Upped anchor at 8am and motored back over to the marina at Palma to let John No 3 off to get his flight back to Devon and we set off round the coast to Andratx. We passed by Santa Ponsa where John’s parents had lived for over 20 years and reminisced of our annual holidays there at their lovey villa with pool which the boys spent hours in. We had heard from Carole (my Mum-in-law) that she had booked flights to come and see us which was a great surprise and we organised to meet in Port Pollensa in a few days’ time.
Andraxt was lovely and we took a mooring to get the facilities too and relaxed there for the night, going ashore in the evening for a meal and also the next morning for a café con leche and ensaimada. Also picked up some fresh supplies and fishing gear including a net!
I took advantage of the end of season sales and the over-excited, demonstrative, sweating profusely, boutique owner, expounded about everything I tried on and won me over so I left with a few new items for the Stravaigin collection and topped up my supplies quite happily.
Sailed on round to Port de Soller stopping for lunch and a swim at a quiet little cove with pretty houses lining the cliff sides. Arrived at Soller early evening and anchored out though was pretty swelly. Again many happy memories of bringing the boys here went little to ride the orange tram from Soller down to the port for ice creams and a play on the beach.
Left early the next morning to sail the 7 hrs round the coast to Pollensa however once out the bay the swell was horrendous with a confused sea and large breaking waves. Two hours into it I could not take it any more as was violently sick and debilitated so J decided to return to port and sit out this rough weather. Back in Soller it was still swelly and I felt awful so took took to my bunk to recover. What a difference a day makes from clothes shopping and sipping iced tea to lying comatose in my bunk drugged up on meds and washed out with sea sickness. It is a curse I have that when i get it, it is so bad I am incapable of doing anything but lying down eyes closed.
Dozed it off for a while then had a shower, cleaned up the boat and myself then went ashore for a walk on land and enjoy an ice cream the only thing I could eat. J commented he was amazed that even after going through all that I still wanted to continue!
“Yes I do as the nice bits outweigh it all but I’m not going out in those conditions again!” I stated firmly.
We booked a berth at the marina for Carole arriving agreeing it would be better than trying to dinghy ashore and out to boat plus I needed a proper shower, hair wash and laundry!
It didn’t turn out to be so expensive as we’d been told and was a treat – how often would we have the Queen aboard with us! Much cleaning and tidying took place in prepartion for her arrival and finally we met up with her at a wee café, she having taken a taxi from Santa Ponsa that morning. It was great to have a visitor and she kindly brought some goodies for me including posh shower mousse and nail varnish!
Tomorrow we attempt Pollensa again.