The same day that we dropped off Giles in Olbia, Sardinia, Julia and I both headed to the UK. My folks had just finished their new house, were having a party and this was to be the first gathering which would also be attended by my new nephew and niece, both produced while we were away!
After the quick trip we were back in Olbia Marina, where we found Michal and Natasha patiently waiting for us on Bumblebee. They were armed with prosecco, ham and balloons, so were most welcome. Unfortunately they also brought the rain, or was that us? Either way the next morning the clouds moved in and the rain soon followed.
After a night in the marina we made our exit, following the generously proportioned Pink Gin out into the channel and past the expanse of mussel farms. As we sailed out of the gulf of Olbia, an exhausted bumblebee came to rest in the cockpit. We gave her some shelter and honey, which she readily accepted and spent the next hour sucking on before springing back to life and buzzing away.
It was the 30th of August and the wettest day we have had so far. The pay off came in the form of a dramatic sunset followed buy an intense electrical storm. Before anchoring we circumnavigated the island of Tavolara. At first the steep sided limestone island seemed deserted but as we rounded the eastern end we noticed a huge radio antenna connecting three mountainous points. The chart showed a NATO base and we realised we had accidentally crossed into a restricted area. The base appeared to be completely underground as we could see several roads leading into the mountain. As we rounded to the north side we were observed by a man sat in a 4x4, tracking us through binoculars.
We anchored for the night on the west end of the island where there was a restaurant. They refused to serve us for some reason so we ate on the boat. A bit of Googling revealed the island’s strange history as an independent kingdom, a seat currently claimed by the owner of the restaurant –apparently claiming to be a descendant of the royal family.
As we anchored, the sky temporarily cleared and gave way to a spectacular rainbow followed by strange marshmallow clouds. The lightning storm that night was intense with the nearby antenna attracting strikes several times a second. The sky lit up like a strobe light as we huddled inside; our phones and laptops in the oven for protection!
The next morning we sailed back into Olbia to collect our newest crewmember. Slawek is a good friend from Amsterdam and came to help with the crossing to Menorca. We docked alongside the town quay, where he was waiting. A quick stop at the fishing shop to replace the 300m of braid that a speedboat robbed me of and we were on our way. We sailed out of the Gulf of Olbia for the third time and made our way north. Michal had discovered a tiny beach with a railway station, where we could drop them off on their return journey via Cagliary. We pulled into a beautiful little bay, dinghied them ashore and left them hoping a train would stop. The three of us remaining wasted no time setting sail as we had a long journey ahead of us.
That evening we pulled into a small marina on the island of Maddalena. We needed fuel in the morning and though a night in town was justified as the next day we would to set off on a 48 hour sail to the Balearic Islands. We ate at a pleasant seafood restaurant and planned the journey to come. There was a brief weather window giving us just enough time to cross before the Maestrale kicked off and 40 knots of wind would land in our face. We crosschecked five or so weather sources and decided we could make it.
It took ten hours the next day to cross the north of Sardinia. It was dark when we passed through the 3m deep Forneli Passage but soon we were out in the open sea.
We took turns at watch during the night. As with our Sicily-Sardinia crossing there was no moon, so the night was very dark. At first we had westerlies as expected so motored for the best part of the night, keeping a high course to set us up for the close winds forecast during the day. As daylight came, the winds veered and we were tearing across the Mediterranean with full sails up and a brisk close reach. The great condition continued all day, with the toe rail in the water on a starboard tack.
48 hours was the longest any of us had spent sailing nonstop. Time passed quickly with sketching, reading and helming. Julia managed to concoct some delicious meals while healed right over and bashing through the waves.
The second night was as dark as the first. The stars shone brightly and there were very few other boats to be seen. Dire Straits saw us through the small hours and soon after sunrise we had our first sight of land. As we approached Menorca, my fishing line went slack and I discovered the snap swivel had worn through, setting free a new Rapala diving lure. We eventually pulled into Mahon at 11:05am, exactly 48 hours after setting off!
We tried but failed to find a chandlery with a Spanish courtesy flag and a Balearic harbour guide book, so we sailed up around the coast to a picturesque bay for a swim and a celebratory drink. Later we returned to Mahon and anchored just inside the harbour. We took to the dinghy ashore but misjudged the distance to town and ended up exploring one of the suburbs instead.
Ania and Paulina were due to fly in and join us for the week. The only problem was, we told them to meet us in Mallorca. There appeared to be no suitable flights or ferries so we had no choice but to set off on the 9 hours crossing. We were later to discover there was a fast, cheap ferry but by then we were just hours from Alcudia, Mallorca. On the way we stopped at Cales Coves for lunch and a swim. This turned out to be a mini paradise with cavernous cliffs on both sides but rather dirty water. Julia found a good little cliff for bouldering and we passed a local lady swimming her dog.
The girls were arriving in Alicudia around 10pm so we spent a good hour trying but failing to set the anchor outside the marina. Three times we failed to get a good hold in just 3m, due to weeds. We gave up and headed into the marina. Via VHF channel 9 we were told the marina was full so we decided to tie up to the fuel quay and hope for the best. To our surprise we had a full night’s sleep and no one moved us along in the morning. One attendant suggested we should visit the office as we had spent the night in the marina. We did so but no one had reported our details, never the less they were pleased to have us fill out some forms and pay the standard fee.
Since we had now paid we tried to make the most of it. The chandlery was well stocked and we now have a new cruising bible. Rod Heikel got us through Greece and Italy but his photography just didn’t inspire us. This new book however is stuffed full of stunning aerial views and breathtaking polarized photography. It is awesome. We cleaned down the decks, refueled, filled our water tanks and did some provision shopping –all the while Bumblebee was getting in the way on the fuel dock. Eventually they got fed up with us, luckily just as we were ready to leave.
The Maestrale that we were avoiding on the crossing would soon arrive so we headed out of Alicuda, rounded the south east coast and nestled into a tiny anchorage called Cala Gat. Navionics on the chartplotter claimed anchoring was prohibited but the new book told us what we wanted to hear. We anchored, swam, then went ashore in search of sustenance.