Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Islas Baleares.

After escaping from the exorbitant prices of Italy we sought refuge in the Baleares Islands which are part of Spain and considered as the most expensive place in the Mediterranean. Told like this that choice of a place might sound a bit awkward but it is important to know that unlike Italy there are many spots in the Baleares to anchor hence reducing the expense to a humanly bearable level. It is then with our wallet under high surveillance that we were able to loll here at La Cala de la Calobra known as one of the most beautiful place in Mallorca Island. By the way, in Spanish the word “Cala” only means “bay”. It has nothing special but it seems that it sounds nicer when we say “La Cala de la Calobra” then to say Calobra bay. Of course, it is important to give it the Spanish accent when we say it otherwise it loses all its charm ;-)

Since we ran nonstop for the past few months from one place to another while trying to survive through the European pecuniary gauntlet we were long due for some vacations which was our goal when we arrived here. And free time we had. Karly and Roger our friend on board La Palapa were coming in the same area than us to meet their friend Frank visiting them for a few days from California. The beauty of having visiting friends is the fact they can carry boat parts in their luggage and in this case two watermaker pumps for their good friends on Chocobo to replace the old ones used to make water over three quarters of the world and were now spilling more water through the way too many leaks than through the membrane! So it is here in Puerto de Andratx that we waited a few days for Frank and his 12 kilos (25lbs) of extra luggage while repairing the boat but mostly fully relaxing in this Spanish village.

Andratx being a popular destination for European tourists it was easy to find all kind of restaurants. Our quick race in Italian waters didn’t satisfy our appetite for the dishes from the big boot. For that reason the first thing we did on arrival in Andratx was to drag our stomach into an …. Italian restaurant! Yep the proximity with the roman kingdom makes available in abundance and quality the unique cuisine of this country in these small Spanish Islands and we made the most of this fact telling ourselves that dishes from the old conquistadores’ descent could wait a bit. Hence the white wine matched wonderfully the large flat pizza, the adente pastas and deli on this pretty terrace with a Hispanic charm.

In the end the crew of La Palapa was unable to come over the island of Mallorca to meet us due to a headwind and Frank had to take another small plane to join them on the next island Ibiza. We did the same but in our case we use the maritime way and it was then on the small island of Espalmador, located between Ibiza and Formentera, that we rendezvous with our friends and our two watermaker pumps. We really had no idea of this place before coming and it was with some surprise that we discovered probably the most crowded place in Baleares. Pleasure boats by the hundreds laid their anchor here and there along this long beach where white sand rimes with monokini. In fact, for many the place rimed instead with zerokini! We’ve already been a few times in places where ladies found superfluous to wear the top of their minikini but the fact that this activity was mainly practiced by people generously affected by the work of time reduced significantly the interest in mentioning it. Here things were different. People were young and they were gorgeous; men as much as women. Thus it was surrounded by these young angels of Eros with their clothing made to drive to bankruptcy the entire world fabric production that we waited for over a week for a proper weather window to allow us to cross to continental Spain. With La Palapa moored nearby we spend a very nice week relaxing with them and lounging under the vapors of the excellent Spanish wine which is very likely the most popular beverage in the country based on the shelf space dedicated to it in the supermarkets.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Arrived in Spain.

We arrived in Puerto de Mahon on the island of Menorca, Spain from Malfatano in Sardina, Italy after a passage of 225 nautical miles. Menorca is part of the BalĂ©ares archipelago East of Spain and South of France in the Mediterranean Sea. I don’t know how long exactly we took for that passage because we don’t even bother to monitor such small passages anymore. Note that at the beginning of our voyage this passage would have required 3 weeks of preparation and planning to ensure the boat is ready and that we have all the food for 3 months even though we will be at sea for only two days while now it goes about like this. “All right how long is the next passage already? About 225 miles, Danielle would answer. And when do we leave? Well the weather looks good today and if we leave this morning we should arrive at sunrise the day after tomorrow. A couple of days that’s not too bad, are we ready to go? Yep! Ok, so let’s raise the anchor and let’s get on the way.” Basically unless the trip is more than 500 miles we don’t quite stress much about it anymore. That’s what three years of cruising does to you.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The cost of Italy.

It is quite a shame to sail in a country with so much to visit as Italy and to not spend any time doing so. That's pretty much what we did and the reason is very simple; the cost! Upon our arrival we stopped in a small town in Sicily where we could anchor but the waves where untenable and we had to leave shortly the following morning. We then crossed the Strait of Messina, which separate the "boot" of Italy with Sicily and were heading for some islands north of Sicily. Unfortunately the wind didn't allow us to sail in that direction and we had to turn east toward a small town called Bagnara Calabra where anchoring was not possible and we had to take a slip at the marina there. This is where we realized that Italians have completely lost their mind on how much things should cost. The so called marina, which was nothing more than a slip in a harbor, had no facilities to speak of and in a real world we should have paid about 15-20 Euros per night. Well they were asking 100 Euros!! This is $145.00 per night for a slip in a crappy harbor not a luxurious room in a 5 stars hotel! Weather was very bad and we had no choice but to stay. I argued with the guys in charge and managed to get it down to 75 Euros per night but this still was completely out of the realm of reasonability. Anchorages being quite limited in Italy it became very clear to us that we had to leave this country as fast as we could before we were forced into bankruptcy.

Even though our stay in Italy was very brief we still had the chance to see a few things worth mentioning. The first picture shows a boat used for swordfish fishing that we crossed in the Strait of Messina. Let's just say that I really wouldn't like to be the guy at the top of the mast! While waiting in the most expensive marina of our trip for a proper weather window we walked in Bagnara Calabra for shopping for food and to try an authentic Italian pizza. The first one was quite fruitful as if marinas were out of price food was either reasonable or cheap. We found the biggest red pepper we had ever seen and delicatessen was fairly cheap at least compared to what we pay in Canada. Cheese especially was very cheap and we could get our hand on a kilo of parmesan for 8 Euros and a brick of Swiss cheese for the same price. Cheese fondues here we are! As for the pizza we've never been able to find any. The problem is that people around here close their businesses between noon and an undetermined time late in the afternoon. So both days we went to the village around noon just to find all restaurants closed. Other than that we are moving west to reach the Baleares Islands in Spain where we know things are expensive but many anchorages are still possible in what many consider the most beautiful place in the Mediterranean.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Arrived in Italy.

We arrived at the small town of Taormina Roads in Sicily, Italy on July 23rd, 2011 from Lixuri, Greece after a passage of 289 nautical miles in the Mediterranean Sea that took us 2 days, 6 hours and 30 minutes for an average speed of 5.3 knots. More precisely we crossed the Ionian Sea which lies between Greece and Italy. It was a fairly eventless passage with wind only during the second half of the way. The only noticeable fact during that passage was the regular warnings we would hear on the VHF radio broadcasted by NATO forces presently deployed in Libya just south of here and mentioning to whom it may concern that should we be operating any military equipment such as armored tanks or weapons of any kinds we would immediately destroyed. Same automatically applies should we fire at any NATO forces or civilian population! Can't say they didn't warn us!