Thursday, 11 July 2019

Formentera and Ibiza

Saturday 8th June to Tuesday 18th June 2019

We headed into the marina at La Savina on Sunday morning.  This time we were staying at the other marina and I made sure that I radioed the correct marina when entering the harbour. 

I had phoned the fish dock marina on Saturday to see if they had a space for Sunday. Yes the did have a space to accommodate Offbeat's size.  Great, could we please reserve it and by the way, how much is it? “145 euros” she said. “Ok” said I. This conversation had taken place in Spanish,  which I was pleased about as I’m getting to grips with the language but when I came off the phone and repeated the conversation to Mark I said “I think they want 145 euros". “No” said Mark, “you must have misheard,  it was only €44 last week.  Call them back and check". So, I called them back and this time spoke to someone with perfect English. “Can you confirm the cost of one night in your marina" I asked “yes she replied, 145 euros". Turns out that summer rate kicks in on 1st June so they treble the prices.  Hence staying in the other marina, but that was still €88!

To be honest, after two nights of rocking and rolling on Offbeat I might have paid €145 just for a good nights sleep.

The marina itself was really nice and modern and once we'd berthed safely, sorted out lines and stowed valuables away, we headed into town for lunch and do the shopping as tomorrow would be the laundry run. As the photo shows, Mr P was quite eager for a beer!

Later in the afternoon we caught the bus to Sant Francesc Xavier, which took us round the Salinas so we got to see them too. We never realised just how big the Salinas are and the extent of land they claim.

Arriving in Sant Francesc Xavier, we headed up the main street. And that was it. One main street, a church a few bars and restaurants and an Eroski supermarket.  Have to say I was rather disappointed as I thought there would be more to it. 
With a couple of bags of shopping from Eroski, we caught the bus back to La Savina. As it’s only a couple of miles away we had considered walking, but as it was dark and the road had no paths or lighting we felt we'd made the right decision.

We were up and about early the next day to get jobs done. Being organised really paid off and we were out of the marina by mid afternoon. 

Estany des Peix
We really wanted to head on up to Ibiza, but the weather wasn’t with us so we picked up a mooring bouy just outside La Savina in Cala de s'Oli.  It’s a really pretty little cala on the other side of Estany des Peix and with only a few boats moored up, it was very quiet and peaceful.

We also happened to moor up next to Nelson, Mark's new friend who provided the tuna.  He rowed over to say hello and had a chat with us and gave us some tips for Ibiza.  It's amazing how friendly and helpful the boating community are, they always seem to be ready to help and support fellow sailors. It's a bit like a very big fraternity club.

We had dinner on Offbeat and watched the sunset and wondered if this would be our last night in Formentera! 

Turns out it was, as the next day the weather forecast was in our favour so mid afternoon we slipped our lines on the mooring bouy and headed north to Port Porroig in Ibiza.

Although it was an overcast day and the sky threatened rain, the wind was also with us and we finally got to raise the sails, turn the engine off and sail. We had both the foresail  and mainsail raised and started with a nice leisurely 4.5 knots, but as the afternoon breeze kicked in, things got a bit lively and we were reaching 6.5 knots.  It was at this point Mr P decided to go for an afternoon nap, leaving me at the helm flying up to Ibiza.  However, by the time we reached Ibiza the wind had calmed down again and we were able to enter at a more sedate pace.

Reaching Port Porroig we found it to be very busy with not a lot of space, but we found enough to drop anchor and settle down for the evening.  Then the locals appeared. First a motor boat who picked up a mooring near us and anchored port and stern, which pins him into place.  Shit, if we swing we'll go into him so we had to drop a stern anchor too.  

Then a big motor yacht came in, which was privately crewed.  They too picked up a mooring bouy,  but not as successfully as the other boat.  Cut a long story short, there was a lot of shouting and gesticulating between an old guy and a young lad, which culminated in the old boy throwing his boat hook and bathescope down in anger. The boathook bounced and hit him in the face and the bathescope bounced and plopped into the water.  By this time we were in hysterics and thought it best if we went below before they saw us.

Whilst we had been in Formentera I had decided to go back to England for a few days.  I had been really homesick and just needed to see my family.  I had booked a flight for Thursday so on Wednesday we moved Offbeat to Sa Caleta so that I would be closer to the airport.  As the airport was only 2 miles away I planned to walk there the following day, so after lunch we rowed ashore to do a trial run of walking to the airport.

We left Upbeat on the beach near the lifeguards who were admiring her, so we knew they’d keep an eye on her, especially when I struck up a bit of a conversation with them.  At the top of the cliff overlooking the beach was a lovely restaurant so Mark booked a table for the evening.

We set off to walk to the airport, heading towards the main road.  What is it about Spain that they don’t like paths! With cars whizzing past, we decided to go cross country across the cliffs. Oh my God,  what an experience. Yes we did it and we managed to get within half a mile of the airport but when it came to walking on the main road again, I called it a day. “I'll get a taxi” I said in a voice that brokered no negotiating. 

Walking back to our Cala through the woods, I got the giggles and asked Mark if he could really see us walking along the cliff tops at 7.00am with holdall in hand? Best case scenario the holdall would have gone over the edge, worse case scenario,  Mark would have been attached to it! 

Back at the Cala, we had a lovely meal and bottle of wine at the restaurant. We also got the telephone number for the local taxi company which the restaurant use, which was a bonus.

We rowed back to Offbeat in the dusk light, reflecting on how it was a great way to end a wonderful day. 

Thursday morning and we were up before the sun to make sure I got to the airport on time.  We rowed ashore as the sun rose and provided us with a beautiful red glow. Taxi booked we headed to the airport.  Mark came with me, to wave me off and then he'd return to Offbeat for a week of blokey stuff!

As I sat in the departure lounge he sent me a photo of Offbeat in the Cala.  It looked so beautiful, completely different to what I faced when I got off the plane at Stansted.  I’d gone from 29 degrees sunshine to 11 degrees drizzly rain.  I certainly don't miss this part of being back in England.

Weather aside, I had a great week in England, catching up with family and friends.  It was great to see the family and to hold my little people in my arms and hug and kiss them and play games with them.  

I got to spend time with my girls which was lovely and on Monday, the day before leaving, I spent the day with all three daughters and all three grandchildren.  It was really special as usually when we try and arrange something like this, one of them has to work. We all had such a lovely time,  it'll keep me going for a few more months.

The week flew by and before I knew it, it was time to be heading back to Ibiza.  My flight arrived on time and I was through customs within 20 minutes.

Mark had sent me details of where he'd anchored Offbeat, so with a burst of excitement at seeing him, I jumped in a taxi ,gave directions in my best Spanish and hoped that Mark would be there to meet me.

I wasn't disappointed. 

There he was, at the spot he said he'd be at, waiting for me.  It's funny really, even though I get homesick for my family, once there, I'm restless to get back to our new life. 

As we rowed towards Offbeat I knew that this is where I belong and as the lights in the bay twinkled, I knew I was home.

Saturday, 6 July 2019

Formentera – Es Calo, El Pilar de la Mola, S'Espalmador, La Savina

Sunday 2nd June to Saturday 8th June 2019

We didn't leave La Sahona as early as planned. When Mark checked the engine before setting off, he discovered we’d had an oil leak, so had to clean the engine oil up in the engine room and refill the oil before we could set off. Thankfully it wasn’t anything major,  just a cap hadn't been tightened properly. 

Engine sorted, we set off at lunchtime on Sunday and headed south towards Cap de Barbaria. We would then turn east towards Punta des Far and then round the headland and north towards Es Calo.

As we headed out of the bay and turned south, the scenery was amazing for the first few miles. There were cliffs that looked like layer cake and big caves that have developed over thousands, maybe millions, of years of the sea pounding against them.  When I see these it makes me wonder who has been in these caves and whether they’ve been used by smugglers.

Once we hit the flat lands the journey became a bit tedious. The wind was against us so we had the engine on. Safe to say it was a bit of a slog and rather boring, with the exception of rounding Punta des Far and seeing one dolphin in the distance!

After 4 ½ hours we reached our destination.  Mark had been a bit sceptical about Es Calo, he didn't feel that anything could compare to E'Spalmador.  But wow, were we in for a treat. The bay was absolutely beautiful and unspoilt. 

We anchored in a little bay, with a tiny little beach with no one on it and were completely surrounded by stunning cliffs and caves.  We ended up staying four days. 

Next morning I was up with the larks as I'd decided i wanted a photo of the sunrise.  We had seen numerous beautiful sunsets, but as we're not early birds, no sunrises.  I was not disappointed, the sunrise was just amazing. The stillness of the bay, with the gentle singing of birds was truly wonderful.

Later in the day we rowed ashore to Es Calo and left Upbeat at a fisherman's shed whilst we climbed the hills to El Pilar de Mola.  Google maps said it was 4 miles away would take about an hour, but it didn’t take into account the steep terrain and the maze of woodland paths and 3 hours later we hit the town and had a cold glass of wine.

It was a beautiful walk through the forest and along the cliffs overlooking the bay.  The views from the cliff of the bay we were anchored in was stunning, the water was so clear, it highlighted the different colours of the sea and the smell of pine and rosemary was very powerful.

We also came across caves that had once been lived in.  You could clearly see where the living area would have been and how sheltered they would have been from bad weather. 

By the time we hit the town all the restaurants had stopped selling food, so we just had a drink. But, we were so hungry from the walk that we went to the supermarket and bought bread, cheese, tomatoes and a bottle of water and then ate them sitting on a bench at the bus stop, waiting for the bus. It was like being a teenager all over again. 

We got the bus back to Es Calo, which is a pretty little village with a couple of supermarkets and restaurants. 

High on the joy of a great day, we headed back to the Fisherman's hut to retrieve Upbeat. Mark had made such a good job of setting the anchor, we couldn’t get it out of the water as it had lodged under a rock. Only one thing for it, he had to strip to his underpants and dive underwater to release it. Anchor free, we rowed back to Offbeat as the sun was setting on a perfect day!

Next day, the little beach was so inviting I couldn’t resist spending a day there.  Its not often you have the opportunity to have a beach to yourself, so I wanted to make the most of it. 

We loaded the dinghy with our stuff and headed for the beach. Honestly,  we packed more stuff than when I had 3 young children. There was a deck chair, parasol, towels, backpacks, snorkel/mask/flippers/noodle, sails and poles for the dinghy (Mark wanted to take Upbeat for a sail) plus the ores.  There was only just enough room for us two!

Anyway, it was a lovely day. Mark set the dinghy up for sailing, but it became too windy so he joined in the spirit of everybody else in Formentera and took his trunks off for a bit of nuddy sunbathing. I wasn't so brave! 

The cala itself was very busy, with lots of boats with jet skis and dinghies zooming around. Whilst we were there, a couple of super yachts anchored close by, which provided me with something to look at when on board Offbeat. I do love a bit of people watching! 

Unfortunately by Wednesday evening the southerly swell had found it’s way into the bay and after a very uncomfortable night rolling around like a drunk at a party and with the weather forecast predicting more of the same, we reluctantly picked up anchor on Thursday and headed for calmer waters. 

We headed north towards El Pujols where we could get shelter from the headland and planned to stay there a couple of nights. 

Ha ha, little did we know. When we got to El Pujols, we didn't even bother going into the bay as we could see from our position that the rolling was worse here than Es Calo.   Talking through our options  we decided to head on back to S'Espalmador where we would find good shelter.

It actually turned out to be a good choice, as it meant that we had gone full circle round the island.  I think that by then, we could safely say that we'd done Formentera. 

We had been round Formentera on Offbeat and seen some great sights. I still wanted to try and get to the capital of the island Sant Francesc Xavier as that would be the final bit for me. 

We stayed in S'Espalmador for one night and then moved to La Savina and anchored outside the harbour. We had hoped to get in on Friday, but they had a regatta on so there was no vacancies at the marina until Sunday. 

By Saturday I was going stir crazy as I’d been on the boat too long.  Unlike Mark, who is happy  to be on the boat all the time, I need to have a balance between boat and land but as the wind was blowing up such a swell, neither of us fancied our luck rowing ashore in the dinghy.

We often get admiring glances and compliments about Upbeat and she is a beautiful dinghy, but on that day I did watch longingly at the inflatable RIBs skimming across the water with their passengers holding on for dear life!

In the end my boredom got the better of me and to Mark's delight I baked a rice pudding,  even though it was 27+ degrees outside. 

What can I say, comfort food!

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Formentera – Cala Sahona, S'Espalmador, La Savina

Friday 24th May to Saturday 1st June 2019

Friday morning we awoke to a grey, overcast day, a complete contrast to the beautiful sunny blue skies we had welcoming our arrival yesterday.  Over breakfast we checked the weather forecast (this is a daily ritual as we don’t want to be caught out) and yes, we were in for a few days of unsettled weather with a northerly wind.

As our anchorage wouldn't provide any shelter from a northerly wind and could potentially be dangerous if the wind were to get really strong, we decided to head north, to the island of S'Espalmador. The island is privately owned and is a nature and marine reserve and is virtually deserted except for tourists and marine reserve employees. It is joined to Formentera by a long sandy spit broken by a shallow rocky passage.

With the wind and the swell straight on the nose and a slight smear of rain, off we chugged northward towards S’Espalmador.  To get there, we had to cross the busy shipping lane to the port of Savina, where ferries take passengers to and from Ibiza, where glass bottom tourist boats work from and where passing yachtsman like ourselves go to stock up on food and water.

By now, we are quite experienced at crossing shipping lanes, following the rules of the sea and crossing parallel with the mapped out route but boy was this something else. The ferries coming in and out of the port are ‘fast’ ferries to and from Ibiza and when they say fast, they mean fast. As soon as they leave the harbour entrance it’s full throttle at 20 knots and heaven help anyone in the way. 

We witnessed this first hand at a distance and held back a little until none were in sight and with no engine smoke coming from the port we went hell for leather across the shipping lane. Once across I started to breathe again!

We arrived at S'Espalmador around lunchtime. It has a beautiful bay overlooking the island with white sandy beaches, a couple of houses and a church!  The anchorage was fairly full, so we motored around to find our own patch of sand to anchor in.  

The whole area around the island is part of the Spanish Poseidon Prairies where the poseidonia is protected. Until 1st June you can anchor in sand and if possible avoid your anchor dragging on poseidonia, but from 1st June to 30th September you have to use designated buoys or face a heavy fine.

We spent the rest of the day pottering around.  It rained off and on all day, but after dinner, as the sun was wetting, there was a double rainbow and dolphins swimming around the boats and in the bay.

They must have been well fed, as they flipped and splashed as they left the bay.

The next day the weather was still slightly overcast during the day so we set about doing some chores on the boat. We also tried out the portable shower in the cockpit.  I was a bit apprehensive at first, as there's not much privacy when you're anchored in a bay, but it was actually very liberating standing stark naked having a shower in the open air. Talk about going back to nature,  I’m definitely losing my inhibitions!

As the night fell, we were treated to a glorious sunset and did feel truly blessed to be in such an idyllic place.

Sunday arrived with glorious sunshine, so Mark put our dinghy Upbeat together whilst I made a packed lunch and got everything ready for a day on the beach. 

Wow, what a beach. With aquamarine water, white sand and not many people on the beach, if I didn't know better I would have thought I'd been transported to the Caribbean.  We swam, had our packed lunch and then whilst Mark snoozed I went for a walk to explore the island.

Walking along the beach, barefoot at the edge of the water, watching and listening to little ones playing in the sea is really good for the soul.  It made me want to fly home and kidnap my little ones and bring them here.  Hopefully one day soon!

Monday morning we were visited by the marine reserve warden who checked our anchor was ok.  She was very pleasant and explained that they see poseidonia as there form of coral and want to preserve it to attract marine life back into the bay (which is probably why the dolphins go there). She gave us a leaflet with information about the reserve and told us where the best anchor holdings were.

After pottering about all day, we (Mark) rowed ashore for a walk and to watch the sunset.  I managed to get a beautiful photo of Offbeat on her own in the bay with the sun setting behind her.

We decided that we would head into the marina on Wednesday, so Tuesday was spent getting ready for that.  It's surprising how much work goes into planning a visit to the marina. With limited time available in the marina, we really need to make the most of our time there so Upbeat has to be stored on deck, washing sorted, supplies checked and shopping lists made for supplies and the chandlery.  I also had to book the marina and was very pleased with myself when I phoned and managed to book us in, all in Spanish!

As it was our last night in the anchorage, we had supper in the cockpit and watched the sunset for the last time here. It was such a beautiful clear night, that as the sun set, we could see the mountains of Spain in the distance. 

Wednesday morning we headed over to the marina, which is about 3 miles away.  We took the inside track, skimming along the side of land so as to avoid the fast ferries and the 2 metre swell they cause.

Arriving at the harbour entrance was entertaining. One of the fast ferries was bearing down on us so we moved out of the channel entrance to let it pass, only to see it turn round and reverse in.  What?  This is mental, not only do they come at you at 20 knots, they then do a handbrake turn to get into their berth.  Major respect to those captains!

Once we knew it was safe to enter, we called the marina on Channel 9 asking to come in.  The office responded and we were directed to the fish dock.  Turns out there are two marinas at the port and whilst I’d booked with one, the other one pinched the business on our arrival.  It wasn't really a problem though as it was nice and quiet where we were berthed and more importantly, no swell.

We headed into town to do our chores and have some lunch.  Boy is Formentera expensive. Everything is practically double what you pay on mainland Spain. 

With some of the jobs done, we headed back to Offbeat to get the washing dry.  When we got back, the boat next to us was having a bit of a party and invited  us to join them.  Actually, it was more like a load of blokes eating raw tuna and drinking beer, so I declined the offer.  Whilst Mark was off making new friends, I went off exploring. 

I ended up walking towards the Salinas, which are expansive salt lakes to the north of the island.  They are renowned for their bird life and whilst you can access the edge of the lakes, the majority of it is prohibited access. Never mind, what I did see was beautiful and on the way back I walked along the beach, admiring all the super yachts that were moored in the bay whilst their owners enjoyed lunch at the fabulously expensive restaurants!

In the evening we headed out to a restaurant we had found earlier in the day.  A beautiful little beach restaurant overlooking the sea, with an incredibly romantic sunset.

Thursday we left the marina and headed south back to Cala Sahona.  Two reasons for going back, one was the weather forecast, we needed to find shelter from southerlies and secondly we hadn't explored the area.

When we arrived in late afternoon, the bay was still crowded with lots of boats and jet skis flying around.  Whilst it's good to see people enjoying themselves, it's even better when they leave and peace descends. 

Friday arrived with more glorious sunshine and a gentle breeze.  Whilst we had been in Savina I had treated myself to a snorkel and mask.  Today was the perfect day to try them out, together with my noodle that I’d bought in Javea (thank you Claire, best €5 I've spent).  It was absolutely amazing. The water was so clear and if you laid still long enough, the fish came to you.

Saturday we went ashore for the first time in Sahona. The beach was very busy and there wasn't anywhere obvious to leave Upbeat, so we tried it to the rope marking the swimming area.  Mark was unsure about leaving it there so we abandoned our plan of walking to San Francesc Xavier and had coffee and went to the local shop instead.

Late afternoon we went ashore again and walked to the end of the headland surrounding the bay.  The view of the cliffs were stunning and made us realise there is so much more to Formentera. On the way back we stopped at a little shack on the beach and had a drink and talked about moving on. 

Decision made, we would head off in the morning and go round to the other side of the island and if we didn't like it, we'd head on back to S'Espalmador for a few days before moving on to Ibiza.

Monday, 24 June 2019

Javea to Formentera

Thursday 23rd May 2019

At 03:30 we dropped our lines at Javea marina and as we were waved off by the duty Marinero, we headed into Javea bay under engine.

It was a beautiful clear night, the sea was calm, the wind was light and the moon was shining bright to guide us on our way.  The lights of Javea were twinkling as we made our way across the bay towards our first weigh point off Cap de la Nau, which we had grown very fond of over the last couple of weeks.

We were both feeling very excited, despite the early start which was a shock to our system!  This was really it, we were heading across the open sea to new adventures. We weren’t sure what the summer would bring, but if it was anything like last year, there would be lots of fun, laughter, adventure and fantastic memories.

As we headed out of the bay at Cap de la Nau, with the wind blowing from the east, we were able to raise the main, staysail and foresail and turn the engine off.  Hurray, at last the weather was in our favour and we were sailing!  There was a slight sea swell, but nothing to bother us.

Although we'd been up and about early, we agreed to both stay on watch until we had passed the shipping lane.  As it turned out, it was a very quiet night in the shipping lane with only one vessel heading south.

By 06:00 we were halfway across the shipping lane. The wind was still with us and Offbeat was making good speed. With the awakening of dawn, Mark noted in the log book “Dawn is glowing pink to the east. Is there any better feeling in the world than your boat going well to a new island, the weather being kind and your heart being at ease". Safe to say he was a happy bunny!

An hour later we were through the shipping lane so we altered course for the Balearics, which had been in sight since sunrise.  By now, the wind had dropped so we were motor sailing but still making good progress.

For the next few hours we continued to motor sail.  With the exception of a quick visit from two dolphins, we had the sea to ourselves.

By 11:30 there was just enough wind to turn the engine off and sail at between 4 – 4.5 knots.  Still not a lot happening, other than a couple of super yachts go bombing past in the distance.  Obviously wanted to be in Formentera for lunch! It’s always amazing how the time flies by at sea even when there's nothing happening and nothing to do.

By 13:45 the wind had picked up and we were reaching 6 knots under sail, which for Offbeat is good going. The weather was still being kind, clear and sunny and a slight sea swell.  Was this a good omen and a sign of things to come?  We certainly hoped so as by now we could see our final destination and were buzzing with excitement.

We arrived at our final destination at 15:55. We had chosen the anchorage of Cala de Sahona on the west side of Formentera to shelter us from the easterly wind. And wow, what an anchorage. The sea was aquamarine blue, the sand was white and the cliffs sheltering us looked like layer cake.

As we opened the champagne (thanks Chris) to celebrate our arrival at our first island, it would have been easy to mistake Formentera for paradise!

Costa Blanca Revisited

Monday 13th May to Thursday 23rd May 2019

After heading out of Javea marina on Monday evening, we had no definite plans of what we would do other than revisit the coastline between Javea and Calpe.  We headed over to Cala Sardinaria, where we stayed until Wednesday and then headed off to explore.

There were a number of spectacular views and highlights during our ten days, but these are the ones worth a particular mention.

Not quite Jaws!

Heading towards Isla de Descubridor, which is just south of Cabo de la Nau we disturbed what we think was a shark, basking in the sun. Mark had spotted it and told me to have a look through the binoculars  and tell him what I saw. I couldn’t believe my eyes.  There, laying in the sun without a care in the world was a shark!  We were lucky enough to manage to get within 20 metres of it before it turned lazily and dived down.

Another highlight was the afternoon we spent on a bouy at Cala Granadella, just 1.5 miles west of Cabo de la Nau.  It was a beautiful little cove, with a tiny beach and a few houses and a bar.  It was a very hot day and with clear and crystal blue water, we took our first swim off Offbeat and tested our new swim ladder, which worked perfectly. Unfortunately as the cove is easterly facing and we were expecting a 1 metre easterly swell, we reluctantly left before nightfall.
First swim off the back of Offbeat!


We sailed along the coast, down to Calpe, to see the rock. Seeing it bathed in sunshine was amazing, with the spectacular cliffs framed by the mountains.  It really is amazing how that stretch of coast remains relatively unspoilt, but once you hit Calpe, it's all high rise hotels.

Montgo peeking above the cliffs
Tuesday we headed back to Javea. We planned to stay in the anchorage next to the marina on Tuesday evening and head into the marina first thing in the morning as there were a few last minute jobs before we headed off to Formentera on Thursday.

As we motored across Javea bay, I spotted a fire on the hill.  The smoke from the fire was clearly visible and as it's mainly woods, can soon get out of control. We then spotted a firefighting plane drop water onto the fire.  As we watched the plane, it headed towards us and picked up water from outside Javea harbour, where the wind and sea were very calm. The second time it picked up water from only half a mile ahead of us and passed very low directly over us.  It felt like it skimmed our mast as the plane was struggling to gain height with such a heavy load of water. The fire fighting must have been successful after that load of water as the plane headed inland. We saw a helicopter drop a small load of water and then the ground crew took over, presumably.  There was no more signs of smoke, anyway.

We picked up a buoy around 19:00 to the sound of church bells calling the faithful to mass, feeling that we had done justice to this spectacular part of the Costa Blanca.