Back Off Course

19 to 29 August 2020

Palmanova to Santa Ponsa, 39° 30′ 8″N 02° 28′ 03″E, 11nm, 2 hours

to Cala Xarraca, Ibiza, 39° 06′ 2″N 01° 29′ 51″E, 51nm, 9 hours

to San Antonio, 38° 58′ 5″N 01° 17′ 9″E, 15nm, 3 hours

to Platja de les Illetes, 38° 44′ 1″N 01° 25′ 9″E, 30nm, 7 hours

to Cala Soana, Formentera, 38° 41′ 8″N 01° 23′ 3″E, 5nm, 1 hour

to Porroig, Ibiza, 38° 52′ 1″N 01° 18′ 3″E, 12nm, 4 hours

We were really sad to say goodbye to Babs and Rene. In an ordinary season we would undoubtedly have continued sailing with them to Menorca and perhaps further before turning around for winter. Our parting was, however, made much easier by their instant replacements. We swapped our favourite boat dog for our favourite boat kid, Jasper!

Our longest serving readers may remember our week Off Course in Turkey and our adventures with one year old Jasper and his Mum and Dad, Oda and Onno. Our paths had crossed again briefly when he was two and they spent winter just along the Sicilian coast from us in Ragusa. We were delighted to be in their company again. Having a kid around adds a completely different dimension to our daily life.

And boy, has he grown! But just about small enough still to be thrown around.

From our anchorage at Palmanova on Mallorca we identified a good window for sailing back to Ibiza where we planned to hang out some more before continuing west, us to Gibraltar, the Off Course crew towards Portugal and ultimately the Caribbean. In preparation we sailed round to Santa Ponsa again ready for the passage, taking in Mallorca’s spectacular landscape one last time (or who knows, maybe we’ll be back again sooner than we think!)

The next morning, our competitive streak got the better of us again as we set off and sped passed Off Course. Jasper didn’t seem to mind, giving us a cheery wave as we went by!

Soon, with perfect conditions, we put up the cruising chute and sailed on it the rest of the way – a perfect day at sea. We’re getting much braver at using it and in less of a tangle setting it up!

Back in Cala Xarraca on Ibiza we had the opportunity to see it through new, three year old eyes. We spent time on the pebbly beach (perfect for building houses with) and clambering over the rocks to get back in the dinghy for a high speed ride to a cave to see what we could find in its crystal clear water. It has amazed us how confident Jasper is in the water and he fast became my little swimming buddy.

With some northerly winds forecast we headed back to San Antonio. As an anchorage, it’s certainly not the prettiest. It shouldn’t work but it does. It’s got everything we need: it’s sheltered and secure; the marina allows for service stops for water and diesel; there’s easy access to shops, chandleries, bins (the grown ups’ essentials) and playparks and beaches (Jasper’s essentials); and it has simply the best sunset. People come from all over the world to see its sunset. I even live streamed it one night during my weekly zoom call with Sarah and Phil! The sunrise isn’t bad either.

As well as the nightly sunset entertainment we had some high drama when the hillside behind the town went up in flames. All afternoon and evening, and most of the next day too, two water planes and two helicopters went round and round dropping water on the fire. The planes swooped right down in the bay to collect water, sometimes very close to us, and flew back up. Although some hotels were evacuated there was no damage to buildings, just a great big scar left on the hill. We spent a couple of months dodging bush fires on our trip to Australia and started to wonder if they were following us around.

Sitting in San Antonio we all started to get a bit jumpy about the increasing coronavirus infection rate. Well, the adults at least. Oh to be 3 1/2 and blissfully unaware of world events! “Running from the virus is like running from the bush fires” said Stefan and he wasn’t wrong. With all the unpredictability of the virus it was impossible to really know what to do for the best or which way to turn to keep out of harm’s way. Our biggest fear was that a local lockdown anywhere along our way to Gibraltar could impede us from getting there and we definitely didn’t want to get stuck in the Balearics with its sky high marina prices. It had become noticeably quieter on the streets of San Antonio even in the two weeks since we had been there last. So we decided that it was probably most sensible to get moving west just in case. Heading back to Almerimar meant that we would only be a 24 hour sail from Gibraltar.

But before we left Oda needed to see Formentera so we sailed back round the west coast of Ibiza and back to the big sand island.

You will be wondering what happened to the dinghy. Well, several more repairs along the way didn’t fix the leak and somewhere around San Antonio, when we hopefully put the big outboard on again, water just gushed in worse than ever. One final, determined application of glue finally seemed to fix it and for the first time since our return to the boat the dinghy stayed dry!

This gave us the chance to take one last, long dinghy trip from our anchorage to Formentera’s port of Savina. On our way we visited the fishermen’s huts along the shore and found others enjoying the sunrise on horseback.

Inside the port we found the cause of all the wash that churns up the waters of the anchorage all day – the fast ferries that even with far reduced tourist numbers seem to still run constantly between Formentera and Ibiza. We decided to move round to Cala Soana to escape another day of them.

Back in Cala Soana we found the familiar crystal clear water and strange long nosed fish. It was sad that our anchoring adventures were having to come to an end but we all knew it was the most sensible thing to do. This could be our last opportunity to swim from the boat so we made the most of it.

Just before sunset Off Course joined us in the anchorage. Oda had her little helper on the bow to set the anchor. There we enjoyed our last Balearic sunset and a still calm night.

We had been so very lucky with the weather during our time at anchor but the forecast showed that this was coming to an end. A huge weather system out of the Gulf of Leon was on its way. It was due to hit Menorca and Mallorca hard but even in Formentera and Ibiza winds of 35 knots or more were forecast with accompanying thunderstorms. Formentera was going to offer no protection from the northerly winds so we decided to move back up to the southern Ibizan coast which offered great protection. The back of that weather system also offered a great opportunity to be blown all the way back to Almerimar so we decided to take it.

First we had to sit out the storm. We found the promised protection under the high cliffs in Porroig and even managed to get on a buoy (even better the man never returned to take his money so it was free!) We sat and waited all day for the weather but felt barely a breath of wind. There was nothing to do but look out at the fishermen’s huts hidden in the rocks. Only in the evening did the weather arrive. The lovely refreshing rain we didn’t mind at all. The nearby lightening was not so welcome but kept its distance and it was all over to ensure that we could sleep soundly ready to start our long passage back to Almerimar in the morning…

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