We will really miss the food and the people of Italy. We struggled a bit with the language, but probably because we never put the effort into learning it like we did learning Spanish. I possibly know (or knew) more Japanese than Italian, which is sad, because I am half Italian! I have found, though, to get along in any country, if you can learn maybe, 20 verbs and 100 nouns, along with some common phrases, you will get along just fine. We have also found that in most countries, many people know at least a little bit of English. Japan was the most difficult because it is not a Latin based language, so, for instance, there is no direct translation to, say, "nice to meet you". The closest you can come is a phrase that means something like "I beg you for your kindness". It may be difficult for us to imagine saying that, but that's how it is.
So although we will miss Italy, we were excited about our cruise to Menorca, which is the eastern most of the Spanish Balearic Islands.
Our course from Cagliari, Sardinia to Mahon, Menorca.
The trip from Sardinia to Menorca was to be 250 miles, or about 31 hours of cruising. We decided (as we always do on a trip of this distance) to leave at first light, which would give us a theoretical arrival time in Menorca of 1 pm the following day. You might wonder why we would leave so early being that sunset was not until after 9pm on the day of our arrival. Here is why. Although we are diligent about mechanical maintenance, things can always go wrong and if it does, for some reason it never happens near shore or during the day and since there are no "real" mechanics at sea, Seabird is stuck with me and Carol to fix things. It takes me a lot longer to fix something than it does a professional mechanic and to make matters worse, if it's rough out, you need to hang on with one hand sometimes and wield the wrench in the other. One time we were 50 miles off the coast of Nicaragua when our stabilizers failed. At the time, we were in 8 foot beam seas and it was midnight. The problem turned out to be a failed cooling pump which was located 10 inches underneath our hot exhaust pipe in a not so accessible place. It took 3 hours to fix it in rough seas. On this trip to Menorca, if for some mechanical reason we had to slow down 2 or 3 knots it would have delayed our arrival time by many hours, possibly putting our arrival time after dark. We have arrived in plenty of strange harbors in the dark, but it can get confusing, especially if you are tired. For that reason, we like to leave as early as possible to arrive as early as possible in daylight.
Unlike the last trip, this one was gorgeous. The first day we had 15 hours of daylight. We saw lots of Dolphins and a few Swordfish. I wish we were the fishing type. We quit that a few years ago after going 12 straight years never catching a single fish other than Carol's "Lunch Dolphin" (a tiny fish) 10 years ago. We also saw some large Sea Turtles, which I think are unusual in the Med.
On this trip, both of us were able to get some rest while underway. We probably got 4-5 hours of sleep each, which makes a huge difference in how alert you feel in the morning. By 8 am and a few cups of hot coffee later, we were starting to get excited about our arrival into Spain. By 9:30 am we could see the outline of Menorca on the horizon.
I think I had mentioned before how we depend on the highly accurate digital charts we use, which are connected to our GPS. Normally, they are accurate to within a few feet and you could depend on them without reservation when entering a harbor in low visibility conditions or at night.
Because anything electronic is subject to failure, we absolutely NEVER depend on a single source. Coming into Mahon, we discovered that, although visibly, we were in the center of the channel, our navigation system charting software showed us actually crossing over land on the left side of the harbor. Of course visually, I knew we were in safe water, but if we had limited visibility, I always have my radar on, which also has a separate GPS chart plotter on it, which in this case, was very accurate.
I also have a third electronic chart system on my iPad, completely
independent of the boat's two GPS systems if I needed it.
Better safe than sorry!
Our primary chart plotter started going haywire after this was
taken and we turned on our secondary one for assurance.
Mahon, Menorca has one of the largest natural harbors in the world at 3.1 miles long and up to 3000 feet wide. The inlet itself is narrow, affording great protection for moored vessels and yachts in bad weather. Mahon itself has a population of about 30,000 people.
The Marina was a (ugh!) Med Moor situation but I have come to accept that. The efficient marina staff waved us over to back in between two multimillion dollar 100 foot custom racing sailboats with a minimum of 8 crew on each. WE knew we were fine but I gathered from the looks on the faces of the crew that they could see that the beast was bearing down on them and it was about to turn ugly. There was some current in there and I probably came a LITTLE closer to the boat on the starboard side than I would have liked (that's what fenders are for). In the end, there was little drama coming in and soon enough we were tied up and plugged in.
Fortunately we were there early enough to climb the hill into town and find a Vodaphone store for telephone and Internet SIM cards. We use quite a bit of data and Spain does what they can to thwart that. The most you can get is 1.6 GB and that has to last you 30 days. I asked if I could buy more for the card and they said no. I then said " can I buy more SIM cards?". They said "Si, seor". So, you can buy 100 1.6 GB cards if you want. I wish they would just give me 30 GB on one and be done with it!
An hour later we were in Internet heaven.
We really dont look squeezed in here but the looks on the faces of the crew on either
side of us gave the impression of impending doom. Maybe it was because they saw only
two of us on board. In Europe, most boats our size would have a captain and one or two
crew aside from the owners on board.
I haven't really spoken Spanish in almost 7 years. When we were in Panama, Carol and I went to school for a week to learn it and we could communicate fairly well. Since then, I forgot most of it but it is amazing how fast it comes back. A word here, a phrase there. Within a day or two, we were actually doing ok. The little translator App that we have on our smartphones really helps. One App, called "Say Hi" allows you to speak English to it and it immediately starts speaking in Spanish and vice versa. You can actually hold a conversation with someone in any number of languages. I prefer not to use it here because I need to practice the language, but it is there if I need it.
The main town of Mahon is up on a hill above the water and marina. It is an old Spanish town very similar to what you would find in Italy, with narrow streets and a town square complete with a cathedral. We see a lot of towns raised up in Europe. I suspect it had something to do with defending the village from attack back then.
A beautiful picture of the town (We didn't take it!)
Mahon does not really sound Spanish because its roots are elsewhere. During the 1700's it was first taken over by the British, then by the French, then the British again! Finally, in the early 1800's, the Brits gave it back to Spain, who have had claim to it ever since.
One of the things Carol and I were very interested in doing was sampling the food here, so after Bill and Janet arrived on their boat Airstream, we headed out for Tapas and San Gria. We were hoping to find an authentic Spanish restaurant and we found it in Sa Gavina II Port. They had really great Tapas of Calamari, Chorizo Sausage, Garlic Shrimp, tomato bread and of course, freshly made Sangria. The food was so good that we just had to overlook the fact that the owner of the restaurant was actually IRISH, and a delightful person at that!
We also seem to put a lot of miles on by foot in these places. Much more than when we are at home in Florida. We both used to have these tracking devices called Fitbit, which wraps around your wrist like a watch and tracks the number of steps you take in a day. After having 3 that stopped working, we have given up on them and simply use our smartphone to track that stuff. We are both walking between 5 and 7 miles per day, believe it or not. In other words, if you look at Carol, you will believe it, but if you look at me, you might not!
We ended up staying 3 days in Mahon and loved it, but because we had reservations for the boat in Barcelona in less than a week, we decided it was time to move on.
Next up: Mahon to Cala Galdana and Cala de Sant Vicenc
A few more pics.....
An overhead of the harbor. Our marina is on the middle right of the photo.
Our marina from across the harbor
From up top overlooking the marina
Anyway, here we are again and it is Cheeseburger Sunday. After last week's
major disappointment, who can blame me for being wary of another claim of a
place to have the biggest, juiciest burger in town. I really did not even want to go.
To be honest, I had to be dragged kicking and screaming. I mean, who would have thought
that something like this even existed......