Winter in Menorca

In Menorca the winter is usually very mild… “usually” but not this year! We had a couple of weeks between December and January that the temperature dropped to 1-2 degrees celsius. In the morning was hard to go out of the duvet and the windows in the saloon where white of condensation with drops of water. We don’t have a proper heating system but I hope to have one for our next winter, so far I’m hugging a little electric fan heater we use in the saloon, together with a dehumidifier (humidity is worst than cold in a boat). Also the wind can be freezing cold here, but you need to wear clothes in layers, because when the sun is high in the sky you start peeling away your layers to feel the warm on your skin.

Because in Mahon the strong NW wind blows almost every 10 days (and the mooring lines in the front are not very long) we decided to stay far away from the concrete pontoon, we don’t have a nice gangway, neither it would be possible to use one in 2.5 meters of distance, so we have the dinghy attached at the boat cleat and the pontoon for going in and out from the boat and when it’s raining our dinghy become a swimming pool. Yes, the winter on a boat is a lot of fun!

However Menorca is spectacular also in the winter and if you hike around the hundreds possible tracks you definitely don’t feel the cold. René and Babs know almost all the camí in Menorca and every time we go for new rides, like the Cava Des Coloms or the Punta Nati Light house, and many other.

Also Giuseppe and Patrizia are back on their catamaran and we often meet them. They introduce us to Luisa and Luca that have a gorgeous traditional Casa de Campo close to Mahon with a lot of fruits trees. Luca convince Giuseppe and Carmine to go for bike tours around Menorca… just 40km offroad with 656m of ascend … they come back dirty and exhausted.

Luisa invites Patrizia and me to join the yoga lessons with Silvia and I also meet Paola, when the weather is fine we do it in the garden of Luisa’s house. We have great time and nice new friends, and even if the covid situation creates many restrictions hiking or having lunch in a table outside (only day time) is still possible and safe and we enjoy all this a lot!!!

In Mahon you can buy very fresh and tasty fish, I love to try everything is local and generally in Spain, and here even more, there is an amazing choice of fish and the ladies at the counter can tell you the best way of cooking it while they clean it for you! I love the fish market!!!

We also met Brett (from NZ) and Neus (from Mahon) that live on their wooden gulet Black Marlin. They have covered the boat to do their winter boat work. Once we decide to meet on our cockpit for a light lunch and to watch the Prada America’s Cup… we ended up chatting and laughing till 7pm! The Prada team is amazing!!!

Finally the weather is warmer and outdoor bars are available again! even if the winds often blows very strong. One morning we record 67knots of wind and the boat shiver frenetically for 10 minutes. The bay of Mahon is 5km deep and this strong wind creates waves inside the port but they are used to it and all the boat are properly tided so everything is fine.

During the time in Marina is easy to spend time on fun projects and activity like painting my red pants (there was a dark sika stain) or sewing a shoes holder… But I also dusted off my Segni di Mare jewellery box and started designing jewelry again, and I love it! It’s a soft start and I need also to polish the website. Strange because on a nomad life on a sailing boat it’s very rare to wear jewelry but for me the fun is to design them. I might start selling them again, not as a business but for passion, to enjoy when someone choose one of my piece and to save some money for new designs.

Carmine has finally bought a wise. It looks an easy decision but actually involved to dismantle the skipper toilet and build a workshop for the wise. Now we have more tools and a luxury small workshop with a solid bench. Carmine is very proud of the new construction, I only helped to make the drawer.

We plan to stay in Mahon till March, but in early Feb and a good weather window opens up to sail East with light winds and almost no waves. It’s a hard decision to leave, we have nice friends and we are very confy here, but it’s too good to let it go. This means we have to finish all the boat work needed to sail again, and in few days we re-install the autopilot that Carmine was servicing, fix a leak from a cleat, tidy up all the things that are around when you are in the quite water of the marina and get ready to go. Also the temperature is good so no excuse, we leave the marina for a night at Es Grau anchorage ready to sail at 5am the following morning toward Stintino in Sardinia.

Ciao Menorca, apparently if it is so hard to leave is because you have been very well in that place and you are sad to move on. But new to us places are on our plan and we also want to go to visit are relatives in Naples so we are also excited to move on and go sailing again!

Merry Christmas

this last month has just flown away here in Menorca and now it’s already Christmas!!!

The first days after docking we spent time walking around the old city center and exploring the industrial area where are the main ship chandler and hardware stores. As usual when we stop for more than few days, we open our long list of jobs to do. This time Carmine has “treello-ed” the list in: must do, good to do and to do eventually… Still a lot to do, but the list looks nicer like that.

It’s winter but the days are so beautiful and sunny that after few days of dirty hands working hard onboard we decide to explore the island and enjoy some walks. Menorca is really incredible, has a gentle landscape with well preserved green parks and it’s good for walks, biking, swimming, running or just sitting to meditate in front of the little calas and blue sea!

We meet again with René and Babs from Momentum and walk together for different Camí (The Camí de Cavalls is an ancient path of 186 km that encircles the island of Menorca).

Also Maó (Catalan version of Mahon) is rich of surprises, so many little roads and cafe’ and wine bars… it’s definitely a bit expensive and we don’t want to seat indoor, but we cannot stop enjoying all of this. The cafes on the port side have tables just few meters from the water edge, while the one in the historical city, up the hill, have a more artisanal feeling but wherever we go the food is very good.

I’m definitely falling in love with Menorca, what I love the most is the rocky coastline with dense vegetation and many many hidden little calas with sandy beach that make the water of brilliant light blue color merging into green along the rocks.

Well I know it’s Christmas and I can see the decorations, the small market, the santa claus motorbikers… but it is a such unusual time that we don’t really feel it. However it’s a good excuse to keep in touch with many friends around the world and share good laughs.

Happy festive season to all!!!

The Balearic Islands

These Islands are the last part of Spain we visit before crossing to Sardinia and then to Sicily for the winter, so we start planning the route and searching info about the quarantine we need to do once we reach the Italian coast. But when I call to confirm Licata marina in Sicily they replies saying that now are fully booked already and there is no space for Eios!!! So, where are we going?

Ibiza is the first island on our route, the atmosphere is so nice and we are a bit tired of sailing almost every day … so why don’t we stop and spend the next three-four months here in the Balearic Islands? Small bays, transparent turquoise water and warm sunsets starts to tickling our decisions. We can go to Sardinia later in February and hop from one place to another in south of Italy, like the Pontine Islands, the Eolie and then Sicily… Ok, but we need a spot in a marina for the coolest part of the winter somewhere here in the Balearics. I start sending requests… and after around 20-30 emails to different marinas, it’s clear that these islands are luxury holiday choice for yachts so only few marinas are available at reasonable prices. Also because we are “large” the research is narrowed even more. Finally we find in Port Mahon in Menorca a good option from mid-November to January (it’s early October now).

Suddenly it’s like the summer is back for us!!! No more rushing, instead we now have time to enjoy the amazing water and suggestive bays and calette all around these islands!!!

Swimming, kayak, paddle board… and small restaurant everywhere for outdoor beers and occasionally meals. The busy season is now over so even the cutest anchorages like Cala Bassa in Ibiza are only for us and few other liveaboard cruisers.

The west part of Ibiza is rocky and spectacular, often there are hiking tracks that run along the cost, perfect to stretch our legs.

Then we visit Formentera with it’s long stretches of white beach backed by dunes and pine trees. Back to Ibiza on the south west coast reach of small calette that offer good protection from north – north west winds like Salt De S’Ase, Cala Llonga, Cala De Ses Ortigues. Often we anchor in 3-5 meters of water where the bottom of the sea seams so close and the water is still warm for swimming.

After Ibiza there is a short cross to Maiorca and we are aiming to visit Cabrera Island that is a National Park and very nice to visit by sea, but the wind was not the right one and last minute we decide to head toward the north coast on Maiorca and we stop in Port de Soller. We discover this beautiful protected bay in front of the old village of Soller. It’s not very busy but there are already few boats at the anchor so we decide to take a spot in the shallow waters close to the beach and enjoy a dinner on the beach at candle light atmosphere.

The north east coast of Majorca is made of very high cliffs and not many anchorages, but it’s a great coast for sailing. Last spot in Majorca is Cala De S’Anguila with a beautiful beach and transparent water.

After a rolling night we leave early to sail to Menorca with a wind forecast of 15kn gusting 25kn… Well, I cannot tell you why with short and crashing waves from the side I don’t suffer seasickness, but while staying at the helm (autopilot not working properly) I feel euphoric of the sailing conditions enjoy everything like the up and surf on the waves, the sun and the gashing of the water on the boat. Eidos is sailing at up to 10kn with true wind at 25-30kn from 120 degree…

We arrive in Port Mahon (or port of Maó) for a short visit to three marinas that are in this amazing long natural harbour. It is over six kilometres long, which explains why it has been used as a port since the 3rd century BC. It has two island with old military construction used to protect the city from invasions.

Anchored in Cala Teulera (Port Mahon)

Few miles north of Mahon there is one of our favourite spot in Menorca (so far): Es Grau. It’s a small charming fisherman village with white houses on a large sandy bay protected by dunes and a small island in front. It belongs to the Natural Park of S’Albufera de Es Grau.

One morning we hear a small catamaran anchoring close to us in front of Es Grau and we hear them speaking Italian. On our way to the beach we pass to say hi and we arrange for a late afternoon beer on the deck. After few minutes passing introducing ourselves we recognise them as the couple with a little girl that inspired us in the 2001 when they left Italy to sail around the world!!! At that time a common friend introduced us to them just few days before their departure, we actually met only once but it was enough to sparkle in us the plan that made us sail from Italy only 6 months after. Patrizia e Giuseppe had no idea we followed the same dream and now we are sitting on their cat telling and laughing at how both their and our choices, changed our life. They will spend the winter in Mahon as well, so more evening to come!

Before going in the marina for two-three months we want to enjoy the sea as much as possible so we also sail to Fornells and Cala Arenal d’en Castell for more swimming, kayaking, paddle board and few beers!!!

Now we are settle in MoLlevante marina in Mahon, ready for routine maintenance… less ready for the cold winter that we hope to be mild!!!

South of Spain

From Gibraltar and before Ibiza there are not many full weather safe anchorages spots, so we need to constantly look at the weather forecast and make plan day by day trying to sail around 50-90 nmiles a day.

Even if we plan to sail as much as possible we have nice night anchorages on the cost close to Malaga, Herradura, Jan José, Cartagena, … but never going ashore. We decide to stop only in Torreveja marina for 4 nights for provisioning and to wait a strong Nord wind to pass.

Torreveja marina

In this resting time I decide to complete a long due maintenance work of the cockpit table that was rotten in some parts and needed to be cleaned and repaired with some wood fillers and than repainted. Occasionally I like to paint with acrylics and watercolors and my recurrent subjects are mermaids, manta rays, octopus and sea waves so I made few drafts for the table but nothing seemed appropriate to me. Once I even tried to let the ocean paint on the table, pouring semiliquid acrylic on the table and left it wondering around with the movements of the waves… but still very untenable!!! Then while Carmine was enjoying coffee on the marina terrazzo I took out my colours and … I just left it goes without thinking too much… then I started having fun and I got lost for few minutes… When I stopped and had a look at it is was done! And Carmine liked it!!!

Leaving the marina we decide to do the autopilot calibration because the sea was really calm, but something was wrong… after few miles the autopilot gives errors… and we start hand steering but Carmine feels something is not working properly. We find that the line that connect the two rudders is broken and one rudder is going on his own way. We can still control the catamaran, but only when it is in movement… not ideal. We look on the map and find that along the cost there is a ship chandlery where we can find a new dyneema line. Then we stop in a night safe anchorage and Carmine cut and splice the new line.

In September there are amazing play of colors in the sky and we cannot get tired of being surprised every time!!!

Back on track and ready to cross to Ibiza!!!

Gibraltar

We are in an emotional mood reaching Gibraltar, it’s just another stopover but we look around trying to recognize something around us.

Are we really sailing into the Med? Are we sure it is what we aimed to do? A mix of feelings of excitement, doubts and thoughts about this crazy last 2 years that passed without being able to make a plan for more than a month!!! I feel more nomad than ever, maybe only because we don’t know where we will be in a year from now…

But where are the Pillars of Hercules? Eidos sails at 6 knots with tide in favor here in the Strait of Gibraltar against a wind of 30 knots, I look at Morocco coastline on my right side (the coast between Tanger and Ceuta) and to Spain on my left side, but no sight of the Pillars! Yet I’m as excited as I was then. After almost twenty years close to the oceans, entering the Med now excites me and makes me think of October 2002 when, sailing in the opposite direction in this strait, I looked curiously at the immense ocean in front of me. So vast and with majestic waves that traveled for thousands of miles, the ocean scared me and I felt very small. Now I already miss those high and gentle ocean waves and I’m looking for the restlessness Mediterranean winds.

Sailing through the Spanish and Portuguese coast

Since the short stop in Bilbao we have decided to head towards Sicily for the winter. Sicily is probably our favorite region in Italy, warm, beautiful coastline and villages, amazing colors… There we aspect to find a nice cruising community that spend the winter in a reasonable expensive marina on their way to Greece and Turkey (as we are).

Puerto De Luanco

The idea is also that from Sicily we could visit our family in Italy without the need of flying that we believe is quite risky in this pandemic situation. Looking at the calendar we need to sail quite fast to make the 2200 nautical miles we have in front of us to reach Sicily. In short we will be sailing roughly every other day and stopping longer only when the weather requires that. We also would like to avoid night coastal crossing because of so many fishing buoys and small fisherman boats without AIS…

In the first 20 days of August we have done the north Spain coast. La Galicia has a lot of hidden treasures in its coast, and the Rias Baixas are great sailing spots. Small villages in deep inlets and rivers that you can explore with the dinghy make this area quite unique!

Finally we reach Portugal!!! First stop is Duoro estuary that is the best spot where to stop with a boat to visit Porto.

Duoro Estuary

Here the smell of porto liquor and the typical river boats are everywhere. We walk few hours around the city and the river side, it’s suggestive and warm welcoming. We eat fried fish in small restaurants with table on the street and taste the local wine.

In Duoro marina we meet Annelies and Jan on their catamaran Phoenix from the Netherlands. It has been a very pleasant encounter since the first aperitivo!!! We have been laughing a lot and sharing many experiences, Carmine cooks his melanzane pasta dish for them and Annelies cooks a delicious mushroom risotto for us!!! Jan and myself were drinking!!! It’s amazing how nice is the time spent with people when you can express yourself freely and they might have different opinions… but we all still laugh, argue and talk a lot enjoying the differences!

Very hard to find such a mix and become so open with people that you have just met! That’s one of beauty of the sailing community, the first approach is quite easy and when you feel a connection, it’s so enriching sharing experiences. Generally all the cruisers are quite open, but this year is definitely the time we met more Dutch sailors than ever!!!

After Porto we sail along the coast with short breaks in Cabo Carvoeiro, Cascais and Sesimbra.

Sines has been another nice stop both at the anchor and in the marina. Sines marina is very friendly and facilitated the arrival of a brand new battery bank that Carmine ordered online. We built two mini trolley (very much like 2 small skateboards) and in few hours we managed to unload the old batteries with the main halyard line on the marina pontoon, clean and reorganize the space, load the new ones and reconnect everything!!! That was a great team work, but we were so concentrated that I forgot to take a picture! Anyway, after long planning we did it and now it’s working perfectly.

Portimao is a place that I have heard a lot talking about, but it didn’t really impressed us much. There are a lot of cruisers stopping here as it is protected and offer various facilities, but it’s not a spot where you want to stay long unless you need to make maintenance…

anchorage in Portimao

Culatra is indeed a charming place!!! Carmine was dreaming about this place for long, especially in the dark and cold winter days!!! It’s an Island very close to the coast creating a safe and quite anchorage area. On the island there are two small fisherman villages with very few houses and cafés but there are almost not paved road, so no car! Only few off road small truck. Most of the land is a reserve and the dunes before the external sandy coast are spectacular.

One of the cruiser at the anchor around us suggested to visit the Saturday market on Olhao that is a on the main coast in front of Culatra, So I went with a small ferry to do some provisioning. I was really impressed by the fish market, for the variety, the freshness and the quantity of fish!  I would have bought a lot more if not for the fact that it’s only two of us!!! Anyway I filled the freezer as well!!!

Fish market in Olhao

A stop over for the night in Cadiz, then Tarifa and ready to sail through the strait of Gibraltar.

Visit to Bilbao

Getxo is the best place to stay when you arrive by sea and want to visit to Bilbao. We stop at the Real Club Maritimo del Abra, a small marina very welcoming and not expensive, full of young kids going out with the sail school every day.

After two weeks with friends on board it takes a bit of time to slow down from a festive holiday atmosphere to our normal nomad life. Also we need to clean, make some laundry and provisioning, but more importantly we need to fix our dinghy engine that has been a bit naughty recently, often leaving us rowing or with the very small electric outboard engine that we have as spare for emergency. We also need to buy something at the shipchandler and other stuff so we decide to take out the bikes and visit also the city around us.

To visit Bilbao we decide to take the train in an off-peack time and then walk around the city center and visit the Guggenheim Museum of Bilbao, that we like a lot.

At the end of our visit we meet Antonello and two other friends… of course we planned it chatting on What’sapp, but still is so strange to meet a close Italian friend in Bilbao after few years we haven’t see each other.

With all the things to do when we stop in a marina plus this relaxed mood makes us decide to extend our stop in Getxo for few more days, we also we need to start planning the route for the next months so we need time to think and re-think!!!

Time to move on…

Leaving Belgium to Spain

On June 15, Belgium finally reopens its borders and we, with the suitcases already packed a month before, move on Eidos at Aqualift shipyard in Nieuwpoort (Belgium). We have a very long list of jobs to do on Eidos and it requires time to dedicate to her, but now it’s late and there isn’t enough time. We choose only the most relevant things and then we’ll see. Carmine has an app to plan what to do everyday in the 10-12 hours of daily work, but he has to adapt to the rainy days that are quite frequent in Belgium. He still manages to complete the antifouling including a small part using Copper-Cote which we will test next year, repair the deck, mount the rudders, install 11 new seacocks, fix the furler, service engines, etc.

We are having two friends coming on the 8th of July, but luckily they are late for work reasons and we have just two more days to launch the boat in the water and clean up the mess after the work done. As usual, at the end, we are quite tired but very happy to leave!

We say goodbye to Belgium on the 11th of July heading south! For our friends Jeanne and Avi this will be their first night sailing, but they are excited and immediately adapt very well to the rhythms of waves and the watch shifts. They even have to fill in the logs (nobody loves them !!!). The navigation proceeds quietly with little wind that some times forces us to motor-sail, but that’s okay, we enjoy the ocean and relax with delicious lunches and chat.

Finally in the south of France the temperature improves and we leave the jackets for t-shirts and shorts !!! We also make a stop at Belle-Ile where Jeanne has organized to meet a colleague with whom we agree for an after dinner on the beach! During the day the beach is protected and they won’t let us approach it with the dinghy, but after 7pm it’s free so Carmine, Jeanne and Avi spend a nice evening drinking and chatting, here there is light until 11pm !!!

Around midnight we decide for an early wake up the following morning to sail to San Sebastian in Spain, around 30 hrs to get there and a nice wind at 110 degrees. Avi and Jeanne really enjoy the fast sailing and the hundreds of dolphins around the boat. I’m happy they feel good!!! We finally catch a bonito and Avi has his adrenaline dose!!!

Jeanne is a “strong” and determined woman and encourages Carmine to go for evening runs in the places where we stop. Avi and I are more involved in fishing and drawing, he is an artist and I would like to draw the top of the cockpit table, but we will end up not finding the time for it. There are funnier things to do, like breaking the Negroni record… After 4 Negroni each Avi sings a song in hebrew and I dance around the boat for an hour!!!

In San Sebastian our friend’s daughter and her boy friend (Judith and Tomer) join us for a couple of days then they depart all together from Puerto de Getaria to go back to the Netherlands. We had a very good time together and we taught them a few Italian words: Capatosta, Gnocchi and Negroni (of course)!!!

To the European Continent

The sea water is what surprise me the most in Madeira. The high cliffs go down in a crystalline deep blue sea and few emerged rocks create incredibles spots. But also deep green forest and suddenly waterfalls and 360 panoramic points of view… make this small Island a hiking treasure.

We spent only one month and preferred to stay in the comfort of the marina exploring the island by land also because we had to settle few documents. In few days we decided to change our plan and to sail to north Europe,  instead of going to the med, to haul out Eidos in Belgium and make some routine maintenance work while spending some time with our son Milo that is studying in Delft (Netherlands).

Missy and Steven (from US but travelling in Europe) join us for the 20 days trip from Madeira to Nieuwpoort. We left Madeira for a night in Porto Santo and then Spain.

It has been a quite fast move and a lot of motoring but with nice stops in Spain and France. We have crossed the ship lane in the night approaching the Spanish coast and being the first time for us it has been quite impressive, with so many huge ships going regularly at 20-30 knots of speed!

Finally we arrive in the fishing village of Malpica where we stop for a well-deserved cold beer and nice dinner. In Malpica there was a kind of holiday or festival as we found a street market and an improvised stage for a concert in a boat yard.

The day after on our way to Viviero, we hear a strange noise and then the boat start going in circle… we had broken the line that connect the 2 rudders and the boat was sailing without use of the rudders! Likely the sea was quiet and no wind so we managed to rearrange the line having the control of one rudder only, but enough to sail to an open anchorage. The day after we fixed the line and ready to continue!

Camaret-sur-mar has also been a beautiful stop. Walking in this small French village full of art and cozy café.

Eidos is quite large (9.10m) and it’s not easy to find a boat yard able to take us out of the water and definitely we have quite an experience in Nieuwpoort where Acqualift carried us with a truck and a big hydraulic trailer that was holding Eidos from the center underneath!

From Canary Islands to Madeira

Gaby arrives on the 13th of June (just the day before departure) and we organize a nice dinner in a small place in Arrecife with Martin and Debby from Locomocean (they will sail to Caraibi).

Arrecife in the departing morning, Locomocean is the sailing boat on the right.

Gaby looks tired and she has difficulties to switch off from the projects she is doing in Naples, also the first day of sailing is uncomfortable but then the atmosphere is so far away from the city chaos and the phone is not covered anymore so she start relaxing.

For us it has been a long stay in Canaries Islands and we loved them very much, it’s Carmine favorite place on Earth!!! I love Gomera, Carmine loves Las Palmas, we both enjoyed a lot Lanzarote, we just need to choose!

At 7:45am we pull up the anchor from Arrecife old port and sail to La Graziosa for a night stop, in the morning we set sail to Madeira, around 260 miles.

It is a three days-two nights nice passage with a beautiful full moon. Gaby does the day shifts and the sailing is very smooth. We pass close to Ilhas Desertas and we can see Madeira in the distance.

Unfortunately we have an old map of the marina Quinta de Lorde and entering we aspect to see the visitor pontoon on our right side, but it is not there, and with strong wind gusts me and Carmine look at each other thinking “… and now?” Eidos is quite large and maneuvering her in this small marina, with strong winds, is not something we like… Likely we see a small empty pontoon (it was under maintenance) and we decide to go upwind and let the wind push us against it… Phewwww!!! That was a quick decision and with the help of a couple of other sailors that took our lines from shore, it was done in very few minutes! The time I needed to slow done my heart bit was longer!!!

The rest of the month we spent in Madeira is quite, the marina is small but very well organized and the sea water (also in the marina) is absolutely transparent!!! There is also a pool by the sea from the hotel Quinta de Lorde that we can use.

We use buses to go to Funchal and rent a car to explore rest of the Island. Madeira is very green with high mountains in the middle, a small village with a lot of natural and manmade sea water pools called Porto Moniz, a fisherman village with so many little restaurant to try called Camara de Lobos.  There are also a lot of track for hiking in the mountains and walks on the edge of the sea cliffs…

While Eidos is safe in the marina, I take my time to fly to Italy to visit my parents and later on Carmine goes few days to Delft to visit Milo. That is when we decided to change our plans and sail to North Europe instead of the warmer Med!!!