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Exitus Mediteraneus

Dear Notables,

When I last wrote, when had turned tail back to Bonifacio, in Southeastern Corsica, after getting beat up on our first attempt to make Menorca, the first island in the Balearic chain which lies off the east coast of Spain, and which was 240 miles to the southwest of where we were. We decided that evening that instead of going straight to Menorca, to go to Sardinia instead. Sardinia (where they invented Sardines) is another large island about 40 miles south of Corsica. By going there first and heading west around the coast we'd cut our passage to Menorca to 180 miles. So next morning at 10am, I checked the weather. It was supposed to be 10-15 knots out of the NW, which was perfect for going to Sardinia (which was to the SW). So we shoved off.

But the weather gods were unfriendly again. You know, when you take the sea for you mistress, you must do her bidding. Once we got out of Bonifacio, the winds shifted to the WSW, and picked up to 20-25 knots with an occasional gust to 30. Beating against the wind and waves again. This time we decided to just keep going; our change in plans imposed certain deadlines that we needed to meet, and so we had to push on. The wind pushed our course further south than planned, and we hit (not literally) the coast of Sardinia about 10 miles east of our target. So we tacked up the coast to the nearest marina. It was nice to get out of the seas after bashing all day. The marina was nice but not near any town or city. The fee was $8! Sure could tell we weren't in France anymore.

There was a cute pastel colored town built into the hillside, and another section on top of a hill surrounded by an ancient fortress wall, but it was a couple miles away so we decided to skip the tour. By the next morning, the winds had died down considerably, so we headed 15 miles west up the coast in nice calm seas for the next marina. It was in an ugly, industrialized city called Torres, but it was the last marina for 50 miles. Actually, the local folk were very friendly. Not being a touristy kind of place, I don't reckon there had been too many catamarans from Miami there before. So during the evening there was always a little crowd milling around the boat, smiling and pointing to our stern (where it says Miami, FL) and saying "Miami, USA long way."

We had dinner at a little Pizzeria. How could you go to Italy and not have pizza, right? The kids didn't complain. Having all those pizzerias around was actually a blessing when you have a couple finicky kids with you.


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Next morning we left at 0730 to make the 50 mile run to a marina on the west coast of Sardina, place called Alghero. We went out and had pizza again (we knew we weren't going to be in Italy for that long) and I was able to check the weather on the internet. It looked like it was going to be ok that evening and then get worse after that, so we decided to scoot that night. I went to the local marina capitanirie and told him we were going to leave, but he said we had to stay to check in with the authorities the next morning. I explained the weather situation, but he still balked. The $20 bill I gave him explained it much better and we pulled out and left Italy about midnight that night.

Couldn't call the winds to Menorca perfect, but after recent experiences I wasn't complaining. The winds were on our beam for the first part of the trip, then shifted in front of us, but just enough off that we were able to sail towards the destination, Port Mahon in Menorca. We arrived in the afternoon.

Port Mahon is a huge natural harbor, the best I had seen in Europe. It was a major naval base in its day, and there are still crumbling structures and fortifications. You could almost imagine the ship-of-the-lines standing at anchor. If you can imagine a modern cruise ship being a wooden battlewagon of old, that is. There is a cute little town built up into the hill overlooking the harbor, we enjoyed exploring it.

Had a little mishap coming in. As we approached the dock, I gave her a shot on the starboard side and nothing happened. No thrust. Damn prop fell off again! This time on the starboard side, before it had been the port. I think my good friends at Anchor Marine in Miami (the same ones who quoted $400 and then tried to bill $1200 for an oil change) did not replaced the props correctly when they were pulled for servicing before we left for this trip.

Well, we weren't too worried, we had a spare. Art hopped over the side the next morning, and decided he was going to tightening it on good an tight so it wouldn't come off again, and broke the retaining bolt that locks the prop onto the shaft. Uh oh. And naturally it broke right in the shaft where we couldn't remove it ourselves.

Well, this called for a change of plan, because now we needed to get the boat hauled out of the water. I called around and found that the only places with a lift big enough to haul our boat was in Palma in Mallorca, the largest island in the Balearics, about 50 miles to the southwest.

We left one calm morning, planning to go about 35 miles to an anchorage on the west side of Menorca before making the hop to Majorca. However, once we got out of the Mahon harbor the wind picked up to about 15 knots out of the SE. Beautifully warm sunny skies, perfect sailing weather, even without the prop. The wind was right on the beam and we were making 7.5-8 knots on the log so Art suggested we just head straight to Majorca so we skipped the rest of Menorca and sailed straight to Majorca. It was a great sail, perfect wind on the beam, we made 7 knots the whole day. We made it into Port Cristo, about halfway down the east side of Majorca, just as it was getting dark. The wind was blowing about 15 knots as we pulled into the narrow marina.

Typically in the Mediterranean, you don't have finger piers or slips. Instead you have a dock or wharf, and the boat go aft or fore in, and everyone ties up side by side. With the wind and only one engine its was very tricky!


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Our first day in Majorca was at a place called Port Cristo, pretty nondescript tourist town with lots of apartments and restaurants. Kiera, Eileen and I had chinese food. Kiera said it was the "dark heads" night out because the Brinks and Colette are all blondies. It was weird ordering chinese food in Spanish, but it was pretty good.

The next morning the phone worked (the Spanish cell system is a "maybe" kind of thing) band I was able to get the weather report: winds light but strengthening overnight. I wanted to get as close to Palma as possible so we took off first thing. The wind was back to its old trick of blowing right on the nose, but it was weak and didn't slow us down too much, which was good because with only one engine we have a hard time with a strong headwind. Later it shifted just enough we could put the sails up and make a little better time. I was hoping to make Palma (in the southern part of Majorca), and for a while the winds looked good. But just when it looked like we were making good time, the wind laughed in our face and spit in our eye, and died down and shifted right on our nose. We could not have made Palma before dark, so we pulled into a closer marina, "Port Rapita" which is about 20 miles east of Palma.

They should have called it Port "Nadita" because there was "nothing" there. One little resturant and a 7-11 type store and nothing else but rows of apartment blocks. I needed an internet to find a crew and make airplane reservation but the guy at the marina just laughed when I asked him if one was near. When I asked him were the nearest bus stop was he said 10 kilometers. On top of that they charged us the ridiculous fee of $45 a night, which did not include water, and we were stuck there for 4 days as a gale blew thru. And on top of that, one of my crowns popped off, requiring dental attention before making any crossing.

Finally we got a break in the weather. The yard in Palma was able to take us that afternoon, so we split Nadita and made it into Palma about noon. We had the boat hauled and put on the hard for the evening. We changed the zincs and transmission fluid and we all worked hard cleaning the bottom and slapped on a new coat of anti-fouling paint (at $105 a gallon). A mechanic removed the broken bolts and we put the new one on. This time Art drilled a hole in the prop retaining bolt and cone, and we locked in on with a cotter pin, which should finally cure the lost prop blues. I have a hard time believing they designed a prop that was not locked in with a cotter pin in the first place.

The next day, a Friday, we launched the boat around noon. Nice to have two motors again! The Palma marinas were all jammed full and had no room for us, they said. But we pulled into a vacant spot in one anyway and when I talked to the Capitanarie she said I could stay there a couple days. We always have better luck when we check in in person.

Now, my crownless tooth was really starting to ache. It hurt when I ate or drank anything hot or cold or if I breathed in too fast. I was convinced that the tooth had been decaying for months under the loose crown and I was in for some serious and painful dental work. I couldn't wait for Gibraltar. So I started calling dentists in the local yellow pages. Wasn't having much luck on a Friday afternoon, and we didn't want to stay until Monday. Finally I found a guy who said he would see me if I got there by 6pm. It was then 5:15 so Eileen and I ran for a taxi and made it to the place about 20 to 6. There was a young woman there who heard us talking, and said she was from Miami and visiting her Spanish boyfriend. Turned out he was sailing a catamaran across the Atlantic this winter as well, so we had a lot to talk about. They said good things about the dentist, which made me feel a little better.


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The dentist, who was an Iranian ex-patriot, checked me out, said there was no decay, and glued the old crown back on, for which he charged me $30. I was a happy woodchuck that day.

We hung out in Palma for a couple days. It has an magnificent gothic style cathedral and an old town section full of windy streets with bars and restaurants. I liked it. We had dinner out a couple nights and loaded up with groceries.

Just as we were leaving Palma, we heard a mayday call. Think about this next time you read a story or a lawsuit critical of our Coast Guard:

Boater (an English fellow): Mayday mayday, this is the Last Rites (or whatever it was) I don't have engine power and am 500 meters from the rocks off Port Langosta (or wherever it was).

[silence]

Boater: Mayday mayday, I don't have engine power and am 200 meters from the rocks off Port Langosta and drifting there fast, require urgent assistance!

[silence]

By this time I was getting worried for the guy because no one was answering. We couldn't reach him, but I started looking in the Mallorca phone book for the coast guard. There was nothing under "Coast Guard" or Rescue, and while I was looking ...

Palma Radio [in very broken English]. Dees ees Palma Radio. You must call Mallorca Search and Rescue.

Boater: Mallorca Search and Rescue, Mallorca Search and Rescue, this is Last Rites, we are 50 meters from the rocks at Port Langosta and require immediate assistance.

[Silence]

My heart was going out to the guy, a tradegy in the making.

Boater: Palma Radio! Palma Radio! I can't reach Mallorca Search and Resecue!

Palma Radio: Just a minute please.

[Silence]

Palma Radio: How many people do you have on board?

Boater: 4.

PR: 3?

Boater: 4.

PR: 5?

Boater: 4!!!!

[Silence]

Palma Radio: What color is your fuel?

Boater: What? Red!

PR: Red?

Boater Yes red!

[Silence]

Boater: Palma Radio, we have thrown an anchor out in front of the marina, and we are no longer in danger and do not require emergency assistance, someone from the marina is coming to help tow us in.

PR: What is your latitude and longitude?

Boater: I repeat we no longer need assistance.

PR: What is your latitude and longitude?

Boater: Just a minute ... uh, 38*55" N and 5*24" W. But we don't need help.

PR: 28* 35' N?

Boater: We don't need help!

PR: What is your latitude and longitude?

Boater: We are OK. We do not need assistance.

PR: I need your latitude and longitude ....

At this point Art and I decided if we ever got in trouble it would be better to just swim for it.

We left Palma and rounded the SW corner of the island and pulled into a cute little anchorage where we spent the night. It was about a 5 hour trip, sunny but not hot, just enough wind to sail but the seas were calm and it was a nice trip. There was some kind of regatta going on, a whole bunch of sailboats were out there. They were going about 3 knots but we cheated and had one motor on because I wanted to get into the anchorage before dark, so we kept passing the boats by, waving.

The next day we sailed to Ibiza, the last (and most westward) island in the Balearic chain. Again, amazingly (because the prevailing winds are to the east, which would have been against us), we had nice winds for sailing and made good time. We stayed 3 nights in a touristy place called St. Eulicia. With convenient stores and internet and we provisioned and made all our airline reservations and started looking for crew for the Atlantic crossing.


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After Ibiza we sailed down to Formentera, an island just to the south of Ibiza. The island was obviously tourist oriented, and this being the off season, it was dead and half the places closed down. We found an open restaurant and had dinner out to celebrate Art's birthday, on Halloween. ack at the boat, we didn't have costumes for Halloween, but Tracie hid little sacks of candy all around the boat and played hotter/colder while the kids searched. They didn't seem to mind the trick or treating too much since they loaded up on candy.

We had another good sail on the 60 mile passage from Formentera to mainland Spain. Our planned landfall is Javea, the town where I lived with my family in 1974, and we were looking forward to visit it. The marina at Javea was filled up so we anchored off the beach and dinghied in.

Javea had changed a lotp9p in the last 25 years, of course, but a few buildings were the same, enough to get nostalgic about. I went to the place where my best buddy's family had owned a restaraunt and bar. It had been completely redone, but the structure was the same, so we sat there and had a beer and tapas, reminiscing. There were three 30ish looking guys sitting at a table, so I started a conversation with them, telling them I had lived in Javea 25 years ago and that I had good memories of the place. One of the guys said, "you know, I remember you." He had lived in Javea all his life. He was almost 10 years younger than I, so I wondered, but on the other hand, there hadn't been many tall Yanks living there at the time so he may have remembered me. I said it's good to be back. He said, "esto es su tierra" - this is your turf. Made me feel even more nostalgic.

The next stop was Benidorm, about 20 miles away. It is a big tourist party city. There was a new theme park there called "Terra Mitica" and the kids wanted to go. We got into town about noon. It happed to be the last day of the season for the park, so we made it just in time. We had a great time. The theme was Mediterranean mythology, and the park was built into sections representing ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome and Iberia (which, other than being a Roman province and now Spain, doesn't have any great claim to inequity of which I am aware). They had theme related rides, restaurants and shops. It was an unusually warm day, and we stayed until closing at 8. The Brinks had gone disco hopping in Benidorm, and didn't get back to the boat until 4am.

We had a nice sail the next day and pulled into a large modern marina called Almerimar. It was the perfect place to spend a few days fixing up the boat. Art took Tracie and Jackie to Malaga to catch a flight to Madrid. We ran into friends above Guilana, whom we had first met last March in Georgetown, the Bahamas; met again in Horta, the Azores, and now on the Costa del Sol in Spain. And they had been to completely differently places than we went. Funny how the currents of ocean and life take you to places and people completely unexpected. The kids were delighted to see and play with their friend, Liz.

I was able to nail down our crew. Eileen had decided she wasn't up for the trip, and was taking the kids to NY for two weeks and then to St. Martin for 2 weeks before meeting us in Trinidad (which actually sounds a lot better than sitting in the ocean for a month). TJ Marshall, a friend from Miami, had some kind of weird desire to sail across the ocean, and contacted me and signed up.

Art, on the other hand, had some kind of weird desire not to sail across again. He kept waffling about whether he wanted to make the trip again. So in Almerimar I posted a notice on a crew wanted site. After a couple days, the only qualified person who had responded was a 31 year old Dutch woman named Anjte. At least I think she was a woman, she didn't say. I don't think Eileen was particularly thrilled about Anjte as a crew member. But Art decided to go at the last minute (which was a good thing) so poor Anjte had to find another ride.

We wanted to get closer to Gibraltar so we would be ready to start our ocean passage when TJ got in. So we made a miserable (old wind in your face trick again) trip down the coast. We lucked out and found a spot in the last marina before Gibraltar (everything else was packed), and put the boat in.

I had planned to take Eileen and the kids for a drive for a few days and see a couple cities in Southern Spain, namely, Toledo and Granada. Their flights left from Madrid on the 15th, I was going to meet TJ on that same day.

We rented a car and drove to Granada. On the way there we saw a McDonald's and the baby birds started chirping. So we pulled over for some junk food. When we got back to the car 20 minutes later, four of our backpacks and trunks were missing. Thieves had broken into our car and taken some of our stuff. Mostly they got Kiera's stuff, which made her upset, but wasn't very valuable. However, the bastards got my backpack, in which I had my camera, cell phone, and all 4 of our passports. Not good.

I called the US embassy that night, and the on-duty officer was very cool, and assured me that we could get new passports in time to catch the flights, which made me feel a lot better. We drove to Madrid, getting there about dark in the rain, just in time for rush hour. Lighted street lights are out of the question, and none of the freeway signs are marked with a cardinal direction or anything else that would tell you where the hell you are. The fact I had forgotten my glasses (I hardly wear them these days) didn't help much. But after two hours of exploring various freeways and avenues, we found our hotel.


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We went to the US Embassy as soon as it opened the next morning. We had filled out the paperwork in advance but still had to wait 4 hours to get the passports. We had to talk to one of the consuls to get sworn. He gave us a little lecture about losing our passports. I explained that they were locked in the car and not in open view; he said I should keep them on my person. Had I been mugged he'd have told me I should have left them locked in the car, no doubt. He said there was a huge black market for them and Al-Queda guys were paying $15,000 per passport. A little light went off in my head, and I did a little arithmetic in my head and figured out that for one suite of passports I could go cruising for another entire year. So if anyone knows any Al-Queda types willing to pay $60k for our passports please tell them to contact me at Clevelandirie@yahoo.com. Thanks.

While in Madrid I ran into old friends Phil Nicolas and Edna Lopez. Phil is stationed in Madrid for a year and Edna was in town on business. They finished dinner at midnight (Spanish style) and I met them at a bar. It was the first time I had seen friends from Miami since I left last April, and it was great to see them.

The next day I took Eileen and the kids to the airport to catch their plane to New York. I had ordered the tickets on line, but had not received them since we had not been able to get our mail delivered from the states. No problem I thought, I had a confirmation number.

When I went to the Iberian airline booth and gave them my number, they said I had reservations but did not have tickets. I explained that I had paid for them (my credit card had been charged) but they made me buy new ones. I called Travelocity, and a nice lady there told me I didn't have "e-tickets" and had to have the original paper copy they sent me. In 2002?!?! I couldn't believe it. So I was out $1200 bucks. The lady said to send the tickets in when I got them and "maybe" I could get a refund. I was furious. I am beginning to understand why tech stocks have taken such a beating.

I met TJ there without a hitch, minutes before kissing Eileen and the kids goodby at the gate. TJ and I decided it was too late to drive back to the coast (about a 10 hour drive) so we spent the evening in Madrid. We toured the Prado museum (its awesome) in the afternoon, and toured several bars that evening.

Next day we drove back to the coast, and met Art on the boat, who had been a busy beaver fixing, cleaning, packing and preparing. The next day we took off for the 20 mile jump to Gibrlatar. We bought groceries that evening (only spending $900 this time) and had fish-n-chips for dinner. The next morning we got a couple last minute items (included charts of the Canaries and Barbados) and shoved off for our second ocean voyage about 11:00 am the morning of November 18th, which will be the subject of the next exciting segment.






Unskilled and Unaware

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