Full of excitement and expectation and after weeks of meetings and planning, the 'famous five' met up to organise the jam sandwiches and pop needed before their summer adventure.
Sorry, this is not Enid Blyton's Famous Five story, but the yachts, Lotti, Berti, Ganty, Gemini J and Baltic Moon from the SAMM Cruising Group with their 18 crew members and their cruise to Ibiza and Formentera.
Instead of jam sandwiches and pop, Lotti packed aboard four trolley loads of water, wine, beer and food; enough for four people on a two week sail. With each crew member bringing a frozen homemade dish with them, they would only need to top up with some fresh meat, vegetables and fruit mid-cruise.
Starting from 3 different marinas, San Pedro, Torrevieja and Thomas Maestre and because two boats had somewhat inexperienced owner/skippers and crews, the plan was to sail to Calpe on June 8th and across to the islands on June 9th in flotilla. Both legs are around 62 nautical miles and about 12 hours depending on the weather. Once on the islands each boat could go its own way and meet up again for a birthday celebration after a week and then at the end for the return crossing.
Baltic Moon, restricted by the bridge opening times at Thomas Maestre, left a day early for Santa Pola. An early start was needed for the others, so at 5am on the 8th, Lotti, Berti and Gemini J left San Pedro and found a favourable wind which gave a great sail until 9am when it dropped, so they motored on until 3pm then a final fast sail to Calpe, arriving at 6pm. 62 miles at an average of just under 5 knots - perfect. Ganty had also left Torrevieja at 5am, so arrived earlier and secured a berth for the night, but there was none for Baltic Moon, so she continued to Morayra. The other three anchored behind the Punta de Ifach Rock which turned out to be a bad decision as nobody had any sleep due to a bad swell all night.
5am the next morning was when the 'the plan' went wrong. Ganty called to report their engine would not start and Baltic Moon called with battery problems so both were stuck for the day. Lotti, Berti and Gemini J weighed anchor to find the bay blocked by a large fishing fleet, but managed to thread their way through them to start their crossing. Oh the joys of boating!
The highlight of the day was encountering a pod of about 30 small dolphins or perhaps porpoise, the largest group any of us had ever seen. They spent 20 minutes playing around the three boats, diving under, swimming on their backs and leaping clear of the water; a great experience. We arrived in Cala Saona on Formentera after 12 hours, had dinner then crashed out absolutely shattered after 36 hours without sleep.
Next morning, we on Lotti inflated the tender, fitted the outboard, which had been tested as part of our pre-trip preparations and set off for Sabina town to check the forecast and watch a Euro 2016 match. After 10 minutes the outboard died and could not be re-started. I can't remember which of the colourful names we decided to call the outboard thereafter! All three boats left at 4pm and had a nice sail to Porroig bay on Ibiza for another peaceful night. We heard that Ganty and Baltic Moon had crossed during the day.
Saturday was another lazy morning then we on Lotti and Berti had a great sail at speeds of up to 6 knots to Cala Tarida, passing through the channel between Ibiza and the small Islote Vendranell en route. Shortly after we arrived there was a wedding on the beach, then around 8pm we saw how the rich and famous live. A massive, metallic grey, super yacht anchored across the mouth of the bay so its helicopter could land on the helipad and disgorge the owner. Ten minutes later the boat left slowly and gracefully disappeared into the dusk. Baltic Moon joined Gemini J in Porroig and Ganty, whose crew had traced the source of their engine problems to a loose connection, went to marina Bonifach in Ibiza town where there was another wedding being held on the beach - obviously a popular idea on Ibiza.
Sunday we two continued on to Cala Basa and, with a calm sea, were able to slip through the shallow channel between Isla Conejera and Ibiza, arriving at 1.30pm so some crew could go ashore to watch the Grand Prix. We again were joined by Gemini J and after it got dark another super yacht was guided in to a safe anchorage by its tender. Ganty stayed in Ibiza town and Baltic Moon, with re-occurring battery problems went to San Antonio marina.
On Monday we and Berti set out early for Cala Salada where we, on Lotti, enjoyed a 'Full English' brunch. All boats, except Ganty, made their way to San Antonio marina during the day for the planned get-together to celebrate the birthday of Gemini J's skipper. After the meal the adventurous ones stayed out to see some of San Antonio's infamous night life, rolling home, no doubt due to the affects of being on a rocking boat for a while, in the early hours.
Tuesday Lotti left San Antonio to sail the 15 miles to Cala Portinatx, a really beautiful little bay and meet Ganty who was coming anti-clockwise round Ibiza. A very hard sail beating into 18-23knot winds and 1.5 meter swells took 6 hours. Dinner, then ashore to a bar for the skipper, but bed for the crew as he had worked us so hard.
(to be continued next month)