Our previous newsletter closed as we arrived in the REAL CLUB NAUTICO DE PALMA (RCNP) in October 2007, yes, as many have pointed out, we are a year late in our newsletter. And so last things first.
October 2007 - 2008
The first weekend we joined the PAELLA LUNCH at which Jack and James Salsa danced. And this upcoming Saturday, the last in October 2008, we are celebrating the lunch again, but this time the 60th Anniversary of the Real Club Nautico too.
3 and 1
On November 7th 2007 Jack celebrated his third Birthday with chocolate cake, jelly and friends Mark and Charlie Durham, who were part of the Blue Water Rally in 02, and their 7 month old daughter Evie. One of Jack’s presents was a trip on the 1912 Palma - Soller railway. And it will be again this year. James’ 1st was low key but his 2nd will more of an upbeat “Felice Cumpleanos.”
In December the Real Club hosts a Regatta for over 600 Optimists from 17 countries, an inspiring sight seeing all these young sailors setting sail on a crisp December morning.
The Tuesday morning Mummies group has been a good source of new friends, many of whom had been involved in sailing. The weekly meetings became a great support and font of information. Some of our best fun at the Real Club came during swimming lessons. The first floor pool overlooks a superyacht shipyard on one side and on the other Palma and the hills of Genova behind. We made good friends through the classes. Jack can now swim half a length. James jumps in at every opportunity and does great splashing. James was also taught to blow raspberries or bubbles (“burbujas”) in his aqua baby class, so I now say he is blowing raspberries in Spanish. One of our most heart-melty moments was Papa Noel, Father Christmas visiting the class. He was the boyfriend of Susannah their popular teacher, and a bit too fit and gorgeous to be a real father Christmas …
Whilst changing for swimming classes we met two Sarahs and a Pippa, Brits who were using the Real Club for winter training. Their levels of physical and mental fitness, determination and focus were extraordinary. In mid March the Real Club hosted the 39th Trofeo Princesa Sofia in which Ynglings, Dragons, Lasers and many other Olympic hopefuls competed. Ben Ainsley along with all the British sailors thrived. In July Sarah Ayton, Sarah Webb and Pippa Wilson, the Yngling Girls won Gold in the Beijing Olympics.
Christmas in Palma
Christmas was a delight. Granny, my mother joined us for two weeks during which we toured the island.Majorca in winter is a very different island. Alcudia and Pollencia, packed in the summer were deserted. I was born on my mother’s Birthday, 14th December. Our Lunch was at La Pasada de Marques, a hotel in the mountains where my friend Kay was married. I was heavily pregnant and too, too hot to make Kay’s August 06 Wedding in this utterly gorgeous place however, on one of our Autumn 07 “outings”, which ever way we drove, we were for one reason or a way redirected towards Kay’s hotel, and once we found it, we fell in love. Granny was here to see James’ first steps and Jacks’ first swimming strokes on December 21st. The Real Club Nautico’s Children’s Christmas party was a pint sized riot and a lot of fun.
Over the Christmas period we attended two Carol Services at Palma Cathedral. One included the eerie and beautiful sound of La Sibla.la which is traditionally sung at Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. It tells of the Day of Judgement and the second coming of Christ. The chant is sung in the Cathedral by a soprano dressed as the Angel of Judgement. It dates from Medieval times and is particular to Mallorca although it is performed in other Catalan speaking areas.
360 for 2007
After taking in a party in the early evening with friends we met through the Mummies group, we spent a quiet New Year’s Eve on board with an Indian take-away. The sky was ablaze all around the boat, for twenty minutes. We have been spoilt for firework displays. This was one of best. The children thankfully slept through.
Dia des los Reyes. (Three Kings. Epiphany)
The Spanish save their presents until January 6th. In Palma the Kings sail through the harbour, past the RCNP and parade through the streets. Jack watched full of excitement from the fuel pontoon, the best vantage point to see a ship carrying Three Kings from the Orient who have travelled so far. As the ship was docking we raced around to the join the crowds waiting on the quay side at the start of the parade. Melchor, Caspar and Balthazar were mounted high up so even at the back of the fifteen deep crowd we could see, although those at the front caught the sweets thrown by the passing Maji. An enchanting evening. And by happy co-incidence in the throngs we bumped into friends Juan and family, who we knew from swimming classes.
3 and 1 Party
During a January UK-go-round Jack and James had an thoroughly delightful 3rd and 1st Birthday party. An hour of non- stop fun and entertainment from the amazing imaginations of Lin and Howard of “Baby Sensory” made the party a huge success. Newly returned to Palma, at the end of February we were entertained by a three day Medieval Fair in La Lonja, part of the historic district. Costumed vendors at their dressed stalls, players and musicians made for a highly authentic event.
Our favourite market is ten minutes out of the RCNP gates in the old Jewish quarter. Full of character and bohemian restaurants it is an easy stroll to our other favourite, a playground in the nearby park.
Sculptures are found throughout Palma. Miro lived on the island from 1956 to his death in 1983. He designed the park with the huge lake in front of the Cathedral, the Parc de Mar, changing the face of Palma in the 60s. Jack was bemused by his visit to the Pilar and Joan Miro Foundation in the hills behind Palma, presuming that the pictures had been painted by children his age. Es Baluard, another modern art gallery was another underwhelming experience, notable for building bricks posing as art.
In out-of-season Marineland the dolphins and sea lions performed to eight of us. During the summer we anchored off Marineland and were kept awake by the sea lions songs.
For spiritual and edible refreshment wind your way through the mountains to the monastery of Lluc. Take your time getting there, it’s a picture at every bend. In this tranquil place we indulged in excellent Frito Mallorquian (a fried liver, red peppers, onions and fennel dish), and a most-moisterlicious almond cake. The whole site has an air of calm even if tourists tramp regardless through the Sunday Mass heading for the Black Madonna behind the main altar.
Valldemossa is the picturesque hill town where Chopin and George Sand spent “Winter in Mallorca” and where we had the best taza de chocolate de caliente, a particularly thick gloopy hot chocolate sometimes eaten with “choros“, fingers of deep fried batter.
The writer and poet Robert Graves’ home is now a museum in Deia, a village on the coast in the mountains which has attracted many writers and artists. In his early years Graves’ served in the Royal Welch Fusilers with my Great Uncle.
Palma Cathedral or Le Seu
One of the most impressive Cathedrals in Europe. See it, and if possible go to a concert or service when it is lit up. From our berth in Real Club Nautico we have a view of the Cathedral, the windmills, and Bellver Castle, most impressive at night.
Jack disgraced himself by finding a hidden nook and eating his Easter eggs on Good Friday. As in Andalusia, where we spent Easter two years ago, the Majorcans celebrate Semana Santa, Easter Week, with long processions of penitents and statues. On Easter Day we merged with the Mass in the Cathedral. After the Service, the congregation crowded to the aisle. The Rodriguez family were standing at the back on a bench when King Juan Carlos, Queen Sofia, Crown Prince Felipe, Princess Letizia and the whole Royal family entered to Vidors’ Tocatta. I became emotional as the organ music reminded me of walking down the aisle with John.
Wintering in Palma gave us six months to explore the historic district. Amongst many others our favourites were the Arabian Baths and Almudaina Palace, the official residence of the King. It reminded us of the Alhambra in Grenada (Co-incidentally the Almudaina Hotel was where our mothers stayed, highly recommended.) The Royal family’s every day Palacio de Marivent is on the outskirts of Palma, opposite Mercadona, a supermarket. The low key entrance has a street number 229 Ave Joan Miro. At the end of our winter stay we were pleased to find we could still get lost in the narrow lanes around the Cathedral finding a jaw-dropping glass shop where the artist Olga Rioja makes intriguing lamps, fairies and boats. More “bounty” to be added to the variety of prints, North Carolina pineapple door knocker, South Carolina pottery, blown glass from Gibraltar, photo frames and ornaments that we have acquired over our six years of cruising.
Coming up to date, briefly, a hot and sunny 19th October saw the busy four lane highway around the harbour closed for the Palma Marathon with all ages, starting and mostly finishing in front of the Cathedral. As a spectator sport it is moving, and gruelling.
Twenty Four Seven in Heaven
My attempt to start Jack at a Steiner school foundered because by the time we returned from the UK, late, because I was ill, it was almost Easter and too late to “bed” him in. We have chosen this life, and it is one of huge pay backs and priceless experiences as we explore “get jealous” places with our children but, it is twenty-four-seven without Grannies or baby sitters with just the DVD for time out, and that can be wearisome.
Karen Campbell-Hill Jack’s head mistress at Manor Farm gives us advice on home education websites, and most importantly enthusiastic backing. When we have access to WIFI the boys listen to BBC 7’s CBBCs radio. In between playing with his friends from UK, Spain and Holland Jack has been learning his letters and numbers. His “Jack” is remarkably legible. Polly Phonics and Key Stage One will enter Jack’s gentle curriculum soon. Shelia Avery, previously, a Montessori teacher with whom we sailed, gave us numerous useful tips and Robert, a deputy head encouraged us to keep on with what we are doing.
Spring and things
Refits are purgatory at best. Moonshine was hard but it was just the two of us full of inexperience and enthusiasm. Seraphim’s first blue water refit was in the UK whilst Jack was five months and we were living with my mother. Seraphim’s second blue water refit living on board with a hyperactive three year old and a toddler was long and stressful. Finally after five months, at the end of April we were ready. I said, “Never again” as I “welcomed” a procession of engineers for electrics, the water maker, more electrics, the hot water heater, and the sail maker. John worked along side them describing the grind as paying our dues. The Palma Boatshow (think Southampton before the bridge) co-incided with the end of our re-fit, useful for Seraphim crew shirts and last minute knick knacks.
H 2 (g)O.
The new water maker has revolutionised our cruising. We do not have to keep coming into marinas to fill up, wasting time and often losing buoys or good anchoring spots. The Echotech watermaker is distributed by Hydrovane. Sea water is pumped at high pressure through a series of membranes. When not in use the system is “pickled.”
So long, Farewell to the Real Club Nautico
In April 2007 our time at the Real Club drew to an end. We had a Farewell Lunch attended with gusto by forty friends aged from ten months to over sixty from seven different nationalities. A few lubbers hung around on the pontoon but most ventured the steep gangway to squeeze onto the crowded deck. Only the early birds secured a seat in the cockpit. (The Farewell Lunch this time is Sunday 9th November 2008 at the playground in the park in Bellver Castle.)
Another lunch, just before we left, was a paella competition for members of the Club. Over twenty “teams took part: mothers and daughters, mothers and sons, a few wife’s and husbands, mates getting together all with their particular recipe. Some started with onions, some squid, some garlic, some red peppers. Two hours later the contestants tasted each others, voted and sat down with their table of ten guests, and the result.
Angels and Jokers
Six weeks after our Farewell Lunch (!) we departed. Our Blue Water Rally 02 friends Peter and Tricia of Skysong were berthed on the transients pontoon. Near them were the FORD family, on HARLEKIN. Paddy and Sue’s daughters EVIE (2) and MEA (10 months) became Jack and James’ new best friends. For most of May to August from Mallorca to Ibiza, Formentera, back to Mallorca and onto Menorca, the Angels (Seraphims) sailed with the Jokers, (Harlekin) or the Barco Verde, green boat, as she became known.
White flappy things? Gulls? Baby wipes? Sails. Yes. Sails. Seven months on the dock and even with our bright, white Genoa cleaned by Novasail, I wondered how our first few sails would go.
In late May our “Ho” was knocked out of our Gung after James experienced a febrile convulsion from which he recovered swiftly, not so his parents. The Spanish paramedics in the ambulance and in the emergency room in Manacor (Mallorca) were outstanding. Mark and Charlie Durham, the Fords and all our Mummy friends were hugely supportive. John and Mark returned Seraphim from Porto Colum on the west coast to Palma. Initially I wanted to jump on the first Flybe home but after a week “at home” in the Real Club Nautico, a time if not of getting our act together, then, of gathering ourselves the Seraphim crew set off again to join the Barco Verde, in the north. Our plans to sail to Sardinia and Corsica were changed to no off-shore overnights
Whilst in Alcuida John decided to play safe and took one night in the marina when water spouts threatened. We were intrigued by a charter boat of tattooed twenty some things from Newcastle who had won a quiz show, a weeks trip on a yacht in the Med. None of them had sailed before. It was May and they were translucent. First day out they were all violently sea-sick but making the most of it, although slightly freaked by “tornados”. Second day, bad weather kept the quiz-sters in port. A day of sunbathing turned them to roast beef but still they were making the most.
Viva the Viva
Whilst passing through Alcudia we met “the Dutch”, Serge and Isobel on Sea Walk with their son Alec (5) and daughter Katie (2). They introduced us to the Viva Tropic Hotel, one of many three star package hotels where if you have lunch you can use the hotel facilities such as pirate ship with baby pool, trampoline, play area, etc. A lifesaver for Mummies. Another venue, around the bay was The Sunwing with it’s children’s beach, pool, playground and after lunch cartoons.
Mallorca Ibiza Formentera Mallorca Menorca
During July and August the Balearics turn into an extremely hot zoo although this year was not as crowded as last. The islands are at their best in May - June, and September - October.
Through the summer we discovered more about familiar places and something about new ones. Amongst many: the west coast Mallorcan favourite of Mondrago, Cala Boix near Alcudia and Cala En Gossalba near Formentor.
Our sail along the north and east coast was as magnificent as ever. I made up stories of child friendly dragons who lived in the cliffs. In 07 we “nosed” into the packed Cala de la Calobra. This year we anchored in this spectacular bay which opens into a gorge cut by the Torrente de Paris, a stream which starts near Lluc in the mountains. Just a little along the coast we stopped at the Port of Soller for the anchorage surrounded by mountains, the tram running from the Port to the inland town and the 1912 train from the town to Palma.
Portinaix in northern Ibiza is pretty “fish and chips”, but we loved our hidden (private-ish) beach known only to locals and passing dinghies, although, it was next door to a crammed stretch of sand. The western coast of Ibiza was a surprisingly entrancing journey south en route to one of the most popular locations in the Balearics, Formentera.
Formentera and Espalmador
The islands of Formentera and Espalmador off Ibiza were as stunningly beautiful as anticipated, very similar to the Caribbean. As with the rest of the Balearics, buoys have been put down to discourage anchoring and encourage the growth of Posideon, sea grass. In most places the system of securing a buoy through official channels is un-enforced but in Espalmador it is, because of the crush. My view that when the buoys go down the magic disappears was proved right. Espalmador is heavenly however not in summer when it is more of a parking lot than sanctuary. Weather bound in Ibiza we joined the tourist trail: the Hippy Market, the fortifications in the Old Town, vineyards and folkloric dancing but not the Clubs.
Jack and James’ have continued their extensive survey of the playgrounds, fair grounds and beaches in the Balearics. One of their favourite games is splashing about in their rings behind the boat, preferably being pulled along by Mummy. The new kayak bought in Ibiza was an instant hit, if a tippy one. An early capsize helped John to figure out the best seating plan and modus operandi for … inflation.
So for the boys it was one breathtaking, beautiful, stunning, awe inspiring anchorage with a beach after another, ho hum at ages 3 and 1.
In August by happy co-incidence we were joined by Rob and Sheila Avery and their daughters Elise and Verity on LET IT BE, a Dufour 44 which John had sold them.
Jack became great pals with Elise (20). They bonded over colouring books. Jack shed bitter tears when she returned to UK. Even an evening of playgrounds and chocolate ice cream could not console him. I’m not sure how I would have coped with the boys and the heat and boat life without our friends on Let it Be. Let It Be had a constant flow of guests of all ages which gave us a good idea of how we would like to sail with our boys in later years. Waiting for a weather window we spent our Meeting Anniversary, seven years in July, in St Eulalia, Ibiza. As so often with cruising a special evening threatened to be blighted by urgent boat fixing but, eventually it turned into a jolly night with Let It Be and their friends, twenty odd by the end.
John’s mother Eileen and family holiday-ed in Menorca in August where we met up with them. Fornells is a mile long natural harbour in the north. The crew of Seraphim took a buoy that for two weeks, little piece of heaven. For the first time in four years we made a night entry in to an anchorage dropping the hook in a seemingly safe place. Standing on the bow, I smelt evening smells of garlic cooking, after shave, perfume, and dinners various wafting through the anchorage. The next morning a charming and tousled Spaniard asked us to move as we were in the middle of a channel for windsurfers, dozens were skimming around. Friends did exactly the same two nights later. I understood the “crazy summer” resignation on the Spaniards face.
Some may remember our pictures and delight in Cavalleria, a remote promontory in the north near a lighthouse where people built little stone towers for seemingly no reason. On Eileen’s Birthday we built little stone towers for the Birthday girl and the Nicotra family. And on a very blustery day let off Birthday balloons.
Alaior, a town in inland Menorca had it’s fiesta. Jack and James, now fiesta veterans, were amazed as seventy five handsome black horses and their riders paraded around the narrow streets. Strangers invited us into their home to eat and drink. It was once the bakery for the whole area. The oven stretched for twenty feet from the front room to the back of the house. By the end of the night, emboldened by gin, the locals try to make the large horses rear higher. Next morning, several hung-over machos hobbled on their casts.
At the end of August our electrics failed, entirely, primarily because of an electrician in Palma’s mistake in January. Sailing back from Menorca to Mallorca was a good exercise in back to basics: wind, compass, point and sail. John, Serge (SeaWalk) and John Parker in Alcudia working in 40 upwards degrees in the aft cabin fixed the error. The boys and I hung out at playgrounds around the town and our “hotels”.
Wishin’ and Hopin’
Great song and really the only way to cruise the Balearics. Having been beaten up too many times we have now learnt to wait, and wait, and change plans constantly to accommodate the “go“. John using at least four sources for weather and experience tried to warn friends new to the Balearics not to go in certain conditions. If they persisted, sadly for them his predictions were correct and they were, as we were for the first two years, pounded.
Knowing we might not make it I was still hopin’ to meet a dear friend I had not seen for many years. After six days of waiting in Ibiza, wishin‘, we had a stuff of dreams sail, across to Mallorca where we caught Harriet on the last day of her holiday One of many times waiting paid off.
Conversely if a window appeared we would have to abandon an outing, such as the last day of John’s mother and family holiday, when severe battery problems dictated our return to Mallorca. That morning, a one day weather window opened and we were out of Fornells heading for Alcudia. The next day charter-ers on the same trip had a death defying time.
Highs and Lows
So, Balearics sailing is difficult because of the freakish weather, the bizarre weather systems within the islands, and unpredictable Mediterranean swells, and I don’t mean mercurial Spaniards with a sartorial edge. Too many times we’ve been toasting an idyllic anchorage when the rolling begins ending in sleepless nights. With all the gunwale to gunwale action everything above and below was so tightened down that we were ready for an ocean.
In high summer when arriving fatigued after a long sail from Mallorca to Menorca we decided to keep going, for five hours. Why? The “arrival” anchorages were untenable because of the swell, and, overcrowding. However, those extra five hours along the east and north coast of Menorca included some of the most magnificent landscapes in the most perfect evening light we have seen.
The Balearics really only want the big spenders on huge motor vessels and super yachts. In comparison to the income from the latter and tourists our contribution is negligible which reflects the welcome.
An advertisement read, “Moved by wind. Driven by passion”. Sometimes we were a little too moved by wind.
In Soller (Mallorca) and Fornells (Menorca) we experienced two nights of high winds, both unwelcome experiences even without children.
In Soller it was the “night breeze” aka two hours of hot, 40 knot winds falling off the mountains with no warning. Seraphim and several other yachts began to drag around the packed anchorage. By a freak accident a rope had become wrapped around Seraphim’s propeller. This was another “never again”. Helming a disabled boat into a wind which is clocking the compass, literally coming from all directions. John was in the dinghy trying to steer from the side. The boys were awake and screaming. Finally, with Christian, the owners’ assistance, we rafted onto a large motor vessel. The next morning John dived under Seraphim and cut the line, still tightly wrapped around the propeller, the cause of so much distress.
Later in the summer we were secure on a buoy. A storm had been blowing and many yachts which were anchored at the entrance of Fornells dragged at speed through the natural harbour. The rigging of two yachts became tangled and they crashed onto the boat on the buoy, adjacent to ours. After much screaming of the crews and the winds, the yacht secured to the buoy was forced to release and leave the others attached. A large yacht full of incompetent and arrogant charter-ers certainly got “surfandmore” when they ran aground. As they dragged, gathering momentum heading for the shallow water they had shouted to owners ready with fenders and knowing locals “tranquillo”, “calm down”. Not so complacent in the morning light surrounded by rescue boats and divers.
I appreciate we’re whinging in paradise however, live on a sailing boat and these elements become essential. And one final whine. The hoopla of the resort anchorage where if you don’t have swell from nature it’s manufactured by speeding bananas, water skiers, jet skiers, wind surfers, para-gliders, tourist boats and in north Mallorca sea planes practising for forest fires.
The Fraulein and the Fender
When they are not being down right or up right dangerous charter-ers are good for a laugh. One of the funniest was a gal in formidable make up and high wedge shoes throwing a fender over the side only to see it float away.
In the marina in Alcudiamar we were ready with the fenders when a charter boat made several attempts in windless conditions. Five poseurs in matching outfits could not figure out how to tie up to the pontoon. Puzzling all those ropes and metal holes and … crack. Never the many lesses, that evening all dressed up, again, they adopt the charter swagger heading to a bar, preferably overlooking “their” yacht where their boasts invariably score.
El Cortes Ingles, (The Court of the English)
As August wound down my thoughts turned to a Wedding in UK. Beach wear wouldn’t do. Although I had lost 35lbs since August 07, anyone over size twelve is a fashion pariah. I set off with high hopes but Rubens-eque figure. Hope sunk. The lowest ebb came when a size 6 slither of an assistant stretched a size 8 hankerchief. Vain hope. Regardless of insensitive stick insects I found a dramatic, and forgiving pink, frilly number matched with a purple wrap in El Cortes Ingles, a sort of Spanish Selfridges. These went perfectly with a precipitous pair of puce Jaime Mascaro shoes I fell for in January sales. (I was shameless, a shoe-sale-slut buying three pairs of Jaime Mascaros.)
The UK-spin-round took in Kate (Anderson) and David Kenyon’s Wedding, the Southampton Boat Show, the 750 Anniversary of Salisbury Cathedral, and dozens of friends.
On our return at the end of September we sailed out of Alcudia with our new dinghy cover, new blue upholstery (covered by sheets) and new alternator. En route round to Palma, we over- nighted in Porto Petro, where we rolled with an unexpected swell. Extinguished any rosy glow we had of Balearic anchorages.
The Real Club Nautico, “home from home”.
Although we are only here for five weeks it is good to meet up with our Spanish friends who we made through the Real Club, the British Mummies, Margarita from who we rented our berth in Alcudia and others we on and off the pontoons.
Tapalma is five day tapas festival in the centre of Palma at the beginning of October. Well worth using as a focus for a mini- break. Four routes and a wide variety of tapas. John and I indulged with relish. It gave us the opportunity to enter child unfriendly restaurants in which we fear to tread.
Not a term for live-aboards stuck in a marina giving advice but the ship which will transport Seraphim from Palma to Martinique, West Indies in mid November. Last October 07 and in April 08 we were impressed by the expert operation in which boats motor into the hull of the half sunk transporter ship. With inches to spare they are welded into cradles (by ugly beautiful French divers, think Depardieu.) Over eight hours the hull is raised and the ship sails across the Atlantic.
Whilst in Martinique, pregnant with Jack, we watched the process of unloading, never thinking we would four years later be one of the easy-way boats. For now it’s our way as James is too young.
Round and round the Balearics with our Teddy Bears
We shall be sad to leave Palma and the island of Mallorca which we love. It will have been two and a half years since May 06 when we sailed into Alcudiamar and November 08, our imminent departure from the Real Club Nautico. These have been our nursery years in so many ways. From our time out to have James and happy days in Bridge Farm where I blithely announced, “We learnt how to do it with one, we just have to learn with two” to our return to Alcudiamar with eight month old James and two year old Jack.
We soon learnt one and one equals three times the work. The reality of living and sailing on a yacht with a baby and a two year old challenged us to a series of increasingly difficult but eventually fulfilling learning curves. Two young children, on land or sea, however, loved and treasured, are a real stretch, and it takes its toll however, John and I consider ourselves fortunate to have been able to take time out, and have this extraordinary family (parenting) experience.
Ole to Au Revoir
And so from Spain we head to the French West Indies. We anticipate my Birthday, 14th December and Christmas will be in St Lucia, and from there what shall we see sea see.
With love John Nicola Jack and James RCNP Palma Mallorca Spain.