Saturday, July 14, 2007

Back from the Med


I'm back from my "mercy mission" to help my Dad sail his boat from Barcelona to Majorca. (Funny how still no-one sympathises with my description of mercy mission as opposed to holiday.)

The trip was got off to a good start with us taking Oliver to Terminal 3 at Manchester Airport for some food. He loved the big floor-to-ceiling glass windows all along the terminal which allowed him to look out on the airfield. He also loved the little step up to the window which he duly stepped up and down with my help (or with the use of my knee as a prop) for a good 10 minutes.

After we said our goodbyes I went through to the deprature lounge where I found my flight delayed for an hour and a half. I finally landed in Barcelona at 12.30am and was surprised to find I could still get a bus to Placa de Catalunya. From there I got a cab to the harbour at Port Vell where my Dad met me and took me to the boat. After catching up and unpacking we finally got our heads down around 2.50am.

The next day was spent shopping for food and collecting Del, the third crew member for this voyage, when he arrived from Majorca. It was also spent checking weather forecasts in an internet cafe before a rather good meal by the harbour. Mussels for starter and Sea Bream in baked salt for main were my choices.

The next day we checked the weather forecast at the harbour office. It was all in Spanish but the wind speeds and direction looked OK. We said we'd check the other words with the help of a dictionary but in the end never got round to it, something we would live to regret somewhat.

We set off around noon under sunny skies with a good wind around force 4 but in totally the wrong direction right from the south where we wanted to head. We sailed on a course as close to the wind as possible for a few hours before deciding that we would have to use the motor until the wind turned or our journey was going to get considerably longer than planned due to all the extra miles spent tacking.

As we chugged on the sea state went from "slight", through "moderate" and finally to "rough". Waves were giving us the occasional soaking and more occasionally a wave would come right over the nose of the boat. SOmewhat unnerving. At this point I got out the dictionary and translated the bits of the weather forecast I couldn't understand. It translated to "rough seas". Great!

My Dad doesn't suffer at all from sea sickness but I felt rough if I had to go below decks for too long and Del was throwing up by this point. Fortunately it all started to calm down just a little as night fell.

I had wondered whether the sickness would be very bad with no horizon during the night. But in fact the clear sky meant the stars become our new fixed points. And wow what a show. Without any light pollution out there in the middle of the sea I have never seen so many stars. We even saw the milky way. In fact the night was so dark (with no moon) that instead of the light of the moon being cast across the water, the light of a single bright star beamed down and reflected in the same way.

By the time I came up on deck for my watch at 1am after two hours sleep, the sea was calm, the wind almost gone and we motored on through the dark, keeping a keen eye out for tankers and other large ships. Several tankers overtook us but never got so close that we had to change course at all.

By dawn the sky was blue, there was a little wind and we could clearly Majorca. Once we were all up we turned off the motor again and sailed the last few hours, ariving at Sant Elmo around 1pm.

It was lovely to see my Mum again and to set foot on terrafrima, although the motion sickness stayed with me for days afterwards.

The next day I headed home 36 hours early because Hayley had mentioned her pelvic problems on the phone. I couldn't enjoy the extra day knowing she was struggling and anyway I wanted a couple of days back with my family before having to go back to work.

So I left the 30 degree sunshine of Palma and landed back in the 15 degree rain of Manchester. Now where's that holiday brochure.

There are photographs of the trip on Flickr.