Tough love in Menorca

I am constantly reminded that what we are doing is by our choosing and not a holiday or vacation but still a gift. Its hard to explain at times but deeply satisfying because it’s with my family and not given but earned.

We took an easy trip across the Med 22 hours from Puerto Roda De BarĂ , Spain back to the Balerics in Mahon, Menorca. The sea was flat, the wind was nil, the ships were plenty. Kelly and I took three hour watches throughout the night while the children slept, dodging heavy ship traffic from Barcelona to the rest of the world with dolphins jumping all around us, Portuguese man-of-war by the millions on the surface and an easy beautiful passage to get started again. Dawn broke with a lovely 15 knot breeze just forward of the port beam and we sailed fast and fun over breakfast to Mahon and our favorite bay, Cala Teulera, surrounded by a thousand years of castle walls, lookout towers and long abandoned steps leading to the sea. Idyllic Mediterranean Spain. Perfect.

We entered the bay and anchored in a very tight safe spot in sand with only 4 other boats. Spain, Sweden, Germany, France and the USA in the house. What a wonderful feeling again to be surrounded by like minded diverse sailors. This is really one of my favorite parts of cruising. Everybody has been everywhere, and experienced their own storms, triumphs, lows and highs. It’s what binds us and I love it immensely. Old and young, families and naked Germans, all sailing and drinking deeply from this…whatever you want to call it.

Safely anchored in the Cala we decided to regroup and rest. The water was very cold but Kelly and I swam, and shampooed. All good. A great boat lasagna and a movie followed as the breeze turned to wind which turned to strong wind and further into a howling gale. We expected this. Our forecast said it would come. Our plan to haul ass to the Balerics before the next Mistral came smashing down from the Gulf of Lion in France was well founded and worked out well.

We had time to fight with the generator, fight with the bilge pump, install the water heater I had shipped from the US because of electrical issues, fight with the internet relay, you know, vacation….on your hands and knees with a headlamp and bloody knuckles.

It got windy….like, when will the locust swarm and zombies get here windy. 40 knots and angry. We reasoned that A: we are in the best sheltered bay in Menorca, B: if the anchor has held for a day then why would it let go on day 2? C: just because it will get even windier and the waves are crashing outside the bay where we had just been at nearly 20 feet what should we worry about? How about we have 3 children aboard, the gusts are spinning our 30,000 pound boat in a 150 foot arch jerking wildly? How about sleeping is only because of exhaustion waiting for the sound you don’t recognize that signals you have broken loose from anchor and will slam into your neighbors wrapping chain and anchors only to find the rocky lee shore before dawn? Standby….The wind died to leave the bay flat as glass. There are many cliches to describe this moment. Everybody knew what was coming though. Just when?

A strange horn sounded at 4:45AM, Kelly said something and I rolled to look out the port next to bed. SHIT!!! (Edited for PG). A catamaran that came into the anchorage late in the afternoon to shelter had broken loose and was drifting fast through the anchorage directly toward us. Dark boat, lights out. Our French neighbor, Michelle, was on deck blowing a horn to alert the skipper of the dragging boat to ensure he was awake and was not going to take us all out, tangling chain, anchors and boats to the rocky lee.

The English skipper of the cat shot onto deck half naked in the 50 degree howling gale and powered up, reeled in his anchor and spent the next 2 hours trying to reset his tackle in the dark, 40 knot winds swinging and stymieing his attempts. Thankfully the sky was lightening as the sunrise was approaching. He never could reset and motored off to the main harbor hopefully to get safe and rest. We’ll not know until we see him again but a real catastrophe was averted by a hair. All morning was spent on anchor watch swinging and howling in full foulies, eventually with a beer in hand, until finally I had rationalized that 36 hours of hell pounding hadn’t upset our anchor holding so we would be fine. Slowly all day the wind abated while the massive seas exploded over the rocky shore just over the bay.

Kelly and I had deep talks, mainly sharing our pride that our kids never were scared, watched The Phantom Menace (for May the 4th “Star Wars Day”) and went to bed. Just another day as a salty boat kid. Quinn mentioned that it was rather windy! We discussed what in hell we are doing and why. And we, as usual, shared that although this is often uncomfortable and occasionally terrifying, this is it. It’s what we’re doing. And unquestionably our family is the better for it.

The wind abated, as it will, and we had a lovely sundowner, as we will, with our neighbors on S/V Frida -German Ralph and his Kiwi wife Nina (and their 2 salty cats) and our French neighbor Michelle with the horn from S/V Velvet. Our kids played in their catamaran with cats and cards while we exchanged stories, a drink and destination info. Michelle and his wife are headed to Scotland, Ralph and Nina to New Zealand, Madame Geneva to Croatia. Amazing.

It seems a calm night resets all anxieties and stress. We’ll be here again (Menorca maybe but gut wrenching anxiety most definitely) but that’s it. That’s what we’re doing. For some reason.

The kids fed Juan, our trusty seagull who visits our transom hourly to see if we have any fish. We named him that because he’s Spanish. And because he’s the only….Juan, who visits.

A couple days of boat fixing then onto Sardinia because I hear nothing ever goes wrong there…..time to eat Kelly’s eggplant Parm. On a calm cool night.

Stay tuned. Much love.

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