Mistral, Mistral

She came in the night.  Merde.  Now that is a shit that I know.  Cold French winds blowing down into and beyond the Gulf of Lion. Skirts sloshing, the whistling is far away but approaching.  We are tethered together, bound one by one in front of the old stone wall in Alghero.  The water comes first, like mice scurrying, rushing past the bow.  Blindfolded prisoners to her approach.  Halyards slapping in time to a crowd shouting. And the odd sensation that we are not the crowd.

When at last her fingers touch, we sway to her movement.  Inevitable.  We ride as if at sea. In the bow, the water moves fast.  Our aged and hardened hand-built neighbor smacks down, riding each wave.  So closely are we moored, we feel the shivers and shakes of those tied, bow and stern.  Our fate is the same.  Nationalities are of little matter.  We each hold a flag for Sardinia, regardless of our origin.  We all came seeking refuge from the mistral, to hid in Alghero’s harbor.  And as the whistling becomes a faint whisper, we believe she passes us by but then she turns and comes forward again.  As the night becomes day, Justin rises and makes bacon on the transom.  It is a long way from the calla in Menorca.

Last week, after the winds had largely settled, we unbound our snubber, raised our anchor and motored deep into the Mahon bay.  We needed some boat parts, water, and the flexibility of going into town at whim and will.  The hands at the marina gave us an easy mooring for our thrusterless vessel.  Stern to the dock and the Med mooring lines tied to the bow, Madame Geneva found her place for several days.  Justin reached out to our weather passage guru, Chris Parker, to discuss best timing for our crossing to Sardinia.  Thursday looked most promising for a light wind and largely waveless journey.  We would be motoring but had agreed that we needed an easy overnight passage.

Menorca Taulas- 4,000 years old

Quinn in a 4,000 year old sink

Madame Geneva had been on the hard when we arrived in Porto de Bera.  A bit of gel coat work required her exit from the water. We had also just received the bow thruster plate, so the yard installed and painted the cover while she was out.  I mention all this because we found, once dipped back in the water, that the plate was painted shut and we had no thruster.  This ended up being fortuitous because as we regrouped in the high wind at the fuel station, hesitant to pull into our slip deep in the fingers with a susceptible bow, we managed to temporarily free the plate and briefly had the ability to control our vessel.   Thus, we again cast off and headed for the slip only to have smoke pouring out of the boat.  Apparently while waiting on the new water heater to exit customs (a process that took approximately six weeks and $700), the mechanics clipped the antifreeze lines from and to the engine when removing the old water heater and not only did we have antifreeze pouring in the bilge but the engine was dangerously on the brink.  We managed to get back to the fuel dock, married the open ends, and decided to sleep there.  Add to this an odd DC issue with the water maker, a calcified flapper on the kids’ toilet, the actual installation of the water heater, a large amount of sea water filling the bilge whenever the generator was operating and a myriad of other issues that required sleuthing, the days at the dock in Mahon were well needed.

Equally heartened and disheartened, Justin broke down the problems and solved many in those days.  The kids did their school work. I stepped in and out, helping as needed.  In the afternoons, we explored the town and ventured to the ruins.  We saw our friends from the calla; each on his own journey, with varying vectors and plans.  Slowly the boat came into order and we readied for our passage.

Waves that were once crashing well above the causeway at the calla were now long in their settling.  We left the harbor at 3pm to a light breeze on the nose and a calm sea.  Land slowly disappeared and soon we were the only boat for many miles in any direction.  I went below for a conference call (using the satellite connection) and looked out the ports as the sea lapped along the beam.  Cue the dolphin!  As if rallied by the gods, thirty dolphin rushed toward Madame Geneva!  Not swimming so much as frolicking quickly, diving in and jumping out of the water, creating their own beam bound wave, the sea creatures raced toward our boat.  Screams were heard from above as the kids hurried to the beam and the bow.  The dolphin seemed harnessed to the bow, pulling her along swiftly to the long away coast of Sardinia.  From below, I watched the underbellies as the beautiful mammals flew from the water, splashing alongside.

It’s still really cold offshore…like, winter cold

Justin and I took turns at watch throughout the night.  The sliver of a moon lit the transom well into the evening, setting in the wee hours and leaving a large array of stars to entertain thoughts and grand ideas.  Justin took the helm most of the passage, but I had the honor of those tiny hours with only the humming of the motor and the sloshing of the water.  Midway between Menorca and Sardinia, I released more of Uncle Joey and thought of our fortunate obligation to live this life so fully.

Daybreak had Justin back at the wheel.  He watched as the sun rose and a dolphin leaped high in greeting.  We averaged ten knots of speed under motor throughout the night.  The morning brought with it a sea breeze.  The jib went out and we were quietly under sail.  I choose this time to take a shower.  Not the easiest of feats but quite a warming and wakening experience!  These spring months in the Med are simply cold!  Well into our foulies, Justin and I were still ridiculously chilly, often hiding behind the dodger while on watch.  The sun soon burned away the mist and we were in sight of Sardinia.

Every port has cannons but this one has catapults!!!!

So now let the winds blow while we are safely tied.  Her growl is menacing but she is without bite.  The lines may slap and the moaning may never cease, but here along the yellowed wall, we are offered sanctuary aboard Madame Geneva.  By day, we are no longer blindfolded.  By day, we are at port and given the land. Much love and stay tuned!

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