Passage to Mallorca, Spain

Wind, waves and bugger all sleep

La Maddalena, Sardinia
La Maddalena, Sardinia

After sitting out heavy weather in La Maddalena for a few days, we decided to take the plunge (so to speak) and strike out for Mallorca, Spain. The north coast of Sardinia gets a lot of wind in the winter, and its direction is generally not conducive to heading south-west in a sailboat. If we were to stay in Maddalena waiting for ideal conditions we may still be there when the next pandemic emerges from China. So after much consideration, and consultation with weather forecasts and models, the Skipper decided that we’d head off on Monday afternoon/evening. We knew it would be hard going for a couple of days, then conditions should ease for the last part of the passage to Mallorca.

Passage to Mallorca
‘Bright sky at night, Shepherd’s warning.’ Oh hang on that doesn’t rhyme

Things have changed a lot since the olden days of sailing. These days your chance of shipwreck and drowning are much lower, you’re unlikely to be tied to the mast and flogged with a cat o’ nine tails (although I am sure there are some specialty cruises that provide this ‘service’), you don’t get an unfeasibly large ration of rum per day, and you’re much less likely to contract – and die from – a hideous disease during your time aboard.

However, some things haven’t changed, and one of them is that you can’t sail a boat directly into the wind. Therefore, if your destination lies straight into the wind from your embarkation point, you have to zig-zag (or ‘tack’ as the sailor’s call it) across the wind to reach it.

Now even the thickest geometry student (and I ought to know) can grasp that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, and therefore if you have to tack to get to your destination you are covering a lot more ocean than if the wind was more favourable. We were going to be heading into the wind for most of our passage to Mallorca, and consequently were braced for a long trip.

‘Off in the distance, a dark cloud approaching, none could imagine, what there was to come.’

We cast off in the late afternoon, motoring out through the islands towards the open water. The wind was strong and gusty, and intermittent rain stung our faces as we crouched in the cockpit. Setting a conservative amount of sail, we spent the next two days getting the crap beaten out of us. The wind seldom fell below 30kts, and was considerably more at times, and the cat was banged about by 2-3 metre waves.

Sleeping was impossible, and it wasn’t long before we were all exhausted. Lifejackets and safety lines were de rigeur, as venturing outside the cockpit to adjust the rigging meant clinging to a lurching deck as the cat violently pitched, yawed and rolled. Anything that hadn’t been carefully stowed away went flying, and a heap of water got dumped into a forward compartment when a hatch worked its way open. The Skipper woke up with a start when his bathroom door shook loose and crashed to the floor.

It was a great relief when on the afternoon of the third day the conditions finally eased. I was at the helm for my 3pm shift, enjoying the more benign conditions, when there was an almighty bang. My second thought (after ‘what the fuck was that??!!’) was that the main sheet (one of the ropes that controls the main sail) had snapped. Although this rope had gone slack, we discovered it was still intact, but a bracket holding one of the blocks (pulleys) to the boom had been torn off. Evidently it had not appreciated the flogging it had received during the passage and had finally shat itself. Adding to the carnage, when we attached a rope to steady the boom while we worked to rectify the problem, that bracket ripped out too.

broken sailing hardware
‘Those bits on the right? They should be attached to the boom. And that bit you’re holding? Yeah mate it shouldn’t look like that’

Had it let go the night before, in the middle of the blasting wind and pounding waves, it would have been a very unpleasant situation. We were able to complete a fix-up job that might not have been pretty, but we were pretty confident it would get us the rest of the way to Mallorca.

Patched-up rigging
Hey at least it worked

That night we could see lights in the distance, and by day four we finally had the coastlines of Menorca and Majorca in sight. The three of us crew were worn out, and although I can’t speak for the others, I’d had enough of sailing for a while.

Passage to Mallorca
Mallorcan coast at last
Ship's dog
Possibly the only one looking forward to reaching shore as much as me was the ship’s dog. She’d had a gutful

We hadn’t rounded Cape Horn or braved the Southern Ocean, but despite this, entering the breakwater at Palma’s Cala Nova Marina at the completion of our passage to Mallorca felt something of a triumph. Although I was looking forward to exploring Mallorca, all I could think about when we arrived was a shower, a feed and a bloody good sleep.

Passage to Mallorca
Cala Nova Marina, Mallorca. Passage complete. Thank fuck for that

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2 responses to “Passage to Mallorca, Spain”

  1. Chrisoula Avatar

    Glad you all arrived safely sounds like you had a wild trip

    1. Jim Clayton Avatar
      Jim Clayton

      Thanks Chrisoula! Yeah we sure did – we were all a bit battered and so was the boat!! Hope all is good with you 🙂

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