Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Pelagias 2017 cruise part three, Sardinia to Menorca

Pelagia’s 2017 cruise part three, Sardinia to Menorca

Waiting in Cagliari for our crew Corine to arrive it became apparent that the weather was deteriorating over the following week. We had to have a two day window to cross from Sardinia to Menorca and we really needed to make some progress west around the bottom of Sardinia to get to a suitable leaving point. After a days delay when Corine arrived because of high winds we set sail for a port west of Cagliari called Teulada. Our planned anchorages on this coast were untenable because of swell so we had to get to this harbour which was sheltered from all directions once there. We set off motoring with quite a large swell then as It settled a little and the wind direction changed we were able to sail for a while. Around the south end of the island a large swell met us coming from the south and we motored  around and turned north west up into the bay where Teulada sits. 

The marina was very pleasant and very well sheltered and we were efficiently shown to a berth. This marina is some way from a town but close to a camp site and beach which turned out to be very primitive and uninviting. The next day was cloudy and with some rain as forecast so we stayed there another night. 
   The weather pattern was showing we had another day of reasonable winds before severe gales set in across the Sardinian sea with the associated huge seas, so we could make the 40 miles to Portoscuso and stay there until our hoped for window of weather to cross to Menorca. As the cloudy sky cleared we had some good sailing as we set off from Teulada until we turned north around the island of Anticio and across the shallow waters between the islands and the mainland of Sardinia. We entered Portoscuso and it appeared to be untended until at last a marina man appeared and allocated a very nice finger pontoon berth to us. This was superb because the north west wind was already strengthening and we could lean nicely on the pontoon. I seemed unlikely that we could leave in under three days as force nine gales from the north west created a three metre rough sea between there and Menorca. 

However, the town we initially thought was poor revealed itself to be interesting with an old tuna fishery building and old boats which they are trying to turn into a good museum. A tower on the  headland built in 1577 was a splendid feature of the coast path between the town and the beach where we walked on the Monday. The gale was reducing out at sea but the swell was still pounding in around the rocks offshore and we hoped that the predictions would be right and it would settle down more by the morning and we could leave. A large 60 foot yacht had radioed the harbour for a berth and we watched her try and enter in the pounding surf. Sadly she went aground at the entrance with her deep 3 metre keel in the shallow approach channel. We all watched in alarm but she managed to get off and then decided to sail to nearby Porto Vesme , an industrial harbour, for safer entry. She reappeared a short while later apparently unable to berth in the ship dock and was trying again to enter here which this time she did successfully and with many hands  helping she berthed on the windward side of our pontoon. They were mightily relieved to get in safely.

   The predicted window of weather was correct and we left early Tuesday morning for our 200 mile sail to Mahon in Menorca. The morning dawned bright and clear with little wind and we set course to round the lighthouse and rocks west of the harbour before setting our course north west for Mahon. The swell was large but clearly not as big as the previous day and we motored over it without trouble. As forecast the wind gradually filled in from the south and by midday we could set sails and sail gently on a broad reach. The sky was clear and the sun hot so the gentle breeze was welcome to keep us cool. The wind varied and we alternated between sailing and motoring until dusk when we finally could keep sailing through most of the night. We were not without ships and as usual Pat seemed to get most of them on her watch. Corine stood watches during the day but being her first long night crossing she shared with Chris at night.

We had a half moon nearly all night and an array of stars as usual in the clear sky. The sunset was completely clear as was the sunrise . A choppy swell developed from the south east and Pelagia was slapping about from one side to the other with the sail unable to stay filled against the rolling. Reluctantly we furled the Genoa and motorsailed with just the main. With the engine on low revs we managed a good speed and clearly we would get to Mahon before the second night. During the day when Pat was on watch she suddenly leapt up having seen something large floating on the port bow and thinking we were about to run into some huge debris. It turned out to be three sperm whales, one of which was a baby and they were just resting on the surface together with a dolphin. We passed them close by on the port side but at least we did not hit them. They showed no sign of being alarmed and just lay there as we sailed past. We have never seen whales before in the Mediterranean so it was a pleasure indeed although brief to encounter them. Poor Corine was off watch down below and by the time she came up they were slipping astern of us but you could see them spouting. We also encountered more dolphins on route although few wished to stay long with us.
The choppy swell developed into quite a large following sea with an uncomfortable motion and it must have been caused by a wind further South stronger than that we had at the time. 

We entered Mahon harbour at five p.m. after 35 hours having done 222 miles. Firstly we headed for a very protected anchorage inside the large harbour tucked behind an island. It was an idyllic anchorage but many others thought so as well and we could not find a space between the yachts. We therefore proceeded to the main harbour where we refuelled and whilst at the fuel berth managed to negotiate a good berth on the town quay stern to the road and all the shops and restaurants. Clearly Mahon harbour was very busy at this time of year and we were extremely happy to have found a position to stay. We had beaten the expected bad weather winds and could relax here until our crew change and the next leg through the Balearics to Spain. We had completed another 297 miles making a total of 1149 so far this year in one month of our trip. Corine would leave us here and Beverly and Ann join us for the next leg.

Chris and Pat Richardson

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