Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Balearics (1)


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Photo: the anchorage of Mahon from the old town

Another month and more adventures. Settled weather at last, hot days, warm nights, no rain and light breezes - and no insects! All this with the scenery of the beautiful Balearics with its clear warm water. Well, O.K., I must admit it was not absolutely perfect. The anchorages were crowded, the tourists were everywhere as the whole of Europe went on holiday in July and August. But it was all interesting.

Chinook spent a lot of time on a mooring ball in the port town of Mahon on the east coast of Menorca. For all you mayonnaise lovers, this is actually where the creamy sauce was invented. Richelieu, who had commanded the successful French invasion in 1756 had his chef invent and prepare a sauce based on the local "alioli" (which is basically eggs and olive oil whipped up with lots of garlic chunks) and he called it "mahon-esa". He served it at the victory banquet in Paris and the rest is history! By the way alioli is delicious on cold boiled potatoes...

Skill-testing question (to see if you read the text): which came first, the mayonnaise or the alioli? (photo left)
The island itself, being almost central in the Mediterranean made it militarily strategic. It changed hands six times (between the Spanish, French and British) and each time Mahon was the prize. It has the greatest concentration of prehistoric remains in the entire Mediterranean including what is believed to be the oldest building in Europe. There are a number of Neolithic caves and many megalithic monuments built by bronze age tribes which inhabited the island before the succesive waves of invading Phonecias, Greeks, Romans, Turks, Vandals, Visgoths and Moors. The latest invaders are the tourists.

Photo: in the foreground is a taula, rather like a stonehenge structure - probably religous in origin. In the background is a talayot, thought to be watchtowers; some are hollow with living quarters inside. These two monuments are common over the island and unique to the Balearics.

Enough ancient history. Modern stuff: the latest update simply lets you know that Deborah spent a month in Canada, Brian's sailing friend Will Urquhart came to visit for two weeks, Debby extended her stay and so Brian reluctantly dragged himself around those ancient sites, mingling incognito with tourists, and caught up on all the outstanding boat jobs (he says this every month) and ate pots of mahon-esa.

Deborah went back to Ontario visit her family and to watch the Men's World Lacrosse Championships in which her son, Andy, was playing for Canada. Canada won, beating the USA in the finals - the first time the USA had lost since 1978. Great celebrations! But alas, living the outdoor life, particulary in the sunshine, both of us in spite of being careful, need to have sun skin damage removed occasionally and Debby had a spot on her lip removed, necessitating stitches - hence an extended stay. She did miss Chinook (and Brian).

Photo: Will looking a little apprehensive as a cruise ship passes close to Chinook.

Will Urquhart and I (Brian) sailed (well, again to be honest, motored in those light winds) Chinook from Port Soller to Mahon. This involved three day sails: the first from Soller to Pollensa at the north of Mellorca (25 nm) where we stayed two nights, then 45 n.m. across to the south coast of Menorca anchoring in the busy little cala (bay) of Son Saura, and the third leg of 25 n.m. around the coast to Mahon. Will had his sailboat in a slip next to ours in or home sailing club, Niagara On the Lake S. C., and bought a larger cruiser on which to "live the dream, setting off at the same time as Chinook. Unfortunately ill health forced him to interrupt his journey, but he is now almost ready to set off south (from Ontario) again in his new Shannon 28, tot le matin. We had many long conversations past midnight - Will's enthusiasm for tot le matin and his new venture showed through. (Sadly Will passed two years after this blog was written after only spending a year aboard his new boat)

Just before leaving Soller, we were invited to a "happy hour" on another Canadian boat, Mon Ark. Chris and Linda had some "left over" flavoured rums from the Caribbean they were determined to get rid of as they were heading back to Ontario for a year of work. We took over a bottle of the local (Soller-distilled) orange liquor "Oro de Sol" to finish off the night. And it seemed to, quite well.

The long deep harbour of Mahon is very sheltered from strong winds, but somewhat churned up by the many ferries, cruise ships, freighters and of course all the pleasure boaters especially this time of year. Unfortunately the water is not conducive to swimming as a result. Shortly Chinook will be sailed around the north coast to the sheltered cala of Fornells - much quieter, cleaner and cheaper (no mooring fees to be paid).

Sadly, a sailing friend passed away recently. You may remember reading about Doug and Jan (sv Freeway) in our June update. We met them in Portimao in the boatyard on the hard next to us a year ago and we had just spent a week with them whilst in Port Almerimar in June, again with many happy hours. Just a few weeks ago, Jan was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, which took her very very quickly. They had cruised for 25 years all over the Mediterranean, Pacific and the Caribbean and had just purchased a new boat. They had lived the dream for a long time. It is too soon for Doug to make any decisions about his future but we are sure it will include more cruising. Jan will be missed by many cruisers.

We had planned to make Sardinia our next destination. We were to meet friends (the Dodds and the Shaws) in Tuscany - a land trip this time- and a ferry from Sardinia to the Italian mainland was the convenient and inexpensive plan. However, with Deborah staying longer in Canada, we would not have the time to sail Chinook there this month. Ah well, it proved not a bad island to spend more time in.

Boat jobs and new acquisitions ("the never ending list" - TNEL) included in this month: building an outboard motor lifting derrick, constructing a folding cart out of a swim ladder which easily totes two heavy water jugs (friend Bill Severin told Brian once that the sailing community was not ready for him after he had modified a toilet seat fitting to make a tiller extension), checking steering linkages, and purchasing new (flat rectangular) fenders that stow away neatly. Also the binacle was rewired, the autohelm control unit moved and a 240 volt inlet was installed. Keeps one out of mischief...

Diesel fuel on these island was 1.08 Euros per litre (about $1.50 CAD - $2.20 NZD). Putting in a 100 litres hurts...

Hasta la next update.
Brian and Deborah

Photo: a menorquin, one of the very popular pleasure craft built here. A tubby little boat with a very traditional fore and aft. Some have sails...

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