Crossing to Menorca

Written by Pieter Jan on Nov 8, 2019 — 4 min read

From: Porto Di Sant' Antioco, Sardinia, Italy
To: Mahón, Menorca, Spain

At 7 in the morning we left, together with Ikigai. In the Golfo Di Palmas, the wind was good, the waves small and our spirits high. I was thinking about challenging Ikigai to a little race, but they zoomed off into the distance before I could even take my radio.

Ikigai speeding off
Ikigai speeding off
Weather looks like trouble around the cape
Weather looks like trouble around the cape

Once we came out of the gulf, the swell became huge. 5 meter waves and equally deep holes behind them, left over from the storm the days before. Vite & Rêves rode them like a champ, but part of her crew was coping less well. Andreas became seasick and I didn’t feel too perky myself. I didn’t puke, but I didn’t feel like eating the whole day. Luckily, Barbara, Helder and Mira didn’t suffer one bit.

The wind increased too, to 25 knots. I put in one reef in the main.

Island of La Vacca being battered by the waves
Island of La Vacca being battered by the waves

We made it past the cape, then started sailing north in the western wind, as far as possible. A wind shift to the north was predicted to happen around 19:00, but it came much sooner, around 13:00. “All right,” I thought, “this might turn out okay after all.” We started going west, to Menorca.

Andreas and Helder commenting on the size of the waves to each other
Andreas and Helder commenting on the size of the waves to each other

After sunset, we prepared for the night. Barbara made a delicious chili con carne. At least, it smelled delicious. I still didn’t feel like eating. She put the kids in bed, then went to sleep herself. I would do the night watch and she’d handle the early morning.

I’m ashamed to admit that I forgot to set my 30 minute timer around midnight. Around that time, the wind shifted too. When I woke up, Vite & Rêves had been slowly drifting backwards for an hour. Cursing myself, I switched the sail. At least now I know that catamarans can heave-to just as fine as monohulls.

The next day, the waves eased off a little. Now 2 to 3 meter high, the ride was marginally more comfortable. I still didn’t feel like eating for the whole day though.

The wind was coming from the wrong direction — no surprises here. We were going much more northly than we wanted to. In the late afternoon, squalls started coming in. We saw them appear on the horizon. The wind shifted to the good direction before the squalls, but when the rain arrived, it shifted back.

The sun set and we prepared for another night. The pattern repeated itself: Half an hour before a squall, the wind would slowly turn, and we could turn with it, lifting my spirits. We would make it! Then it started to rain, the wind shifted and we lost all progress. Around 20:00, it became clear we would not make it, not even close. The other option was sailing on to Barcelona, but the weather on the way over there looked very bad. Tired and dejected, we said: “Screw this, we’re motoring the last 50 miles.”

I took the night watch again. Vivid dreams about mooring, crashing, hypothermia visited me as I tried to sleep in 30 minute intervals, while Vite & Rêves was battling her way straight into the wind and the waves. Every 5 to 10 minutes, she was getting ‘donkey-slapped’. A huge wave comes up and hits the bottom of the saloon floor, violently rattling everything and everyone in it. Not beneficial to one’s sleep.

Squalls incoming
Squalls incoming

Squalls kept coming, one after the other. At 4:00 there was a hailstorm. I prayed to the god I don’t believe in: “A hailstorm, God, seriously? Why?” He answered immediately — I’ve been told this is rare — with a booming voice in my head: “Because I can, you puny mortal! Muhahahahaha!!!” He must’ve been in one of his Old Testament moods. I went back to sleep for 30 minutes.

At last, the sun came up. We were one hour away from the entrance to Mahón, Menorca. It was one of the most beautiful, soothing and reassuring sunrises I have ever seen.

The best sunrises are those that tell you you survived the night
The best sunrises are those that tell you you survived the night

A full double rainbow appeared, indicating the exact place where we needed to enter the safe natural channel to our destination. I may have shed one or two tears. Manly tears of course.

No pot of gold, but a safe place to rest, which is even better
No pot of gold, but a safe place to rest, which is even better

After mooring in the marina, I ate two plates of chili con carne for breakfast. It was delicious.