A Simple Plan

Written by Pieter Jan on Nov 9, 2019 — 4 min read

From: Mahón, Menorca, Spain
To: Portopetro Bay, Mallorca, Spain

A good night’s sleep, I had almost forgotten what that was. Two nights of non-sleep will wreck your memory.

We left the protected but ridiculously overpriced marina of Menorca around 10:00. Seriously, €80 for a night? Know these people no shame? What €80 gets you in Mahón: some electricity (worth €0.05), some water (worth €0.02), a moderately clean toilet with some toilet paper and a tiny shower, albeit with nice hot water (priceless?). Toilets and showers are in a container. No wifi on the boat. Bring your own bed. Their office looked very handsome, what with all the profit they’re making.

With the foresail up and the wind at our back we navigated the channel to the sea, dodging sailing school boats and children in optimists that were permanently on the verge of capsizing. Our destination: Mallorca.

Yup, we’re skipping Barcelona as well. Barcelona is 100 miles to the north and it’s getting colder by the day. We have no heating on the boat. This morning saw us breathing little clouds at 11 degrees centigrade. That’s not what I had in mind when I concocted this world voyage thingy. So now we have a simple plan: to get to the subtropics as fast as the weather allows us.

Also, there’s another whopping storm coming. We don’t want to be near it when it hits.

We stayed close to the island — to enjoy its wave and wind shadow — and put the main up. For a few minutes, the sailing was lovely. A dolphin jumped out of the water right next to the boat and scared the bejeezus out of me. “Holy cow! A dolphin!” I yelled. It jumped a few more times in front of the bows, but disappeared into the depths before the kids could see it. I viewed the dolphin as a good omen.

The lighthouse on Illa de l'Aire
The lighthouse on Illa de l'Aire

Once we passed southernmost tip of Menorca, Punta dels Marbres, the wind turned to northwest — the prediction was north for the day, so northwest was actually closer than a lot of predictions we had. We wanted to go southwest to Mallorca, and for a while, this was working out okay. Close-hauled(sailing with the wind coming from almost the front of the boat), into the waves, but not terrifying like the days before. Then the wind turned west and we couldn’t quite squeeze close enough anymore. We kept sailing parallel to the east coast of Mallorca, at a distance of about 20 miles.

Punta dels Marbres
Punta dels Marbres

The sun set, the moon came up, the wind increased steadily. Vite & Rêves was going at a nice clip. 8 knots, 9 knots, 10 knots. Suddenly, amidst all the noise of the pounding waves, I heard a kind of ‘BANG’ I hadn’t heard before, coming from the genua winch. The outer mantle of the port genua sheet(a line you use to control the foresail) had torn in the clutch. I remembered the sheet had been creaking more forebodingly than usual today.

The sheet mantle was jammed in the clutch. 30 knots of wind. We couldn’t roll in the genua. We couldn’t tack(turn so the wind comes from the other direction). This was what sailors call ‘a situation’.

I pondered the situation for a minute. I called Barbara outside and explained the situation.

We came up with a plan: I attached the starboard sheet to the port side of the genua. I pointed the boat very close to the wind. This took the wind out of the foresail. I cut the broken sheet. Then, while I used my weight to keep the new, violently flapping sheet under control, Barbara threaded it through the clutch and put it around the winch. We were back in business! Now we could roll in the foresail again.

We motored over to the nearest bay, 20 miles straight into the waves. But all those bangs at least sounded familiar.

All in all, we handled the situation pretty well I think. I also realized dolphins are not omens, just dolphins.