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, 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. I looked over to the genua winch, where the sound had come from. The outer mantle of the port genua sheet had torn in the clutch. I remembered the sheet had been creaking more forebodingly than usual today. The genua was completely out of shape now for the course we were sailing.

30 knots of wind and no way to roll in the foresail, as the sheet mantle was jammed in the clutch. We couldn't tack and put the load on the other sheet because of this either. This was what sailors call ‘a situation’. I pondered the situation for a minute. I called Barbara outside and explained the situation.

We rolled in the headsail as far as the jammed mantle would allow us. I moved the starboard sheet to the broken sheet side, on to the winch, and pointed the boat very close to the wind. This took the wind out of the foresail. It started flapping. I cut the exposed kern of the broken sheet. Then, while I used my weight to keep the flapping reserve sheet under control, Barbara threaded it through the block and the clutch and put it around the winch. We were back in business! Now we could roll in the foresail in a controlled way. We motored over to the nearest bay, 20 miles straight into the waves. All those bangs sounded familiar.

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