Party Flight

Written by Pieter Jan on Nov 13, 2019 — 3 min read

From: Colònia de Sant Jordi, Mallorca, Spain
To: Santa Eulària des Riu, Ibiza, Spain

We wanted to leave early, but the starboard engine wouldn’t start. It would crank but then… nothing. I first tried that a few times, but as marine engine guru Nigel Calder warns: “If the engine doesn’t start, stop cranking and start thinking.”

Fuel: enough left. Diesel filter: seems clean. Air supply? It ran fine two days before, so that’s still good. Water in the cylinders? Unlikely. I scratched my head. I suspected a battery problem, but my voltmeter showed 13.5V, that’s more than enough. The terminals looked a bit corroded though. I started unscrewing the terminal bolts. A huge spark nearly welded my wrench to the engine. Note to self: If you work on the electrics, switch off the power.

After I straightened my hair and cleaned all contacts, Barbara pushed the ‘start’ button and ta-da! It ran like clockwork. We left the bay, where a stranded sailboat serves as a daily reminder to double check if your anchor is holding.

Let's hope we don't end up like this guy
Let's hope we don't end up like this guy

Though there was still a bit of swell left, the wind was almost nothing. 5 knots? I checked the predictions again. 20 knots from the north, turning to west. Strange. I half considered mounting the gennaker(a large light sail that is used when the wind comes _from the side_ of your boat), then thought the better of it. We weren’t out of the bay yet.

And yes, once we came out of the bay, the wind increased suddenly to 20 knots. From the northwest. We wanted to go west-southwest to Ibiza, so we braced ourselves for another day of close-hauled(sailing with the wind coming from almost the front of the boat) pounding into the wind.

It went better than expected. I could point Vite & Rêves to about 50 degrees off the apparent wind, which is generous compared to the last few weeks. The swell was coming from the northwest, so it wasn’t head-on. The wind increased to 30 knots. With a reef(make the sail smaller by rolling it in or lowering it a bit) in the main and a reef in the genua(the foresail), Vite & Rêves started flying over the mountainous swell. She has this thing that when she doesn’t have to meet the waves head-on, she gets into a groove once her speed is over 7 knots. The groove feels good. It’s beautiful and hypnotizing. It lasted nearly all day.

Sunset over an agitated sea
Sunset over an agitated sea

Until sunset. The wind fell briefly to 15 knots, then turned in the wrong direction and increased again to 30 knots. We had to give up 30 degrees and would now miss Ibiza and Formentera completely. I knew this would happen, but it’s still frustrating when it does. Our ETA(estimated time of arrival) went up from 22:00 to 3:00.

A silver lining: We were in the wave shadow of Ibiza by now, so we kept on sailing under the full moon for a while, until after a few hours, we came out of the wave shadow of Formentera. Then we tacked(turned so the wind comes from the other direction) again to the north. When we came close to the north side of Ibiza, we turned on the engine and motored the last few miles straight into the win to Santa Eulària des Riu, where the high rise hotels would hopefully shield us a bit from the night and morning storm. Around 4:00 we could finally go to bed.

Ibiza, incidentally, is dead as a dodo in November. Not a party to be seen or heard. It made for a quiet night.