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SPRING 2003
8. Sail-boating
    round Menorca
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My Experience: Sail-boating round Menorca, by Alfonso Ayuso  

     It all started on the first Saturday in February. As I was coming out of the Lago pool, the idea of sailing the coast of Menorca was suggested to me. We had met Bob, the skipper of the boat, at FITUR. He was visiting the ADN stand and it seems now that the idea of a naturist cruise was born then and there.
     At the beginning, I was puzzled as we hardly knew each other, but the idea was very appealing. A few days later, we found ourselves discussing dates, flight schedules and so on. We couldn’t wait…

     At last, the day arrived and after a pleasant flight, (and an unpleasant hostess), we, the four apprentice sailors, landed in Maó. Just outside the airport, we met Pili and Bob waiting for us. They welcomed us warmly, took us to the harbour, where the sailboat was moored, and we dropped the luggage and had a snack they had prepared for us. In the afternoon, we went shopping for supplies and has a walk in Maó. None of us had ever been in Menorca. It was overcast which made us fear bad weather ahead, since our hosts said it had been like that for a week.
Everything was open, which struck us as odd: the boat, the cars, even the doors to the houses. It was obvious these people don’t have the big city criminality problem.
     The next day, (and the following days), it dawned brightly, sun-shining, clear skies and a soft breeze inviting us to sail. Bob presently came to the boat and suggested places we could go to, coves to sunbathe and swim, small islands or coves to spend the night in. His advice was always accurate, although the wind and the sea conditions must also be taken into account.
     None of us knew anything about sailing but, after some basic instructions, we left port. We helped Bob with the sails and I was even allowed at the helm. I could not believe how fast we were sailing in such soft breeze. As we were leaving the harbour, Pili snapped a few pictures of us already in the nude. What a feeling! We were sailing on the Aire island course and, once there, we anchored the boat and started enjoying the water. The turquoise blue water in shallow areas really made an impression on me; I had never experienced anything like that before. It was an invitation to plunge in. The water was about 20º C which was another surprise as we expected the water to be cooler.

     We all ended in the water, (in diving outfit and all). How wonderful! The water was crystal clear: ten meters deep and we could see the sea-floor! We could also see colourful fish, a few sea-anemone, algae and a huge jelly fish some twenty metres away. We all wished we could stay there for good.
     As we were coming out of the water, we noticed an approaching boat and the people on it were also naked. I reckon, the magic of the place gets on to you and makes you go natural.
 

     We went to an island after dinner and, there, we saw some peculiar small black lizards which only exist there; the island was full of them. Then, we went back to Maó to spend the night in a sheltered cove near the harbour.
     The next day, we busied ourselves scouting the northwest coast, going on the Colom island course. We anchored the boat and swam by the beach. After a delicious barbecue on board, we kept on sailing towards Fornells and spent the night there. Once in Fornells, we got bad news from the weather forecast service, Tramontana wind was expected that same night. We had a shaky night because of the force of the wind and landed to check the sea from the other side of Fornells. After considering the situation, we decided not to go on sailing. We spent the afternoon at a cove within the natural harbour. Fornells is a lonely place. We only met a pleasant French couple. We returned to the harbour in order to spend the night, and kept wishing the next day the sea were calmer.
     The next day was unforgettable as it was going to be full of new experiences. The weather forecast did not sound good, from heavy swell to rough sea and 6 knot winds. I did not have an idea of what all that meant until we saw it for ourselves. Bob suggested that we did not sail but we were bored in Fornells and were prepared to take risks. Then, Bob warned us that if we decided to leave we could not come back due to the wind. The truth is that we went out to sea although Bob’s warning had frightened us a bit. Leaving the harbour was a bad beginning as the waves were almost from 3 to 4 metres high. Every time we went over a wave, my dear travel-mate kept yelling: ‘I can’t help it. It’s like a roller coaster!’. After a while, your body gets used to all this rocking and somebody feels in the mood for shooting his video camera and Bob actually gets down to the kitchen to make coffee – (in all this commotion!) . When we were half way, Bob tells us if we had not got sea sick yet, we’ll never be as the waves were 6 metres high, then. (to cheer us up, I imagine!)We finally reached Ciudadela. We had been sailing the north and part of the west coast in 5 hours. We had not been able to stop at any coves, which in hindsight is a good excuse to return in the future.
     At Ciudadela, the weather changed for the better, radically. The wind died down, the waves vanished, a very pleasant afternoon followed and we could finally have a swim and go for a walk. At about 6 o’clock, as we were coming back from stroll in the city, I told my wife: “ I must still feel sea-sick because the ground seems to be moving under my feet” I did not attach any importance to that and we kept on walking. Ciudadela is very nice and enjoyable town. At about 11 o’clock at night, we were sitting at a terrace by the harbour when the water suddenly began to leave the harbour; it went 2 metres lower in 5 minutes. We were flabbergasted!. Bob had never seen anything like that, either. Some people started taking it lightly and making jokes: “somebody must have pulled the plug” and things like that. We tried to make up explanations but we did not really have a clue. Moreover, we were worried about the keel as it might break if our boat touched the sea-floor of the sea. Luckily, it did not happen. After another 5 minutes, the water started filling the harbour again; this time with extreme force. The sea went so high that it started to overflow, flooding the pier in places. At that moment, we were all dumbfounded and the jokes had ended as nobody knew what was taking place.
     Bob got a call from Pili in Maó, who said that a giant wave had wrecked boats moored there. The crest of this Tsunami took 12 minutes to disappear and five hours to make the trip from Algiers, following an earthquake there.
     The water kept going up and down all night. I realised, then, that I had not been sea-sick but that the ground had been actually moving. The local newspapers reported the next day that the earthquake had been 3 degrees on the Richter scale in Ciudadela itself. Up to 170 boats had sunk in Menorca. What a pitiful sight!
     We kept sailing down south along the coast, which is not as rough as the north coast. We also stopped at several coves and enjoyed the sun and the water. Lived-in houses and eye-sore hotels could be seen from the coast in this area. We also saw the cove of Xoroi, where the famous disco is, as we were reaching Coves, that is the name of the cove were we planned to spend the night. Bob told us then that there are people who dive from the terrace, which is quite high, so as not to pay for their drinks. Cove is an unbelievable beautiful spot. It is a cove full of troglodyte caves which were inhabited until very recently by people who played musical instruments. It was a pleasure to hear them from a boat anchored in the cove. They used to live off manufacturing and selling handicrafts and they would bathe naked. They had lived there for many years, and they did not bother anybody, until the town authorities decided to seal the caves with iron doors. Nobody lives there any longer.

     We continued our trip down the southern coast on the Maó course. That was our last day sailing. We hardly had any wind and so we had to resort to the engine to keep on moving. We were already used to the sails and missed them.
     We arrived in Maó in the evening. As we were arriving in port we began to see the effects of the Tsunami. It was a pity to see the wrecked boats and all the general destruction. We could also see several cranes trying to pull the boat out of the water. As the boat at our dock was still sunk, we had to moor elsewhere.
     Our sailing round Menorca ended this way. We spent two further nights on the boat, (Pili and Bob´s compliment), as our return tickets were for two days later.
     I would like to thank Pili and Bob again, for all their hospitality and kindness toward us. They managed to make it possible for us to have an unforgettable time and I wish them good luck with their business. We also wish them that their sail boat goes under full sail, (with our help if we can).
 

     Alfonso Ayuso
     Membership No. 590. More information: www.menorcaenvelero.com

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