Arrival by truck from Holland to Calpe - Spain
The delivery by truck from Holland passed without incident and I met Michel at Alicante airport on the 11th June excited to start the first real sailing trip to Formentera. I helped Michel get the mast and rigging up after some usual Spanish confusion, the crane which Michel was assured would be available was nowhere to be seen and it took till midday to finally get it on site!
By now it was already rather warm so I left Michel to put the sails on and headed off into town to stock up on provisions. By the time I got back Michel was hot and flustered and ready for a cold beer so we headed off for a quick one before then taking the boat for a test sail in the early evening breeze. Everything went perfectly so we were on track for an early morning departure to Formentera.
Before leaving the boat for the evening we met the owner of the Belluire boat yard who was admiring Lady Essence from her office window and who gave us a potted history of the business and showed us some of the new motor yacht designs they are hoping to build. I hope they do get the build some of them because they have some very nice designs that would be great to see actually on the water.
From Calpe to Formentera – 64 miles
Around 08.30hrs on Saturday the 12th June we let go of the lines and headed out into the bay and set course for Formentera however it was clear we were in for a motor sail pretty much the whole way due to lack of wind. About halfway across we came across a huge school of dolphins, there must have been well over 100 and they stayed with us for well over 45 half an hour before disappearing just as suddenly as they arrived. Michel got some great video and photos if anyone is interested.
About an hour before reaching Formentera the wind picked up and we were able to sail the last stretch and ended up in the port in a lovely berth with a great Italian restaurant right behind us. Before we had finished cleaning the boat the waiter had brought us some cold beer and a small pizza with Jambon Serrano and had us booked in for dinner, perfect.
The plan had been to join up with my son Oliver, a German sailing buddy of mine Stefan and Marcus the captain of our Sweden Yachts 70ft ketch coming down from Palma where she is based however they were involved in a sea rescue half way between Majorca and Ibiza which delayed them by a few hours and they ended up overnighting in St. Eularia instead. Basically what happened was that they came across a small speedboat with two young couples on board who had decided to cross from Majorca to Ibiza and ran out of petrol! Worse still they were completely drunk! Marcus called in the coast guard who asked him to stay on site till they arrived which of course he did but was not all together pleased. These people were very inexperience and it goes without saying completely stupid and deserved what punishment and fines the coast guard decided to throw at them. They were also very lucky because had the weather been bad things could have turned out much worse.
The next two days were spent sailing around Isla Espalmador getting to know the boat properly before Michel left to head back to work and for me to carry on up to Palma with my escort who by now had joined us and were having fun sailing up and down the north east and south west sides of the island. We had some good wind from the south on both days and had a great play with the boat, simply perfect!
The Essence is a very pretty boat and everywhere you go she is admired and sailing in and out of the various boats at anchor around the island was great fun with people shouting their appreciation and asking what type of boat she is etc. You are never short of friends if you get one of these, that’s for certain!
Formentera to Cala Portinatx Ibiza – 25 miles
Wednesday 17th June we headed off towards the north of Ibiza up the west side but again no real wind so sadly engine power again. We pulled into Cala de San Vincent for a swim, lunch and beer before continuing onto to Cala Portinatx which was probably a mistake because there was still a swell from a north easterly which made things less comfortable than planned. After a great dinner onshore and plenty of wine the swell had calmed down and getting off to sleep was not a problem.
Cala Portinatx Ibiza to Palma Majorca – 60 miles
Stefan and I headed out at around 08.30 hoping for a good sail but yet again no wind so engine again! I have to say though that the boat goes well under power easily cruising between 6 and 6.5 knots depending on the sea state and the engine noise is ok too so you don’t get fed up when motoring.
About two hours off Majorca the wind picked up from the west and we managed to sail the rest of the way peaking at 8.5 knots in the bay of Palma with 20 knots wind. In fact by the time we actually got to the harbour entrance it was a steady 25 knots. I wanted to play around a bit and see how she handled just under the genoa beating into this wind so we lowered the main completely and headed back out of the harbour and was very pleased with how she handled. The Essence has a lot of sail which is great for light air but you do need to be sensible when the wind gets above 17knots and reef or take the power out of the main completely by letting the sheet go so the mainsail just flutters. Just with the genoa though in this wind she still blasted along at 7-8 knots and was much more comfortable and safe to handle.
Safely in Palma enjoying tapas with Stefan on the left, Oliver in the middle and me on right.
I left the boat in Club de Mar for ten days whilst I returned to the UK for work and she got so much attention being right in front of the Marina office, lots of people admiring and asking about her. I have asked Michel for a set of brochures or advertising flyers that I can hand out because I lose so much time being polite and answering everyone’s questions!
On my return on the 27th June
The weather had clearly warmed up a lot and this was to be a feature of the next two weeks and beyond. During the first trip I had no problem sleeping on board due to heat but it was clear the next two weeks were going to be a challenge!
Palma to Cabrera – 26 miles
I spent the first two nights at the Club de Mar marina hotel while I did a few jobs and got organised and acclimatised to the heat and on Saturday headed off to Cabrera with what little wind there was on the nose again. I had arranged for two nights in Cabrera and enjoyed wandering around the island and drinking rose outside the small tavern however it was disappointing to see so many day trip tourist boats compared to the last time I was there. I suppose it was not too bad as the early mornings and evenings go back to the quiet timeless pace the island is known and treasured for.
Cap des Salines Lighthouse to Andraxt - 35 miles
I was hoping to sail up the east side of Majorca however a strong easterly prevented that. I did try but 30 knot gusts and deep short waves persuaded me to turn around and head right back across Palma bay and down to Andraxt. I also managed to break one of the bimini tension poles when a strong gust caught me off guard and had to sail the whole way without any shade which was a challenge. I was still able to use the bimini until I was able to effect a repair but it did not look so good!
The trip up the north coast went without incident apart from the heat, again no wind which is a great time to cruise up this dangerous but beautiful coastline but it was hot as hell. I stopped over in Soller and carried on round to Pollensa where I decided to berth the boat on the visitor’s key and check into the Ila Dor hotel for a few days. I went sailing a couple of times in the bay in perfect conditions and spent the afternoons lazing around the bay of Formentor.
Whilst in Pollensa I got a call my brother and my sister telling me they each had a daughter there on holiday and to expect a call to arrange to hook up for a sail. It was such a pleasant surprise to see Caroline and Holly and take them for a sail, I have definitely found some new crew members for future sailing trips.
Pollensa to Mahon – 60 miles
My last leg was over to Mahon in Menorca, my favourite harbour and island. I have been holidaying in Menorca for over 45 years and never tire of it. My first attempt failed due to another strong easterly, I was forced to turn back after a couple of hours and the next day although the sea was sloppy there was not much wind. I left Formentor Bay early where I had spent the night tied onto one of the buoys tucked behind the little island. By 13.00 hours I was coming into Playa Son Saura on the south west tip of Menorca where the water is about the clearest you will find anywhere.
The afternoon was spent sailing, yes sailing at last along the south coast of Menorca. A light North West wind kept me going at 5 – 6 knots until it started to die out around Cala’n Porter. On the way I the way I passed Nahlin a refurbished classic motor yacht owned I believe by Mr Dyson (the hoover guy). My little sailing yacht go a lot of attention from the crew as I passed who were looking through binoculars trying to figure out what this sexy little sailing boat was gliding by.
As I turned the corner to head north up towards the entrance to Mahon harbour the wind picked up again and was gusting 25 knots but the sea was ok because it was still in the lee of the land so no problem and no turning back here. The wind died down almost as quick as it came and the sail into the harbour was great and very satisfying having made it without any major incident all the way from Calpe.
I managed to get a berth in the Marina de Mahon which was convenient and gave the boat a good clean then went out to enjoy a nice dinner and plenty of booze to celebrate my safe arrival.
Some little stories / niggles!
Michel and I spent quite some time talking about a suitable tender for the boat and we were about to place an order for one when Michel remembered he had just the thing in storage, a used tender from one of his old boats. By this time I was ready to save some money so I agreed to take it after inflating it at the yard to check it was ok. However when I tried to use the tender for the first time I realised there were no rowlocks and no oars! Also the port side rubber inflated tube glue failed where it joins the transom so whenever it deflated a bit or you had some small wave water would leak in.
The battery Michel and the Essence team supplied as the battery for my electric motor was so big and heavy I couldn’t even lift it which is a good job because if I had managed to get it into the dinghy it would have fallen straight through and sunk it and broke my back in the process. It is powerful enough to power a small village never mind a small electric outboard. I will keep it on the boat as a spare and have purchased a smaller battery more suitable to use on the dinghy.
Anyone who knows Michel also knows he is a perfectionist, whenever I sent him a photo of the boat somewhere along my travels he would text back saying things like, “You have not got the sail cover lined up correctly” or “the sail is not folded over the boom as it should be” etc! The one that really made me think was “You are about to run aground”! That one led to a discussion about how they had set the depth reading on the instruments, was it from the bottom of the keel or the waterline? I still don’t know the answer but we are still afloat and that’s all that matters.
Michel has also tried on numerous occasions to explain the electric system on the boat, he tells me it is very straightforward which I am sure it is but he forgets he is talking to an electrical / mechanical illiterate! I had a Bose sound system at home that I insisted was installed on the boat and so we ordered it but when it arrived it wasn’t the battery charge version and therefore could be used once charged without a direct power source. So I said ok I will take that back home to England and use that there and bring my UK one to the boat. What I then discovered was that the UK chargeable one would only charge when connected to shore power and I rarely go into port when on the boat and it would not charge up from the huge batteries we had on the boat (220 versus 12V or vis versa!), it had to be shore power. Having figured this out I then discovered the bit you stick the ipod into was also not working properly.
So for my two week voyage I had no music apart from my own singing and the waves. I brought the unit back to the UK and went into my local Curry’s to see if could be fixed. After much deliberation and being told I would have to send it for an expensive repair one bright spark, Me, asked “is there not a simple connector / lead I can buy to plug into another port to fix this problem? Fortunately there was a member of staff who overheard the conversation and said yes try this. A £3.00 lead that plugs into the back of the Bose unit directly from the ipod fixed the problem and I now have music again. I did ask the same question in Palma, Pollensa and Mahon and got a resounding “non comprende” or vacant look each time, my fault for not speaking Spanish!
Finally you remember me mentioning that a gust of wind snapped the tension bar on the bimini, well I managed to get a new metal (steel not aluminium this time) part made up and fixed the two sections together. In order to fix this tension bar in place you have bend the thing into an arc shape and I remember watching Michel do this quite easily but not me. I have never sworn as much in my life as I tried to pull the damn thing into position. It’s like a pole vault pole so as it bends it gets a huge amount of tension in it and you have to hold it under tension and position it into its pocket. It was one hell of a work out but I finally managed it and I will make sure it stays in position now forever!
Overall I think the Essence 33 is excellent for what is designed for, day sailing and the occasional weekend on board and if you don’t mind the lack of air conditioning, fridge and below deck shower etc then it does an OK job of cruising. I generally bought fresh water and sandwiches in the morning for lunch on board with some fruit and charcuteries for snacking on. Breakfast and evening dinners were onshore in cafes and tapas bars and it worked out fine hoping from one place to the next like that.
If I could I would like to increase the size of the water tank or add another tank because although the shower hose situated in the anchor locker works fine I found myself running out of water and still covered in shampoo on a couple of occasions! Also I think I will look into installing some kind of fridge or electric powered cooler box, maybe that enormous battery would be ideal to power one of those, I will have to ask Michel?
The biggest problem was the heat, this year it’s been and still is a very hot one in the Balearics and air conditioning was sorely missed but sleeping in the cockpit on the wide and over 6ft long cushions was fine.
The boat itself can cope with lots of wind, reefing is easy and she feels safe the whole time. The problems arise when you get those short but steep wave patterns often found in the med, then as with even large boats you just slam from one to the next, this is what forces a change of plan not the wind strength. When you turn around and you go with those seas the boat is very exciting because it is very light and surfs the waves superbly so for me that’s what I do when caught in that kind of sea. Things go from miserable to exciting very quickly!
I have never been on a boat that attracts so many waves and hollering from people, thumbs up signs and positive comments and I am very lucky and proud she is mine.
Total covered miles 425!