Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Memorable Cruise, part 4

North Menorca

The Island of Menorca

Menorca was to be our next destination. We set off on a windless Sunday morning, but by mid-day, there was a Force 2 from the northeast. Then the wind gradually increased until we were making speeds of between five and six knots. At night the silver moon laid a molten path for us to follow. I was entranced by the beauty of glistening waves. A trail of phosphorescence flowed from ‘Secant 's’ stern. It seemed we were suspended in space on some kind of odyssey, heading for the Moon and beyond to the Milky Way. Now and again dappled clouds added mystery to the scene. I wasn't sure if I was pleased when Gordon offered to relieve me from my watch, as I was enjoying the stars and the wonder of that magical night.

I awoke on Monday morning to find a sparkling, sunny scene, with Menorca dead ahead. Gordon asked, “Will you take her now Bill, for an hour or so, while I get a little nap?” At that moment dolphins arrived, playfully breaking surface near the bows, diving and weaving to our delight. Having seen these creatures often before, I was no less fascinated with their antics. I am convinced they know when they are being watched, and show off even more! One was bigger than the others. I could clearly recognize him by a large scar on his back. Perhaps he had been attacked by a shark? After fifteen or so minutes they disappeared as suddenly as they had arrived.

Shortly after the dolphin show, I heard Gordon snoozing in his bunk. The Autohelm was working well. I took the opportunity to plot our position and estimated a time of arrival at Ciutadella. This little gem was just as the Pilot Book described it - a small, secure natural harbour with a quay adjacent to the ancient town.

The dissuasive effect of the sun's intensity did not prevent me from exploring Ciutadella to seek out examples of architecture. I noticed that many buildings were decorated with intricate stone carvings. For me, Ciutadella was something special, because of its variety. I loved the contrasts to be found there: secluded cul-de-sacs, busy arcades, open squares and pedestrian walkways that resembled cloisters. I happened to find a travel agent who booked me a flight home from Alicante, as Gordon intended that I should leave ship there.

That night we dined at the ‘el Horn' restaurant, which was featured in the Michelin Guide. ‘el Horn’ means ‘baking oven', and an ancient one was displayed there. I cannot remember what Gordon ate, but I enjoyed my chicken - quite the best I have tasted. We drank a fair measure of fine wine too.

On Tuesday, 9th June, ‘Secant’ was topped-up with diesel; then we motored along the north coast of Menorca to a superb seawater lagoon named Cala de Fornells. Around the perimeter there were golden sandy beaches between rocky outcrops, and in the centre there was a group of small islands; the largest had a lighthouse. As a backdrop, all around, save on the seaward side, there were wooded hills. The crystal clear water revealed both sand and weed. Much of the cala’s natural loveliness remained, but the old town had been blighted with the addition of a plethora of Mickey Mouse villas. It disturbed me to see such natural beauty being destroyed by the buildings to satisfy a ready market. These ugly villas were being bought by foreign investors who hired them out or used them as occasional retreats.

Illa Sargantanas, with the lighthouse

Gordon and I had cooling swims. Later in the afternoon the wind increased which caused the anchor to drag. We reset it, but when I was about to have a siesta, I could hear what I thought was a dinghy sailing nearby. Instead, I actually heard the sound of waves breaking on rocks nearby. The anchor was dragging again. I warned Gordon, who immediately started the engine and retrieved the anchor. Fortunately no damage was done, and we were able to motor off a rock that we lightly touched. That evening the sun provided us with a feast for our eyes. Other yachts anchored nearby to savour the sunset. When darkness came, I was reluctant to retire to my cabin because I was bewitched by the seductive moon. I found her beauty irresistible, both entrancing and magical. I was almost guilty of worshipping the created thing, while forgetting the Creator. What folly!

Cala de Fornells was such an idyllic place we decided to stay for another day. At about 0930 I rowed the Avon dinghy to a nearby beach with the intention of trekking to derelict houses I had seen on a bluff at the entrance of the lagoon. When I landed on the beach I instinctively felt that something was not right. I am not one who is tuned into feelings or intuitions. In fact, I’m quite the opposite. I prefer to be objective and logical, but that morning I could not discount a menacing ‘feel’ to the place. There was a deathly oppressive silence, save for the chirping of crickets and the constant humming of insects. I felt that a horrendous crime had been committed there, perhaps a pre-meditated ritual killing of an infant. I tried to put the irrational thought out of my mind, but I was reluctant to carry on my mission.

As I made my way into the dense thicket I chanced upon a tent that had been erected under a tree surrounded by bushes, as if the intention of the owner had been to hide it. The zipped door was locked with a padlock. I had a desire to see what was inside, but I overcame my curiosity. Proceeding further up the hillside I found myself trapped in a prickly thicket. It was so dense I could hardly see the sun, which I needed for direction. I realized I must retrace my track and try an alternative route, but that was easier said than done. There didn't seem to be a way out. Eventually I found myself back at the tent and continued along what appeared to be a track running parallel to the shoreline, although I could not see the latter. From there it climbed steeply, but petered out. I persevered through thorn bushes while taking care to avoid being scratched. Several hundred feet higher at the edge of the woodland I was confronted by a black goat and his mate. The creature held its head down, as if ready to charge. Not wanting to be attacked by this wild animal, I made a hasty retreat.

My heart beat faster than usual, not only because of my confrontation, but because I was feeling the heat. I sought a path to bypass the animals and climbed over a stone wall that was almost hidden in the undergrowth. As I alighted on the other side I heard the unmistakable hiss of a snake. Camouflaged at the base of the wall, there was the snake. Needless to say, I did not wait around, and made a hasty retreat. My heart was beating at a phenomenal rate. I couldn’t find an alternative way through the dense undergrowth to continue my quest for the derelict buildings. Therefore I set off downhill once again, but with utmost vigilance to avoid any possible hazard. Despite my care, I became trapped by thorn thickets yet again. Eventually I broke free and found the dinghy.

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