48 hours wasn't much notice but I was especially keen to make the journey as it coincided exactly with the dates of Onawind Blue's voyage to Ibiza in June 2009. I made some calls and packed a quick kit bag and was ready and waiting, with sun cream and sailor's knife, at the given time.
The boat, Zeewoelf, was forged in the North sea fishery. Tied up in a tidy marina on the Mediterranean shore she looked as conspicuous as an armored car in a prim city car park. Since retiring from fishing she'd been gutted and refitted and her rugged exterior belied the soft furnishing below. At 80ft and of hulking steel this couldn't have been a more different vessel from my small craft.
The boat had been across the Atlantic twice so nobody was in doubt that she could handle the weather on a 24 hour trip from Barcelona to Formentera. There were nine of us, the owner Jean Martial with whom I've sailed many times in Capitaine Ulysse, and a group of his friends. We embarked at midday but the wind, blowing 16 knots straight into the harbour mouth, kept us at the dock until sundown. I familiarised myself with her mooring lines and other gear and when the wind abated Jean Martial reversed her smartly off the quay, cranked the wheel over and engaged forward. There was no rush to tidy lines and gather in fenders as Martial likes to leave everything ready is case there's an immediate problem, necessitating a rapid to return to port. This is an old habit of his which has obviously proved its worth. We cleared the decks in the last of the daylight and those not interested in navigation went below.
Personally I found it almost impossible to leave the bridge. I needed to look at the sea, to watch for fishing buoys and the lights of other boats. And I couldn't deny that my eyes were especially tuned to seek out some madman like myself in a small sailing boat with nothing but a torch to shine on the sails, if the torch hadn't already recevieved a soaking.
Zeewoelf was set to auto pilot as soon as we cleared the port. Out of the traffic of Barcelona and I adjusted course to 194º, not with the wheel but with a little knob that clicked round degree by degree. Shortly I found myself alone. Jean Martial never employs a watch system you simply stay up until you're tired and then go and wake someone else. I like this laisse faire idea though in practice I find it hard to stop sailing and hard to rouse someone else from slumber. And so I stood staring at a screen, matching boats to their corresponding blobs and getting freaked out by the sheer wealth of stuff that was visible to the radar though out on deck everything was black. I had expected Zeewoelf to plough through anything but she was uncomfortable with the short frequency of the Mediterranean chop and every now and then beat the rise of her bilge on the water with a great clang that rang from stem to stern.
After a nap, in which the sea calmed, I was back in the wheelhouse before dawn, worried that I might miss something, particularly that loony in a small boat. But as dawn cracked open the day so the worries of the night flew back over the horizon. With the appearance of the passengers with jugs of orange juice and coffee the atmosphere returned to that of a chic hotel that just happened to be rolling over the sea.
The sun sailed across the sky as Zeewoelf stuck doggedly to her speed and course until in the evening the north east corner of Ibiza appeared through the haze. We skirted the island of Tagomago and headed for the narrow, and very busy, gap between Ibiza and Formentera. As night fell so the instruments failed. Having become used to navigating by screen we were suddenly back to using our more ingrained if rusty senses to guide the boat to a safe anchorage. After two uncertain hours we dropped the hook in what transpired to be the ideal spot.
|Square rigger Stad in Ibiza port|
I jumped ship in the morning and took the ferry to Ibiza where I became embroiled in the preparations for a wedding party with 120 guests in a luxury villa overlooking the same Tagomago. Such was the intensity of the work at hand that I missed the ferry back to Formentera and the return voyage on Zeewoelf. My only worry was that there was no one to look out for small sailing boats.