The Dragon Caves are four gigantic caves with an underground lake in Mallorca.
Who knows when they were discovered, but they were first mentioned in writing in 1338.
Musicians played classical music floating on the water. Beautiful and haunting 🎼
David shamed me into buying a bikini (not cool for someone with body shame issues!).
Now it's three weeks later and I'm a fifty year old woman running around the beach in a skimpy two piece. My body is tanned and exposed in places not seen since I was a girl.
The Spanish, and other Europeans, are different. On many beaches 85% of the women are topless. There is a comfort in their bodies I'm not all together familiar with. But I've come to love it. All ages, shapes and sizes swim, laze, walk, and just generally live, seeming to enjoy their bodies much more than we do in the states. Men and women. There is no judgement, and the pleasure of lying about in the sun seems to trump any concern about skin damage.
As for sailing, we see a lot of naked sailing Germans. I give them what I give everybody: my "friendly American" wave. (Of course they don't know I'm American; the boat is flagged from the U.K.) I'd say 90% of people on boats give me a wave back. But I have to go first, about 95% of the time. This goes for the many British we see, and also the French, German and Spanish we encounter. Clothed or not.
Once in a while I'd like to give my friendly American middle finger to the fancy, three story powerboats that like to side up next to us then leave us bobbing in their wakes. Show-offs.
Speaking of bodies, mine has never been healthier. The adrenaline and cortisol I was running on at work have barely seen any action here, giving my adrenals and other organs a needed rest. I'm getting more sleep than any other time in my life (and that's good, for me), my hair seems to have stopped falling out, my skin is better, and my period, gone for well over a year, has returned with regularity. David reminded me that I haven't used my inhaler at all either, and that I'm stronger and faster after all the hill climbing we do.
Tempting fate again.
There are some similarities between operating room nursing and sailing in emergency conditions, even if you don't know what you're doing.
Help in any way you can.
Don't drop anything (in the sea or outside the sterile field)
Don't get hurt.
And number one: hope that whoever you're with does the same, is good in a fight, and has the knowledge, talent, temperament and whatever else it takes to get you out of this mess.
I don't know if it was David's rapid footsteps above me on deck, or the violent, sudden movement of the boat itself that woke me, but for a moment I was disoriented. I heard David yell. "Mora get up!" and I was out of bed climbing the steps out of the companionway to see what was going on. I remembered where we were as I made out the small beach in the dark, flanked by rocky shore. The rain was driving sideways and the sand and rocks appeared closer than they should have.
We knew weather was coming and had sailed in to Portinatx to take shelter from a northerly bluster predicted to come the next day. David's service said gusts up to 36 mph, but I didn't believe it. It hadn't been accurate so far.
"We'll be ok" I said. "If we're not ok, it just means we're not done yet".
David seems to think I tempt fate with statements like this, and had remarked several times about me asking if his boat had ever hit another, a few days prior, as if the question itself had made boats around us collide. My superstitious sailor.
Portinatx appeared to have a more sheltered cove on the map than it actually did. We didn't like the first anchoring option and moved on to a second inlet. When we found an anchoring spot as close to the beach as a boat could get we decided to drop anchor. It's a pretty spot, with gorgeous water, and we hoped, just the right angle to protect us.
I got on some clothes and glanced at the clock. It was quarter to midnight. David rushed down and began dressing too. He had been forward, securing the dingy. Whatever gust of wind that had woken him had been so strong that it flung our dingy over the side of the boat.
I stuck my head out in time for the first lightning strike. In the electrical flash, as bright as day, I saw the catamaran anchored a couple hundred yards away slam into a monohull beside it, men scrambling on deck.
David told me to get the life jackets and then he buckled me in. The howling wind and rain where deafening. We had to yell at each other to be heard. He told me the boat was drifting towards the shore, driven by the gale and rising seas. On the violently rocking boat we climbed on deck and were instantly drenched. He told me to keep my eyes on him as he went forward to assess the anchor. Shalona was healing over in the screeching wind, and was laying at a weird angle. In my frantic attempt to keep my eyes on David I didn't pay attention to the boom and got a sudden crack on the head sending my face flying into a winch and got a bloody lip. Rookie move.
The force of the wind had lifted the boat so violently that the anchor was yanked out of the sand and the roller things on the prow were torn off. The only thing keeping Shalona, and us, from being crashed onto the rocks were the line of mooring balls surrounding the swimming area. The boat's rudder or keel seemed to be tangeled up in them. Thus the weird angle we were lying.
We scampered about the slippery, moving boat, first lifting the anchor, then attempting to see what else could be done. The lightning was awesome and terrifying. I found myself ducking instinctually and was sure some one would be struck as it lit up the sky and touched down right beside us. I could see people on the other boats moving about too, as we all got tossed on the raging sea.
David wanted to cut the line of mooring balls that held us, but I wanted to wait. He asked me to get the knife from the galley. He managed to yank the rope onto our cleat as I held the flashlight in the pouring rain. We both asked the storm to stop!
From what I could see the cat was still tangled up with the smaller monohull, and they seemed to be blowing closer to us. There was another yacht being pushed towards the rocky cliff, and the last crewed boat in our little bay looked like it was crashing into a small anchored speedboat. It was chaos and mayhem!
David asked me to come forward and hold the flashlight so he could find the line in the water, yank it up, and fasten it to our forward cleat. He reinforced the stays on the dingy. As I made my way back to the cockpit, gripping the shrouds, barefoot and fatigued, my vision completely blurred by the driving rain on my glasses, the boat lunged and I lurched over the side. But nothing was going to make my hand release its grip on that shroud, and I righted myself. Mistakes can happen when you're tired, I reminded myself, and carefully maneuvered myself into the cockpit.
I was making my case for staying wrapped up in the mooring line, yelling over the cracking thunder. I wanted to stay where we seemed not to be moving, close to the shore. If we cut the line and took off would it wrap the propeller? Where would we go in the dark stormy sea?
Suddenly the decision was made for us, or it was made for David, who had the experienced eyes that gave him a vision for what was happening that I couldn't see.
On the aft cleat, the line that he had dragged up and secured on to the boat, suddenly snapped. The cat seemed to be tangled in the same line and the strain and tension of both boats pulling on it was too much. David asked me for the knife, took it forward, and had me ready to put the engine in gear. I waited for his word, watching the instruments. I couldn't see what he was doing up there but as another lightning strike illuminated the sea, I saw our boat was turning, free of that line that had held us. The depth of the water was decreasing as we were pushed to the shore and I willed David to give me the word to steer us out of there.
I yelled at him that we were in five feet of water when I saw him coming towards me, screaming to put the boat in gear. I yanked the engine into forward and we both felt and heard the keel hit the bottom. 3.7 feet.
I learned later that David had cut the line, pulled it out from the keel and rudder, and somehow threw it far away enough so that the propeller was free. As Shalona moved forward we maneuvered our way through the other tossing boats, and further out into the bay. I was so relived not to crash on the rocks! But where would we go? In the darkness I shone the flashlight but could barely see a few feet in front of us. I was worried that our anchor wouldn't dig in over seaweed and grass, but David soon found a spot, dropped anchor and secured us with all the chain and rope the boat had on board. We were sufficiently away from the other boats, cliffs and shore.
When I next looked at the clock it was 1:36am. The wind seem to be decreasing a bit and the lightning was moving south over the island. The boat was still swinging dramatically, anchored in 35 feet of water, but we felt secure enough to go below and get some dry clothes.
I mopped up the cabin, made coffee and watched David change into his sailing weather gear. "Lord almighty!" he said in his best American accent, dimples flashing. He told me to take a nap as he kept an eye out on the other boats, our anchor, and the weather. I asked him to not go forward on the boat without letting me know, and he agreed. I didn't mean to, but I slept till 5am.
Now it's noon the next day. The sea is still angry and tossing us about, the wind howling by. But our anchor has held and David is finally sleeping. He has been on boats all his life and has worked on them in many different places around the world. When he says the wind was gusting at least 70 mph, I believe him. The famous Mistrael from France paid us a visit, and we survived!
If there's anyone I want in my foxhole when things go bad, it's Dave Gardner.
David's daughter Lisa is alright in Manchester. And his sister Sheena is ok in London. It's hard to imagine the upset and trauma that must occur when crazy violence happens so close to home.
David and I have been together on Shalona for about a month now, and every day is different so I can't describe a typical day. But here is what we did yesterday:
We had decided to leave San Antoni, the party town in Ibiza, after we bought fuel, water, and groceries. (The marina made us rent a berth for a half an hour to get water for the boat. Unexpected bonus was using the showers, yay!)
David was lifting the anchor in the morning before I even had my clothes on! We headed northeast and soon had the sails up. But the wind was practically on the nose so we had to motor-sail up the coast. Dramatic Stoney cliffs descending into clear blue-green water. I made David eggs with cream, chives and tomatoes, despite the rolling about. He called me up on deck when he spotted dolphins!
After about out four hours we sailed into the beautiful coves of San Miguel. High cliffs would protect us from the predicted wind and we looked for a place to anchor. There wasn't a good one so we found a buoy and laced our lines through. We had heard that the locals would start charging for the use of buoys by June, but no one approached us, so it was another free night in a beautiful anchorage. We were maybe 150 yards from a lovely crescent beach with pretty green sun umbrellas, and only another half dozen sailboats around us. Heaven!
We lazed about in the sun for a while, then had good, hard Spanish cheese with crackers and cold melon. I was about to go for a swim off the boat but David said why don't we take the dingy over to San Miguel? So we did. The "port" of San Miguel is not really a port, just a one street town with a few hotels, bars, restaurants, and a nice beach. We beached the dingy, walked around a bit, then had a cervesa overlooking the sea.
On the way back to our anchorage the waves where a bit choppy and we were both soaked by the time we got there. Again, we dragged the little dingy ashore, and spread out our towels on the pebbly sand. Surrounded by the muted voices of Spaniards and Italians we dozed in the warm sun and gentle breeze. After a brief swim and more lying around we motored to the boat and I started dinner as David attempted to find, what must be a tiny leak in the dingy. We ate a green salad with chicken, sweet corn, mushrooms and basil.
By by then a few boats were arriving to watch the sunset and a group on the beach had begun playing drums. We poured a glass of wine and watched the dramatic sun setting from the boat. Spectacular! Soon the stars came out and the gentle rocking of the boat put us to sleep.
We were sorry to leave our favorite anchorage at Formentera, Espalmenor, but it was time to keep exploring. Shot over from Formentera with good wind to our first anchorage in Ibiza. Dropped the hook at Port Porroig surrounded by red cliffs and other boats from UK, France, Germany.
Formentera is spectacular. We spent half our nights in the harbor to wait out strong winds, and rented a scooter to see the island. There were many tourists arriving by ferry from the mainland and Ibiza in the busy little port town, crawling over the main street, buying trinkets and renting scooters. It was sunny and warm, and we explored the couple of harbor side streets that made up the town.
The Formentera harbor turned out to be the most expensive place to berth the boat (in our whole trip) charging for water (which David balked at at first. Coming from Scotland where water is so plentiful, he never considered he would have to pay for it), showers, and of course the slip itself. I think it was about 45 Euros per night. But it was a lovely, if crowded, marina. There were a couple of other small towns on the island, and in one we found a marine shop that had a gas canister for the stove that we needed. It crushed David to buy the part, priced at at least double! Island life.
We rented a scooter and set off to explore the island. As we toured around we kept bumping into a wedding party taking their photos at all the spectacular sites. Music and clinking champagne glasses. It was festive and beautiful. Felt like everyone we came across was on a vacation (which most likely they were). I took my turn driving the scooter, almost running us into an oncoming car on a narrow road. "Break! Break! Break!" David screamed into my ear. But I didn't want to eject us over the handlebars of the bike, and swerved just in time. We laughed with the passing car.
Lighthouses, sheer cliffs, beautiful beaches, quaint villages!
After a 13 hour passage from the mainland to Fortamentera, we made dinner and then crashed into bed. It's amazing how tired you can get sailing for that length of time. Today we are checking out our island!
It was exciting to see the Balearic Islands after our first long sail from the mainland. And what an island!
Formentera is only reachable by boat, most people coming by ferry from the bigger islands. The island was occupied by Carthaginians before passing on to the ancient Romans. Then, it was considered uninhabitable till the 1800s because of the constant threat of pirate attacks.
Only 12 miles long, it became a hippy hangout since the 1960s. (Joni Mitchell wrote her 1971 album Blue on the island) Now, although you can rent a car in the main port town Sant Francesc Xavier, most people rent a bike or moped to get around. The government has done a nice job of encouraging conservation on the island.
We anchored at Espalmador over sand and went for a hike on the island. Found the sulfur mud baths, got clean in crystal clear water, then David caught us two fish for dinner!
We set off under a starry pre-dawn sky, the wind gusting at what felt like 25, not the 15 knots predicted. But that was alright with me. We hadn't had any big wind sailing up the coast of Spain so far, and I was ready for a fast sail.
David buckled me into a life jacket and harness. I didn't argue though I would have liked to be free of these things. Tragedy and loss have made him a cautious, safe and smart sailor, and I love that about him.
I felt, more than saw, the sea swell around us as David took us out beyond the cape that had sheltered us for the last three days. The breeze shifted from the north east, the wind generator spinning like a dreidel in the confused air, and he raised the sails. As the boat heeled starboard and the sea rushed by us I remembered why I love sailing. The huge crescent moon on the horizon would be our guide until it set and the sun came up.
I slept a while down below, with my life jacket still on, rolled up on the side of the cabin as the boat leaned with the wind. When I came up again the sun was bright and I took a turn steering the boat.
After a while David went below to sleep, me promising to wake him if anything changed. The wind remained fairly strong, the sun kept it's ascent into the sky, and I enjoyed the solitude of being the only one, besides the birds and fish, as far as my eyes could see.
Before long, as in so many peaceful moments in my life, the losses of the last year (or last thirty) came to my mind unbidden and unwanted, and with them the familiar feelings of sadness and regret. Is it a human condition that these things always arise in a mind? Or is it just me?
I let them pass under me like the flowing waves and watched them go.
David smiled up at me from the companionway, up from his nap. I looked up and I saw.... land.
A few moments later my phone connected to a cell tower and we learned about the violence and killing in Manchester.
David's daughter lives in Manchester.
Three weeks in Spain and I'm as brown as a nut. Two days sailing and... engine trouble. David Gardner worked his engine magic and we'll be off tomorrow. Not a bad place to be stuck.
If I was going to retire somewhere in Spain this little town might be it. Moraira is a village of approximately 10,000 people, a nice mix of Spaniards, expats and tourists. It hasn't grown the usual Spanish coast crop of high-rise condos and hotels and remains quaint and lovely. It has the beautiful southern Spanish Mediterranean climate of about 300 sunny days per year, a small but functional marina, and unbelievable clear turquoise water. Cafe society is alive and well, and the grandpas meet for coffee at the beachside patios. The hillside terraces used for agriculture by the Moors are still visible today, and are used to grow the grapes used for Spanish wine.
David and I had reunited in London after almost four months apart.
In the weeks before there had been an exhausting flurry of activity and my son came and helped me with the last of my moving and fixing things around the house for the new renters. It was strange putting all my possessions into the the tiny storage room off the garage and handing over the the keys, and the dogs, to this family. I got choked up saying goodbye to Ryan, and it was all more difficult than I had anticipated.
I spent the night at a friends, took care of some banking, and the next afternoon I was off to the airport. The direct flight to London was no fun, but I was the luckiest one, with a row of three sets to myself.
David met me at London Gatwick and lugged my heavy bags back to his sister, Sheena's, lovely flat in a really nice part of London.
The next few days were a blur of spectacular sites and jet lag. We visited pubs, cathedrals, spent time with Sheena, and saw a production of Phantom of the Opera. Amazing!
Soon it was time to jump on a plane to Barcelona! The three days there were a whirlwind too, lots of walking the town and waterfront, a bus tour to see the sights, and the Sagrada Famiglia, Goudi's famous unfinished masterpiece. It was so beautiful. I'm glad David made me go !
The stress of packing up my life, quitting my jobs, and saying goodby to friends family and dogs, and maybe the uncertainty about the future was getting to me. Combined with the fast paced nature of our traveling ( oh poor me). and limited sleep, and I was a bit of a wreck. Badly in need of some rest.
A day at the beach and exploring the small costal town of Peniscola was just what the doctor ordered.
The beach hotel overlooked the old castle, which we explored in the evening. Built by the Knights Templar, it sat on top of a hill jutting out into the sea, for many centuries.
I loved relaxing Peniscola and there was excellent pizza at pizzeria Napoli!