Isles Columbretes

We are moored in the drowned caldera of an ancient volcano a third of the way to Ibiza and are pretending to be Australians. When we finally set off from Sant Carles we forgot to fly the ensign and so arrived here incognito. In fairness we have not flown the ensign since Graham and Mike left back in La Coruna, as ours is a massive flag on a stout wooden flag pole, which I consider over the top. Apparently we are legally supposed to identify ourselves, but not being in the habit we forgot in the excitement of finally setting off.

We left Sant Carles around nine thirty in order to arrive here in good time and be sure to be on one of the buoys as anchoring is forbidden around these little islands. We decided to leave setting out till after nine to avoid the strongest of the winds, which were forecast to die off towards lunchtime. The wind was due to be on our quarter, which would promise to give us a swift, comfortable passage. IMG_2058The late start allowed us to join in the early part of the beer party held in the club the previous evening. The party went with a swing, John tried the bottled beer and we chatted to folk berthed along our pontoon, which was both pleasant and informative, as they all have experience of the islands. I was particularly keen to pick up tips on catching buoys, because Lyra is much more high sided than anything else we have sailed in. Unfortunately each couple we spoke to favoured a different method. Paul and Dawn reversed onto the buoy, picked it up astern, then walked it forward. Jeanette lassoed buoys from the bows and the waited for Peter to come up and help manhandle it. We have not used either of these techniques before, catching our buoy on Windermere with a boathook. I had a worrying number of unfamiliar options. This morning when we finally came to set off a couple of the guys we had been talking to at the beer party kindly came over to give us a shove off, which was most welcome.

We followed the channel markers and then set off out to sea. After clearing the coast and the sea breeze from the mountains our forecast strong wind on the quarter never materialised, so we motored. For a surprisingly long way we could dee the sandy coloured hump of the Sant Carles quarry against the blue shadow of the receding coastline. Five long hours later we were approaching the Columbretes, forbidding lumps of jagged rocks sticking out of the sea.P1130192 We were about an hour out and John said that if things did not work out here, it would be too late to carry on and we should head back to Burriana, which was closer. Our last visit to Burriana with the girls had been depressing. There had been plenty of room there, which we could understand given the ambiance of the place made the converted fish dock at Cadiz seem chic. There had been several small restaurants and a bar, but all were apparently fully booked. After a couple of cocktails in the bar we had cooked on the boat and watched the world cup final on TV, which was a disappointment when the girls were on holiday. The prospect of another five hours motoring back there did not make my heart beat faster. I hoped fervently there was a free buoy and that I was up to catching it.

Rounding the corner with the rather impressive lighthouse and entering the small lagoon there were several other yachts, including a rather splendid gullet, but thankfully several free buoys. I readied myself. I had a rope at the bow, for if I needed to lasso the buoy from there, another amidships to run to if the bow proved too high and was armed with the boathook for if there was a pickup buoy to catch. It had all the hallmarks of a potential disaster. John approached our chosen buoy slowly, with me pointing at it with the hook as it disappeared from his view. There was a pickup buoy with a good looking thick rope to the main buoy. I decided to go for the familiar, sprawled on the deck and scooped for the rope with the boathook, dragged up a thick piece of hawser studded with mussels and heaved it over the cleat. John came up and together we found a plastic sheathed loop at the end of the rope, which we put over the cleat. Then we broke out the beer.

As we sat with our cans of cold Estrella John noticed that the boat next door had strung a line through the sheathed loop of their pick up buoy and hung it between the front cleats in a bridle arrangement. He then noticed everyone else had done the same, the advantage being there was less chance of the main buoy banging the boat. We both remembered the technique on seeing it. I asked what he wanted to do and he said we should finish our beers, then stroll up the boat with a line and string the buoy up on a bridle. They would all think we were relaxed Australians, getting our priorities right.

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