Friday, December 1, 2017

1985 (10) – Whale Sightings

Gone Fishin'  Mixed Media, 8" x 10"
Acrylic paints, polymer clay, sand, shells, fabric patch

To go to the beginning of this book, Tropic Moon: Memories, click HERE.

Perhaps the area around the Balearics was an especially good one for spotting marine life because, during our nine-hour day sail from Ibiza to Majorca, we had another treat in store for us.  On my watch in mid-afternoon, the autopilot was steering as usual.  I was sitting on deck deeply engrossed in a paperback.  I almost jumped out of my skin at the sound of a very loud snort nearby, and looked up to find two large whales had surfaced close to the boat.  I called Ed, who came up from below to have a look at the whales, who obligingly reappeared.  It was the closest by far we had ever seen whales.  I was torn between nervousness at their proximity, and the awe and excitement of seeing the long sleek black bodies gliding in our company. 

Puzzled Parrot, Mixed Media, 8" x 10"
Acrylic paints, jigsaw puzzle pieces

Later I saw several spume clouds astern, followed by glimpses of the dark bodies as the whales came to the surface to breathe.  A study of our whale book led us to believe that what we saw were finback whales, a common whale of 30-70 feet, second in size only to the blue whale.  The description of the high spout, the sleek back followed by a view of the dorsal fin, and the fact that the whales didn't show their tail flukes when they dove, all tallied with a sighting of a finback.  

Puzzled Horses, Mixed Media, 8" x 10"
Fabric background, jigsaw puzzle pieces

As we'd been promised, there was little wind that summer, but when it did come, it made for some peaceful, pleasant meanderings on Tropic Moon.  When we were ready to leave the small harbor of San Telmo on Majorca, Ed stopped me just as I was poised to push the button to start the engine.  He had decided we would sail out of the harbor, and asked me which sail I wanted to put up.  I raised the mainsail, while Ed took care of the mizzen.  I took the wheel, and slowly tacked the boat forward, while Ed pulled in on the anchor rope.  When the anchor was stowed, he raised the jib sail.  We sheeted in the sails as tightly as we could, and slowly - but very slowly - tacked out of the harbor in virtually nonexistent wind.

Disco Dancer, Mixed Media, 8" x 10"
Fabric background, Polymer clay head,
Glitter glued for body, Button for disco ball

Having nothing better to do that day, we decided to sail all the way to our next anchorage, though it ended up taking us around five hours to do about eight miles.  The wind was what weather people jokingly refer to as 'variable,' which means it goes from nothing to light, and continually changes direction.  Really getting into the spirit of things, we hand-steered, did a lot of tacking, and ho-hummed our way through the calms.  We went so slowly that often, though we knew we were moving by the bubbles in the water, we were still registering zero on the knot meter.  

Thursday, November 30, 2017

1985 (9) – The Lighthouse Keeper

Tropic Moon at anchor, Isla Conejera.
The island of Ibiza is visible in the background.

To go to the beginning of this book, Tropic Moon: Memories, click HERE.

A less pleasant aspect of cruising was keeping up with the boat maintenance.  Our topsides paint had suffered grievously over the winter from oil spills in the Gibraltar harbor, chafing fenders when we were sandwiched in between other boats, and the occasional rude encounter with a marina dock.  We decided to repaint the white hull while at anchor in our peaceful cove.  Ed spent one day cleaning and sanding the hull, and epoxying over a few of the scars.  Unfortunately, on the following day when we were ready to paint, our cove was less than peaceful.  The wind had shifted, and Tropic Moon was rolling in response to a gentle swell.  After setting a stern anchor, Ed and I climbed into the dinghy.  With me hanging on to the cap rail as the dinghy rose and fell, Ed proceeded to paint his way around the hull.  He had some competition from the swells as to who would wet the waterline first.  Occasionally, when Ed was the winner, a wave would then come along and playfully wash off some of the new paint.

The lighthouse, visible on the top of the promontory.

We were anchored near the middle of Isla Conejera, while the lighthouse was located at the northern end.  Before our hike up to the lighthouse, (which we found deserted), we had enjoyed some interesting speculation about the keeper of the light.  It was Ed's opinion that the keeper was locked away up there in the tower.  Ed mentioned his possible presence when we took to sunbathing nude on the deck.  I couldn't believe that anyone would be living in the lighthouse when there wasn't even another boat at the island.  I chose to elect a man as keeper when he showed up in a small boat, and then disappeared for a time.  Ed took him to be a fisherman. 

A beautiful stone wall.

I then elected a second man, who came in a powerboat with his family, which he moored at the landing dock.  He also disappeared (he was probably napping on the boat), while an older woman, robed in a somber black dress, stood atop a rocky abutment, and wielded a fishing rod with considerable success.  (I watched her catch fish while she watched us paint the boat.)  Two younger women in bikinis were sunning themselves, and keeping an eye on a couple of youngsters, while a frisky black dog gamboled about the cliffs, no doubt bringing terror to the resident lizard population, and consternation to the sea gulls attempting to sun themselves in peace.

At the lighthouse.

Conejera may translate to "rabbit-warren," but it was lizards we saw everywhere, and nary a rabbit in sight.  The lizards scurried from rock to rock, most of them colored in a drab gray-green to blend in with the landscape, while others were arrayed in intense blue-greens, appearing iridescent in the bright sunlight.  There seemed to be almost as many seagulls as lizards.  I remember one particular gull that, unlike his friends, didn't fly off at my approach, and who seemed unconcerned by the loud-sounding snaps on my camera case that broke the quiet when I opened it.  The gull appeared to straighten his neck, and then stared straight ahead at the camera.  I wanted a shot of the gull turned sideways, and madly waved one arm in the air.  I didn't expect the gull to understand what I wanted, but I thought my actions might cause him to prepare for flight.  He was having none of it, and insisted on posing stiff-necked, face forward, until I had taken his picture.
My seagull...

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

1985 (8) - Isla Conejera

Postcard from Ibiza, Spain

To go to the beginning of this book, Tropic Moon: Memories, click HERE.

Before traveling to the Balearic Islands, we had spent five months wintering in the hustle and bustle of Gibraltar, and then cruised to some of the tourist-oriented marinas along the Costa del Sol.  Tired of mooring lines and fenders, we left the Spanish mainland to make our two-day sail from Almerimar to the island of Ibiza.  After putting in at a deserted cove on Ibiza's southern shore, where we swung at anchor for several peaceful days, we headed up the western coast of Ibiza, making our way to San Antonio, and fresh bread, fruits and vegetables.  Perhaps a reluctance to return to civilization kept us out of the city for one more night.  We put in at Isla Conejera, which had a large, lovely bay on its eastern coast.  Spending one day there was nowhere near enough.  After restocking the larder in San Antonio, we returned to the little cove tucked into the northern part of Conejera's anchorage.

Tropic Moon at anchor, Isla Conejera

Conejera was a small island, about a mile in length, located just outside the harbor of San Antonio, on the western coast of Ibiza, about fifty miles east of the Spanish mainland.  As far as civilization was concerned, the island boasted only a lighthouse, and a small landing dock overlooked by a cinderblock garage housing the lighthouse keeper's truck.  A gravel road connected the garage and the lighthouse, covering about half the island, and climbing the hill to the lighthouse in a series of meandering zigzags.

Our dinghy, sitting at the landing dock.

The island of the conjurer?  That's how I chose to think of it until I looked up the word "conejera" in my Spanish-English dictionary and found it to mean "rabbit-warren."  Despite the evidence of the printed word, the island was still a magician for me, conjuring up memories of some of our favorite cruising days.  An uninhabited island, a lovely rock-bound cove, and a peace and solitude seldom interrupted by visitors, brought comparisons to mind with Harbor Island, south of Stonington, Maine, and Great Bird Island, off the northeast coast of Antigua in the Caribbean.  While the vegetation varied from the wild succulents and cacti of Great Bird Island, to the pine forests and purple lupine of Maine, with a middle ground found in the junipers and arid, rocky soil of Conejera, the similarities far outweighed the differences. 

Isla Conejera.  On a hike.

There was, firstly, one of the greatest pleasures of cruising - finding a little corner of the world all to ourselves.  Of being able to enjoy not only the sights, but also the sounds and voices of nature - lapping waves, calling gulls, whistling breezes, rustling leaves and chirping insects.  We were also in a place that seemed bound by no nationality.  A sign in Spanish reminding visitors that it was forbidden to light fires on the island was the only indication that Conejera was a part of Spain.  Nor did Great Bird Island strike one as a British domain, or Harbor Island seem particularly American.  It was a pleasure to know there were still places in the world where politics didn't intrude.

Isla Conejera, Spain

Was there a magician on Conejera?  If so, perhaps he was living in the old stone well perched on the hilltop near the lighthouse.  When I peered into the well's seemingly bottomless depths, I saw my reflection mirrored back at me.  When I called to Ed to come over, my voice echoed loudly in the cavern.  I dropped a coin into the well, and made a wish for a future of cruising with many more special anchorages like Isla Conejera.