[KensBlog] The wrong way to start a day

Our goal this morning was to shift from our anchorage on the island of Ibiza to another anchorage on the island of Formentera.

The two-sided beach at Formentera stretches for miles.

It would be a fairly short ride, only about 9 miles, so I didn’t want to hassle putting the tender onto the bow. I wanted to pull it behind the boat.

My tow rope frazzled a couple days ago and I hacked together something I thought would work, but then wanted to add a second line to it. I figured that if my primary line broke I’d still have the backup and wouldn’t lose the tender.

Sans Souci’s tender. Ken had to dive in to attach a tow rope.

The tow hooks for the tender are beneath it, so I’d need to dive into the water. With 82 degree water, diving in is a good thing, not a chore.

At 9am this morning I went to the stern of the boat to dive in and when I looked down the entire tender was surrounded by small, about 6” long, jellyfish!

Jellyfish !!!!!

That quickly scuttled all thoughts of swimming. I remembered a sign on the beach that warned about the jellyfish and said not to go into the water if they were visible. 

We hadn’t seen them the prior day, so I decided to relax for 30 minutes and see if they disappeared. When I returned they were gone. I dived into the water, and within a minute had the backup line attached to the tow hooks.

Suddenly, I felt a sharp pain on the back of my hand. Crap! I knew immediately I had been bit. I did my best imitation of a surfer who has just been surprised by a shark and was out of the water in seconds. Standing on the swim step I looked back at the tender, and there it was. A bright red jelly fish.

The bite didn’t hurt too bad. It felt like a bee sting, although the sore area of my hand was a bit larger. I immediately remembered a French movie I watched a decade ago, Les Mesduses, in which the plot centers around a young lady who murders a not-very-nice boat captain by pushing him overboard into a bunch of jellyfish, where he is stung to death.

I was pretty sure I was going to live, so I went to take a shower and then headed up to my computer where I googled jellyfish bites. The first thing I read was, “Don’t put the sting into fresh water.” Oops. Too late.

The pain subsided and didn’t slow us down from departure, but… I’m in no hurry to dive back into jellyfish.  

Roberta and I have a bit of history with the island of Formentera.

Prior to owning our current boat we owned a Nordhavn 62, which made TWO trips to Europe.

The first was in about 1998 when we shipped the boat across the Atlantic on a freighter. We cruised the south of France for a couple of summers and even bought a boat slip near Monaco. At that time we did visit Formentera but we were much earlier in our boating careers and had a Captain from France come with us. He dropped anchor almost exactly where we are today and we enjoyed a lovely sunny day. I was a relative newbie to boating at the time and remember questioning why he anchored us so far from the beach. He explained that should anything go wrong we’d be safer in deeper water.

That night it turned ugly. We were hit by a huge squall that lasted for hours. We had sustained winds of 50 knots with gusts to 65 knots. There were perhaps a hundred boats around us and dozens of boats were blown onto the beach.  We were up all night standing watch and using the boat’s engines to push against the wind.

Luckily, our anchor held.

Then, in 2004 we heard about a cross-Atlantic Nordhavn Rally. Roberta and I wanted more experience in boating and decided to ship our boat back across the Atlantic to Florida, only to drive it back to France and put it in its own boat slip.

We learned a huge amount on that trip, and my book about the trip has become a bit of a boating classic:

Crossing an Ocean Under Power

Roberta’s parents were with us during the final weeks of that run and continued cruising with us after the rally.

Roberta and I remembered Formentera and remembered our anchorage here, and how great it was prior to the big wind. We asked Roberta’s parents, who had been on the boat during our prior trip to Formentera if they wanted to return and they said, “Sure!”.

At that time Formentera was considered much more remote than it is today. I remember it as kind of a hippy hangout. It was known for having a liberal dress code. I remember how big around Roberta’s mom’s eyes got as we were approaching and passed a boat with a naked young man standing proudly on the stern of his boat.

Nova Heuer (Roberta’s mom), Roberta, and John Heuer (her dad). Here they are painting our Sans Souci logo onto the dock in Horta, Portugal. It’s a tradition for boats crossing the Atlantic.

We had perfect weather for our time anchored at Formentera, and to our surprise Roberta’s mom (who would have been around 75 at the time) took Roberta aside and said, “Could you guys go away for about an hour?” She wanted to talk Roberta’s dad into going skinny dipping! Being good kids, Roberta and I cruised around for an hour on the tender, making a garbage run to the beach.

This is our first return to Formentera in over a decade.

Even back then Formentera was popular, but apparently its popularity has exploded, and not in a good way. Whereas we used to anchor anywhere, we were directed to a place by a young lady on a tender as we approached.

Boats are not allowed to anchor on the seaweed (Posidonia) so she was  directing traffic to legal places to park. The first 100 yards back from the beach was roped off as a swimming area, followed by about a hundred yards of four rows of boats, and then the seaweed behind us. We thought she put us too tight to other boats, but then even more boats were placed around us. A 120’ boat placed next to us almost hit us, causing them to pull anchor and depart completely. A similar sized boat took their place minutes later.

There are more boats here than  I’ve ever seen in my life.

This was nothing like our prior visits! The hippy outpost had become tourist-central, and even the liberal dress code had mostly disappeared. A bit of the old Formentera still exists, but not much. Perhaps there is somewhere else on the island that is still fairly remote, but not where we are.

There are the stacked rocks in many places along the beach. I’m not sure what their significance is.

The beach at Formentera

Roberta and I tendered for a mile in either direction and there are at least four rows of boats, all anchored closer to each other than we would ever imagine possible. It reminded me of the old days of drive in movies! Some people were swimming, but not many. One person told me that there have been jellyfish problems here.

Tooooo many boats. Anchoring is much too dense and each time we thought another boat couldn’t arrive, it did.

Toundra, in her life jacket riding along with us through all the boats.

Boats were anchored on each side of us so close that at times we almost touched

Each dot is a boat, and this is only a sampling of all the boats that were at the beach. We’ve seen a lot of things, but nothing like this.

The bottom line… We’re not that excited about being in a “boat parking lot” so we’ll probably leave tomorrow morning. If we come back we’ll try another part of the island.

I grabbed a 3d picture of our location, but our boat was moving too much, so it didn’t turn out well, but you can view it by clicking here

Thank you!
Ken and Roberta Williams (and, Toundra and Keeley)
Nordhavn 68, Sans Souci

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