13th April 2021
Cavannes, Mar Menor, Spain – Calpe, Spain via Isla Major, Mar Menor, Spain
In 2009 as Usain Bolt lined up at the start of the 100m sprint timing was everything. Listening to the starting pistol he had to tense his muscles to push off at exactly the right moment, every step along the track had to land perfectly and then as he crossed the finish he was rewarded for his judgement, skill and training. He was the world champion. Leaving the Mar Menor our timing has had to be perfect and it took all our skill, judgement and training to execute our plan.
The plan was to head north in a southerly wind to an anchorage that is totally exposed to the south. Usually this would be a bonkers plan, but the wind was due to perform a complete ‘switcheroo’, the swell was meant to die, but our timing for leaving, arriving and anchoring had to be spot on.
Moving from the pancake flat waters of the Mar Menor into the ocean was a shock. Ruffian rolled, Ruffian bucked but most importantly Ruffian sailed. The engine was silent, the sails pulled us along and she looked after herself.
The miles flew by but as we approached our destination there was an unnerving sense of doom, the clouds built and formed into scary roll shapes, the horizon turned black and the mountains receded from view. Ruffian then shook as boom after boom of thunder rolled across her and lightening forked up the sky. Fiona ducked below put all our electronic devices into the microwave and, a rarity for us flicked on the radar (for just about the first time).
The modern technology of the radar amazed us. It latched onto the squalls and rain, told us where they were going, gave us their tracks and told us where to go. With only a light splattering of rain we dodged through them, emerging on the other side was like entering a different world. The mountains loomed high into the sky, the wind had died and the sea was glassy calm.
Stopping under the cliffs waiting for the wind to change we now had to work out exactly when to enter the anchorage. Scanning the horizon for new clouds while watching the barometer like a hawk Fiona, using her innate intuition, made the boldest of decisions and we were off.
We had an hour’s motor across the bay, and, 30 minutes after setting off the breeze, that Fiona could feel in her bones, filled in. In the darkness we navigated around the fish farms while being buffeted by winds that were falling off the cliffs and exploding on the water’s surface, shifting in all directions and making everything a challenge.
Nearing the anchorage the winds were flattening the seas, the streetlights showed the sand underneath us and as the anchor hit the sand we knew our timing was perfect and we’d executed and plan that took all our skill, judgement and training.
As we woke in our anchorage we were presented with the most dramatic and surprizing skyline. Stretching into the sky was a slug of granite that would look at home in a prehistoric movie. Doing some reading, we found out about a ‘challenging’ path, where the rocks under your feet are polished smooth and handholds were obligatory to save you from plunging to your doom.
Knowing that this would not be a Fiona positive walk we checked out the start of it with Max and Kathi from Makani. If the smooth polished paths were anything to go by, then the rocks further up would be lethal and if the view from halfway up was good, then the view from the top would be outstanding. Iain and Max resolved to hike it the next day at dawn, at speed, without the encumbrance of people out for an afternoon stroll.
Next morning, as the sun rose over the anchorage where the swell had been rolling in all night, Iain motored over to Makani. Waking Max from his slumber it looked like he’d pulled an all nighter. Due to the rolly anchorage sleep had been scant on Makani, energy levels were low and Max’s resolve had ebbed. Iain, as you’d expect was keen, but now the only company he’d have were sheer drops, the slippery rocks and his own pounding heartbeat.
With every step up the hill things became more challenging. One trip or slip and Iain would tumble to oblivion, down the rocks to a watery grave. Even the signs were foreboding highlighting the ‘very dangerous path’ and so Iain perched and pondered his situation. Then high above him Belgium voices beckoned him on, he wasn’t alone, he wasn’t (that) stupid, and he would summit the granite slug shaped rock.
Venturing higher and higher the ‘path’ was unrelenting. The chains bolted to the rockface bolstered his confidence as he repelled around overhanging rocks and red dots marked the ‘safe’ way ahead. With shaking legs the summit was finally scaled, the obligatory photo was taken, the Belgium chaps thanked (who were now busy standing on top of the trig point; nutters!) and the decent was started.
The benefit of the route up was that the sheer drops were behind you so they could be ignored. Now the sheer drops loomed large, even appearing under your feet as they looked for firm footholds and were ever present as the slack on the chains was taken up as the repelling was reversed.
Like Usain bolt, Iain returned victorious to Ruffian showing that although he and Fiona had exhibited great skill, judgement and training in getting Ruffian to Calpe, Iain’s limited skill, judgement and training was enough to make for a real adventure ashore in Calpe.
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