We still needed 600 certified nautical miles of the 1,000 required for our permits. So we signed up for a week of “instructive cruising” wit the Swiss Cruising Club in the Balearic islands.
A map of the Balearic Islands of Spain. Map created by Norman Einstein, May 26, 2006.
Palma de Mallorca was a pleasant surprise. Even during the last week of October, the temperatures were quite warm, ranging between 28° during the day and 16° at night. We would have loved to have had more time to explore the city as it is steeped in history, having been conquered by such cultures as the Minoans, the Carthaginians, the Romans, the Byzantines and the British.
The Cruising Club charted three Sun Odyssey 43s, all based in the Real Club Nautico di Palma. The marina was close to a super yacht maintenance and refit facility and I have to say we’d never seen, in real life, so many super yachts (we’re talking 300 feet and up!) all in one place.
Superyachts in Palma de Mallorca
Palma de Mallorca is quite a convenient place to charter as the marina is only about 20 minutes from the airport and there’s an XXL Carrefour supermarket on the way. Our strategy, since we were a total of 7 crew in the boat, was to rent a minivan at the airport and use it for transportation and provisioning at the Supermarket. Jacques and I returned the van to the airport a few hours later and returned to the marina by taxi. We then had a lovely dinner of local wine and tapas at a Tapas bar close to the marina before turning in early to get a good start the next day.
More super yachts at the marina in Palma de Mallorca
Breakfast in the cockpit at Real Club Nautico di Palma.
The following morning was a blustery one, with gusts up to 30 knots. Our departure out of the harbour was cut short by the mainsail outhaul block exploding under the force of the wind as we unfurled the sail. We radioed the charter company and went right back to our berth. The manager at Sun Charter explained that the boat was up for a some major refitting during the winter and was scheduled to have the sails and running rigging changed. We just had the rotten luck of using some dying equipment at the end of the season.
It took a few hours to change the block and re-rig the mainsail, and we finally sailed out of the harbour at around 3 o’clock. We set off in the direction of Minorca, which is smaller and less developed that of Mallorca. We managed to slip into a tiny marina on the south coast of Mallorca at around midnight. The wind and the chop had made most of us quite seasick so we decided to not continue all night to Minorca.
The rest of the week was lovely with rather good wind and lots of sun. We stayed in the lovely ports of Ciutadella, Mahon and Fornells as well as a beautiful anchorage on the east coast near Mahon.
The port of Ciutadella on the island of Minorca. These are the traditional fishing boats of the area.
The entrance/exit channel of the port of Ciutadella on Minorca.
A well-protected anchorage just outside of the port of Mahon on Minorca.
The delightful marina in Fornells on the island of Minorca.
View towards Cabo Caballeria on Minorca
The cruise back to Mallorca was marred by a series of squalls, but by the time we reached our anchorage in a calla (little cove) near Cap Formentor the weather had turned sunny and calm.
We ran into a couple of squalls between the islands of Minorca and Mallorca
The beautiful Cala Petite on the east coast of Mallorca
We then cruised along the majestic north coast of Mallorca, with its steep mountains and rocky coastline.
The rocky and mountainous north coast of Mallorca. Several mountain peaks have altitudes of over 1,000 meters
The pleasant Port de Andratx was our last stop before returning to Palma. This is a town that seems to cater to a calmer, more mature brand of tourist, rather than the young, drunk, rowdy 18-year-old types you’ll find in Magaluf, a bit further away. It was filled with charming restaurants and bars filled with couples spending a romantic friday night. The cost of the berth at the Club de Vela was expensive at 80 Euros (for a 43-foot boat), but the facilities are first class, with luxurious showers and a swimming pool.
Arriving at Port de Andratx
Beautiful super yacht in the bay of Port de Andratx
The first required course on our calendar was the marine first aid course which took us four evenings to complete. The course dealt with the various illnesses and injuries common to the marine environment as well as what to do when a doctor is not immediately available.
The last evening of the course was hands-on with practice in making splints and bandages, giving injections, treating burns, removing foreign objects from someone’s eye (almost made me faint!) and well as CPR, using a defibrillator and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
In January of 2012, we began the off-shore theory course, which ran one evening a week, plus a few Saturday mornings for about 5 months. We had the same “syllabus” as the RYA yacht master theory, with the exception of astronomic navigation. The use of the sextant is not required for our license.
The area we use is all of the chart work and tidal height and stream calculations is the area comprising the Channel Islands, west of the Cotentin Peninsula in France, and north of St. Malo and the eastern Brittany coast — so we do work with tidal heights and currents.
This is the area in the English Channel we used for most of the chart work and passage planning. We have these charts from Imray on our iPads. Irmay also has the Rules and Signals app, which has a full set of the COLREGS – highly recommended!
In addition to the course we did with the Swiss Cruising Club, we followed a video course in navigation done by Duncan Wells at Westview Sailing. He provides navigation instruction in an easy-going and humorous way, and the videos are really well-done. We think he must have had some television experience as he’s well-spoken and the videos have excellent sound quality.
Duncan’s video course was immensely helpful to us because you can repeat the instruction and exercise as much as you want. Sometimes explanations don’t sink in the first time… All you need is the RYA instruction chart (a fictional chart) that come with the RYA Navigation Exercises book. We found this on Amazon.
The RYA Navigation Exercises Book and Charts
Weather is, of course, an important part of seamanship, and we had some great instruction from a former Swissair pilot, on how to read synoptic charts, how pressure systems and fronts work, recognising clouds and cloud formations and what they tell you, etc. A site that we found useful for learning even more about the weather is Frank Singleton’s Weather and Sailing Pages.
We also downloaded the Steve and Linda Dashew’s e-book Mariner’s Weather Handbook. You can download this “Weather Bible” as well as another book called Survive the Storm from their website Setsail.
After absorbing the instruction and sweating through the all of the exercises throughout the spring, we sat the 7-hour long exam in mid-June. The morning part, from 8.30 to 12.00, consisted of questions on seamanship, weather, COLREGS, security and first aid. In addition, we had four tidal height exercises (will we have enough water at this anchorage at low tide, will we be able to enter the marina at St. Helier or St. Malo, what is the latest time we have to exit the marina, etc.). We had a lunch break, until 13.30, and then we were given the most difficult part of the exam – 20 chart and passage-making exercises to complete before 17.00.
After we handed our chart work, It took another hour for the group of “judges” to go over our exams and give us either a pass or fail. We then had to wait until the names of the people who passed were called. My name was called second but poor Jacques was the last one called! He had to suffer in suspense until the end.
We had gotten through the theory part of the license requirements. Now we just had to get 700 more certified nautical miles under our belts!
Some of our boat purchases – before we had a boat!
Intention becomes action
Our intention, back in August of 2011, was to give ourselves 5 years to “reach cruising attitude”. At the beginning of 2012, we started taking action. This was our action list:
- Get licensed to be able to register the boat (required in Switzerland, where we live)
- Make a final decision on the boat (get to a short list of 2 boats by the end of the year)
- Decide what to do with our businesses so that we could be away
- Start to downsize our possessions so that we could sell our house
- Keep buying things for the boat to take advantage of boat show deals and seasonal sales while we still had income coming in*
- Read as much about live-aboard cruising, seamanship, and boat maintenance as possible*
- Start buying a library of pilotage books for the areas we were going to visit during our first few years on the boat. (We saved the purchase of paper charts for the last minute as they are constantly updated) *
- Follow other helpful cruisers blogs*
* I’ll publish the list of our books, equipment and favourite blogs in an upcoming post.
Some of the books we purchased – here are some piloting books and some inspirational books. “The Missing Centimetre” by Leon Schultz is a great book for inspiration.
More of our book purchases. ” The Voyager’s Handbook” by Beth Leonard is immensely helpful
Our friends would laugh and say, “you don’t even have a boat, why are you doing all of this?” No, we didn’t have a boat. We didn’t even have the money to buy a boat at this point, but we were totally, 100% sure that we would have one in 5 years. There was not a doubt in minds.
It’s not enough to think “It would be so nice to have boat”. You have to be thinking “I have a sailboat (!) , it is a XX and I love it”
The most important item on our action list at this point was to find out what the requirements are to register a boat under the Swiss flag.
The first thing we needed is the Swiss offshore sailing license. The only foreign certification accepted is the RYA yacht master. Otherwise you have to do the course held by the Swiss Cruising Club). Here are the steps and requirements for the Swiss offshore license:
- Offshore and coastal navigation theory course (5 months)
- Offshore experience – 1,000 documented nautical miles done with a qualified skipper after having passed the theory exam
- Marine first aid course (1 month)
- Inshore boating license (cover canals, lakes, rivers)
- Optical and auditory exams