Las Illetas is a quiet holiday resort between Palma and Megaluf (or “megateuf” as I called it, the party town of the island). This little corner of Palma bay has little coves with family sized, sandy beaches which look out onto little rocky outcrops which are uninhabited except for seagulls and cormorants. We weren’t planning to stay for long but became rather enchanted with the place and set up camp for six days there. The anchorage was cosy, tucked in behind a natural breakwater and although very popular and prone to crowding in the day with the occasional boat parking too close for comfort, the sandy sea bed meant our monster Rocna anchor was not going anywhere, and we started to enjoy feeling at home in the bay.
In retrospect, it was very lucky that we decided to have a bit of a beach holiday, spending a few days at a more relaxed pace as, although we didn’t know it at the time, we were about to embark on another busy round of project management and boat repairs.
Mallorca is famous for the Posidonia, its sea grass environment which helps marine life to thrive. One of my pleasures this week was snorkelling for an hour or so every day. Having snorkelled from Corfu to Spain, I have to say that I saw the same fish everywhere; saddled sea bream and damselfish, groupers and wrasse. Only the jellyfish were different.
It was my first sighting of the Cotylorhiza tuberculate jelly fish, apparently quite common and harmless. They can strike fear into the heart of a squeamish swimmer when seen for the first time however; as large as a child’s head, trailing hundreds of white and bright blue beads which look like fluorescent eggs. As our Australian neighbour said when she stopped by on her paddle board for a chat only to find herself surrounded by them, “they look like floating alien brains”.
We were chatting to her the first time that our generator overheated and stopped. Uh oh…
We set about sleuthing, trying to work out what had happened. We later decided that a jellyfish had probably got sucked against the sea water inlet and blocked the flow of water which circulates around the sea water cooling system. We dismantled the casing to it (which is not a ten minute task) and discovered signs that the water pump had been leaking for a while. White crystals coated the new insulation backing that Nikos, our engineer in Corfu had installed. In hindsight that jellyfish had probably saved our generator, drawing our attention just in time to an underlying problem that had been building up for a while. Salt water is of course the enemy to motors, electrics, and practically all the boat’s infrastructure. In fact, our electrician in Corfu, Alex, was of the opinion that a boat with electrical systems was basically asking for trouble. “If I had the money I would not buy a boat” he told us gravely, then his features brightened. “It is good for me, they always break down.”
Simon dismantled the pump and reassembled it with a new gasket only to find that it was leaking even more, corrosive salt water visibly running down the face plate to pool at the foot of the generator. The generator got its own nappy. Chandleries should sell incontinence pads and nappy mats. They have turned out to be very useful tools in our boat’s arsenal.
Spurred into action we both got our hands grubby servicing first the generator then the engine for the first time. Never having done a service on an engine before we had to feel our way around and do it carefully. It was satisfying for me to think I could now do something myself that would otherwise cost a couple of hundred Euros to pay an engineer to do. For me it helped to demystify some of the baffling labyrinth of pipes and pistons that is our engine.
Simon bought this boat because he loves sailing but when you make an old boat your home for a year or more, you have to become a mechanic and the process started in earnest that week. We discovered that our first mechanic in Corfu, Keith Fischer, had provided us with the wrong oil filters for spares. Some cursing was in order when we had to put the filthy old filter back on and run our new oil through it.
The question of whether to return to Palma was settled when we switched on our water-maker only to find it was producing distinctly salty water. New membranes would be required after all.
Looking back, that week at anchor was a strange but lovely mix of work and play. There is nothing more relaxing than being at anchor when the weather is calm and conditions are secure. We worked almost every day on something on the list but we also put our feet up and enjoyed each sunset when the bay was quiet, tucked into our little cala, looking out at the lights of the Megaluf skyline which in my imagination looked like a little New York on our doorstep while seagulls bobbed around the boat hoping for tit bits and the jelly fish swirled mysteriously around the boat reminding us to check that our generator was still pumping out water.