Children play. Men splash and shout. Anchor chains grind up or clank clank clank down. Motorboats run their engines to power the bloody fridge or something. It’s the weekend and Illettas is noisy. I’m hiding for an hour or two inside.

We stay anchored here most of the time as it seems to be the safest holding in this area. Our neighbours change each day and get more numerous as the weeks go by. When the old lad in the traditional Mallorcan fishing boat isn’t here we are always the scruffiest boat, but we’re also usually the prettiest. The land is quiet and the water is clear. Fish feed on our washing up water and beach cleaners “Hola, buenas” with us when we row ourselves to shore.

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My sketchbook captures the ordeals of weekends spent in Illettas

At weekends pleasure craft from Palma funnel in to the bay and pick out tighter and tighter spots around us. The men stand at the wheel to steer between the boats, their women-folk relegated to crouching at the front over the electric anchor windlass, out of the way. I raise my eyebrows at Rich and mutter something about girl power under my breath. Further out, the monsters lurk, and we sometimes sit watching them from beneath our newly-sewn bimini (thanks Rich) with awed revulsion:

“That’s a proper baddy boat, that”
“Isn’t it just. Big dark windows. That guy out the back’s probably got an uzi.”
“It’s got two of those – not even jetskis – those pointy speedboats”
“I bet Jessica Alba’s tied up…”
“In the bilges…”
“in a bikini.”

When Gwen escapes for weekend jaunts we frolick in the seas like freed beasts, trying out our new gybing and tacking roles now that the running backstays are anyone’s game. We bask in the sun, which has recently stepped up from “hot” to “bonkers”, and sail close to the shore, pointing out caves in the pale yellow rock cliffs that undulate into the sea.

Life back at anchor didn’t start off this pleasantly. It was liberating to be back out among fish, birds and waves but unsettling to be wrenched from the ease and familiarity of Palma. I was still nursing some deep dark terrors from last years’ anchoring in Palmanova, and the idea of dragging was sparked again and again on windier nights, or days when we both had to leave Gwen to the elements. It took a couple of weeks and survival of a few windy patches to call time on my emotions’ game of pong.

But these days, I’m pleased to say, these days are really quite wonderful. We haul anchor and relocate sometimes if the weather’s due to be worrying from the south west, the only direction that shoots straight in here. We rock sometimes, and then I don’t sleep well, but then we stop, and I do. Work is an hour’s bus ride away with a big stupid three hour gap to fill around lunch, but I get lots of time to listen to podcasts and draw between shifts of shepherding hot children. Even Rich doesn’t seem to mind work now it’s due to come to an end.

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One of many bored Palma lunchtime park doodles – this one’s near the train station

In the evenings we go swimming, and I can now get myself back up on the boat without the ladder – I haul myself on to the bobstay and bowsprit, flopping back aboard like a soggy, panting trapeze artist. We sit on deck with dinner as the sun fades before crawling down to a movie in the saloon and the mozzie-netted bed.

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A regular neighbour

Work stops in the next week or two, but plans are as absent as ever. We want to head to the Gambia but we can’t yet afford the journey that that would entail for this winter. We might even leave Gwen and go to another continent for some work that was mooted months ago, but nobody’s telling us anything about that. In the short term we’re probably going to go and have a better look at Ibiza, get our sea legs back, and leave these noisy neighbours behind (we hope). In the even shorter term, we’re going to get off our computers, jump in to this overpopulated sea and scrub off the green beard Gwen’s grown around her midrift. T’ra.


One thought on “Surrounded

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