Sailing to Spain: A Homecoming

When we pull into Cala Benirras in Ibiza, after 1400 nautical miles and eleven days at sea, it’s hard to fathom where exactly we are in the world and how far we’ve come. It feels warm and familiar, like we could be pulling up to any island in the Caribbean.

It’s the closely packed boats full of naked people that remind us we are, in fact, in Europe. Specifically, in an adorable hippie harbor off the northwest coast of Ibiza.

   sailing cruising spain turf to surf travelI doubt our friends in Spain expected us to sail over to visit them.

This is the first time we’ve dropped Cheeky Monkey‘s anchor by ourselves, so we’re a little nervous as we scramble into our usual places — me at the helm, Ryan at the bow.

As a naked German guy stands up on deck with his hands on his hips, shouting something in our direction, I immediately get nervous, assuming this is going to be like every anchoring experience I’ve had in North America and the Caribbean where an old guy glares at us from across the water, waits until after we’ve dropped anchor and reversed on her to tell us everything we’ve done wrong, insisting that we pull up our anchor and move elsewhere, as in nowhere near him.

It usually provokes an argument between me and Ryan, where I insist on leaving the anchor exactly where it is, mainly because we’re not too close, and I know how we swing, but more just to make a point and piss off the pompous guy with his hands on his hips. Meanwhile, Ryan cringes as his foundation in good British manners threatens to crumble if we ignore the yelling man and refuse to move. “Let’s just anchor somewhere else. It will be less trouble.”

“What do you mean? It’s lots of trouble to pull up this anchor without a windlass and move just because some asshole wants the harbor to himself!” I shout.

But we always end up moving. And I end up suspecting every old guy standing on deck with his hands on his hips is an unhelpful, pompous git.

I am forced to recalibrate my assumptions, however, when I pull into our tightly packed anchorage in Benirras, Ibiza, and I am trying to decipher what the German guy is saying while also trying not to stare at his balls swinging freely in the wind.

As I look closer, I see the naked guy has a smile on his face and he is waving his hands towards him, as if to say “come closer”. And then I make out the words carried on the wind, as he shouts, “There is a good sandy spot right here. Come closer and anchor here!”

And immediately my heart melts. I nod and wave as my shoulders relax and I return to concentrating on where to drop anchor so we fall back on the ideal spot where we have just enough room to swing among the monohulls without hitting anyone. Already I like cruising in these waters.

Returning to Spain feels kind of like a homecoming.

It is where Ryan and I lived before the madness of the last 8 years in New York City began, and it’s a place I remember when I try to revisit a time when I had more time, less money, and I liked the easygoing pace of my life.

It is where we got married on a windy day 10 years ago on top of a cliff in Ronda, just behind an old bull ring and overlooking the valleys of Andalucia.

tasha ryan wedding ronda spain 2005One of the many reasons Spain is special to me.

This exact bay was also where we fled to for a weekend of decompression two years ago, right after Ryan and I finished our final race training before the start of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.

Spain has always offered the lifestyle that I have aspired to return to — a life full of friends and family and ample time to enjoy good food, beautiful wine and meandering conversations that never want to end.

Ryan gives a thumbs up to the anchor being set and starts walking back from the bow when I have to blink twice to get a better look at what is happening behind Ryan, as it doesn’t seem possible. The German guy, who I am sure was just on the blue-hulled boat off our starboard bow is now standing on the deck of another monohull, running back and forth frantically as the boat drifts towards the rocks.

“Hey, isn’t that the German guy from the other boat?” I say to Ryan, as he turns to look where I’m pointing.

The guy must have seen me pointing because he shouts in my direction, “This isn’t my boat! The anchor dragged and it was all the way over there, about to hit the rocks. I have no idea where the owner is. He hasn’t been here all day!”

“Holy crap!” I shout, giving the guy a thumbs up. “Good thing you saw it! I wasn’t even paying attention! Is there anything we can do?”

“Tasha! Fenders! Grab the roving fender!” Ryan shouts, as the boat is now within 2 feet of our bow. I shove our big orange ball fender onto the starboard bow point, just as the boat makes impact with us. The fender, thankfully, stays in place and pushes the boat off for long enough that the German guy can run to the throttle and motor the stranger’s boat to safety.

After fifteen minutes of frantic activity, our German neighbor drops the drifting boat’s anchor, waits for it to settle, then dives off the side of the boat. He swims back to his boat, where a smiling naked woman waits for him on deck, saying “Muy bien,” patting the guy on the back once he is safely back on deck.

There is a drum circle beating from the corner of the little beach in Benirras, where there are two wooden structures in the sand, selling cocktails and food. There are no hotels or resorts; just a narrow road cutting up into the tree-covered hills. Women are lying topless in the sand, with arms outstretched, baring their breasts to the sun. Naked babies are sat in shallow puddles, running their fingers through the water and kicking their feet. A bearded guy, wearing nothing but a tool belt, is teetering on the stern of his little wooden sailboat, pulling tools from his hip to fix something on his boom.

elements benirras ibiza spain turf to surfElements, in Benirras, caters to chilled-out hippies and cruisers.

I’m sitting on our beanbag chair on the trampoline, hugging my knees, looking towards the beach and taking in where we are and how we got here. It’s been exactly ten years since we lived in Spain and one month since we moved aboard Cheeky Monkey.

Leaning back in the beanbag, I breathe in the salt air, slide my top over my head and bare my breasts to the sun.

Finally, I feel at home.

sunset benirras ibiza spain turf to surfThe sunsets in Benirras alone are worth anchoring here for.