Hi there! My name is José Navas, thanks for following us!
In these lines you can read how I changed my life, learning how to sail and pursuing my dreams. I ended up founding CharterAlia and working and living on my own Lagoon catamaran.
When I was already in my thirties, I discovered this new late passion in my life that is sailing. Back then I was going through tough times in the IT company I had created when I first graduated from college. This company had meant my whole life for 15 years. We were just college kids when we started it. We put so much effort and sacrifice that definitely came to a sad end.
Disoriented, debt-ridden and discouraged I decided to take a sabbatical year and devote myself, body and soul, to learn how to sail, hoping to leave the bad times behind. For years I loved the idea of adventure, freedom and peace I imagined when I saw a sailboat sailing “away from the madding crowd”. I had begun several sea adventure books but I never had time to finish them. As the dreams we all have, we always think that someday we will make them come true, but gradually those dreams are getting trapped by the daily routine and obligations we impose on ourselves so they fade out along our life.
From the first day I discovered that sailing was extremely addictive, not only because of the direct contact with nature and the sea, but also by the number of factors affecting your performance, and especially the almost instantaneous measurement you can get of the results since any small adjustment affects the speed of the ship, together with external elements. It was ideal for self-learners and hyperactive quixote-like entrepreneurs.
It wasn’t just sailing per se, but also the livelihood, the day by day of the uncomfortable but rewarding life on board was just perfect for someone with my concerns. It definitely kept my head continuously busy, and thus free of other negative thoughts. When I finally had a moment of relaxation, I was so tired physically and psychologically that my only thoughts were sleeping and resting. I had never slept so soundly, even when sometimes I had to wake up in the middle of the night to drop my second anchor.
My first sailboat
It was early in 2010 when I decided to stop being a cartographer and I finally became an explorer . I took a pair of trial sailing lessons and I loved it. In order to pay my debts of the bankrupted company I had to re-mortgage my house and with the few remaining euros I bought my first boat: a tiny 7 meters long sailing boat, not so good in terms of living conditions and fairly spartan. I bought such a small boat because it could be transported on a trailer so I thought I could at least save the cost of the spot at the port. Throughout the next months I managed to buy some safety gadgets at discount and resale websites. That tiny boat became my home. With 50 liters of fresh water as maximum capacity in the tanks and without a toilet, you can imagine all the fancy stuff I had to do to live more or less decently. However, I still remember with tremendous emotion and affection those early months, when I jumped into the adventure, basing my learning strategy on the trial and error method, as infallible as dangerous. I finally had time to read and learn. I gave myself in body and soul to this new project. I read any sailing book I came across and I kept learning more “theory” through various Internet forums . I probably lived some of the toughest days in my life, but also the most exciting moments, with a sense of almost daily self improvement and a desire to live and move forward I had not known before.
For me this was the proof that magic happens out of your comfort zone. Your cosy sofa and fluffy blanket at home are fine for a while, but in the medium to long run, it kills our instinct of self-improvement and solving problems, for which we are anthropologically programmed for, and drags us into a loop routine of minor concerns ,no big deals, just turning them into real problems.
Our first sailing stage from Malaga to Ibiza
My first year, I spent 6 consecutive months living aboard the small Iluso. Me and my friend Victor Roda set sail from Caleta de Velez, Malaga, in the south of the Spanish peninsula. It took us 7 days and 500 problems to arrive in Ibiza. Victor went back to work and I kept sailing solo after a long and deserved break, discovering and exploring the rest of the Balearic islands. I spent a whole month in Ibiza. I was amazed of the ideal conditions for sailing and anchoring of these islands. Unlike the Alboran Sea coast, in Andalusia, which offers no sheltered coves to anchor.
Journey to Mallorca with a rat on board
Never before had I felt so free as within those 10 square meter boat. I sailed from Ibiza to Mallorca, on a journey that will always remember. The night before I had anchored in front of Tagomago, a tiny island, east of Ibiza, that is the closest point to Mallorca. It is a private island own by a German millionaire, who likes the celebrity world and has militarized the island to keep paparazzi at a certain distance. Still I managed to anchor near the shore, as it is a very deep area.
The next morning when I was crossing the Mallorca canal, right in the middle point, between Ibiza and Mallorca, sailing with a comfortable upwind of 14 knots, I saw a sparrow perched on the anchor pulpit. But does a sparrow have a tail?It was no sparrow but a rat!
I guessed that the animal ran out of garbage to eat on the island, and it had to swim to my boat, probably attracted by the smell of dinner I was preparing after I anchored the night before. After some thinking I managed to hit the rat off the boat with the gaff and it fell into the water belly up. The poor animal drowned for sure, but what choice did I have? Otherwise it would have become a permanent stowaway for the rest of my trip.
Already in Mallorca and free of the rat, I took my good time. I circumnavigated the island twice in a month. A beautiful island, much larger than Ibiza, but with the dangers of the northern winds, which even in summer can give you a hard time. One night in the bay of Soller, north of Mallorca, I sailed into a mini-tornado almost all boats anchored in the bay dragged their anchors. I was not the only sailor who spent all night on the cockpit with eyes wide open. It was good I went through problems again as a preparation for what I was going to suffer in the Strait of Bonifacio between Corsica and Sardinia, the next stage on my trip.
Bonifacio is a very sensitive area from the nautical point of view, like the Strait of Gibraltar and almost all straits in general. The narrowing space of sea between two land areas causes what is known as a Venturi effect. It’s like a funnel that the wind must traverse to reach the other side, and this makes the wind speed up like crazy.
The leap from Mallorca to Sardinia
In late July I sailed the 280 nautical miles from Es Trenc, south of Mallorca, to Cala Tamariglio, up in the natural park of Capo Caccia, near the city of Alghero, Sardinia northwest. I spent 3 days with 3 nights at sea, under all conditions. Calm, light winds, some good times, and the worst hours followed by an intense electrical thunderstorm with harsh winds and severe waves which made me go through the hardest moments in my life. It was about 6:30 am on the second day and I felt a huge crack, followed by an explosion and a blinding light. I saw a lightning bolt just 100 meters from my boat. I remember the smell of static electricity in the air and I still get goose pumps. It was raining buckets and I was totally soaked. I will never forget the image of being head down while a flow of rain water was coming off the tip of my nose. I was almost paralyzed with fear. Luckily the storm was gradually losing strength. I do not believe that the boat or myself would have endured much longer. Although the wind died, the swell was huge for the rest of the day. The poor Iluso was only 2,000 kilos and it entered into cocktail mode. The boat’s outboard engine was just 9 HP, so I could hardly advance against rough seas. As I was reaching the crest of a wave, the propeller would go out of the water. To top it off, the autopilot was not agile enough to negotiate those huge waves, so I was forced to be at the helm and steer the boat manually, unable to take one second off, to eat or refuge inside the cabin .
I’ve never tried hard drugs, but I doubt that an artificial substance can give you the high I got at my arrival in Sardinia, after almost 72 hours without sleep or rest since I weighed the anchor at the south of Mallorca. I felt I was flying. Despite the accumulated fatigue, I could hardly fall asleep from the excitement.
Once recovered and grown from the journey, my internal energy exploded, feeding from the feelings I was living. I sailed around the north of Sardinia’s Emerald Coast, every cape, every cove. I would go to ports just five minutes to get water and buy some food and back on the “road”. I always slept at anchor, almost with no other boat around, under the stars, with little light pollution and studying the charts to prepare the track for the next day.
A few weeks later I sailed from Sardinia to Corsica to pick up some friends. The forecast those days showed hard mistral winds, accelerated by the Strait of Bonifacio. But the mistral winds arrived early and caught me off guard in the middle of the strait. Another hard day to add to my log. It was just a few hours, but it was really bad. It took it as a sign that I was still learning. In Corsica we spent nearly two weeks before returning to Sardinia. We went through each and every one of the small islands that mark the passage of Bonifacio, between Corsica and Sardinia: from Piantarella in Corsica, we anchored one day at Cavallo. We kept on going and arrived at the incredible Lavezzi islands, where we spent an unforgettable night. The next day we went on to the pool of turquoise water that is formed from three small islands: Santa Maria, Razzoli and Budelli. And then navigated to the famous islands of La Maddalena and Caprera. A real paradise, much more eco friendly than the Balearic Islands in my opinion.
Homecoming with quick stop in Menorca and Cabrera
I kept exploring the coast of Sardinia until late September when some hard storms and a few complicated nights made me realise it was time to go back home and I should put a temporary stop to my adventure. I sailed back west to Menorca, where I arrived just at the beginning of a week known as the Indian summer. The journey back was much more benevolent. In fact the wind was so mild that I was forced to use the engine for almost all miles. Sailing with the engine is like sex without love. When there is no choice, it’s not bad, but is incomparable to sailing with wind. In those days I was fully integrated with the ship. It had been almost five months since I set sail for the first time at the dock of Caleta de Velez, in Malaga. I felt much more experienced, without any fear, but yet without losing respect for the sea.
It was the end of September and I was enjoying a wonderful weather, I spent most of the time outside, sailing and anchoring on the gorgeous coves of Menorca. But I could not stay forever. Much to my dismay Menorca was a just a step on my way back to Malaga, and had finish my trip back, before the Azores high pressure area would lose all its strength and allow the entry of storms form the Atlantic, creating strong westerly winds, right against my course. So I jumped from Menorca to Mallorca and decided to stop overnight in Cabrera.
A little island south of Mallorca, that even with everything I had experienced that summer, I found to be the most magical island. The pearl of the Mediterranean. Steeped in history and preserved like no other, since it became a natural park in the 80’s and now you need a especial permit to enter or anchor. Through my precarious but effective Internet connection, I managed to obtain the permissions from Menorca.
Return to mainland Spain and Malaga
I left Cabrera island convinced of my return, with more time, in the future, and I arrived in Ibiza after 15 hours of sailing. The days were becoming shorter and it was getting dark before 8 pm. The nice cool nights turned into cold ones, and weather conditions were getting worse, so after one night in Ibiza where I got some food and water I continued my route towards the island of Portichol, just off Cape Nao, to keep on heading south along the Iberian peninsula. I spent two days at Mar Menor, to anchor in the lee of the island Perdiguera, another paradise, so close and so unknown to me until then. I escaped the Mar Menor by canal Estacio, under the drawbridge, turned Cape Palos and headed to Cabo de Gata. Those were long days of sailing, with more engine than I would have liked, but had to cover 50 or 60 miles a day and I got nothing but dwindle wind those days. I turned cape of Gata and decided to stop by the yacht club in Almeria to meet some friends. I was just two sailing days from my starting point in Malaga. I tried to take advantage of favorable winds and did the 120 miles left on pure sail, without starting the engine for a minute. I anchored on the tropical coast of Granada, at La Herradura, and later in the coast of Malaga, in Nerja and Maro. I was full of mixed feelings because after six months living on a boat 7 x 2 meters and less than 1.70 meters high, I could feel my adventure coming to an end. On the other hand, I was ready to enjoy the comforts of land: endless hot showers, real toilets, high speed Internet and unlimited electricity.
I couldn’t believe it when I arrived in Malaga. I had lived the greatest adventure of my life, I had learned, enjoyed, experienced and lived so much. But most importantly, I had also learned how to to sail and I had fulfilled my dream, evolving as a person. My priorities and goals in life had changed radically. At that time I was not sure how or in what manner, but I was very certain that I could not return to my former life.
I spent that winter thanks to the “methadone” of skiing in Sierra Nevada. Dreaming new routes, to continue the following year where I left it. However, a few months later, Ariel gave me a call. He was one of the dealers of Lagoon catamarans that I had met during my attendance at Barcelona Boat Show. We clicked from the first minute. He called me to invite me to make my first Atlantic trip. During the boat show that year, Ariel had sold a large catamaran Lagoon 400 and offered me to help him sail the catamaran from the shipyard, located in Brittany, on the Atlantic coast of France, all the way to Ibiza.
A really tough journey, in the middle of the winter, that would take us more than three weeks and two thousand miles in a straight course to La Coruña, turning Finisterre and then sailing along the entire coast of Portugal to reach Huelva and across the Strait of Gibraltar. The rest of the route from Malaga to Ibiza and I knew it quite well already.
The first steps in the professional activity
I accepted the invitation of Ariel without blinking and that long and hard journey forged a friendship and a conjunction of interests that put me in charge of one of Ariel’s catamaran to work in Ibiza as skipper during the following summer. Those were new adventures and experiences, perhaps more human and some more banal than those I lived on my small boat El Iluso the previous year, but I acquired the expertise and knowledge needed for deciding to re-re-mortgaging my house and buying second hand Ariel’s catamaran from him.
That winter was crucial for several factors. I worked my butt off and obtained the professional captain license and all the necessary courses, practices and finally the professional qualifications needed to work as a professional captain.
We founded CharterAlia, boat rental company in Ibiza
That winter I used to spend ten to twelve hours a day building this website, CharterAlia. Gradually we ranked higher and higher on Google, thanks to quality content that aroused the interest of our potential customers and readers. Our high visibility in search engines put us in touch with other boat owners: owners of other sailboats wishing offer them for rent in Ibiza. They could not find any customers, and they contacted us so we could advertise their boats on our website. This way we grew quite fast, and we are still growing today. In 2015, only five years since I decided to try to make my dream come true, we have a mixed fleet of 45 vessels, both owned boats and third party’s boats, with 20 vessels in Ibiza, 15 in Mallorca and 10 in Menorca .
The most important thing of this long story is that despite turning my passion into my profession, I’m still enjoying it like the first day. Whenever I go out sailing with my customers I always try to convey my excitement to them. I could live in a comfortable apartment in Ibiza and find a nearby office. However I live on one of my catamarans and I have set up my office in one of the cabins, where I still work as captain and hope to continue doing it for many years. It is the best and most rewarding job I’ve had in my life.
Jose Navas on Spanish TV
At the end of the season last year I made this video as personal thank you note to all our customers. Hope you like it and who knows, perhaps you may appear in the video next year!
Video: Highlights of the season in Ibiza in 2013
Video: Summary of Ibiza season 2014
Written by: Jose CharterAlia