is, in many ways, an idyllic cruising ground. Three of its four coasts are
full of good anchorages in picturesque bays. Some of these have been
a bit overdeveloped, but for those of us who have the luxury of seeing them
from the deck of an anchored boat, this isn't a major issue. The
only problem is the sheer number of people with boats who feel the same
about the attractions of these small beautiful bays during the months of
July and August. Unfortunately, this makes some of the
most beautiful small bays virtual 'no go' areas. Of course we hadn't
planned to be here in peak season, but c'est la vie.
|Anyway, as we said, all the coasts
except the NW had plenty of easy safe anchorages. The NW coast is by
comparison a 40 mile stretch of steep cliffs rising straight from the sea,
with only one viable harbour at Soller - though that could be tricky in a
strong northwesterly, which is of course the prevailing wind. No
contest really, Soller and the NW coast was clearly the place to go.
||Actually, Soller and the
surrounding area was reputedly the most beautiful part of the island; it
was the place where Stella, our Spanish teacher, and her family had their
holiday home and also Chris and Jackie on Shibumi were anchored there and
this would probably be our last chance to see them before they headed back
towards the US. So, having found the lovely anchorage at Santa Ponsa
we immediately upped anchor and headed north for Soller. We'd be
head to wind for most of the trip, but what's new.
miles up to the slightly tricky Dragonera passage and then 20 miles into
the wind up to Soller. As we negotiated the passage the wind and sea
built steadily, funnelled between the mainland and Isla Dragonera, - hopefully
as soon as we cleared the passage things would improve. Actually it
didn't and it looked like we'd be motoring into 25 knots and a short
stopping sea for the next 4 or 5 hours. But we're rufty tufty
seasoned sailors so, on the basis that sailing is supposed to be fun, we
turned round and sailed back to Andraitx, another beautiful bay
surrounded by pastel coloured, mainly 50s looking, buildings which gave the
whole place a kind of faded elegance. There was space on the town quay, but we
were too big, so we anchored off. We left the next morning with a
better forecast, but with a determination to return to Andraitx later and check the
place out properly.
|If Andraitx had been
gorgeous, Soller was magnificent. A large circular bay, surrounded
by mountains and pine covered hills. We dropped anchor a couple of
boat lengths from Shibumi and arranged to meet Stella and her family the
following evening. The night was lumpy with squalls blowing
through the bay, pushing boats around and causing a few to drag, and
these hadn't abated by the following afternoon. Reluctantly we
phoned Stella to tell her we couldn't leave the boat and try to arrange
another date. We weren't going to get out of dinner that easily.
"Stay where you are we'll be with you in half an hour. Click!"
Stella can be a little imperious - was she going to come down and give the
weather fresh instructions perhaps?
Half an hour later Stella and her
father Sebastian called from the marina. They had been able to arrange
some reorganisation in the small crowded local marina to free up a
space, but sadly at 18 tonnes we were too big for the pontoon. So
Sebastian had instead organised a buoy and they were on their way out to
take us to it. My heart sank, many of the permanent moorings in the
islands are a bit dodgy to say the least and, even those in good
condition are mostly for small local boats. I didn't want to trust
Samarang to one of them, particularly in the current weather pattern.
could we explain without causing offence after all their efforts.
|Stella and Sebastian duly arrived
in his small Mallorquine boat. It was as if he'd read my mind.
"I have a buoy for you, but only if you're happy with it. Come
and see. I think you will be happy!" He chuckled. I climbed
down into his boat and off we went to the other (and most protected side)
of the bay. He let the boat drift to a stop against a substantial yellow
buoy, connected to the sea bed by a warp as thick as my arm - happy was an
understatement. "It belongs to Salvatore who owns the boat
yard. They use it to moor one of the ferries during the winter to keep it
away from the harbour wall during the storms" he told me.
"And I think you'll be happy with the price as well - you can stay for as long as you like
- no charge. If there's any
problem tell them to speak to Salvatore or call me." So that
was that! We stayed for two weeks.
During the first week a small German yacht being towed by a small Spanish
working boat came alongside and told us that we were on his
buoy. We said that we believed it to be Salvatore's buoy and
Lindy reached for the phone to call Sebastian. But as soon as I
mentioned the name the skipper of the Spanish boat was on his cellphone to
Salvatore - much nodding and "Si, Si, Si, Si" - and off they went
with a smile and a wave from the Spaniard and a glower from the
The only other minor issue was a
small wreck of a motor boat that had apparently been bought in a bankruptcy
sale by one of the local boatyard workers and tied up on a small mooring
close to us until he had time to get round to doing it up.
Unfortunately, his temporary mooring was far too close and when the wind
was in the right (or actually the wrong) direction the thing would
tap gently against our hull. This wouldn't have been a problem if it
wasn't for the jagged bit of steel poking off the front that was
scratching our newly polished paintwork. We tried all sorts until coming up with
the blindingly simple solution of sticking a short piece of hose over the
metal spike - problem solved!
Our prime position also gave us an
opportunity to indulge in the fascinating pastime of watching the
anchoring habits of the different nations in an increasingly tight space -
a game we'd been introduced to by some American sailors who were
considering a book on the subject! Some of their observations:
|The French always anchor as
close to you as possible, presumably so as to be able to step aboard your boat
without lowering the dingy for
a glass of wine when the wind shifts. |
|The Germans always anchor with
the minimum amount of chain, presumably so as to avoid getting it wet and
to repolish it.|
|The Brits (allegedly) always
anchor in the middle of any available space as far as possible from
anyone else - because they live on an island?|
of the northwest of Mallorca is mountainous and quite beautiful.
Porto Soller is connected to the lovely and only slightly touristy Soller
Town by a fully functioning Victorian tram. And Soller Town is
connected to Palma by a narrow gauge Victorian railway, which winds
through the mountains. It's a total of 90 minutes by tram and
train and costs €10. You can do the whole trip in under 30 minutes
on the bus via the new tunnel for €2, but it's really no contest.
In Palma even the statues have tea breaks
|Palma itself is another really
pleasant surprise. Yes, it is a bit touristy, but what capital city
isn't - and there are more than enough good things to make it worth the
trip. It is also a hugely expensive place to try and go by boat (the
King keeps his yacht in Palma) so a free buoy in Soller and a 30 minute bus
ride is a pretty good option. We went a couple of times.
Having found something alive and much
older than me I thought I'd better have a photo taken with it!!
we had the luxury of being able to sail in either direction to reach a
suitable jumping off point for Menorca, which meant we could choose to
have the wind with us. In the event it was a northerly, so we headed
south, back to revisit Andraitx and Santa Ponsa and then across Palma Bay.
Of course the wind soon petered out altogether and we ended up motoring
Between Andraitx and Santa Ponsa we'd
dug out our spinnaker from the bottom of the anchor locker, and spent some
time hoisting, dropping and finally untangling it. The trip across
Palma bay looked like an opportunity to try it out for the first time in
earnest. After several attempts we finally, finally had it flying
beautifully. Unfortunately, it had taken so long and we'd travelled
so far that by the time we got it flying and started to pay
attention to the world around us, we noticed we were now rapidly bearing down
on a very serious regatta composed almost exclusively of large expensive
Swans (including we learned later the King's). We had no choice but
to douse the spinnaker to avoid running into them. It did, however, give
us the opportunity to sit about a hundred yards from the windward mark and
watch as boat after boat after boat rounded the mark and faultlessly
unfurled their spinnakers in a few seconds, compared with our hour of so
of buggering about. Still, we can only improve!
|That night we anchored off
Enseñada de la Rapita overnight for a birthday dinner for Barry of BBQ prawns
and champagne. Then, we sailed through the most amazing turquoise waters
of Punta Salinas to Porto Colom, a fantastically well protected natural
harbour and unspoiled fishing village, which was to be our jumping off
point for Menorca. There we met up again with Mark & Darlene on Chasing
Rainbows who we'd first seen in Lagos in 2003 and then met in the boatyard
at Santa Eulalia.
|After a few days we
left, and crossed the 60 or so miles to Menorca. Another island with
numerous small pretty calas, which unfortunately at this time of year were
too busy for us to attempt. So we made our way straight to Mahon - the largest natural deepwater harbour in the Med and the place that Nelson
wanted to keep rather than Gibraltar. Obviously since he was our
most successful naval admiral, who knew a thing or two about the strategic
value of a harbour, he was overruled and we kept Gib. Oh, and Mahon is
also the birthplace of mayonnaise.
Actually, Mahon is such a good deep
water harbour, 2 miles long and mostly over 10 meters deep, that it's not
particularly good for a small yacht like us. We just need so much
chain out to be secure and there's so much traffic that it can be quite uncomfortable. So we anchored in the small bay of Taulera just
to the right of the entrance, which is much shallower and itself virtually
landlocked once inside. Wonderful.
Mahon is a very upmarket town,
quite commercialised, but still pleasant. It's a particularly good
place to eat, with great restaurants all along the harbour. Our one
complaint would be just how difficult it is to find a place to get ashore
in a dinghy. Almost every inch of the harbour wall is covered in
signs, "NO TENDERS", or variants thereof. Considering the
large number of boats that anchor, pick up buoys or tie up to one of the
several purpose-built floating islands, and considering also that the only
reason that any of us go ashore is to spend money, it's hard to understand
what the local town hall is thinking of.
They do have interesting plumbing
as well - see the photo right!
Whilst in Mahon we took the bus
across to Ciutadella, the main harbour on the other side of the
island. Lovely town and a great place to visit by sea, but not in
high season - long narrow and very, very crowded with a constant flow of
RoRo ferries coming and going.
Mahon gave us some more interesting
examples of anchoring technique. We were woken at dawn after our
first night by Alison hailing us from Shadowfax as they prepared to leave
- "Samarang, you've got company".
"Jumpers" a small Moody had very
gently dragged into us (fortunately, there was next to no wind) and was
slowly bobbing off to bang into another boat. The owner staggered blearily
on deck. "How much chain have you got out I shouted?"
"I don't know, loads." was the reply. His chain was
hanging straight down, even though he was moving, which suggested that his
anchor wasn't actually on the bottom. He pulled the chain in by
hand in seconds and couldn't have had more than 3 or 4 metres out - Ho
Hum. He apologized profusely and motored off to the other side of
the bay and anchored again with little more chain, uncomfortably close to
A few days later in stronger winds an
anchored French yacht started making it's way inexorably towards us.
The two ladies on board were unable to start the engine and having bounced
off us were rapidly drifting aground. This time we were able to use
our rib to hold them off, but little more, as for some reason they
were also unable to steer. Lindy shouted for help and several other
dinghies came to assist. The husbands finally arrived,
started the engine and sorted things out. Never did say thanks or