Mallorca/Menorca

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Mallorca 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.

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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.
10 easy 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.

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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.  How could we explain without causing offence after all their efforts.

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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 German. 

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:

bulletThe 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. 
bulletThe Germans always anchor with the minimum amount of chain, presumably so as to avoid getting it wet and therefore having to repolish it.
bulletThe Brits (allegedly) always anchor in the middle of any available space as far as possible from anyone else - because they live on an island?
bulletEtc, etc.
wpe39.jpg (33696 bytes) The whole 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. wpe3D.jpg (32312 bytes)

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.

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Having found something alive and much older than me I thought I'd better have a photo taken with it!!

From Soller 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 as usual.

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.   

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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!

 

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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 Chasing Rainbows.

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 sorry though! 

 

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Last updated 5th June 2017