Cruising the Balerics - Spain


After visiting the Watson Smith extended family in Wales and England we flew to Palma on Mallorca to wait the arrival of the Erasmusgracht.  We checked into a out of town apartment where we could cook our food and unpack all the things we carried in our bags.  We spent the week or so visiting the old city of Palma built by the Romans in the C4 but flourished under the moors eventually coming under the Spanish rule.  The Gothic cathedral built in 1230 dominates the city and overlooks the waterfront.  The harbour is filled with yachts and cruisers.  They  range in size from 40 feet to 100 meters.  Just when you think that you have seen the largest along comes another which is larger.  There is no room for the casual cruiser to moor so you have to find a spot and negotiate with the Mariner manager on the spot.

We off loaded Malua and found a spot at Marina Alboran which had a number of charter yachts which were coming and going so as one left we slipped in.  The people were very helpful.  It is located right on the main drag near a chandler where I was able to purchase a few odds and ends.  The supermarket was up the road so Denny and I were, after a few trips with our wheeled suitcase able to restock the boat.

Note: when shipping from Australia stock you vessel with all the goods you require for your cruise right down to engine oil, cleaning agents and tins of food.  Don't bother with taking tinned Italian tomatoes or Spanish olive oil.  The customs don't care and the shipping company doesn't either.  You may save some money but you will save a lot of time and have the brands you are familiar with.  The same applies with yachting goodies although the chandlers in Palma have the range and depth of the best in the world.  Docking warps are cheap.

While in Palma visit the Cathedral, Arab baths, the old city and the Museu de Mallorca with the statuette of the 4th c warrior in bronze which is just the greatest.  The castle on the hill and the art gallery of Joan Miro are all must see visits as is the train ride  inland to Soller with  the Picasso pottery and pictures.

On 5 April 2007 we set sail from Palma and sailed along the coast to the bay where we had rented the apartment then eastwards to Palma Nova and onto the port of Andratx - the oldest harbour and marina in the area.  We anchored out and took the bikes ashore in the RIB to ride up the valley to the old town.  Bike paths where provided next to the highway but our experience was that the drivers were very careful and courteous to people on bicycles.  After a days riding we sat on the waters edge in one of the many cafe and had a few cold ones before returning to Malua anchored a stones through away.

Note: I purchased a LED anchor light and fitted it at the mast head next to the VHF radio antenna.  It puts out such bad radio interference that you have to switch off the radio.  Either locate the LED in a different spot or get a different type - how do you test.

From the south west coast we sailed across the Bay of Palma and past the C Blanco to the very narrow inlet Cala Pi.  What an experience.  There is barely enough room to turn you yacht when you get in but with the help of Tim on Lady H we were able to drop anchors fore and aft and secure Malua ahead of his vessel.  The sides of the cala rise steep out of the water and give you protection from the wind but not the swell.  Fortunately there was no swell and we had a great night however the following night when we repeated the process the swell came in at 2:00 am and we spent a very uncomfortable night being thrown around by the waves bouncing off the side of the cliff face only meters from us.  We were relived to see the sun rise and leave the washing machine.

The east coast of Majorca has a number of wonderful bays - cala ranging in size from very small to quite large.  They are less than a half days sail and the holding is always good.  Some even have marinas. Our favourite is Porto Colom  where we moored Med style along the harbour wall.  It became obvious that a gangplank is required if you wish to step off your yacht on to the quay with any sort of dignity.  Malua not having one I set about making one from a ladder I purchased and filling in the rungs with a long strip of marine ply found at the local ship builder. A low cost option which will double as a ladder when on the hard.

We Cala hopped north up the coast towards warmer weather because the wind was always cold and the nights required at least a jumper and a blanket on the bed. Puerto de Cala Ratjada is the furthest point north on the east coast.  We pulled in along side the outer harbour wall.  The town is clustered around the harbour which has a few fishing vessels, ferries and small boats.  The next day we set off for Menorca.


Our first open water sail.  We set off with no wind and a clear horizon but as we crossed the channel a thick fog descended on us.  The radar gave some comfort as the freighters passed ahead and astern of us.  Then just as soon as it arrived it evaporated and we could see our destination in the high cliffs of Menorca.

Ciudadela has a very narrow entrance then opens out just wide enough for an inter island ferry to turn.  Being early in the season we were able to secure a mooring berth right in front of the best restaurant on the water front along side Velshedia with Graham and Mary Pay from Dorset (new grandparents).

The city has a very Arab influence although in 1558 it was over run by the Turks.  The old city was built with narrow streets, many of which lead to a dead end so you have to keep you wits about you.  The market with a covered arcades is great.  The shopping experience is out in the industrial area which we reached by bike. Here there are many factory outlets selling shoes and leather goods.

Menorca is exceptionally rich in megalithic structures built around 1500 BC.  these are Taulas - T shaped stones, Navetas - boat shaped structures and Talayots buildings.  We spent two wonderful days riding through the country side visiting these sites. One the oldest existing building.

Reluctantly we left Ciudadela and sailed clockwise to the north of the island to Fornells.  Most people sail through the south.  We continues round the island to the famous port of Moa or Mahon which was prized by Lord Nelson who though it would be the centre of the British Med fleet however the politicians decided that Malta would be the place and Mahon is now small commercial port visited by cruise liners, ships and the yachts passing east or west across the Med.

We moored stern to a floating pontoon on the northern part of the narrow bay.  It was a great place to take the RIB to the shore and climb the steps up to the old town.  From here we rode our bikes into the country side to see the Taulas and Talayots.  The provisioning is good here either in the old town or out of town at the supermarket.  I stocked up with a few bottles of Spanish wine which at 1 to 2  Euro a bottle is excellent value and very drinkable.  Malua's waterline is down.

We were waiting for a weather window to sail the 220nm to Sardinia but the moon was full, the wind in the right direction so we set sail a 9:30 for the two night and three days crossing.  A great sail eastwards.  The next step Corsica.