We had decided to cruise the Balearic Islands instead of along the mainland coast of Spain and France. This decision being taken after a rece' there a couple of years earlier when we found the area overly crowded and with all the marinas we visited claiming to be full. We also had some reservations with the Balearics as it has a reputation of being a large package holiday destination with all the things we were trying to avoid, however things turned out pretty good.
A Clubbing Pair
We had arrived in Ibiza Town and booked into the Club Nautica Marina at 36 euro a night, it was still low season, in another month it would move to high season and the marina prices would double. Susie and Jen wanted to spend at least one night (and morning) clubbing and it was also close to the airport they would be departing from in three days time, so we stayed put.
After saying our goodbyes to the crew and seeing them off in a taxi to the airport, next day we set off for a quieter spot along the coast where we could relax with a bit of peace and quiet away from the town. This we found at Cala de Port Roig, it reminded us of Caladh Harbour in the Kyles of Bute, no houses and only the sounds of nature to break the silence. In the evening after our meal we had some bread left over which we decided to throw to the seagulls sitting in the water around the boat. Within two or three seconds of the bread touching the water it was eaten by fish (big fish) before the gulls could get to it, was I glad I hadn't gone swimming in the afternoon. We were heading for San Antonio the main town on the west side of Ibiza but had a couple of stopovers in Calas on the way there. In Cala Badella we were joined by a super yacht, it's interesting that 90% of the super yachts we've seen so far are British registered.
Our Super Yacht neighbour in Cala Badella
We arrived in San Antonio on Friday 5th May and anchored in the bay as the marina was along the waterfront and open to the town, it was also already packed with boats. The town was your typical holiday resort catering for the package tour punter. However it gave us the chance to restock the boat and look for a weather window before heading over to Denia on the Spanish mainland, a distance of some fifty odd miles. The sail over to Denia was one of those to remember with the boat cruising at 6 to 7 knots, something we haven't had a lot of so far. However that was soon tempered by the fact that both of Denia's marinas were full and couldn't take us, we plead our case and got permission to stay on the reception pontoon of the Club Nautica for the night. One of the reasons for visiting Denia was to meet up with our cruising pals Pamela and Geoff (out of Inverkip) who were already in the Marina de Denia. At 8 o'clock in the morning we got a phone call from them to say that an Irish boat had just left the marina and if we were quick we could get their berth, we were quick!! We spent eight days in Denia and it was topped with our meeting up with Chris (partner in the last firm I worked for) and his wife Sandra. We spent a pleasant day catching up on all the home news and at night went for dinner at a typical Spanish restaurant. The restaurant had a resident painter whom, while you were having dinner painted a typical Spanish scene in oils on canvas in full view of all the diners. He then sold raffle tickets round the tables and the painting was raffled. As luck would have it Anne won the painting, unfortunately it was far too big for the boat and we were more than happy to give it to Sandra and Chris as a memento of our visit. It was now time to head for Isla de Mallorca but we decided to split the journey in two by going via Cala Portinatx on the north tip of Ibiza. This turned out to be a beautiful spot and we stayed 3 days soaking up the atmosphere and taking walks ashore. At night we would sit in one of the beach bars having a cool drink and just watch the world go by, this is the life!
On 25th May we reluctantly hauled up our anchor and headed for Puerto de Andraitx on the southwest tip of Isla de Mallorca, a distance of 64 miles. The wind gods had deserted us again so we had to motor sail all the way. We arrived just as the sun was going down and anchored in the bay which was already crowded with many other boats, deciding we would sort ourselves out in the morning. The morning revealed the north side of the bay to be completely filled with moorings, all of which were taken, the marina was full of very large motor boats, so we decided to stay where we were and go ashore in the dinghy. The town is small with a beautiful waterfront with lots of cafes and restaurants all along it's front. It also hosts a WiFi hotspot that covers the harbour. Now the mention of this to folks back home with broadband may sound strange, but for us to have communications on the boat including Skype (computer telephone system) is a big deal and one not to be missed. We made best use of this bringing all our e mails, website and telephone calls up-to-date. Next stop was to be Palma the capital town of the island. We didn't like the look of the harbour area from the chart so decided to anchor in a small bay just to the west of the town, from here we could get a bus into the centre. The bay was full of boats, half local and half cruisers. We had a lucky escape when the wind got up and a large 80ft schooner started to move, it just missed us and stopped about 10ft short of a French boat, there was no one aboard the schooner. When the owner returned, we told him that he was dragging, he proudly advised us this was not the case as he had out 100 metres of chain ( we and most other boats had out about 20 metres). This means his boat could cover an area of seabed 200 metres in diameter and therefore no boat should anchor within this space. The man was an idiot!
Bill with British Tiger his Contessa 32
On a lighter note, the next day we got on the bus to head
into Palma and I recognised a face on the bus, while trying to work out who he was, he spoke to me. It was our local ( and only) butcher from Kilcreggan, Danny, sorry for not saying hello first, didn't recognise you in your shorts. Palma wasn't really our scene, so with a good wind we headed for Puerto Colom on the east side of the island arriving on the 4th June and dropping anchor next to a Contessa 32 named British Tiger. Puerto Colom turned out to be the jewel in the crown and we stayed a couple of weeks. The town had everything we wanted and conveniently placed close to the harbour. We struck up a friendship with Bill from British Tiger who was an amazing character with 3 Atlantic crossings under his belt all made in his Contessa, we could have listened to Bill's stories all day.
We found a marvellous seafront restaurant, which offered a 3-course lunch with wine and coffee for only 8.50 euro (about £6), and the food was excellent with a change of menu each day. We also used to frequent a Scottish Bar and there watched the British Grand Prix and England nearly getting beaten by Trinidad and Tobago (not that it mattered in the end). One night during our second week there was a terrific thunderstorm with gusts of wind up to F9 which caused a number of boats, ourselves included to drag our anchor. For an hour it was pandemonium with boats going all over the place trying to re-anchor. We were lucky and moved to the other side of the harbour and there found a spot beside moored local boats where we stayed put for the rest of the night. At first light I went out for a look around and found one of the moored boats very close to us, there was a surge coming into the harbour. The boat was obviously on the move so I rowed over to warn the skipper, who wasn't very happy at getting disturbed, told me he was moored and I was talking nonsense. Half an hour later he hit the first boat, there was no one aboard so he quickly moved on and hit the second boat which had a very irate German on board who simply pushed him off. The third boat he hit was a catamaran and he some how got his dinghy caught between the two hulls, this brought him to a halt. He contacted the harbour office by mobile and they sent a launch to sort him out. Did he come and apologise, no. The boat was flying a Swiss ensign.
Mahon's expensive pontoon
We left Puerto Colom on the 17th June and headed for Mahon in Menorca, 54 miles to the east, this was the last of the Balearic Islands on our list. We arrived in Mahon just as the sun was setting after motor sailing most of the way, but we were glad to be in. We headed for one of the island pontoons run by the harbour authority, the cost came as a shock, 41 euro per night, no electricity and you had the best part of a quarter of a mile in the dinghy to get ashore. We stayed 3 nights.
Cala Fonta, part of Mahon Harbour
We moved to the anchorage which was about another quarter of a mile down the harbour and there dropped anchor in company with at least another 30 boats. The British owned Menorca for about 100 years in the 1700s and many of the buildings have a colonial look about them. We also built a massive fort (Fort Marlborough) which still stands in all it's glory and is a main tourist attraction.
During the weekend there was a Festes (Festes de Sant Joan) in Ciutadella at the other end of the island, so we decided to take the bus and visit that. It was a grand affair with horses (all black stallions) charging through the town. It would never have happened in Britain, Health & Safety would have closed it down. One of the tricks seemed to be that you should stroke the horse's belly as it reared up without getting trampled.
Outside the local hospital Riders parading with lances before the competition
There was also a competition for the rider to get his lance through a ring of about 4'' diameter while charging through the crowd at a gallop.
Galloping through the crowd arm in arm Stroking the underside of the horse
And finally they galloped through the crowd in pairs while hugging one another. We don't think anyone was killed and we only saw one person get hurt, amazing!
The next picture was taken in the anchorage and looking at the walls you would think they belonged to a fort or maybe a prison......wrong! Behind the two 7 metre high walls was a hospital for infectious cases such as yellow fever, cholera etc. They certainly didn't want you in the community if you weren't feeling well. Today it's used as a conference centre. Talk about a captivated audience.
We have very much enjoyed the Balearic Islands with Menorca as our favourite but Sardinia and Italy beckon, so when the wind is right we will be off on the 200 mile crossing.