Cruising the Balearic Islands

170423 1c  Portals Vells Photos by Francois from Drone a little editing

Photo courtesy of Francois of Paradigme - Katherine on anchor Portals Vells 

The Balearic Islands are to be found east of Mainland Spain and are made up of four main islands. Formentera the smallest island south of Ibiza is known for its long stretches of white sand beaches. The second island Ibiza and its main town of the same name has a reputation for its night clubs and foam parties in summer whilst the northern areas of the island have tired to hang onto a bohemian theme. Mallorca the largest of the islands has dramatic landscapes and equally as dramatic big boats. Last but not least is  Menorca with a strikingly different landscape to the other islands and a more rural laid back atmosphere according to the guides. In the height of summer, July and August, it is said to be near on impossible to find an empty anchorage or mooring so we decided to make this group of islands our cruising ground in early April despite the risk of unsettled weather. It was certainly a good choice. 

170413 3 Sailing Sant Antoni to anchorage Cala d'Albarca Dan and Kim

170411 5  Sant Antoni  Ibiza Moonlight

As noted in our email sent out with our last blog we "literally dropped Chris off at Valencia airport on the 8th of April before continuing on to drive around 600km north to the quaint town of Collioure in France to meet our Canadian friends Dan and Kim from Toronto. They were ready and  waiting to join us on board Katherine for the next leg of our sailing journey.

Back onboard with Dan and Kim settled in along with all the goodies from Collioure market we headed out for Ibiza on Tuesday 11th March to the port of San Antoni around 80nm east.  There was not a lot that could be said to be “Spanish” about San Antonio with its high rise buildings, streets of Night Clubs and Irish Bars, with the exception for a quaint white washed church, tucked up in the back streets off a plaza boasting several very ancient looking Olive Trees. The harbour was however perfect for location, provided  great sunsets, along with piped music at the end of each pier and thanks to our neighbours we were able to pick up a few more local tips on good anchorages for the coming weeks.

170413 10 Anchorage Cala d'Albarca Cruising in the dinghy

For the next three nights we anchored out on the north west coastline of Ibiza. Our first anchorage was one of solitude tucked in the bay  Ensenada De Eubarca, surrounded by high cliffs and not a building or road to be seen. The paddle boards were out along with the dinghy as we took the opportunity to explore the striking rock formations surrounding the bay. 

170414 12 Anchorage Benirra's Sunset looking towards Queen Victoria

Our next anchorage was  in Cala Benirras. Entering the cala you sail past a rock formation that is meant to look like Queen Victoria on her throne - it took some imagination to get the image but after a lot of reflection we finally got the picture. The harbour is surrounded by rustic looking boat sheds that during the day had bodies basking on top of their flat roofs despite the chill in the air. The evening entertainment unable to be drowned out by our Spotify music was the Beating of the Bongos that went on for hours along with the unique rhythmic dancing on the beach. We did not realise at the time that it was actually an event that some people paid to attend so I guess we should have considered ourselves privileged too be receiving free entertainment. 

Cala Portinatx our final anchorage in Ibiza proved to be much quieter and more picturesque than the previous evening despite the township and restaurants surrounding it. We enjoyed a wood fired pizza for lunch looking back across at Katherine surrounded by the most brilliant blue water. The anchorage was all ours bar a small tourist boat tied to its mooring waiting for the summer trade to start. 

170417 12 Katherine on anchor Portals Vells from Restaurant

From Cala Portinax we sailed to Mallorca on Easter Sunday - perhaps not the best day to arrive in one of the prettier bays close to the city of Palma De Mallorca. What a contrast. The anchorage of Portals Vells was full of sailing and power boats of all sizes and descriptions. From day rentals, jet skis  to a 100ft gleaming silver power boat they were all there. We sat outside of the anchorage anchored in deeper water until mid afternoon when all the day visitors began to depart. We were assured by Francois from Paradigm, who happened to be in the harbour, that come 5pm there would be just a handful of boats overnighting. Well we had no sooner reanchored in the bay and 13 charter sailing boats arrived at great speed. We had not realised we were the bay of choice for a flotilla of French Business Students. At least their music was far more tasteful then the bongos.

170417 13 Sipping Sangria  Portals Vells  Restaurant Lee and Andrew

One of the nice things about sailing the islands is definitely the choice of restaurants. Being able to go from your boat to the beach and find a good restaurant is certainly not something you take for granted coming from Australia. Here we sat in another beautiful bay with another restaurant to choose from. The cafe, Playa Del Mago Calvia was our introduction to just how good the food on Mallorca could be.

We arrived into the marina in Palma on Monday to farewell Dan and Kim on what had been a great week of cruising together. 

170422 4 Berend Kirsten and kids arriving Portals Vells

It was a busy few days in harbour completing our list of jobs to do before the arrival of our next visiting friends but uniquely they came with a charter boat.

Berend Kirsten Jorrit and Noor arrived from The Netherlands on Friday 21st and together we sailed around Mallorca for the following week. Well we sailed and they attempted to sail their Catana Bali, which we all agreed at the end of the week was a great party platform, had an amazing fridge with ice maker, and worked well for the kids who played card and board games comfortably in the saloon for hours every day, when not out doing miles on our stand up paddle boards.  

170429 2 Soller Tram operating since 1913170427 1 Cooking on the Katherine on a rainy day

Together we revisited Portals Vells, anchored overnight in Cala De Santa Ponsa a huge bay surrounded by high rise but very pretty. In the harbour of Puerto Soller we stayed two nights, one of which saw Berend and Andrew heading off to help a dragging boat that had gotten its anchor entangled in another boats chain, the very relieved Germans gifted them a rather nice bottle of red wine for their efforts. Perhaps a new line of work. Puerto Soller was one of my favourite places of call. A very pretty and lively port area that is joined to the old town about four kilometres inland by an old tram railway line that has been in operation since 1913. The carriages and engine were all exquisitely maintained. 

Our only marina stay in the week was at Puerto Andratx when weather dictated that a secure marina would be wise. Little was seen of this town due to the miserable weather. We opted instead to have a cooking day with Jorrit and Noor helping to prepare the nights desert. Taste testing was of course part of the process.

Friday 28th of April  we headed back to Portals Vells where the two boats parted. It had been a great week for cruising in company and getting to spend time with Noor and Jorrit.

170503 1 Alcudia the town of Licra

For us the next run was dictated again by weather, stopping first at Puerto Soller for a good nights sleep after having rolled on anchor all night in Portals Vells then onto Puerto Alcudia. Alcudia harbour and tourist areas did not inspire but it was a nice walk to the old town several kilometres inland passing by several roman ruins and old churches. Perhaps the most memorable thing about Alcuida will be for us the amount of Lycra, It was definitely a town favoured by cyclists and adorned in all the colours and patterns of Lycra one   could be imagined. The investment in bikes and accessories was astounding. 

170503 11 Ciutadella Menorca Harbour

Before heading out of The Balearics we made one last port of call  into the ancient harbour of Cituadella on Menorca. Menorca had immediately a far more relaxed feeling then Mallorca with the landscape rolling out relatively flat for as far as the eye could see. The harbour is said to have been in use since prehistoric times, but the city itself was reborn after a Turkish attack in 1558 when most of the buildings were destroyed and many of the citizens taken away as slaves. The old town is a maze of paved streets that twist and turn throughout. 

170503 10 Ciutadella Menorca Town Hall

Under the advise of a waiter Andrew tried the local gin called Xoriguer or Gin De Menorca. Upon research it appears that the gin began production back in the 18th Century at the time of British occupancy and in an effort to keep the British happy. The formula impressed Andrew so much that we now have our own bottle onboard to join the other collections of Gin from around the world. 

170503 11 Ciutadella Menorca by night

Our intention had been to stay for a few days in Cituadella exploring this area of Menorca but impending weather cut this plan short and we found ourselves the morning after our arrival preparing to depart by lunch time. Such is cruising. 

Time to hang up the Spanish flag and return to France. 

Next stop would be 208nm north in the city of Marseille France. 

So it is adios to Spain for now.

(For more photos click here.)

© SV Katherine 2018      Cover Photo: Katherine on Anchor Isle Tabarca Spain