We decided to sail the 90nm NE to Mallorca overnight as the anchorages on the NE corner of Ibiza were exposed to the wind and swell. We arrived in the Bay of Palma on Mallorca at 0900 and picked up a mooring buoy near S’Arenal, a tourist town full of Brits and Germans – a bit like Blackpool in the sun. Not exactly classy. Mallorca is the largest of the Balearics and despite our first landfall, has many beautiful calas. Most of the island is very pretty and away from the tourist spots, very quiet. After a couple of days in S’Arenal, we moved to a natural harbour, Santa Ponsa, about 20nm on the SW corner as the first part of our clockwise circumnavigation of the island.
Santa Ponsa has room for about 50 boats although it does get quite swallow near the beach, which a couple of catamarans took advantage of as it was very sheltered that bit further into the bay. Although the wind blew hard a few times, the anchor held firm and we were protected from the swell. Santa Ponsa was also full of tourists (it was late August/early September) and, apparently, nearly 40% of visitors to Mallorca are German so all the local businesses especially restaurants clearly market to them. The harbour itself was pretty and easy to take the dinghy ashore to provision and pick up guests. From here we took the local bus to Palma, Mallorca’s capital city for the day. Half of the island’s population live in Palma so you can imagine it is full of bustle and energy.
We enjoyed walking around the shops and alleyways of the old town as well as visiting the cathedral but didn’t go in as they charged an entrance fee and it had a poor review in our guide book. The cathedral was built between 1229 and 1603 but restored in 1901 under the direction of Antoni Gaudí and you can see his influence. The Moorish influence is very apparent. On the outskirts of the city, Joan Mirò had his studio, which has been turned into a museum and was fascinating. They had kept it as it was the last time he was there in 1983. It was well worth the bus ride although it is not the easiest place to find.
Next stop was Sant Elmo with its turquoise, warm waters. There are mooring buoys there to preserve the seagrass but we hadn’t booked ahead so none were left.
However, the local boatman kindly steered us towards a sandy area so we were able to anchor. The ferries go from the quayside to nearby Dragonera Island, which is a nature reserve but they stop in the early evening so it is a tranquil place to stay overnight.
Then onto Sóller, or more precisely, Port de Sóller as the main town is set a couple of miles inland to stop being ransacked by pirates. Again, there is a lovely harbour with good holding with a short dinghy ride to the seafront. There is a small railway that links the two that is a tourist attraction in its own right. Sóller is a wealthy town having made its money from Lemons, oranges and olives. It is a pretty place with a market on Saturdays.
A couple of miles south of Sóller is the small cove of Deià, that sits below the hilltop village of Deià, home to Robert Graves (writer of I, Claudius) and a magnet for writers and artists for many years. The cove itself is very small and room for only three boats at a time or one mega yacht. It is very pretty with restaurants on the hillside overlooking the bay. The village is 45 minutes walk away uphill but well worth it with lovely granite houses and restaurants set into the hillside.
After Deià, we made our way to Cala de la Calobra which has the most amazing setting. It is set in a gorge, which has deep water on one side and ravine with goats on the other. There are plenty of tourist ferries out of Sóller and San Antonio that do daily trips but once they have all gone home, the place is quiet and peaceful. To get the most out of the scenery, you need to be on the land side of the gorge before or at sunrise so that you really do have the place to yourself. Magical.
On the way round to the north of the island we were goose-winging with a preventer on the main when we were visited by a lovely bird taking a rest (see above). The journey to Puerto de Pollensa (30nm) was a great sail with some strong winds as we rounded the headland. We picked up one of the Posidonia mooring buoy about 1nm east of Pollensa and dinghied to the town to (yet again) swap crews/friends. The town is very well served by bus connections to Palma and onward to the airport for only €8. It has a number of supermarkets and a very good feretaria in town.
Crew successfully changed, we made our way to Alcudia and anchored in sand in the bay, just outside the marina. It was an easy dinghy ride to shore and a few minutes walk into town, which has all the facilities of a major tourist town. The marina is lovely with quayside restaurants and shops.
We stopped overnight in Porto Cristo where it should have been a sheltered anchorage. It wasn’t as the swell ricocheted off the rocks coupled with a stormy night to make it a very uncomfortable night. We should have gone to the town quay or into the marina. The next day we stopped for lunch (right) in Cala Mitjana, a small bay with a private beach with room for one or two boats at most. It made a pretty lunch stop but unless the conditions were benign not suitable for overnight.
We continued along the SE coast towards Porto Colom (below), a large natural harbour that has been laid with mooring buoys with severe restrictions on anchoring. It is a lovely town with fine restaurants and an old worldly feel in places but with a distinctly touristy feel in other parts.
After Porto Colom, it was a short journey to Porto Petro (below), a small but elegant town that caters for the tourist trade but with style. Good restaurants and artisan shops to wander round with a marina or mooring buoys, dependent on how much you wanted to spend. We paid €23 on a buoy in September.
We went directly from Porto Petro to Mahon, Menorca to anchor overnight before the 66nm trip to Sardinia. We arrived in Menorca and visited Cala Covas (see right) which had a number of prehistoric caves in the hillside before moving onto Cala Taulera. It resembled a quarry but was safe and sheltered and allowed us to rest before our overnight sail to Sardinia.