Kurukulla at Englishman's Bay, Tobago

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Barcelona to Alicante, via the Balearic Islands

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona
The first full day in the Vilanova marina was spent relaxing with a few hours on the beach and sundowner drinks on the yacht club terrace. The following day was more productive! The first task was to cart a not insignificant quantity of laundry to the launderette, some distance in-land, and refresh our wardrobe. Two hours later all was done, dried and back onboard. Next stop the chandlery to get various odds and ends that we had identified since leaving Port Saint Louis; finally it was to the local Lidl supermarket (for yacht victualling they are ideal as most of their stock has a very long shelf life and their wines are good value!). Day gone!

The boys in Barcelona
Tuesday was the day for our next crew member,Yorgos, to arrive. We decided to meet him at the airport and then carry on into the centre of Barcelona to do a walking tour. On arrival at the airport, terminal 2, I was amazed to note that the main railway connection from Barcelona is single track! One train every half hour! Then I noticed there is also a metro link to terminals 1 and 2! Having made contact with Yorgos we then set off to Barcelona and walked from the Sants railway station to the Sagrada Familia cathedral (of which more later) and from there south to the 'Arc de Triomf', Catalan style. By now Yorgos was wilting, having been travelling since the early hours of the morning, and hence we took the train back to Vilanova, enjoyed a cocktail and tapas on the waterfront and retired for an early-ish night. The following day was to be our departure day for the 24 hour crossing to the Balearic islands.

Sagrada Familia
The city of Barcelona is bristling with traditional Spanish architecture but the Sagrada Familia left me rather underwhelmed, it seemed more of a folly than a place of worship with every form of adornment featuring somewhere on the facades. That said I did not see the inside (prior booking is necessary) and I am told the inside is even more spectacular. Even so it seemed to be more related to the days of Christianity when the splendour of the building was meant to put the population in awe of the religion it represented. Just my personal view! The Arc de Triomf was a brick version of its more famous cousin in Paris and almost as impressive.

Fortunately Wednesday dawned bright and clear with a very mild wind forecast. Notwithstanding the forecast lack of wind we decided to go and by 1300 we motored out of the marina and set off on the crossing. Initially we had a NE wind, enough to give us 4 kts in the right direction but as the afternoon drew on we were forced to resort to engine with ever lighter winds from exactly the wrong direction, SE. The lack of wind lasted for three hours but after that we were able to sail the remainder of the crossing until, when 2 miles short of Majorca, we were becalmed again.
Cala de Engossaubas, Majorca
Frustration set in and we motored the final two miles into Cala Engossaubas, our first anchorage in Majorca where we spent a quiet and peaceful night in the company of one other yacht.

Friday we set off for Minorca, sailing off the anchor and ghosting out of the Cala. The 30 mile passage was uneventful but for a couple of periods of complete calm and several 90° wind shifts. By 1900 we were approaching the NW point of Minorca but again the wind died to nothing. Against our better judgement we motored the last 1.5 miles into Cala Morts; however, on arrival we concluded it was too deep and with a bottom consisting of large boulders, hence too risky for anchoring; for this reason we moved one Cala to the east (500m) and entered Codolar de Torre Nova where we tucked ourselves right into the end of the Cala, buoyed the anchor and put a line ashore to hold us in position.
Codolar de Torre Nova
A delightfully rugged place to spend the night. The following morning Yorgos and I set off to scale the cliffs to get a photograph from the rim of the Cala leaving Christoph to look after Kurukulla, the results can be seen here!

Our plan was to head eastwards along the north coast of Minorca over the next three days. All we needed now was some wind! By early afternoon the wind had filled in from the north west and we were able to enjoy a brief broad reach as far east as Cala de Algayerens where we anchored in 4m, on pure sand, in the eastern end of the main beach. A delightful spot where we spent the night at anchor.

Cala de Algayerens
The smaller eastern beach here had been full of motorboats on our arrival; however, the following morning it was deserted and offered better protection from the slight swell running into the bay. Thus we moved into the eastern bay and spent the morning swimming and exploring the hinterland behind the beach. After a leisurely lunch we set off eastwards again but this time with a moderate north-easterly wind, hence it was a beat to windward for us to get to our next objective, Fornells, where there is a natural harbour and good shelter from a forecast strong north-easterly blow. The forecast was right!
Fornells waterfront
We entered Fornells under reefed main and genoa, sailing up the harbour to pick up a mooring on the eastern (best protected) side and just short of the castle on Isla Sargantana. That night we had the first thunderstorm of the season and the following day did not disappoint with strong winds and heavy rain all coming in from the NE. Thus it was we stayed here for two days, biding our time until the winds abated.

Finally on the Tuesday morning it dawned bright and clear, we were able to use the dinghy to go ashore for some fresh victuals and to do some sightseeing around the town before getting under way again and heading for Cala Tamarells (which is now almost impossible to anchor in due to an anchoring exclusion zone) and then on to Cala Grao, a mile further south, to anchor for the night. Tamarells is the more secluded of these Calas but the north side of Cala Grao is the more secure anchorage, especially in north-easterly winds.

Mahon harbour
The next morning we set off for Mahon, the beautiful natural harbour on the eastern end of Minorca. It is easy to see why this natural harbour has been fought over so many times over the centuries. There are still many examples left from the British occupation of some 100 years. We initially berthed on the public quay and a helpful restaurant owner told us that the berth had not been used for some months. With this information I set off for the Harbour Authority Offices ready to pay my dues. They were having none of it! Vacant or not they had no interest in letting us stay in the berth! Hence I phoned the Royal Yacht Club of Mahon who could not have been more helpful, provided a berth for two nights and were less expensive than the adjacent marina. The added bonus was the use of all the club facilities as well.

The beach at Santo Tomas
After two days touring the delights of Mahon we set off to explore the south coast of Menorca. Mid day on the 8th of June, general election day in UK, we set off for an anchorage on the south coast. It was a splendid spinnaker run/reach all the way along the coast until we reached Son Bou where we started looking for a suitable anchorage for the night. In the end we settled for the very eastern end of the beach at Son Bou, in the shadows of two large hotels but protected from the swell and south-easterly wind. Here we stayed overnight enjoying a sunset supper and a peaceful night.
Sunset at Cala Santandria
The next morning we moved 8 miles along the coast and into Cala Son Saura where we anchored under sail and settled for a very pleasant afternoon, enjoying dinner onboard as the sun set.

Next morning dawned bright, sunny but windless and was forecast to remain so. As a consequence we decided to double back slightly and anchor off the beach at Santo Tomas for the day. In the evening we moved into Cala Trebeluja, a delightful Cala with good anchoring conditions and a sandy beach; an ideal place to anchor and spent the night at the end of an exhausting day of doing very little!

Stern to, Ciutadella
The following morning we sailed for Cala Santandria which is just short of Ciutadella. Our aim was to spend most of the morning getting there, lunch on arrival and then spend the night at anchor in the Cala before moving on to Ciutadella the next morning. We managed to get a place in the main part of the Cala, drop the anchor in the centre and tie back to the rocks on the northern side. Although on the doorstep of Ciutadella the Cala was pleasant, relatively quiet and a tourist draw for the spectacular view of the sunset that it offered.

Ciutadella was the old capital of the island before it was moved to Mahon. This is definitely my favourite place in the Balearic Islands. Not unspoilt by tourism but similarly not overrun by it either. The yacht club was very welcoming; providing us with a berth in the centre of the harbour on the side nearest the club facilities, thus we settled to enjoy a very pleasant stay. Lunch was on the terrace of the Yacht Club and dinner was taken in a small backstreet restaurant by the name of Bar Saint Jean which offered a tasty selection of Tapas accompanied with a very agreeable local wine.

Monument to the defence against the Turkish invasion, Ciutadella
Next morning it was off again but this time for the transit to Majorca. We sailed at 1030 having done the usual routine of buying bread at the last minute and filling up with water, (which in a sailing vessel is more precious than fuel). Once clear of the harbour, which has had a very extensive new outer breakwater added since my charts and pilot were published, we set sail for the 24 mile crossing to Cala Molto on the eastern tip of Majorca. As luck would have it most of this crossing was downwind in light winds and the spinnaker came into its own.
Cala Molto, Majorca
By 1630 we were sailing onto the anchor in the Cala, quickly secured and settling for the night.

By next morning the wind had shifted somewhat and it was going to be a light airs, biased beat, south-westwards to our next destination, Cala Petita. With the wind in the southerly sector it was difficult to find a Cala, on the south east facing coast of Majorca, with decent shelter from the swell. Cala Petita, although small, as its name suggests, seemed to offer the best option, provided it was not fully occupied.
Cala Petita
In fact we were fortunate and on our arrival, at 1830, there was only one small motorboat anchored in the Cala; we were able to drop the anchor on the centreline and tie back to one of the exposed rocks further in. We had less than 0.5m under the keel and certainly no room to swing but because of the dog leg in the entrance to the Cala the seas were not entering in any significant way and we were very comfortably placed. Another quiet night....

From Cala Petita we moved on next day to Cala Mitjana, another Cala offering shelter from then swell but this time we were far from alone.
Departing Cala Mitjana
The Cala was full with other vessels from motor catamarans to yachts both larger and smaller than us. It was obvious on arrival that we would have to anchor and tie back to avoid swinging into other vessels. After a bit of research we found a spot, reasonably well into the larger northern arm of the Cala and almost out of the effects of the swell. A few minutes later we were secure and ready for a slightly delayed lunch followed by an afternoon of relaxing in the sun (again).

Next morning we moved on again heading to the southern tip of Majorca, this time to anchor in Cala Caragol; an open Cala but one facing south-west and so free of the swell which was still running in from the south-east. We were one of four yachts anchored there, each on their own patch of sand. The bottom is a mixture of rock and sand so care is needed to avoid getting the anchor trapped or dropping on a shelf of rock with little or no holding. The beach on the other hand is pure sand and lightly populated making it an ideal spot to swim ashore for a bit of walking exercise along the half mile or more of beach. Given that the anchorage was calm and quiet we opted to stay here overnight and to set off mid morning next day.

Cala Portals from the restaurant
By now we were on high season tourist prices and for that reason not one of us was keen to spend too long in the bars and discotheques of Palma or to pay the very high prices demanded by Palma's marinas. Thus we decided to head for Cala Portals on the western side of the Bay of Palma and spend the next night two nights, Saturday and Sunday, there before heading into Palma for a single day. Sunday lunch was taken in the restaurant ashore at the head of the Cala and very good it was too. Saturday night had been calm and quiet but on the Sunday night, soon after darkness had fallen, we were forced to move further offshore, out into the centre of the Cala, due to the onset of an easterly wind. C'est la vie.

Palma marina
On the Monday morning we phoned ahead and were lucky enough to get a berth at the Real Club Nautico di Palma which offered us superb facilities and interestingly enough was not over expensive, well not in Balearic terms anyway, €100 per night for Kurukulla. Thus it was we spent Monday afternoon sightseeing in Palma, the evening enjoying dinner ashore and the following morning seeking out supermarkets etc. for our preparations for leaving.
Palma cathedral
By 1400 we were ready to go and by 1600 we were anchored back in Cala Portals but this time tucked into the southern arm of the Cala to avoid the swell which was again rolling in from the east. Although popular with many small boat owners and therefore occasionally crowded Cala Portalls is a beautiful Cala and one of my favourites.

Tuesday's forecast promised a speedy reach across to Ibiza and thus we confidently set off in the early to mid morning, sailed off the anchor only to find ourselves having to start the engine 20 minutes later, when beset by a still calm, and motor as far as the south-western tip of Majorca. From here we were able to hoist the spinnaker and reach across towards Ibiza touching 6-7 knots at times but mostly 4-5. By the halfway mark the wind had shifted and it was too tight a reach to sustain the spinnaker, thus we hoisted the No1 genoa and continued at a slightly more sedate pace but were still able to complete the 50+ miles by dusk and reach Cala del Lleo before it was completely dark. Cala del Lleo is an open Cala to the east, not difficult to find but has a significant number of rocks scattered around its fringes and some further out, many of which only just break surface.
Departing Cala del Lleo
It is not a Cala to enter by night! On arrival there was one other yacht anchored in the Cala. We sailed in and anchored some 75m further into the Cala but in the rapidly diminishing light this was as far as my nerve would take me. We anchored on a patch of sand, in 7m of water, and in the morning light this proved to have been a very good decision! The nearest submerged rocks were 50m away.

From Cala Lleo we set sail towards Ibiza but again our enthusiasm for the night life was somewhat lacking. Instead we headed for the anchorage off of the beach called Playa de Caballet which, given the westerly wind, was calm and quiet; well almost. What Neptune did not send our way the never ending succession of power boats did, passing at 20kts plus and putting up enormous wakes sending us rocking and rolling at anchor every few minutes. I am sure there should be a 6 knot speed limit within two miles of the shore to prevent the damage and discomfort they cause. None ever look backwards to see the chaos they leave in their wake, or if they do they don't care! After one night at anchor off Caballet we had had enough and we set off the following morning to find somewhere more tranquil. This was to be Cala Raco des Mares on the north shore of the main part of Formentera. Although well populated with boats few were surging past at speed and the whole place was calm and relatively tranquil; that is until a Portuguese registered super yacht pulled into the anchorage at midnight with a disco party going on on the after deck. Fortunately their near neighbours let them know what they thought of this idea and calm was restored after a short period.

The ugliest sailing vessel afloat! Anchored off Formentor.
The next day we returned to Caballet for a second try but this time we determined not to stay overnight but to head south to Formentera and anchor on the east side of the northern promontory near the northern tip of the island. Visible across the promontory was the most ugly sailing vessel I have ever seen. The modern equivalent of a very expensive folly?

From here we set off next morning to our final anchorage in the Balearic Islands at Cala Sahona, on the western side of the island, ideally situated to be ready for a late evening departure westwards towards the Spanish mainland again. Cala Sahona was also crowded with boats when we sailed in, hence we anchored as close to the beach as we could but even this was a long swim ashore. In the end we were not sorry to be leaving the islands; too crowded.

At 2230 we sailed off the anchor and set sail westwards towards Alicante, our next port of call and Yorgos's departure port. For the first five hours we were doing a cracking 6-8 knots on a port tack beam reach, fantastic sailing. Then the wind dropped but not for more than an hour and then we were on a starboard beam reach for the next eight hours doing a similar speed!
Alicante marina and Castle
Again, as we approached the mainland the wind fell to zero and came up an hour later from the opposite direction hence we found ourselves again on a port tack reach and surging along even to the stage where we had to reef for a pair of hours. In the end we arrived in Alicante at 1430, sailed into the harbour, and by 1445 we were alongside the reception jetty of Alicante marina negotiating for a berth. At €50 per day this was somewhat more reasonable than the Balearic prices and we settled on a two day stay.

More when we leave.............

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