Balearic Islands

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August 3– 14, 2012

    The Balearic Islands, or Islas Baleares in Spanish, consist of four main islands – Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza, and Formentera – and many smaller islets.  The islands are under Spanish sovereignty.

    The westernmost islands are less than 50 miles east of the Spanish mainland.  They are low-lying with sandy bays.  The islands run to the northeast and become higher in elevation and rocky.  Most of the islands have highly indented shorelines with numerous calas – coves – for swimming or boating.

    We arrived in the Balearics at Porto Colom on Mallorca.

Mallorca

August 3-9, 2012

    Mallorca is the largest of the Balearic Islands.  It is 62 miles long and 47 miles wide.  The north and east coasts are mountainous with numerous coves, and the south coast has rolling hills and sandy beaches.  The central plain is flat with large areas of fertile agricultural terrain.  Mallorca has one large port – Palma.

    Mallorca has been inhabited for at least 6,000 years.  Archeological evidence suggests that the inhabitants included the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and Greeks.  The Romans conquered Mallorca in 123 BC and remained until the 5th century AD.  After the decline of the Roman Empire, the Vandals invaded and used the island as a base for pirates and Corsairs.

    The Moors arrived in the 10th century and brought prosperity with the development of Palma.  Irrigation and agriculture was improved across the island.  However, King Jaime I drove the Moors out in 1229.  That is when the Catalan language was introduced – the primary language throughout the Balearics.

    The 13th to 15th centuries were a time of great growth on Mallorca, but Spain turned her attention to the New World and somewhat forgot about her Mediterranean possessions.  Mallorca experienced frequent pirate attacks, but gradual growth continued.

    Today Mallorca’s coastline is overrun with tourism and its infrastructure.  One must look hard to see past it.

   
 

shore in Porto Petrol anchorage

 

Porto Colom

August 3–4, 2012

    We had a somewhat chaotic landfall at Porto Colom.  The winds were increasing, the seas were bumpy, and we had a narrow entrance channel ahead of us.  As we approached, we saw a power boat come out, make a few circles, and go back in.  Then he came out again.  His driving was a bit erratic, and it made it difficult for us to plan a course in to the port.  But we got around him and in the entrance channel.  Then we had four kayaks to contend with.  There was one adult and three children in the kayaks, and none were wearing PFDs.  The winds were too much for one of the kids, and he was out of control.  The other kayaks were trying to help him, but they were scattered about the channel – in front of us no matter which way we turned.  We still had 20 knots of wind blowing us down.  But we dodged those obstacles as well, and the power boat passed us as he returned to port again.  We hoped that this was not telling of experiences to come.

    We had already decided that we would pick up a mooring in Porto Colom, but it was a bit more difficult than we had anticipated.  There are no pennants on the moorings, so one has to get their line through the loop on top of the ball.  This, too, got a bit messy (Nita was bruised and Bud was bleeding before we were secured), but we got it done.  Later in the day, we saw that an employee of the marina comes out and helps boats, but we were too early in the morning.  Our mooring cost us 33 Euros – the equivalent of $41.25 per night.

    We chose to make landfall at Porto Colom because we thought we could find a Vodafone store there to get our telephone activated and internet service established.  Wrong.  The nearest Vodafone store is in Felanitx about eight miles inland, so we hired a taxi.  The drive was pretty.  We passed through agricultural lands to a depressed appearing town.  The Vodafone store had a SIM card for our phone but not for the internet.  We would have to go to another store at a substantial distance to get it.  We gave up.

    We returned to Porto Colom and did a bit of food shopping at a pleasant little market a block up from the coast.  The people were friendly and helpful.  We walked around town a bit and scouted out the fueling situation.  We decided we were too tired to enjoy a meal out, so we returned to the boat.

Porto Petro

August 4–8, 2012

    We did not know if/when we would find fuel again before Gibralter, so we decided to top up our tanks before leaving Porto Colom.  We took on 76 gallons at the equivalent of $6.76 USD per gallon.  That is the least we have paid for diesel in some time.

    One of the first things we noticed as we traveled down the coast is the clean air.  This is the cleanest air we have seen since we have been in the Med.  A very refreshing change! 

    Mallorca’s southeast coast is highly convoluted, and there are calas all along it that offer anchorage to boats.  We traveled 7 miles in the next 1 ˝ hours, and we looked in to twelve calas, but we could not find a place to anchor.  We looked at Calas 1) Mitjana, 2) Serena, 3) Ferrera, 4) Esmeralda, 5) Gran, 6) d’Or, 7) d’es Pous, 8) de sa Galera, 9) d’Egos, 10) del Llamp, 11) se sa Torre, and 12) d’els Homos Morts.  Each was either already overcrowded with boats or it had been roped off for swimming.  We had been cautioned that the crowding here would be a problem, but we really were not prepared for the masses of boats and bodies that we found.

 

a chilly swim at Porto Petrol

 

    So we went in to Porto Petro (which ironically does not sell fuel), and we picked up a mooring in Cala del Mats (our 13th cala of the day).  These moorings are managed by a local marina (Reial Club Nautic Portopetro), and it cost the equivalent of $31.25 per day.

    The cala itself is pretty.  It is rocky with a few caves.  There are beautiful, but not overly ostentatious, homes built along the shore.  There are about twenty moorings installed in the cala.

    The town was less appealing.  It is very touristy.  We did not see much local color.  And we had a lousy introduction to Spanish food in Porto Petro.  We had a mixed tapa plate and seafood paella at one of the overpriced waterfront restaurants, and both were quite poor.  We will have to try again elsewhere.

    We decided we needed a boat chore day before moving on, so we took it.  Then some weather blew in, and we took a weather day.  The weather lingered, and we ended up staying four nights.  Our last night was very rolly, so we were determined to get out of there at the earliest opportunity.  We left the next day headed for the southeast corner of the island.

Cala Caragol

August 8-9, 2012

    11 miles in 2 hours

    The winds and seas were both a bit uncomfortable when we left Porto Petrol, but we were headed downwind, so they were manageable.  The seas calmed slightly as we approached Punta Salinas, the southeast tip of the island, and they calmed quickly as we rounded the point.  We headed to Cala Caragol – a shallow anchorage only one mile around the point.  We planned to spend the night and then get a pre-dawn start toward Ibiza the next day.

    The anchorage was a large open bay, and there were at least thirty boats there.  Closer to shore was a swim area, and there were a few people on shore.  It was basically a parking lot.

    About an hour after we anchored, we noticed that a large charter boat behind us was having problems weighing their anchor.  They tried all that they could while staying on the boat, but no one got in the water to look at the problem.  We assumed that they did not have a mask and snorkel on board.  They started waving at boats to attract attention, and they were asking for help, so we launched our dinghy and went over.  Nita managed the dinghy and communicated with the crew while Bud snorkeled the situation.  We were able to direct them to unwrap themselves from a large rock, and Bud dove down and put a line on the anchor.  He gave it a good jerk, and it was free.  Needless to say, they were very grateful, and we were pleased to have helped them.

    This anchorage also got a bit rolly as the evening progressed, but it was never bad.  We were able to sleep, and we got up at 0430 to head west to Ibiza.

Ibiza

   
 

beautiful northwest coast of Ibiza

 

August 9–12, 2012

    We left Mallorca pre-dawn with light winds and small seas.  We motorsailed about half the distance to Ibiza before the winds filled in enough for us to sail.  We soon had 14 knots on the beam, and we had a very nice sail to the northeast corner of Ibiza.  We traveled 73 miles in 12 ˝ hours.

    Ibiza is the most westerly of the Balearic Islands.  It is only 50 miles east of Cabo de la Nao on the mainland of Spain.  It is 26 miles long by 16 miles wide, and it covers an area of 22 square miles.  The northern half and the southwest extremity are mountainous.  Inland it is green and fertile, and it has many pine forests.

    Ibiza has been inhabited since the early Bronze Age.  Phoenicians and Carthaginians inhabited the island in the first millennium BC, and the city of Ibiza was founded in the 6th century BC by the Carthaginians.  Roman occupation brought prosperity, but raids by Vandals were common after the fall of Rome.  The island was subsequently occupied by the Moors then forces from Catalonia and Aragon.  It became a Spanish province in 1714.

    Ibiza backed Franco during the Spanish Civil War.  It was occupied for six weeks, and it suffered considerable damage.

    The population of Ibiza is 72,000.  More than one third of them live in the capital city of Eivissa.  The island is experiencing a decline in agriculture and an increase in tourism, and there are tourist accommodations for another 65,000.  This is a very popular tourist island – especially with the young party crowd. .  It is known for its tolerance of alternative lifestyles.

Cala Portinatx

August 9-10, 2012

    We arrived on Ibiza at Cala Portinatx.  It is a small and secure bay, and it appears to cater to tourists with families.  We went ashore, and we found no local culture.  It looked just like all the other tourist areas we have been in.  We did some minor grocery shopping and had dinner ashore.  The anchorage became quite crowded by sundown, but that is the norm in this area.  We planned to move on the next morning.

Puerto de San Antonio

August 10–12, 2012

    We headed southwest toward Puerto de San Antonio.  This was a spectacularly beautiful stretch of coastline.  It was mostly steep cliff faces with caves, isolated sandy beaches, and only a few houses.  Very nice.  We traveled 17 miles in 3 hours and 20 minutes.

    Puerto de San Antonio is a deep bay that is partially protected by a breakwater.  It has a large area for anchoring, but much of it also contains the occasional private mooring ball that complicates swinging to an anchor.  But we found some space and anchored just off the Hotel Hawaii.

 

more of Ibiza's northwest coast

 

    We found the young party crowd in town in Puerto de San Antonio.  From what we heard, it seems most of these revelers are English.  There are numerous discos where just the cost of admission is between $75 and $100 per person, and we have no idea what they might charge for a drink once inside.  Not a lot of clothing is worn, and body and face painting is very popular.  And much of it was surprisingly well done!  Lots of drinking.  And we saw a few carnival-type rides with the most outrageous one being a sling-shot – like a reverse bungy jump.  The intrepid sit in a seat while elastic bands are stretched upward.  When the seat is released, it shoots skyward and bounces up and down a few times.  No, we did not do it.

    We did find a Vodafone shop in town.  We got a SIM card and had internet access again.  We had access to weather information again, and we were able to make our plans to move on.

    We wanted to repair our steaming light on the mast, and it turned in to an all-day project that required a few trips to the chandlery in town.  As we returned to the boat in the late afternoon, we saw that our anchor had dragged.  This is our first time ever!  Passage was well below where she had been, and she was dangerously close to the boat behind us.  Fortunately, the owner of that boat was an experienced boater, and he knew how to manage the situation until we returned.  We quickly got the anchor reset, apologized profusely, and thanked our neighbor for his quick actions.  We think we know what happened, but we will never be sure.  Don’t want that to happen again!

    The anchorage had become quite crowded, but it was late in the day.  We decided to stay a second night before heading to the next island of Formentera.

Formentera

August 12–14, 2012

    We traveled 28 miles in 5 ˝ hours, and we motored the entire distance.  We had to cross a shallow and rocky bar off the west coast of Ibiza, and we both held our breath for a few seconds.  Sometimes it is difficult to trust the depths stated on your charts when the water is exceptionally clear.  But we watched our depth sounder carefully, and we made it without bumping.  We headed southeast toward Formentera.

    This, too, was a very nice stretch of coastline, but it paled in comparison to the coast only slightly further north.  We passed a few dramatic rocky islands, and we headed away from Ibiza.

    Isla Espalmador is a small island just north of Formentera.  The two are separated only by a small pass. Espalmador is only 1 ˝ miles long and less than one mile wide.  Formentera is 10 miles long and 8 miles wide.  There is no development on Espalmador, and there is one small town on Formentera.

    We arrived in the north on Espalmador.  There were boats as far as we could see.  Hundreds?  More?  There were dinghys and jet skis racing around the anchorage creating wakes in all directions.  This was not looking good.  We thought we would go further south and find a quieter anchorage.

    We continued south and found a continuous mass of boats.  There must have been at least 1,000 of them.  But after passing the harbor on Formentera, there were only a few boats in a large anchorage.  We dropped our anchor, and within a minute or two, a large dinghy approached and told us that this area was part of a local seagrass project and anchoring was prohibited.  Because of language issues, we did not learn why a few other boats were anchored there.  We headed back to the masses on Formentera.

   
 

they would still be gorgeous without the body paint

 

    We anchored in the best spot we could find, and we watched with incredulity as idiots raced around endangering themselves and others.  And our plan was to spend four nights there before heading to Gibralter!  We needed to rethink that plan.

    The early hours of the night were quite rolly, but it calmed by morning.  The roll was just from the boats and jet skis racing around.  It settled a few hours after they stopped.

    We went to the small town on Formentera the next day, and we found nothing of any interest at all.  It was a mass of tourists getting on boats to go out for day cruises.  We wanted out of there.

    Our plan had been to sail directly from Formentera to Gibralter, but we changed it to go to the mainland of Spain.  From the mainland, we could either coast hop our way down or do it in one run.  But it would get us out of Formentera.  So we spent a second night – again very rolly in the early hours – and left before dawn for mainland Spain.

 

    Follow us to mainland Spain