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19 October 2014

The Isalas Baleares and Mainland Spain

Dry-cured hams

Local Sailor, Menorca
Hello To You All Again.

Well we truly are in the Western Mediterranean now.  This is the area where one’s adventures are either just beginning in the Mediterranean, or drawing to an end as you head for Gibraltar and beyond.  Either way it is a delightful introduction, or farewell, to an incredible part of Mediterranean Europe.  Spain, in this region, falls under one of today’s ten most visited nations on our planet, and it is their Islas Baleares, 50 miles off the Spanish Mediterranean coast that we were next heading for.  The four main Islands which make up the Islas Baleares – Menorca, Mallorca, Ibiza and Formentera, each have their own rich history, and even though very touristy, they have a special charm for yachting and boating people, as there are still many secluded bays and coves left unspoilt to visit.  In saying that there are areas which have become quite over-run with tourists with high rise apartment blocks, hotels and nightclubs, crammed along beachfronts and over hillsides which I am sure must irritate the locals. Their beaches are plentiful and the waters in most areas lovely and clean.  Some of the anchorages now have mooring buoys which one is charged for.  We tried to avoid these.  We were surprised to find the Islands so green with pine forests dropping from the mountains to the water’s edge.
Puerto Mahon, Menorca

The 245nm trip from Corsica to Menorca was a fairly good run.  We did strike lumpy seas for a time, and during one of those extra “black” nights, which is never very pleasant, but with reefs in both the main and the jib, and the winds never more than 27kts, we are able to sail most of the way.  Menorca is the most easterly Island of the group and is only 26 miles long and 11 miles wide.  We arrived on the south east coast just after midnight and decided we would drop anchor in a protected bay outside the port of Mahon and enter in in daylight.  Puerto De Mahon is said to be the second deepest harbour in the world.  It is a long natural harbour with just as long a Naval History, and is said to have been founded in about 206 BC.  It is also said that Christopher Columbus was born here, but like many other ancient famous people, we find lots of places like to hold claim that the famous were born, lived or died here.  Due to the location of this Port it has been used by many well-known fleets including that of Lord Nelson.

Old Fortifications entrance Puerto Mahon
The following morning we took SHAMAL in to find an anchorage.  This was not to be in the main harbour.  Where there was once places to drop anchor are now taken up with floating pontoon marina facilities.  As we motored out Alec saw a bay on the left just inside the entrance which we motored into for a look.  Here were anchored at least a dozen other boats in the delightfully sheltered Cala Taulera.  It is said that one can be charged to anchor here, but no one appeared.  By evening there were at least twenty boats in there with us.  We then took the tender back across the harbour to the town quay, and were able to visit the town.  The old town is very pretty with an English appearance from the period when the British last occupied the area in the 18th century.

Anchorage Porto Colom
The following morning we had to move on as we had our friends Judith and Graham to pick up in Palma, Mallorca.  Mallorca lies 25 miles southwest of Menorca and is 62 miles long and 47 miles wide.  Alec decided we would head for Porto Colom about two thirds of the way along the east coast.  We were able to raise the sails again for this leg.  Mid-afternoon we were sailing along at around 7kts when suddenly there was a loud bang !!!!  Oh help what was that?  What have we hit?  We were still moving and rushed around to find out what it was.  I looked up to see the main had dropped into the sail bag.  The BIG eyelet in the top of the sail which is riveted into the sail on a large plate had given way.  The metal had split causing the main sheet to pop out hence a fast sail drop.  Bugger not another mishap!!!  All we could do at that stage was to make sure the main was safely in the sail bag and continue on under the jib.  Thank goodness when the boom dropped it missed the solar panels, and the sheets did not get tangled in the wind generator.  The main problem is it looks like we will have to take the main off to have it repaired.  Now that is one job I hate as the sail is so big and heavy!!! An hour and a half later we had dropped anchor in Porto Colom.  Alec then goes up to check the damage.  It looks as if we may be able to use another one of the holes in the metal plate and by putting a large shackle through it we can connect it back to the main halyard.  That job will have to wait till Palma.  The water is warm so Alec is back in the water checking that the props are all OK and still on.  We have become somewhat paranoid and are checking them at each anchorage now.  The following morning I hoist him up the mast so he can bring the main halyard down to attach back to the sail later.
Taps Bar, Porto Colom

Porto Colom is a large natural harbour, but with many mooring buoys to pick up.  We have been lucky to anchor just inside the main entrance off a lovely sandy beach.  We again take the tender ashore to explore the town.  We find a lovely Taps bar right on the waterfront and enjoy drinks and use the Wi-Fi.  We also find a small supermarket for supplies, and as we are paying the bill look up at old photos on the wall of the harbour.  Oh help, one shows the entrance to the harbour right where we are anchored during a big storm and all one can see is huge waves of white water coming in.  So glad the weather is nice at the moment !  We have one more stopover before arriving in Palma, where we anchor off a rather deserted beach, again in crystal waters with the water temperature reading over 30 degrees c. -  swim time again.  The following morning it’s on to Palma.  We rounded Capo Blanco for the run across the large bay into Palma, and with the winds out of the right quarter to hoist the M.P.S.  The bay was dotted with yachts but we were the only ones flying a spinnaker.  It felt good and I am sure we look even better.  We spent the first night in Palma anchored off a small group of Islands to the south west of the main town, then we moved to an anchorage right in front of the Cathedral –  La Seu - an all imposing Gothic style building which was started in 1230 and has continued to this day.  When it was lit up at night it was quite an awesome site.  It was here we met up with Kerry and Pam from Wales.  Kerry was a crew member on the yacht we did ‘Pirate Alley’ and the southern Red Sea with in 2011.  They were on holiday staying on a friends boat in the marina.  It was so nice to catch up again. 
SHAMAL under MPS into Palma

La Seu Cathedral, Palma
Tram in Soller
Once Judith and Graham arrived we moved into the “Real Club Nautico De Palma Marina”, one of the nine marinas inside the harbour.  We stayed for a couple of nights in order to have a little work done, plus a safe place to leave SHAMAL while we did some site seeing.  The first day we explored Palma both old and new, visiting the Cathedral and some ancient Arab baths.  Dinners out and a supermarket shop.  The following day we took the “Red Arrow” narrow gauge Victorian train to Soller on the north western coast.  For the final leg of the journey you change from the train to a tram which takes you down to the Port.  Soller also claims to be the birth place of  Christopher Columbus !?!  It is a pretty town but again very touristy.

Alec and Kerry, Palma
It is not until mid-afternoon on the third day when we finally untied our mooring lines from Palma and headed out to an anchorage just along the coast.  We spent another three nights on the southern coast in different bays before we headed out on the leg to Ibiza – the third Island we were visiting in the Baleares Group.  From Mallorca to Ibiza is just under 70 miles, so Graham and I decided it was time to put the fishing rods out.  We had no luck last season, and none so far this season.  We were having lunch and the wind had picked up a little and we were cruising along at 7kts discussing the speed fish swim at, when suddenly one of the lines took off.  We jumped up to see it was Grahams rod, so Judith brought mine in, and, then it jumped – oh my what a WONDERFUL sight.  Out of the water just like you see in those fishing programs, jumped a white marlin – Graham later made a positive ID on it – and yes still attached to Grahams line.  For the next ten to fifteen minutes with adrenalin pumping Graham landed the beauty.  It measured 2.2mts long.  What a trophy.  The boys then spent the next hour or so cutting it up and I vacuum packed what I could to fit in the freezer leaving out fresh fish for the BBQ that evening, plus a whole lot of extra.  We needed to find people who would like some very fresh fish at our anchorage that evening.

Graham and Alec with his BIG fish
We dropped anchor in a lovely bay on the north west coast of Ibiza.  Judith, Graham and I then set off in the tender to give the fish away.  Anchored in a corner were two Australian catamarans who were travelling together and were only too happy to take it off our hands.  They invited us on board for a drink and we discovered they were heading east into the Mediterranean in their lovely new boats which they had picked up in France.  We had fish on the BBQ the first night.  Second night was Thai Green Fish Curry, and we are still working our way through it.

Our bay was so nice we spent the next day relaxing and not doing too much apart from taking the tender ashore in the evening for a drink at the beach bar.  Next morning we motor along the coast as far as Puerto De San Antonio and drop the anchor inside the harbour. No swimming here!!  This is sadly one of the places where there are just too many people and the harbour was not clean.  We went ashore for lunch and supplies.  Lunch was terrible – the restaurant was catering for the young who party all night in what is said to be some of the world’s greatest clubs which attract their DJ’s from around the world for the summer season. All they seem to want to eat is a fry-up the next day.  We have never seen so many young people with tattoos.  It really is sad that the young think it is so cool to cover their whole bodies in ugly black markings.  There was nothing tasteful about any of them. Maybe I am just showing my age here, but the whole atmosphere of San Antonio was catering for the lower class of tourists.  I was not the only one to think or say this !!  We decided that  a couple of hours ashore was plenty and headed back to SHAMAL to up anchor again and find another bay.  We motored sailed around some Islands down the western side of Ibiza and found yet another delightful bay – Cala Codola.  Judith and I went off swimming again in water temperatures of over 30 degrees c. 

Vedra Island - 'Bali Hai'
On our way to our next stop on the Island of Formentera, we round the south western corner of Ibiza passing between the mainland and the Island of Vedra.  This is the Island that was used as the location of ‘Bali Hai’ in the film South Pacific.  Our anchorage on the eastern side of a sand spit on the northern end of Formentera proved a very popular one.  There was plenty of room for everyone.  It was beautiful.  We anchored on a sandy bottom which gave the waters this incredible aquamarine colour.  We spent hours in the water here. We spent nearly two weeks in this area visiting other anchorages on Formentera, plus visiting the main town of Ibiza which was only just across the water from Formentera.  In Ibiza one afternoon we climbed to the ancient Moorish Castle with its spectacular views over the town and out over the Islands and beyond.  The town was first founded by the Carthaginians in the 6th century BC.  There was plenty to see and again the quaint narrow streets lead you through the old city and along its walls. 

Beautiful Formentera
Sunset Formentera
Judith and Graham left us in Ibiza to head back to Dubai.  Alec and I stay on in the area for a few more days waiting for a good forecast so we could sail to the Spanish mainland which is only 50 nm away.  We sadly leave the Islas Baleares late afternoon on the 19th September.  I have really enjoyed our time here, but the time has come to move on again.  The wind does not come in like it was forecast to and we end up motor sailing.  Just after midnight we are off the Spanish coast and Alec decides we will keep going and make as much way along the coast.  The following evening after just over 24 hours we have done 140nm so decided to anchor off Cabo de Palos on the Costa Blanca, for the night.  We wake to a very overcast grey oily morning – dead flat seas and not a breath of wind !!  We have a visit from some local Kayaks, and one of the guys has been badly stung by jellyfish.  Out comes my bottle of vinegar and I douse his head, chest and shoulder where he has large red welts, poor guy I think he was in some pain.

As we up anchor we notice another catamaran in the bay flying a New Zealand flag, so motor past to say hello.  It is a Kiwi/Italian family from Russell in the Bay of Islands NZ, and they are heading in the same direction as us.  Their boat is called “OM”.  Later that day we motor into the yacht club in Cartagena together and are tied up alongside. We got to know this lovely family, Antonio and his three beautiful daughters, Indra, Tosca and Anita.  They invited us on-board for dinner, and the following evening came and had a meal with us.

We spent a couple of nights in Cartagena which is also a large naval, commercial and fishing port.  It was established around 243 BC and used by the Phoenicians and everyone else since.  This is where the Carthaginian Hannibal is said to have had his base for his famous expedition across the Alps with his elephants.  It was another interesting town with a lovely old main walking street – closed to cars.  At the entrance to the Mayor de Plaza – the main walking street, stands City Hall which has been cleverly built to form a triangle with different facades.  It is a very impressive building.  We also had a very impressive thunderstorm with sheet and fork lightning our first night in port !!

Two days later we are on the move again.  “OM” heads out in front of us, and neither of us are sure where we will spend the night. It is another lovely sunny day, but winds were too light to just sail, so we had to motor sail yet again.  Clouds were gathering over the hills on the mainland and far out to sea.  I am sure this weather is going to break very soon.  Again that night we anchor next to “OM” in a bay in the shelter of Punta Parda, a headland 35nm south west of Cartegena.  Alec and I take the kayak ashore so I can climb the headland to take photos. We also swim again in water temperatures over 30 degrees c.  That ended up to be our last swim for this season. Again we had dinner on board “OM”.
SHAMAL & OM - Punta Parda

Well it is not getting light till around 8.00 am now, so this makes early morning starts less attractive.  We are up just after 7.00am to find “OM” has already left.  They are heading directly to Gibraltar from here as they have crew to pick up.  We also have a crew member to pick up, but in Puerto de El Candado, a very small harbour just east of Malaga.   We had one more stop before reaching Wendy, our new crew member, and that was at Almerimer.  We dropped anchor in the big bay off Almerimer at 10.30pm after a 80nm run and got some much needed sleep.  The landscape along the Costa Blanca, then the Costa del Sol, first started off being quite mountainous, dry and barren with the towns and cities set in natural harbours or bays.  Further west a coastal areas are covered in high-rise apartments and  hotels along the sandy beaches, and, also plastic houses by the thousands, where fruit and vegetables are grown for the markets of Europe.   I have never known the coastal air to be packed with so many different smells – earth, garbage, decaying vegetables, exhaust fumes, sewage, cooking grease, and spices.   Quite a cocktail indeed !!   Also along this coast we sailed past ‘Hotel Illegal’ which now has a sign on it saying ‘Hotel Legal’.  It is standing empty, as this was one of the thousands of properties to be built along the Costa del Sol in the past 15 years that had no licence issued, or the licence was illegally issued, and they now must be demolished !!!  Some people have lost their life savings in these properties. 

Next day it was on towards Malaga to pick up Wendy.  Wendy is the daughter of our good friends Helen and David who helped us nearly seven years ago to bring SHAMAL from Australia to New Zealand.  Wendy in her own right is a very accomplished sailor and has just finished the last two legs in the Clipper Series, an around the world yacht race.  Wendy did the legs between San Francisco to Panama and then up the east coast of America and the northerly route across the Atlantic to the UK.  We dropped anchor after dark by which time Wendy had found a Hotel for the night.  That night it did rain, and quite heavy for a period with more lightning and thunder.  The next morning  we picked up Wendy and continued on west.  We were now motor sailing through local fishing nets which seemed to be laid along this coastline.  That afternoon we went into Puerto De Fuengirola, a small harbour west of Malaga.  This is another of those coastal towns FULL of holiday apartments.  We found a supermarket for a few supplies, then later went out for dinner.  Later that night we had very heavy rain and another thunderstorms, so on leaving port next morning we were not only dodging fishing nets, but also tons of rubbish which had wash down the rivers and streams.  Again we had no wind so were motoring. We had one more night anchored on the Costa del Sol before setting out on our last leg to Gibraltar.  This leg we were joined by dolphins on more than one occasion.  After rounding the famous “Rock” and calling into two different marinas in Gibraltar for a berth, and being told there were none, we headed for the marina on the Spanish side – Marina Alcaidesa, La Linea, where we have been given a very good berth tucked right on the inside of the marina.  We are just a few hundred metres from the border with Gibraltar which is great, and have already been over to Gibraltar three time. It is quite funny as one walks through the border, then across the airport runway into Gibraltar.  It is open to vehicles and foot traffic, and yes they do close it off when a flight comes in.

So it is here in La Linea we end our final season in the Mediterranean.  We have had four very interesting and very different seasons, and covered a lot of ground. Every destination has had its rewards.  Stunning seascapes, azure waters, endless sunshine – well most of the time, awe-inspiring architecture, steeped in history – not just ‘piles of ancient rock’ Alec!!,  gourmet foods, and its people - so different, so friendly, so hospitable. On the sailing side, well it is not called the ‘ motorterranean’  for nothing.  At times it has been exasperating.  If the wind is not on your nose, then there is no wind at all. The ‘meltemi’ – Turkey, the ‘ bora’ - Croatia, the’ mistral’- France, the ‘sirocco’ – Italy, the ‘levante’ – Spain, call it what you want, but it seemed that for half of the time it was not favourable.  BUT, when we were able to sail we had some brilliant runs.

Alec & Ann Gibraltar
First day in Gibraltar we caught up with “OM” who now have their crew members and are getting ready to leave for the Canary Islands (Islas Canaries) before heading out across the Atlantic.  They hope to be in the Caribbean for Christmas.  That was never our intention.  We hope to leave the Canary Islands in Late December and maybe head down to the Cape Verde Islands to pick up the trade winds for a good crossing.  We hope this will still happen, BUT we have to return to New Zealand for Alec to sort out his pension !!!!!!  First we will fly to the UK to spend some time with Alec’s sister and her husband on their narrow boat.  Yes it is a little late in the season to be enjoying an English summer there, but it is something we are looking forward to doing.

Before we set out from here we will have a good look around, but that will have to wait until we return from New Zealand.  The first good day we have we will take the cable car to the top of “the Rock”.

SHAMALS Log;  Total miles for this season in the Mediterranean  -  2,387

                            Total miles over the four seasons in the Med.       – 12, 466

                            Total miles on SHAMALS log                                       - 33, 594

Once again we will sign off

Love to you all from

The Admiral and The Commander



  2. Hi, my name is Andrew, we met briefly in Formentera this year, when you gave us some fish for dinner. I promised to send you an email for when you were passing thru Alicante, but I have only just managed to find your details. Sorry as I see you have already passed by here. Anyway thanks for the fish, and you now have my email if you back this way in the future. Good winds.