Summer in the Balearic Islands

Formentera, Ibiza, Mallorca, Menorca, Sailing

After the anchor drama in Denia, we finally set off for the Islas Baleares on June 13 (2018 for those of you who lost track). The winds were an acceptable 10-15 knots at first, but soon dropped to 8-10 and finally to 5 knots, which meant a lot of motoring. Elvyra took a deep look in the bucket and then went below for a nap which lasted most of this 60 mile passage. I needed a Kwells too.

Heeling tea.

Upon arrival, we found quite a bit more swell than forecast and also the small Cala (bay) we had planned to anchor in was full with fishing boats moored fore-and-aft. It was getting dark and we meandered along the south coast of Ibiza looking for a place that wasn't so rolly, but didn't really succeed. We eventually gave up, anchored more or less under the airport approach and rigged a bucket out on the boom as flopper-stopper (this reduces the rolling of the boat somewhat).

The water looks exactly like on the postcards.

The next day we got our first taste of Balearics anchoring shenanigans. We left our rolly, noisy anchorage and headed south to Formentera's Cala Sabina. We had just set our anchor and while we were still setting up the anchor ball, an incompetently anchored powerboat was already dragging down on us. We managed to get the attention of the water taxi that was shuttling people between boats and the restaurant ashore and he pushed the boat clear of us just in time. The owners were of course not on board, but the taxi man quickly fetched them from the restaurant and brought them back to their boat, which by now was drifting out to sea.

Treasure hunting.

And so we spent much of the summer. The water in the Balearics was beautiful, turquoise, clean and warm and the land had the promised pine trees and smelled great. Anchorages were plentiful and we could almost always find room. Swimming and diving was excellent and I made a sport of discovering other people's lost treasures. A pair of sunglasses, a steak knife, a stainless fork and plenty of shells of all shapes and sizes.

If you think that boat is anchored a bit too close, you haven't been to the Baleares yet.

There were downsides, of course. The anchorages were full of charter baboons or powerboaters who would distractedly drop a few meters of chain piled on top of an undersized and outdated anchor before leaping in the dinghy and going ashore to the bars and restaurants, leaving us to sort out their mess or risk getting our boat smashed. Giant superyachts with cranes that constantly loaded and unloaded a collection of floating toys to be lashed on astern, waterskiers slaloming between anchored boats, nuisance jetskiers buzzing around, hoverboards, motorized surfboards, diesel generators running air conditioning all night and party boats with a mobile nightclub on board.

Cala Saoana.

When we'd find a nice place and the weather was conducive, we'd stay for a week or so before moving on either because we felt like it or more often because the weather was going to change and we had to find shelter from a different direction. Favourites include Cala Tarida, the little island with the population of unique black lizards and Cala Addaia with its green murky waters complete with ducks and absence of charter boats.

All you can eat.

Wind was to be had occasionally, but often it curved along the coast. We took it slow and sometimes could even be bothered to beat upwind, as for the most part we had short distances to cover and plenty of time to get there.

Inspecting the bow roller.

Some stuff broke on the boat, like the day when I suddenly stepped into a puddle on the floor of the aft cabin. The fresh water pressure accumulator had decided to develop lots of hairline cracks and was squirting fine spidery jets of water everywhere. Luckily we had a spare on board. The dinghy also started leaking after a particularly nasty powerboat wake had flipped it over whilst we were towing it. The vendor didn't know how to fix this, but after some googling we found that the MS Polymer sealant we had on board would bond to the polypropylene our Portabote was made of and voila, the next day the dinghy leaked no more.

Floating well again.

We made some new friends, helped a couple people by freediving (one got their own fender into their propeller, another caught a massive mooring chain in their anchor) and rescued a french boat that had dragged into the swim barrier and entangled itself in it whilst the owners were napping in the cockpit. We tried out paddleboarding (thanks Plan B!) and managed to do entirely without going into any marinas (ok, we went into one, but it was still in the process of opening and had a hefty discount). We managed to book a precious town quay once and snag a free berth another time after someone didn't claim theirs (reservations expire at 18:00). Water tanks could be filled at fuel quays, often with coin operated hoses. Laundry was mostly done by hand, as few places had self-service laundry and anything else was outrageously expensive. You don't need much clothing anyways when living at anchor in summer.

Excursions by dinghy.

We learnt how to anchor in seagrass, and also how to drop our anchor near a tiny patch of sand surrounded by Posidonia and then dive down, stick the tip in the sand and only then use the engine to set the anchor. This got us a thumbs up from the Posidonia police boat patrolling the anchorage (the grass is protected in some areas), whilst everyone else was told to leave.

Boat on fire.

At Santa Ponsa, we watched a Najad smash its keel into a marked, charted and clearly visible rock at ~5 knots speed. Well built, those Najads - it kept on floating, at least as long as we stayed there. During refueling, we also overheard an emergency call on the radio and soon saw what it was about - a boat had caught fire! There was an abundance of rescuers (or bystanders), and the crew were safe in their dinghy already. The boat soon burnt down to the waterline and sank.

Pelagia noctiluca glows in the dark and fires explosive poison darts into your skin.

We both got jellyfish stings, as those things were nearly everywhere, and we learnt to treat them with hot gelpacks, as the heat neutralizes the protein based poison. Mine still left a scar that took a year to fade.

Laundry on the town quay. Unfortunately the detergent destroyed some of our deck caulking.

In late July the weather started to have irregular thunderstorms which often came with sudden sudden changes in wind speed and direction and some very strong gusts. In Cala Addaia some sudden afternoon gusts had half the anchorage drag simultaneously, due to lots of rubbish in the mud and the water too murky to check on the anchor. We dragged too, and Elvyra had to motor up to the anchor in gusts above 40 knots and whilst dodging all the other boats who were struggling all around us. We saw two drag into each other and get their anchor chains entangled in propellers whilst I was working to get our own anchor up. When it broke the surface, the problem was apparent - a pair of abandoned trousers were impaled on the tip of our Rocna, preventing it from setting any further. These cleared off, we re-anchored and this time it held.

Staying cool.

In the only anchorage near Mahon, Cala Teulada (alternative spellings available), we got hit in the night by a catamaran that dragged onto us and got in our chain. This caused us to drag in turn, thus hitting the Italian monohull behind us. So in the middle of the night, we're both out in various states of undress, me on the bow trying to get a fender between the catamaran and us and Elvyra in the back, pushing off the pulpit of the monohull while an exasperated man was shouting at her in Italian. The catamaran owners had woken up too, gotten their engines on and were trying to get clear of us but rammed us twice in the ensuing chaos. The first time I just about got one of our fenders between their starboard bow and ours and they bounced off with no harm done, but the second time their protruding bowsprit went head on into our hull - ouch. After that they miraculously got clear of us and without even getting our chain in their propeller, which would've made things a lot worse.

Ashore for some treats.

The next morning I went in our dinghy to have a closer look at the damage, which luckily seemed superficial - the Songbird logo had some damage, but the underlying hull was fine. Seems Bavaria didn't exaggerate the part of their marketing where they bragged about how strong the bow section of our boat was built (something about Kevlar weave in there). The chap from the other boat came rowing over in his dinghy, apologized for the nightly shenanigans and invited us over for some beers and a chat. Turns out we were planning to winter in the same marina!

Bikini babe on the swim platform. Just like in the yacht brochures.

At the end of July, the crowds were getting too thick and we still had a few islands to visit ahead of us, so we decided to leave the Baleares behind, but not before enjoying the red moon and lunar eclipse in a nice anchorage.

Not their anchor light. Also not a lunar eclipse.