Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Moving from Menorca to Mallorca ..... Sept 2010

Privately owned Fort at Pollenca
21 - 27 September 2010

We stayed 6 nights in Mahon, completed all the boat jobs, did all the sightseeing, even had the chance to socialize with an Australian Catamaran Catouse, and American yacht So Bella.  The mistral had died out in the Golf du Lyon (for the time being) so the swell had finally eased but our dilemma was now which way to go around the island.  We decided to head north and motored in very light downwind conditions up the east coast and around the top to the sheltered  harbour of Fornells.  We had already visited by car so knew we could tuck up out of any existing swell and were ready for evening shore leave, something we didn't do in Mahon with the 20 minute dinghy ride!

We settled into the anchorage and headed ashore for happy hour and dinner.  Well we enjoyed happy hour and were certainly enjoying the Spanish prices, drinking out had finally returned to an acceptable price (not that it had stopped us!!).  We didn't make dinner, those regular big black evening clouds were looking very threatening so we headed on back to Balvenie, just in case.   They skirted around us and didn't amount to anything, but we prefer to be cautious.

Next morning we were off as the sun rose, well it doesn't come up till 7.30am so it isn't too much of an effort .  We were leaving Menorca and heading to Pollenca on the next island of Mallorca.  It was a 50 mile run and we managed a comfortable downwind sail across for the first 30 miles, then the wind died right off so we charged the batteries and cooled the drinks for the remainder.  

Cobbled lanes of Alcudia
We arrived into the shallow harbour at Pollenca at 6pm, and hooked onto a free mooring buoy we had prebooked. The headland ashore was totally dominated by the most spectacular fort, now privately owned and converted into a mansion, the manicured gardens were terraced down to the waters edge, it was just beautiful and made for quite a backdrop, we settled down to a peaceful night.

Our morning check of the weather was now routine. The changeable weather conditions were causing us some problems as another front was due to come through in the early hours of the following morning with a switch from strong southerlies to northwesterlies. The large bay was enclosed but a fetch could easily build, we were in only 3.5 metres of water, the mooring buoy was rated to 16knots of wind and the bottom very weedy and shallow for anchoring. We consulted the cruising guide and found a nearby small marina with enough depth for us (not easy in some of these places), made a phone call, secured a berth on the visitors dock and we were tied up within the hour, we could relax!!!!

We took a walk into the ancient fortified town of Pollentia founded in 123BC, nowadays called Alcudia. It was rich in history with some excellent old buildings and parts of the town wall in very good order, it was an enjoyable spot to while away a few hours. We finally got to have our first Spanish dinner out at the local restaurant, and enjoyed mixed Paella for 2 that would have happily fed 4. It was a bonus just to be able to step back onboard at the end of a great day.
Alcudia's wall is still complete in places

The front came through; we were all secure and very happy we had chosen to marina Balvenie for a couple of nights. The clouds cleared away, we went for a long walk out towards the headland, the swell had set in again - it doesn’t seem to take much to get it going – and even in the marina we had a little surge coming in.

Our departure Saturday morning was delayed as the office did not open till 10.30am for us to retrieve our deposit. Again we were unsure of which coast to head down, because Mallorca lies on an angle the swell and winds seem to wrap around it. We headed back across to the north eastern tip in light winds but very rolly seas, and once we rounded the top sailed the remainder of the way in building tail winds to Porto Petro, we pulled in just before dark and picked up another free mooring buoy (these are just great), then opened the bar.

Next day was Sunday, the weather looked ok to stay longer so we went ashore to the tiny town, found a cafe with a big screen tv and settled down to an excellent lunch while watching the Formula One Grand Prix, what a lazy Sunday afternoon.  There's not much at Porto Petro but that is part of its charm, we knew we would be seeing many high rise hotels and built up areas soon enough so we enjoyed the peace.  Unfortunately that night the swell found us yet again, we were sitting beam on and had yet another rolly old night.  We had planned to stay as Baracca were heading our way, but when the easterly sea breeze started coming in late morning we decided it was time to move on.

Cruising info for Fornells on Menorca and Pollenca, Marina de Bonaire and Porto Petro on Mallorca:-
Anchorages -
Fornells, Pollenca and Porto Petro - Mooring buoys are available for all three of these anchorages.  We anchored at Fornells as we had 20knot bullets and could not pick up a buoy.  To book these free buoys visit www.balearslifeposidonia.eu you need to register online, they must be booked before 6.30pm the day before and are normally a maximum of 2 nights.  They seemed in good order, generally have an extra line with loop to put your line through and these should have a float on so you can pull it up with boat hook.  In Fornells they didn't have floats and as it was our first stop we couldn't work out how to connect it!!!  
Marina de Bonaire - 39 52.013N   03 08.614E   2.5m, side tied.  phone +34 971 54 69 55  Visitors dock just inside the breakwater, will place you further in if they can.  They are not happy to put boats on visitors dock in a strong north east wind because of the surge, we had a little surge (wore through our fender covers) but it was fine.  39E per night incl wifi, power and water.  Shower/toilet blocks, Laundry 3E, bookswap, very helpful small marina.
Communications - Phones: GYMSIM and Vodafone Malta on roaming both working.  Internet: WIFI at Marina (get code from office) and picked up unlocked signal in Porto Petro.  Dongle worked well for rest.

Ashore - 
Fornells -  Tied dinghy to a floating pontoon.  A few bars, cafes and restaurants for all budgets.  A small supermarket (English papers) inland back from Port office and excellent bakery on street out supermarkets back door.  Didn't see ATM but must be one as small touristy town
Pollenca -  Long way from mooring buoys to town area, we didn't go ashore here
Marina de Bonaire - Fuel dock and 30 ton travelift.  Paella great at restaurant by gate.  Turn right at gate for short walk to minimarket and a couple of bars then follow road inland from there to Alcudia, about 25 minute flat walk.  Well worth it.  ATM's in Alcudia
Porto Petro -  Either take dinghy to little dock/beach on right by beachfront cafe or into fishing boat harbour and tie to wall.  Small supermarket one block back (English papers), several eateries, no ATM
Formalities - none.  Marina checked our Boat papers but nothing else.

Monday, 20 September 2010

That was France - next stop Balearics ..... Sept 2010

Remote anchorage at Cala Taulera, Mahon
14 - 20 September 2010

Just when we were almost getting used to saying 'si vous plait' and 'merci' instead of 'per favore' and 'grazie' we were moving on, another country - another language, at least with the advent of the euro it wasn't another currency too!!!!

We left our final French anchorage of Anse de Gau at 1.45am (not really a favourite time of day to be getting up to go sailing). We had 220 miles to cover to Mahon on the Spanish Balearic Island of Menorca. We raised sails and headed south, the first 5 miles were lovely, we were still in flat water behind the headland, with 15knots just behind the beam, great conditions but we knew it wasn't likely to last. Sadly we were right. Once we cleared land we hit the swell that had been so tiresome all along the coast when the mistral was blowing. Still, we had wind and we roared away into the night making 8 knots some of the time. The swell was just horrible, for the first time ever on passage Mark rolled out of his sea berth and went crashing, along with the squab, onto the cabin floor. Sensibly the floor is where we rested while not on watch for the rest of the 37 hour journey.

We sailed all day making good time, but as expected the wind was easing and at dusk we reefed the main right down, rolled in the headsail and started burning diesel. If the seas had been flat we could have sailed on but we hadn't escaped the swell, although it was calming. It was an uneventful night, thousands of stars sparkling above, and just a couple of ships on the horizon - we motored on till dawn, the seas started to flatten but there was now no wind at all, we pulled into the harbour of Mahon mid afternoon, anchored in the very protected and flat water anchorage at Cala Taulera , welcomed ourselves to Spain, and in true Spanish fashion we had an afternoon siesta!
a small 'cala' under heavy cloud cover

This anchorage is rather an unusual spot, it is the only place in Mahon harbour where cruising boats our size are permitted to anchor without charge, but it is very remote. There is nothing ashore except for an impressive old walled fort high up on the headland, no signs of life in any direction and this is the capital of Menorca! We spent our first couple of days in Mahon doing boat jobs. We had broken several slugs that attach the mainsail to the mast on our passage south and only had three spares, we had also developed quite a vibration in our propeller and on close underwater inspection Mark discovered that our prop anode had come loose and needed replacing. We also needed to do the dreaded "dongle" for internet access, another country - another provider - all in another language! So we headed up the harbour in the dinghy, its a long way - we really should have commissioned the 8hp outboard for the job but ole faithful 2.5 Mary Mariner took a while to get there but she made it in the end, it's the longest dinghy trip ever but in sheltered enclosed harbour waters it was ok. We hit town with a list and after a fair amount of leg work successfully purchased everything for a busy day of maintenance the following day.

We got the chores out of the way, 5 broken slugs removed and new ones sewn in was my major task, while Mark changed the anode, normally about a 15 minutes job for him underwater. Except this time our new Maxprop anode (made in Spain, not Canada as our previous ones) just did not quite align properly. 90 minutes later, exhausted from all the deep breaths and purple from being in the water so long, he admitted defeat for the day and reattached the old one, deciding it was better to leave it than force the screws into the threads in the prop. The next morning he decided to drill bigger holes in the anode, and after two more attempts to fit it finally got it seated and screwed in - maybe having a dive tank or hooker onboard would really be a good idea!! For those of you totally unfamiliar with anodes (99.9% I imagine) they are pieces of zinc, made into different shapes and sizes for attaching to different boat body parts. Zinc is one of the softest metals and their purpose is sacrificial - to be "eaten" by any electrolysis in the water, then the metal bits we need on the boat don't get eaten, so they need changing regularly. (Any zinc experts out there will think this is a very basic explanation but that's what I understand them to be for).
our first tapas - we might put on weight!

Mahon is quite a small place, there is a long waterfront full to the brim with all manner of boats, from small local fishing boats, yachts and runabouts, large motor cruisers, inter-island ferries to cruise ships and naval vessels. This is a very large protected harbour with a long maritime history - everyone that ever invaded anywhere else in the Med had certainly been to Mahon too, and left their mark!!! The old town is set above the harbour, accessed by a fair amount of steps. It wasn't quite as cute as many of the old towns have been, but it was well laid out, had some attractive old buildings, a reasonable fish, meat and produce market inaugurated in 1927 and set in the old cloister of Sant Francesc church. Although quite touristy the big hotels are out at all the beaches so it still retained the feeling of a functional working town.

With most of the jobs out of the way, and some rather inclement weather around, we stayed a few more days. Although the weather had warmed up again we were getting nasty big black clouds, every day, a heavy downpour of rain in each one but generally very little wind. One day we hired a car and 'did' Menorca. It's not a very big island so we saw most of it. We travelled north up to the port of Fornells, a pleasant sleepy little place with just a few tourists around, ruins of an old fort, a watchtower on the headland and a good stop for morning coffee. We have moved on from our Cafe lattes in Italy to Cafe au lait in France, now it is Cafe con leche in Spain - and we have learnt very quickly to ask for grande ones! Next we headed inland to the highest point El Toro, at only 357m it wasn't too remarkable and somewhat spoiled but all the communications equipment up there but I guess they have to put it somewhere. There was a small monastery and chapel and a good view but the clouds were closing in, it looked like rain may well spoil our afternoon.
from La Mola looking into the anchorage

Back down onto the main road we headed west to the picturesque port town of Citudella. With a very narrow but long harbour, large open plazas, tiny alleys set in maze like fashion, grand old stone buildings, a mosque from the 1300's, an even older cathedral. Then there's an obelisk built in the 1500's in commemoration of the year 1558 when the Turks sacked the city - Citudella certainly has a real blend of architecture and history. We enjoyed a Menorcan lunch, sitting outside in a tiny lane and soaked all the surroundings in. Unfortunately there is no real anchorage here so we wouldn't be able to return and have more time to explore.

The rain had started, but we tried not to let it stop play! We called into Navetta des Tudons one of the oldest structures on the European continent, it had closed at 3pm - sadly we were saved from getting wet in the name of history!!! We carried on and took a couple of side roads down to 'calas' on the south coast. A cala is a bay or indentation in the coastline and the Balearics have hundreds of them, most very tiny and many have steep to cliffs, the larger ones have high rise hotels and buoyed off swimming areas, greatly reducing the anchoring possibilities for us yachties. We looked at the swell coming in, the few yachts at anchor rolling from gunnell to gunnell - maybe we will head around the north coast instead! The rain continued so we headed back to Mahon, dropped off the car then had a very wet walk to the dinghy and an even wetter dinghy ride back to Balvenie.

Cruising info for Mahon, Balearic Islands:-
Anchorage - Cala Taulera, Mahon    39 52.695N   04 18.487E   4.8m mud.  The guide book suggests this anchorage could hold up to 30 boats we thought maybe 15 would be tight.  All round cover, could get a little swell in strong southerlies
Communications - Phones: Both GYMSIM and Vodafone Malta on Roaming switched over to Spanish Movistar without any problem.  Internet Dongle:  We found a phone shop a couple of doors before the Tourist Information Centre on the waterfront close by the Ferry/Cruise Ship terminal.  The one staff member was helpful, spoke perfect English (as did everyone in Menorca) but was extremely busy.  She took all our details (need photo ID) and asked us to come back in 30 minutes, we did then waited over 30 more, then couldn't use until she phoned us much later in the day confirming it had been processed.  We purchased a Vodafone sim and 1GB credit that stays live for 3 months (works Balearics, Spain and Canaries), total cost was 85E think sim was 25E and 1GB 60E. (Update from 05 May 2011, if Sim not kept active either with credit on it or topped up it expires after 6 months, I know cos I've just bought a new one!!!, currently 15€ for sim, still 60€ for 1GB but €12 discount)  - I couldn't get it to work in my NZ Vodafone Dongle but it works in my Italian Wind Dongle.  Baracca reports the Vodafone data sim does not work in Italian TIM dongles.  Signal in Cala Taulera was very poor but has been excellent elsewhere. 
Ashore - We took our dinghy nearby to the AGIP fueldock which is just left of the new marina. Diesel was 1.16E p/l.  There is a small supermarket right there also.  Follow waterfront road around to car hire on left, then phone shop, tourist office on right (15min walk) then there are stairs opposite up to old town.  Binipreu supermarket is underground in central market place by the church.  Plenty ATM's. English newspapers.
Sightseeing - Hired car from Autos Mahon Rent phone +34 971 36 56 66 Renault Megane 40E day, there was a smaller cheaper one but not available.  Used 10E petrol or the day.  
Formalities - none