Published on 16 october 2011 at 0h00
The Balearics have the reputation of being fantastic islands for partying... But it would be a shame to limit to this these wonderful islands, with numerous creeks and warm waters, easily accessible by sea in catamaran and by air...
Midway between Spanish, English and French cultures, not to mention the mark of Sardinian or Moorish culture, the Balearic Islands are at the crossroads of maritime routes which have been used since time immemorial. Bathed by the warm waters of the Mediterranean, these islands offer more than 300 days of sunshine per year, and from Ibiza to Formentera, via Majorca and Minorca, each offers its own individual culture, atmosphere and characteristics.
Situated to the east of the Spanish coasts, the Balearic Islands are a real paradise for sailors. Here you will find superb beaches, exceptional bays and creeks or ‘calas' which are almost inaccessible by land, to be discovered at your leisure.
Between the four main islands, a multitude of harbours and sometimes deserted anchorages await you, even in the high season.
So you can plan your stay, here are some examples of circuits which will allow you to discover the different faces of these islands during your catamaran cruising.
MINORCA / MENORCA
After a short passage, Minorca offers really different surroundings. A low plateau, vertically indented cliffs in white or burnt ochre rock, and not many trees. You will have to get fairly close to its coast to distinguish its landmarks, especially as the summer temperatures mean that you will without a doubt meet a few fog banks. Just one mountain is visible from offshore and all the approaches to the island: Monte Toro, which struggles to reach 350m....
The windiest island in the archipelago offers a wonderful succession of deep calas and rias, where multihulls will find shelter if the mistral or the tramontane start blowing hard. In this area particularly, you should keep up to date with weather developments, observing amongst other things the development of the north-westerly swell, which is a sign that strong winds are on the way.
Ciudadela will certainly be your first stopover on Minorca. It is the most beautiful town on this island, with its typically Spanish architecture, dating from the era when it was the capital (up until the 18th century). If you choose to stroll round just one Minorcan town choose this one, perched above its deep, white fjord. The harbour is narrow and there are few places available in the season. Have a good look at the cala mid-way along the entrance channel, they will probably be a free place which will suit you...
Before arriving in Mahon, you absolutely must spend a night at the Cala Es Grao. Two anchorages are possible: south of the Isla Colom or close to the little fishing hamlet, off the beach on a sandy seabed. Don't go to the west, between Isla Colom and the coast; the channel is completely silted up....
Finally, Mahon is the island's capital, hidden at the end of a huge narrow roadstead, over 3 miles long. This is no longer just a shelter, but a string of calas in an urban area. There are several possibilities for tying up to a quay, but these are very often overcrowded in the summer period. Keep your cool, wait at anchor if you have to, there are more than enough places. On the other hand, beware of the constant to and fro of cargo vessels, coasters and ferries.
Adios Menorca, ola Ibiza !
IBIZA AND FORMENTERA
Ibiza and Formentera form a real archipelago, called the ‘Pityusae' islands (Pine islands) by the Greeks, and made up of several dozen large and small rocky islands.
Ibiza is the proud white city, built around its cathedral, perched 103m high on the south-west side of the bay. Ibiza is particularly touristy and offers two modern marinas where you can ‘park' your multihull: Marina Botafoch and Marina Porto Nuevo.
Don't expect to be welcomed with open arms, it will more likely be with an outstretched hand, to receive the price of your berth! The services offered, on the other hand, are quite decent, and will allow you to leave your boat well-guarded, whilst you climb the old town's lanes in the blazing sunshine... And we can guarantee that you will not regret the walk, as there are so many wonderful places in this town to discover!
A final piece of advice:
To avoid the battle for berths, sail at night for the long passages, so you arrive in an anchorage at sunrise. Anchor and relax by diving into the clear, calm water. When you start to have a lot of boats around you, it is time to leave the anchorage, and go and use one of the berths left by the other boats, in the nearest port. You will thus have the afternoon to go shopping, visit the town, and leave for another anchorage when the other boats are returning to the marina, at the end of the afternoon, leaving the calas silent for the night. It's very effective and particularly well-suited to multihulls!
If you like long passages and night watches, and you are envisaging a cruise of at least two to three weeks in catamaran, you can think about leaving from the ports in the Languedoc-Rousillon region of France, the Costa Brava (Barcelona), or again, the ports on the Var coast, for example. But it is a long way to the Balearics, and you will have to allow four or five days for the return trip, in good conditions.
Another solution: charter locally, where there is an abundant supply of boats, and simply enjoy your cruise locally.
The climate is Mediterranean, hot in summer and pleasant mid-season.
In summer, the Balearic Islands benefit mainly from sea breeze conditions: a diurnal sea breeze starting to blow gently at the end of the morning, to end up, at the end of the afternoon, sometimes blowing quite violently (20 to 25 knots). However the north-north-westerly wind (Mistral-Tramontane) can blow for several days; it will be felt above all on Minorca and the north-north-west side of Majorca.
Ibiza and Formentera, further south and west, are not affected by this wind; they receive a system of winds almost identical to that in the Valencia region (light to moderate easterlies). A night breeze can start to blow in the middle of the night, to die at sunrise, thus allowing some nice passages between the islands.
The Balearics are Spanish, and therefore have the same rules as in the European Union.
The money is the euro, and credit cards are accepted everywhere.
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