Published on 01 june 2016 at 0h00
The Balearics, and particularly Ibiza, have the reputation of being fabulous islands for partying... But it would be a shame to limit to this these wonderful islands, with numerous creeks and warm waters, easily accessible both by sea and by air!
At the crossroads of Spanish, English and French cultures, not to mention the influence of Sardinian or Moorish culture, the Balearic Islands are also at the crossroads of maritime routes known since Ancient Greek and Roman times. 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 very individual culture, atmosphere and characteristics. Situated to the east of the Spanish coast, the Balearics are a genuine paradise for sailing enthusiasts. Here we find superb beaches, exceptional bays and creeks, or 'calas', which are almost inaccessible by land, to discover as you wish. The four main islands offer you a multitude of ports and sometimes solitary anchorages, even in the high season.
So you can plan your stay, here are a few examples of circuits which will allow you to discover the many faces of these islands.
After a short sail, Minorca will offer you really different scenery. A low plateau, vertically cut out cliffs in white or burnt ochre rock, and few trees. You will have to get quite close to its coasts to distinguish its notable landmarks, especially as, helped by the summer temperatures, you will without a doubt encounter a few hazy patches. Just one hill is visible from offshore and from all the island's surroundings: Monte Toro, reaching just 358m... On this coast, the windiest island of the archipelago offers a wonderful succession of calas and deep rias where multihulls will find what they are looking for, as long as the mistral or the tramontane don't start blowing hard. In this area particularly, you must obtain regular information on developments in the weather situation, by observing, amongst other things, the development of a north-westerly swell, a warning sign of strong winds. Your first stopover on Minorca will without a doubt be Ciudadela. This is the most beautiful town on the island, with its typically Spanish architecture dating from an era when it was the capital (up until the 18th century). If you plan to wander round just one Minorcan town, opt for this old town, perched high above its deep white fjord. The port is cramped and few berths are available during the season. Have a good look in the cala situated half way along the access pass, there will perhaps be a free space which suits you... Be careful however before deciding to stop here, you will have to listen carefully to the VHF on channel 16. Weather phenomena called 'rissaga' sometimes occur here, which can empty the water from the harbor or alter the depth of water by 60 cm to one meter in just a few minutes... Before arriving at Mahon, you simply must spend a night in the Cala Es Grao. Two anchorages are possible: to the south of Isla Colom or close to the little fishermen's hamlet, in front of the beach, on a sandy seabed. Don't pass via the west, between Isla Colom and the coast, as the channel is completely silted up. Finally, Mahon is the island's capital, hidden at the end of a huge narrow inlet, over 3 miles long. This is no longer a shelter, but a string of calas in an urban zone. There a several possibilities for tying up on a quay, but they are very often completely overcrowded in the summer period. Remain calm, wait in the anchorage if necessary, there is no lack of places to anchor. On the other hand, beware of the incessant comings and goings of the cargo ships, coasters and ferries, and note that there are only two places where you can fill up with fuel: Mahon and Ciudadela.
Situated around 30 miles south-west of Minorca, Majorca is the biggest of the Balearic Islands. Here you will find the Cabrera nature reserve, where, in Napoleon's time, over 9,000 French soldiers were deported and lived in extreme conditions _ provisions only arrived by boat. After five years, only 3,600 survivors remained, and were freed. Today, a monument pays homage to the 5,000 dead... To the north of Cabrera is the Cova Blava', the blue cave with translucent water which is of an exceptional blue at sunset. Very romantic! Don't miss Cala Mitjana either, on the east side of Majorca. This creek was closed for a long time by a chain, so its owner _ a close friend of General Franco _ could enjoy its turquoise waters alone. In 1976, with the advent of democracy, the chain was removed, and you can now enjoy it at your leisure. Beyond these exceptional bays (we can also add Pollensa, Alcudia and of course that of Palma), we find the port of Palma, offering all the essential services.
IBIZA AND FORMENTERA
Ibiza and Formentera form a real archipelago which the Greeks called 'Iles Pityusae' (the Pine Islands), made up of several dozen small and large rocky islands. Ibiza is the proud, white city, built around its cathedral perched 103m high above the south-west side of the bay. Ibiza is particularly popular with tourists, and offers two modern marinas to 'accommodate' your multihull: Marina Botafoch and Marina Porto Nuevo. Don't bank on being welcomed with open arms, but rather with a hand held out to receive the fee for your berth! On the other hand, the services offered are quite acceptable, and will allow you to leave your boat well-guarded whilst you climb the narrow streets of the old town in the blazing sunshine... And we can guarantee that you will not regret the walk, as this town has some wonderful places for you to discover! A large creek, Cala Talamanca, allows you to remain at anchor next to the town of Ibiza. Be careful however not to risk going too far into the Cala, it is very shallow... The most adventurous sailors will go to the north-west of the island, and will be surprised to find deserted and completely silent anchorages! Formentera is considered to have the seventh most beautiful beach in the Mediterranean; an island with the colors of the Caribbean _ white sand, turquoise, transparent water. There is just one port (Savina), with two marinas (Formentera and Club Nautic). During the summer months, the berths are in great demand, but it is possible to remain at anchor in front of the port. Beware of the comings and goings of the numerous passenger boats linking Ibiza and Formentera, which cause rather unpleasant waves. Cala Saona, Las Isletas, Espalmador (with buoys for mooring) or other calas such as Rac„ de Sa Pujada will surprise you with their beauty, which will invite you to return next year. A last piece of advice: To avoid the battle for berths, sail the long passages at night, so you arrive in an anchorage at sunrise. Anchor, then relax by diving into the clear, calm water. When you start to have lots of boats around you, it's time to leave the anchorage and go and take one of the berths left by the other boats, in the nearest port. You will thus have the afternoon to do your shopping, visit the town, then set off again to another anchorage at the end of the afternoon, at the moment when the other boats are returning to the marinas, leaving the calas to the silence of the night. It's very effective, and particularly suited to Multihulls!
Getting there: If you like long passages and night watches, you can envisage leaving from a choice of ports in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France, or from the Costa Brava (Barcelona), or even from one of the ports on the coast of the Var region of France. But beware, the distance to cover to reach the Balearics is significant; from Barcelona to Minorca or Majorca is 90 miles, and Ibiza is at 120 miles. From Marseille to Minorca you will have to sail over 200 miles! Another solution: charter locally (there are a wide range of boats available), and simply enjoy your cruise. Weather: The climate is Mediterranean, hot in the summer and pleasant mid-season. In summer, the Balearics benefit mainly from sea breezes: a diurnal breeze getting up gently late in the morning, to finish at the end of the afternoon sometimes quite violently (20 to 25 knots). However the north-north-west wind (mistral, tramontane) can blow for several days; it will be especially felt on Minorca and on the north-north-west coast of Majorca. Formalities: The Balearics are Spanish, and the same rules as for the European Union therefore apply for your stay. The Cabrera nature reserve requires a (free) booking via the internet, to spend the night on a buoy. This must be done a long time in advance, because in the high season, the places are in great demand. Anchoring and fishing are prohibited at Cabrera. Currency: The currency is the euro, and credit cards are accepted everywhere. Local charter companies: Catamaran Center - Dream Yacht Charter - Med Cat Group - Mallorcanautic - Oceans EvasionÄ
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