Ibiza, Mallorca, and (to a lesser degree) Menorca are popular tourist destinations. This conjures a mental picture of high rise apartment blocks, huge hotels, packed beaches, tourist shops and hustlers everywhere. To our surprise, reality was not at all like that. We had no trouble finding plenty of beautiful, non-commercial spots.
Our first stop was Menorca, the smallest of the three. This lies in an almost straight line across from Carloforte (Sardinia). A very straight line in our case. We left off slow enough for a sail of 190 nautical miles, but during nightwatch the wind picked up. From 3 am till 8 pm the wind was howling, pumping, making Exodus bullet along. It made us think of what Bertrand & Genevieve, French ex-racers and proud owners of a GibSea 442 (one year older than ours) said. They chose a GibSea because it offers the best combination of a stable and sturdy blue water cruiser with the velocity of a racer. They swore by their GibSea and sat out a 50knot storm by heaving too. We began to see why… When you sail to wind, from about 17 knots wind speed Exodus just puts her nose down and glides on. She doesn’t care if you throw 22 or 30 knots at her, she is just warming up, sailing smoothly over any swells on offer. Even if thunder and lightning fills the horizon, she keeps going. Our last 77 miles were over in a jiff.
As soon as we sailed into the bay of Port Mahon, we entered a peaceful and almost silent world. Sweet scented air, the flowery smell of a lazy summer night, blew gently on our faces. The open sea howl was magically transformed in a soundless summer breeze, as if that day of wind chilled superfast sailing was a figment of our imagination.
Port Mahon has a perfect natural harbor, with several marinas, and is still large enough to lie on anchor. We anchored out in the bay, in front of some huge villas, thinking about all the pretty pennies a property like that must cost. Yet feeling perfectly at ease with our very basic, at times quite rough, but interesting lifestyle. Our anchorage was peaceful, except for one of the ferry’s pilot boats that decided we might possibly be in the way (even though the same ferry had already passed us 3 times without problem). They asked us to lift anchor and lie 15 m closer to shore.
Exit internet on Exodus
The next morning, we ventured into town. Porto Mahon is quite quaint and laid back. Each time we reach a new country our first priority is to get our communications up. We normally use a Huwaei router in which we fit a local sim card for data. This creates a hot spot to which we can log on. In Sardinia we started having problems with our system, and we discovered that the router was broken. We then resorted to using our Ipad (which we also use for navigation) to create a hotspot. Finding a cheap data provider on the Spanish islands did not seem an easy feat. We were advised to take Movistar, as it offers the best coverage all over Spain and its islands, but we couldn’t find the shop open. We soon discovered that asking for directions anywhere in Spain implies begging to be sent on a wild goose chase. Left, right, distance, suburb are likely to be misrepresented, even if your guide speaks good English, draws you a small map and works in the tourist information sector. In Porto Mao’s shopping street we found a stationary shop that also deals in DigiMobil sim cards (which uses the Movistar network) and were sorted out. In Ibiza however, an automatic update to one of our laptops ate all our data and we had to recharge prematurely. What should have been a straight forward thing sent us all over town, walking in the heat, carrying Gitane. We were sent from the one shop to the next non-existing place, to another shop and so on and on. Well after lunch time it became clear that you can only recharge in a specific shop, called a ‘locuteria’. Once you know this, you can google it and let your Ipad guide you, much easier than following Spanish directions!
From Menorca we only had 60 miles to go to Porto Colom in Mallorca. This was a rather lazy sail, we even had to motor a bit. The entrance to the bay is scenic, with mountains dropping in the sea, some old buildings, and a pretty lighthouse. The bay also has a few marinas, lots of mooring buoys, and safe anchorage with a small beach close by. If you arrive during the day you might find it a bit cramped. Fortunately most of the other sailing boats lift anchor before sundown to lie up in the marina at night. They only come back after lunch time, guaranteeing you a peaceful night.
To provide Gitane with a healthy dose of sun, sand and seawater we kayaked to the beach close by. Here we observed the start of a new pattern, where Gitane immediately went on a mission to find a friend. In the water and on the sand there were quite a few kids from the UK, keeping themselves busy, and enjoying the start of their holidays. A perfect match for Gitane, finally there were other kids she could actually talk to. This was a welcome change after the French-Arabic mix in Tunisia and the Italian in Sardinia. She found some older girls to swim with but lost interest when they wanted to sunbathe. Most fun was 9 year old Lily, who ran around doing summersaults and cheerfully chasing crabs, catching shrimps and small fish with a tiny fishnet between the boulders. Marc and Hazel, Lily’s parents, were exploring the area in search of a house to buy. They are considering a move out of the UK, to warmer climes and a healthier living environment for their daughter. Marc, a police inspector preparing for early retirement, had his share of crime, disintegrating value systems, lacking educational standards, and abuse of public services. This provided ample material for discussions, like why is parenting the only position of responsibility that does not require any kind of licensing or certificate, and why do most parents these days fail to manage the simplest thing like not letting their kids get fat.
After 2 nights in Porto Colom we continued to San Jiordi. Sailing out of Porto Colom we noticed that there are some big tourist complexes. Contrary to our expectation they are not spread out over the coastline, but rather contained to certain areas, leaving plenty of beautiful coastline to enjoy. On the comfort of a boat you can very easily avoid any tourist traps and pick a secluded spot to your liking.
Outside of San Jiordi safe anchorage can be found in front of a long beach alongside a nature reserve. Here it became very clear that we were on Spanish soil. Judging from the attire of the people on the beach, pretty much anything goes. ‘Las tetas nudas’ is not only popular with tweens, but in women of all ages, with all types of body shapes. It is great to see that almost nobody sports the perfect body, and it also does not seem to be expected. Fat bottomed girls make the world go round. Who cares if breasts are sagging, nipples are too pointy or too big or inverted? So what if your buttocks show a few dimples or your belly resembles one of those Chinese Shar-Pei dogs. Put your hair down, catch some sun, go for a swim in the sea, and reemerge like Aphrodite. Nudity is normal, nothing to be ashamed about. If you feel like flaunting your lot, go for it. There are no clear divisions on the beach for textiles and naturists. Whatever you feel like, welcome to do so. You will not be stared at or spoken badly about. Quite refreshing!
While Gitane was playing on the beach two children of her age and their dad arrived in an optimist (tiny sailing boat). Their boat, sv Maika, was anchored close to Exodus. Joshua (7yr old) and Majlinn (5 yr old) are also being homeschooled. They have been living on their boat for a year and spent the winter in Mallorca. It was great to see how confident these Swedish-German kids are in and around water, how natural their behavior, how healthy they look, and how much fun they had. We invited them all over on Exodus, including their puppy, and had a great evening. We even managed to squeeze in a quick playdate the next day. Sv Maika will also make their way to the Canaries. We might catch up with them over there.
In the morning Gitane found a group of 5 Spanish girls to play with and learned that ‘Ola’ means ‘hello’. She was very proud of that and tested it out on several people.
After a full day of playing, Gitane threw in the towel and fell asleep, while we set sail for Ibiza. Passage weather predicted nice winds during the night, which would make the 75 miles pass smoothly. Wind turned out on the low side, but we made it across all right.
Ibiza was quite different in appearance from Menorca & Mallorca. The coastline reminded more of a crumple cookie. We had low expectations of the ‘party island’ yet again were pleasantly surprised.
Our first stop in Ibiza was one of those days where all goes wrong. A quick refueling attempt sent Arthur’s glasses flying overboard. He had to dive in to get them back. After refueling we realized internet had finished (see higher) and spent the whole morning looking for the internet recharge. When we returned to the boat after our lengthy walk there was quite a bit of swell. That much, that we decided to tow the dinghy behind the boat instead of trying to get her on board. We only had 8 miles to go to the next stop, so it sounded like a good idea. As soon as we lifted anchor and hoisted sail, the captain wanted coffee, and Gitane ordered juice. Winnie put the kettle on and the boat went rolling even more. Boiling water and pouring coffee, no problem. It was only when the coffees were ready to serve that Exodus made a quick jump and Winnie realized that her two hands could not possibly contain three cups and half of the contents of the cupboard that flew past. The hot coffee scalded her hip. Her second coffee burn mark of this trip! Apart from that the sailing was smooth and we entered the Las Salinas bay on the jib. As we got closer, we furled the jib and wanted to start the motor. Except that nothing was happening. Land and other boats coming closer! We unfurled and circled around a bit until we managed to loosen the stop button and start the engine. We picked our spot, dropped the anchor… and reversed on the dinghy rope! With all the commotion we forgot we had the dinghy in tow. The captain was sent off for his second dive in one day, this time to cut the dinghy rope from around the prop!
But once we got settled, we couldn’t have picked a better spot. Las Salinas has a nice beach, offers protection from the wind as the bay lies behind a land tongue, there are many rock pools in various shapes, some even look like large sand castles. In the pools and around there is quite a bit of sea life to keep kids entertained. Not only kids. One of the beach goers had brought a young dog that found great joy in chasing all the small fish in the pools, jumping high and far in the air, plunging towards yet another elusive fish, to land each time with a mouth full of salty water. There were no kids around in the pool that we picked, but Gitane did not see that as a problem. She spotted a twenty something couple innocently enjoying their afternoon on the beach. They made the mistake of smiling friendly at her. This minor encouragement sent our nearly 5 year old trotting off to introduce herself and impart her life story upon them: “Hello, my name is Gitane. I live on a boat. The boat’s name is Exodus. I have got two brothers. Their names are Yoren and Arno. I am traveling around the world”… Luckily they did not mind the company!
Our next stop was Vista Allegre, where we anchored in a small bay in front of a nifty beach bar with wooden walkways, beach chairs, and straw umbrellas. During the day most visitors seemed to arrive by boat, but at night we had the whole place to ourselves. When Arthur took out the dinghy to do some shopping in the small village up the hill he arrived back with a young French girl. She got lost. Arthur found her walking up the hill in the wrong direction. We dropped her off at the beach bar from where she took a taxi after having her fill of sunbathing.
We spent about 11 days in the Balearic Islands, providing us with a first taster. Our appetite was indeed wetted as we had not expected it to be that nice. We understand the attraction of these islands for cruisers. It offers short distances between beautiful beaches, small coves and abundant nature while soaking up the sun. If we had all the time in the world, we could have easily spent another month around the three islands.