Dec 05

Clubbing “Owl and Pussycat” style

Despite a distinct lack of wind, we managed to enjoy our 52 mile passage from Mallorca to Ibiza. The day was bright and sunny and for a while we sailed near to the Dutch flagged boat “Atlantis”.

“Atlantis”

Licenced for 140 passengers on a day sail we think she was actually on one of the legs of a longer sail where up to 36 passengers can be accommodated. Apparently you can holiday on her in the Med, up the Portuguese and Spanish Atlantic coasts and in the Baltic.

Although a rest, rather than a full holiday, was what this little fella had in mind, we also had a passenger for a while.…..

We anchored, just in time for sundowners, in the beautiful Cala Portinatx on the NE tip of Ibiza.

The water is incredibly clear so it was easy to pick a sandy spot and there was no need to snorkel to check whether we were properly dug in. Even though we were in 7m it was quite possible to see from on deck.

In the photo above we are at the back of the fleet and if you look towards the entrance to the bay a white house stands on a promontory behind which is another arm of the Cala. It is supposed to be possible to also anchor there but there are several permanent moorings taking up most of the space.

It was a pleasant walk round the town to reach the bay by road and well worth the effort [not that there was actually much effort] because we came to a great little beach with, as you might expect, a great little beach bar.

The following day we decided to venture a bit further and walk to the lighthouse. Enjoying variety, we opted to find the inland route and return by the coast path. That was nearly our downfall. What started as an obvious path inland soon became less obvious and then not obvious at all! We ended up scrambling over walls and through brush and up and down small gullies. By luck, rather than judgement, we finally climbed a small scrubby hillock and emerged onto a marked track. Where that track had come from we will never know – but it did lead us to the lighthouse on “Punta Moscarté which was our target turnaround point.

Built in 1975, without any space for accommodation due to it being fully automated from the start, it is the tallest of the 34 Balearic lighthouses, 20 of which we have sailed past.

Fortunately, the coast path back to Portinatx was much easier to follow….

….. even when making slight detours to avoid Mike having to walk close to the edge in places.

As if a beautiful anchorage, fun bars and interesting walks were not enough, our enjoyment of Ibiza increased even further with the arrival of “Coriander” into Portinatx.

OK… not Portinatx but a lovely picture of “Coriander”

Dinner for four on board “Owl and Pussycat” that evening was just the start of twelve fantastic days cruising with Steve and Gill, friends we met whilst we were both berthed in Ardrossan eight years ago. Having left the UK this spring, they have now joined the liveaboard cruisers world – and seem to have got well into the swing of things.

Our next stop was Puerto de San Miguel – a whole hour away – another sheltered clear water anchorage where we also managed to find ourselves at a beach bar….

….now how did that happen!

Cala Salada was our third anchorage. Much smaller than the previous two and with an unmarked rock and shoal water on its northern edge and a swimming area buoyed off at the head we were quite glad that, being towards the end of the season, there were only two other small boats there when we and Coriander arrived. The fishermen’s huts which line the southern shore add an authentic feel to this largely unspoilt cala.

The second largest town and port on Ibiza is Puerto de San Antonio….

…….which is deep inside a bay and fairly well protected from most winds.

Much of what is, in winter, a larger anchoring field is taken up with laid moorings during the summer months so we had to drop the hook in the small permitted anchoring area in the south eastern sector where holding is, reputedly, less good. We actually came and went from San Antonio three times and whilst we had to set the anchor more than once on one occasion, we generally found the holding to be fine – once properly dug in.

San Antonio is THE place to PARTY and most of the, mainly British, holiday makers come here specifically for the clubs – of which there were far too many to count. However, that is not our thing! Being there right at the end of the season, most of the clubbing seemed to be closing parties and the number of clubbers diminished as the days went by. Thus we were not at all disturbed by noise and were able to enjoy the out of season more leisurely pace. That said, one night we did manage to find ourselves in a Scottish bar with its attached fish and chip shop [and fried Mars Bars if they took your fancy] and, on another night, a late opening Irish bar.

Whilst bars, restaurants and apartments line San Antonio’s waterfront, there is an old town up the hill and we spent a pleasant couple of hours wandering around.

Columbus strikes again….

San Antonio de Portmany church

I particularly liked some of the street art.

Believing that anchoring in the approach to Ibiza Town is prohibited, we decided that the best way to visit it would be by bus from San Antonio. It also offered an opportunity to see the interior.

An international tourist destination, Ibiza Town is well worth a visit. Pleasant open plazas….

…. are linked by streets lined with, often quite up-market, shops and cafes. There are restaurants on every corner and the citadel offers a splendid view of the harbour.

Founded by the Phoenicians during C7BC it later became a Punic and then Roman city before becoming the Islamic city of Madina Yabisa. C13 brought the conquering Catalans and House of Aragon to Ibiza and during C16 it became increasingly fortified. The hill – now known as D’Alt Vila [old town]…..

…… houses the cathedral…..

…….and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999.

Thinking of spending another night in Cala Salada we left San Antonio on 6th Oct but, unfortunately, the waves and swell thought differently! Cala Salada was untenable so we decided that we would return to San Antonio – but first we went to look at the eastern anchorage [Éstancia des Dins] on Isla Conejera [“Rabbit’s burrow”], the largest of the three islands which lie at the far west end of San Antonio bay. The island has been claimed as the birthplace of Hannibal – which isn’t totally impossible as the Carthaginians were there at the time.

A beautiful, quiet anchorage, but without prior permission it is not possible to go ashore. I had hoped to see the protected green lizard there but having seen the signs prohibiting access I thought I would not get the opportunity. Considered “near threatened” due to its total area of occurrence being only Ibiza and Formentera the Ibiza Wall lizard is, however, more prolific on the two islands than I had thought….and here he, or she, is….

The protected Ibiza Wall Lizard

We also wanted to visit Formentera and a weather window for both the sail there and back and a few nights at anchor presented itself on 8th October. When I say “sail” I do of course mean mainly motor but it was nice to see the more mountainous coastline and the islands off the west coast. Most famous of these islands is Isla Vedra……

“Coriander” passing “Bali Ha’i”

Did you recognise it? Well, I am not sure I would have done. “South Pacific” was one of my favourite films as a child and one of the things which pre-empted my wanderlust. Steve told us that Cala Portinatx had also been used in the film and that a rope way along the cliffs had still been there when he visited as a boy.

Whilst I had a bit of trouble seeing the island as Bali Ha’i, much to Mike’s consternation I had fun singing “I’m gonna wash that man right outa my hair”, “There is nothing; like a dame” and, of course, “Happy Talk” as we passed by!

Formentera has only one port – Puerta de Sabina” which is in constant use by fast ferries and dodging these is part of the game when sailing to the island. You have to dodge them as they give no indication of intending to dodge you!

Anyway we made it safely and anchored just off the beach. In summer the area is carefully patrolled by “Poseidonia” and we fully expected to have to pick up one of their mooring balls – but it seems they take them in at the end of Sept. Poseidonia is a government initiative to protect the sea grass from which it takes its name. The grass is vital to the ecology of the Balearic Islands. It has a huge impact on water clarity and the “health” of the beaches and the sea.

Ashore at Puerto de Sabina we found little to recommend the small town. There were a couple of bars/cafes and several car/moped/bicycle hire outlets. Clearly most people arrive by ferry, rent their vehicle of choice and leave for their chosen beach – often just staying one day before returning to Ibiza town.

On the inland side of the town are two lagoons where shallow draught boats moor….

….and a rather interesting wind vane decorates the main street.

We spent a rather rolly night there before moving round to the other side of the islands for two nights sheltered under the cliffs in the very calm, clear waters of Calo Rocó des Mares – but watch out for the jellies!

“Owl and Pussycat” and “Coriander” safely at anchor

Sant Augustin, the nearby village, had a couple of quite well stocked shops for provisioning as well as a very pleasant bar. It has a small landing quay where fishermen haul their boats…

….and this doubled as a very handy dinghy dock – though whether this is allowed in high season I am not sure. Reputedly there can be well over fifty boats anchored off at any one time and if they all dinghy ashore I can see a real scramble ensuing as well as some rather pissed off fishermen.

Original capstan…..Sant Augustin

Leaving Steve and Gill to enjoy the peace and tranquillity, Mike and I decided to walk to San Fransisco Javier, the “capital”. The walk took us past a number of olive groves and we saw how harvesting is aided by a petrol powered tree shaker based on the garden multi tool – a vibrating pole which the operator clips to the trunk. I really must learn to ask permission to take photos – either that or just be rude and go for it!

Rather less animated than the olive pickers was this statue….

…. which I think was there to denote the entrance to a farm rather than scare people away though, with those eyes I think a bit of both was the result.

Apparently this C18 church at the centre of San Francisco Javier was once fortified….

It stands in the main square from where several pedestrianised streets fan along which numerous restaurants can be found.

Love that tree

The following day we returned to San Antonio where, on 12th Oct, we said goodbye to Steve and Gill to make our way to our over wintering marina in Valencia. You will be hearing more about this soon.

We really loved Ibiza and Formentera – more so than Menorca and Mallorca though, as earlier blog posts have shown, they too are worth vising. Well they must be, some cruisers spend a whole season, or two, in the Balearics. After all, there is good provisioning, adequate chandlers, good quality marinas [at a price] and pleasant anchorages. But, we are not sure we would enjoy it in high season. We found some of the anchorages tight with only ourselves or one or two other boats in them. It looks like, until we return to the Caribbean/Central America/Pacific, crowded anchorages during the summer are going to be the norm. But things aren’t exactly bad if that is the only worry we have!

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Nov 27

Twelve days on Mallorca

Our passage between Menorca and Mallorca was our best to date on “Owl and Pussycat”. We had winds averaging twenty knots all the way and sailed the 29 mile crossing in just over 4.5 hours. The slight down side was that during the last hour the wind increased to 25+ knots and, when we arrived at Puerto del Cala Ratjada and had to dock, it was blowing right across the harbour. I will just say that it wasn’t the tidiest med mooring we have done! It then tipped with rain and we got soaked whilst sorting the lines etc. Ah well – all part of yachting fun.

The harbour itself is quite pleasant….

….the harbourmaster friendly and helpful and the town is only a very short walk away. The “Rough Guide” describes the town as “Vibrant”. That loosely translates as “Magaluf for Germans”!! We decided against partaking of the Saturday night “Oktoberfest” in the Bier Keller – which actually appears to be a weekly event throughout the summer – and instead found a good spot for a couple of drinks and people watching in a less raucous setting, had a surprisingly good and very reasonably priced meal in a Greek restaurant and generally enjoyed our evening.

The following day was, once again, rainy. Undeterred we went in search of the market but were disappointed to find that it was really just cheap clothes and tourist tat so we decided to venture up the hill to the small town of Capdepera. What a difference! A couple of quiet shady piazzas, two or three excellent tapas bars and a castle to visit. It even stopped raining. Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera so have no photos of the day, just good memories.

The weather improved the following day which basically meant that the wind dropped and once again we found ourselves motoring the 28 miles to Porto Petro. We tried anchoring in Calas Gran, D’Or and Llonga but they were either full [i.e. one or two boats had got there before us], had swimming buoys blocking areas where there was decent depth or, in the case of D’Or, had poor holding due to the amount of sea grass. We therefore took one of the Club Nautico mooring balls in Cala dels Mats.

Having paid €62.30 per night in Cala Ratjada harbour, we felt that the peace of mind of not dragging, the very well maintained and managed mooring balls and a secure dinghy dock in the harbour were worth €30 per night.

Once the seaport for inland Santanyí, Porto Petro still maintains a small fishing harbour…

… the traditional boats sometimes covered by a canvas shade along the centre pole.

About 2-3k SW of Porto Petro is “Mondragó Parc Natural – approx. 2,000 acres of wetland, farmland, beach, pine and scrub. It made for a very interesting and diverse days walk.

Almond orchard….

…and almonds…..

….and a “bottle tree!”

The small Cala Mondragó has four “arms” – all of which are exposed to the south and east but looked like nice places to try – if you can get there early enough to tuck in.

The Cala is at the convergence of two streams, En Carraixet and S’Hort d’en Colovet. These Moorish names survive, though the waterwheels, irrigation ditches and water collection structures used for cultivation on the rich soil banks are less in evidence now.

Looking east [seaward]…

….and inland

Similar to other Mediterranean islands, Mallorca once had a series of watchtowers along its coast. Built during C16/17 to act as lookouts against pirates, they were then used by C19 Customs officers to try to control smuggling and in the 1940’s were remodelled and used as machine gun nests.

The lookout….

…and the bay it protected [another of the Cala’s “arms”]

According to three different forecasts, the wind the following day [19 Sept] was supposed to be from the NE which, as our journey was taking us SW down to the tip of the island and then NW, would have been perfect. However, as is often the case the forecast was wrong and we got south-westerlies! Now, I know that land has an effect on wind but it just seems that on those days when there is wind it is always coming from whatever direction we want to go in regardless of what one, or three, forecasts have said. Needless to say, we motored.

As we drew closer to the tip of the island [Punta Salinas] we could see, out past Isla Cabrera, what may well have contributed to the wind direction.

Looking the other way it was quite a different scene…

Punta Salinas lighthouse

The two photographs were taken just a minute apart and fortunately, the rest of the day was like the second, rather than the first photo.

We dropped the anchor at Playa des Carbó just north of the small Isla Montana and south of Isla de na Guardia – which guards the entrance to Puerto Colonia de Sant Jordi. Reefs and low lying rocks mean that any passage between Playa Carbó and Sant Jordi [or to the anchorage just south of Isla Montana] must be taken outside the islands.

With reasonable care it is, however, possible to take a dinghy through the passages to the small fishing and yachting harbour at Sant Jordi.

Although popular with tourists, the town has an almost old fashioned feel. As well as the inevitable lunch, we were able to stock up in a reasonable sized Eroski supermarket and had a very enjoyable exchange in “Spanglish” with two delightful women in a Ferreteria.

A pleasant costal path runs around the various headlands surrounding the town and gave us views south across the anchorages mentioned above…..

We are there… in the far distance

….and south west past one of the lighthouses towards Cabrebra.

A National Park and a restricted zone, the Cabrebra archipelago may only be visited if a permit has first been acquired. The permit allows a boat to take one of the 50 available buoys in the harbour but only for one or two nights. If the conditions look favourable when we start to make our return journey east, we would like to try to visit this wildlife reserve.

However, back to this trip. From Sant Jordi, we had to ask ourselves whether or not we wanted to visit Palma de Mallorca which meant going into the bay and up to its head at Palma or sailing straight past and making, instead, for Santa Ponça. Whilst much of what we had heard and read described sprawling resorts in Palma Bay, the town of Palma itself sounded appealing so Palma it was. Unfortunately, the anchorage we had chosen – close to the city – was not tenable on the day we sailed there and we had to make instead for an anchorage just off S’Arenal, this being one of those Rough Guide “places to avoid”.

In the event, the anchorage was great and S’Arenal, whilst not somewhere I would chose to holiday, worked fine as a base for a couple of days. There was also a small beach just off the anchorage which was less visited than the main beach and was a place to leave the dinghy. It had not been our intention to “beach” the dinghy because we weren’t too sure how secure it might be and we also had to row both ways through the fairly extensive swimming area as outboards aren’t allowed. However, the obvious alternatives, and the two places we tried turned out to be firstly a non-option [the fishing harbour was fenced and gated and we couldn’t get out] and secondly an annoying option which we chose not to take up [€20 to leave a dinghy at the marina for the day].

Buses from S’Arenal to Palma are fairly frequent – once you have found the right bus stop – and we had a great day visiting the city.

We started at the cathedral which sits atop the small hill – originally the Moorish citadel – and dominates the waterfront skyline….

Substantial flying buttresses

The exterior carvings are quite amazing…..

Flemish carvings

….. as is the massively proportioned interior.

Part of the “openness” of the altar can be attributed to Gaudi who changed the position of the choir stalls, removed the high baroque altar and replaced it with a smaller alabaster table and introduced electric lighting. The “trial” canopy and hanging lanterns are constructed from cardboard, cork and brocade and are supposed to represent the “Crown of Thorns”. Gaudi did not have time, before his untimely death underneath a Barcelona tram, to replace it with his intended wrought iron piece.

Perhaps more striking – or at least more unusual – are the walls of the “Capella del Santissim”…

…. decorated by a rather bizarre plaster and ceramic vision by the Mallorcan artist “Miguel Barcelló.

On the other side of the altar, the “Capella del Corpus Christi” is an outstanding example of Baroque – in particular the religious scenes featured in the altarpiece…

Within the Cathedral is its museum, one room of which is dedicated mainly to the C14/15 gothic works of the “school of Mallorcan Primitives”. One work, described as “a cartoon like panel painting” was about the life of Saint Eulalia, whose martyrdom excited many artists. A Catalan girl, she stuck to her Christian faith despite all sorts of ferocious tortures – though it might have been that the paintings all showed her semi-nude which caused more excitement than what was actually done to her!

She was eventually burnt at the stake and at the moment of her death white doves are said to have flown from her mouth. Quite how she then became a patron saint of sailors I don’t quite follow.

A more Flemish style dominated the schools C16 artists with the painting of the “Martyrdom of St Sebastian” by “Alonso de Sedano” showing the saint pierced by so many arrows he resembled a human pin cushion.

The two other rooms contained various reliquaries, the most interesting to me being the portable altar of Rei Jaume I, a wood and silver chessboard with each square containing a bag of holy relics.

Opposite the Cathedral is the “Palau de l’Almudaina”, originally the palace of the Moorish governors and then that of the Mallorcan kings. One of its most prominent remaining Moorish features is the outside wall with its square turrets and crenellations.

Behind the Cathedral is the old town with its narrow maze like streets….

… and Renaissance mansions.

Mansions and typical horse drawn carriage

All in all, a city worth visiting and one which is reputedly a great place to spend an evening or two soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying good quality food in one of its many restaurants. Unfortunately we didn’t!

Then again, we are privileged by sunsets at anchor.

Our last port of call on Mallorca was the popular resort of Santa Ponça, a place we really wanted to visit as good friends [hello “Heywoods”] have shared many stories of happy times there.

The bay itself is picturesque and sheltered from all but the west. It is shallow at the sides and two reefs run almost down the middle. Consequently the anchoring space is more limited than it first seems on entering the bay, but there was plenty of available space despite a number of permanent mooring balls.

There is a marina but it is usually full with local boats – though apparently space can sometimes be found if the Club Nautico is contacted in advance. It is very sheltered and would be an excellent place in “a blow”. Just outside the harbour entrance, on the Punta de Caleta, is a stone cross….

…..commemorating the town’s history and the landing of the army which eventually drove the Moors from Mallorca.

OK, Santa Ponça is a tourist place, but not on the scale of S’Arenal and the like. We were able to stock up from one of the well provisioned supermarkets, do a “laundry” run and eat “Georgian” food. We also visited the archaeological park….

…… at the top of the town, from where we had fantastic views down to the anchorage.

The park gives the visitor some idea of the typical “Serra de la Tramuntana” landscape…

…. with the “Puig  de sa  Morisca” dominating the view. The settlement is where the inhabitants of the Santa Ponça area lived during the Iron Age.

In the highest part of the Puig, four towers were built to monitor the bay and surrounding land – i.e. a defence system – though there is evidence that people lived there at the same time as using it for strategic purpose.

One of the artisanal activities carried out in the forests of the “Serra” was the production of charcoal. The colliers burnt the vegetation in “sitges” alongside which they constructed shelters in which to live.

Depiction…

… kiln remains and shelter reconstruction

The above mentioned C13 Christian troops who landed in Santa Ponça were mainly under the house of Aragón and the site displays a plaque featuring a design common as decoration on the medieval knight’s armour.

However, I think the most decorative thing which we saw at the site was this beautiful “mariposa” ………

Swallowtail

….and that seems like a very fitting way to end our twelve days and night on Mallorca.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.sigasiga.co.uk/2017/11/27/twelve-days-on-mallorca/

Nov 19

Menorca – our first taste of the Balearics

It may surprise some people that, given the popularity of the Balearic Islands with UK holiday makers, neither Mike nor I had ever been there – so, after Andrea returned home from her holiday, we looked forward to putting this right. But, the weather forecast wasn’t immediately favourable as there were very strong winds in the Gulf of Lyon and we therefore left Calvi for a six and a half hour sail down the west coast of Corsica to Porto D’Arone…..

……. where we spent one night at anchor.

The following day was a short hop of just over three hours to Port Provençal, Golfe de Lava where we had to anchor well off because once again, and contrary to the description in the cruising guide, there were lots of local moorings and swimming buoys. We enjoyed a glorious sunset …

…. but, unfortunately, not such a glorious night due to roll which started about 3am and didn’t stop! Having risen early we then had to delay our start to allow a couple of small squalls to pass through before motoring through the “Passe des Sanguinaires”, where we saw depths of 5 metres…….

Approach to the Passe des Sanguinaires

…..and into the Golfe D’Ajaccio. Once in the gulf it took another hour and twenty minutes to make our way to an anchorage at the head of the bay. Anchoring in Ajaccio is not easy as most of the bay is either too deep, full of mooring balls or off limits. According to the cruising guide we were in an area which was marked as off limits because of a Natural Gas tanker dock but there were about 20-25 other boats there and it was well sheltered so we decided to join them and see what happened.

There are two marinas available to transiting yachts but we didn’t really want to go in unless the weather turned really poor – or we were told to move. As it transpired, on our last night there a tanker came into the anchorage and we were advised that we had to move by 7am the following morning for the tanker to dock. There were almost a dozen boats between us and the tanker dock and none of those moved – so neither did we, though I was up early [the only person on our or any other boat!] just in case.

Like the other towns we visited on Corsica, Ajaccio has a nice old town….

….and small fishing harbour….

…….and we spent three days wandering around, provisioning from a Carrefour supermarket -about a 30 minute walk from the anchorage – and making regular checks on the weather trying to find the best window to cross. In the autumn, weather systems build in the Gulf of Lyon which result in strong winds down the east side of Corsica and across to the north west of Menorca.  Travelling west, we therefore had to cross the wind/wave affected area and had the choice of being potentially battered or picking a “calm between weather systems” slot which would mean motoring.

In the end we left Ajaccio on 4th September at 2.30 pm and managed to catch some sea breeze which enabled us to sail until dusk when it dropped…..

Yeah…sailing!

The following day and evening was practically flat calm ….

Not sailing!

…….until the middle of the night, and my watch, when the wind rose from the SW and was therefore on the nose – even though NW had been forecast!! Fortunately after four hours of this the wind veered and by 09.30 had gone NE which pushed us towards Menorca and our landfall at Maó [Mahon].

The port of Mahon is one of the finest natural harbours in the world. It is 5km long and up to 1km wide and has a very narrow entrance. As such it has an extensive nautical and military history – as the fortifications on its shores and mid channel islets bear testament to. As well as housing the C19 fortress “La Mola”, the north shore promontory, which nudges out into the sea, protects the channel from the insistent northerly wind – the Tramuntana. Behind it is “Cala Teulera” where we anchored at 2.15pm on 6th Sept having completed our 245 mile crossing.

Despite the fact that it is a 20-30 minute dinghy ride into town, it is a fantastic anchorage. However, it is the only Cala in the harbour in which anchoring is allowed and it is time limited to a maximum of three days. On our second day the Port Authorities visited the boat and gave us the map below and very politely informed us that we could not stay there longer than the appointed time.

As it happens we had already booked ourselves onto the Club Nautico moorings for three nights so it wasn’t an issue for us. As far as we could tell some people just ignored it and were themselves seemingly ignored as we know at least one boat was anchored there for seven nights – though things may be monitored much more closely in high season.

Despite the cost [€57.46 (approx £51) per night in mid-season] we had decided to move to the moorings because a particularly bad weather front was forecast to hit Menorca full force, we wanted to take on water [not yet having a watermaker] and there was a festival in town which we wanted to be able to fully enjoy without the 30 minute dinghy ride back after a few bevvies!

The festival….

….. is celebrated between 6th and 9th September each year, though quite what, if anything, happens on 6th I don’t know as all information seems to be about 7-9 Sept.

Most of the town centre shops are shut and owners prepare for the parade….

Protection for windows and doors

….. the streets are decorated…..

…. Bands strike up…..

…..and everyone is in party spirit by lunchtime on 7th …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

……..at which time a peal of bells announces the start.

The riders gather and the “Colcada” makes it way through the crowds….

Awaiting the “Colcada”

…and around the town…..

There are certain “special” roles such as “Fabioler”, “Caixer Fadri”, and Caixer Pagès” – though we did not know who was what. However, we think this woman was the “Caixer Batle” [organiser/leader]…….

……and this man was the “Caixer Capellà”……

….who waits his turn to join the Colcada at the church of Santa Maria.

Over the three days the riders meet twice and on each occasion there is a ritual order of progressing round the town. Mass is celebrated on the second day and on the last lap of the Colcada each rider receives a palm frond.

Receiving the frond….

…and displaying it to the crowd

These statues were in the town hall prior to the fiesta starting but I have no idea if they were part of it or not…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

….and on the second day there was a procession involving these figures….

….but we are not quite sure what they were about either – other than the parade moved down to the harbour front where the celebrations were supposed to continue. I say “supposed” because just after we returned to the boat having seen this parade the heavens opened, the wind really got up, the pyrotechnics were cancelled and everyone went home!

The bad weather continued until mid-afternoon the following day when there was a huge thunderstorm with hail which cleared the air, brought an end to the wind and blue skies returned.

Even had there not been the festival, Maó is a lovely town to visit…..

Plaza and old market

View of harbour moorings from the town

The “horses”

…has a gin distillery – which was unfortunately closed when we were available to visit – and is a good base for taking buses to various points around the island.

We didn’t have much time for this either but did take one bus to the small coastal village of Es Grau….

…from where we did a nice walk to Sa Torreta, passing a couple of anchorages which, in the right conditions, would be very quiet and peaceful places to drop the hook.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The main purpose of our walk was to see one of the “Taula” and “Talayot” sites.

The talayotic settlements are the best known features of pre-historic Menorca having been built during the Talayotic Iron Age [850-550BC]. The society responsible for their construction then and during the post talyotic period up to 123BC developed only on Menorca and Mallorca.

Talyot

Archaeologists have not yet been able to ascertain their original function but they do know that the structures were public buildings, a vantage point and a landmark and possibly had a religious/symbolic purpose.

The Talyots in the settlement are often positioned just a few metres from the Taula – a T-shaped structure comprising two huge stones.

Taula

Some sites contain several talyots but there is rarely more than one taula.

Nearby we also saw the “Naveta of Torreta”…..

… a chambered tomb.

We also saw an old threshing floor…

…and several examples of Menorcan style gates.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flora and fauna captured at the S’Albufera des Grau freshwater lagoon, now a natural park….

White asphodel

On leaving Maó, we planned to visit a few anchorages along the south coast. First of all we entered Cala Biniparratx but found it far too narrow and scary. Mike had to do a three point turn to get us out of there. We worked out that given the depth at which you had to anchor we would have needed thirty metres of scope. With a fifteen metre boat that gives a ninety metre turning circle. The cala was 100 metres at its widest. Rather too close for comfort we thought!

We next tried Cala Trebalújer – which was wide enough and had good holding but the swell was pretty dire and after an hour of rolling we upped anchor and moved on again to Santa Galdana.

In the end we spent three nights there rather than trying out other anchorages. Maybe we missed out, but their descriptions suggested that once again many were narrow and we were comfortable in Santa Galdana [little/no swell] so why move.

The only issue we found with Santa Galdana was that the holding was a little patchy. Initially we were quite close to this rock….

…..but when space became available we moved as we dragged a little – we think there was bedrock under fairly shallow sand.

We spent one day on a bit of maintenance….

… but took one day out for a walk to Cala Turqueta.

This is a popular anchorage which, during the day, is full of visiting tourist boats and people. As you can see, the swimming area means that boats have to anchor out and as a result are exposed to the wind. It would no doubt be lovely on a calm day and/or out of season but as I said above, we were happy in Santa Galdana where we were protected.

The walk itself was very pleasant…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

… was a nice end to our short stay on Menorca, and we sat in the cockpit that evening looking out at our next stop….Mallorca.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.sigasiga.co.uk/2017/11/19/menorca-our-first-taste-of-the-ballearics/

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