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.


… 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” ………


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

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