Balearic Islands Part 2

Port of Soller at dusk

Soller, Formentor and Pollenca Mallorca


Due to the length of the post I have opted to break the Balearic Island posts into 3 different pieces – Please look back or forward to other entries on different Islands.

Recommended by 3 different people in 3 different countries, the next stop was Port of Soller, 3 km inland to the town of Soller and nestled into the side of the Tramontana mountain range. Soller is connected to the port by a little mahogany tram. Nearby villages of Fornalutx and Biniaraix and Binibassi can be easily reached by bus or taxi, In fact, for 2 Euro and 30 minutes we spent the day enjoying the UNESCO Heritage village of Fornalutx. This town most certainly made the top 3 destinations of the year in terms of charm and is a not to be missed destination should you find yourself cruising this area. Some of the best hikes we have done happened here and without much direction or planning, we ambled into the back country of the mountain finding Goats, Donkeys and a throwback to the industry before tourism, fields of olive and citrus trees. Again, due to Covid our time here can only be described as enchanting. We changed our dock reservations 4 times before and 2 times after our arrival and we were accommodated easily with each change. Certainly, a sign of the times as this is the only harbor on the NW coast offering refuge from the “mistral” which arrived this week. The town itself is loaded with a full range of restaurants and cafes to suit any budget or taste, and many were opened early enough for us to dine at our usual 1800 – BONUS!

Mistrals – interesting wind events common in the Med result in the entire lee coast becoming potentially dangerous, so we were happy to be tied safely to the dock (though the surge made us feel like we were on a rolly-ride at Disney) and made boarding via the passarelle (first time we have ever used it) a challenge. A small side note, if you read the Gibraltar post on Med mooring, you may have asked yourself how does one manage to get on or off the boat without any adjacent dock on which to jump? The answer is, of course, to jump from the swim platform off the stern or a ladder from the bow – depending on which way we back into the sea wall. This was how we did it thus far but in Soller, the sea wall had an underwater ledge that made getting close impossible and really with all of the surge, we had no choice but to employ the use of the passarelle. We have thus far been reluctant to use it– honestly it just looked too complicated and unwieldy and we just preferred to jump to the dock. That strategy would absolutely not work here thus the passarelle got dusted off for the first time in 2 years. Attached to the aft bulkhead of Gratitude via some backing plates and screws, one side of the roughtly 7 foot long walkway Is secured in this manner while the other end hangs just over the ledge on the dock side held up by bungie cords connected to the davit. It is important that the dock end not be left to ride on the pavement as the boat is in constant motion and would certainly break at least the passarelle if not damage the boat. Braun and Tina gave us a little tutoring on it and Alec felt he had a pretty good handle on it – so up it went. With Gratitude bucking and rolling even tied to the dock, boarding and disembarking became an act of care and concentration 

What makes cruising uncomfortable, made for perfect hiking weather and with an occasional mist and cooler overcast temperatures we enjoyed exploring the olive groves, windmills and wild donkeys and goats which graze freely. Recommended by new friends, we found 2 hikes and several anchorages to explore – which we enjoyed exploring when the weather calmed, and we could take out the dinghy.

So wonderful to have a pool in the back yard again! This is the first marina in over a year with a pool and we took full advantage.

Reluctant but anxious to see what new delight await us further North, we departed Soller and next made a 4 hour passage to Calle de Formentor. on the Northern tip of Mallorca, planning to be here just a few nights before jumping over to Menorca, we can already see that plan has changed – again…

Have you ever returned from a vacation and felt like you needed a vacation? Sometimes as the on board “cruise director” I can sense that my crew is feeling that way, so I like to plan in some “lay days” at anchor where we aren’t spending a fortune to NOT take advantage of the town we are in. That was my plan for Calle de Formentor because the next island, Menorca, has evidence of the oldest civilizations in the Med and according to the Islas Baleares cruising guide, “Menorca has the greatest concentration of prehistoric remains IN THE ENTIRE MEDITERRANEAN”. So we may need to arrive refreshing and ready to learn to do the exploring that this island promises even though it is one of the smaller islands, it promises to keep us busy.

Our few days of rest in Formentor became a week here. We enjoyed the rest, of course, as well as lots of snorkeling, swimming, a small bit of hiking and a trip to Pollenca. Recommended by a friend from home and a short 15 minute dinghy ride to the Port of Pollenca, we were so happy to have been warned of this spot mere miles from where we were. The port is a typical large port city – nice and with a market (you know how I love the markets!) the real gem was a 15 minute and 1.50 Euro bus ride to the old town of Pollenca. Pollenca just as with Soller, the main towns were built 7 and 3 km respectively, inland from their ports as protection from pirates. Conquered by the Romans in 123 BC, Pollenca was founded between 70 and 60 BC. The 365 steps to Calvary were so much fun to climb and the town was a true gem with adorable shops and restaurants in this ancient city. Thanks Bob and Dori for the recommendations!

Pollenca, Spain

School is beginning across the US this week and we will be continuing our plan of limited school until we are tucked into our “winter” home. Jack has been writing in his journal weekly and reading both assigned books and non- assigned fun books. We had hoped to do 3 days a week of Kahn Academy – but due to limited internet some weeks have been better than others. Still, Jack has completed nearly 50% of math for 4th grade (the grade he is “going into”) so we feel as though we are mostly current. Jack continues to learn History wherever we are, and living in and on the water is a daily Natural Science class.

As I write this we are underway to Mahon, Menorca. We hope you too are able to take advantage of the changes that this crazy Covid times are offering.

The Balearic Islands Part 1

The Balearic Islands

This entry has become too long and thus I have decided to break it into 3 different posts. The first will be Ibiza and 2 Southern Ports in Mallorca while the next post will be the 2 Northern ports in Mallorca and finally the 3rd will be the as yet un toured unseen island of Menorca on which we have just arrived today.

Our anchorage in Ibiza with Gratitude in the background

On any given summer, the four islands which comprise the Balearic Island chain are teeming with visitors from around the globe but during a Covid crisis, the anchorages and villages that dot the landscape are anything but over run. We begin our tour of the islands from the South with Ibiza. Though Formentera is the Southernmost island, we decided to bypass it in search of more towns and activity. Ibiza, long purported to be the jet-set, party island for socialites and hangers on – we saw little of that during our short 2 weeks stay. Due to Covid, all of the nightclubs were closed, so likely even had we gone looking for this scene, we wouldn’t’ have found it. We did take a dinghy trip to Sant Antonio – the epicenter of the party scene and didn’t see anything at all that would warrant an overnight trip with dockage in the 500-700 Euro per night range. Anchored out in a lovely harbor near Cala Coral, we were able to take our dinghy to shore and tie up for about 20 Euro per day. From here we could take a taxi anywhere else, which we did – to Puerto de Ibiza.

Puerto de Ibiza reminded us a lot of Key West. It was charming in architecture and the shops and restaurants were plentiful. This is the only place thus far that finding a last-minute reservation was not possible. According to the cruising guides, one should not even attempt a last-minute reservation in any of the Balearic Islands – especially in a boat our size, but during Covid – that is all we have done. Had we been a tiny bit more proactive or patient we certainly would have been accommodated, but we just didn’t feel strongly that we needed to be in Ibiza for more than the day we allowed ourselves, so we simply continued along making our way to the next island North, Mallorca.

Our first stop on this Spanish island was Santa Ponca. According to Navily, the anchorage and port app we use, this anchorage was well protected based on the winds for the next few days. As it was also a short 7-8 hours cruise from Ibiza, it would be the perfect place to spend the night. Santa Ponca was perfectly idyllic, and we ended staying for nearly a week. The anchorage, like all of the anchorages we have thus explored in the Med, required the flopper stoppers as there was more surge than we have encountered elsewhere, but with the generous permission to leave our dinghy for the day – protected and tied up, it made for a wonderful first stop to explore by foot and by bus the surrounding area in the South West Coast of Mallorca. Santa Ponca was where King James 1 of Aragon took the island from the Arabs in 1229 after 300 years of Muslim rule, and this is commemorated by a monument which provides an interesting backdrop to the cliff from which teens jump into the harbor. Part of the municipality of Calvia, Santa Ponca is 18 Km from Palma, the capital of Mallorca, which can be accessed by frequent bus service. Another day was spent on a zipline obstacle course similar to the park that we enjoyed nearly weekly in Portugal. A bit of school took place – we studied the effects of evaporation in the Mediterranean Sea water, then used the newly acquired salt to make Mediterranean Sea Salt carmel which we drizzled on ice cream. I love school!!!

After spending a week enjoying the lovely secluded beaches and restaurants, we decided to move on to Palma. Having checked it out in advance, we found a perfect marina location right next to the Cathedral in Palma called Mollvell where we made reservations to arrive the next day. Originally planning just 3 days at the dock, we ended up staying for a week, and in that time, hardly sat still. Built in the Gothic style common in the 14th century for King James II, the Bellver Castle serves today as a history museum set on acres of wooded land surrounding it and makes for a wonderful hike – 6 miles round trip from the dock. The other highlights of our time in Palma include a trip to the Cathedral of Santa Maria of Palma which began construction a year after King James I of Aragon took the island and continued for nearly 400 years, finishing in 1601. True of many European Cathedrals, it sits on the site of a previous Mosque and contains a nave that is 40 metres wide and 44 metres tall. By comparison, according to Wikipedia the height of the central nave in Notre Dame in Paris is 33 metres. Impressive. Adding to its splendor, Goudi made several changes to the cathedral in the early 20th century after a fire including a crown of lights hanging above the altar.

The crown of lights above the alter contributed by Goudi early 20th Century

For Jack the highlight of this stop most certainly was the Segway tour and the trip to Toys R Us – the first we have seen since we left the US and for me the highlight must have been the cafe’s and pastry and bread and markets…. its all about the food!!!!