Julia and I arrived in Ibiza on the 16th after a brisk 8 hour crossing from Port Andratx, Mallorca. We pulled into the first protected anchorage, named Cala Boix, where we spent the night with half a dozen other yachts. Sheltered from the northerlies by steep cliffs, we had a good nights sleep and awoke to a sparkling clean & clear bay. There were a few chores to be done, so we sailed west to Santa Eulalia, anchored and went ashore. The rest of the day seemed to disappear thanks to slow wifi and good tapas, so we ended up staying the night.
On the morning of the 18th we set sail for Formentera, just a couple of hours south of Ibiza. We were here a couple of years ago and fell in love with the island and its beautiful beaches, it never occurred to us we would be returning by boat. That night we wandered into town and hired a couple of bikes for the last hours of daylight. The wind was still blowing strong since our crossing and we spent a very lively night on anchor at Los Trocados.
We headed back into the town of La Savina the next day and rented a scooter. The beauty of Formentera is the ability to cover the whole island in a day. I took along my painting kit and revisited a few familiar spots.
We finished the day with a fine view as the sun slowly set, returning exhausted to Bumblebee for an early night.
The next day was totally different. We set out to sail around the island as we had well and truly covered it from the land. Three hours into a gentle, overcast sail, the weather suddenly changed. Out of nowhere we were hit by 30 knot gusts and the sky turned dark. After initially sheeting out the sails, we turned into the wind, fired up the engine and set to reefing the sails with some urgency. Once we had a manageable amount of canvas to the wind, things became a bit more enjoyable. In fact we made a new record of 9 knots (Only surpassed by the upside down spinnaker incident) with a reefed mainsail and just a wisp of genoa.
After the wind there came the waves. Luckily we were running downwind now so we surfed through them. Then followed the rain. With wet weather gear on and a plastic bag over the Ipad, even this torrential downpour couldn’t dampen our spirits. At one point we sheltered under a cliff with another yacht, as lightning threatened us from all around. Eventually it died down and we were able to continue our circumnavigation of Formentera.
As is often the case, the storm later gave way to sunshine, so we dropped anchor in Cala Pujols and dug out the snorkels. Here I spotted a Dorado and Julia happened upon a very bold octopus. An hour or so later, we were treated to a spectacular sunset as we made our way back to Ibiza.
We arrived after dark and anchored in front of the town, not an ideal place as it turned out to be a busy route for water taxis. We had an early start the next day as Julia needed to fly to London for a day of business meetings. Once she was ashore, I moved Bumblebee passed the main harbour and re-anchored her in Talamanca Bay in the hope of a better sleep that night. I then went for a long walk with a gas bottle in search of a fresh one.
Julia returned that evening with Henry, Will and Kelsey in tow. We ferried them aboard and gave them the grand tour. The next morning we set off back to Formentera to explore the white sands of Puerto de Espalmador and the curios rock sculptures inhabited by friendly lizards. To cross between the islands we waded through crystal clear shallows, passing day trippers carrying their belongings above their heads.
Later on, we moved Bumblebee closer to the harbour and went off to explore. We found a suitable beach bar with wickedly priced drinks, so settled for beers all round. The music was odd but he sunset was spectacular, finishing with an unexpected burst of applause from the assembled patrons. We spent the night anchored just off the beach and returned to the town in the morning for supplies. Luckily we weren’t gone too long as we returned to find our dinghy adrift from the beach and on its way into the harbour.
From Formentera we sailed back to Ibiza, making landfall at Esenada de la Canal. Here we wandered amongst the beach bars and party crowds in search of the deserted salt lakes hidden behind. From Esenada we sailed on to Cala de Port Roig, where we anchored for the night.
It was here that we were struck by the most severe thunderstorm of the trip. For several hours we watched with amusement as an intense electrical storm put on an impressive display some distance away. At around midnight the storm hit and the calm breeze surged instantly to 40 knots. The lightning was intense and right over us, the rain poured down in torrents and the whole time I was aware that the anchor was poorly set in weeds. Convinced we would drag, we fired up the engine and tried to relieve some strain from the anchor. My anchor alarm went berserk as we dragged through the anchorage some 50 metres. Our nearest boat was just three metres off our stern when the anchor finally gripped and held us tight. The storm raged intensely for about an hour before dissipating into warm rain showers and occasional lightning. That was when Oli phoned and said he’d arrived.
Through some inexplicable lack of cognitive processing, we had all been discussing where best to pick up Oli, but failed to realise that he was arriving that very day. Without letting on, we instructed him to get a taxi to Port Roig, where we’d be waiting. Henry and I donned our wet wet-weather gear once again and set out in the dinghy. The lightning obligingly lit the way as we navigated to the shore and found a path up to the road. Here we waited, in the rain for Oli to arrive. We witnessed a dustbin lorry (possibly from the future) empty the bins with a remote control robotic arms while Henry tried to hustle himself into the cockpit for a closer look.
With some relief, the three of us reached the boat with all Oli’s bags still dry. By now it was approaching 4am and Julia awoke to find us all soaked but happy in the saloon. I was knackered so went to bed but Henry and Oli were brimming with energy so took to the dinghy and went AWOL.
We awoke in the morning and there was no sign of them. During the storm we had twisted around a mooring buoy and discovered our anchor had lodged itself in a rocky trench –hence why we were held fast. We retrieved our abandoned dinghy from the shore (managing to hotwire it with a cable-tie) and set off from Port Roig. In the next door bay we scooped up Oli and Henry, who had somewhere along the way picked up breakfast and icecream. Tales ensued hitchhiking to nearby towns and other antics as we sailed up the west coast.
The imposing outline of Vedra island loomed into sight around the headland. After sailing between the islands and some tentative prospecting, we dropped anchor just east of Islote Vedranell, the smaller of the two. We tied the dinghy amongst the sharp rocks and proceeded to climb as high as we could up the island, taking in the impressive view below.
From there we made way as fast as possible to Sant Antoni in the hope of taking on some water and fuel. We succeeded in the latter but were asked to return at 10am the next day for water. With the fenders left out we motored just out of the harbour and anchored in the tiny inlet of Port del Torrent.
The next day, with fully charged fuel, water and fridge, we sailed past Sant Antoni to the lovely little Cala Salada. We swam, climbed and soaked up the chilled atmosphere. Sadly this was the day that Will and Kelsey would be leaving us, so we delivered them back to Sant Antoni, where we cheekily topped up our water tanks again. W&K would be moving up the island and we made plans to meet again in a couple of days by Cala Portinatx. Since it was now dark we chose our familiar spot from the night before to anchor. In the morning we picked up our newest recruit; Pinar had flown from Dusseldorf to join us for the final few days of our trip.
The next day, two crew down but one up, we set off to explore the north coast of Ibiza. This coastline is steep and wild, with few signs of civilisation. We passed Islas Margaritas, where a large hole through the rock is navigable by dinghy. We continued on with Oli setting up my trolling gear for guaranteed success. We arrived and anchored in Cala Binirras a stunning bay brimming with underwater life.
The decision was made (probably by Julia) to scramble up the nearby hill. This turned out to be tougher than anticipated, with sections of near vertical climbs punctuated by patches of loose, crumbling rock. Once at the summit we all agreed the descent would be a nightmare and an alternative route should be sought. We wound our way through an inhospitable terrain of scratchy shrubs and felled trees with Olis’ repaired flip flops doing and admirable job of not slowing him down. Night began to fall and things started to get a bit tricky. We finally found a road, emerging onto the tarmac sporting the odd minor flesh wound.
On the way out of Cala Binirras the next morning, we pulled up alongside a small rocky island rising steeply from the water. After a quick lap in Bumblebee, Oli took to the water and swam across to the overhanging rock face. Once he was on his ascent, Julia jumped in too, closely followed by myself. Henry had to remind himself of his recent shoulder operation or he’d be up there as well, leaving just Pinar to keep the boat hovering nearby.
By the time Oli reached the summit, I was hot on is heels but self-preservation kept me from attempting the last few metres of vertical rock. Julia and Henry found a way up a lower part, on the other side of the island and dived off headfirst. With the rocky island well and truly conquered we were once again on our way.
Cala Xaracca distracted us for a few pleasant hours scrambling up cliffs and snorkelling. We had an appointment for Lunch with Will and Kelsey in the next-door bay so couldn’t stop for long. En route to lunch we took the opportunity of deploying Oli and Henry in the dinghy, armed with a camera to take some stills of us sailing past. They got some good pics that might be useful in the coming months.
Lunch was at El Puerto in Cala Portinatx. We reunited and enjoyed sangria and paella, after which we saw Henry into a taxi and on his way home. A plan was then hatched to return to Cala Xaracca and search out the healing muds that we missed on our visit earlier that day. Will and Kelsey walked, we sailed. The mud was found and enjoyed by all.
That evening it was Oli’s turn to exit, so feeling rejuvenated by the mud, we returned to Bumblebee. Some took the dinghy, the others swam right through a sea of jellyfish. Farewell drinks were had onboard before dropping him off ashore and heading back to anchor in Cala Portinatx. Will and Kelsey also departed and the three of us remaining tried to get some sleep in preparation for an early crossing to the mainland the next day. The forecasts were not great and in the morning the sea was very lumpy and blowing a near gale. We set out to see just how bad things were, only making way for twenty minutes before being forced back by waves slamming us all over the place. Our plans had to be changed so we delayed departure for a day, Pinar booked a flight direct from Ibiza and we used the bonus day to check out the hippy market in Es Canna.
For a hippy market there were very few hippies and a very organised feel to the proceedings. Julia skilfully managed to hunt down a few essential purchases but we left underwhelmed. Things picked up again when we decided to spend the evening in Ibiza Old Town, retracing our steps from our first visit four years previous. We left Pinar to fly the next day and headed back to a turbulant anchorage, where a handful of new arrivals were sheltering from the elements. In the morning we awoke to fine conditions and set sail for mainland Spain on the final leg of our voyage.
We awoke on the 6th to howling winds of 30+ knots. We were sheltered in Cala Gat but we could see boats further out being tossed all over the place. We swam, climbed on the rocks and had breakfast, waiting for the gusts to abate. Eventually we got impatient and headed out of the tiny Cala, bearing west. Upon leaving the bay, the waves grew large and soon we had 3 metre swells overtaking us. The wind was also very strong and as we were in no hurry, we turned back to safety. We dropped anchor just off Cala Rajada in 3 metres, above sand. The girls prepared a delicious lunch of sausages and peppers as Bumblebee was buffeted by the wind.
Later on the wind died down and we surfed out of the bay on huge waves, past the caves de Atra and into the safety of Cala de Canyamel. Once Bumblebee was securely anchored, we went ashore to explore and find some decent wifi.
The next day we sailed to the minuscule Cala Petita, where we found a perfect beach with filthy water. Disappointed, we walked but did not swim. We moved on down the south east coast to Cala Magraner, where we would anchor for the night. As we arrived we were reassured to find a few other yachts with the same idea.
While swimming, Julia spotted an octopus hiding under our anchor, which she harassed for ages trying to get him to emerge for a photo. We also saw a goat chased around the cliffs by a dog, finding safety on an impossibly inaccessible promontory above the boat. Later we rowed the dinghy ashore and walked along the cliff top until the light faded.
We were running low on water and supplies so the next morning we pulled into Port Petro. The welcome was not quite what we hoped for and we were relived of 20 Euros to fill up our tanks and nip to the shops for an hour. To assist in Slawek’s progression up the RYA ladder, he was appointed skipper for the day. The stern-to mooring in crosswinds was a good introduction and was smoothly executed. From Porto Petro, he lead us to Cala d’es Burgit where we spent the night moored with a line to shore just around the corner in Cala Mondrago. The water since Cala Petita was much cleaner and Mondrago was no exception.
We had hoped to spend a night in the tiny fishing village of Cala Figuera, but the online booking system wouldn’t cooperate. Instead we arrived just before lunch the following day. The tiny quay was empty, so we helped ourselves and tied up. No one came to bother us for payment so we left Bumblebee and went for a wander around the tiny harbour.
We had lunch in Cala Figuera, then pushed on along the south coast to a remote little spot called Cala des Marmois. This was by far the closest thing to perfection we had experienced so far! The water was gin clear and there was a small beach flanked by stunning cliffs, which concealed caves with air pockets. We climbed the cliffs on both sides, swam into the tiny caves and enjoyed a little piece of paradise. As the sun began to set, the day trippers left and we had the bay to ourselves and just one other yacht.
On the morning of the 10th we rounded the south western point of Mallorca and began our way up the west coast. We would be saying farewell to Ania and Slawek the next morning so decided to book ourselves into the Marina at Rapita. With our berth secure, we first stopped at a beach along the way for a stroll and a drink. We then sailed on past the marina to check out Cala Pi. As we neared our destination, we had an early supper on the go when the heavens opened and we were caught in a mighty deluge. Thunder and lightning surrounded us and we even saw a small twister on the horizon. As quickly as it came, it was gone and the sun appeared as we anchored below the small town of Cala Pi.
We returned to Marina sa Rapita and went the whole night without sleep thanks to the tacky nightclub beside the marina. At 7am Ania and Slawek left for their flight back to Amsterdam. Paulina was still with us and within the hour we had two new crew, as James and Katherine pulled up in their hire car. They arrived armed with breakfast and a brand new ensign. This was no ordinary ensign, it was sourced by my mum from her friend Robin Ashburner, who is an authority on all things vexillologic. As you can see the old one looked like it had circumnavigated the globe. We received it in that state so the kudos was not rightly ours, however with the new flag hoisted, Bumblebee clearly meant business.
James and Katherine’s first day onboard was almost completely windless. We made slow progress under engine up the western coast. Paulina needed to leave us after lunch to catch her flight back to Warsaw, so we scoured the coast for a suitable stopping point. We discovered a beach club nestled into the hillside called sHares, not cheap but there was a pool and a bar snack menu.
That night we anchored just outside the marina and took J&K ashore by dinghy. They had a house rented so would not be sleeping on the boat.
The next morning we found J&K waiting for us in the marina, again armed with breakfast and even lunch. Today we would visit the island of Cabrera, 2 hours off the south western coast. The island is a nature reserve and in order to visit we had to book a mooring buoy in advance.
On the way we intercepted a pair of dolphins who inspected the boat momentarily, then headed on their way. Our first dolphin sighting since Sicily!
We attached to a mooring buoy in the main bay of Cabrera and climbed a hill to the old fort. From here we had a panoramic view of the bay and the coast. We returned to the boat for a swim and some lunch. We were not staying the night so were soon on our way, as there was much to see. As we slipped out of the bay we saw a stunning classic yacht proudly dangling an impressive ensign.
Just around the corner in the next door bay there was a large cave. It was too deep to anchor so one of us hovered with the boat while the others went for a closer look with the dinghy and snorkeling kit.
We motored clockwise around Cabrera to a deserted bay on the south side. This was a little slice of paradise; there were plenty of mooring buoys and no other boats to be seen.
The sun was now quite low so we headed back to the cave to see the inside illuminated by the low light. The airs were gentle so we boldly motored within a couple of metres of the caves entrance. At this point Julia decided to leap in with the waterproof camera to get some closer shots. She leaped off the bow and re-emerged with the news she had dropped the camera, I looked at the depth gauge, it read 19 metres. We swam over the area and estimated the camera to be on the seabed at about 16 metres. Only by diving down half way was it possible to see the grey strap attached to the camera.
There is obviously a happy ending to this story as the photos from the camera make up this post. It was after countless attempts to reach the bottom, for a camera that was invisible for the first ten metres, as the light was fading, until we had success. Armed with her freedive fins, Julia descended to ten metres then spotted the camera and carried on into the deep. I was very concerned that no help was around if something went wrong but she broke the surface some time later triumphantly clutching the camera!
That evening we had a perfect sail back to Mallorca. Healed over at seven knots we saw the sun go down and arrived in San Jordi to drop the anchor in the dark. The next day we had a farewell lunch at the Panoramica restaurant on the approach to Palma.
On our own once again we set sail after lunch for Cala Portals Vells, across the bay, skipping past Palma. The sea was rough and the Cala was crowded but with no guests onboard we didn’t mind. There were caves to explore, dug out in the 15th century to build the city of Palma. We explored the small beaches and snorkeled amongst the rocks. Julia spotted an octopus and I spotted some kind of ‘glamour’ photo shoot going on above.
With little time and lots to see, we headed north to Port Andratx where we could hire a car and explore more efficiently. What should have been a one hour hop turned into a five hour mission as the sea threw up huge waves and the wind howled past at 30 knots.
Port Andratx was a pleasant surprise, we moored up for a very reasonable fee right in the heart of the town. Trip Advisors no.1 pizza place was just next door and we ate there twice. On the 15th we bussed into the next door town and hired a car. We started our tour at Port Soller and headed back along the coastal road via Deia, Banyalbufar and Estelencs. The sky was grey but could not detract from these stunning locations. On the last leg of our journey I clipped the edge of the skinny road and within a few minutes we had a flat tyre. 20 minutes later we were back in action on the spare and returned the car slightly less pristine than we had received her.
On Friday the wind shifted for the west and blew in a favourable direction to cross to Ibiza. We took our chance and departed Mallorca, with high hopes for a comfortable 9 hour sail to one of the last islands of our journey.
The same day that we dropped off Giles in Olbia, Sardinia, Julia and I both headed to the UK. My folks had just finished their new house, were having a party and this was to be the first gathering which would also be attended by my new nephew and niece, both produced while we were away!
After the quick trip we were back in Olbia Marina, where we found Michal and Natasha patiently waiting for us on Bumblebee. They were armed with prosecco, ham and balloons, so were most welcome. Unfortunately they also brought the rain, or was that us? Either way the next morning the clouds moved in and the rain soon followed.
After a night in the marina we made our exit, following the generously proportioned Pink Gin out into the channel and past the expanse of mussel farms. As we sailed out of the gulf of Olbia, an exhausted bumblebee came to rest in the cockpit. We gave her some shelter and honey, which she readily accepted and spent the next hour sucking on before springing back to life and buzzing away.
It was the 30th of August and the wettest day we have had so far. The pay off came in the form of a dramatic sunset followed buy an intense electrical storm. Before anchoring we circumnavigated the island of Tavolara. At first the steep sided limestone island seemed deserted but as we rounded the eastern end we noticed a huge radio antenna connecting three mountainous points. The chart showed a NATO base and we realised we had accidentally crossed into a restricted area. The base appeared to be completely underground as we could see several roads leading into the mountain. As we rounded to the north side we were observed by a man sat in a 4x4, tracking us through binoculars.
We anchored for the night on the west end of the island where there was a restaurant. They refused to serve us for some reason so we ate on the boat. A bit of Googling revealed the island’s strange history as an independent kingdom, a seat currently claimed by the owner of the restaurant –apparently claiming to be a descendant of the royal family.
As we anchored, the sky temporarily cleared and gave way to a spectacular rainbow followed by strange marshmallow clouds. The lightning storm that night was intense with the nearby antenna attracting strikes several times a second. The sky lit up like a strobe light as we huddled inside; our phones and laptops in the oven for protection!
The next morning we sailed back into Olbia to collect our newest crewmember. Slawek is a good friend from Amsterdam and came to help with the crossing to Menorca. We docked alongside the town quay, where he was waiting. A quick stop at the fishing shop to replace the 300m of braid that a speedboat robbed me of and we were on our way. We sailed out of the Gulf of Olbia for the third time and made our way north. Michal had discovered a tiny beach with a railway station, where we could drop them off on their return journey via Cagliary. We pulled into a beautiful little bay, dinghied them ashore and left them hoping a train would stop. The three of us remaining wasted no time setting sail as we had a long journey ahead of us.
That evening we pulled into a small marina on the island of Maddalena. We needed fuel in the morning and though a night in town was justified as the next day we would to set off on a 48 hour sail to the Balearic Islands. We ate at a pleasant seafood restaurant and planned the journey to come. There was a brief weather window giving us just enough time to cross before the Maestrale kicked off and 40 knots of wind would land in our face. We crosschecked five or so weather sources and decided we could make it.
It took ten hours the next day to cross the north of Sardinia. It was dark when we passed through the 3m deep Forneli Passage but soon we were out in the open sea.
We took turns at watch during the night. As with our Sicily-Sardinia crossing there was no moon, so the night was very dark. At first we had westerlies as expected so motored for the best part of the night, keeping a high course to set us up for the close winds forecast during the day. As daylight came, the winds veered and we were tearing across the Mediterranean with full sails up and a brisk close reach. The great condition continued all day, with the toe rail in the water on a starboard tack.
48 hours was the longest any of us had spent sailing nonstop. Time passed quickly with sketching, reading and helming. Julia managed to concoct some delicious meals while healed right over and bashing through the waves.
The second night was as dark as the first. The stars shone brightly and there were very few other boats to be seen. Dire Straits saw us through the small hours and soon after sunrise we had our first sight of land. As we approached Menorca, my fishing line went slack and I discovered the snap swivel had worn through, setting free a new Rapala diving lure. We eventually pulled into Mahon at 11:05am, exactly 48 hours after setting off!
We tried but failed to find a chandlery with a Spanish courtesy flag and a Balearic harbour guide book, so we sailed up around the coast to a picturesque bay for a swim and a celebratory drink. Later we returned to Mahon and anchored just inside the harbour. We took to the dinghy ashore but misjudged the distance to town and ended up exploring one of the suburbs instead.
Ania and Paulina were due to fly in and join us for the week. The only problem was, we told them to meet us in Mallorca. There appeared to be no suitable flights or ferries so we had no choice but to set off on the 9 hours crossing. We were later to discover there was a fast, cheap ferry but by then we were just hours from Alcudia, Mallorca. On the way we stopped at Cales Coves for lunch and a swim. This turned out to be a mini paradise with cavernous cliffs on both sides but rather dirty water. Julia found a good little cliff for bouldering and we passed a local lady swimming her dog.
The girls were arriving in Alicudia around 10pm so we spent a good hour trying but failing to set the anchor outside the marina. Three times we failed to get a good hold in just 3m, due to weeds. We gave up and headed into the marina. Via VHF channel 9 we were told the marina was full so we decided to tie up to the fuel quay and hope for the best. To our surprise we had a full night’s sleep and no one moved us along in the morning. One attendant suggested we should visit the office as we had spent the night in the marina. We did so but no one had reported our details, never the less they were pleased to have us fill out some forms and pay the standard fee.
Since we had now paid we tried to make the most of it. The chandlery was well stocked and we now have a new cruising bible. Rod Heikel got us through Greece and Italy but his photography just didn’t inspire us. This new book however is stuffed full of stunning aerial views and breathtaking polarized photography. It is awesome. We cleaned down the decks, refueled, filled our water tanks and did some provision shopping –all the while Bumblebee was getting in the way on the fuel dock. Eventually they got fed up with us, luckily just as we were ready to leave.
The Maestrale that we were avoiding on the crossing would soon arrive so we headed out of Alicuda, rounded the south east coast and nestled into a tiny anchorage called Cala Gat. Navionics on the chartplotter claimed anchoring was prohibited but the new book told us what we wanted to hear. We anchored, swam, then went ashore in search of sustenance.