On June 29, 2019, Mallorca leaders Heather and Nate Atwater greeted 23 sailors for the start of our first ever flotilla cruise in Spain. Andrea Berndt, a multi-time Colgate Sailing Adventures Flotilla Cruise participant with her husband Mike, sent this account of a joyful cruise in the waters of Mallorca, Spain. Andrea is in this photo with Mike at the first night group dinner ashore.
Getting Accustomed to Local Time
After much anticipation, our long awaited trip to Mallorca is here. On June 27, an overnight flight took us to Madrid. You know you are in Spain when the airport gift shops are packed with hindquarters of Iberian ham dangling in the breeze. Try getting that back into the US! We caught a puddle-hopper flight to Mallorca and collapsed in our hotel room for a much needed snooze. After dinner and a stroll about town, we retired for the night in an effort to get accustomed to local time.
Like Pages from a History Book
It’s June 28, can’t believe we slept in past 10 am. We still managed to make the breakfast buffet, a bountiful repast of Spanish breads and pastries, meat pies, ham, sausages and cold cuts, eggs fixed a variety of ways, and all sorts of fruits and juices. On full stomachs we set out to explore. A heat wave is scorching the area, so trying hard to stick to the shade and hydrate. Mallorca is very picturesque, with ancient city walls, alleyways and court yards, and hidden gardens. The plumbago, oleander and bougainvillea are covered in so many blossoms that they make the ones back home look anemic. Amazing cathedrals share the skyline with minarets, evidence of the Spanish and Moorish history. Remnants of windmills evoke thoughts of Don Quixote, ever searching for his Dulcinea. Sidewalk cafes abound and the marinas are packed with boats… no shortage of mega yachts here!
It’s June 29th and today’s the day! We spent the morning schlepping luggage to the marina, then headed to the market for supplies. Searched all over and finally found the post office to send off a quick postcard. The search for a phone SIM card was a bit more complicated. We’d finally been directed to the other side of creation when we decided to stop for lunch. Mike happened to look up and by golly the elusive phone store was right up the street. Yay! It was hotter than blazes 100+ so we worked on hydrating and trying to stay cool. We met up with our cruising flotilla at 5 p.m.on the dock, pleased to see multiple familiar faces from previous flotillas. Our boat is Anegada, a 47 foot Jenneau. Crew consists of Skipper Scott, Mike the designated Naviguesser, and crew of John, Vicky and Andrea. We all know each other from the Belize flotilla last year. We had a flotilla team meeting followed by a paella dinner on the dock. We spend tonight on the boat and take off in the morning. Should be a good time.
Last minute boat preparations complete, we pulled away from the dock around 11 a.m. on June 30, heading for Sa Rapita, reputed to be one of the prettiest beaches on the island. Wind was out of the east, varying from 5-20 knots. Motoring out of the harbor, we hoisted sails and had a rather pleasant sail. Scott claims he doesn’t care about racing, poo-pooing the notion that 2 boats on the water heading in the same direction constitutes a race. Ha ha. We’ll make a convert out of him yet. In the afternoon when the breeze picked up, we heeled over at a delightful angle and scooted along at 7.6 kts. Not too shabby and he definitely has the beginnings of a gleam in his eyes. Vicky was the helm, rather laid back sailing the telltales. You go girl! We took turns at the helm and dropped anchor at Sa Rapita at 3:30 p.m. The snarky crew celebrated with arrival beverages around, debating the merits of 4th of July celebrations in Edmond versus Mustang, Oklahoma. For those of us non-Oakies, we just might have to check this out. Every boat and every crew has its unique personality. We are no different in that regard, expressing ourselves by giving the boat a new nickname every day, building on the basic given name. We started with the official Anegada, and with each subsequent day our creativity was in full force.
After a hearty breakfast of bacon and eggs we weighed anchor at 9:30 a.m. and headed for Portocolom. It’s July 1 and we’ve settled into a comfortable routine of one hour rotations at the helm as a precaution to stifle any “helm hog” tendencies … now who could that possibly be? Vicky piloted as we motored out of the anchorage so that Scott could maximize sailing time on his watch. And maximize sailing time we did, with a gorgeous day of sailing with steady winds. Ask Scott what kind of day it is and the response is “It’s a beau-ti-ful day!” It’s a long way to our destination, so the consensus was to forgo the lunch stop and eat underway. Tough life when you have to settle for Brie, pate, fruit and baguettes on the fly for lunch. Skirting the coast, we delighted in the rocky cliffs that seem to have caves and bunker looking windows carved into them. Oh, if we only could stop and explore, who knows what hidden treasures might await.
We dropped sails and motored into Portocolom, a former trading post and quaint little fishing village. We have a reservation for a mooring as there’s no anchoring in the harbor. Here the marina staff met us in a rib and escorted us to our mooring. So civilized and a far cry from the mooring scramble free-for-all in the Caribbean! The first dinghy ashore at 4:30 p.m. was a provisioning run to fill in the gaps.The market was closed for siesta, opening again at 5. The fruteria down the street was open, with all sorts of beautiful produce, but we already have enough aboard to feed an army. Will resist temptation and stick to the list. When the market opened, we made a beeline for the deli counter. The ham ranged from the reasonable at 30 euro per kg to over 90 euro per kg for the premium jamon iberico. Wow! We managed to get the job done and still get away with our shirts intact. Back on the boat we’re eating dinner aboard to use some of our provisions. Vicky and Scott prepared a delicious dinner of pasta with a rich tomato sauce. After dinner we made a run ashore for gelato before settling in for the night.
On July 2nd, we slipped mooring lines about 9:30 a.m. and headed for Porto Cristo. Wind was light and on the nose so we motored to our destination. Today’s challenge is med mooring European style. Fenders in the ready position, crew at their stations, bring it on! Scott’s at the helm with Mike riding shotgun and handling the windward stern line. John’s on the bow, Vicky’s roving with a fender and Andrea is below manning commo with the marina and flotilla, then moved to leeward stern line. We are third in line, circling outside the channel until our turn. We slowly made our way in, ducking the junior dinghy fleet and an errant paddle boarder. We backed into our slip, tossed our stern lines to the marina staff who handed us the bow lines once the stern was secure. Pleased with the results of the communication and teamwork, we celebrated with arrival beverages around.
This afternoon’s entertainment is a visit to the caves of Drach, a 5 minute walk up the stairs from the marina. The caves are dark and cool, a welcome respite from the heat. Following the dimly lit path, stalagmites and stalactites of all shapes and sizes adorn the ceilings and floors. Our farthest point into the caves is an auditorium with benches overlooking a small lake. At the appointed time, the lights dimmed and a mini boat parade of three lighted boats glided by, making graceful passes as musicians on the one boat played soothing classical selections. Once the concert concluded, the audience was ferried by boat across the water to the path out of the caves. Very pleasant experience. Back in the heat of the day, the guys headed back to the boat while the women opted for some girl time as shops beckoned.
A big Majorica pearl edifice begged to be explored, as Mallorca’s claim to fame for years was quality simulated pearls. We watched a mini video presentation explaining the process before entering the showroom to check out what they had to offer. Our saleslady Carmen was a former sailor who lived on a Jeanneau similar to what we are sailing. Talking with us made her long for those days. She was very helpful as we tried on and posed for pictures with various pieces before making our selections. Onto the rest of town and more shops. On the way back to the boat we spied a quaint little restaurant and made reservations for dinner. By the time dinner time rolled around, our party of seven had doubled and we showed up on their doorstep with 14. After an initial double-take, and multiple explanations, we managed to charm the owner by telling him how the others had wanted to come along after hearing us talk of his place. They graciously scrambled to rearrange tables and accommodated us. Another delightful dinner ashore, we stumbled back to the boat with bellies full of food.
Our destination July 3rd is Portopetro with a stop off at Cala Mondrago along the way. We started off sailing, but the wind died and we had to fire up the iron Jenny. Cala Mondrago is a nature reserve with grassy seabeds providing a habitat teaming with marine life in addition to beautiful beaches and rocky cliffs with hiking trails. We lingered here several hours, snorkeling off the back of the boat. The seagrass meadow was frosted with light colored crystals and little growths resembling small inverted cockle shells dotted the bottom. Fish of all shapes and sizes darted among the grasses. All was well until we tried to weigh anchor. The windlass began taking up the chain rode and after about 30 seconds it gave up the ghost. Capstan locked up solid as well. Troubleshooting to no avail, no amount of coaxing could change its mind. Time for elbow grease as the guys took turns manually hauling in the anchor. Whew! On to Portopetro where fortunately we have a mooring. When all the flotilla was secure on their moorings, Chipper Skipper Nate, our fearless flotilla leader, paid us a visit to try out his powers of persuasion on our recalcitrant windlass. He confirmed the sad news, that bad boy is seized up and out of commission for the remainder of the cruise. Bummer. Time to cleanup and dinghy into town for dinner. It’s an early start in the morning, so lingering ashore over a a leisurely continental dinner is not advisable. Mike and I opted for a romantic dinner in a little restaurant perched on a hill overlooking the harbor. The Galician style tenderloin was scrumptious and we’re becoming rather fond of the bread and olives to start. Of course, we had to check out the local gelato parlor before heading back to the boat.
On July 4th, we were up and in the ready position for a 7 a.m. start. Order of the day is the island of Cabrera followed by an overnight in Cala Portals Vells. We need to get to Cabrera by 10 a.m., so unless we have enough wind to maintain 5 kts speed over ground, we’ll be motoring. 4-7kts of wind this morning seals the deal … we’re motoring. We picked up a day mooring in the main harbor of Cabrera right on schedule and proceeded into the dinghy dock. Cabrera is a heavily regulated marine sanctuary with a history that includes a prison housing soldiers of the Napoleonic army, an old monastery, fish salting factory, lime kilns, quarries and a farm. A landing with a cantina and park buildings greeted us. We hiked up the hill to the remnants of a 14th century fortress, carefully navigating a narrow circular staircase barely large enough for one. Well worth the climb, we were treated to a panoramic view of the island and harbor.
At 2 p.m. we slipped the mooring and headed for Cala Portal Vells. The wind was out of the east at 8-12 kts and we sailed away on a gently rolling broad reach. The winds built over the course of the afternoon, becoming a steady 16-18 kts, gusting to 21. Erring on the side of caution, we put the first reef in the main and headsail, and on we went. No one is excited about tonight’s anchorage since we are in the manual mode with the windlass motor shot and the capstan frozen. The guys drew straws and Skipper Scott got the honors. Rank does have its privileges 😉. We made a pass through the anchorage looking for a shallow sandy spot. Unfortunately our first drop didn’t take and we had to haul it up and try again. Complicating the maneuvers were a couple of groups of swimmers frolicking in the anchorage, totally oblivious to the boats passing through the anchorage in search of a spot. Anchored at last, the dinner discussion began. Initial plans were to head into town, but we’re tired, it’s going to be a rolly night and we opted instead to settle for hot dogs aboard. After all, it is the 4th of July. The swells rocked us to sleep, substituting boat creaking for Brahms Lullaby. Best night’s sleep I’ve had during this cruise.
Today is July 5th, a lazy day with time for lingering over a leisurely breakfast. Fortunately our anchor as well as our neighbors’ anchors held fast with nothing going bump in the night. We did wake to find a small catamaran that had come into the anchorage and anchored behind us sometime after 2 a.m. Hola! The local male swim team assembled early on the beach and hit the water to swim laps. The morning flotilla radio call informed us that we’re hanging out here until about noonish. We’re heading back to base in Palma tonight, so no rush. Would love to explore the cliffs and caves of the cala, but no one has the energy or inclination to wrestle the dinghy motor onto the dinghy. The water looked inviting until we spotted multiple brown jellyfish trailing tentacles. Chilling on the boat sounds good to me. We capped off our cruise with a farewell dinner of incredible tapas and Mallorcan specialties at a lovely restaurant overlooking the harbor of Palma.