Sunday, June 17, 2012

Puerto Pollenca June 17, 2012

We sailed the 50 miles to Pollenca, stopping at Cala Agulla, a nice bay that’s sheltered from the blustery SE wind for an overnight stay. Overnight the wind reversed directions and started to blow right into the bay. The calm, sheltered anchorage quickly became extremely rolly, so we took off early next morning and sailed, closed-hauled, the rest of the way into Pollenca Bay. We rarely use the engine these days; by taking the time and waiting for favorable weather window, and with anchorages that are all within half-day’s sail, we always sail. It feels great!

Plenty of boats anchored in the Bay of Pollenca 

Polenca is a large, sheltered bay, and some cruisers stay here the entire summer. This will be our last stop before we depart Mallorca and go to Menorca, the eastern Balearic Island. We have been here for a week, just relaxing and visiting surrounding areas. The town at the bay is a large resort town with plenty of restaurants and shops. The old town of Pollenca is actually about 10 km inland, located to provide some safety from attacks by pirates. We took a long walk to the old town on a lovely Thursday morning. It’s a picturesque small town, with a beautiful town square, tidy ochre-coloured stone houses, winding lanes, and of course fine churches, including the 18th-century Parroquia de Nostra Senyora dels Angels and the Convent de Santo Domingo, where it holds Pollenca’s Classical Music Festival in July and August. The musical activities take place in the Cloisters and the grand piano is already there. We also walked 365 steps up a steep hill to visit the chapel El Calvari. It’s a small chapel with a Gothic Christ on the altar carved in wood.  After a lunch rest at Manzana y Peras at Placa Major, we continued for an hour-long hike up a hill to visit the monastery Puig de Maria. The monastery has a commending view over the Bay of Pollenca to the north and the Bay of Alacudia to the south.

Climbing the steps to the chapel El Calvari

The view from Puig de Maria  

The next day, while resting to recover from our long walks, we watched a neighboring boat getting stuck on a shallow patch. The inner Bay of Pollenca, where it is more sheltered, is very shallow with only about 3 meters deep. That’s fine for sailboats that typically have 2 meter draught, except there are some shallow patches less than 2 meter deep. This German boat dropped anchor at the proper depth, but overnight is swung onto the shallow. We spent several hours tried to winch them off, but in the end we needed the help of two powerful dinghies from a nearby sailing school, one pulling a halyard to heel over the boat, and another dinghy to pull the boat off the shallow and against the fresh afternoon breeze. It was quite an exercise. Afterward we had a wonderful supper with our new friends, Achim and Hartwig. The roast suckling pig and lamb shoulder were wonderful!

Lots of help to get Lazy Life unstuck from a shallow patch

A Scenic Drive around the Island June 6

We are tied to a mooring ball at Porto Colom, a large bay completely sheltered like a lagoon. The port authority managed the mooring balls which are intended for visiting yachts, but unfortunately they seem to be mostly used by local boats. We were able to find a vacant ball, but the lead-line is missing so we struggled to lift the heavy ball to tie our line through the chain underneath. The town is a fishing village on one side and a growing economy tourist resort on the other end. It’s a relatively quiet place, not much for scenery, but it’s a perfect place to leave the boat and go inland to do some sightseeing.

We rented a car and crisscrossed the scenic interior of Mallorca. Most of the island is semi-arid, dry with limited vegetation, but some parts are lush and covered with tall pines. We first went to Puig de Randa, on a tall hill overlooking the bay of Palma, there’s a sanctuary, Santuari de Cura. There are few tourists here. The musical sound of monks chanting drifts out of a small souvenir shop. Antique wrought iron farming tools scatter around in the courtyard as ornamental pieces, baking under the hot sun. A large garden anchored by tall palm trees swaying in the mountain breeze, semi-overgrown with exotic flowering plants. This is a wonderful place for meditation.
Santuari de Cura

Quaint towns in the plains of Mallorca

The very pretty, tiny village of Biniagual 

For our lunch stop we visited the small village of Biniagual. Half expecting another touristic place, we were pleasantly surprised to find that it was a beautiful small village nestled among vineyards, with completely no shops. Other than a small busload of German tourists, who quickly left, the village was completely deserted; not a soul was visible. Feeling like we had the whole village to ourselves, we walked through the quiet cobble stone streets lined with old, stylish houses, some with beautiful courtyards and gardens well-hidden by stone walls and tall hedges. A fountain quietly gurgles somewhere in a corner under the shade. Ah, someday, we should have a home like one of those, and properly retire…

  Monasterio de Lluc

Cap de Formentor

We visited the Monasterio de Lluc, an institution regarded by many to be the spiritual heart of Mallorca. Built in the 17th and 18th century, the monastery has an imposing Baroque church which contains the stone image of La Morenta, the Black Virgin of Lluc, supposedly found by a Shepard boy on a nearby hilltop in the 13th century. We kept driving to the northern tip of the island, to Cap de Formentor, where the land narrows to a  strip of barren shear cliffs rising above the clear blue water of the open sea. It’s a beautiful spot, but too popular with tourists and the trails were crowded. So we turned around and headed back to our quiet anchorage, our smart phone/GPS guiding us through a labyrinth of deserted back-roads and through beautiful towns that were quiet in the late-afternoon heat.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Cabrera National Park May 31, 2012

We sailed the 10 miles from Mallorca to the Cabrera Island in perfect sailing condition – 10-15 knots wind on the beam, flat sea, blue sky. Plenty of other sailboats were in the vicinity, enjoying a weekend outing. We are moored at the Cabrera Island, which is part of the national park maritime reserve just off the southern tip of Mallorca. The park comprises a group of rugged island with numerous coves, small beaches, rocky shelves and sea cliffs. The waters here are exceptionally clear and one can easily see through 15 meters into the blue sea bottom.  No anchoring is allowed, and visiting vessels must make reservations to tie to one of the 50 mooring buoys available in the large, sheltered deep bay at Puerto Cabrera. In peak seasons boats are only allowed to stay one night; off season one can stay up to 7 days. The on-line booking web page is very difficult to find and to navigate, but luckily we managed to book our mooring for 4 days. And it’s all free of charge. The surrounding remains me of our sailing-camping at Killarney and Beausolie National Park in Georgian Bay, Ontario - the rugged coastline, the serenity, the clear water, but without the mosquitoes!

View from the hill-top castle overlooking the bay

Crystal clear water. And no jet ski allowed :-)

Hiking trail to the lighthouse 

The climate of island is semi-arid, but there is an exceptional variety of flora and fauna. Bird life is rich, including falcon, stormy petrel, shags, and many shearwaters. The small Balearic lizards are everywhere, ducking in and out of stone crevices. There are still a few professional fishermen on the island, using traditional small fishing boats, called LlaĆ¼t, and using hand-drawn nets; this activity is regulated to ensure the natural space is fully respected. There are several hiking trails that meander through the island and offer excellent vistas of the rugged coast. There’s a castle which towers over the harbor entrance. Built in the 14th century, the stonework is still as good as new. We took a two-hour hike to see the large light house which stands at the western edge of the island at Punta de Ensiola. In this late-May, the weather is perfect for hiking – mid-20’s by mid day, a mountain breeze keeps the air cool, the calm Mediterranean Sea spreads out under an infinite blue sky. In the rain-ward side of the island, where there is a small forest of shady pine trees, stands a memorial to the thousands of French soldiers who were held as prisoners of war on the island during the Napoleonic war. Many perished from exposure, disease and starvation. It was a quiet place; most cruisers chose to hang around the water. We enjoyed the view from this perch, listening to the wind-driven sighs of the pine forest, the wind rolling off the sun-baked hills, and in the absolute quietness of the hills the only sound was the pines sighing, like waves after waves.