Tuesday 2 July 2019

Formentera – Cala Sahona, S'Espalmador, La Savina

Friday 24th May to Saturday 1st June 2019

Friday morning we awoke to a grey, overcast day, a complete contrast to the beautiful sunny blue skies we had welcoming our arrival yesterday.  Over breakfast we checked the weather forecast (this is a daily ritual as we don’t want to be caught out) and yes, we were in for a few days of unsettled weather with a northerly wind.

As our anchorage wouldn't provide any shelter from a northerly wind and could potentially be dangerous if the wind were to get really strong, we decided to head north, to the island of S'Espalmador. The island is privately owned and is a nature and marine reserve and is virtually deserted except for tourists and marine reserve employees. It is joined to Formentera by a long sandy spit broken by a shallow rocky passage.

With the wind and the swell straight on the nose and a slight smear of rain, off we chugged northward towards S’Espalmador.  To get there, we had to cross the busy shipping lane to the port of Savina, where ferries take passengers to and from Ibiza, where glass bottom tourist boats work from and where passing yachtsman like ourselves go to stock up on food and water.

By now, we are quite experienced at crossing shipping lanes, following the rules of the sea and crossing parallel with the mapped out route but boy was this something else. The ferries coming in and out of the port are ‘fast’ ferries to and from Ibiza and when they say fast, they mean fast. As soon as they leave the harbour entrance it’s full throttle at 20 knots and heaven help anyone in the way. 

We witnessed this first hand at a distance and held back a little until none were in sight and with no engine smoke coming from the port we went hell for leather across the shipping lane. Once across I started to breathe again!

We arrived at S'Espalmador around lunchtime. It has a beautiful bay overlooking the island with white sandy beaches, a couple of houses and a church!  The anchorage was fairly full, so we motored around to find our own patch of sand to anchor in.  

The whole area around the island is part of the Spanish Poseidon Prairies where the poseidonia is protected. Until 1st June you can anchor in sand and if possible avoid your anchor dragging on poseidonia, but from 1st June to 30th September you have to use designated buoys or face a heavy fine.

We spent the rest of the day pottering around.  It rained off and on all day, but after dinner, as the sun was wetting, there was a double rainbow and dolphins swimming around the boats and in the bay.

They must have been well fed, as they flipped and splashed as they left the bay.

The next day the weather was still slightly overcast during the day so we set about doing some chores on the boat. We also tried out the portable shower in the cockpit.  I was a bit apprehensive at first, as there's not much privacy when you're anchored in a bay, but it was actually very liberating standing stark naked having a shower in the open air. Talk about going back to nature,  I’m definitely losing my inhibitions!

As the night fell, we were treated to a glorious sunset and did feel truly blessed to be in such an idyllic place.

Sunday arrived with glorious sunshine, so Mark put our dinghy Upbeat together whilst I made a packed lunch and got everything ready for a day on the beach. 

Wow, what a beach. With aquamarine water, white sand and not many people on the beach, if I didn't know better I would have thought I'd been transported to the Caribbean.  We swam, had our packed lunch and then whilst Mark snoozed I went for a walk to explore the island.

Walking along the beach, barefoot at the edge of the water, watching and listening to little ones playing in the sea is really good for the soul.  It made me want to fly home and kidnap my little ones and bring them here.  Hopefully one day soon!

Monday morning we were visited by the marine reserve warden who checked our anchor was ok.  She was very pleasant and explained that they see poseidonia as there form of coral and want to preserve it to attract marine life back into the bay (which is probably why the dolphins go there). She gave us a leaflet with information about the reserve and told us where the best anchor holdings were.

After pottering about all day, we (Mark) rowed ashore for a walk and to watch the sunset.  I managed to get a beautiful photo of Offbeat on her own in the bay with the sun setting behind her.

We decided that we would head into the marina on Wednesday, so Tuesday was spent getting ready for that.  It's surprising how much work goes into planning a visit to the marina. With limited time available in the marina, we really need to make the most of our time there so Upbeat has to be stored on deck, washing sorted, supplies checked and shopping lists made for supplies and the chandlery.  I also had to book the marina and was very pleased with myself when I phoned and managed to book us in, all in Spanish!

As it was our last night in the anchorage, we had supper in the cockpit and watched the sunset for the last time here. It was such a beautiful clear night, that as the sun set, we could see the mountains of Spain in the distance. 

Wednesday morning we headed over to the marina, which is about 3 miles away.  We took the inside track, skimming along the side of land so as to avoid the fast ferries and the 2 metre swell they cause.

Arriving at the harbour entrance was entertaining. One of the fast ferries was bearing down on us so we moved out of the channel entrance to let it pass, only to see it turn round and reverse in.  What?  This is mental, not only do they come at you at 20 knots, they then do a handbrake turn to get into their berth.  Major respect to those captains!

Once we knew it was safe to enter, we called the marina on Channel 9 asking to come in.  The office responded and we were directed to the fish dock.  Turns out there are two marinas at the port and whilst I’d booked with one, the other one pinched the business on our arrival.  It wasn't really a problem though as it was nice and quiet where we were berthed and more importantly, no swell.

We headed into town to do our chores and have some lunch.  Boy is Formentera expensive. Everything is practically double what you pay on mainland Spain. 

With some of the jobs done, we headed back to Offbeat to get the washing dry.  When we got back, the boat next to us was having a bit of a party and invited  us to join them.  Actually, it was more like a load of blokes eating raw tuna and drinking beer, so I declined the offer.  Whilst Mark was off making new friends, I went off exploring. 

I ended up walking towards the Salinas, which are expansive salt lakes to the north of the island.  They are renowned for their bird life and whilst you can access the edge of the lakes, the majority of it is prohibited access. Never mind, what I did see was beautiful and on the way back I walked along the beach, admiring all the super yachts that were moored in the bay whilst their owners enjoyed lunch at the fabulously expensive restaurants!

In the evening we headed out to a restaurant we had found earlier in the day.  A beautiful little beach restaurant overlooking the sea, with an incredibly romantic sunset.

Thursday we left the marina and headed south back to Cala Sahona.  Two reasons for going back, one was the weather forecast, we needed to find shelter from southerlies and secondly we hadn't explored the area.

When we arrived in late afternoon, the bay was still crowded with lots of boats and jet skis flying around.  Whilst it's good to see people enjoying themselves, it's even better when they leave and peace descends. 

Friday arrived with more glorious sunshine and a gentle breeze.  Whilst we had been in Savina I had treated myself to a snorkel and mask.  Today was the perfect day to try them out, together with my noodle that I’d bought in Javea (thank you Claire, best €5 I've spent).  It was absolutely amazing. The water was so clear and if you laid still long enough, the fish came to you.

Saturday we went ashore for the first time in Sahona. The beach was very busy and there wasn't anywhere obvious to leave Upbeat, so we tried it to the rope marking the swimming area.  Mark was unsure about leaving it there so we abandoned our plan of walking to San Francesc Xavier and had coffee and went to the local shop instead.

Late afternoon we went ashore again and walked to the end of the headland surrounding the bay.  The view of the cliffs were stunning and made us realise there is so much more to Formentera. On the way back we stopped at a little shack on the beach and had a drink and talked about moving on. 

Decision made, we would head off in the morning and go round to the other side of the island and if we didn't like it, we'd head on back to S'Espalmador for a few days before moving on to Ibiza.

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