Thursday 21 November 2019

Porto Cristo

August 2019

Caves of Drach
(Photo courtesy of
From Porto Colom we decided to take the bus to Porto Cristo and visit the Caves of Drach, with their underground paths that lead to the shores of one of the world's largest underground lakes.  They really are very spectacular and well worth a visit.

We set off and rowed to the quayside in Upbeat.   Unlike some harbours we'd been to, this was very organised for dinghies with proper facilities for docking dinghies and leaving them for the day. 

The bus journey took about an hour but wasn't very spectacular as it was mainly inland and only now and again did you get a hint of the coastline.

Arriving at Porto Cristo we made our way to the ticket office for the Caves of Drach.  Unfortunately everybody else had as well and the only tickets available were for 6pm. As the tour would take an hour and the last bus left at 6.30pm we decided to give it a miss.

Porto Cristo Harbour
We weren't going to waste the day though, so we headed off to the resort of Porto Cristo. It is a small town, perfect for strolling around so we decided to have a wander around, have lunch, then walk down to the main front and appreciate the afternoon sun and sea views.

Porto Cristo still maintains its function as a Spanish fishing village so when we stumbled across a packed fish restaurant full of Spanish speaking people, we knew this was the restaurant for us.

Having asked if there was a table available,  we were told it was possibly an hours wait. We didn't care, we weren't in a hurry, so with a bottle of wine and two glasses we sat at the bar and soaked up the atmosphere. 

Porto Cristo beach
The noise of chatter was loud, with a mixture of couples, families and business men holding working lunches.  The food was prepared and cooked just behind the bar and with the aroma of cooking, we soon got hungry.  The one disturbing thing about sitting there was watching the chef prepare the fish.  She was a bit enthusiastic chopping the heads of fish and you got a sense that you wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of her!

Our meal was delicious and well worth the wait. In true Spanish style, 2 bottles of wine and 2 1/2 hours later we left the restaurant and had a wander down to the beach and waterfront for coffee and ice cream.  

Porto Colom Harbour
Back in Porto Colom we decided to have a little wander round before heading back to Offbeat. 

Porto Colom itself is not very big so it didn't take long to walk around.  I'd describe it as pretty and functional, with all the necessities required by travelling yachtsman and holidaymakers.  

Walk done, we had a glass of wine to finish off a perfect day out.  Big mistake!

It was turning to dusk by the time we headed back to Upbeat.  I think I may have mentioned before that me and Upbeat have a love hate relationship. I love her, she hates me and never 'behaves' for me.

That evening she surpassed herself.  Despite having a good place to moor and tie her up, as I went to step into her she decided to tip me out the other side.  In I went, in front of all the strollers along the prom.  Well, that sobered me up! Trying to get out of the water was even more embarrassing.  As Mark tried to pull me out, I couldn't get a footing (because I had my sparkly sandals on) and kept going back in the water.  In the end, a young lad came and helped Mark and with one on either arm, hauled me out of the water.  I was mortified!

They both held the dinghy in position so I could get in and with huge thanks we set off back to Offbeat. By this time, although I was cold and wet, I could see the funny side as I replayed it back in slow motion in my head.  It also made me more determined to 'master' her in the future.

Porto Colom
Next day we decided to head off.  Although we both really liked Portocolom, with its laid back atmosphere, calm seas and small quaint beaches, there were other places we wanted to visit before our next set of visitors arrived. 

It's definitely on our list of let's visit again as it's our sort of harbour. 

Sunday 17 November 2019

Setting Off for New Cruising Grounds

We Had Enough of Palma Bay
14th August El Arenal to Portal Vels.

We intended to go back to the El Arenal anchorage to readjust after having the grandchildren with us but the waves were a little too rough and we knew the holding was a bit doubtful, so we decided to find an anchorage with better shelter. We sailed across Palma Bay to a little cove at Portal Vels. It was a very pretty but also very crowded anchorage. And with a westerly wind holding all the boats side on to the waves, very rolly too. We agreed that we’d had enough of Palma Bay and made plans to move on to new cruising grounds.

Sailing to Mallorca’s South Coast

15th August Portal Vels to Porto Colom

Our alarms woke us before sunrise and, for once, we didn’t roll over and convince ourselves that another half hour won’t hurt. We really had enough of Palma! Dawn saw us sailing SE into a beautiful sunrise off port bow. 

Setting off in the dark
.......into a lovely sunrise

We had a mix of sailing and motoring firstly round the very high light coloured cliffs of Cabo Blanco then the very low dunes of Cabo Salinas. We spent the afternoon searching a dozen coves and inlets along the Southern coastline for an anchorage only to find every one already full of boats. We eventually arrived at Porto Colom, a decent sized natural harbour. We tried to anchor in the only small patch of sand that is not covered with mooring buoys but couldn’t get the anchor to set. 

Eventually we called the PortsIB harbour office and moved onto one of their mooring buoys which also gave shelter from waves and wind. 

It was with relief that we relaxed with drinks in hand to watch the sun set over a safe, comfortable harbour.

Friday 15 November 2019

Little people come to visit!

August 2019

We had talked on numerous occasions about how great it would be if our grandchildren could come and visit us and experience our new life.  So, with some planning we decided to make it a reality.

By mid July we knew that we wouldn't be going any further than Mallorca this year, so we booked flight tickets for Olivia and Finlay.  Millie wasn't quite old enough to leave her parents for that long, but we hope she can come when she gets a bit older.

We agreed that it would only be for 5 days this time as it would be their first time abroad and as neither of them had stayed for longer than one night on the boat, we weren't sure how they would settle.  The plan was that I would fly back to England and then fly back with them to Mallorca and then the same for their return trip.

Where to stay? We wanted to stay somewhere that was relatively close to the airport, that had good beaches and lots to do for families.  It was also important that the marina was relatively secure as we didn't want little ones to go wandering off and get lost.  

I knew just the place, El Arenal. I had stayed there a number of times with my family when I was growing up and had very fond memories of it and knew that it was only 20 minutes from the airport, the beaches would be safe and there would be plenty to do.   I checked out the marina in El Arenal and it looked perfect, with plenty of visitors spaces, good security, onsite bar and restaurant and a lovely big swimming pool. Perfect!  We phoned a few days ahead to make a reservation for the coming week.

El Arenal Marina and CalacEs Fornàs
We arrived at El Arenal the Sunday before the grandchildren were due to arrive and found that there was a beautiful little cala (Es Fornàs) on the east side of the marina which would be perfect as there were only two ways onto the beach - by sea or steps and as it wasn't very big the children could have some freedom on the beach, but always be in sight. 

Monday we headed into the marina.  We decided to go in early so that we could get our bearings and get Offbeat securely moored before I left on Tuesday.  There would be plenty for Mark to do whilst I was gone as he had to transform Offbeat from being our sailing boat to a boat safe and fit for two children to live aboard.  This would involve stowing things away, putting netting up around the guard rail and adjusting the pasarrel so they could easily climb on and off.  There was also food shopping to be done as neither of us fancied dragging two young children around a supermarket in 35-40° heat!

Tuesday I headed back to England.  I was looking forward to seeing the family again, albeit a very quick whistle stop tour.  It was lovely to see them all and spend time with Millie before I headed off again.

Early Wednesday morning Jamie, Olivia and Finlay's dad, picked me and took us to the airport.  To say they were excited would be an understatement, they were buzzing!  There was so much that would be 'firsts' for them they couldn't decide what they were looking forward to the most.

Excited little people!
I will never forget their excitement as we headed to the departure lounge and they watched as our plane was being prepared, or the moment we took off and they realised we were in the air. I think that moment will stay with me forever. Luckily it was a clear day, so the flight didn't seem to take too long as they spent most of it looking out of the window.

As soon as we arrived at the marina and met Mark it was ice cream, drink and swimming pool and there they stayed until early evening! 

Off for bread and croissants 
We had a wonderful time with the grandchildren and soon fell into a routine.  Mark would get up with Finlay and off they'd go to the bakers for fresh bread and croissants.  I think the little old lady in the bakers took a shine to Finlay as he always came back with a little something extra. This gave me and Olivia time to get up leisurely and get ready for the day.

We had hoped to take Offbeat out one night and sleep at anchor but the weather wasn't going to let us.  Although it was beautiful sunshine and incredibly hot, the afternoon sea breeze was crazy and as they hadn't been out on the boat before, we didn't want to put them off by getting seasick.

So, instead we spent our days either at the beach or at the swimming pool.  It was lovely to see them enjoying themselves so much, even if I did spend 6 hours in the swimming pool one day!  Evenings were spent either at the marina restaurant or on the boat where we played games, watched the sunset and looked at the stars. 

Night out!

Fun in the sun!

Crazy golf and dinosaurs 
We did agree on a change of scenery one day and spent a happy afternoon playing crazy golf in a dinosaur park.  There wasn't many people there, which was a good thing as we were not the most coordinated of players, but Olivia soon got the hang of it and beat us all.

Sun setting on a great holiday

All too soon the holiday was over and it was time to head back to England.  I think it's safe to say they had a good time as they want to come back again next year!

Wednesday 13 November 2019

Early August - a Week of Highs and Lows

Gorgeous Egos
30th July Soller to Cala Egos
We had a lovely 3½ hour sail downwind from Soller, on 1st reef and averaging 5kn. After passing Isla Dragonera, looking even more dragon-like than our first passing it, we found the beautiful Cala Egos. This small cliff-ringed cove was fairly crowded but we got a nice slot 200m off the tiny beach. And as the sun went behind a tall cliff we got some much appreciated shade from what has been relentless sun for many days. 

A boat the size of a hotel. But with just two guests!

Teresa was spoiled in her hobby of superyacht spotting by the arrival of Rising Sun - the biggest one we had shared an anchorage with. She informed me that its only guests were Katie Perry and Orlando Bloom. It looked the size of a decent hotel, so I guessed they must have a big entourage.
The woods behind Cala Egos

The usual evening exodus meant it was very quiet and peaceful in the morning.Teresa was beside herself when she spotted the two celebrities (I hate myself for even using that word) sunbathing on the beach before the crowds arrived. We enjoyed ourselves swimming and went for a walk through the beautiful woods behind the beach.

Looking down on the gorgeous Cala Egos

Back to the Rat Race

1st August Cala Egos - Las Illetas (Portals Nous).
We left Cala Egos reluctantly, vowing to return, and had a nice 3 hour sail into Palma Bay before motoring to our chosen anchorage. Palma Bay is a lot more built up than we had got used to and busy with far more boats.The anchorage at Portals Nous was crowded, with boats jockeying for a place, the waves quite lumpy, and the shoreline unattractive. It was a culture shock after the charms of Cala Egos and underwhelmed us so much that we didn't bother to take photos.

Cala Mayor beach - not our photo

The Worst Day of Our Summer
2nd August Las Illetas to Cala Mayor
Cala Major is the nearest anchorage to Palma and has shops and buses just off the beach, plus Joan Miro’s house on the hill, which I was especially keen to visit. We went ashore in the dinghy, struggling to find a place to land and on the densely packed beach. It was impossible to do our usual trick of pulling it up the beach and finding somewhere to chain it to so I tied it to a buoy marking the dinghy and paddleboard fairway though the swimming zone. Big mistake.

We went to buy groceries and have a little tapas lunch. When we returned the dinghy had been swamped by the waves that were kicked up by the very strong sea breeze that was now blowing. ‘Oh, that’s why they have so many lifeguards on this beach’ I thought as one strode towards me, scolding my stupidity but helping me bail the dinghy out and set every thing right. After a hard row through the waves we made it to Offbeat. Just as my adrenaline was subsiding, Teresa said ‘I think we are closer to those rocks than when we left. Mark, I think there’s a problem! We really are a lot closer to the rocks.’ I checked the GPS which had logged that our anchor had dragged 30m. My heart jumped into my mouth. Time to get the engine on and the anchor up. But as soon as I put any revs on the engine it faded and died. I checked the fuel, changed over the fuel filters, looked for air leaks into the fuel system, removed the air filter, everything that I knew could cause that sort of problem. Nothing fixed it and the anchor was still dragging as the waves and wind increased. I spotted a speed boat heading our way and flagged it down. I explained my problem to the Scandinavian guy in the speedboat and asked if he’d tow us 50m further out to sea. ‘’Sure’’ he replied ‘’but first I have to drop off my daughter on the beach where her mother is waiting. We are late and she will give me a hard time for this.’’ So saying, he took his speedboat about 20m towards the beach and told his daughter to jump in and swim to the beach. She did. ‘’Bloody hell’’ I thought. “Being late might be the least thing she’s going to give you hell for”. He towed us out into deeper water and better holding and even tried to refuse the bottle of wine I insisted on him taking to say thank you to him. Then Teresa bravely swam out over to the anchor to see if had buried properly in the sand, insisting that I was needed on the boat in case something went wrong. Later she pointed out that she noticed I offered him her last bottle of wine, not my last can of beer. “Oh, I didn’t realise, sorry love” I lied. Probably not my finest hour.
Cracked filter bowl 

The next day was taken up with a five hour long engine repair session.After stripping the rest of the fuel system twice, I found that it was two separate and very different faults in the fuel filters, which was a) pretty improbable and b) fooled me completely for four hours, as the filters can be switched over one to the other, so if the fault persists when switching them, it can’t be the filters, right? So, after cleaning out some very fine red dust from one of them (how did it get in there, the fuel looked clean) and replacing the cracked glass bowl in the other I got the engine working properly. I rewarded my efforts with the last can of beer (see, there was a good reason that I kept it back) and had a long siesta.

Escape From Cala Mayor

4th August Cala Mayor to El Arenal 
The swell started building early in the morning and we now know how much more it builds by the afternoon. Foregoing our usual leisurely breakfast, we raised anchor and left the cursed Cala Mayor. We peered into Palma harbour as we passed - the city looks impressive as do the liners and superyachts lined up on the quaysides. There was a huge exodus of boats heading west and south. It was the start of the charter week. The engine took us reliably across the bay with me straining to hear any change in rhythm, any missed beat. No, it was back to its old self. We anchored just outside the harbour wall at El Arenal in a small cala Es Fornas. We had a bit of trouble getting the anchor to set. Just enough trouble to guarantee me another night’s bad sleep, as I vowed that tomorrow I’d sleep tied up safely and securely in a marina.
Anchored off El Arenal

Monday 11 November 2019

Treasures in the mountain - Valldemossa

July 2019

Steeped in old world charm, Valldemosa lies in a valley in the midst of the Tramuntana mountain range and is the highest village in Mallorca.  It's a small village, with approximately 2,000 inhabitants, but home to thousands of visitors during  the course of the year. 

The last time I had visited Valldemosa was with my Mum, just over thirty years ago, so for me it was a poignant trip down memory lane.

Views of the plains of Mallorca and
 on to the Mediterranean 
Set in beautiful countryside, with panoramic views of Mallorca and the Mediterranean, it is a popular destination for tourists and hikers.The picturesque streets of Valldemosa are decorated with an abundance of brightly coloured bunting, giving you a feeling that life in the village is one long fiesta.  

Decorated streets of Valldemosa 
It's the sort of place that is perfect for sitting in the shade, with a glass of wine and tapas and watch the world go by.  Which is exactly what we did before exploring the streets and soaking up the views!

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Valldemosa's claim to fame is that Chopin and George Sands stayed at Real Cartuja de Valldemosa, the infamous Carthusian monastery where they spent a winter in 1836 and where George Sands wrote 'A Winter in Majorca'.  The monastery is open to tourists and houses the piano that Chopin used whilst in residence.  I think our claim to fame maybe that we were possibly the only tourists who didn't go in the monastery!

Santa Catalina shrine

Valldemosa is also famous for being the birthplace of Santa Catalina Thomas, the patron saint of Mallorca. Walking past the houses through the village, most have a plaque by the front door which depicts Santa Catalina.  Whilst exploring the backstreets of the village, we came across her birthplace which has been turned into a shrine. Situated in an unassuming position, the shrine is made of carved stone, set in a beautiful gated garden. At first we didn't know what it was as there are no markings or plaques and only by doing a bit of research did I find out its significance. 

Palau del Rei Sanç 
The other place of note in Valldemosa is the Jardins Rei Joan Carles. Set between the monastery and Palau del Rei Sanç (Palace of King Sancho) they provide tourists with shelter from the blazing sun and tranquillity from the hustle and bustle of the streets. A mixture of cultivated plants and foliage intertwined with intricate ironwork, set against clear blue sky, the gardens were quite beautiful. 

Jardins Rei Joan Carles

I spent some time in these gardens, thinking about the last time I'd been in Valldemosa with my Mum and how little had changed in the village, but how our lives had changed so much in the last 30+ years. If anyone had told me then that I would be living on a boat, sailing the Mediterranean I would have laughed in their face. But, as my Mum always said, follow your dreams and live your life to the full and that's exactly what we plan to do!