Mallorca is a sailor’s dream
For Canadians, chartering in Mallorca is a breeze, and sailing there is heavenly — with lighter winds and calm, crystal-clear water and many anchorages awaiting visitors on the south side of the island, along with powdery, white-sand beaches everywhere you go.
Many of the charter companies are centred in Palma, the capital of Mallorca, which is the largest of the three main Balearic Islands that includes nearby Menorca and Ibiza. The islands are found a short distance off the Spanish coast in the Mediterranean.
About 800,000 people live on Mallorca, an island that is only about 75 miles wide by 100 miles long. Most live in or near the capital city of Palma, which is the centre for nightlife, shopping and viewing the breathtaking city.
The ancient city is very scenic, with its old, historic area of narrow cobblestone streets that meet at central squares, where people gather to eat and stroll in the evening. The city is complete with all possible shopping experiences from designer duds to the lesser priced goods. And of course, Mallorca is famous for its gray pearl, which is ubiquitous throughout the city. The airport is only a 10-minute cab or bus ride away, and is one of the busiest in all of Spain.
The city sits on Palma Bay, a huge protected area where sailors can get their sea legs and get used to their charter boat before venturing out into the expansive Mediterranean.
The marinas are tightly packed these days, and so-called “Mediterranean mooring” is common, with the boats backed stern-to against the dock instead of lying alongside, which is more common in North America.
Mediterranean mooring saves space on crowded docks. Boats are reversed into their parking spots, making use of bow thrusters to bring the bow around as the vessel is backing up.
Usually, marinas have what is called a “lazy” line that helps define every slip on the pier, along with the pedestal for water and electrical hookup.
This lazy line is picked up out of the water at the stern when the back of the boat is tied off and the line is walked to the front of the boat and cleated, to keep the bow straight and secure. These heavier lazy lines are fastened to the bottom by cement pads.
The use of too many anchors in a crowded marina could mean that lines get tangled. The lazy lines prevent this, and make the job of docking a lot easier.
Once the dock lines are released, it’s a 10-minute motor out of the safe harbour entrance, past the fuel docks, some massive private yachts of the rich and famous — is that a horse stable on the forward deck of that yacht? — and past the large ocean-going cruise ships into picturesque Palma Bay.
From there, it’s clear sailing all the way around the island.
As you sail through the large bay, the city of Palma and the imposing 13th-century Santa Maria Cathedral that was built near the shoreline of the city, slips away, although jets still can be seen overhead, landing at the nearby airport.
Eventually, the city skyline disappears, giving way to some rocky shorelines opening up to protected bays, with pretty towns and beaches below, and houses dotting the rising hills in the distance.
Entering these bays, you can first see anchorages and mooring fields. These protected areas open up to towns that seem to be carved into the rocky shorelines, with plentiful beaches, shopping and restaurants only a short dinghy ride away.
And everywhere you go there is that inviting, crystal-clear water. It’s time for a swim, and some snorkelling. Swimming areas near shore are designated by buoys.
Local marine charts and a cruising book make finding these tucked-away places easy. In many of these areas, there are more mooring fields than anchorages. In some places, a guy in a motorboat will meet you and help with tying off. Costs for the night are about 25-30 Euros.
One such town is Sant Elm, which is located on the western-most tip of Mallorca, near the island of Dragonera, which is a natural state park. It’s a beach resort town, with a waterfront hotel, a sandy shoreline and small shops and restaurants which hug the coast.
A dinghy can be easily dragged ashore on the public beach near the waterfront hotel. The swimming area is marked off with buoys, and dinghies are not allowed into these areas.
There is hiking on top of the rocky cliffs that line the bay to the east and overlook the town, and moorings are plentiful. This town offers a safe harbour, one of the last for a while along the coast.
Turning the corner from Sant Elm means going along the northern coastline of Mallorca, which is more mountainous and the shoreline is more rugged, with higher rocky cliffs that don’t open up as much to protected bays.
Heading back east along the southern coast of Mallorca, past the wide expansive Palma Bay, is the town of Sant Jordi, another beach resort style of town that is popular with fishermen and is closest to the island of Cabrera, a popular stop for tourists and cruisers.
The island of Cabrera is an uninhabited national state park, and a permit is required for visiting yachts. There is an old castle there and many hiking trails. There are sight-seeing tours that leave the harbour in Sant Jordi.
There are some fabulous beaches in Sant Jordi, which has its own protected harbour and lots of moorings and some anchorages. This town is close to a popular anchorage called Platja des Trenc, which offers miles of white-sandy beaches.
Here, you can walk almost forever on the sand.
Platja des Trenc is a crowded anchorage, with yachts holding fast in the sand close to the shoreline. You must watch for the coral in the area and not anchor in these darker patches that can be seen in the water, or risk a fine. These coral areas are protected.
The nearby town of Sant Jordi offers shopping, restaurants, and a large marina with a dinghy dock. Be careful not to land the dinghy near the docks used by the various excursion firms which take tourists the short ride over to nearby Cabrera island.
Fishermen in their unique small boats can be seen coming and going from the harbour, motoring around the many charter boats that are moored in the area. It’s short walk around the shoreline to some of the best beaches in Mallorca. These beaches have lounge chairs and there are small tiki-style huts for some shelter out of the sun. Sailing in the shoulder season in September means that there are no charges for the use of the beach furniture, although that probably changes during the high-season in July and August.
The shoulder season of June or September is a great time to charter, with moorings or anchorages less busy, and the pace in the towns a little less hectic.
Shopping and the nightlife is still in full swing, but there are less crowds. Beaches are nearly desserted, and the water is still very warm and inviting with temperatures around 28 to 30 degrees Celsius.
Mallorca may be a longer plane ride away for Canadians, but it’s a world away for sailors who are looking for some easy sailing, very scenic places to visit and so much to do.