With the Med sailing season coming to an end, we bid a sad farewell to the idyllic Balearic Islands in early October. Surviving these popular islands in August and September had been easier than we expected. We slipped the buoy lines at S’Espalmador and set a southwesterly course for the overnight passage to the Spanish mainland where we had booked a winter berth at Yacht Port Cartagena.
The city of Cartagena is located in the southeastern Spain region of Campo de Cartagena and is the country’s six largest city. A natural harbor, it has a long history having been inhabited by the Phoenicians, Romans, Vandals, Visigoths, Muslims and the christian Kingdom of Castile; all of which left their mark. We experienced the modern Port of Cartagena – which is the home of Spain’s Mediterranean navy, a major cargo terminal, commercial shipyard, cruise destination, and recreational boating center.
Mira and crew arrived in Cartagena with a long to-do list – beginning with a haul out at the adjacent ASCAR boat yard which was built originally for repair of a local fishing fleet. The yard had a good reputation for professional work at reasonable rates and, most importantly, had a travel lift large enough to lift Mira. She received new anti-foul paint, new zinc anodes, and small, gelcoat repairs.
Job done, it felt great to have Mira safely back in the water. After our time in the loud dirty boat yard, we were eager for one last sail before our winter hiatus. Further west from Cartagena we dropped the hook for the last time in the soft sandy bottom at La Azohia, a quaint little beach town. Water was still warm enough for swimming and kayaking along massive cliffs in brilliantly clear turquoise water.
The next day, with winds on the nose, we motored back to Cartagena and tucked Mira into her berth for the winter.
We had budgeted about a month’s time to explore Cartagena and the surrounding Spanish region before flying home to the States. Time passed quickly as we balanced fun while ticking off our long list of accumulated boat projects and winterization procedures.
A massive cleaning of the entire boat consumed several days.
The captain attempting a double-braid eye splice. Sails removed and stowed in the third cabin for the winter.
We did manage to complete our projects while making time for marina fun, new friends, and shenanigans.
The weekly Sunday barbecue for cruisers.
An old friend from home dropped by for a weekend.
In our time in Cartagena, we met some wonderful people. Kindred spirits from all over the world. We shared stories, maintenance tips, played games, dined, drank and laughed until the wee hours. Sadly, we all have our own schedules and destinations – so we never know if or when we might see folks again …. social media has become a wonderful tool for far-flung sailor buddies to stay connected. Fair winds and we will never forget you! Such is the nomadic sailing life ….
Ibiza, another one of the Balearic Islands of Spain, is well-known for its lively nightlife and its outposts of major European nightclubs – especially in the towns of San Antonio and Ibiza. But, there are also quiet villages and beautiful sandy coves surrounded by pine-covered hills on Ibiza. We were in search of those during our two week visit in September!
Bright blue summer skies and barely a whisper of wind greeted us at 6 am when we left Port Andraitx on Mallorca. A quiet motor-sail followed for the next 10 hours across the Balearic Sea to our first anchorage on Ibiza at Ses Salines. Little did we know that we dropped anchor on one of the most lively and popular beaches on the island. But, we were looking for a quieter spot – so we were off again early the next morning.
Es Vedrá is a majestic rock that juts into the sky off the west coast of Ibiza. It looked nothing like its mysterious reputation when we first saw it on a sparkling clear blue day. Legends of the island of Es Vedrá include UFO sightings and magnetic instruments gone awry due to the magnetism surrounding this spot. Today the island is still a meeting place for meditation and healing energy.
We just enjoyed the beauty and quiet of a solitary anchorage for a few hours.
Es Vedrá is not a suitable nighttime anchorage, so we sailed easily back to Ibiza and anchored in Cala D’Hort – and still had front row seats to one of Ibiza’s most beautiful natural spectacles!
We continued up the west coast of Ibiza and discovered a jewel of a cove – Cala Portinax with beautiful beaches and a protected swimming area. Very developed, but pleasant in a busy, summer holiday kind of way. We were able to practice our precision anchoring also. There were only a few small sandy spots suitable among lots of posidonia, Mediterranean sea grass.
We woke up Sunday morning to predictions of a massive summer storm headed towards the Balearics at the end of the week. Knowing that there are very few marinas on ibiza – we made a few phone calls and luckily found a spot in Marina Santa Eulalia. Ultimately, we were forced to stay in the marina for 7 days – waiting for the weather to pass. Luckily, there were lots of other friendly cruisers there, and the coastal town of Santa Eulalia was adorable.
Before the weather settled in, we were able to explore the town and also nearby Ibiza Town.
A few days after we were settled in at the Marina Santa Eulalia, the forecasted ominous weather hit. We were very uncomfortable for two days or so – happy to be in a marina, despite being a little precarious just outside the seawall.
As soon as the weather broke, we headed across from the Balearic Islands to Cartagena, a coastal town on the mainland of Spain.
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Our next stop in the Balearic Islands was Menorca. Twenty-five miles northeast of Mallorca, Menorca is the 2nd largest of the Balearics and has a reputation for being a bit quieter and less frenetic than the other Spanish islands. Still ultra-popular with tourists, but with a more laid-back vibe. We fell in love with its beautiful beaches, isolated coves, and sweeping views from massive stone cliffs.
We raised anchor around 8:30 am from Pollensa, Mallorca, and motor-sailed (once again) until we reached Menorca in Cala Degollador – just outside of the town of Ciutadella – well before sunset.
Cala Degollador was partially protected from the 15-20 knots of SE winds we were experiencing, but the massive ferries that rolled in from Barcelona and Mallorca kicked up huge waves making this anchorage a bit rolly – even for our catamaran! The monohulls around us were really rocking!
Ciutadella is a beautiful historic town known for its old quarter and medieval cobblestoned streets. Its buildings are an eclectic mix of Italian architecture – both baroque and gothic style.
Menorca’s coastline is peppered with dozens of calas (coves) to explore. Some calas are narrow with soaring cliffs while others are wide and open with sandy beaches and bottoms. We started our tour by heading east along the southern coast.
A strong NE wind was forecast for the next days so we searched for a cala with lots of room to anchor and preferably a sandy bottom! Cala Son Saura seemed to fit the bill and fortunately, when we arrived there was plenty of room in the wide open cala. We had a delightful evening on Mira entertaining a German couple and a Spanish couple we met while swimming around the cala. The next day – hordes of sailboats descended upon Son Saura – all looking for safe refuge from the forecasted winds.
Once the weather cleared, we continued along the south coast and discovered Cala En Porter. Rounding a towering cliff from the sea, we literally gasped. Vertical, imposing white limestone lined a cove filled with crystal clear turquoise water. At the end of the cala was a big, white sandy beach with the town balanced up on one side.
As we nosed our way into Cala En Porter that first morning, there was not a lot of room to anchor. Lots of sailboats packed into this beautiful cala on this sunny August day. We were forced to drop our anchor in 45 ft of water near the back of the pack. But, our trusty Rocna held easily and firmly, and we settled in to enjoy. The next 3 days were spent paddle boarding, snorkeling, swimming, and sunning – loving life in the Balearics!
Cova D’en Xoroi is a natural cave carved into the cliffside around the corner from our cala. Legend tells the store of a turkish pirate who hid in the cave for years, but upon being discovered, jumped to the sea and was never seen again. Today, there are a series of outdoor bars and terraces connected by caverns and corridors. The view of the Mediterranean Sea is spectacular!
Our Menorcan sailing journey continued up the east coast – stopping at Isla Colom, a small natural island just off the coast of the popular resort village of Es Grau. Again, we were able to spend several quiet days swimming, exploring the small, rocky beaches and hills of Isla Colom.
On the north coast, we arrived at Fornells, a beautiful fishing village located in a deep protected bay and was our next night’s anchorage.
Once again Mediterranean weather intervened, nasty summer thunderstorms with high winds, heavy rain and lightning were predicted so we weighed anchor and headed quickly down the west coast back to Cala Degollador with a plan to try to med-moor to the cliffs for more protection. Our first experience of this type began with Glenn in the dinghy to attach two mooring lines through the holes in the rocks while Pam manned the helm onboard Mira. Once back aboard Mira, Glenn dropped the anchor and backed up to the cliff. Pam jumped off the stern to swim the mooring lines back to the boat and tying them off – all in all, about an hour of time – but, Success!! Mira was anchored firmly and had 2 stern lines attached to the cliff. We were very proud of our team work and new skill.
Once the storms passed through and the weather cleared, we said good-bye to Menorca and were off to our next destination!
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The Balearic Islands lie in a cluster 50 miles east of the Spanish mainland in the Mediterranean. At the end of July, we sailed from Cartagena on the southern coast of Spain to the largest of the Balearics, Mallorca. We skipped over the westernmost islands of Ibiza and Formentera, knowing that we would visit later in the summer. The quiet motor-sail was 196 miles and took us about 30 hours.
We fell in love with Mallorca almost immediately! It is a beautiful island of stunning contrasts and deserved to be explored by our sailboat as well as by land. In the north, the towering Tramuntana mountains rise straight from the sea, and in the south, rolling hills, sandy beaches and white limestone cliffs dominate. In addition to the amazing natural beauty, Mallorca also features the cosmopolitan city of Palma, and quaint port towns with cobblestoned streets, casual restaurants, bars, and jaw-dropping views. The port towns of Andraitx, Soller and Pollensa were just some of our favorites!
We spent almost a month sailing and exploring Mallorca, but can’t wait to return!
Our first week on Mallorca we sailed completely around the island, poking our “nose” in the stunning calas (coves) that dot the entire breathtaking coastline.
Our land exploration of Mallorca began with a walking tour of Palma, the largest city and capital of the Balearic Islands. At first glance Palma seems quite modern and cosmopolitan, but as we wandered into the heart of Palma, the town became much more interesting. From the awe-inspiring Gothic Cathedral to narrow, winding streets to markets filled with produce and local products to delicious local restaurants – there was something to see at every turn.
Every imaginable kind & color of fruit, vegetable & meat at Palma’s Mercado Olivar.
Mira was nestled in Puerto Soller, one of our favorite anchorages in Mallorca. It is a cozy beach town encircling a perfect turquoise bay. Protected from the sometimes vicious winds of the Mediterranean, Soller is a sailor’s heaven and haven.
Determined to continue exploring Mallorca by land as well as by sea, we rented a Vespa for two days to tour the renowned west coast of Mallorca.
Our second day of Vespa touring we headed south from Soller. Narrow, cliff-side roads wound us through some amazing coastal Mallorcan towns.
NEXT BLOG POST – OUR NEXT ISLAND IN THE BALEARICS, MENORCA!
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All four of our loved ones swept in late one afternoon in early August to spend a week with us. The sun was just setting over Andraitx – a lovely cala just north of Palma where Mira was docked.
To get into that relaxing vacation mood, we spent our first day relaxing and swimming at the scenic Gran Folies Beach Club in Cala Llamp.
Early the next morning we sailed up to the northwest corner of Mallorca to spend the day and night in Cala Sa Calobra. One of the most stunning anchorages in the Balearics – Sa Calobra is enclosed by steep rocky cliffs and two small pebbly beaches. A footpath and tunnel connect the beaches and allow a gorgeous view of the turquoise, crystal clear water.
We first heard about coasteering in the Azores and were eager to give it a try! Coasteering is exploring the rocky coastline via swimming, cliff jumping, snorkeling and cave exploration. We spent the day with a local guide, José, near Cala Monjo on the southern coast of Mallorca.
Adrian Quetglas, an outstanding restaurant with a Michelin star, was the spot for our last night on Mallorca. His 7 course tasting menu was locally sourced and delicious!
The next day we jumped on a shuttle flight to Barcelona for the last 3 nights of vacation. Filled our days with sightseeing, wandering, shopping, eating, drinking and being silly – it was a perfect vacation!
NEXT POST: Our summer sailing Mira in the Balearic Islands.
So …. here we are in Europe, sailing Mira in the Mediterranean! Our loose plan is to sail Mira to the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Explore their waters and coastlines, but, also leave Mira and discover Europe by car, train or bus.
Our first land adventure was a two week car trip through Portugal. We LOVED Portugal! Driving is definitely the way to go. There are so many little towns and villages just begging for you to drive through and stumble upon – it was magical! The people were super friendly – even to those of us that massacre the Portuguese language. The food and wine were fresh, delicious and inexpensive (!) – what more do you need?
A map of our driving itinerary is below. We left Mira in a marina in Gibraltar and made our way in a big circle – heading north first, briefly through Spain and then followed the coastline all the way around Portugal. Our stops were in Ronda, Seville, Douro Valley (Pinhão), Amarante, Porto, Viana do Castelo, Aveiro, Nazaré, Lisbon, Belém, Sintra, Cascais, Boca do Inferno, Lisbon, Sagres, and Tavira on the Algarve Coast and back to Gibraltar.
is an ancient town that is one of the most visited in southern Spain. Ronda perches dramatically on two sides of a 100 meter deep canyon through which the River Tejo flows.
is the southern Spain that everyone imagines. Perpetually sunny, blue skies, beautiful architecture, with an old bull-fighting arena and ancient ruins. Seville is bustling with activity – busy tapas bars, dramatic flamenco dancing, and live music everywhere. The historic center, where we stayed, is laced with winding alleyways that are magic to explore and get lost in.
The Douro Valley, Portugal
is one of the most ancient wine regions in the world, but actually, the lush green mountains, valleys and the winding river are what I remember most. We stayed in a lovely Quinta (picture a b&b vineyard) perched on the side of the mountain close to the lovely riverside town of Pinhão. A stunning view from our balcony.
is a romantic town whose reflection on the water of the beautiful San Gonzalo bridge drew us in. A walk through the church, squares and terraces of the town preceded a delicious Portuguese lunch of freshly caught, grilled fish.
is a charming city that straddles the River Douro with colorful traditional fishing boats constantly on the move. Its cobblestoned streets are lined with squares of orange-roofed buildings, beautiful monuments and landmarks.
Viana do Castelo, Portugal
is a city situated in a picturesque setting, nestled in between the Rio Lima and the steep Santa Luzia hills and the rugged Atlantic Ocean coastline.
is a city on the west coast built along a natural lagoon called the Ria de Aveiro. Colorful moliceiro canal boats navigate through the middle of the Venice-like historic town.
is one of the most popular seaside resorts on the central western coast of Portugal, known as the Silver Coast. Nazaré is best known for its high breaking waves that form due to a nearby massive underwater canyon. Numerous surfing records have been set here. The most recent unvalidated world record was set in 2018 when a Portuguese surfed an 115 foot wave, trough to crest!
is the perfect combination of fascinating history, trendy culinary scene, vibrant night life, stunning vistas and charming neighborhoods, begging to be explored. We walked our way through Lisbon and enjoyed all of this and more!
was the original location of Lisbon’s shipyards and docks – so, of course, we had to spend the day there. Today it displays the rich seafaring heritage with museums, monuments, and extravagant buildings.
is a delightful town just a day trip from Lisbon. The highlight of Sintra is the Palácio Nacional da Pena – one of Europe’s finest palaces with a brightly-colored exterior and an interior restored to its 1910 appearance.
Cabo da Roca, Portugal
is the westernmost point of mainland Europe, whose coordinates are well-known by those sailing along the coast of Portugal.
is a delightful Portuguese fishing town and is located next to the some of the finest beaches in Portugal. Historically, Cascais was the summer retreat of Portuguese nobility, and today Europeans and Portuguese alike flock to this charming town for their holiday.
is the extreme western tip of the Algarve coast of Portugal. The Algarve Coast contains more than 150 beaches and stretches 200 km along the entire southern coast of Portugal. The beaches in the Algarve range from small rocky beaches surrounded by towering cliffs in the west to long, wide sandy beaches in the east. With its temperate climate and wide range of nature, beaches and partying, the Algarve is a premier summer destination for many Europeans.
is one of the most charming towns in the Algarve. Located on the far eastern end, Tavira reminded us of a quaint, white-washed Greek village.
Tavira in the Algarve was our last stop before heading back to Gibraltar to return to Mira and head off for our next sailing destination – the Balearic Islands – Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera!
Again, we say – the Azores are our favorite place we’ve sailed to – EVER!!
Sao Miguel is the largest island in the Azores, and if you could only visit one of these magnificent 9 islands, we would be hard-pressed, but Sao Miguel is the one to choose. Sao Miguel is the ultimate nature lover’s paradise brimming with velvety green fields, sparkling volcanic lakes and craggy volcanoes. Nature beckons from all sides – begging to be explored, swam and hiked, and it has an international airport. Ponta Delgada, the largest and capital city of the Azores, was the perfect spot to keep Mira and launch more than 7 days of island exploration.
Lagoa das Sete Cidades is the iconic picture everyone sees when they google the Azores. The scene is even more beautiful in person, if you can possibly imagine. Two amazing panoramas capture the entire vista of the 12 km crater of Sete Cidade. Vista do Rei (the King’s view) is the historic view from one end of the twin lake. But, our favorite sight is the Miradouro da Boca do Inferno with a 360 degree view encompassing the twin lake, much of the crater and two other lakes, Rasa and Santiago.
The twin lake with one blue and one green side was born from rainwater that filled its almost perfectly round crater, left behind from a collapsed volcano. But, I prefer the romantic version of the origin of the lake. The tragic love story goes like this. Long ago, a Princess and a shepherd fell madly in love. The Princess had been betrothed to another, and her father, the King, refused to allow them to see each other. At their last heartbreaking meeting, their flood of tears filled the lake at Sete Cidades – a blue side from the tears of the blue-eyed Princess and a green side from the tears of the green-eyed Shepherd. So Sweet!!
Miradouro means viewpoint in Portuguese. All over the island, there are signs that point to the “Miradouro”. Like Pavlov’s dogs, we learned quickly. Upon spying a “Miradouro” sign, we would careen wildly off the winding roads and were continually rewarded with astounding sights.
Why are there so many miradouros? Thousands of years ago, the towering volcanic peaks of Sao Miguel became dormant, collapsed and created yawning craters all over the island. Abundant rainfall filled the craters or “caldeiros” with water, forming magnificent lakes. The ridge lines surrounding the caldeiros, yielded breath-taking viewpoints. Santa Iria, Pico do Barossa, Escalvado, and Lagoa do Fogo, just to name a few of the captivating vistas.
Sao Miguel is like Jurassic Park! The stunning backdrop of Sao Miguel literally dripped bands of color. Lush, green, oversized ferns and trees. Pools and cascading waterfalls in the Caldeira Velha were striped with bright orange minerals. Flowers in the Terra Nostra Garden were brilliant in every color of the rainbow, fed by the volcanic soil. Smooth green glass shimmered in the Lagoa Congro. Hydrangeas as big as my head and dense shrubs taller than Mira. Left us speechless!
Lagoa das Furnas
Parque Natural da Ribeira dos Caldeiroes is a park that stretches along the Ribeira dos Caldeiroes on the slopes of the beautiful mountain range, Serra da Tronqueira. The forestry flourishes with large-sized tree ferns, cedars and hydrangeas in abundance. Abandoned stone water mills dating from the 16th century perch on the edge of the river. Rambunctious waterfalls tumble and cascade over the rocks and boulders. A picturesque spot to launch the drone!
There is 1 Cow for every person on Sao Miguel. Cows and bulls are a big deal in the Azores. There are statues and monuments everywhere. Beef and milk products are used locally and for export. Seafood, unique fruits and vegetables, wine, and tea are some of the other natural resources that the Azores are blessed to have.
I am fascinated by the black and white tile mosaic streets and sidewalks all over the Azores. Turns out that the delicately designed walks are called “Calcada Portuguesa” and can be found throughout Portugal. Talented, and very patient, craftsmen chisel black volcanic basalt and white limestone into tiny flat squares and painstakingly place them on a gravel bedding to form beautiful designs. The Azores have no shortage of volcanic rock – so their patterns seem to be mostly black. And, I loved that every street in Sao Miguel seemed to have its own unique pattern!