06 September 2010 | Cala Mitjana, Mallorca
The islands of Menorca and Mallorca are two very beautiful, low-lying islands with sheer cliffs that go down to the sea. They are green on top with vegetation and trees while the cliffs themselves sport various shades of red, gray, brown, and black. As I finish reading Tolkien's trilogy "Lord of the Rings", it reminds me of a place where hobbits would live.
The islands have fissures, or cracks, that extend inwards of a quarter to half a mile into the interior of the island. It is these fissures, or calas as they are called, that sailors look for as anchoring spots. The rest of each island has a flat coastline with deep waters that are unsuitable for anchoring. The problem with the calas is that there are few bends to them as they extend inward. So any swell that is out in the main waters is often allowed to enter the cala unfettered and sometimes that swell will build as it approaches shallow water. Also, the swell will bounce off the steep walls of the calas and find its way deep back into the otherwise protected waters giving rise to a washing machine effect.
Therein lies part of the challenge of exploring the Ballearic Islands - trying to find comfortable anchorages. There are a few bays that offer protection, but they are few and far between and certainly in the minority. Our first anchorage in Mallorca became a test of our anchoring skill. As we entered Porto Christo it was apparent that this was one very tight anchorage. Both s/v Sarah Grace (a British flagged boat we had seen at two anchorages in Menorca) and s/v Juno were tucked in the anchorage - both of them used two anchors to limit their swing. Sarah Grace ran an anchor off her stern while Juno chose a "Bahama mooring" arrangement.
A buoyed swimming area took up half of the river mouth (this anchorage is not a cala, but deep and narrow similar to a cala). Three, large, catamaran, tripper boats entered and left with tourists and all of the usual port traffic. Between the traffic and the wake generated by all the traffic, the situation was quite unsettled. Eventually we decided to drop an anchor and run a line ashore. The cliffs offered few shore-tie possibilities, but we were able to eventually locate a rock we could wrap a shore line around. The anchoring was no problem. But running a line ashore took us close to one hour. The wake/swell made the dinghy approach to the cliffs hazardous. Plus the lava-like cliffs seemed to have claws that grabbed our double-plait shore line.
Once we did get the shore line secure (and I won't go into all the gory details here!), we settled down for a much-needed lunch. But after lunch we had to make several visits back to shore to deal with chafe guards. Even during the one hour of lunch our line was chafed quite a bit! When I was back in America last Feb. I managed to run down some old fire hose from the Maple Valley Fire Dept. and we wrapped that fire hose around a few rags around the shore line. All in all we are looking at probably two or more hours getting 'settled' in Porto Christo.
But it was worth it. The water was dirty, but the town was rather cute and fun...and the anchoring experience was worthwhile. We left after a couple of days to make for our current anchorage - Cala Mitjana. This anchorage was even more challenging!! There was little to no room for us in this tiny cala that is probably three boatlenghts (135') wide and 400' long. (That might sound big, but it isn't!!) This small cala actually turns inside to parallel the shoreline, so it is 'suuposed' to be protected.
It took Juno close to 3 hours to get settled after wrapping their dinghy painter around their prop. We actually fared much better. We dropped a bow anchor and a secondary off the stern and were done in less than an hour. But not before much strategizing, worrying, and the like.
The two anchoring exercises plus learning Juno's "Bahama mooring" has increased our ability in anchoring. I am not sure if our confidence has built, but at least we have more options available. We still need to try the Bahama mooring and we still want to try running a yoke off our bow anchor rode to see if we can winch our stern off the breeze to face a swell bow-on. This latter we have tried, but not successfully.
Meanwhile, we plan to explore this beautiful little cala littered with expensive villas before setting off for Palma de Mallorca - the big city on this island.