What to expect when sailing Mallorca’s West Coast.
We have lived in Mallorca now for just over one year. We arrived last August after completing another ocean crossing in our Rival 32 from The British Virgin Islands. Why Mallorca? I here you ask? Well as a lot of you already know we worked for The Moorings for three years in the Caribbean and a chance encounter with one of our bosses landed us the possibility of setting up and running The Moorings and Sunsail base in Palma de Mallorca. As we were already thinking of heading over to Mallorca to be closer to family and friends whilst not loosing the sunshine, this seemed to be an unbelievable opportunity not to be missed. So, after getting Troskala through another re-fit in the BVI’s we set sail and made it to Mallorca.
I do not wish to go through the challenges we have faced over the past year in Mallorca, but all I can say is that is has been rewarding if not extremely busy, and therefore here we come to our subject in hand, exploring the West Coast of this magnificent island with the first few days we had off in 10 months.
Day 1: Palma to Camp Del Mar.
We were extremely excited to be finally leaving the port of Palma on a sail that would last more than one day as we would normally have to be back in Palma the following day to oversea the business. Now we were to embark on a six day cruise taking in and getting to know the detail behind some of the top spots to visit on the South and West coast. This trip would fall in line with proposed new flotilla for 2018. Anyway, back to leaving the Port of Palma.
There is always an air of relief when departing a large port. For us it was even more significant as we were leaving the city behind. Don’t get me wrong, we love Palma but sometimes after not living in a city for many years to being thrown in with the inability to escape can be quite frustrating, so here we are leaving this port and heading West to our first night’s stop, which would be Camp Del Mar.
We had left Palma around 14:00. We needed to complete a reasonable 16 nautical mile trip along the South Coast avoiding places like Magaluf and Palma Nova, which is easy to do. Shortly after these developed fade away you make your way around the magnificent lighthouse of Cap de Cala Figuera, one of my favourites. If you were called to draw any lighthouse this would be the a completely adequate representation.
As we rounded the Cap our wind eased and we were back to motor sailing. I was surprised how much wind you gain in the afternoon around Mallorca but somedays this is not existent.
The coastline does become very interesting the further up the West coast you venture. You can make a pass of Port Adriano without looking right. This fairly new man-made super yacht marina monstrosity is very ugly from the sea although off season the rates can be cheap for a 41 monohull and once inside it offers some fake shopping opportunities and overpriced restaurants, but great coffee.
A few miles north of Adriano is the island of Malgrats, it is worth rounding this and not trying to make a shortcut through the cut of Illa des Conills as do the locals, the water is very shallow and with any swell you will touch bottom and not on sand. This marks the start of one of the first major bays, which is Santa Ponsa. This is great stop for lunch, the marina is a reasonable size if this is what you want but personally I would make an anchorage stop in Cala Fornells, which is a much better, cheaper and quite option.
Shortly after we spot to rise of the Tramuntana Mountains, a stunning spectacle. These mountains form the backbone of the island and in 2011 they were awarded UNESCO World Heritage Status. We will see more of these as the week progresses.
We arrived to Camp Del Mar around 3.5 hours after leaving Palma. We averaged around 5 knots per hour, which was find for us and comfortable for Troskala.
Camp Del Mar is a great little anchorage and really not so little. There can be a small swell occasionally but we have come to accept this in Mallorca and that is what makes it a level 3 sailing destination which is defined by the distance between anchorage and certain weather conditions. Camp Del Mar is ideal as you have the ability to either tuck yourself into the North side or South side depending on what the swell is doing. we decided to stick out a little bit of swell and anchor in the South side next to a lovely beach bar and swimming area.
Camp Del Mar is good for a one night stop over. The bar and restaurant are superbly located of a small rocky outcrop. The best times for me, personally, are watching the sunset or walking on the beach in the morning before the tourists arrive. There are a coupled of large hotels situated on the beach front that can put some guests off but really this is a large bay and you can choose to be either close to the action or further away from it.
We enjoyed a small walk around the town. There is a small supermarket for provisions but it is not cheap so it is advised to shop before leaving Palma. We sipped a vinto tinto at the waterside bar before dinghying along the bay whilst enjoying the sunset. It has to be said that the best views in Camp Del Mar are looking out to sea in the evening with the sun setting. We will return to this magical place.
Day 2: Camp Del Mar – Cala Foradada – Port d’ Soller
We experienced a comfortable night at anchor and woke up around 07:30. We set off at 08:00 to head to our first stop located 12.2 NM North of Camp Del Mar.
I was especially looking forward to this trip that would take in the stunning sights of Dragonera and the Tramuntana. It was not long before we started experiencing these stunning cliffs, which you can sail very close to experiencing the magnificence with 35 meters of water underneath.
We experienced a fickle wind on our way up the West coast but thats not to say we did not sail. We found that heading above 2 NM aways from the coast line we experienced a steady 7-10 knots and could manage a short sail before the wind depleted and the motor had to be used. I don’t mind to be honest as we were both mesmerised by the sheer beauty of this coastline.
After sailing past Dragonera, through the cut between the main land and Illa Mitjana we passed the stunning coastal towns of Estellence, Banyalbufar and Port de Valldemossa before spotting the very small peninsular of Punta de sa Foradada. We arrived around 2.5 hours after setting off, which made it a reasonable trip time wise, we dropped anchor at 11:00. On approaching we spotted one of our Sunsail Yachts with very happy customers on board. Nothing really prepares yourself to how stunning the lunch time stop really is. If the conditions are right and the swell is low, this makes for one of the most perfect anchorages to visit on this coastline. Please do bear in mind though that when daytime temperatures reach their peak katabitc winds can be experienced making this a nighttime anchorage to think carefully about. For us, it was all about having a swim in these pristine waters, relaxing and lunching.
There are several anchoring options when you arrive. If you are sailing a catamaran and you are the only yacht you can anchor right next to the landing platform with around 2 meters under your keel. We were the only yacht and with our draft of 1.4m we could tuck ourselves right inside. The second option is the anchor a bit further out in 12 meters but the holding is still good. The winds can be temperamental as they rise and fall over the peninsular so practicing using a stern line is recommended especially if other yachts are in close proximity to you.
For those of you who like history and films it is important to note that Cala Foradada was used as a location in the film The Night Manager.
When you have anchored you can walk up around 150 stairs to a restaurant with stunning views. Restaurant Sa Foradada is famous for its paella dishes but it is recommended that you book especially in season. We went up for a drink only and were greeted by ‘end-of-season’ poor service but the drinks were fantastic and the views breathtaking.
If you do decided to eat Paella and need to walk it off afterwards it is worth hiking the 250 meter more the the residence of Son Marroig where the Austrian Archduke Ludwig spent many years. There is a stunning balcony and a small charge of €3.00 to enter. (portbook Mallorca – Martin Muth) . This is well worth the visit for anyone who wants to get off the yacht and experienced tranquility and views like no other on this coastline.
We stayed in Cala Foradada for longer than we expected as it was such a relaxing spot. Two other yachts joined us but we still had privacy and quietness. I can imagine this place becoming busy in the summer but there are plenty of places to anchor should it be busier. Arriving early is certainly the key in July and August.
We heaved anchor at 15:00 to continue our journey to Port d’soller where we would spend the evening. The wind by now had died completely so we motored quite happy and content after a fantastic soup and salad.
We had been only sailing 45 minutes when we spotted the first lighthouse the marks the entrance to Soller. Navigating into Soller could not be easier. Port d’Soller’s entrance is clearly visible on approach with no hazards to point out.
Soller is one of the best places to spend a night anchored. There are no mooring buoys present but you can either spend a night of the marina Tramuntana and receive friendly service with a glass of either beer or sangria on arrival. We we had enough of both onboard were decided to anchor close to the town quay. The anchoring here is easy with good holding in mud but due to this type of bottom the water clarify is poor so no need to snorkel here.
Soller is a lively town and worth spending a pleasant afternoon. We arrived and dropped anchor at 16:30 giving us ample time to explore this quaint and popular town. It is to be said here that in the peak season (July-August) this place can be very busy and if space is needed booked the marina Tramuntana is recommended. Other months you will normally find an anchorage spot available.
We prepared for our evening in Soller. We were to eat out as it is known the Soller provide amazing restaurant choices and great Sardines. We visited the fuel station to top up on fuel and then made our way into town.
Soller used to be one of the main ports in Mallorca for the exporting of cities fruits to Europe. The town of Soller was located further inland to protect from seafaring invasions. The tramway that was created in 1913 still ferries passengers from the Port to the Town for a small fee.
We enjoyed our night having a romantic meal for two at a restaurant called ‘no-name’. We enjoyed a glorious sunset in this charming place and after a couple more vinos on Troskala we settled in for a relaxed and comfortable evening.
Day 3: Port d’ Soller – Cala Deia – St Elm
We had had a very calm night in Soller. I awoke to a stunning scene and relaxed in the cockpit with a tea and thinking about the the day ahead of us. The plan, which is highlighted below was to depart Soller and travel the 3.7 NM to Cala Deia. This was supposed to stunning spot to spend the morning, lunch and depart.
We took it easy in the morning, unfortunately we had some work to complete before we could set off so we did not haul anchor until 10:00.
The wind was no existent so we motored the short distance. On our way we took a very scenic route hugging the calm coastline and getting some great shots along the way. We greeted kayaker’s and had a brief conversation with local fishermen. The scene was truly amazing and we were looking forward to approaching Cala Deia, which we had heard so much about.
We arrive in Cala Deia around 11:00. We were again the only yacht and therefore took a prime anchoring position in the center of the bay. I can imagine that in peak season it is not this quite but there in ample anchoring further out in sand with 10 meters of depth. It is certainly recommended to be in the location before 11:00 off season and before 10:00 in peak season. So breakfast on the way for the captain in a must if you want to secure your dream spot in this stunning location.
There is a great restaurant specialising in Seafood at reasonable prices. A reservation in and high season is recommended but off-season you can take your chances as we did although we were only given the second sitting at 15:00, which would put pressure on getting to our nighttime destination so I would recommend taking the earlier lunch of 13:00 instead.
This is not a lot to do whilst you are in Cala Deia, but if snorkelling, swimming and relaxing are your thing then this is a place you must visit. There is a hike I undertook heading in the direction to Soller and just heading up to an elevation of 100 feet will offer stunning views over Cala Deia and the surrounding area.
We enjoyed our morning relaxing and enjoyed the lunch even more. The food was exquisite although we suffered from ‘end-of-season’ manners again and very poor service. Please do not expect to be in-and-out in this restaurant as service is very slow even though the restaurant was not busy.
After lunch we hauled anchor at around 16:30. This would mean that we would not reach our evening anchorage before nightfall. I recommend that any charter yachts would wish to be leaving Cala Deia around 15:00 to give them ample time to arrive in St Elmo 19:00 in the evening. We would now be arriving at night which is fine for a private owner who knows the area.
The wind was blowing on the nose but we raised our main a motor sailed. The journey was comfortable and seeing this stunning coastline in a different light was just as impressive. Slowly the island of Dragonera came into view. I was particularly interested in this island as I would be climbing it first thing in the morning.
The sunset and navigation lights were turned on. A trip like this took us both back to our many night passages in the Atlantic and around the coast of Northern Spain. I quite enjoyed this experience as night sailing for me is preferred although missing the landscape is a shame. We spotted our lights and the cardinal mark that highlights Illa Mitjana, not to be missed as this is a dangerous rocky outcrop.
We arrived in Saint Elmo at 20:30 and tucked ourselves behind the island of Es Pantalue. Saint Elmo has to be one of my favourite anchorages and we know it well. Then views over Dragonera and stunning and it is a nice village. The anchorage played a very prominent role in the past of which is written below:
This inlet gaining historical importance in 1229 when James the 1st of Aragon in September of this year dropped anchor by this island in order to protect his ships from the storm. They explored the coast of Mallorca from this spot and chose the bay of Santa Ponsa as a landing point for the Crusaders to start the Reconquista of the Baleares Islands.
I was reading into the history of this place with a glass of wine and savouring the thoughts of how important the place we now anchored was to Spanish history, this is what makes this island so unique. We enjoyed a calm night and slept extremely well after an exciting day.
Day 4: Isla Dragnonera – St Elmo – Andraxt
We decided before we departed Palma to have a least one day where we would sail less and explore more. It is easy sometimes for many charter guests to feel the urge to cram as many miles as they can sailing and actually miss some of the most stunning locations on this island. Therefore this was the day I expire Dragonera and it was my first. I would always sail past in wonder at this amazing island and the need to just get up early and reach the summit was now in my hands.
There are two reasons why Dragonera is called Dragonera. One because it looks like a dragon and the second is due to the many small lizards the inhabit this beautiful island. There is an ancient Roman necropolis located on the island. During the 18th century two defensive watchtowers were built in order to watch-out for numerous Barbary Pirates operating in the area. By the mid-twentieth century the island was used by the Estraperlo Smugglers for their illegal activities. Part of the 1982 Agatha Christie film ‘Evil Under The Sun’ was filmed here. (Wikipedia)
So, I found myself with cup of tea in hand about to embark on what I felt was something amazing. We carry a very small dinghy with a two horsepower engine fitted, which just about coped with the 1NM distance. Any more wind then we would move the yacht over to the small anchorage of the port of Dragonera. On calm days it is possible to paddle board or kayak to the island form St Elm but you need to be very clear on what weather conditions lie ahead.
In no more than twenty minutes I was tied up to the small dock, and I believe I was the only person on this island at 07:30. The tours that normally run out of St Elm and charge €25 for the privilege normally arrive around 09:30 and spew out 50 tourists at a time that quickly destroy the tranquility of this beautiful place.
Anyhow, I was there first and solo so I began my adventure. There is a small cafe and visitor centre as you walk from the dock. There is a small area dedicated to celebrating with agricultural methods that went on here a hundred years prior, which appears tastefully done. I was faced with four decisions for my hike. I wanted the most direct route up to the summit and there I chose to undertake route 4.
Now I am not the fittest of people but it is amazing what can be achieved with determination. The hike was meant to take 3 hours but I completed it at a fast space up and town within two hours.
As I started out I made friends with several of the endemic lizards that hide in amongst the stone walls, there are literally thousands of them.
As I rose higher the view became more and more spectacular. The wind was cool, which was a blessing and the sun was out. This is when we begin to realise just how stunning the place we live is.
I made it to the top, out of breath but without words. The structure at the top used to be an old lighthouse now abandoned. It seems to be a consistent problem throughout the Balearics, where historic monuments are just left to deteriorate without any care. The stunning building played a prominent role on Dragonera and yet it has been left forgotten like the history that surrounds it. Even the boards giving information were weathered and now no longer legible. This made me wonder where all the money goes for the tourists that visit. Maybe for the cafe but not for small signs showing the history of this place. Anyway, time to head back as I could hear the footsteps of tourists coming up the hill with their heads stuck on the mobiles not for one second enjoying the scenery around them.
I managed to get back to Troskala around 11:00. Carlotta was now awake and made breakfast. We had a little more work to complete before we explored St Elmo.
At 13:00 we found ourselves in the pretty and small town. St Elmo is more a resort town with not much on offer apart from some tourist shops and several great restaurants. You can complete the town in 30 minutes but enjoying the views and savouring the atmosphere can last a lot longer.
We left St Elmo shortly after arriving and having a coffee. There was a a nice breeze so as not to miss it we were eager to haul anchor. We raised sails and sailed off our anchorage much to the appreciation on spectators around us. We were to head to Andraxt for the night and as this is only a mere 3NM miles away we decided to make use of the breeze and circumnavigate Dragonera. We completed a ‘Round the island Race’ within two hours and enjoyed every minute of it. The sail from St Elmo, around Dragonera and into Andraxt gave us a total of 9 NM, which was enough for this day and we happily entered the port of Andraxt at 16:00.
We decided to spend this night in the Club d Vela Andraxt. We wanted to see the facilities plus we needed water and a few provisions as we would be heading to the Island of Cabrera the following day where we would not be able to provision.
We enjoyed our evening extremely. Andraxt is very tuned to tourism but still holds an air of a small fishing town. We found a nice restaurant and enjoyed a lovely evening meal before heading back to have an early night as we had a early start the next day.
Day 5: Andraxt – Cabrera
You have a few choices to make when sailing the West Coast. The first decision should be based on how many miles you want to complete each day. Our first four days have been relaxed with manageable distances in between. We never felt pushed or that we had spent too much time at sea but the last day would be different. We could have decided to hop around the coast to Santa Ponsa and Cala Fornells, or even enter the bay of Palma and enjoy Cala Portals Vells or Las Illestas for example. One thing that was on our mind was the island of Cabrera, one of the nine national parks of Spain. So we would would leave at 08:00 and sail / motor the 35NM to this island.
We left with stunning sunshine at 08:00 on the dot. We had a lovely breakfast on the way. and enjoyed a light sail back around the Cap d Figuera. The wind eased as we entered the bay of Palma but picked up around 13:00, which meant we could sail again and we enjoyed every single minute of it.
It is important to note that as Cabrera is a national park you need two documents that can be sourced online. These are permission to anchor and permission to navigate. If you are to spend a night of Cabrera you need to book online or you will be asked to leave.
We arrived in Cabrera around 15:00. The place is absolutely stunning. We picked up a white mooring ball which had been booked the day before at a cost of €17.50 for a 32 foot. The prices are halved off season to €8.00 a night. There are a total of 50 moorings available, which keeps this place quiet and special.
We enjoyed completely the tranquility off this place. We snorkelled, swam, paddle boarded and just enjoyed being in the nature. One of the best things about Cabrera is the limited phone signal, which stops any unnecessary distraction. We made our way to the small bar and sat talking to other likeminded sailors over a few beers. At 21:30 the bar closed and we made our way back to have dinner. There was no sound and no movement. You could occasionally here various voices carry across the water. This was a remarkable place similar to a lake or pool surrounded and engulfed by the island.
Day 6: Cabrera – Palma
I woke up again early to take in the beauty of this island. There was another fort to explore. This time I had Carlotta with me and we set off around 08:00 to climb. The views in the photos speak for themselves. The hike lasted about an hour up and it was worth every footstep.
You could climb into the fort, up a spiral staircase to obtain the best views. Again it was shame to see the fort, which was established in the 15th century left again to ruin and decay. We savoured the views a little longer before heading back to the boat.
We needed to get back to Palma this day and had a total of 30 NM to complete, which would take us doing a steady 5 knots six hours. We set of at 11:00 sailing off our Mooring and tacking between the moored yachts to make it back out to sea.
The breeze stayed with us and we experienced one of the best sails we had had for a while:
We arrived back to Palma at 16:45 after a great sail. The wind died as we reached Palma but we were satisfied.
The few days we had to explore and forge a flotilla route were out of this world. We experienced calm days, wind and a little swell but knew what to expect and Mallorca did not fail in delivering supreme cuisine, stunning views and historic anchorages. Yes, we will do this again soon and enjoy the same route. The milage was varied with some small sailing days and large but this is what we come to expect with the route we had chosen and therefore we had nothing to complain about apart from a lack of wind on certain days however the views and amazing scenery made up for this loss.
We highly recommend sailing this waters maybe with Sunsail. 🙂