Cruising Ibiza and Formentera – Week Five (and a bit)

Sunday 19 – Monday 27 July

We enjoyed a lazy day at anchor on Sunday, before loading the bikes and panniers one set at a time into the tender to land on a beach of very soft, very hot sand on Monday morning.  The bikes were built, the sand brushed off and panniers clipped on, ready to explore some of the Rutas Verdes (Green Routes) of the island of Formentera.  These are occasionally tarmacked roads, but more often sandy tracks weaving among gently rural scenery, vineyards and olive groves.  Coming across a track closed while a large digger excavated a hole in the road, completely blocking it, we were touched when the driver backed to one side and his colleague beckoned us through with a cheerful wave.  We made our way to the centre of the island and the main town of Sant Francesc Xavier, known locally as San Francisco.  This is a more substantial town, where we found a good lunch at a pavement table on a pedestrianised street, and around the corner a slightly better stocked supermarket.

The climb back up the hill to cross the island back to ‘our’ beach seemed surprisingly less arduous than the steep descent had been, and we found our way back to the shoreline, seeing no more green lizards on the boardwalk after the four Mate had spotted earlier in the day in a brief lull in human traffic.  She cooled down with an icecream from the beach bar while Skipper nobly did the double journey back to l’escale with all the gear.

On Tuesday we had a lovely reach under genoa back up to Porroig, again making water en route.  This time we opted for the superyacht anchorage in the Northern corner of the bay, where we were careful to lie the anchor and chain only over sand.  The following two days were extremely hot, resulting in Mate catching the sun on her back as she nobly attended to laundry detail.  It was our turn to provide the day’s entertainment in the anchorage, when a bedsheet pegged out to air was whipped off the line by a rogue gust, and promptly unceremoniously dumped onto the seabed some five metres down.  Once its absence was noticed and location discovered, the rescue mission soon extended to a neighbouring Spanish yacht after both our crew tried and failed to dive deep enough to retrieve it.  The two caballeros that swam gallantly to the rescue had an apparently practised technique of free diving with one hand holding the nose to mitigate the effects of the pressure of salt water, while the other arm stretched down to grab the fabric and bring it back to the surface.  A bottle of local red as a thank you for their efforts seemed a small gesture of our gratitude…and yes, the sheet went back into the wash.

On Friday we set off again, around the Southernmost tip of Ibiza, negotiating a passage close to the rocky islands off Punta Portas, and through the busy shipping lanes of ferries and large speedboats that rush between Ibiza Town and La Savina, the ports of the Islas Pityusaes, the Pine Islands, for their fragrance from the sea.  We set the genoa mostly for show in a light and variable F1-3 breeze, again making water…until Mate suddenly heard water gushing from a hole on the port side of the hull.  The bilge pump alarm was also sounding, indicating that the automatic pump had been triggered into action by water under the floor inside the boat.  Skipper hastened below to discover the tech room (port stern cabin) floor awash with salt water, and discovered a considerable leak in the water maker plumbing, caused by the loosening and subsequent detachment of the pressure gauge pipe fitting.  Having shut down the watermaker, he spent the next couple of hot, sweaty, uncomfortable hours clearing and mopping up, while Mate remained at the helm, trying and failing to make the genoa fly.

Although we had been aiming for Santa Eulària des Riu, we decided to stop at Cala Castellá, between Roca Llisa and Cap des Llibrell, just before the famous Cala Llonga (readers familiar with Welsh may be able to get their mental tongue around these ‘ll-s’, but in Spanish they are pronounced as ‘y’ – even more unpronounceable?)  We were welcomed into this very attractive bay by l’escale’s first dolphin encounter in the Mediterranean, albeit only a brief glimpse.  The cabin temperature now reading 35˚C, we relaxed between stages of repairing the watermaker, until the day visitors had departed and we could re-anchor on a larger patch of sand under the Western cliffs.  As dusk fell, the lights of the restaurant at the head of the cala illuminated a very pretty scene, which research revealed was Amante, a fine dining establishment with a very interesting menu, prices omitted.  One of those where if you have to ask how much, you can’t afford it?

As another weekend came around, we set off once more for Santa Eulària, peering into Cala Llonga as we passed, and were glad we hadn’t attempted to stop there the night before – it’s very ‘developed’ with unattractive hotel buildings, and a narrow space for boats.  After nearly touching bottom searching for an anchoring spot outside the marina at Santa Eulària, avoided by the marina’s marinero kindly warning us off from his fast RIB, we tucked into a suitable spot between an Ovni and a small local fishing boat.  We landed the tender on the beach to stroll around this attractive town, surely the most grown-up resort on Ibiza.  Up the hill we found the Puig de Missa, a beautiful fortress church, dating from 1568 and simply painted inside and out in white, with its 17th Century multi-arched entrance porch.  Gazing down to the valley below, we picked out the line of the only river in the Balearics, whose constant flow of water enabled the local flour mills to operate at a time when bread was one of the island’s staple foods.  We also spotted the Pont Vell (Old Bridge), whose first records date back to 1720.  This bridge was the main entrance to the town until 1918, when the Pont Nou (New Bridge) was built.

Postcard from Santa Eularia

We followed a different path back down to sea level, past attractive casas with colourful gardens clinging to the hillside, and found ourselves on the Passeig Marítim, where the evening paseo (promenade, stroll) was in full swing among restaurants, ice cream parlours and stalls of artisan merchandise.  Having read about the  fameliars, small goblins from Ibiza’s mythology who, according to legend, are born from the stem of a grass that only grows on the eve of Saint John’s Day under the old bridge of Santa Eulària des Riu, and who must be entertained and well fed to prevent them from getting into any kind of mischief, Mate was pleased to spot some of their sculptures along the way.

Mediterranean Sunset
framed by the WindPilot

After a rolly night at anchor, we went ashore once again to walk a little out of town to a decent-sized Mercadona supermarket, fortunately open on Sundays.  We returned following the shore as far as possible, before skirting the grounds of a smart-looking hotel and finding ourselves back at the beach.  It is always a relief to find l’arrêt patiently waiting where we left her.  Later that afternoon, with the cabin temperature at 33˚C, we headed Northeast and North, passing between the island and another offspring, Tagomago, along more rugged and uninhabited coastline, to find ourselves on the seaward side of Punta Moscarter and the stripy lighthouse of our first few days here.  As Portinatx itself was very busy and crowded, we continued into the larger, more open bay immediately West, and tucked into Cala Xarraca.  Apart from touching an uncharted rock in 2.5 metres of water with 1.5 metres of draft, we enjoyed a comfortable last two nights and day between on Ibiza.  Our total cruising distance was 207 Miles.

Cruising Ibiza and Formentera – Week Four

Sunday 12 – Saturday 18 July

While Mate then spent an unscheduled but delightful few days with a much happier daughter, and a brief but very enjoyable pub lunch, appropriately socially distanced, with a pleasantly relaxed son and girlfriend, on English soil, Skipper amused himself trying his hand at a little single-handed sailing, making new acquaintances along the way.  On the Monday morning, he set second reef and staysail to cruise around the Northwest corner of the island to Cala Saona, where he spent a couple of nights on essential paperwork, many frustrated attempts to send e-mails from the first area of poor signal we’ve found in many months, and by way of relief, a little light boat maintenance on an intermittent fault with the radar system.

On Wednesday 15th he motored back to the beachside anchorage near La Savina for lunch and shopping, before relocating again, North to the quiet and calm anchorage off the South end of Espalmador.  Unfortunately this was still busy and bumpy with the wash of motorboats and jet skis, so on Thursday he cruised with the genoa back to Porroig on Ibiza, a reasonable pick-up point for Mate, who was returning to the nearby airport that evening.  Much to Mate’s entertainment, the landing area for the dinghy was a rusty rail for local fishermen to haul their boat up to the shelter shack, reached by a steep sandy track from the unpaved car park above.  The taxi driver from the airport showed some consternation when she didn’t give the name of a hotel, but was obviously relieved to return the cheerful wave of the chap puttering across the water in a small rubber boat.

Porroig anchorage

After a refreshing swim and shower to slough off a straightforward but unpleasant flight amidst a planeful of overexcited overgrown schoolkids bound for Party Island, a quiet Friday was enjoyed in this pretty anchorage.  On Saturday morning we set off early for Formentera once again, making water on the way, and before lunchtime were anchored once more off La Savina to go ashore for some provisions.  The village has a selection of restaurants and tourist shops, along with a small supermarket , expensive as you might expect on a small island.  Later in the afternoon we returned to Cala Saona, five miles around the corner on the West coast, typically busy on a summer weekend.  A little before sunset we were able to relocate under the cliffs nearer the beach, where it was calmer and more sheltered.

Cruising Ibiza and Formentera – Week Three

Sunday 5 – Saturday 11 July

On Sunday evening we headed back for Cala Bassa, our first stop on arrival in Ibiza, but it was too crowded, and adjoining Cala Roja was too exposed and rolly, so we made water for a bit longer while we pottered over to Isla Conejera, the East side of which, Estancia des Dins, turned out to be a comfortable spot, once the day trippers had gone and we were able to find a sandy patch to drop the anchor onto.  We had a quiet day there on Monday, taking the tender into a truly tiny harbour to follow the track up to the lighthouse, spotting a wealth of the famous iridescent emerald lizards along the way.  The panoramic views from the top were glorious.

Isla Conejera (Rabbit Island)

On Tuesday morning we had an unfriendly conversation with Park Rangers about the position of our anchor and chain.  Much of the coastline is fringed with oceanic Posidonia (sea grass) meadows.  These are the best-preserved examples in the Mediterranean, and shelter over 220 different species, including three under threat of global extinction, one of which is the monk seal.  The meadows also contribute to the purity and transparency of waters surrounding the island.

We knew before we arrived that these underwater meadows are protected by law, and steep fines await those careless enough to anchor into the weed, but that morning we learned that not only the anchor but also the full length of chain must be clear of the grass, as its movement when the boat swings to the wind can uproot the fragile plants.  Our frustration was that we’d spent over an hour on Sunday evening searching for clear water with enough space for us to anchor safely.  Unfortunately the Ranger’s manner was aggressive and he told us we had fifteen minutes to leave – and we hadn’t even eaten breakfast!  Our only consolation was that he did ‘speak’ to each of the other boats, and the anchorage emptied rapidly.

We set full main and staysail to beat into a SSE F3-4, and enjoyed a lovely sail down to Cala d’Hort, opposite the spectacular rock of Es Vedra and her little sister, Es Vedranell.  We had a pleasant couple of nights there, watching the comings and goings of vessels under a variety of flags and exhibiting an interesting range of degrees of seamanship and methods of anchoring.  On Thursday 9 the log reads ‘30˚C in the cabin’, and we set off into a Southeasterly F4, which soon built with the expected afternoon thermal breeze to ESE F5-6.  This made for an interesting sail under second reef mainsail and staysail, Mate helming at a not inconsiderable angle of heel, and luffing frequently to spill gusts of 25 knots plus.  We passed under the flight path into Ibiza airport, with planes landing every 5-10 minutes, swelling the numbers of tourists on the island, and were also aware of numbers of ferries once again plying the inter-island routes.

By mid-afternoon we were anchored on the outside edge of a sprawling anchorage on the West side of Formentera, a low-lying, sandy, S-shaped island some dozen miles South of Ibiza.  This is apparently a favourite of Italian holidaymakers, with a permanent community living around the main town of Sant Francesc Xavier and many huge motor yachts in evidence along the shore.

Ibiza Town – Dalt Vila

After burning the (virtual) phone lines between us and London for most of Friday, the decision was reached that Mate would be on a flight out of Ibiza on Saturday morning to administer some much-needed TLC to Second Mate, home alone throughout the lockdown.  By happy coincidence, this was the first day that the British government had lifted the 14-day quarantine requirement on arrivals into the UK.  After a hasty packing of hand luggage only, Mate began the day with a dinghy ride to La Savina, the port town on Formentera from which a number of frequent ferry services depart for Ibiza town.  After a somewhat bumpy fast catamaran run, it was an easy transfer to the bus to the airport, and a very civilised BA flight into Heathrow.  An almost empty Tube completed the journey into London.  Masks and frequent hand sanitiser were required throughout the trip, but it was very straightforward, and relatively quiet.

Cruising Ibiza – Week Two

Saturday 27 June – Saturday 4 July

Having restocked the fridge and stowed the clean laundry, it was time to tackle the offshore domestic requirements of emptying holding tank and making fresh water.  Skipper installed a waste treatment system for our inboard toilet when the boat was new.  This works by creating a chemical reaction between an electric current and seawater, which sterilises matter to a state of ‘grey water’ harmless to the marine environment.  Nevertheless, we are still careful to discharge well out to sea.  Furthermore, we feel that water is better made away from land, where we hope there will be fewer pollutants.

Skipper installed Walt, our Spectra water maker, during our escale in Gibraltar, and it is totally earning its keep, increasing our cruising freedom enormously.  During our second Summer aboard, among the often remote islands of Northwest Scotland, finding and being able to access drinking water was a constant concern.  Now, combined with the large solar panel that sits atop our stern arch, (installed by Skipper during our 2018-19 Winter stopover in Plymouth), we are able to convert the long hours of sunshine here in the Western Mediterranean directly into water!  Walt has two motors, which can be run independently or in tandem, and pull around 10 Amps each.  The solar panel feeds the batteries efficiently enough to meet this 20A requirement, in addition to keeping the fridge cool enough to chill the beers.  Walt replenishes our water tanks at the rate of around 60 litres an hour, plenty for our approximate daily usage of 80 litres.  As we rarely stay in any one anchorage more than three days, this represents true cruising luxury.

Cala de Sant Miguel

On Saturday 27 June, we relocated to Port de Sant Miguel, a very pretty anchorage in a fairly narrow, steep-sided cala on the Northwest coast.  When we arrived the breeze was coming into the cala, so we anchored with our bow pointing out to sea.  However, by the time a 38-foot Spanish-flagged catamaran arrived, the wind had dropped and we had turned 180˚.  The cat tried to anchor very close to our stern, potentially right on our anchor, and when we explained where our anchor was lying, he shouted at us that we were in Ibiza now, and it’s not done here to lie other than with the anchor off the bow – evidently basic physics was not his subject.  Fenders were strategically positioned, and a calm night was enjoyed.

After a quiet day at anchor on Sunday, we took the tender ashore on Monday morning, slipped on our sturdy walking boots, and set off over the shoulder of the hill that divides Port de Sant Miguel from the neighbouring beach of Benírras.  As usual, it was hot and sunny, but with very little traffic it was possible to enjoy the constant background of the cicadas and breathe in the sweet pine fragrance.  There was a surprising number of wildflowers still dressing the verges and hedgerows, obviously well-adapted to the arid environment, and also a selection of cacti was noted.

On arrival at Benírras beach, hot, tired and thirsty, we were relieved to find the chiringuita (beach bar/restaurant) ‘Elements’ very much open for business.  Set with bleached wood furniture and cool funky background music, we were served an excellent organic home-made lunch with cool beer and a delightfully laid-back vibe.  It was decided this was a fitting way to celebrate the crew’s birthdays, Skipper’s missed completely in the first week of lockdown back in Valencia, and Mate’s coming later in the week.

Suitably refreshed and relaxed, we set off on the return walk, deciding to deviate onto a forest track that “looked like it went in the right direction”…When it had been obvious for some time that we were not heading where we wanted to, Skipper took a look at Google Maps and a very kind young man stopped his car to ask if we needed help.  We retraced our steps a short way before taking a track displaying a very faded and weathered Privado notice, and soon found our way down a steep, stony path back to the valley floor and the beach where our tender patiently awaited our return.

Relieved to slip out of our boots onto the hot sand, there was still time to enjoy a cooling freshly squeezed local orange juice/beer to celebrate our 15-kilometre hike.

On Tuesday the anchorage was very bouncy and we realised we were no longer securely anchored – perhaps yesterday’s comings and goings whilst we were on land had dislodged our anchor?  We lifted it to set off under a first reefed main and staysail in a Nor-easterly F4-5, along the coast to the NE corner below the unusual lighthouse at Punta de Moscarter.  It is the tallest in the Balearics at 52 metres, and is painted in a diagonal black stripe on white, reminiscent of a candy cane.  The wind gradually eased to ESE F4, and we added the genoa for the fun of it, before settling to anchor off Portinatx, a very sheltered and attractive cala with a beach and village ashore.

On Wednesday 1 July we enjoyed a (much shorter) clifftop walk to the faro, the lighthouse, before returning to Sant Antoni on Thursday, under gennaker in a light Northeasterly.  As usual, we made water on the way, and by late afternoon were settled in almost exactly the same spot as last weekend.  Friday was eaten up by a trip to shore for a food shop, and Saturday (Mate’s fourth birthday – aboard) we dragged Bertha up the hill to the launderette.  Sometimes it’s enough of a celebration just to be on top of the domestics, and the birthday had been celebrated on and off for the last several weeks, with some retail therapy, trips ashore and meals out – no cooking, and no clean-up!