Subject: Log #19i Cabrera and Calas

April 10, 2001 in Log Series 11 - 19, Logs by Series, Series 19 Spain, The Logs

Subject: Log #19i Cabrera and Calas

(Note – this log was misnumbered, and as such there is no Log #19h)

Porto Cristo, Mallorca
April 10, 2001

Hi Folks,

We’re alongside (standard Mediterranean mooring, bows on with a stern line) here in Porto Cristo at a very economical 500 pesetas ($4.00 Cdn) a day. Lovely weather, a resort town, sandy beach, and the living is easy! Gilles’ suitcase caught up to us here at the Club Nautico.

Today is the 21st anniversary for Judy and myself although our wedding was on the 11th of April, but it was the 10th we first met. Happy anniversary Judy!

We hope to meet up with Soleil Sans Fin, Bill and Jean, friends we met in London, and again in Barcelona who are now coming to the Balearics, hopefully for the Easter weekend in Pollensa. We are listening to the cruisers’ net of friends we met in Barcelona who chat each morning on 8104, and can find out who is where as they cruise the Med. We only have a short wave receiver, no transmitter, so we can’t talk to them except by E‑mail or mobile phone while in Spanish waters.

We just finished reading a novel about a US nuclear submarine that was caught in a towed array by the Chinese off their coast, and the crew imprisoned; horribly reminiscent of the air crew currently held by them.  I hope it works out OK.

With Gilles’ suitcase we got the mail that Judy’s parents have been saving up for us, and have had a chance to read GAM and Good Old Boats sailing magazines to see what is happening back home in the sailing world. They are both good magazines that we appreciate. Thank you Ruth and Henry for saving them for us.

Enjoy Log #19i about our sailing to Cabrera, and starting to visit the calas (small bays or coves) of Mallorca. The Balearics offer good cruising grounds.

All the best,


Log #19i Cabrera and Calas

(Note – this log was misnumbered, and as such there is no Log #19h)

Written at Porto Colom
April 8, 2001
Covers the period March 27 to April 4, 2001

We slipped from Audax Marina boatyard at 0900, March 27 operational at last.

After motoring around Palma harbour, we set sail (motor sailing) for Cabrera, a National Park archipelago for which a permit must be obtained prior to going. Off season, they allow up to 7 days mooring, but during the summer, only one day, as the location is so popular they have to limit the numbers of boats and the length of stay. We obtained our first permit from Club Vela Marina in Andratx, as they faxed the application for us. This procedure can be followed from several yacht clubs, rather than having to go to the National Park office in Palma. Since our mechanical difficulties delayed us in Palma, Judy picked up a second permit from the office in Palma while we were there. There is no charge for the permit, and their fax number is 97172 55 85. These permits must be held on board when at the mooring buoys and taken along when going ashore.

Puerto Cabrera is a large, picturesque, well sheltered bay with 50 mooring buoys of varying colours for vessels of different length or tonnage. The entrance is deep and about 250 meters wide with the rocky cliffs of Niu de SÆAguila on the west side and the light at Pta de sa Creveta on the east, with the sand coloured castle dominating a peak above it, overlooking the entire bay and its approaches. We moored at the opening of Cala de Espalmador, the opposite side of the bay from the main jetty and park office. It was fine the first night, but the second night there was a major wind shift, blowing force 8 from the northwest, with gusts up to 60 knots, straight down the bay. Even though there was a short fetch of only a few hundred yards, there was uncomfortable wave action that caused us a disturbed sleep. In the morning we shifted to the innermost mooring buoy and doubled up our mooring line.

When picking up a mooring buoy, we were accustomed to hauling the actual line from the float onto the bow roller and securing it to our deck cleats. However in the park and subsequent mooring buoys encountered, the procedure is to put your own line through the hard eye or the loop of the float line, and fasten your line on board, not the buoy line.

The history of Cabrera dates back to prehistoric Talayotic settlements, Roman occupation, and from 398, a monastery of Christian “monks” (who degenerated to piracy and were admonished, and the monastery dissolved, by Pope Gregory in 603), Arab pirates, Moorish occupation, and Catalonian occupation up to todayÆs Mallorcan autonomous status within Spain. In 1809, during what Spain calls the War of Independence, and the Brits call the Peninsular Campaign against Napoleon, another French defeat at the Battle of Bailen resulted in 9000 French prisoners being interned at Cabrera for five years. Over 6000 died of disease and starvation. There is a monument to them rededicated each year by the French military. In 1915 the Spanish government annexed Cabrera to prevent its use by any of the belligerents in WW I and then again in WW II to confirm or maintain Spanish neutrality. A military garrison has been maintained here from then up to 1986, including its use as a military firing and manoeuvering range which may have left unexploded munitions about.

For this reason, and to preserve the flora and fauna of the island, visitors are not allowed to roam the island unaccompanied except for the foreshore road and up to the castle. Further, boaters are not allowed to land anywhere except at the park dock. These restrictions (understandable though they are when the fifty moorings are all filled) reduce the potential enjoyment of this island park. No other anchoring, except a few locations for daytime use only, is permitted in any of the islands, and no landing is permitted on any of the other islands in the archipelago. There is a cantina, serving beverages only, for the few locals (fishing and farming), boaters, construction workers, and park personnel. Apparently the cantina used to bake breads that boaters enjoyed, but unfortunately this is no longer the case. The walk up to the castle above the jetty is easy, and once there the panoramic view made the trip worthwhile. We could see over to Mallorca, the entire Cabrera Bay, and the other islands of the archipelago.

It was interesting to see the wind patterns on the water at the point and the entrance to the bay. The castle itself is open, with several empty arched rooms, and three different observation platforms. It is obvious how this structure commanded a view of any approaching ships, friendly or marauding, and with a few well place cannon could control access to the bay and its approaches. The fortification perched on top of the cliff makes a dramatic timeless image dominating the entrance to the bay.

There were at most only four boats in the bay when we were there. The water is crystal clear, but too cold for comfortable swimming in early April. There are a few locals still on the island who have permission to continue living there to farm and fish. There are the remains of military barracks used for the workers and park personnel, and a well‑kept summer home and chapel for the King of Spain to use for his summer holidays, overlooking the bay. The museum provides an interesting portrayal of the history and geology of the islands, a worthwhile visit. A large solar panel farm as well as a generator provides power for the island. No water is available for boaters. There is no charge for the mooring permit, the guides, or the museum. All in all, it was a worthwhile visit for a couple of days.

No VHF weather forecasts were available from Palma Radio at their regular times. When I called them to ask for weather, they said they only had it in Spanish, and declined to just give me a forecast for the south tip of Mallorca from Cabrera to San Jordi, and so we set off in quiet clear conditions for the 12 mile trip over to Cala Pi or San Jordi. However, Murphy was alive and operating to give us northerly gale force winds of force 8, gusting to up to 60 knots at times, right on the nose. We couldnÆt motor into it and so unfurled a 50% reefed genoa to motorsail, tacking into the wind. After trying for San Jordi, we gave up and headed westwards towards Cala Pi, but after a while, the wind bending around the coast behind San Jordi, we
changed tacks again and headed for San Jordi, arriving to anchor in a sheltered  bay outside the marina with a strong but safe offshore wind. The wind eased overnight, and we had a comfortable two days stay exploring the sandy beaches in Sprite and visiting the big salt marsh behind the community.

While we were there, we spent some time with our new audio coupler and our laptop computer one evening at a public payphone, and finally got it working! Hurrah! We can now send E‑mail from pay phones, and donÆt have to find internet cafes, or ask marinas or other offices if we can hook up to their telephone lines! It sometimes takes two or three tries to get the connection established, but once established it works at a high baud (speed) rate so we are on for less than 5 minutes to receive and send up to 20 or 30 messages, and at a cost of less than 100 pesetas. Night is the best time to go on line, as the rates are cheaper, and we can see the laptop screen easier in the dark. It is difficult to see the screen, especially the cursor in daylight

We planned to visit several small calas over the next few days. This coast is indented with calas (small coves or bays) that are suitable for anchoring. Cala Pi was one that we visited by car a week earlier, and it was so dramatic I had to anchor in it. It has an entrance about 150 meters wide sheltered on both sides by cliffs 40 metres high, the northern one having an ancient stone lookout tower. The cala is a long narrow one, about 30 meters wide, and 500 meters long in a semicircular pattern, ending in a wide sandy beach that leads into a torrent (a dry stream bed) stretching up between the limestone cliffs. There were only a couple of boats there, as we made our way past them to anchor closer to the beach. We havenÆt been in such a pleasant cliff sided anchorage since the south cove of the Benjamin Islands in the North Channel of Lake Huron back in Canada. It was well sheltered, with crystal clear water, and some fishing boat houses nestled below the cliffs. Idyllic!

There were more of these dramatic calas up the coast, some isolated and others surrounded by vacation condominiums. Mallorca and Menorca are famous for these lovely little anchorages, a real sailor’s paradise! More about them in my next log.