Monday, May 10, 2010

Sóller, Mallorca

When we set out from Ibiza, we thought we would find an anchorage on Isla Dragonera, just off the western point of Mallorca. However, as we motored past what was shown as anchorages there, it was clear that we would have to look further. Those “anchorages” were only slight indentations in the rocky shore and offered no protection from what had become an uncomfortable swell from the southwest.

John found a spot on the chart around the corner that looked good, but when we got there, we found it already had two boats in it. It was pretty, but too small for three of us, so we continued on. With only anchor symbols on the chart and a sentence or two at the most in the cruising guide to help, we decided on a cove about halfway along the coast to Sóller. The name is Banalbufar on the chart, Bañalbufar in the guide, and Banyalbufar in the DK Eyewitness Travel book. However you spell it, the cove at the foot of the cliff provided good shelter for the night, and the beautiful view of the village and waterfall were a bonus. We were quite surprised to find waterfalls here, and it looks as if gravity and water are trying to pull the cliff down while human beings are trying to hold it up.

Yesterday we sailed for the first time in the Mediterranean. Until then, we had motor-sailed at best, using the sails to get a little more speed from our old engine. Most of the time it was pure motoring. But yesterday was different.

When we finally succeeded in retrieving our anchor and chain from the several rocks which had been securely holding them for us, we motored out of the cove. Soon a light breeze developed, and we brought out the jib. We were happy to be doing better than six knots when ahead of us we saw white caps. Suddenly we had more than 20 knots of wind racing down the mountains at us. Whoopee! We shut off the engine and sailed, doing better than six knots on the jib alone. We considered raising the main, but that’s a lot of work, and we had less than 10 miles to go to get to Sóller. The wind was on our beam, and it just kept increasing until I finally suggested (well, OK, I insisted) that we fall off a bit to flatten the boat out. The highest speed I saw was 7.9 knots—using only the jib. When there was a break in the mountains, we had wind; when we passed a sheer cliff, we had none.

At one point, we noticed a sailboat approaching us with full sails and on the same tack as we were. Hmm. Ahead of us the wind must be light and from the opposite direction. Could that be? Sure enough, just before she reached us, the other boat tacked, and just beyond us they headed up to put in a reef. And then another. And then they dropped their main altogether and fell off. Very strange, this Mediterranean sailing.

As we inched into the harbor at Sóller against 30-knot headwinds, we saw an anchored boat moving to another part of the harbor over by—wait, what’s that? Is that an American flag on that yacht? Sure enough, it was. Both sailboats were flying American flags. We didn’t know them, but we had heard of one of them, Threshold, from our cruising association (Seven Seas Cruising Association). There was no time to visit then, though, because the winds in the harbor were coming through a gap in the mountains, and they were pretty fierce. All three U.S. boats re-anchored several times before the wind died down and we could get the dinghy in the water to leave the boat.

Yesterday was also the first time that we’ve spoken to Spanish officials. The customs boat made its rounds of the harbor and stopped at all three American boats. Although they looked a bit puzzled at our new passports without stamps, they didn’t question them. My guess is that they didn’t have enough English to ask the question. Our Spanish isn’t much, but we did have to use it a little in order to communicate.

Sóller is apparently a very popular resort. It’s certainly very pretty, perched on steep, pine-covered hills. There are lots of shops and restaurants on the waterfront, and we did go ashore for a brief visit yesterday afternoon. Today there’s supposed to be a re-enactment of a battle between the Spanish Mallorcans and the Arabs. The Spanish will win. We’re hanging out and waiting for that. So far, it’s just firecrackers and a couple of speedboats flying Moroccan flags. We hope there will be more.

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