Passage to Sant Carles de la Ràpita

View across Puerto de los Alfaques towards Sant Carles de la Ràpita

We made the 135 nautical mile crossing from Port de Pollença (northeast tip of Mallorca) to our new marina on mainland Spain (Sant Carles de la Ràpita) a week ago (September 13/14).

The weather forecast looked great, with a predicted 14-16 knots from the southwest for most of the trip, and quite calm seas. Unfortunately, the weather forecasts did not take into account the huge wind shadow we had for the first five hours as we traversed the western side of the island, effectively blocking out all wind. It was a beautiful passage, though, and with the stunning mountains of Mallorca to gaze at, we did not mind motoring for a while. At 9:00 pm, four hours after we departed, I went down below to try to sleep, but was awakened an hour later to the sounds of the engine alarm ringing, and Mark calling out to me that I needed to come up on deck right away.

The engine had over-heated and had to be turned off and the wind had still not come up, so we were left bobbing around uncomfortably in the swell. It did not take Mark long to diagnosis the problem (most likely the engine impeller was damaged, disabling the cooling water pump), but the engine was extremely hot and he did not want to replace the impeller until the engine had cooled down a bit. We tried to set the sails so that we could make a little progress and also stop the uncomfortable motion of just bobbing in the swell, but there was almost no wind, and the best we could do was to turn the boat to the north and cruise along at about 1 knot.  Luckily we were at least 20 miles from the nearest point of land on Mallorca and there were no other boats in the area at all, so we did not have to worry about running into anything.

By 1:00 a.m. Mark had the new impeller in place and the engine started and ran perfectly. Within an hour the wind came up STRONG, and we were able to sail for the next 10 hours with SW winds of a steady 22-24 knots and large seas. We sailed at over 8 knots, which is a great speed for us and helped make up for the 3 hours we had lost with the engine problem. Lots of noise, lots of wind, lots of waves banging against the hull, and a ton of water washing over the deck. There was also a lot of large boat traffic going in various directions as we were in a major shipping lane and the freighters and tankers were all out and about. It was not an easy night, but nothing out of the ordinary around here.  By 11:00 a.m. the wind changed direction and died down quite a bit, so we mostly motored the last six hours to our marina.

We each got just a few hours of sleep during the trip, so we were exhausted upon arrival, but very happy to have arrived in Spain. The marina staff seem to be super friendly and helpful, and it is a delightful place. We may do a few short sails around here before the end of the season, but for the most part, the sailing part of our sailing season is done.

A few days ago, our Texan friends Barbara and Frank on Destiny arrived.  We have been trying to meet for more than two months but the weather and other events did not cooperate until now.  They joined us on a trip into the mountains to hike and go to a well known mountain restaurant in our rental car.


Laura poses in Pollença (Mallorca)
Pollença (Mallorca)
Reservoir at Benifasar above Sant Carles de la Ràpita
Barbara (from Destiny) and Laura in the mountains above Sant Carles de la Ràpita


Selfie with Diane and Jonathan
Sabbatical III motorsails out of Port de Soller (thanks to Dan Rice)

Mallorca, Spain: August 17, 2017 – September 13, 2017

Mallorca turned out to be even more beautiful than we expected. We spent four weeks on the island, sailing around at least ¾ of it, and finding it increasingly beautiful as we headed across its southern coast and up and around the long northwestern coastline.

We had been warned by other cruisers that the Ballearic Islands were incredibly crowded in August, but we did not find this to be a problem. We were always able to find a good place to anchor, and nearly all of the other boats were good about keeping a safe distance away (although many boats have clearly never learned how to set an anchor properly). Places like Es Trench, which is just one long lovely beach, were packed with suntanning tourists, but the anchorage had room for hundreds of boats. It was a bit crowded during the day, mostly with small motor-boats, but by early evening 90% of the boats picked up anchor and returned to whatever marina they were based in. In the evening we walked on the beach and enjoyed our people-watching. The great thing was that none of our anchorages were noisy at night. We had found that many of the beaches and tourist areas in Sardinia became loud, disco pumping scenes after 10:00 p.m., but there are apparently rules about noise in Mallorca, and none of our anchorages were loud, and if there was music, it was pleasant and it stopped by 10:30 or 11:00 p.m. What a surprise!

Port de Andratx was a very charming little town on the south coast, and really marked the beginning of the most beautiful parts of Mallorca. The cliffs became very steep in that part of the island, and the hills were suddenly covered in beautiful pine trees. The landscape soon became mountainous, and the views up and down the coastline were just magnificent… mountains, pine trees and beautiful, deep blue water.

Sabbatical III at anchor off of the beach at Es Trench
Fishing nets at Port de Soller

The highlight of our time in Mallorca came with the visit of my sister Diane and her husband Jonathan.   They had been on our boat a few times in the past, but had never spent any time actually cruising with us.  They arrived in Port de Andratx on Sunday, September 3rd, and stayed with us on Sabbatical III through the 7th.  It was a short stay, but it was an absolutely magical experience for us all.  It was just luck that while they were with us we managed to be in the most beautiful part of the island.  It was sunny when we wanted it to be, and partly cloudy when we needed a respite from the sun.

The weather conditions were great for spending one night in the most famous cove of Mallorca — Cala de Sa Calobra, a truly breathtaking place.  My sister loves swimming and she spent a few hours every day in the water which ranged from light blue to deep aquamarine, and was crystal clear, warm and calm. My brother-in-law exclaimed that it was the most perfect blue water he had ever seen and joked that he was afraid that his skin might turn blue from the intensity of the blue water.

Diane arrives with gifts
Diane, Jonathan and Laura
Yoga on the boat
Diane swims to shore and back in Port de Soller

My sister’s trip also overlapped with the full moon which is always a treat, and we had a wonderful experience watching the moon rise over the steep cliffs of Cala de Sa Calobra, lighting up the surrounding cliffs as if it were daylight, and casting shimmering, fairy dust looking sparkles on the water at the base of the two cliffs that meet at the mouth of the bay.  In the hours before sunset, we took the dinghy to shore and walked along a path cut into the rock that leads along the bay, then through a tunnel, and into a stunning canyon (Torrent de Pareis).

The weather turned very nasty the day of their departure, but cleared long enough for us to have one last walk through Port de Soller. The clouds returned early in the afternoon, just as it was time for our guests to leave for the airport, and Mark and I quickly dinghied them over to the dock and returned to our boat just as the heavens opened and there was a torrential downpour. Unfortunately taxis don’t operate too well on the island when there is heavy rain, and Diane and Jonathan had a lot of trouble getting a taxi to take them to the airport, even though we had called in advance to arrange one and there is a taxi stand right in the center of town. They did manage to make their plane, and we survived a very rolly night on the boat, glad that our guests did not have to experience what a bad night on the boat is like.

Pasta Primavera was a staple on the boat
A tram railroad links Port de Soller and Soller
At Cala Sa Calobra
Cala Sa Calobra
Diane and Jonathan at Cala Sa Calobra (Sabbatical III in background)
Sabbatical III at anchor in front of the small beach at Cala Sa Calobra
Sabbatical III at anchor in front of the small beach at Cala Sa Calobra
Canyon (Torrent de Pareis) at Sa Calobra
Cala Sa Calobra: view of the anchorage

Our sailing friends from Minnesota, Dan and Chris Rice, were also in Mallorca, (doing some work on their boat in Palma), and they happened to be staying at a hotel near Port de Soller for a few days just after my sister left. We met them for dinner in town, and the next day Dan took pictures of Sabbatical III from his hotel, up high on a cliff, as we departed the bay.

We spent the following night at yet another incredibly picturesque bay, Cala Tuent. It was just us and one other boat. Our neighbor, in an elegant 80 foot yacht, decided to turn on a strobe light at the top of his mast which was a psychosis inducing experience on our end…. endless disorienting flashes in the otherwise dark and beautiful, star lit night.

From there we proceeded up the coast to our final destination in Mallorca, up and around the stark and beautiful Cap de Formentor to the calm, protected, and very shallow anchorage in Port de Pollenca. We arrived and anchored just minutes before a big storm blew through with 25-30 knot winds. The anchorage is extremely shallow… only 2 to 4 meters under the keel, but it is very well protected and has excellent holding.

Anchorage highlights of Mallorca

A: Portocolom
B: Platja Es Trench
C: Porto de Andratx
D: Porto de Soller
E: Cala Sa Calobra and Cala Tuent
F: Porto de Pollenca


Sunset at Cala Sa Calobra
Sunset at Cala Sa Calobra
View towards the beach and canyon at Cala Sa Calobra
Diane and Laura have a swim at Cala Sa Calobra
On a walk in Port de Soller
On a walk in Port de Soller

Port de Pollenca was a nice town and we enjoyed a few days relaxing there. One day we took the bus to the even more lovely, and architecturally more interesting town of Pollenca. The weather continued to be hit and miss with one day of good weather and the next, cold and miserable. Fall is definitely in the air.

In the meantime, we have been trying to meet up with our friends Frank and Barbara from S/V Destiny for 7 weeks now! We just can’t seem to manage to be in the same place at the same time. Just when the weather looks good for us to meet up, one or the other of us has to move on usually because of some local weather event (or mechanical problem). It is the kind of thing that happens with sailing, as everyone’s plans are entirely weather dependent, and if you start out in different bays, even on the same island, it is very hard to meet up. They are leaving their boat at the same marina in Spain as we are (Sant Carles de la Rapita), so at least we are pretty assured that we will see them there.

We were planning to rent a car and finally go meet Barb and Frank at a restaurant about an hour’s drive away, but those plans didn’t work out either. Mark and I were sitting at lunch on shore, on Wednesday (Sept. 13th) and decided to take one more look at the weather. The weather forecast looked terrific for making a crossing to mainland Spain for the next 24 hours, and after that we couldn’t see any good weather for crossing for at least seven days. The weather forecasts tend to change a lot here, day by day, but we were starting to get a little nervous as we have guests coming to the boat at Sant Carles de la Rapita on September 26th. We had waited three weeks for decent weather when we crossed from Ponza, Italy to Sardinia, and we could not afford to wait that long this time. We needed to plan on 20-24 hours for the crossing to Spain, and we decided to take advantage of this weather window. We called our friends to cancel our date and then rushed back to the boat, with a freshly roasted chicken and some fruits and veggies in our backpacks, and prepared to leave immediately for Spain. By 5:00 p.m. the anchor was up and we were headed out…..

More on that soon…. the weather forecast was not as accurate as we had hoped…..


Storm approaches in Port de Soller just as Diane and Jonathan leave for the airport
Northwest coast of Mallorca
Cala Sa Calobra
Cala Sa Calobra
Tunnel that connects Cala Sa Calobra to the canyon (Torrent de Pareis)
Cala Tuent
Sabbatical III at sunset at Platja Es Trench