Balearic beats
Sailing Today|May 2020
Tony and Sarah Boas arrived in the Mediterranean intending to spend a season exploring the Balearic Islands, but wound up staying for eight years...

We first came into the Mediterranean in 2011, intending to spend the following season doing a circuit of the Baleares and then returning to the Atlantic. Eight years later we are still in the Western Med, having spent most of our time exploring the islands – Sardinia, Elba, Corsica and, above all, the Baleares. The attraction – beautiful anchorages, clear warm water, good swimming, usually benign weather, not to mention the good food and wine ashore. We think we are now stuck in this area!

Practicalities

From mainland Spain, the Baleares are within easy reach. From our winter base in Cartagena, Formentera is only 150 miles to the northeast. Ibiza is but 60 miles from Calpe – a day sail. From Valencia, Sóller, in Mallorca, is 140 miles and from Barcelona, Menorca is 120 miles.

When to go?

April, May and June are delightful, with the anchorages less crowded and mooring prices reasonable. July and August are to be avoided if possible. The islands become crowded, the weather too hot and, above all, marina prices become horrendous, sometimes three times the prices of May. Many of the regular cruisers return home at this time, either laying up ashore or retreating to the cheaper marinas on the mainland. In September and October the crowds go, prices reduce and the water temperature is at its best – perhaps our favourite months.

Navigation

Most sailing around the islands will be by day and fog is rare, so navigation is mostly by eyeball. Imray Chart Atlas 3200, in 25 A2 size sheets, covers the islands in considerable detail. For detailed pilotage, the Royal Cruising Club Pilotage Foundation and Imray book Islas Baleares is a must. Authors David and Susie Baggaley have not only cruised extensively around the islands, but have lived on Menorca and filled the book with information on points of interest and history far beyond just simple pilotage.

Climate

The weather is gentler in the south, where the main influence is that of mainland Spain. In the north, winds can be stronger, particularly when a blow comes down from the Golfe de Lyon. Not for nothing is Menorca known as the Windy Island. There are regular forecasts on VHF – but in Spanish – and a plethora of internet forecasts. Our particular favourites are the Spanish Met Office aemet.es, and, particularly for swell, lamma.rete.toscana.it/en/wind-sea model from Italy, and of course grib files from zyGrib. Swell is a key consideration, as the short Mediterranean swell is a lot less comfortable for sailing than the longer Atlantic swells and can make anchoring at the least uncomfortable and at times untenable. We will often look at the swell forecasts before even considering the winds.

Anchorages and harbours

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