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Tips for Chartering in Mallorca.

This is the first article in our series on Chartering Tips that aims to provide “useful” information to those chartering in new sailing grounds around the world. These articles are not intended to be formal cruising or chartering guides but instead are written to answer a simple question: Is there anything we wish we had known before chartering there?

We were fortunate to bareboat charter in Mallorca with Dream Yacht Charters in 2018. Were attending a family reunion in Pollenca (northeast corner of the island) and stayed there for several days instead of rushing from anchorage to anchorage as it is, unfortunately, our more standard approach to a fast 7-day charter. Our trip included a day-long single push passage from Palma to Pollenca (not recommended at all!) and visits to anchorages along the intimidating but beautiful north coast. Here are some of the things we learned along the way:

Mallorca is Rowdy so choose hotels carefully! Although Ibiza gets most of the press for being a party island for the rich, Mallorca is also quite the party hub although a bit more in the Jersey shore or Panama Beach style. “Hell no” is what my cousin who lived in Mallorca said when I asked him if the area of Magaluf was a nice place to find a hotel for my parents. “Think of Cancun but with drunk young brits having sex on the beach and picking fights with anything that moves”. We thought this was a bit of an exaggeration but then our taxi driver said “The travel agents put the Brits on the east side of Palma and the Germans on the west. That really helped reduce the fighting”. Luckily, there is nothing worth doing in Magaluf unless you are 20 and looking to party so you can definitely skip the rowdy spots.

The moral of the story is: when looking for a hotel for the bookends of your trip, seek hotels in the main downtown Palma area and avoid Magaluf and surrouding regions (Palma Nova, Santa Ponsa) unless you want to party like it is 1999.

Easy Parking by the Dream Yacht Charter base. We rented a car for our first day because we needed to pick up my parents and drive them all the way to Pollenca. So we drove to the DYC base located in Port Calanova on the west side of Palma and were stressing out about whether we would find parking near the marina. We were quite surprised to find a massive and mostly empty (and in high season) parking lot right in front of the Marina. The payment machine is located on the stairs on the southeast corner of the parking lot, which is what the person will tell you when you call the “help line” because you have no idea how to pay for your ticket. That’s what they say, I mean.

The DYC base is not at the Marina at the big DYC tent with all the DYC employees.  So don’t walk ever there with all of your papers introducing yourself because they will send you up the road to the real DYC base. Instead, the Base (office) is on Joan Miro St about 1/2 a block east of the Marina on the opposite side of the street. You have to first go to the office to complete the paperwork before you go down to the marina to start the boarding and boat check-in process.

An Eroski Supermarket is a block away up the street on Joan Miro. If you have a car, I recommend driving to one of the larger stores in the suburbs of Palma instead (e.g., Mercadona) which will have a larger and cheaper selection than the Eroski. To bring the groceries down from the street level to the marina there are elevators on the main Marina building that take you down to the water level near the marina restaurant.

Be careful when doing a passage on the north coast of Mallorca. Don’t do the Mallorca to Pollenca passage in a single day, but if you do, pay attention to the wind and swell for the previous days. We decided to do a day-long passage to Pollenca in a single day and it was quite an uncomfortable trip for many reasons. The north coast of Mallorca is notorious for being rough and having few if any safe anchorages in case of storms. I looked at the weather carefully and it seemed like a perfect day for the passage. Winds were light at 5-10 knots from the north, mostly sunny with a slight chance of scattered thunderstorms in the afternoon. What was supposed to be a long but easy motorsail to Pollenca turned into a 9-hour bashing into 3m waves and an encounter with a massive squall that resulted in several distressed calls from other boats in the area.

What went wrong? Well, I failed to check the historical weather. The day of the passage was the first break of a series of days with strong north easterly winds that created a strong swell. So although the winds were light for most of the trip, 3m waves in short cycles were still traveling southwest and right into our bows. Several days later when we returned to Palma, the seas had calmed down and the north coast was perfect with less than 1m waves. So definitely check the historical weather before doing this passage.

The second mistake was ignoring the “scatter thunderstorm” chance. Dealing with squalls is something we do often and not a real cause of concern. However, I didn’t know the nature of the squalls that travel from the mainline of Spain and into the deep Med. These squalls are massive with 50+ knot winds and capable of doing some serious damage to boats at sea. The squall hit us about 20 miles from the northeast corner of Mallorca. By the time we saw the size of the squall and that it was coming right for us, we had no options for safe anchorage. So we played it safe by reefing deeply and motoring slightly off wind. The boat behaved beautifully (a Lagoon 42 similar to Blue Buddha) and we spent most of the time listening to distress calls from other boats and trying to figure out if we were within assisting distance. The squall passed within several minutes and soon after we saw a boat motor by us with all the sails completely shredded. A while later we saw a conglomeration of boats surrounding a mid-size yacht that we assumed was the one that was sending distress signals during the storm.

The moral of the story is: Take med “scatter storms” seriously. These are not Caribbean squalls!

One of the casualties of the storm that hit us on our way to Pollenca.

Do not miss Pollenca. We loved love love this anchorage. It is a massive bay with endless room with good holding on arguably one of the nicest beach towns in Mallorca. Pollenca is a family beach town with small hotels, dozens and dozens of beach-side restaurants, and all the amenities that cruisers need within walking distance. There is a public dinghy dock easily visible when you approach town on the right side of the main marina (right side when facing the shore from the water). There is a small but well-stocked grocery store (Eroski) one block from the dinghy dock on Carrer de Joan XXII. There are also several smaller stores beachside north of the dinghy dock but they were much more expensive than the Eroski (although they had yummy freshly baked bread!). Finally, if you forget to check the dinghy motor gasoline and run out of gas on the way to the dock, there is a petrol station about 3 blocks past the Eroski on the same street. They have gas cans which the charter company will gladly accept as a donation.

The trip to Faro de Formentor is worth it (for a few minutes). When you sail the northeast corner of Mallorca you can easily see the massive and spectacular lighthouse Faro de Formentor. Getting there from Pollenca require taking a bus (no cars allowed) from the Pollenca bus station. The bus trip itself is worth the time as the road to the Faro is quite stunning. There is a small buffet-style restaurant at the faro with pizza, coffee and cold beer. Plan on staying on the faro for no more than the time to take the next bus to come pick up you up (about 30min) as the Faro is insanely hot during the summer and there is very little to do besides taking pictures of the surrounding med.

Playa Formentor is gorgeous and worth the pricey mooring. Just at the entrace of Pollenca Bay is Playa Formentor, an extremely popular and crowded beach that is a must do if you are in Northeast Mallorca. The moorings are pricey at $30 euros for the day stop but the turquoise water and unique beach surrounded makes this one of the most interesting and beautiful beaches we have ever visited – despite the few naked old germans. Extra tip: don’t attempt to pick up the mooring yourself as it is not a Caribbean style buoy so there is no loose pendant. Instead, a harbor boat will come and work your lines through the buoy for you and get the payment for the mooring.

Break the north passage by stopping in Port Soller but get there early. Port Soller, on the north coast, is the quintessential small Med Port town with a large share of super yachts, a beautiful anchorage, and plenty of sea-side restaurants. However, the anchorage space is small and it fills up by mid-afternoon during high season. If you get there are there are no spots left you will be out of luck as there are no other suitable anchorages on the north coast.

Skip Torre de Pareis (Cala Calobra) during high season. We had high hopes for Cala Calobra, an impressive narrow anchorage surrounded by massive cliffs just a few miles northeast of Port Soller. But when we got there a mid-day the place was so crowded you could not even see the beach and the boats were anchored on top of each other in ways that likely made for great youtube sailing fails videos. We later learn that this spot is this crowded all day long during the high season and essentially inaccessible unless extremely crowded beaches and fighting other people’s anchors caught on your chain is your kind of thing. We hope to one day come back during the early or late season months.

There is no anchoring in Port d’ Andratx. We, unfortunately, skipped the highly-rated Port d Andratx on the west coast of Mallorca. We found out too late that the entire anchorage area was taken over by the yacht club and filled with buoys. You have to reserve them well in advance if you want to stay there in the high season, which we didn’t do and they were full by the time I checked a few weeks before our trip. We heard lots of good things about this port town and we will make sure we visit during our next trip to Mallorca.

Make the passage to Menorca if you have more than a 7 day charter. Menorca is just 35nm east of Pollenca and it has some of the most beautiful cruising grounds. We didn’t visit but what we learned about isolated anchorages, uncrowded beaches, and beautiful port towns put Menorca on the list of top towns we want to visit in the future.

Finally, make sure you schedule your departure taxi through DYC in advance. When they offered to schedule a taxi for us we were not 100% sure at what time we wanted to leave to the airport so we decline and assume it would be easy for us to schedule a taxi on our own. Big mistake. Scheduling a taxi was essentially impossible as taxi base just did not pick up the phone (we were warned about this before). The taxi stand a few blocks from the marina was also empty and it took us a while to find a empty taxi that took us to the airport. After the ordeal, we realized how good the other boats had it, which had scheduled their taxis in advance. The taxis came all the way down to the marina docks and picked up the customers right outside their boats. Definitely don’t be like us and schedule your taxi in advance!

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