Day 1 Joining day in Palma de Mallorca
We were about to sail for 3 weeks so we had to make sure that everything is ready before we slip the lines. Inspecting the boat, provisioning the yacht, familiarizing with the boat and safety briefing took almost the entire day.
Provisioning for the upcoming week.
Topping up fuel tanks and jerry cans.
During the evening we head to the old town. After dinner and a short walk, everyone wanted to get a proper rest before the whole sailing fun begins so before midnight everyone was in the bunk.
Day 2 Palma de Mallorca - Cala Portals (8 NM)
After leaving the harbour we practised tacking, jibing, reefing and mob before heading to our first destination. We also tasted a delicious Spanish cake served by Stefan who had a birthday on that day. There could be no better start to the voyage.
Goodbye Palma de Mallorca.
Time for something sweet.
Before going to Formentera, we anchored in the beautiful Cala Portals at the West tip of Mallorca. Despite the end of the season, the bay was quite busy but we managed to sneak in and drop the anchor. The bay has a sandy beach and crystal-clear water. Some took a dinghy to explore this nice little place and its beautiful cliffs. On one side of the beach, you can find a giant cave that has three entrances which look like giant portals (hence the name, translated as "Old Portals"). Inside, some of the walls are decorated with inscriptions and drawings.
Cala Portals in Mallorca.
Inscriptions in the Cala Portals caves.
There is a beautiful legend about the caves of Portals Vells, also called "The Caves of Mother of God". It tells that around the middle of the 15th century, a Genoese sailor had been caught by a horrible hurricane near the Bay of Palma. The storm tore the sail to pieces and the huge waves cracked the planks and masts of the ship. Seeing that their lives were in danger, the captain and his crew decided to make a vow, promising that if they were going to save their lives, they would build a place of honour for the statue of the Virgin from their ship, exactly at that place where they were going to be driven ashore. Actually, the storm ceased, and the ship was driven to the little natural bay of Portals Vells, where the sailors discovered several caves. They decided to place in one of them the statue of their Madonna, carved an altar into the rock and decorated the walls with religious inscriptions and drawings. At first, the Virgin's statue was worshipped only by sailors and fishermen, but later the caves became a place of pilgrimage. During the 18th century, the Madonna statue had to be transferred to the church of Calvia in Palma, in order to protect it from the enormous boulder that had fallen from the ceiling of the cave. Nowadays, the statue can be admired in the church of Portals Vells. The Caves still preserve the inscriptions and paintings of those rescued fishermen as well as a wonderful view of the charming Bay of Portals Vells.
Day 2-3 Cala Portals - Formentera (86 NM)
We left Cala Portals Bay before the night and set sail to Formentera. We had almost no wind during the night but luckily the wind picked up a little bit in the morning so we could stop the engine. We arrived in the afternoon and anchored in front of uninhabited Espalmador island which is just a few meters offshore from Formentera.
In the Puerto de Espalmador, just about to jump into the water.
One of the many watch towers on the Spanish coast protecting from pirate invades in the past.
After a swim, we explored the nearby watch tower. These towers were built in the 18th century in order to watch out for possible pirate incursions from North Africa, which constantly plundered the Mediterranean coasts. The towers are located at strategic geographical points and close enough to be able to communicate by means of smoke signals.
Looking at Ibiza from uninhabited Espalmador island.
In the Puerto de Sabina, the only harbour in Formentera.
For the night we stopped in Formentera harbour situated in front of a little and charming town. The people of Formentera have been striving to protect the island's unique environment and promote sustainable tourism. They are also trying to eliminate single-use plastics, support sustainable ways of living and raise environmental awareness amongst visitors.
Day 4 - 5 Formentera - San Jose (248 NM)
The initial plan was to visit Alicante but due to extensive calms near the Spanish coasts, we decided to go more offshore and visit San Jose. The route followed the good wind and led initially towards the African coast before turning to starboard towards San Jose. In this passage, everyone learned how to use a sextant and got into the watch rota rhythm.
Half way through between Formentera and San Jose.
First sun shots with the sextant.
We arrived at San Jose very early in the morning and had the whole day to explore this little fishing village with scenic setting amidst volcanic mountains, and bays.
Welcome in San Jose after 2 days of sailing.
On the San Jose mountains.
Day 6 - 7 San Jose - Malaga (145 NM)
We booked a berth in the Real Club Mediterraneo de Malaga and left the beautiful San Jose before the night to be able to pick up Marco that was joining us there. We had to beat overnight but the wind shifted the next day and we were on a broad reach again. We had a nice breeze on this passage and during the last few hours the wind increased to 7 Beaufort and we were making up to 8 knots on fully reefed main and genoa. The sea near the harbour was very uncomfortable with waves bouncing off the marina wall but once we passed the wall the water calmed down and there was no issue navigating into the marina.
Exhilarating sailing towards Malaga.
Real Club Mediterraneo de Malaga.
You should book most marinas in Spain in advance, even outside the season, as there is a very limited number of berths available for visiting yachts.
We spend the whole Saturday sightseeing in this beautiful city. Malaga is one of the oldest cities in the world and there is so much to see. Some of us even managed to watch a flamenco show.
Malaga harbour viewed from Castillo de Gibralfaro.
Day 8 - 9 Malaga - Gibraltar (74 NM)
We set sails towards Gibraltar in the late evening and had a great sailing condition all the way.
We had one situation in this passage. 30 miles away from Malaga a large navy-like ship, not visible on AIS, followed us for 15 minutes or so. They lightened us with a big search torch a few times and disappeared. After about half an hour they came back again. This time they launched a rib and came on board. This would have been quite stressful if we were in the vicinity of the piracy area but since we were quite close to the Spanish coast there was nothing to worry about. This turned out to be a custom doing a routine check. Three officers came on board and checked the boat and crew papers. The did not seem to be very organized though, just checking lockers randomly and searching through clothes. Everything was in order and they left after about half an hour.
The Gibraltar Rock appeared on the horizon in the morning and everyone was excited to finally see this iconic spot.
Enjoying perfect sailing conditions.
Rounding the Gibraltar Rock.
We gave the Rock a wide berth as rough overfalls
are typical near the Europa Point lighthouse but they were still visible well offshore.
Overfalls off Europa Point lighthouse.
Walking up the Rock takes about an hour but it is well worth it for the amazing views.
We berthed in the Marina Alcaidesa (Spain). From there you can easily cross the border with Gibraltar (UK) on foot over the airport's runway which is quite an experience.
Crossing the border to Gibraltar from Spain through airport's runway.
Gibraltar city viewed from the Rock
Monkeys are everywhere on the Rock
Day 10 - 17 Gibraltar - Tenerife (845 NM)
The Strait of Gibraltar can be challenging. High ship traffic, strong winds, tidal streams and currents, overfalls and ocean swell are all factors that have to be taken into consideration to make a safe and motor-free transit. Winds in excess of 30 knots are said to blow in the Strait for 300 days of the year. Our transit through the Strait was relatively calm. We had 26 knots after exiting the Strait to the west but it was pushing us nicely in the direction where we wanted to go.
Provisioning for the ocean passage.
Strait of Gibraltar with Africa on the port side and Europe on the starboard side.
Celestial navigation routine.
Keeping well offshore was a good strategy. But nothing lasts forever and we had to motor for a day or so as the wind died after 3 days. However, with that, we were able to swim in the open ocean, an experience everyone was waiting for.
One of many beautiful sunsets on the ocean.
Taking evening star sights during twilight.
Swimming on the open ocean - always a fantastic experience.
Water animals were frequent companies on the passage. Dolphins, pilot whales and flying fish were not uncommon. We even managed to catch squid one night that made a complete mess by spilling ink over the deck and topsides. It's a job for brush and a good detergent. You can forget to clean that just with water.
Trying out emergency tiller in a swell - works but it is hard work without some extension.
Pilot whales on the hunt for squids.
When we first spotted the first elevation of the Canary Islands, it was a feeling of excitement, joy, relief and pride. The passage was long and tiring but there is beauty in it. The beauty of the ocean, dark nights, stars coming out, shooting stars, sunrises and sunsets, dolphins, flying fish, and the time you have contemplated life and the world.
After 7 days, the first elevation of the Tenerife was spotted. Seems like the celestial navigation worked out fine, uff ;)
On the final approach to Tenerife.
Welcome to the Santa Cruz de Tenerife on the Canaries 7 days after departure.
Roadsted on the approach to Santa Cruz de Tenerife commercial port.
Main square in Santa Cruz.
Day 18 Tenerife - Gran Canaria (55 NM)
Since we still had three days until we had to return the boat, we decided to visit Puerto de Mogan on Gran Canaria Island. We went to Grand Canaria overnight and had mild wind. The acceleration zone West of Gran Canaria is one of the strongest in Canaries but it was not present this day.
Attractive, long-established Puerto de Mogan marina.
Puerto de Mogan with the beach and marina to the west.
Puerto de Mogan is one of the most charming marinas in Canaries and one could easily spend a week or two in this picturesque place.
Day 19-20 Gran Canaria - Tenerife (120 NM)
When going back we decided to round the Gran Canaria in an anticlockwise direction to see other parts of the island. We were expecting a northerly breeze and a strong acceleration zone on the east coast of Gran Canaria.
Entering acceleration zone on the west coast of Gran Canaria.
Catamaran ferries making 30 knots are common in Canaries.
When sailing around the Canaries you should familiarize yourself with the acceleration zones. The predominantly North-Eastern wind is held back by the high islands. The wind is deflected but also accelerates sharply. This leads to zones with sudden strong winds (25 knots or more in a matter of 200m).
During the first hours until we reach the acceleration zone, we had almost no wind. Once we reached the eastern side of the island, the whitecaps clearly visible in the distance marked the entry line into the acceleration zone. With fully reefed sails we entered the zone and had a lot of fun riding the waves at 24-26 knots. After a few hours of beating against the wind, 2.5m waves and southern going current we were making only 1.5 knots north. We had to change our strategy if we didn't want to spend the whole night trying to beat North. We had to get out of the acceleration zone. We sailed for about 2 hours towards Fuerteventura until we escaped the acceleration zone. With calmer conditions and the support of the engine, we were finally able to make at least 4 knots towards Las Palmas that we reached at about 2 am. From that point onward we continued towards Santa Cruz on broad reach making on average 6 knots.
Finally on a broad reach to Santa Cruz after beating over the night.
Santa Cruz de Tenerife just ahead.
Collectively we managed to complete 1556 NM over 21 days, navigating by no means of GPS on the open ocean. We all learned a whole lot. The team was absolutely amazing and you could not ask for a better one. Being in a few lockdowns in the past year has shown us how truly lovely it is to feel the freedom on the ocean and create your own schedule.
If you like to sail and want to bring your sailing skills to the next level, join us on future trips.