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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Frustrating Menorca

The narrow harbour in Ciutadella
We were so looking forward to Mahon in Menorca, having heard wonderful things about it.  Our first stop  was Fornells in the north – a fairly ordinary town but the bay offered safe and secure anchorage – important for a good night’s sleep after several at sea. 
The next day, refreshed, we moved a few miles east and found a gorgeous bay with turquoise water– just the spot to do a few maintenance jobs.  However it lost its gloss when the wind got up in the night and Bandit started to roll and pitch like a bucking horse.  By 5am we’d had enough so upped anchor and had a fairly brisk sail around to Mahon and into the marked anchorage area.  It was full of boats sheltering and a none too friendly lot they were......wherever we anchored it was going to be close but no one seemed to be sympathetic.  After several attempts and lots of scowling faces we told the grumpy neighbours we just needed to have breakfast and a cup of tea and would then reassess the situation.  So much for the camaraderie of the cruising community!  Needless to say, the wind dropped and we left ASAP.
The lovely old city of Ciutadella

The south coast of Menorca is lovely – white sandy calas (bays) and beautifully clear water but it is very exposed and after several rolly nights we decided we needed a peaceful night so back into Menorca.  We headed into the harbour itself – a massive indented harbour with lots of good anchoring .....so we thought.  Leaving Bandit in a good spot we headed into the town to explore, provision, internet and enjoy our first Spanish cafe con leche.  The Panerei classic yacht race was on so we indulged in a spot of nostalgia wandering the docks looking at the elegant boats – Creole, Mariette etc. 
We returned to Bandit several hours later to find a note on our stern saying we were anchored in a restricted area.  In fact the only anchoring allowed was in the first anchorage we went to which was a good mile tender ride away over busy waters.  The Mahon harbour authority controls all the dock space and, to be fair, have installed dozens of floating pontoons to which you can tie up....but at a cost.  For us to go onto the dock it was 128euros which just doesn’t figure in our cruising budget.

David’s daughter and husband were arriving the next day and we debated at length options for picking them up.  A long tender ride with bags did not appeal so we decided to risk the authorities’ anger (again) and anchor in the harbour.  We left Bandit the minute the anchor was down and on our return a few hours later, found some angry officials waiting for us telling us to move....which we did.

With southerly winds forecast we opted to go around the north of Menorca and had several nights in beautiful calas before going into Ciutadella where we tied up at the wall for 42 euro, power and water included.  Note to Mahon authorities – a slightly more lenient approach would encourage more cruisers to linger in your city and spend their money in your supermarkets, restaurants and chandlery stores.  Your short sighted approach doesn’t work for us.
A very strange looking motoryacht - Russian owned of course.

Ciutadella is beautiful – a lovely old city renovated beautifully after the Spanish Civil War with tons of character.  We enjoyed lingering here – just soaking up the atmosphere and wandering the cobbled streets

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