One of the many upsides of cruising in a sailboat is the freedom you have to go almost anywhere. Beautiful beaches, charming port towns and secluded bays – there you go.
1) ‚Pleasure crafts‘ prohibited to berth on public quays
Exept a place is overdeveloped and many places are overdeveloped in the Mediterranean. Means that the supposedly public port no longer allows yachts (so called pleasure crafts) to moor at their quays and instead makes them go into a private marina (comparable to a campsite for boats). To pay ridiculously high fees just for „parking“ the boat, electricity, water, the use of their less than mediocre sanitary facilities and terrible Wifi.
Palma is a beautiful and interesting city but it sure has a strange feeling to it when you come by boat. The marinas are full of super swanky super yachts (I recently heard the term „boat porn“) with their crew constantly seeming to be busy cleaning the deck to have it ready for whenever their owners wish to make use of it.
As a normal yacht you feel out of place and not very welcome, it’s a shame, really. And this must be so much worse in the summer when the port is actually full. Even now in winter where occupancy is evidently much lower a single small yacht is still no welcome costumer, they just don’t need it.
When we arrived in Mallorca after our 50something hour trip from Sardinia we went inside the port, hoping for a place to put the boat and get a good night’s rest. We only saw private marinas so we opted to stay in one for the night in order to check out our options the next day. They charged us 67,55 Euros and that’s the low season fee. Wifi wasn’t working at all and their sanitary facilities were clean but rudimental.
After taking advantage of being close to the city and walking around for the day we took the boat and moved it outside the port to anchor in front of the cathedral.
2) It can be quite uncomfortable
That’s where the second challenge comes in. With a mono-hull anchoring can be quite uncomfortable if the conditions aren’t right. With waves the boat can swag from one side to the other and that violently so.
That was exactly the case when we were anchoring in front of the cathedral but the real problem (challenge No.3) was that it was super difficult to find a spot to land the dinghy when we wanted to go ashore. The whole coast is lined by sharp rocks to break the waves – nothing for a rubber boat. And nothing to secure it, too. So we had to go all the way back into the port which was quite a distance for our small outboard engine and put the boat there. Somewhat bizarre to literally be anchoring in front of the city center but at the same time not being able to go there!
3) You can’t just leave the boat like you would leave a car
So going places by boat has its disadvantages, parking’ the boat and leaving it somewhere can be tricky. For one because of overdeveloped ports and weather is a factor, too. It not only potentially makes anchoring uncomfortable, it also keeps us from leaving the boat whenever it’s not clear how the weather is going to turn out. We tend to not leave the boat in sketchy weather conditions and go exploring. It’s just too risky, the anchor might not hold. Even when you have a berth in a marina, strong winds from the wrong side can dangerously push the boat to the peer as has just happened to us in Mallorca when we were up almost all night trying to get Ponyo as far away from the concrete as possible!
4) You can’t pull over when you are tired
Also when it comes to traveling by boat – challenge No.4 – a trip might take a couple of days or when crossing an ocean as much as a month and conditions can get rough. We have had trips when all of us were seasick, feeling tired, being thrown around by wind and waves and when we had to hand steer (mostly in pre-autopilot times) for hours on end and – suprise! – you just can’t pull over and take a break, you have to go through with it. It certainly makes you well acquainted to your own limits.
The lows can be low but the highs are really high
Well, with sailing the highs are high but the lows can be very low. To a point where you wonder why the heck you are doing this to yourself and your family. All is forgotten by the time you see dolphins or when you reach a new destiniation on your own keel or you just have a great sailing day!