Sadly our time in Menorca is drawing to a close, having been here for a week now. Our first couple of days at anchor in the beautiful Cala Galdena (pictured at top) were quite relaxing. Our anchor held well even with some fairly strong gusts on occasions, still our GPS position remained on our original dot, taking wind direction into account. A cautionary note, beware of forecasts in this region as they appear to frequently underestimate wind strength. The 4 hour sail from Cala Galdena to Mahon (Mao), the capital of Menorca, was supposed to be relatively benign, with the wind dropping from 15 to around 10 kts. Instead it rose to a steady 30+ kts with gusts to 38 kts. The boat handled well, even when we had to motor the last few miles, wind on the nose, into the seas with the caps breaking off some of the waves; a wet ride!
There are two large towns in Menorca, Ciutadela on the west coast and Mahon on the east. Mahon is situated on a long natural inlet and encompasses several marinas, a commercial dock, and a naval base. The buildings are less grandiose than those in Ciutadella, the former capital, but the harbor considerably larger. It is where Xoriguer gin is distilled and is reputed to be where “mahonnaise”, a.k.a. mayonnaise, was invented.
Due to the strategic position of Menorca as a naval base it was coveted by the main maritime nations. The British had control of the island for most of the 18th century, with occasional lapses to the French. Britain ceded the island to Spain under the Treaty of Amiens in 1802. Nelson’s fleet used Mahon and the Brits were responsible for building a road linking Ciutadella to Mahon in 1722, the first since Roman times.
Menorca has been inhabited since pre 1,000 BC. And has numerous stone remains indicating its history on the trade route between east and west Med. we visited the naveta des Tudons, east of Ciutadella. This stone tomb was used between 1,400 and 900 BC, and on excavation in the 1950s at least 100 skeletons were found in it.
While waiting for the appropriate weather window, we hired a car (€55 for 3 days) to tour the island. Our first stop, Cala Porter, offered crystal clear water and a bar complex utilizing caves in the cliff face above the sea; very impressive. The venue definitely improved the taste of the drinks. Ciutadella is an historic town with lots to see but the cala is narrow, limiting the number of boats there. Es Grau is a pleasant ex-fishing village just north of Mahon, nice place for lunch overlooking the shallow bay. It must be very crowed in the summer months. Fornells on the north coast is a very large cala with space for lots of boats, but presumably often windswept given the minimal vegetation there.
So, we are very favorably impressed by Menorca, beautiful anchorages in crystal clear waters and plenty of options for good protection when strong northerly Tramutana winds blow, neat, tidy, colorful buildings, few large tourist developments and those that are present tend to be fairly tasteful, over 40% of the island is a protected UNESCO biosphere with lots of options for hiking, biking, and other outdoor activities.
Early tomorrow morning we plan to head out for northern Sardinia…..