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Mahon, Menorca

Saga Sapphire blog - Captains' blogs

25th March, 2017

As the day dawned with a few squally springtime Mediterranean showers lurking nearby, it became apparent that Captain Tanner’s first arrival manoeuvre was not going to be as straightforward as I’d hoped for. 

The local agents had arranged for us to pick up our local pilot at 07:00, and by doing this, they stated, we would “not clash with any local ferry traffic.” However upon contacting the pilots over our radio on the Bridge in the morning, the response was, “Oh, Captain, you must arrive for your pilot at 08:00 –otherwise you will clash with local ferry traffic.” Bienvenidos a Espana!  Perhaps one of these parties thought that the end of daylight savings time was due a day earlier this year…

Once the local pilot had finally finished finding parking spots for his local ferries, the skies cleared to reveal warm spring sunshine as we sailed into the beautiful natural harbour of Mahon, on the smallest Balearic island of Menorca, shortly after 08:00.  Es Castell, (a prominent little castle) on the eastern-most tip of the island, is passed close on the starboard side of the ship and is the first point of land in Spain to see the sun rise. 

Mahon is one of my favourite ports to navigate within; a lovely natural harbour spanning more than 3 miles, a low rocky coastline spattered with little haciendas and villas –some lucky enough to have steps leading down to their own pontoons with boats tethered to them.  Local fishermen use their little ‘llauts’ to catch much of the seafood consumed on the island.  They were weaving in between the rocky outcrops on the way to their fishing grounds as Saga Sapphire elegantly glided into the harbour.

What an ideal port Mahon is to visit.  The berth is situated a mere few steps away from the city centre.  The town itself is a real mix of history and culture, dotted with an array of what look to be haphazardly built houses and larger constructions, many of which have stood the test of centuries.  Among others, the island has been in the hands of the Spanish, French, Moroccans and even the British for some time.  Each of the aforementioned has left their mark on the island –the Moroccans with some old mosques, the French impacted the local dialect, the Spanish of course with the current lifestyle and much of the architecture, and the British with…Gin. 

Yes, Xoriguer gin has been distilled on the island since the British occupation in the 18th century and continues to do well today.  Unusually, Xoriguer is made in wood-fired potstills from distilled wine rather than the more usual grain-based distillate, and is rested in oak barrels before bottling.  It is traditionally enjoyed by being mixed with fresh local lemonade, although I also find it still goes well with a nice tonic.

Menorca sports an amazing variety of coastlines, as I discovered whilst sailing around the island last year in my boat somewhat smaller than Saga Sapphire, which allowed me to creep into all the hidden bays and ‘calas’(local beaches).  The south coast contains the typical Mediterranean white sandy beaches interspersed with rocky cliffs,  One of these hides a superb bar & nightclub built into a cave with spectacular views out to sea, particularly at sunset.  The north has more sparsely populated larger bays, some with golden coloured beaches.

Menorca is the ‘quietest’of the Balearics, which is one of its beauties.  Not receiving so many tourists means that one is quite likely to be able to find a nice quiet spot on the beach –or even be lucky enough to have it all to oneself at this time of year, as I also found to my delight whilst sailing there during the month of May.

With everyone back on board and exhausted from exploring the sights, we set sail back out through the magnificent harbour again and back into the western Mediterranean sea.  With the ship’s head pointing east-south-east, next stop: Malta!

Captain Kim Tanner

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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