By Roger Chandler
Photos: Roger Chandler and Sonja Ezergailis
I’d checked the forecast and it was blowing Beaufort F4/5 NE with a fair swell running of 3-4 feet. Es Grau looks out to the NE and on arrival there was a two-foot swell rolling into the protected bay! After talking with Maria, one of the owners of Sea Kayak en Menorca, it was decided to get a drop off on the south coast. This would mean an offshore wind, but some protection if close in and smaller to no swell. It meant we could start, so that was a winner!
Sonja my partner, was going support me in a sea kayak, on my SUP around the Mediterranean island of Menorca. The island is a distance of between 180–220 km depending on how much of the coastline is explored or hugged. This was my first semi self-contained expedition on a SUP and I was excited.
We set out from Biniacolla right down on the SE tip and the plan was to go clockwise around Menorca. I had to work hard with the off shore wind, which kept blowing the nose of my board out to sea. About 7km in to the journey the cliff’s got taller, offering more protection and the sun beamed on to the rocky walls. It was a beautiful evening. Yet we had a further 9km to cover before it got dark and we could fully relax.
Day two and I was keen to pace myself so we headed out just before 10.00. For me this was new ground on a SUP, I wasn’t sure exactly what I could do or manage. We were now leaving the tall cliffs and about to approach the beaches around Son Bou. It surprised me how busy it was. Our initial thought of heading in for a coffee, was replaced by, “Let’s cut across the bay and leave it behind!” Sant Tomas seemed quieter and a nice looking restaurant on the beach had some places. Time for lunch, we were on holiday after all!
The rest of the day was mainly about me trying different techniques with my forward paddling, which kept my mind busy as I was keen to get as close as reasonable to the SW point, the Cap d’ Artrutx. We decide to pull into Cala en Turqueta with 28km done. It was a busy attractive bay and Sonja spotted the fisherman’s cave on the left, which meant we were out of the sand and it was a little more peaceful.
I was still trying to find the balance between holiday and expedition, so we decided to make the most of the South coast bars and cafes. One tortilla and a couple of coffees later, we were around the Cap with a surprised, although welcomed tail wind. We moved along the coast offshore and soon we were aiming for the headland west of Ciudadela.
The NW corner is one of the cruxes of the trip, with 14km of no landing due to cliffs and a rocky exposed shore and we were now approaching this section. We had a head wind that seemed to be accelerating off each headland. I had found my gears and was enjoying powering up into the wind. We could see Punta Nati, with white caps flowing towards us, with a perfect blue sky. We quickly chatted and it was an easy decision, to turn and run back around to the edge of Ciudadela, 5km away.
It was strange as we paddled into Cala en Blanes, with a high rise hotel one side, a couple of bars playing music and lots of people crammed into a small beach. I initially felt at odds and out of place. Yet soon with unpacking, sorting kit, soaking up the 36km paddled, I relaxed and joined Sonja at one of the bars, as well as David Bowie!
We had a super light forecast for the next two days. Still north to north east, so a head or side wind, but it was light!
Day four, we were on the water for 08.00 and I had now changed to the bigger blade. I felt we needed to get some mileage in the bank on the exposed north coast. It was a beautiful morning and Punta Nati was soon behind us. Further in the distance was the most northerly point of Cavalleria – the second crux. I was keen to get beyond this as well. I wondered if I could do that in the same day and box the two main crux points. We looked at the map and decided it was realistic.
Bay after bay we passed and on each hour I took dips in the sea. I had the compression leggings and socks on to reduce the swelling on my ankles and yes they were contributing to me being very warm! We took lunch floating in a small bay and I could have easily said, “Let’s head towards that beautiful beach,” one of many. I was tired. Yet I also felt we had been given a gift – F2 N/NE and less than one foot of swell on the north coast!
It felt amazing passing beneath the small light house and significant cliffs of Cavalleria. Sonja did a super job of guiding me into our new camp, that was a further 4km around the headland. I was bushed, we had been afloat for over 10 hours and I had achieved my personal best with 46km!
We were up at 05.00 and soon I had the super porridge mix from Tent Meals ready. I was feeling surprisingly good and It was an amazing sunrise, which stoked me further. Three hours or so into the paddle and another gentle headwind had developed. Headlands stuck out further on this coast. The lighthouse of Favaritx seemed to stand still. Floating in the water each break time became essential and part of each hour.
We were eventually around Favaritx and heading further south towards Es Grau. From Es Grau we had around 20km to go. Mahon was now the focus and I found a second wind, feeling efficient, excited and strong. It was just as well as the entrance to Mahon saw a few small sailing and motor boats. The latter setting up an exciting inshore swell, while I dodged the sailing boats!
At Cala Alcalfar we had one of those tough decisions, with 6km to go but with one hour of daylight. I had no real reason to take a risk and aim to finish in five days, so after a brief discussion we headed into a natural harbour with a lovely little village and a flat rocky area which would be ideal for our bivi – 49 km and my personal best!
Day six and on the water early, we headed on to Punta Prima for coffee and our first full English cooked breakfast of the trip! Twenty minutes later we were back at the start, unpacking and laying out our kit to dry.
Big thanks to Sonja for the support, McConks for the paddleboard and paddle, VE Paddles, Kokatat for clothing and Tent Meals for the super tasty and high energy porridge.