Jack Haines used a charter trip to the beautiful waters around Mallorca to try out a bigger boat
Upgrading to a larger boat can be a nerve-racking process. There are so many questions: will we be able to handle the boat? What will the running costs be like? Can we afford a berth? If the plan is to put the boat in another country then the number of questions and potential issues increase further.
This is why, for many people looking to upgrade, a charter of a larger boat makes a lot of sense. It gives you the opportunity to live day to day with a bigger boat and see first-hand whether you can manage the berthing manoeuvres, fuel costs and other concerns. You can also confirm your suspicions that yes, you do like that extra slice of sunpad, the larger fridges and the fact that it takes a far worse sea than previous to make you turn on your heels and head for home.
Chartering from England
Essex Boatyards has spotted this demand for a try-before-you-buy opportunity and decided to make the idea even more attractive. You can charter its Fairline Targa 47, Relax, based in Mallorca’s stylish Cala d’Or for anything from a few days up to a couple of weeks and if you then go on to buy a stock boat from them worth £100,000 or more, the cost of the charter will be refunded.
It makes such great sense; if people are going to try before they buy why not get them invested in the brand? If they buy a boat, they’ve had a free holiday, if not, they just shell out for a lovely charter and walk away.
How they could walk away, though, is hard to fathom. The boat is looked after by Fairline Cala d’Or, run by the incredibly personable Charles Kiely. Charles has been in Mallorca for 20 years and what he doesn’t know about this gem of an island isn’t worth knowing. “Cala d’Or is paradise,” he tells us. “It just doesn’t get any better.”
It’s tough to argue with him. Cala d’Or Marina is well protected by a twisting channel, which leads past the old fishing huts – a nod to Cala d’Or’s humble past – and a network of pontoons to a horseshoe-shaped quayside, set up perfectly for stern-to mooring. Palm trees rustle gently in the breeze and the quayside is lined with cool alfresco cafés and restaurants. The gleaming Cala d’Or Yacht Club nestles on the hillside surrounded by postcard-perfect villas and obsessively manicured grounds. As Charles says, paradise.
Relax, named this, I can only assume, because it’s Charles’ favourite word, is a 2007 Fairline Targa 47. She has twin Volvo Penta D9 500hp engines and, for two to four people, it’s hard to imagine a more perfect charter boat. The cockpit is divided between sunbathing space and a huge swathe of seating mated to an enormous teak table for dining. The wet-bar includes a BBQ so you can cook lunch alfresco and the GRP hardtop makes it easy to quickly add or remove shelter at the touch of a button.
Below decks she has two large cabins in the form of a master in the bow and a generous twin amidships, both ensuite, giving plenty of privacy. In between the two cabins is a comfortable dinette and a well-specced galley with a full-size fridge/freezer. You can convert the dinette but this would only be for occasional guests. There are all the Med mod cons, such as air-con, generator, passarelle and a Williams jet-RIB, although it wasn’t on board at the time of our charter.
The Targa 47 came at a real sweet spot for Fairline. The styling still holds its own among the multi-million pound boats in Cala d’Or as does the design, finish and seakeeping. We were plagued by an unusually persistent south-easterly chop during our trip in May and the 47 sliced through it with confidence. The D9s, although a little raucous, provide plenty of grunt and the trusty shaftdrive and bow/stern thruster set up means that guiding the boat around Cala d’Or’s tight channels is simple. Crewing her with two people proved easy, as well.
So, that’s the boat, what’s the cruising like? As a boating destination, Mallorca is right up there. The south-east corner, where Cala d’Or lies, is especially well endowed with gorgeous holiday-brochure bays and calas, where boats float in water so clear, it looks like they’re hovering over the white sand below. You can literally head out of the marina, turn left or right, travel for less than five minutes and find a beautiful spot to drop the hook. The aforementioned wind and swell made life a little more tricky for us on day one and, eager to get the hook down and start enjoying the boat, we headed to the known protection of Porto Colom. This is the best natural harbour on the island with enough space for at least 100 boats to anchor in shelter and a handful of mooring buoys to pick up for extra peace of mind.
We tried and failed to pick up a buoy and conceded to anchoring off Arenal Gran beach, where the boat held well in mud and sand. Being just out of season, the swimming buoys hadn’t yet been laid down, so we could get close to the beach and into the bluest of blue water. Porto Colom is one of those spots where you could easily spend a fair few days, tendering in and out of town on the dinghy and enjoying the surrounding beaches.
With lunch enjoyed in the sun-drenched cockpit and plenty of time spent lapping up the rays, we slowly made our way back to base. The chop now running with us, the 47 surfed home gleefully, the way only a planing boat can.
Mooring in Mallorca
There are no rules about where you stay overnight with this charter, as long as the boat and its occupants are safe. Charles had booked us a night on a buoy in Cabrera, the wonderfully unspoilt island 45 minutes south of Mallorca. You have to apply for a permit to pick up one of the 50 mooring buoys but Fairline Cala d’Or will of course help you with all of this and, even though the strong winds meant we couldn’t take our trip, the island comes highly recommended and is widely regarded as one of the most peaceful, secluded and beautiful spots in the area.
Cala d’Or is no bad plan B though. The marina has a pleasant buzz even early in the season in May and the selection of restaurants and bars is excellent and surprisingly kind on the wallet – in low season, anyway. €20 lobster, anyone?
Charles also told us that Cala d’Or Marina is rare in that it makes a conscious effort to keep a small percentage of berths free for visiting boats, even in high season, so you should always be able to get in for a night or two if visiting on holiday.
On day two we awoke to brilliant blue skies but the agitated flags and rustling palms hinted that wind was yet to abate outside the Cala d’Or cocoon. We headed south this time, to one of the most famous anchorages on the island. Mondragó has that type of electric blue, crystal-clear water that gets you grinning from ear to ear. The tropical cala has four arms (two of which are buoyed off for swimmers in the peak season) with swathes of sandy beach at each head.
Sadly the chop was rolling around the rocks and making life pretty uncomfortable for us so we reluctantly upped anchor and left, leaving Mondragó’s immaculate beaches and buzzing tiki bars behind. On the right day, it would be a magical spot.
Fortunately the rocky coast is so indented along this stretch that you’ll always have other options. We cruised for another five minutes and poked our bow into a cala called Ferrera north of Cala d’Or. It was ideal, a calm oasis where the other calas had been affected by the baying chop. We dropped the hook in 4m over white sand and settled in for the day.
Minus a yacht coming in and anchoring uncomfortably close to us, it was another perfect day beneath the Mallorcan sun. The attitude to anchoring proximity is slightly different in the Med, especially in Mallorca where you’re squeezing into narrow calas and not spacious bays. It comes with the territory, but as a UK boater where space to swing is part of the etiquette, it takes some getting used to.
How to arrange a Charter in Mallorca
Day three, unfortunately, was rained off (go June to September for the most settled weather) but it gave us time to reflect on a wonderful two-day snapshot of what cruising in Mallorca is like. It is a place that almost feels like it was hand-carved for boating, such is the mass of fantastic cruising and overnighting opportunities around every corner. The infrastructure is excellent but at the same time you can find a secluded spot and feel as if you’re the only people on earth. It’s a great place to try out a new bigger boat as you can cruise as near or far as you want. Charles is running an impressive operation out of Cala d’Or, too, and we were made to feel a million dollars, something that I know would be the case even if you weren’t reporting on a charter for a magazine. In fact, if you could afford to buy a boat I imagine the treatment would be even better!
If you want a real taste of a bigger boat in pretty much perfect surroundings, then Relax is the ideal opportunity.
Contact Essex Boatyards. Tel: +44 1702 258885 Web: www.essexboatyards.com/charter
First published in Motor Boat & Yachting, issue August 2014.