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The capital of the Balearic Island of Minorca, the natural harbour of Mao-Mahon has been an attractive asset for different maritime empires over the last 2,000 years, and the harbour itself has made it a popular destination for those chartering motorboats and sailing yachts in the Balearic Islands today.
One of the largest natural harbours in the world, it would be of no surprise that the British, French, Spanish and Dutch squabbled over Mahon in the 18th and 19th Centuries. The British left the biggest mark with their architecture - moving Menorca's seat of power from Cieutadella to Mahon in the 18th Century, you will see much of the city built of Georgian architecture, redolent of the height of the British Empire today.
Several Treaties have ceded control of Menorca to the British, French and Spanish over time, and there was a sea battle that the English lost over the island. When you see the extensive harbour you'll soon see it is a jewel of a spot, both sheltered from the weather and as a strategic location in the Mediterranean for exerting one's force as you wish. Though the Brits only ran the place for 80 years you'll not forget they were here today - the Royal Navy dockyard is still in use by the Spanish Navy and a new maritime museum is planned for the old Royal Naval hospital.
As a holiday resort suitable for couples and families, Mahon is up there among the best in the Balearic Islands. Those on superyachts or other types of motor or sailing yachts can moor close to the Casino Maritim if that's your thing.
Those on a Mahon yacht charter should take a day or two to explore the city, perhaps book-ending your sailing holiday. This isn't a place to be ignored and is in itself be worth a day's excursion in its own right.
The northernmost Balearic Island, Menorca averages up to 11 hours of sunshine every day - a sun-worshipper's paradise. Those after a quiet sunbathe will soon find secluded beaches to anchor off and chill out in the sunshine. That said, on a Menorca yacht charter, the winds are just right for a great sail out to sea.
Many a seven-day yacht charter will allow you to explore the island. For those who might want to get off their yacht and onto something a little nippier there is the 5km long x 2km wide Bay of Fornells, a protected lagoon with such a narrow entrance it is almost a saltwater lake. Around a half day's sail from Mahon on the NE coast, you can do a small boat rental from dinghies to windsurfers and kite surfing you can be assured of a good day messing around in boats. Those who want some fun and a night out, the nearby Playa den Fornells is a lot more lively than the fishing village on the bay.
On the SE corner of Menorca, there is another little town worthy of sailing to - Punta Prima. Punta Prima is a holiday town with a strong fishing heritage and has British Empire fortifications that remain from the Brits' sojourn in charge. A laid back, relaxed village to chill out, you won't be disappointed with the white sandy beach and restaurants. Just offshore is the Isla Del Aire island nature reserve that has a small harbour famed for its excellent scuba diving - and also its unique black lizard residents - worthy of a boat trip in its own right.
Cieutadella is the ancient capital of the island, many say for 1,700 or more years before the Brits arrived. This is a good chance to 'get back to Spain' and explore Menorca as it was before it was colonised.
With around 3.5 million passengers passing through the airport every year from all over Europe, this is a busy regional airport with connections across the EU and beyond. It is just a few kilometres from Mahon, and you can take a bus or taxi into the city for just a few Euros a head.
There are ferries from Barcelona (7 a week, 7h45 each way) and Valencia (one sailing a week, 7 hours each way). From the ferry port it isn't too far to the charter boats in the marinas.
There are five marinas on Minorca Island, two of which are in Mahon's natural harbour. Each has yacht charter companies offering superyacht, catamaran, luxury yacht, motor yacht and monohull sailing boat hire for day charter, week and two week long charters on a bareboat or crewed yacht charter basis.
Marina Deportivo de Mahon:
Max Length 28m (91.8 Feet)
Max Draught 6m (19.6 Feet)
List of additional services: Shore power, water, dressing rooms, laundry, restaurant, marine servicing
Max Length: 50m (164 Feet)
Max Draught: 6m (19.6 Feet)
List of additional services: Shore power, water, WiFi, dressing rooms, laundry, restaurant, bar, marine servicing, fuel, waste collection
Whether exploring Menorca itself on a sailing trip or heading off to nearby Mallorca on a longer sailing itinerary, there is a lot to see and do on a Menorca yacht charter, be it on a bareboat charter or skippered/crewed yacht charter.
7 days - clockwise around the island: Never really doing more than 10-15 nautical miles per day this is an opportunity to enjoy the NE winds yet having time to get ashore for some sightseeing. A morning's sail out of Mahon will take you to Cala Coveswith its prehistoric burial caves and steep cliffs. Further round the coast you can explore Cieutadella (the island's original capital) with its Menorcan architecture. Fornells on the NE coast is the last highlight with its deep lagoon, excellent for pottering about in small boats and boards.
14 days - Mallorca and Menorca: Heading out of Mahon on your charter yacht you will have the opportunity to spend the day at the Isla del Aire nature reserve before hopping across the strait to Majorca. Here you have the choice of exploring the delights of the holiday resorts or chilling out in nature reserves as you go. Not to be missed is the capital of the Balearics, Palma on the SW coast of the island. You then head north and eventually across to Menorca where you can either enjoy the pristine beaches of the south coast or the laid back vibe of the north coast.
The sailing season in the Balearic Islands is best from May to October. The major party towns such as those on Ibiza heat up to a full frenzy in June to August. It is very much down to what you want from a sailing holiday in the islands - if partying all night is on the cards, the top DJs will hit the region in that time. If the quiet life is what you seek, then do try to get out during term time - the sea is still warm in September and October, though the infamous Tramontana starts to be more frequent at this time of year, as it eases off in early May.
The NE breeze common to coastal Mediterranean France dominates Menorca, a cool relief from the summer heat. It never really gets above 17 knots or so so there will be some boisterous sailing but never more than is fun. You will see more precipitation towards the beginning and end of the sailing season (May and October) but the temperatures rarely stray below 15-17 degrees during those times. In the height of summer (July/August) it isn't as hot as mainland Spain, though you will see the odd few days in the 30+ C range. For Northern Europeans and those from other cooler climates this makes for fantastic sailing.
The main points to consider are what is your budget, have you got the necessary sailing experience and qualifications to manage the boat if it's not going to have a skipper, whom you are taking sailing, where exactly you wish to go and what will the weather be like on the proposed dates of your trip.
The two major marinas in Mahon are Deportiva de Mahon (280 berths and yachts up to 28m) or the smaller MarinaMahon (165 berths, up to 50m).
The peak summer season can be extremely busy and expensive for a group on a Mahon yacht charter. If you can get out in September when the schools go back then you will still have the warmth of the sea and great sailing too.
You will typically pay 50% up front on booking the yacht hire and the balance on arrival. You will either pay a security deposit with your credit card on departure or can get insurance covering damage in advance. In some cases (such as the recent Covid situation) charter companies may be more flexible but this depends on the individual charter companies themselves.
If you are at sea and in danger, call MAYDAY on VHF Ch16 or ring the coast guard on your phone if you have reception. If you have a mechanical fault and can make it to or are on a mooring you will be able to phone a help line number given by the boat charter company.
You should consider do you have the experience to handle the yacht charter or boat hire before you book and where do you want to go along with what the weather will be like. Bring warm weather and cool weather clothing if it looks like the weather can be cool as well as warm and remember at sea it can be cool on most evenings.
If you want to sail without a skipper then you will need relevant qualifications like RYA Day Skipper/International Certificate of Competence (ICC)/ASA 104 Bareboat certificate or the US Sailing Certificate. For small 'day boats' or if you choose to have a skippered on board your yacht charter you typically don't require licences.
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