In the UK just about every boat owner must at sometime of dreampt of sailing off to the mediterranean and spending hot summers swimming in crystal clear water. Sipping on cold beer and gunk holing along the coastThe big thing is to actually make the decision to go and cast off those lines. Hopefully this article will help you make that decision. When i get apprehensive or start making excuses why i cannot do something. I go back to a saying i was told many years ago and it is very true. (it is to easy not to do something). This little saying gets me going every time.
Dave and Cal Johnson bought their moody 44 all the way over from Boston on the NE coast of America to the med. So what excuse do any of us really have in the UK. Once you have made the critical decision to go. The next one is which route to take. For the hardened sailor there is only one real route and that is around the outside via Gibraltar. Then for the time conscious sailor who wants to spend the time they have sailing in warmer climes. Then trucking the boat to the med is the obvious option. At first this option can seem really expensive. For a lot of people time is money and once the time and expensive of getting to the med. Trucking the boat suddenly becomes a lot more viable. Then for the rest of us there is the option of the French canal system. For the boat owner who wants to do part sail part canal. Then the canal de midi is a perfect option. You can get through the canal de midi in just a couple of weeks. One thing to consider before setting off for the midi though is that it is notorious for silting up. So check your draft and check what depth of water the canal has in it. If your boat is anywhere near the isle of Wight area then entering at le Havre is the obvious starting point If you are thinking about the canal route then i have a article all about the canals and could well be helpful to you.
So you have chosen your route. The next thing on the list has to be to make sure your boat is as ready as possible for long distance cruising and cruising in a hot climate. A lot of boats that are great for sailing in the English channel do not necessary make a good med cruising boat. For the med a comfortable cockpit is a big bonus as you will spend a lot of time in it. Also a sugar scoop stern is so so handy for various reasons. Which include,Swimming off of, Getting in and out of the dinghy. Which you will use a lot as spending nights at anchor will be plentiful and for showering on.By doing this it will keep the inside of the boat nice and dry.
The picture above is of the cockpit of Leesa Christina our 2nd boat a jeanneau voyage12.5m. As you can see a nice large cockpit. Also note another very important factor for med cruising in the top right hand corner. On the guard rail each side we mounted 125w solar panels. Being self sufficient for keeping the leisure batteries topped up is probably the most important thing to consider when getting your boat ready. Solar panels are really the only viable option. What about wind power you might say. Wind gens are ok in the UK climate in the med though there are long periods of time when the wind will not blow hard enough to get any useful amps out of a wind generator. A generator will give you lots of amps. When you get to the med though and you anchor up in a lovely peaceful anchorage. You will realise there is nothing worse to spoil the peace and quiet of the anchorage than someone starting up their generator for a couple of hrs to charge their batteries up. We all know that running your main engine for long periods of time in neutral to charge your batteries is a one way ticket to an engine refurb. So that just leaves solar power. With the abundance of sunlight in the med which is the reason we all go there in the first place it makes perfect sense. A realistic amount of watts that you will need of solar panels to keep your batteries topped up so that you can stay out at anchor for extended periods is about at least 250w for a battery bank of about 400 amps. We mounted our panels on the guard rails either side of the cockpit and were adjustable so they could be tilted towards the sun. So as to always get maximum efficiency during the day. Also get yourself one of the new MPPT solar regulators it will boost the input in to your batteries no end.
Why have i put a picture of our engine in you may ask. The reason is in the med apart from the Aegean sea. You will spend a lot of time either motor sailing or motoring. To be honest the med is not the best place for sailing. You get days on end of glorious weather with very little wind. Then when the wind does blow it is often about force 7 which lasts for a few days and then you will probably get about a week of very light and variable winds again. So astrong engine is a must. If you think your engine needs anything doing to it do it before you leave because you will need it a lot when in the med. Our perkins prime let us down a couple of time which cost us several thousand euros in total to put right and i am meticulous with keeping her well serviced.
The most important item you will need is just visible to the left of Leesa Christina,s galley that is the fridge. A good sized well working fridge is a must for enjoying your time cruising in the med. This is not just for keeping the beer cold. Which is also essential. Keep the fridge topped right up so it draws as little power as possible. Draw power it will and lots of it. This is where your solar panels come in as the fridge is the single biggest drain on your batteries by far. Probably between about 2 to 3 amps per hour for about 12 hours of the day. Which adds up to a lot of amps.
You will spend a lot of nights in glorious anchorages when cruising in the med. So its makes sense to have a lot of chain. When i say a lot i mean as much as your anchor locker will pheasibly hold you will need it. Also a good anchor i tried a few and by far the best you can get for med cruising is the Rocna. Go heavy with your anchor as well so that you can sleep at night when the catabatic night wind blows. In the eastern med we literally got blown out of a couple of anchorages during the night by wind that came out of nowhere. As well as the night wind a lot of anchorages in the eastern med are a lot windier than out at sea. You might put the sails away in a force 3 and get in to the anchorage and you are faced with well over 20kn. This is caused by the topography of the land mass surrounding many of the anchorages. A lot of the land is mountainous and steep to producing a lot of funnelling effects with the wind. Dont let me put you off anchoring this was always our preferred method for mooring just be aware so that your ground tackle is adequate for the job it is intended for. In the eastern med of Greece and Turkey you will also get used to med mooring to trees rocks and just about anything you can stern to as in a lot of the small coves space can be tight and you will have limited swinging room when lying at anchor. This was my favourite type of being at anchor. With your stern firmly tied to the land if the wind picked up at night there was no chance of you tripping out your anchor as the wind changes direction.
So you have planned your route. Your boat is ready to go. A big consideration now is where are you going to leave your boat for the winter once in the med. You need a nice secure yard that gives you good value for money. Many of the yards in the med now are very expensive. We left our boat afloat one winter but i would not recommend it unless you intend to live aboard during the winter months, There are loads of yards to choose from there are 3 i can really recommend though depending on what part of the med you are cruising. They are.
Port Napoleon, Situated at the bottom of the river Rhone so a perfect place to leave your boat if have just entered or are about to leave the med or just cruising around the south of France. They have a huge hard standing. They use golf carts to get about the yard that tells you how big it is. Port Napoleon is very competitively priced. Only one drawback in the autumn this is the mosquito equivalent of heaven.#
Yatlift. Situated on the Turkish mainland just opposite the island of Kos. Very friendly staff here,Lots of chandlerys just outside the yard, Competitively priced and easy access via Bodrum airport during the summer months.
Preveza marine, Now been re named Ionion marine. By far our favourite place that we left our boat over the winter months. There are super helpful staff here. The price for the winter months is about as cheap as you will get anywhere. Perfect for cruising the wonderful Ionion sea. There are 3 yards here Cleopatra, Aktio and .Ionion marine use Ionion the best by far. Cleopatra is much more expensive and Aktio still use a sled to get your boat ashore. (no travel lift).
Now you have your boat ready, You know which route you are going to use to get there and you know where you want to leave your boat for the winter. Time for the adventure to begin. I have written up another article about the cruising areas in the med that we explored hopefully that will have some useful information for you to decide where to cruise.