Meridians and Parallels:  Let’s Go Sailing


As featured on page 9 of the July/August Issue of Ocean Navigator!

New!  SHIBUMI available for charter in the Eastern Caribbean starting January, 2005!


Reflections on Cruising The Islands of the Western Med

It is the middle of October, 2004, and we are in Almerimar, Spain, waiting for our boat bottom to be repainted.  We explored Formentera Ibiza and Mallorca mid-June to mid-July, and toured the northern coast of Menorca in late July.  In August, we cruised the northern coast of Sardinia and then the western coast of Corsica for the first two weeks of September.  We were surprised to enjoy Sardinia and Corsica as much as we did!  Here are some of our reflections about the Med:

Jackie was disappointed with the unrelenting, somewhat tacky, growth in tourism in the places she remembered as natural and pristine from her time as a yacht cook in the 1970’s.  Chris was pleasantly surprised that the associated tourist beach community building explosion at least had some charm, usually, but shared the disappointment that the striking natural beauty of the Western Islands of the Med were often best discovered inland, by auto.

We decided not to winter over.  The cruising season is short, the prices quite high, and we had had our fill of snuggling up with the rich and famous.  Actually we never really did meet any of these folks, but they must have been all around from reports in the newspapers, the megayachts, and the price structure.  We will seek less pretentious waters.

Boats of the Med:  When we first arrived in The Baleares, Jackie hoped to show Chris some of the mega-yachts from the mainland, including one with a helicopter.  Not only did we find several with a helicopter aboard, we found one with a helicopter zipped up in a custom canvas bag!  Truly amazing vessels with unbelievable maneuverability.  It seems that no matter how big or beautiful the yacht, there is always another one to overshadow it.

From one region to another the mix of nationalities changes.  All are welcome, but signage as above and markets reflect frequent international visitors.  As always, the boats are always a joy to watch and an opportunity to learn from the wisdom of others. Anchoring and Med Mooring techniques were also entertaining to observe. It is so in the US as well, of course, but here there are many more styles, and it is far more entertaining because of that.

Sun:  Really intense, especially in the last afternoon.  The sun warms you up while you sip your early morning coffee, but the hottest part of day is 1600-1800 which means that sun time is approximately two hours later than in NC.  The sun rises in the summer at 0600 and sets after 2130  creating long, comfortable days with little fear of rain.  Europeans love to sun bathe:  get dark in the nude.  Somehow they ignore warnings about sun damage to skin.  The current vogue for women is to sunbathe topless. The men don’t seem to mind.  One night over sundowners, the men in our group held a serious discussion about how natural and wholesome this practice is.  Then one remarked that the only taboo seemed to be older daughters sunbathing topless in front of their fathers. I guess it makes the fathers uncomfortable, even here.

The current style for the men is to sun while driving their inflatable around the anchorage in the buff, a sunbathing rotisserie. We wonder what they steer with.

Whatever anyone wants to do on their vessel is OK with us!   We get to call the shots aboard SHIBUMI!

Clarity of Sea:  In Sardinia and Corsica, we were amazed at the clarity of the water.  This photo showing fish, sand, and weed taken at anchor in 30 feet of water at 0900 illustrates how clear the water really is!  Some say that the reason is the fact that there is very little plankton/fish food living in it.

Weather Forecasts:  Every morning during August, we tried to wake in time for the Med-Net at 0730 for the five day weather forecast.  We received other  forecasts via German weatherfax and  Navtex for the current day. Navtex is useful only for a 24 hour period, of course. That’s bad enough, as by noon most folks are already going on their merry way so it’s a little late to discover that the afternoon wind is scheduled to blow at force 9 (45 knots).   Then we discovered RTTY which transmits the five day weather forecast in English for the mid-Med at 0600 and 1800 over SSB. It is a Morse transmission and also part of the German broadcast system.

Weather:  During August the weather fronts began to pass through NE Sardinia at least once a week.  Lots of wind, no rain.  The cloud pattern on the left remained the same at Cala Saline in NE Sardinia for ten hours while the wind blew steady at 35-40 mph.  In our six weeks in Sardinia, we rode out four major fronts, each generating 45 mph winds for three days, in four different anchorages.

Corrosion:  The boat was covered in salt crystals from sea passages and grit from the wind blowing sand from either the beaches ashore or the Sahara, as evidenced in this photo after one passage.  The salt is so thick that when you wash it with soapy water, a thin milky film residue remains unless you  rinse twice.  Since we avoid marinas (at $150/night) where we could access water to wash down the boat, life focuses on finding creative ways to remove the salt and grit. 

If Jackie rose early enough to sponge the heavy dew from our exterior, that helped.  She also gave up some of our fresh water to keep the windshields in the pilothouse clean from the  salt/sand camouflage.  During the summer months, SHIBUMI was dehydrated, thirsty, hot, salty, and gritty.  When Jackie hoisted Chris up the main mast to install new flag halyards, he was amazed to discover a thick coat of grit and salt all the way up.  When it rains, the debris will cover the decks! 

Anchor Watch:  To prepare for forecasted winds of 35-45 knots, we stayed in Oblia for the weekend of August 20th.  We had two days of calm weather which we used to rent a car and tour inland.  Then we sailed to a secure anchorage and tied the sail covers onto the booms to wait for the blow scheduled to arrive the next day.  Chris decided to put out a second anchor before the weather conditions deteriorated. 

Earlier this summer, Jackie began to routinely set a GPS anchor watch  to alert us if SHIBUMI drifted outside a predefined range.  It is now standard procedure for her to write down the waypoint (latitude and longitude) when Chris drops the anchor.  Later she keys that waypoint into the GPS so that the alarm will sound if the boat drags anchor.

Overnight we slept in peace as the GPS alarm did not sound.  The next morning we woke to fair weather, and Chris wondered if the front had passed over early.  Since we could not confirm this by listening to Med-Net weather due to bad propagation, we settled into a routine of boat chores for Chris and computer work for Jackie.  The wind started to blow, but we were not worried because we knew that the GPS alarm would sound if anything was “untoward”, as the Brits say.  About 1140, Chris jumped up from the nav station, talked to a guy outside in a dink, and then the GPS alarm sounded … after Chris turned the GPS on.  We had drifted about five boat lengths backwards closer to another boat, whose crew had launched their dinghy to alert us. We spend the next two hours in 30-35 knots steady wind gusting to 55 trying to reset the two anchors.

Sometime after we returned from the States in May, we bent our main CQR anchor and and it no longer sets and holds well.  Iin  wind over 25 knots, we sometimes drop and set two anchors if the holding is poor. This is  fine until your boat floats in a circle as the wind shifts 180 degrees at night.  Then the anchor lines wrap around each other, diminishing their holding capability.  CQR’s manufacturer has something called a “limited lifetime warranty” which we are researching.

Coastline:  The northwest coasts of Ibiza, Mallorca, and Menorca were large, stark cliffs 50-200 feet to the water below.  Breathtaking and still natural as nobody has figured how to build on these sites.  Sardinia has still more striking limestone cliffs with the NE coast offering more good, natural harbors and anchorages that we had seen before.  Anchoring off Corsica reminded us of Maine sometimes and the Caribbean other times.

And then there were the white cliffs of Bonifacio, pictured right, a geological anomaly.

Crime in the MedOften subtle, sometimes not so subtle.  We decided early on to lock both the forward and aft cabins of the boat every time we went ashore and the dinghy wherever we landed onshore.  We thought we had been lucky compared to others;  our only outright theft this summer was the fish finder/depth sounder instrument on our dinghy which was stolen when we docked in a fisherman’s harbor in Gibraltar.  But we experienced multiple times when Spanish workmanship did not meet minimum standards:  once when a boom weld lasted five minutes under sail and second when the bottom paint started flaking off two weeks after the job.  The next result is that we have paid approximately $5,000 in the past 18 months for work that we then had redone at additional cost.  Beware.

Updated Pages:
bullet Voyage Summary
bullet Port Summary
bullet Cruisers

New Pages: 

bullet Cruisers
bullet Boats in the Med
bullet Crime in the Med
bullet The Baleares
bullet Mallorca Photos
bullet Mallorca Restaurants
bullet Menorca Photos
bullet Corsica
bullet Sardinia
bullet Alghero, Sardinia
bullet Porto Cervo, Sardinia
bullet Olbia, Sardinia
bullet Hummingbird Cake
History:   2003 Horta, Azores
2003 People of Azores
2003 Galicia, Spain
2003 Rias Biaxas, Spain
2003 Porto and Lisbon
2003 Rota, Spain
2004 Andalucia, Spain
2004 Gibraltar to Mallorca
2004 The Baleares
2004 Western Med
2004 Canary Islands
2005 British Virgin Islands
2005 New England USA
2006 Cruise to Venezuela
2007 Venezuela Review
2007 Retun to San Blas

New:  SHIBUMI scheduled to charter in Eastern Caribbean from January through April, 2005