Sailing around the Mediterranean – The Countdown Begins!
(Please note that the trip has been sadly deferred read about why here)
I may have mentioned or alluded to this in passing before, but now it’s official: The Montecristo Travels Team will be sailing around the Mediterranean! I know, right? I’m so psyched!
Like so many great adventures, a simple idea is, in fact, something far more complicated to realize. We certainly could go the route of selling everything we own and just jump right in, but we prefer to take off the rose-tinted glasses and learn from the (sometimes hilarious) misadventures of others. In our research, we have learned that those who have not been soured or disappointed by similar dreams are those who planned their journeys carefully. They planned as much as possible; yet, built in flexibility.
Why the Mediterranean?
Really? You really need to ask the question?! Is there any other part of the world that has as much art, architecture and history as well as culinary, not to mention cultural, diversity? The joy of coastal navigation around this sea is likely unparalleled and well worth the hassles that will come with it. If you are sailing purely for the sport, then arguably there are much better winds and waters elsewhere. But, if like us, you also want a variety of experiences that range from fine French cuisine to the markets of Morocco, then the Mediterranean makes perfect sense.
The Mediterranean is also safer. For first timers, it’s reassuring to know that we will not likely encounter pirates. Today, pirates are not something to brush off as silliness. They are a real threat, especially if you are sailing around Somalia, for example.
Although storms can be intense in the Med, the modern warning systems, large number of ports, larger sailing traffic, radio presence and access to repair shops make the Med a safer alternative to big ocean sailing. In other words, walk before you run.
So it is: the countdown is on. We plan to start our Mediterranean sailing adventure on May 1st 2015 from … well, the port is yet to be determined, so stay tuned!
Two Halves Make a Whole
We are breaking the trip up into two 6-month jaunts instead of a single all-in-one-shot year. The reasons are many.
- It turns out that the weather in the Med is so bad from October to April that even the ancient Romans had a ban on sailing during this period. Those unpleasant conditions are something I think I’d like to avoid.
- Taking our trip in two 6-month jaunts allows the bipeds to keep our home and the jobs that help make this trip possible. It is far easier to save for six months away and then return for 18 months and save up for another 6 months away than to take on a whole year at once and risk facing the devil with your soul for sale or filing for bankruptcy. Our plan makes sense financially and it keeps the bipeds’ careers from vanishing entirely.
- The Med affords different environments for different levels of sailing abilities. You can find waters that are perfect for beginners all the way to more challenging areas best suited for those who are a good deal more experienced. Parts of Asia and Africa, for example, add the challenge of not having many chandleries to help with repairs. So, by the time you sail to those shores, you better know your own sailboat and its weaknesses, know how to fix problems yourself, and have your own spare parts handy.
- Sailing is a lot like camping: it’s not the “Life of Riley” many would believe. Coming home to the luxuries of modern living and our family and friends will be wonderful. Plus, being back to “normal” will give us a chance to soak in our memories before we become over-saturated with experiences and our memories start to blur into one another.
- Lastly, by breaking our trip up into two parts, if we disliked the first 6 month experience or found 6 months of sailing just enough, we don’t have to go back for the second part.
Just what are we looking at anyway?
The Mediterranean Sea is home to 21 countries. (Check out the map and list of countries I’ve included!) Some countries, like Spain and France, are large, and some, like Malta and Montenegro, are small. Each one is unique with its own culture, cuisine and set of treasures and challenges. Even if we are splitting the year up into two 6-month adventures, it is still a “21 countries in 365 days” scenario. That means that if we were to evenly spread things out, we are looking at a new country every 2-3 weeks. Which, of course, is ridiculous! Some countries can be experienced in a week while others, such as Italy, will require considerably more time.
All that to say that, at first blush, it may seem like we will have all the time in the world, but the truth is, the Mediterranean winds are unpredictable, engines fail, tides (yes the Med does have tides, especially near the Strait of Gibraltar Crossing) can cause trouble if not approached at the perfect time or in the right season. Sails can rip and boat parts may need replacement. Electrical issues could trouble us. Any of this could delay our arrival at our next port of call and throw our schedule out the window … or in this case, the porthole.
We need to plan carefully and consider so many things. As I mentioned, the Mediterranean is a place of sailing extremes where you all too often end up with too little or too much wind and where temperatures from Europe, Asia and Africa can vary dramatically. Additionally, anchorage during high season (especially in Europe) can be far above our means for a full year.
We also want to allow enough time to enjoy our journey; take the time to fall in love with a tiny town outside of the larger cities; take a bus or hike to some remote ruin on a hill in the distance; swim, fish, or scuba dive and catch our own dinner.
And then there are a thousand skills to acquire. A thousand obstacles to overcome. (The paperwork alone… .) A thousand experiences to include in our plans. (Bouillabaisse in Marseille anyone?) Oh, and there is that tiny little detail of buying a blue water sailboat!
So we are starting our planning now. The adventure will not start on the day we set sail on May 1st 2015; rather, the adventure has already started … 2 years ago in fact when the bipeds learned how to sail in the first place.
Planning, Flexibility, Time … Heck, Greece alone with its 140 or more populated islands would make for 10 islands a day for two weeks. Impossible! 365 days a lot of time? No not really.
And thus begins a new series of Montecristo Travels posts: my diary of the events, thoughts, and preparations leading up to the trip … of course as seen from eight inches off the ground.
Countries are listed in order (clockwise) around the Mediterranean Sea. Later we will provide a tentative time frame for each and invite you to let us know if you would like to join us for a leg (but that is a whole other post).