Archer Adventures

Onboard "Jet-Lagged"

Chasing the setting sun…

Here we go! Our relaxing pace in Turkey has come to an end, our “Schengen” visa days have reset to zero, and we have to get this boat to the Canary Islands. Time to go west!

As we race back across the Med, we reflect on the places we have visited. It has of course been all too quick, you could sail the Med all your life and still not see all it has to offer. But we have other oceans to cross.

Northern Spain was an unexpected delight. Beautiful bays, lots of small villages, great food. Portugal was great. Porto was a hoot, Lisbon is lovely, and the signature “cataplana” dish was heavenly. Every family restaurant had its own recipe and we wanted to try them all. Southern Spain and the Balearic Islands were a little more crowded but were still great sailing locations. Both Spain and Portugal have great food and wine. And they have the benefit of being easy places to sail, in that the paperwork and formalities are easy and relaxed, and for the most part marinas are inexpensive and available. That changed as we went east. But Portugal and Spain stay on my “definitely visit again” list.

Italy has little more formality in the paperwork required but nothing too onerous. Also great food and wine. It is a shame that we had to sail so quickly through it. Definitely visit again.

Montenegro was a surprise. Largely because I had no idea what to expect. It is a tiny country but very pretty and definitely worth the visit. The whole place appears to be a money-laundering home of the Russian mafia. Lots of Rolex and high-end handbag stores with no customers. Reminded me of all the fur coat stores in Dubai. The paperwork to get in and out of the country was quite onerous and the main marina at Tivat was a 50/50 shot as to whether you got the nice harbourmaster or the mean one. I got the mean one. I had an agent to help me thank goodness but even so the harbour master managed to drag the formalities out for more than an hour. At one point she insisted that I did not have the qualifications to be sailing my boat. I produced my WA Skippers Ticket, my RYA Coastal Skipper certification and my International Certificate of Competence but still she argued with my agent in a language I did not understand. During a break in the argument I quietly asked my agent “what other certifications could I possibly have?” and he whispered “You have more than almost everyone who comes here. This is just what she does”. And an hour later I paid the fees, got my stamps, and life carried on. But hey, Montenegro, if you want to become a boating mecca (and that is a stated aim on the country) then get rid of poo-head. Glad we visited but have seen enough.

Croatia is a sailing mecca. Or at least it was. Lots of islands, beautiful water, and, until this year, outside of the Schengen visa zone which means it was a great place to reset your visa days. Alas, no more. Croatia joined Schengen on January 1, which will make it easier for tourists doing a quick visit but will make it much less attractive to non EU sailors. It remains to be seen whether it reduces the paperwork, which is quite onerous and as I described in an earlier blog, is administered by corrupt police who invent fines and penalties as you exit the country. We met a couple of former journalists who used a hidden camera to record their experience of being ripped off as they exited the country. They sent the recording to the Croatian Ministry of Tourism and the Croatian Ministry of the Interior. The Ministry of Tourism said “how terrible”, the Ministry of the Interior said nothing. I applaud their courage but I do not think they should sail back to Croatia anytime soon! Another place that was worthwhile visiting but once was enough.

Greece is wonderful. Maybe the best combination of sailing locations, food and wine, decent and affordable marinas and pretty water. But the paperwork is ridiculous. There is a requirement to have a “transit log” which you must get stamped by the port police as you go in and then again as you go out of every port. Total pain and complete and utter waste of time. Even the port police do not seem happy to be required to do it. Do away with that and Greece would be perfect. Definitely on the visit again list.

Turkey had good and bad surprises. The water is spectacular and we met some wonderful people. The food is ordinary. I am sure there are great chefs in Turkey, but none were cooking in any of the seaside places we visited. Boring menu choices cooked to mediocre standards is as good as it got. The sailing areas are as crowded as I have ever seen. Boats everywhere, all fighting for anchoring position. The marinas charge extraordinary prices, making them pretty much unusable for most budgets. And that poo-card system just does not work. I can see that before the place became so crowded and expensive, Turkey would have been great sailing, now it is more stress than sailing should be. Pleased to have visited but also a place I would not sail again until the situation changes.

Overall we have learned that the saying about the Med that “there is either too much wind or not enough” has proved to be often true. We have had some delightful sailing but have had to hide from high winds, or motor through no winds, more than we expected.

Leaving Turkey for this trip west was no different. We left in almost calm conditions, but 6 hours later we hit fierce winds that became a “Medicane” as they call them here. This is the Med version of a small hurricane and you may have seen the news of the damage it caused in Greece and Turkey before smashing into Libya and causing thousands of deaths.

We found refuge in a small bay of a Greek island and hid there for 4 days as it howled overhead. We found a strong mooring and were quite safe. Others were not so lucky. A boat anchored nearby and all went to sleep, tired after fighting the weather to get into the bay. Luckily for them I was very interested in the book I was reading and so stayed awake on the back deck reading until 12:30am. Which is when I looked up and saw that yacht skidding past Jet-Lagged, missing us by just a few feet. It’s anchor had let go in the wind and the yacht was heading for nasty cliffs and rocks behind us. But everyone onboard was fast asleep!

I woke our crew and we started yelling, whistling, using our foghorn and our spotlight to try and wake the other crew. We successfully woke everybody else in the bay, but no-one stirred on the stricken vessel! Even people onshore woke up and shouted out that they had called the Coast Guard.

Finally we and another boat launched our dinghies, despite the extreme unpleasantness of leaving the safety of Jet-Lagged and getting into a small rubber boat in a howling storm in the pitch dark. But it did the trick. Banging on the hull finally brought a sleepy skipper up on deck, at which point he promptly shat himself. Metaphorically speaking of course. I think.

The Coast Guard never turned up. A police car did, and put on a fine display of flashing lights from the shore, to what purpose I do not know. The yacht managed to get re-anchored after multiple attempts and all lived to tell the tale.

Anyway, that is all behind us and we are making passage. We have just come through the Corinth Canal which was an extremely cool experience. And west we go!