Western Med Blog 13 (A summary of the sailing season, out-takes, highlights, must do, should avoid, cultural quirks, etcetera.)
28 October 2017 | Back in London, reflecting on a season past
In no particular order
• Spain: Almerimar to Denia in May;
Balearics: Ibiza; Formentera; Mallorca; Menorca in June;
Italy: Sardinia in 1st half of July;
France: Corsica and Elbe 2nd half of July and early August;
Italy: Giglio and south-western ‘calf’ of Italy from south Tuscany to Scilla including the Pontine Islands and the Aeolian Islands; Sicily. August, September and early October
• 2100NM sailed/motored in 5 ½ months at an average speed of 5.2knots.
• At a guesstimate we sailed 65% of the time and motored the rest. More motoring than in the previous 2 seasons. Welcome to the Med!
• The Western Med is about changing winds and a high workload in sail changes in any one day/sail.
• Fewer lobster pots than the Atlantic but still take care.
• Number of fish caught with trolling line = zero! However, we did see a swordfish jump in front of us and we saw flying fish, small schools of dolphins and the odd turtles. We had one massive take in the channel to the Balearics and lost all the tackle.
• The Spanish: love idling their cars instead of saving fuel; often offer free tapas with drinks at Tapas bars; enjoy tanning topless, unlike the Italians; are very friendly.
• Formentera, stunning beaches, barren quirkiness and clothing optional.
• Ibiza, hidden behind its hedonistic reputation is a beautiful island.
• Mallorca, the NW coast is an absolute gem, it needs calm conditions in a yacht but it is a hiking, cycling and dramatic dolomitic mountain-scape, that explains why Robert Graves, Michael Schumacher, Winston Churchill and many others were drawn there. Also, it is not spoilt. Torrent de Pareis is particularly special.
• Menorca: equestrian madness in Ciutadella and the magnificent festival of everything horsey, Festes de Sant Joan.
• Port d’Addaia, on east coast of Menorca, a good place to chill in a boat.
• Water spouts and an electric storm that stayed way ahead of us on the crossing to Sardinia.
• Fornelli passage and the anchorage at the adjacent Pelosa passage, in NW Sardinia. The water doesn’t get clearer/bluer and the sand whiter than this.
• La Magdalena Archipelago and in particular the anchorages, either side of Deadman’s passage. crystal clear water, shelter everywhere and a snake, yes, a snake, swimming up to the back of the boat while on anchor about 100m offshore! Only the second snake I have seen in Europe in 10 years.
• Bonifacio; we saw a lot of walled ancient towns this sailing season and last season but this place takes the cake.
• Girolata on the West Coast of Corsica. Rustic, inhabited by earthy, Bohemian types that have an act together, beautiful, in a nature conservation area and accessible by foot or boat only. In the village transport is quad-bike or donkey only. At the back of the village there is one of those French hiking trail signposts to the closest places. It says "some place" 06:07. So it is a long walk. I just love the 7 minutes piece!
• Hanging onto a buoy in Calvi in a 30 knots-plus Maestral for 3 days, not sleeping much as the boat charged around the buoy and the boat on the adjacent buoy had their mooring line part twice. Like a gunshot when it goes.
• To be avoided, high season marinas at >€100 per night. At one stage between Sardinia and the Italian mainland, we (bar one two hour stop costing €15 for a water top-up) stayed out of marinas for 19 days. Be prepared for that. General water shortage meant that water usage was limited to filling water tanks only. No boat washing allowed.
• Isla Elbe and Isla Giglio in the Tuscan Islands we did not spend enough time doing them justice but they seriously impressed
• Cala d’Inferno in the Pontine islands, dramatic bright white rhyolitic pyroclastic cliffs
• Capri and the Amalfi coast, there is a reason they are so popular and that is a pity but they are still well worth visiting.
• Italian habit of hanging washing on pulley systems overhead in narrow alleys. Lingerie included.
• Selling external building paint is not a career move in Italy, but the architecture and the feel of the villages are still somehow stunning.
• Aeolian Islands, no particular one singled out as each have their own unique character. The unique opportunity to see active volcanoes and climb to reveal the simple life and magnificent vistas. The archaeological and geological Volcano Museum on Lipari and Vulcano are of particular note.
• Scilla the village at the entrance to the Straights of Messina, a hidden gem.
• Syracruse and Ragusa old towns for a portrayal of the best of Sicilian history and architecture.