Sailing In The Mediterranean

by John Hartley - Date: 2007-04-28 - Word Count: 698 Share This!

I doubt there is one, but if you're the sort of yachtie who likes to use his engine to get out of the marina, immediately set his sails, and only use the engine to get into a harbour, then you'll be disappointed. There's a lot of motoring in the Med.

The wind tends to blow along the Spanish coast, either east or west along the Costa del Sol, and then just when you think you'll get the wind on the beam as you turn the corner, you get it on the nose again. Actually, that's not quite correct, because for 10-20 miles north of the south-east corner, the wind continues to blow east-west. Even when the wind blows, it doesn't usually start before 12 noon, and sometimes not till later.

So the thing to do is hurry up across to the Balearics, because we found that the winds around the islands are good sailing winds. You often get good winds round Mallorca, Menorca and Ibiza, and there are plenty of good anchorages and marinas to stay in. It is a great cruising ground, particularly the north-east of Majorca, and most of Menorca.

Most people think of the Med as being either calm, or with just a breeze, but it can blow as strongly down there as around Devon and Cornwall. The difference is that the wind can come from nowhere and get up to a force 7-8 in half an hour. And neither the sky nor the barometer give you much clue.

Caught Out in an inland sea

We've been fairly lucky in this respect, but once we were caught out badly. We had cunningly anchored off the less popular side of an island in the inland sea of La Manga. All was well the first night, and the next day, and then the wind was supposed to turn around and come from the east, I think it was, but not until the next day. At about 8 pm the wind from the west dropped, and we expected nothing to happen - the nights are often calm. Within 30 minutes, the wind had not just gone around to the north, but was blowing at a force six -pushing us onto the island!

We couldn't go around the other side because the water was not deep enough, so we had to go into the marina in the canal that leads out of the inland sea. That would have been easy enough except that the lights marking the entrance to the canal were not working, and by the time we got there it was pitch dark.

That was not all; owing to silting, they had had to mark out a channel to the canal, and this was a dog-leg marked by ropes connecting a few buoys - red and white would you believe. Worse than that, there was only one white light, and a couple of red ones at the beginning of the funnel, as it were, to the canal. So of course, we could not see them and just had to inch our way toward the wall until I suddenly saw a stick silhouetted in the sky.

At that moment, we got so close to the rope marking the channel that it caught around the skeg, but fortunately slipped off easily enough. Even when we got into the marina we had a job mooring as the wind was blowing us so hard off the jetty - the only space left being the fuelling jetty, which did not amuse the man in charge of it when he arrived the next morning.

We've since learned that the Spaniards in particular are not good at placing and lighting buoys, and that they often don't bother to replace ones that are damaged. Night sailing is best reserved for long passages in the open sea.

So, like anywhere else, unexpected things can happen when you sail in the Med, but you visit some great places, meet some lovely people, and can have some great sailing so long as you know where to go - that does not include the south Spanish mainland!

We've now spent six seasons cruising in the Med, gradually going east from Estepona, and many people ask:

"Is the Mediterranean the ideal place to sail?"

By John Hartley

Related Tags: sports, recreation, outdoor sports, sailboats, etc

John Hartley, who runs", started sailing sailing dinghies, but after a day in a keelboat decided that was his type of sailing boat. He has been sailing cruising sailboats for 16 years,

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