I am no stranger to sailing in the Mediterranean. I based my previous yacht in Mallorca and Barcelona for over 12 years and enjoyed it there exploring the western Med extensively. The actual exploring was inevitably restricted to ‘chaps’ trips which tended to be more adventurous and with the family joining the cruise in the various destinations. Apart from the vagaries of Mediterranean winds which tend to blow too strong or hardly at all, the issue that lingers with me more than anything else is the imperative to be somewhere because of crew flight bookings. This was a particular pressure when most of the crew had jobs to sustain and their limited budgets were helped by early booking on a pre-arranged notional itinerary. I don’t think I found myself making passages that were unsafe but there were certainly occasions when prudence would have recommended a delay, if only for the comfort of the crew. More usual however were the times that we had to reluctantly run the engine in light airs to make a rendezvous when slow sailing would otherwise have been delightfully serene but could not be accommodated within the time constraints. Then there have been the times when we have ‘kicked our heels’ for a crew departure or arrival when we could have made more of our location and continued to explore, possibly discovering hidden treasures. How wonderful it would be to be free to just ghost slowly along under sail with no deadline to keep, going with the wind and accepting whatever it delivers – bliss!
So, my planning for this summer has had several black clouds associated with it. Apart from some extraordinary and distressing business ‘clouds’, the primary yachting cloud has been the state of Hejira with the enormous ‘tank replacement job’ which frustratingly dragged on and on – see my previous blogs and ‘technical’ postings. This was followed by other gear issues and general maintenance which has had unfortunate collateral ‘mission creep’. Preparation is nearly complete now and it only remains to anchor between the Lerin Islands off Cannes and dive under (not sensible on my own) to check the anodes and fouling before casting off at the beginning of June. The fouling issue will be interesting as it has been well over a year since my launch in Portsmouth and I have continuously run the new ‘Ultrasonic anti fouling’ system since then. It will be a major result if this combined with my ‘copper coat’ has significantly reduced the fouling problem as I have struggled to book a local ‘lift’ and scrub before June.
Once again, I have been under a certain amount of pressure to identify when I will be where for the inevitable early flight booking discounts and, so far, I have resisted being drawn and I have continued to prevaricate……….
So, I can now disclose that – I don’t know where I will be and I won’t know when until I get there!
This seemingly flippant attitude will hopefully gather some understanding and sympathy when I explain my position.
The various joys of sailing are experienced in different ways and on different levels for different people. For me, the liberating experience of being largely in charge of one’s own destiny and making passage in the last great wilderness using none of the earth’s resources is only part of it. There is also my powerful imperative for adventure which is rewarded by a subsequent sense of achievement. In my early days, this was fulfilled by making ambitious passages in a small yacht to places I had never visited before using basic navigational skills. These pleasures have been somewhat compromised as the navigation element of the equation has been all but removed by new technologies. It is also very true that, over the years, as local cruising grounds have been repeatedly visited, horizons have had to expand. There has been a necessity to travel further afield to satisfy the ‘fix’ and this has necessitated longer and longer passages. Over recent years, I have discovered the joys of single handed sailing and I have found that the ‘buzz’ can actually be refreshed by visiting familiar destinations alone for the first time when previously I had visited with a full crew.
It is no secret that I have harboured (no pun intended) more extensive single handing aspirations. This is not because of a ‘Billy-no-mates’ persona (or maybe it is…) but because I really want to do it. I find it extremely satisfying and I have sailed single handed for longish passages but I have always sought an anchorage overnight so single handing through the night remains untried. On the face of it, ‘cat napping’ for 20 minutes at a time would appear to contravene the ‘Collision Regulations’ which stipulate that a ‘constant watch should be kept at all times’ but with modern electronics using early warning alarms and guard zones on both AIS and Radar, it must be safer than in the past. After all, single handed Round the World races have been universally accepted since the 1960s. It is also significant that my insurers have agreed to cover me for overnight single handing – and I have it in writing!
One of the downsides of single handing is the imprudence of flying the big downwind sails, particularly my excellent and powerful Parasailor (it is a huge ‘monster’ but we shall see…) which is such a boon in light airs behind the beam. All the other lines are led back to the cockpit with the third reef tack now also lead back so conventional white sail handling should be safe and no problem alone.
I intend to push off from Nice on my own and see how it goes. Overnight for the first night then play it by ear. I will be heading south with the target of hopefully getting to the Adriatic. Maybe I won’t be able to sustain it night after night but my route will enable me to ‘cop out’ if it gets too tiring and put into various destinations – Corsica, Elba, Rome, Naples are all on the route and who knows, that may be as far as I get and, hey, not bad places to be if that happens…… Venice is 1400 miles away if I go round the outside of Corsica, Sardinia and Sicily and that is a VERY long way.
So, I hope you will understand why I am resisting undertaking to be in certain places at certain times and, if you are one of those looking to join the cruise, it may be that you have to pay a little more for a last minute flight and I am sorry about that. You can follow my location on the Hejira web site once I push off and you can gauge the probabilities for my landfall which will help and I will try to give some indication as to my thinking and state of mind in my blog postings. I will re-subscribe to the Satellite connections so I should be communicating even when seriously offshore.
I have confirmed a booking to return to Baie des Anges Marina near Nice for the winter of 2019/20 so, hopefully with a yacht that isn’t (like this winter) out of commission, I will be able to do some off season, light duty cruising along the stunning Riviera coast with the delights of Antibes, Nice, Cannes, St. Tropez and Monaco only day sails apart if that grabs your fancy.
Should you be finding my postings overly technical and somewhat anodyne, I totally understand and beg forgiveness. However, please try to ‘stick with it’ as, when the crew do finally catch up with me, the content should improve with their input and could even be entertaining which has been the experience of regular readers – or so I am told.
I might however be delighted to discover a stowaway along the way with similar patience and aspirations……….