Corsica !

 

Aspects I - Aspects II - Epilogue

Safety - Medico - Cooking - Fishing - Supplies - Communication - Navigation - Anchoring - Energy - H²O - Maintenance

Safety

Harnesses and lifelines are always used in heavy weather and at night. Yes, we do wear our floating survival suits, even on our way to the Med. Nights can still be very cold in april.

We rely on our unsinkable dinghy and our emergency 'grab bag', a small floating container filled with a VHF-radio, bottled water, biscuits, a signaling mirror, flares, flashlights, etc... Cooking under heeling is an option. All closets have seaworthy closures preventing things from flying around in heavy weather. All safety equipment is checked or newly bought.

People on a circumnavigation or any 'boaties' staying away for extended periods of time always face the inevitable problem of firearms. An interesting book on this precarious subject is 'La Navigation Hauturière' from the 'Nauticus' encyclopedia.

We both dislike firearms. Escalating violence, personal safety, problems of possession and permits, marinizing ammo, local regulations, red tape, etc ... all outweigh the benefits.

We keep our new signaling gun and ammo safely locked away, but within reach. Get it ? Anyway, we prefer this to the use of parachute flares or any other type of pyrotechnics. Ever felt blindfolded with both hands burned in an emergency ?

We avoid Albania and its boat refugees. Suspicious ships are always avoided, with dimmed navigational lights if necessary. The Med is not comparable to the Red Sea, we do not sail in a convoy. And crossing a street on prime time in Brussels isn't safe either...
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Medico

'La Médecine en mer sans médecin' from the aforementioned encyclopedia is all you ever need. Brother and sister-in-law provided us with a first-aid kit. We paid some visits to the dentist and doctor. Mosquito nets should advise non-paying guests to stay away, as do mooring lines passed through empty plastic bottles: it's definitely a non-rodent boat.

A nice sun tan is appreciated, but overall protection is very important. Femke designed a perfect bimini. A Windscoop tunnels air through the boat.

Are we going to trust the water ? There's always Certisil.
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Cooking

Our new Origo cooking stove runs on methanol (methylated spirits).
This saves us from the hassle of finding the right size of propane gas bottles, the correct fitting, ... on repeated occasions.

Two mid-size propane bottles represent an interesting volume which we now use for bottled drinking water and our emergency 'grab bag'.
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Fishing

It's a hobby but also an important source of fresh food. We carry a heavy fishing rod with a reel, a spear gun and a folding crab pot.
Opinions about the use of towing lines differ considerably. We drag our pilker or plastic squid at a certain depth by adjusting the angle of attack of the seaplane, a torpedo-like sinker.

Some sailors opt for low speeds: 5 knots seems to be too fast. Others say that your fishing hooks should at least be 10 cm long, while still others claim that large hooked fish can't be boarded safely, so it's better to avoid too heavy equipment.

We did have lots of interesting opportunities to practice 'serious fishing', thanks to our extended trip to Norway (2001), where fish is still abundant. Once a nice bonito is boarded, we pour some rhum into its system thereby knocking it out completely. No bloody mess. Matanza !

Sushi and dried fish. After the fish has been checked for parasites, cut it into small filets. Marinate them in lemon or lime juice for ten minutes. Serve with cold rice. Or proceed as follows. Marinate the fillets for 15 minutes in seawater. Hang on a line and let dry in the sun. At sunset, take everything below deck, well wrapped in. Continue to dry the next day. After three or four days, you have lots of crispy dried fish filets. Use in combination with pasta or rice. Cheers !

o-Toru Akami

Akami

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Supplies

We don't carry lifetime supplies of pasta, rice, soybeans, kinoa, bulghur, couscous, etc... . All of these foods are readily available everywhere you go. Packing it all up is one thing, keeping it dry quite another. On local markets, watch out for the little bugs in dried goods.

Our fridge stays home, it is just too bulky. We go mostly the vegetarian way, so we don't miss out a lot on fresh meat.
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Communication

Our laptop is used as our working horse, word processor, open-air DVD-cinema, navigational planner (VPP2), Cell phone mailbox and to capture weather information. We also have VHF Radio (3), SSB-world receiver, CB (2), EPIRB (1) and Navtex. We very regularly put it on to avoid internal condensation. The heat generated by the processor chases humidity away.

People don't expect us to keep communicating 24/7. Technically, almost everything is possible these days, the technology is readily available, but our budget is limited. Inmarsat-C, Iridium, Thuraya,... isn't for us.

We'll SMS a lot and do not expect to be out of reach of cybercafés for a long period of time.
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Navigation

Planning : Rod Heikell's Pilots (Italian and Greek), The French BLOC MARINE, all possible pilots, sailing directions, ... in download, you name it.
Pilot Charts (paper and CD-ROM Visual Passage Planner 2) are very useful for avoiding (statistically plausible) bad weather.
We carry over 300 paper nautical charts. And of course our sextant and N.A. to keep our skills up. Handheld and fixed GPS for the lazy days.
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Anchoring

Staying away from expensive marinas is important to keep the budget going. Besides, anchoring out is much more fun. Secluded bays and coves are our favorites, hence the 25-m mooring lines. The new Fortress FX-16 with our heavy Danforth should do the job. Lots, lots of chain and rope, not to mention spares.
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Energy

Charging batteries using the engine is awesome. Therefore, we installed a 50W solar panel. Small battery chargers (also on solar energy) take up to 12 hours to recharge 4 AA's. Our electrical power consumption in modest: no fridge, radar, anchor winch or bow propeller and we keep it that way.
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H²O

Water is scarce on some Greek islands, and even on the Italian mainland, Sicily or Corsica, supplies cannot keep up with consumption in summer. Water is supplied by large tankers.

Greeks have a thoughtful and respectful way of handling water.

We know how to take a shower with only 3 liter of water. We use seawater soap and shampoo. Wash, jump in and rince with fresh water. All empty bottles are kept and filled on every possible occasion. One problem with our black sunshower-bag: the water just gets too hot !


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Maintenance

A toolbox filled with stainless steel bolts, nuts, washers, rivets, screws and other hardware. Might come in handy in 'the community'. Spare ropes, halyards, ... Spares for the Volvo Penta and the outboard engine.

Solving problems of our own making is something we definitely try to avoid. We saw a thoughtful and long preparation of the boat as absolutely necessary to prevent all kinds of breakdowns or malfunctions. But you can't foresee everything, of course.

We'll go for it now. Some people wrap their hopes and dreams in protective layers of 'some day we'll sail away...and the like putting them away into a distant and uncertain future. Our advice: don't !!! Life's too short.Top


Aspects II

13 months later...

Safety - Medico - Cooking - Fishing - Supplies - Communication - Navigation - Anchoring - Energy - H²O

It's time for an in-depth evaluation of our cruising adventures so far

Safety

The junction between 'Le Canal Latéral à la Garonne' and the famous 'Le Canal du Midi' is in Toulouse.

We met very nice people in the marina there. Aussies - who turned out to be Dutch immigrants - on their motor yacht. One day, when biking in the countryside, their boat was professionally 'emptied' by burglars, everything of value disappeared. Local police said professionals keep a close eye on boats which should never be left unattended, especially overnight. So now you know. There is cell phone coverage along the entire route, even in the remotest of spots.

We never had any trouble in Italy. Some marinas (Torre del Greco, Messina,.. ) have all the known safety features, including night patrols with dogs, gates with entry codes, etc... Pricing is accordingly: 45 Euro a night is quite normal (Vela - as you know by now - is a 31-footer).

Greeks still have this legendary dislike and contempt for theft and thieves and generally are very honest and reliable. We just couldn't imagine things being stolen from us.

Also, we fitted a bright white anchor light on the antenna pole at the stern.

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Medico

Sometimes, the French drinking water tastes awful, too much chlorinated. This changes the normal taste of tea and coffee. Dieppe will be reminded for this.

Showers are scarce in Italian marina's but drinking water is safe.
Are you going to trust the water ? Generally in summer, the water you take in is quite warm because it is led through hot piping. We regularly put Certisil in our water tanks, as a precaution. Never got into trouble. Water is mostly the only reason we berthed in marinas in Italy. If you go into one, just for the water, they'll invariably try to charge you one night's berth.

Wherever you go in Greece, you'll always see tourists packed with sixpacks water. Not necessary. Greek water is very reliable and tasty, especially the world famous source water of Tinos. Disadvantage: you can't keep it a long time without Certisil.

You can't live without mosquito nets and tropical repellent. Italian mosquitoes seem to have two heads. Incense is sold in Italy and Greece and works fine, but only in the open.

Rats and other rodents are a pest and are always to be avoided. A safe and cheap anti-rat device is made using an empty plastic water bottle - or maybe even two - cut open. The halyard is passed through it, that's basically it. If a rat steps on the rope and reaches the bottle, it's turned around and the rat falls into the water. We saw lots of these things in Italy, but not in Greece. Wherever you go in Greece, you always look into the eyes of a cat.

But stray cats are very curious by nature and always hungry. Most of them are really in very bad health. We never leave any rubbish on board thereby minimizing the chance of receiving cat fleas.

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Cooking

Our Orion cooking stove works on methylated spirit. It is easily found in almost every super market or do-it-yourself.

The french call it 'alcool à brûler', with its light blue color. In Italy it's pink 'alcolo ethilico' and the Greek sell it in small blue plastic bottles with '93°' on it. 'Kohoel al wa koet' in phonetic Arabic.

Petroleum for the Wallas 1300 heater has a curious dark green color in Greece, smells like diesel and produces lots of calories, much to our delight during our Hellenic winter months.

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Fishing

How about Mediterranean fish stocks ? We saw dolphins, whales, flying fish, tuna, plankton sharks, swordfish and sardines. But catching even the smallest fish just won't work. Besides, locals always gave us advice on fishing with lines. It always came down to the same thing: don't! You won't catch anything anyway.

Tunisian waters are abundant with fish and marine life in general. Poaching is a problem, mostly by Sicilians or Maltese.

Fishing with trawling nets is allowed in Greece only in wintertime. Large wooden vessels with Greek captain and Egyptian crew. The catch is sometimes sold directly from ship to shore. Lobster, swordfish or tuna are quickly hoisted into lorries and driven off.

Fishermen invariably recall the past with sorrow. 'There used to be a lot of fish in these waters, but not any more'. One bucket of undersized anchovies isn't worth staying away all night.

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Supplies

Life without a fridge is not a problem. We shop almost every day. We're not so keen on meats, we like to cook the vegetarian way. This has the advantage of not having to cope with preserving fresh meat.

We never bought ice cubes because we don't have a good draining system in our cool bilges. Disadvantage: even in december, the temperature of the sea water stays at around 2O°C, even if the outside air temperature is below 10° C. So we put everything outside in the open on the cockpit floor.

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Communication

Before even reaching the French border, our world receiver just quit ! No bulletins, navigational warnings or meteo charts any more. We relied on navtex and the VHF radio. In France, the bulletin is always to be found at the 'capitainerie'. The VHF gets you the BBC shipping forecast.

Between France and the Ionian Islands, VHF CH 68 gave us an Italian shipping forecast, in Italian and English, continuous and for almost the whole of the Central Mediterranean. Same in Greece, bulletins come on almost every hour of the day and night.

Should you wish to have long-range forecasts, a visit to the local cybercafé is the best way to get one. Go to http://www.meteo.be and find the links page to national meteorological institutions. Fishermen always have priceless local knowledge.

We bought a set of PDA radios in Syros. Back home, Peter'll pass his novice HAM license.

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Navigation

CM 93 is a huge database with bitmap and vectorised sea charts with worldwide coverage. We use it on our laptop computer with CMap and MaXSea software. In the near future, we'll interface the laptop with Radar, GPS and Winradio receivers. Not the standalones but the antenna's-only with USB-ports, NMEA data transfer and power supply.

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Anchoring

One month in the Med equals three years in the North Sea when it comes to anchoring. We drop our anchor almost every, or at least every other day. We're supposed to !

We can't live anymore without our new Fortress FX-16 anchor. Its holding power is remarkable. In heavy storms, when other boats in the marina dragged their anchors, and people had to re-anchor all at once in a showery night using their dinghies, our anchor always held.

The procedure goes as follows: we actively let 'bite' our anchor, it's easily felt on the chain or rope. Femke puts into reverse, I lower the anchor steadily until it reaches the bottom. I judge the length of chain according to the depth, which Femke tells me, by means of the dept-sounder. I let go once I feel a little resistance, block the chain, let go, again, until the pull of the chain becomes hard to counter. I then lower twice the total depth.

BTW: during all of this, Femks is approaching the quay in reverse, starting off around five times the ship's length. She follows a straight line perpendicular to the quay. Why's that ? Because sometimes there is just ample space left between two boats. It's easier if you start your maneuver away from the quay, minimizing the chance of getting anchors 'crossed'. Also, we always 'travel' as much distance as possible on the engine only, never on 'pushing-or-pulling' at other boats.

I know: it's easier said than done, but if you prepare everything (ropes, fenders,...) and go for it slowly, few things can go wrong.

Stern-to is not complete until 'VELA' is tied up with at least four halyards and traction is put on the ground tackle. Thus ensuring her not to touch, even with wake from passing boats, landing ferries or wind. Holding power is easily assessed from the angle of attack of the anchor chain and the whole of the ground tackle.

Chain, anchors, feet and hands are bad company. However, hoisting everything up by hand is not that difficult, and with a little help from the engine, all goes well.

I point into the direction of the anchor chain. This allows Femke to adjust her steering. Tension is lowered on the whole of the ground tackle. All I have to do is taking everything in, just by the weight.

Stern-to or bow-to ? It depends. Sometimes (Galaxidi) there is underwater ballasting (rocks) at the quay below the waterline. Reasons of privacy, or to make the quay more accessible to our feet do change our mind sometimes. Or the occasional spider-in-the-web fishing boats in some marinas.

If we stay overnight, I always moore with eyespliced mooring lines and chain to prevent chafe or wearing.

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Energy

Our service battery cannot keep up with the Wallas heating and the autopilot. Therefore, we have to rely on the engine or take electricity from a nearby taverna or house.
Nothing beats a nice 22O Volt connection. Warmth, light, and a movie on the DVD player is all you need.

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H²O

Our average water consumption is mostly 30 liter water a day, washing, cooking and dishwashing included. One only needs three water bottles (of 1.5 liter each) to take a shower on deck (humans of the long-hair species not included). Washing clothes needs a lot of water. On some islands, water is scarce in summertime and sometimes brought in with huge tankers. Wasting water or cleaning the boat is not appreciated !!!

We always fill up all our tanks, bottles and jerry cans on every possible occasion.

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Epilogue

'VELA' was thoroughly prepared for this trip. At the end of July 2003, she was hoisted and put in a hangar. She was relaunched some eight months later, april 2004.

Listings, listings and listing, things to take along, jobs to do, people to phone, forms to fill out, etc... When we finally left Ghent, we were three weeks behind schedule. We didn't care, its always much better to leave later but well prepared.

As a starting point, we saw this voyage as an adventure between the two of us. Everything else is purely circumstantial and things come and go as they do.

Highlights

  • The life at sea on our own rhythm
  • Contacts with other sailors and locals
  • Greece: a universe in itself
  • Isole Eolie (Lipari, Panarea, Salina, Vulcano, Stromboli)
  • Turkye
  • The pace of travel and the time we took to immerse ourselves in the different cultures we encountered. To both our surprise, this caused great contrasts in our view from one country to another
  • Some of the most impressive spots can only be reached coming in from the sea...

Superfluous: the small folding anchor of our dinghy and our tent (for inland trips)

Things to take along next time:

  • Folding bikes (minimum 1)
  • SSB-HAM transceiver (like Kenwood TS-120 or Yaesu FT-817) for chatting and receiving wefax, meteo and wireless email
  • Fishing net of approx. 50m in length (for sale in the French 'Cooperative Maritime')
  • Crab or lobster pots
  • One really reliable spear gun
  • 100 watt solar panels

Can't live without:

  • Our main ground tackle: an over-dimensioned Fortress 16-FX anchor and 15m of chain attached to 2Om of 16mm rope
  • Heavy duty 16mm ropes with stainless steel eye splices + chain
  • Our inflatable dinghy with oars and a reliable outboard engine

Surprises:

  • The real Greek cuisine: mostly unknown and therefore hopelessly underrated. Not to be compared to the well-known dishes whose names are written in chalk on the taverna's message board
  • Mediterranean winters are wet. Rain starts mostly mid-october. To our great surprise, this resulted in a spring-like flourishing and blossoming in the otherwise barren sundried meadows.
  • Greeks still have this ancient sense of hospitality, but are a little on the shy or seemingly uninterested side at first. Once the ice is broken, they're very communicative.
  • The formation of waves and swell in the Mediterranean basin is quite different from that in the North Sea or Atlantic Ocean. When it comes to wave height, there seems to be no logical coherence between time, wind strength and wind direction. Sometimes, strong winds and an extended period of time only resulted in foam like ripplings. Or else, steep waves and a lot of swell without any wind.
  • The energy output of the sun during the long hot, dry summer is quite impressive, resulting in a lot of heavy local meteorological phenomena
  • Heavy weather, storms and very strong winds around the Kyklades.
  • Amongst other sailors, the exchange or trade of gear, books, pilots, nautical charts, software, etc... is easy and fairly appreciated by all

Upsides:

  • The ease we experienced in living on our tight budget of € 40
    a day. Dining out or renting a car became a real luxury. At the same time, one doesn't take some things for granted any more.
  • Berthing fees sometimes exceeded our daily budget. But the following two or three days at anchor put us back on break even again !
  • To our relief, nothing of our gear was stolen, vandalized or lost.

Downsides:

  • The extent of environmental pollution in harbors, on land and at sea
  • The inland trip on the canals from Port Saint-Louis du Rhône to Ghent: never again.

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