Thursday, 23 March 2017

Cruising Expectations 2017

Assessing your expectations are an important part of cruise preparation. They help you identify the equipment you might need or potentially useful techniques, but also help you to mentally accept that it won’t all be a bed of roses out there.

He probably wasn't expecting this...
Last week we met up with a cruising buddy with experience sailing around the Balearic Islands. Within a 20-minute span of time, he told us to expect polluted waters, obscenely over-priced marinas, ever-changing and unpredictable winds, rolly anchorages, bling-bling boats and boom-boom discotheques, and anchorages so crowded that you can’t set out the appropriate length of anchor chain.

So why do you keep going back?” we asked in amazement.

With a surprised look and wide Gallic shrug, he replied, “Because it’s MARVELOUS!”

And so we begin our 2017 cruise preparations with a new set of expectations.

To start with, let’s look back at how well we did last year with this same exercise. Last March, we began discussing cruise preparations for our trek from Brittany (France) across the Bay of Biscay, around Galicia, down the Atlantic coast of Portugal, left along the Algarve, and through the tight squeeze of the straights of Gibraltar. As part of that exercise, we made a list of expectations based on blogs, first-person accounts, and nautical guides. How well did we do? I calculated 44% failure rate. Here are the expectations that were wrong: 

Chilly temperatures and fog in Galicia. We weren’t eager to go swimming but the temperatures were pleasant and surprisingly we didn’t have any fog until we got down the Portuguese coast, and even then, we only had one day where things were dicey for a while.

Unmarked or poorly marked fishing nets and pots. Nets and pots were everywhere, and some areas were total minefields for many miles, but they WERE well marked. Of course, that didn’t prevent us from hitting one

Many Med-style moorings. We only had one in Bayona. It was okay, but with a 1.5-meter tide running at the time, the Med-mooring to a fixed (non-floating) pier was challenging. 

Med mooring in Bayona, Spain.  More difficult to tie up, but much easier to get on and off the boat.

Uncomfortable rolly anchorages. I don’t recall any that made us lose sleep, which is surely the main test of whether or not the anchorage was okay or not.

Improved fishing skills. Honesty, can’t remember why we expected this…

This year ushers in a new set of expectations, based again on others’ blogs, nautical guides, accounts of friends with experience in the area, and a slightly-improved understanding of our boat and ourselves. For 2017, we expect:

All the things our friend warned us about. However, since “forewarned is forearmed”, we hope to avoid the worst. Another cruising friend says that the Balearic Islands offer something for everyone and you can almost always find peace somewhere.

Med-style moorings. This time, we can’t get away from it. Once we leave La Linea, we’re not expected to see another finger berth for some time.

Using our 2nd anchor and chain off the back of the boat to limit swing in crowded anchorages. We’ve done this in sailing school but never on Mareda.

Expensive ports. This is in addition to the “obscenely” expensive ports our friend warned us about. There are a few marinas in the 100 euros / night range, but most are between 40-60 euros per night for Mareda, which is okay if it’s only for short-term stays. Mooring buoys can be had for 20-30 euros per night. We intend to anchor out as much as possible to keep the overall port costs reasonable.

Carefully-planned and precisely-executed commando raids in ports offering short-term tie-ups for a small fee (generally 20 euros for 1.5 hours). Water and electricity hook ups, food shopping and laundry duties will have to be rapid and efficient.

Lots of dinghy time (buy extra gasoline).

Meals from a can. Since we’ll be anchoring out a lot and trips ashore will be reduced, we’ll have to get used to canned food. We’ve never done this before, since one of our biggest pleasures of cruising is shopping at the local produce markets. Patrick has slowly accepted that he may not get fresh bread very often (but he has already claimed ALL of the freezer space for his limited bread stocks).

Capricious weather and rolly anchorages. We’ll do our best to cope with the swell (see Flopper Stopper post). We know that jumping from anchorage to anchorage to try to find the least uncomfortable will be our principle nautical pastime in the islands.

Warm crystalline waters, hot weather, living in swimsuits and sandals, gorgeous postcard-perfect surroundings (sometimes, anyway).

Rocks. To be avoided in general, and to avoid around the anchor and chain, if possible (and setting up a trip line, just in case).

Interior heat management (wind scoops, sun shades, bimini) and water rationing (washing dishes in saltwater, rinse in fresh; same for showers, etc.)

Charming old towns with labyrinths of cobblestone streets, hippy markets, ancient caves, perched mountain villages, UNESCO world heritage sites, great food and wine.

A zen Sardinia after the hustle and bustle of the Balearic Islands, off season and in areas with few charter boat facilities.

Honing our “roll with the punches” attitudes. This will be a hard one for me, as I tend to like the “by the book” approach, but I realize that we’ll have to be ready to squeeze into a space or pick up a buoy FIRST and ask questions LATER. (Is possession still 9/10ths of the law in the Balearics?)


Unknown said...

Sardinia is wonderful but quite expensive on the Costa Esmeralda. If you want to put your boat in a marina after anchoring out for too long, consider a base in the South-West. The bay between Isola di San Pietro and the Isola di San Antonio is quite well protected an mostly free of too rich russians. So prices are still reasonable in Towns like Carloforte, Calasetta or San Antioco. The south up to Cagliary is also still reasoable. The west side further north is quite exposed to the westerlies.

Sailing Mareda said...

Thanks Popsi - good advice as always. We've come to the same conclusion (avoiding Smeralda except for short stops). We're aiming for the west or north coast in September to end-October mainly because we can get very cheap ferries from Porto Torres to Marseilles (33 euros each) and then a cheap direct flight home (around 70 euros). Flights from Olbia or Cagliari were in the 300 euros range for the 2 of us. Alghero has a town dock with free space for up to 5 nights. The winner so far for wintering over (haul out) is Bosa, but we're still waiting to hear from Castelsardo. We've been told it's best to negotiate prices face-to-face once we get there. We won't arrive until September and we plan to leave Sardinia the following year in June, so we hope to avoid the worst of the expensive marinas.

Boat Life Larks - S/V Dulcinea said...

I love this! It's so interesting how cruisers can go to the same place and have different experiences, just based on personality. And how our expectations don't match up. We expected to swim every day in the Bahamas (we've been in twice, in wetstuits!). We didn't expect every anchorage would be crystal clear, and we had no idea we'd have constant access to chocolate and chips, the most important provisions. We'd love to cross to the Med one of these years and check out these cobblestone streets :-)

Sailing Mareda said...

Come on over, Larks ! I can't promise the water will be warmer, and the chips and chocolate should be replaced with something more regional (in Spain, they have these great little salty fried corn kernels like un-popped popcorn that are addictive, and I'll give up chocolate for turron most days!) , but the cobblestone streets (and the mind-boggling number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites) will surely be here.