September 30, 2012
Saying Good Bye


September 15, 2012
Reflections on Our 27 Year Circumnavigation


September 01, 2012
Sea of Cortez Sailing


August 15, 2012
Back to the Sea of Cortez


August 01, 2012
After Circumnavigation: What to Take, What to Leave Behind


July 15, 2012
Mexican Booby Trap


July 01, 2012
Tackling the Tehuantepec


June 14, 2012
Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico


June 01, 2012
Sailing northern Costa Rica and Nicargua


May 15, 2012
Costa Rican Cruising


May 01, 2012
New Found Friends in Golfito, Costa Rica


April 15, 2012
It’s a Jungle Out There


April 01, 2012
Hunting and Gathering in Panama


March 15, 2012
Money.... Money.... Money


March 01, 2012
Feel Free Transits the Panama Canal


February 15, 2012
Transiting the Panama Canal


February 01, 2012
Feel Free is Back in the Pacific


January 15, 2012
Charter Skipper for a Week


January 01, 2012
Confessions of a Charter Cat Chef


December 15, 2011
Away to the Andamans Part 2


December 01, 2011
AWAY to the ANDAMANs


November 15, 2011
Sailing in a Freshwater Paradise


November 01, 2011
To Barf or not to Barf, that is the question


October 14, 2011
Remarkable Cruisers


October 03, 2011
The Sea of Cortez, Another World


September 15, 2011
Panama Canal Here We Come


September 01, 2011
Sailing for Humanity


August 15, 2011
A Hard Lesson on the Hard and Reflections on Boat Work


August 01, 2011
Here Come the Lion Fish


July 15, 2011
The Joy of Books


July 01, 2011
The Sailors of San Blas


June 15, 2011
The Good Life in Kuna Yala


June 01, 2011
The Dirt Dweller in Paradise


May 15, 2011
People of the San Blas, Then and Now


May 01, 2011
Cruising in Kuna Yala


April 15, 2011
Near Disaster in the San Blas


April 01, 2011
At Last in the San Blas


March 15, 2011
Chilling Out in Cholon


March 01, 2011
Ah, Cartagena!


February 15, 2011
Cruising the Cape Horn of the Caribbean Part 2


February 01, 2011
Cruising the Cape Horn of the Caribbean Part 1


January 14, 2011
Aruban Interlude


December 30, 2010
Hunkering Down for a Hurricane


December 15, 2010
A Day in the Life - Our Passage to Aruba


December 01, 2010
Stuck in Curacao


November 15, 2010
Stormy Night Sailing


November 01, 2010
Sailing In The Sticks


October 15, 2010
Safety, Security and Circumnavigating with some tips on how to stay safe


October 04, 2010
Feel Free Transits The Suez Canal


September 15, 2010
Red Sea Sailing


September 01, 2010
FEEL FREEs Voyage Into the Red Sea


August 15, 2010
And just a little further, to Curacao


August 01, 2010
Bonaire Diving


July 15, 2010
Then To Bonaire


July 01, 2010
Cruising Remote Venezuelan Isles


June 15, 2010
Cruising St. Vincent


June 01, 2010
Right Place, Right Time


May 15, 2010
The Spice Isle


May 01, 2010
To the Grenadines


April 15, 2010
We Be In Barbados Mon


April 01, 2010
Atlantic Passage Part II


March 15, 2010
Atlantic Passage Part 1


March 01, 2010
Provisioning for the Atlantic Crossing


February 15, 2010
Atlantic Crossing Preparations


February 01, 2010
Cruising the Canary Islands


January 15, 2010
Out Of Africa


January 01, 2010
Come With Me To The High Atlas Mountains.............


December 15, 2009
Two Years Of Mediterranean Sailing


December 01, 2009
Moving On To Morocco


November 18, 2009
Leaving The Med


November 13, 2009
Reaching The Rock Of Gibraltar Milestone


October 15, 2009
Sailing Spains Costa del Sol


October 01, 2009
Sailing Spains Costa del High-rise


September 15, 2009
Sailing The Spanish Isles


September 01, 2009
At Sea Or On The Hook, These Recipes Travel Well


August 15, 2009
An Interlude At Menorca


August 01, 2009
A Pleasant Passage To Menorca


July 15, 2009
The Agony And Ecstasy Of The Tunisian Coast


July 01, 2009
Tripping Around Tunisia


June 15, 2009
Tales From North Africa


June 01, 2009
Dont Freak If Your Fridge Fails


May 15, 2009
Into Africa


May 01, 2009
Meandering Around Malta, Then Off To Tunisia


April 15, 2009
Low-Tech DIY Ideas For The New Economy


April 01, 2009
The Med Set A Few Cruiser Profiles


March 15, 2009
That Sinking Feeling


March 01, 2009
Thailand to Oman: Three Passages, Three Ports


February 15, 2009
Doing Hard Time in Malta


February 01, 2009
Pirate Alley Part 2


January 15, 2009
Pirate Alley Part 1


January 02, 2009
So Many Islands, So Little Time


December 15, 2008
Cruising With The Bear


December 01, 2008
Versatile Vinegar, The Boaters Friend


November 15, 2008
What I Did In This Summer -- Dock Masters In paradise


November 01, 2008
Over The Top Of Oz


October 16, 2008
The Tumultuous Tasman


October 01, 2008
Sweet Memories Of The Splendid Surins


September 15, 2008
And Then We Were In Malta


September 01, 2008
Feel Frees Siracusan Story


August 15, 2008
The Best of Times, The Worst of Times


August 01, 2008
All Tied Up In The Ionians


July 15, 2008
A Greek Odyssey Our Journey to Ithaca


July 01, 2008
Anatomy of a Near Catastrophe


June 15, 2008
Good-bye Turkey, Hello Greece


June 01, 2008
More Winter Cruising in Turkey


May 15, 2008
Winter Cruising in Turkey


April 15, 2008
Talking Turkey: Marmaris Marina Living


April 15, 2008
The Joy Of The Side Trip


April 01, 2008
Return to Marmaris, And The Budget


March 15, 2008
Passing Time And Dodging The Meltemi


March 01, 2008
Home Sweet Home


February 15, 2008
A Little Working, A Little Cruising


February 01, 2008
Working Our Way Around The World


January 15, 2008
Welcome Aboard Feel Free


January 01, 2008
Liz Tosonis and Tom Morkins Feel Free


January 01, 2008
About Tom Morkin and Liz Tosoni


January 01, 2008
About Feel Free


January 01, 2008
Voyage Itinerary


December 15, 2009
Two Years Of Mediterranean Sailing

Two Years Of Mediterranean Sailing: A Critique
By Tom Morkin

Years before we were anywhere close to Africa, we discussed the pros and cons of going south to the African Cape of Good Hope. We listened to sailors wax lyrically of the beauty of South Africa, the African hospitality, the wonderful safaris they took during their non-sailing interludes and the long south-Atlantic passage to the Caribbean reputed to be the most benevolent of ocean passages. Then we’d hear about the increase in crime in the urban centers, the racial strife, stories about hapless mariners who got caught out on South Africa’s east coast – or the “Wild Coast” as it’s called, when 40 knots of south wind bump into four to five knots of south-flowing Aguilles current, conditions so rough that 700-foot freighters are split in two. In fact, much of the south Indian Ocean can be rough on boats and crews. Passages tend to be long, windy, and bumpy.

It’s the age-old question for circumnavigators: How do you get around that rather large piece of real estate called Africa? You can go over it or you can go under it. Over the years Liz and I have spent countless hours agonizing over this decision.

Or, the “over the top” Option B. If going westabout from Thailand as we were, that would entail the northern Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden, Red Sea, and the Med. On the plus side, conditions are more mellow, hopefully reaching in northeast trade winds until the Red Sea, nice stops along the way like Sri Lanka, Maldives, Oman, Aden. As for the Red Sea, it could go either way ¬– some love it while others hate it. But the real fly in the ointment is the Gulf of Aden. No matter how well prepared or how well found your yacht, it’s basically a crapshoot.

So for Liz and me, it was a draw. We had mixed feelings about both routes. The northern route presented us with man-made dangers, while the dangers of the southern route were more weather-driven. In the end, we opted for the northern route mainly because of the attractions of the Mediterranean.

After years of cruising the lightly populated and pristine parts of southeast Asia and the north and south Pacific, we were ready for Mediterranean Europe and all that it entails: ancient civilizations, art, architecture, cuisine, history and multitudes of cultures short distances apart. The list could go on and on.

However, we were also beset by concerns:

1) Europe is expensive.

2) Europe is heavily populated and anchorages crowded.

3) The customs and immigration laws and bureaucracy are a hassle.

4) The Med is polluted.

5) The Med weather is treacherous with either too much or not enough wind. In short, it’s no place for a sailboat.

Well, now that we’ve spent over two years in the Mediterranean and sailed some 2,500 miles and visited 10 countries, the verdict has been reached on each of these concerns. Allow me to address them one by one.

The Med is expensive?

Well, the short answer is yes, it is. But the long answer is that it doesn’t have to be if a number of rules are followed: Stay out of marinas in the summer months as marina prices double or triple during the summer.

Winter rates for yachts spending the entire winter (monthly or six monthly contracts) are downright inexpensive and because the winter weather in the Med is not conducive to sailing and very few boats move around between November and May, further bargains can be had by signing winter contracts.

Our monthly rate for our first winter in a first-class marina in Turkey for our boat was 176 Euro or about $230US. The second winter in Malta, we paid 241 Euro or $313 US per month. The summers are a different matter so we carefully planned well in advance our Mediterranean itinerary and carefully watched weather forecasts so we were able to sail from anchorage to anchorage and were fortunate not to have to find a weather sanctuary in a marina charging us $150 a night, which can easily befall the unfortunate mariner.

Some countries are less expensive than others. The expensive ones include Spain, Italy, Croatia, France, Malta, Israel, and Greek Cyprus, while the less expensive ones include Turkey, Turkish Cyprus, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, and Greece. In general, the eastern Med is a lower-cost area to cruise than the western Med which is most fortunate as it offers much more pleasant cruising grounds, which explains why far more veteran Med cruisers make Greece and Turkey their primary cruising grounds – more islands, more anchorages, clean, clear, warm waters, a plethora of historic sites, good food, beautiful landscapes, lower prices.

Yes, fuel is very expensive unless purchased in Egypt, Libya, or Morocco. Turkey was the most expensive, where we shelled out more than $7 for a gallon of diesel. Restaurants tend to be pricey perhaps because of higher labor costs and land prices?

Food prices in general are modestly higher than in the U.S. if purchased carefully. We found the German grocery store chain Lidl to offer the best prices. Some example prices: milk $.71/liter; bread $.53 for a baguette; a wide variety of cheeses, reasonably priced overall; chicken, about $3 per pound; beer, $.33/can; wine from as low as $.70 for a liter box of table wine to as high as you want to pay.

Anchorages are crowded and marinas expensive?

Certainly July and August can be chock-a-block in places like the Balearic Islands of Spain, Sardinia, Corsica, the south coast of Turkey, southern Italy, Malta, and some of the Greek Islands. Marinas at this time can fill up and, as mentioned, can be outrageously expensive. This is only a two-month problem. We met countless Europeans who keep their boats in the Med but only use them either from May to June or September and October. They summer in northern Europe at home and go boating either in the spring or fall or both. We found by networking with fellow cruisers we could always find a way to beat the crowds. But don’t count on too many anchorages to yourself.

 

 

 

Med weather is treacherous with either too much or not enough wind?

The Med is definitely out of the tradewind belt and much of it comes under the influence of complex weather systems that can be affected by mountains in Europe and deserts in North Africa. There are numerous named winds. The meltem in Turkey and Greece; the mistral in France, Spain, and Italy; the gregal in southern Italy and Malta were the ones that struck fear in this little chicken’s heart.

The good news is that weather forecasting is good and available in a multitude of formats. One is seldom far from Internet access and many cruisers rely on passage weather, wind guru, accuweather, or GRIB files. In many countries, we could get weather forecasts in English on VHF radio at least a couple of times a day. From May to October on SSB (single side band) radio, the “Med Net” broadcast the weather forecast for most of the Med each day at 0545 UCT (formerly GMT). Although we sat out some big blows, we were never blindsided by the weather and caught out, and our sailing-to-motoring ratio has been pretty good. The key is to pay attention to the forecasts and be patient.

The European customs and immigration laws and bureaucracy are a hassle?

Since the establishment of the European Community (EC), customs and immigration laws, non-EC boats have to be imported and VAT paid roughly 17% of the appraised value of the boat. This is basically true but can easily be avoided. Firstly, your non-EC boat can remain 18 months in Europe without being deemed imported and VAT-payable. If you wish to stay longer than 18 months, you need to leave the EC (even for one day and return) and the clock is reset and your boat has another 18 months. (The clock stops when your boat is in dry storage too.) This can be done repeatedly. Israel, Turkey, Tunisia, and Morocco are popular non-EC countries where cruisers go to reset the clock. In fact, the EC has made cruising the Med easier. Once cleared into the EC, not having to check in and out of every country until leaving the EC is a great plus to Med cruising.

The Med is polluted?

Overall we’ve found the waters to be very clean. We routinely wash our dishes in salt water unless we’re in a harbor or a very crowded anchorage and are able to swim just about every place we anchor.

Not only is the Med clean, it is remarkably clear, largely because it has few big rivers running into it and little rain in summer to muddy the waters. We could often see the bottom when anchoring in 30 feet. Pristine it may not be, but polluted? No way.

So, any regrets about our decision to come to the Med rather than South Africa? In a word: NO! It’s interesting that many circumnavigators that go through the Med spend more than one season, in some cases many years in the Med, whereas those that go around South Africa tend to carry on into the Atlantic without spending a second year in Africa. It appears the Med is a harder place to leave.

The increase in piracy around Somalia has meant more cruisers will undoubtedly feel more pressure to complete their world cruise via South Africa, missing the attractions of the Med. That’s a pity. Given the increased risk posed by the pirates, we would elect to go around South Africa and undoubtedly feel short-changed that we missed visiting the European and African countries that line the Mediterranean.

If that were the case, I guess we’d have to go around again and hope the pirate problem was resolved so we could go through the Med the second time around.