When I was planning this voyage and thinking about the route, I also considered going the safer easier way through the canals of France. I had a lot of respect for the Bay of Biscay and also the Portuguese Atlantic coast which is said to be more dangerous than the Biscay. Many harbours at the Portuguese Atlantic coast are built at river estuaries and can be very dangerous in some situations because of the bars and the resulting breaking waves at the entrances. It is said that one yacht minimum gets lost every year at this coasts. Nevertheless, now after I have completed the voyage, I am glad I took the Atlantic route. Those parts I had most concerns about, turned out to be the best ones. The Biscay was a great experience; first time Atlantic waves and the feeling of real blue water sailing. The weather can change quickly in this part of the world and it often blows at F7 or more off the Spanish north-west coast. You have to be prepared for everything and arriving after three to four days also means satisfaction and relief. I clearly remember Patrick shouting out “Land in sight!”. The Portuguese coast was downwind sailing first class. It was great fun watching Matilda surfing down the Atlantic waves steered by the autopilot. A long(ish) keel yacht sails quite well in such situations but you have to pay for that with the stress you get when maneuvering in tight harbours. I must admit that the weather was nice to us on those two legs and we were not faced with severe conditions. At least nothing I had not been prepared for or had not expected. The first Leg was not as nice. The plan had been to sail along the south English coast (enjoying some nice pints in British pubs of course) and then cross the channel to Brest. Unfortunately, the wind has been blowing hard and almost always from west for the 2 whole weeks of that leg and it was stronger in the north side of the channel. Therefore, we followed the French coast. We had some very unpleasant and wet passages which have not really been funny for every crew member. Lisbon – Gibraltar was the most diversified leg. Atlantic waves surfing, then strong winds and big waves around Cabo de Sao Vincente, the calm and almost Mediterranean Algarve and then F6 against on the way from Barbate to Gibraltar. Most of the passages in the Mediterranean beginning from Almerimar and going east have been hot and windless. Many places especially in Sicily were overcrowded, expensive and offering bad service. Greece on the other hand, was a highlight (yes, I am 50% Greek, but this statement is also at least 50% unbiased ). Very nice scenery and great anchorages and waters so clear that you think you would ground the boat although the depth was 10 meters. Top food quality at relatively low prices in several tavernas, where almost everyone spoke good English (I can’t really say that about Spain or Italy…). There was one English long distance sailor in the Baleares who I asked whether he was sailing to Greece too and he answered: “No, not yet. I will visit some other places first because if I go to Greece now I will stay there”. The last leg in Greece was singlehanded sailing and that was new to me. The first day I felt a bit insecure but soon I got used to it. Boat handling at sea is not an issue and sailing alone is a nice experience; everything is more intense. There are some issues though: You can’t just go down and have a nap when you feel tired and coming into a harbour is always connected with the question of whether you will be able to find a place that you can manage to get in and out singlehanded. You are also more dependent on some electronics like the autopilot and you have to make sure that you don’t go overboard underway because the chance is quite high that it could be your last time!
At the end of this résumé I don’t want to miss out saying a big thank you to all of the crew members that have accompanied me and Matilda on our voyage. It was great having you on board. You definitely helped making my dream come true. THANK YOU!
“There are two bad things in a man’s life: Not to be able to fulfill his childhood dream …or to have done it”. I can’t remember who said that but there is some truth in this statement and for me it means that I need a new dream now… Sailing south through Suez to the Maledives, Reunion and Madagascar, or Oropos – Gibraltar – Canary Islands and back? Or maybe over the Atlantic to the Caribbean with the ARC? There are many interesting options and I will have some time to think about it. For the time being and the following few years, Matilda will be located here for various reasons. There are also some things that need to be done on her like the rudder bearing, the portholes as well as the removal of many layers of old antifouling and the application of Gelshield. I also want to check the complete cabling and upgrade/redo where needed. During this time Matilda will sail the Greek waters and visit the hundreds of islands and anchorages in this area.
Thank you all for reading the blog!
I hope you enjoyed it,
P.S. I will try to compile some videos of the voyage (one for every leg). So, if anyone is interested, she/he will find the link in this blog as soon as they are completed.