My love of “slow travel” began in my early 20’s when I spent eight and a half months on the back of a truck, bouncing around on the dirt roads of the jungles and deserts of Africa. We free camped under the stars listening to roaring lions, crossed the deserts of Sudan and the Sahara and trekked through the Ugandan jungle for hours to spend time with the mountain gorillas. I had the time to visit places once relegated only to my imagination; towns with exotic names like Agadez, Timbuktu, Kisangani and Khartoum.Read More
So, you’ve said “yes” to the wonderful adventure that is cruising life, but there’s a nagging voice in your head that whispers “what if”:
- I can’t cope?
- I don’t like it?
- I get lost at sea?
It can be scary, right? You’re not alone.Read More
A sense of foreboding followed us down the Atlantic Coast after we passed the Coast of Death (Costa del Mort). It was still early May and the weather in the Atlantic Ocean is notoriously fickle and changes quickly throughout the day. To minimise getting caught out in really bad weather, we quickly sailed down the coast of Spain. The weather, coupled with the fact that my time in the EU (specifically the Schengen area) was limited due to my Australian passport and Schengen visa. So, we were keen to spend our limited time in the EU in the warmth of the Balearic Islands.
The Atlantic was true to form. it was cold with prevailing high afternoon winds and unsettled seas state which added to our determination to push on.
We determinedly travelled long days (covering 70 – 100+ nautical Miles), until we really needed some rest, reprovisioning or refuelling. We found few suitable, easy access anchorages and so sheltered in boat/fishing harbours where possible or stayed in the occasional marina. Many anchorages down this coast involved bar crossings into rivers. While we’re used to doing these in Australia, the weather and high tides, pushed us on. The one port, I’m sorry we missed was Porto, Portugal.
Late one evening after a long day of gusty winds, the port in Adra we had planned to anchor in was smaller than anticipated and badly affected by swell. We made the decision to attempt a sketchy entry into the nearby marina; in fact, we pretty much surfed in. We found a hammerhead pontoon and managed to dock the boat in the gusty conditions. As I jumped off onto the small, dodgy pontoon, I found it was unstable, dropped to my hands and knees and tied up the stern. As I crawled to the front, a Marinaro was yelling and waving as I completed the bow tie off. As he came to help and in the midst of the confusion of placing fenders and moving around the narrow pontoon, I half fell off the dock on to my ribs on a metal strut. Ouch. No serious damaged but I certainly was shellshocked for a couple of days.
On the same day, fellow Helia44 owners we met in La Rochelle, who were travelling close by, continued sailing that night and ended up with a wave in their saloon. I’m pleased we made the decision to take shelter.
You can see the route we travelled and where we stopped here.
It wasn’t until we reached Lisbon that we finally relaxed, stayed for a few days and enjoyed this vibrant city. More about that in a later post.
Yes, this the latest “hot topic”. Everyone seems to be talking about single-use plastic; from plastic bags to plastic straws. Having spent several months in the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, I can tell you, the problem is real. And it’s not pretty.
Plastic debris littered the water, beaches and shores, to various degrees, in every place we visited. The more popular and populated the anchorage, the more rubbish there was. We often saw plastic bottles, the remains of plastic bags, balloons, styrofoam and inflatables. There was even a plastic coverall floating in the Atlantic Ocean (alarmingly looking very much like a floating body). In Sicily, I pulled pieces of a partially disintegrated plastic bag from one of the propellers. Bays that looked so idyllic from the water had shores scattered with plastic and other rubbish. It was often a shock when the environment looked pristine from the boat. For example, the stunning bay we were anchored in (Solta, Croatia) above, had litter on the pebbled shore below. These were just quick random snapshots as examples of the shoreline.
The seabed, sadly, also was often littered with rubbish and remnant parts from boats and marinas.
While it may not be too surprising that where there are people, there is litter. What is surprising is that on ocean passages, miles from nowhere, we would still see a stream of plastic waste floating by.
I’ve become hyper-aware of the amount of plastic that surrounds any food bought from supermarkets, especially the processed foods. Everything from cheese to prosciutto to UHT milk. In many places in Europe, fresh fruits and vegetables are often placed in plastic bags to be weighed, priced and labelled before checkout. My experience of trying to change that practice was interesting and unsuccessful. Then there are the other items such as shampoo and liquid soap containers, dishwashing and cloth washing liquid containers.
When you store your garbage, it becomes obvious how much single-use plastic you buy and discard. On an optimistic note, many marinas have implemented recycling and waste separation stations. Other sailors in the Med are actively picking up trash in their anchorages on particular days eg “Trash Tuesdays”, and taking it ashore for proper disposal.
I’ll be honest, this season I wasn’t prepared. No excuses, but we had a lot on our plates commissioning our boat. However, the things I did were:
– shop with a trolley and reusable bags
– use beeswax wrappers instead of cling wrap (they keep food fresher anyway)
– use reusable storage containers
– buy supermarket items in glass rather than plastic if there’s a choice
– recycle cardboard and bottles where possible
– picked plastic out of the water
Some of these things actually made life on board simpler and easier.
Could I do more? Absolutely, much more. So next year, I’ll be working on researching and trying products that reduce waste (including plastics) and are kinder to the environment in general. Some of these include:
– trying shampoo and soap bars with minimal or compostable packaging
– using reusable bags for fruit and vegetables (weighing and costing etc)
– increasing beeswax wrapper on board
– trying calico bags for storage of fresh fruit and vegetables
– shop in bulk when possible (especially for dry goods), this includes buying from the deli instead or prepackaged meats and cheeses
– using bamboo toothbrushes
– researching an eco-friendly alternative to clothes washing liquid
– declining plastic straws when ordering drinks
– using washable, cotton cleaning cloths
I’m sure there are many, many more actions I could take. Let me know if there are things you’ve done on your boat to be kinder on the environment while sailing. I’d love to hear about it.
When we arrived in La Rochelle, a few short months ago, we had no idea what to expect from many things; the town, our new catamaran “Wild Heart” and sailing in France.
We quickly discovered that La Rochelle was a joy, rich in history and lifestyle; commisioning a new boat was an intense and exciting experience; sailing in a new country was an adventure. In fact, it continues to be an adventure of exploring, discovering and learning.
Photograph credit: Scott Johnston
Where we stayed: Hotel St Nicolas La Rochelle
Low key hotel, in a convenient location in the old town and about 30 minutes walk to Port des Minimes
Where we ate:
We enjoyed all the local boulangeries and pâtisseries around the hotel. And any gelato shop, of course
As restaurants go, Prao Restaurant was one of our favourites for the fresh food, atmosphere and wine selection.
Shopping for the boat: Get our download here of all the places we shopped to “outfit” the boat.
There are times you make decisions that you know will change the path of your life.
Our catamaran purchase is one of these big, scary decisions.
Why big and scary? We have made a big commitment to a particular way of life. A life of 6 months sailing and 6 months at home in Austrlia. I know it will have its challenges. We are taking a leap into the big unknown and having to let go of things in our life now to make it possible; the comfortable, safe familiar things.