It was a gloriously sunny April day when we left France to start our great sailing adventure.
Excitement was in the air as we sailed for the first time. As an inexperienced sailor this was my first time at raising a mainsail. OK, so I couldn’t go far wrong as all I had to do was press the electric winch button, but I was absolutely terrified. We’re on a 44 foot catamaran and the mast is 60 feet high. Now that’s a lot of sail to get up, and down again.
My husband, an experienced RYA Yachtmaster and RYA Gold Member, knows his way around boats, but sailing on a catamaran is far different to sailing a monohull. And so we start our journey, both of us learning by trial and error as we go.
Our seven-month itinerary was quite ambitious; from France down the east coast of Spain to Javier then across to the Balearic Islands and on to Sardinia, the Maddalena Archipelago and Corsica. We headed north from Corsica to Italy, explored the west coast, taking in many of the stunning islands as well as Sicily, then around the ‘heel’ before crossing to Greece and into the Ionian for winter.
Our trip incorporated many amazing highs and some stupendous lows. Sailing properly for the first time was awesome and when the boat reached 14 knots in Corsica’s Bonifacio Straits we had to reach for the camera to record the achievement.
Sailing with dolphins, whales, turtles and tuna have also been great memorable and photographic moments. While swimming the dog to shore in crystal clear water and landing on a white and pink sand deserted beach as the sun rose on Espalmador in the Balearics is truly living the dream.
And yet each day brings with it a challenge, and sometimes these turn to huge lows.
The weather really does play havoc and in the Mediterranean it has proved more unpredictable than ever imagined. Daily we check coastguard forecasts, internet weather, GRIB files and local radio, but the Med’s weather does what it wants to do. And if you’re caught out in it, be warned.
Our worst weather was on a trip up the west coast of Corsica, with nowhere to hide as we found ourselves hounded by three thunderstorms. Lightening all around, torrential rain and katabatic winds slamming down off the hills. It was the most frightening experience of our lives. And, while we were unscathed, we decided that the cat had lost one of her nine lives that night.
And then there’s the double-edged sword. Having family and friends on board to visit and share the experience is fantastic. Although saying goodbye to them at the end of their stay, always has me in tears. Homesickness hits us both, but keeping up-to-date on Facebook gives us a daily dose of much-needed news and chat.