Sam Llewellyn on Mediterranean cruising

RYA Boat Chat with Sam Llewellyn as he reflects on the passage to the Mediterranean for a season of cruising in the sun.

Everyone knows that Mediterranean cruising is fun. You fly to the spot where the boat is lying.

You climb aboard, put the milk and fresh vegetables in the cool box, observe that the main body of the stores is in place and the wine cellar is full of rare vintages, and shove off towards the horizon. That evening, you anchor in a charming bay.

There is swimming and a barbecue, and possibly a little music if anyone is that way inclined. You then sleep peacefully in your nice calm anchorage.

Next morning there will be a bracing row ashore to where the kind locals will have baked some delicious bread for your breakfast. And so the long week wears on.

At the root of this relaxation, however, there lies a meeting early in the year. ‘We will be doing the Med this year,’ says the owner. ‘Balearics, South of France, Sicily and the Aeolian Islands, Malta for the winter.’

‘And where,’ says someone, ‘is the boat now?’


There is a short silence while the assembled company gazes out of the window at the rain lashing into the Solent.

‘And who’d like to take her down to the Med in April? Just a delivery trip, we’ve booked the family on Ryanair to Ibiza in early May.’

It is well known that the owner’s wife Cynthia is a tough egg who brooks no bending of schedules. Someone makes a remark about the Channel in April, unreliability of weather on.

‘No, no,’ cries the owner, waving the page of the pilot book with the wind rose demonstrating the high likelihood of easterlies. ‘Bay of Biscay? Piece of cake. Before you can say Jack Robinson we’ll be in the Portuguese trades, marvellous, northerlies, and tailwind all the way.’

Someone suggests in a small, hopeless voice that it might be a good idea to stop at Lisbon, or anywhere really. The owner makes a tutting noise. ‘Lovely big boat,’ he says. ‘The yard have put in a freezer, we’ve got bags of fuel, a water maker, the lot. So south we go till slowly, slowly Cape St Vincent to the northwest dies away. Cross the hallowed ground of Trafalgar and ho for the Straits!’

Here someone mentions the Levanter, a breeze that blows with horrid violence out of the Straits of Gibraltar, frequently producing a sea reminiscent of a half-size replica of the Peak District. ‘That’s the beauty of it!’ cries the Owner. ‘It doesn’t blow properly till May. We’ll be far too early!’ And somehow we were convinced.

On the tenth of May, we sailed into San Antonio Marina, and there were Cynthia and the children waving on the hammerhead. ‘Gosh you’re brown!’ cried Cynthia. ‘Isn’t the Med fun!’

There had been easterlies in the Channel, light, with fog. The Bay of Biscay had certainly been a piece of cake, if you like your cake tumbled in a washing machine for three days. The Portuguese Trades had politely abated to make room for a gale from the Southwest.

Cape St Vincent had not so much died away as never been born, thanks to the thunderstorms which had metamorphosed into the first really savage Levanter of the year, through which we had plugged as if riding a forty-foot rocking horse. Once through the Straits the wind had gone fitful and we had done the last four hundred miles with three sleeping and one on lookout.

But a month ago we had been in Littlehampton, and now we were in Ibiza. ‘Yes,’ we said. ‘It certainly is.’ And the odd thing was that we meant it.

Sam Llewellyn