Egret - Cruising The Mediterranean
Cruising Italy, Greece and Turkey
After spending a great winter in Barcelona, get hauled around the 1st of April at the Monte North yard in the Port Vell complex past the fishing boats. After, with a careful eye on the weather from the Golfe du Lyon, make the two-day sail to Calvi, Corsica. In Calvi take the narrow gauge train to Algerro and back (one day trip through the mountains) or rent a car. There will still be snow on the high mountains - beautiful. If a mistral blows, retreat to the marina or to Bonnaficio in the south. This is early season with few boats. You will escape the madness of the season with the hordes of French and Italian boats. This is important timing. Friends left late after spending time with their family elsewhere and got killed with local boats until we met again much later in Syracuse, Sicily. After Corsica a short hop (2 hour) away is the Madelena Islands of Sardinia. This is a group of basically uninhabited islands with shallow water, white sand bottoms and is beautiful. Egret anchored in tiny Cala Nord (bay north) with a line ashore. Perfect for dinghy exploring.
The west coast of Sardinia offers a number of great anchorages. One special day we spent was taking a rental car inland from a marina in Algelhro (sp). Inland Sardinia is spectacular and deserves much more than one day inland exploring. We almost circumnavigated Sardinia W-S-E traveling up the east coast to Porto Cervo. PC is so exclusive if you are a lower class millionaire wannabebigguy, you carry coffee. The homes aren't the monstrous monuments to themselves like so many Ft. Lauderdale homes. They are not pretentious, but are beautiful. From PC Egret crossed to Rome spending 3 weeks with other NAR boats. We did a three-day trip by train to Venice with Grey Pearl (an N62) and Strickly for Fun (N47). Great fun. Mary enjoyed Rome but I tolerated it. We were there over July 4th. It was HOT and crowded. The pickpockets were working overtime. The history is overwhelming. The Vatican tour was great as was the coliseum tour-forum. We went into town nearly every day by bus and train. One highlight is the marina in Ostia which has a great marine store. I hate to be negative but the heat, dirt, graffiti, pickpockets, bus-train trek day after day, and unfriendly service people made this stay a chore for me. I will say everywhere else in Italy people are happy, friendly and accommodating. I won't waste any more time on Roma. Sorry about the negative overview.
From Rome it is a short hop to Ponza, an island due west of Naples. Anchor in the Inferno. Ponza is another 'must see' place. We have many great memories from our two visits to Ponza. Next and close by nearer to Naples is Ischia. Rent a car or scooter and explore. Another great place. Sail south doing short day hops along the coast stopping at interesting southern Italian villages. Enter the Straits of Messina early in the morning to avoid the strong sea breeze. Don't worry about the tides. Worry about the ferry traffic. Hop along the Sicilian coast to Syracuse. Syracuse has the great fruit, veggie and fish market plus its own history. From here rent a car to tour Sicily being sure to make a day trip to Mt. Etna. From Syracuse sail south to the tiny fishing village at the very SE tip of the island. Leave early in the morning for Malta for fuel and a visit.
In Malta you DO NOT need an agent like the books say. Rip off city. Stay at Grand Harbour Marina. They will get you checked in and will help you get your duty free fuel with no charge. You will need to get the approximate price/ltr, figure your gallonage, then pump the HBSC ATM past the marina toward town on the left to get Maltese lira. No plastic. You pay the fuel truck directly (an agent takes 10+%). Malta has huge history and can be done including fueling in a week or so. We spent three weeks because of the other 4 NAR boats enjoying their company but wouldn't spend that time on our own. You catch any one of three or four buses into Valletta. From the Valletta terminal you can go anywhere. Valletta itself deserves a couple of days. We had a fun evening at a wine tasting overlooking the harbor. Wait until you see the buses…
From Malta back to Syracuse, reprovision then sail to the boot of Italy then cross to Croatia. Egret didn't go to Croatia but others did and found it a great place. (Egret spent 3 weeks in Rome, 3 in Malta and 10 days or more in Syracuse. All of this was the times we spent with other NAR boats and was time well spent with THEM but not the sights in my opinion. To redo this on our own we would visit Croatia with the extra time.)
South from Croatia to the Ionian Greek islands. Egret visited Paxos and Ithaca before sailing east through the Corinth canal. DO ENTER THE AEGEAN BEFORE SEPT 1st!!! You will be killed by weather. Spend Sept and all of Oct if you have the time in the Greek islands. Sifnos and Samos were Egret's favorites but we enjoyed them all. Turkey is not sensitive when you get in and will honor a reservation unlike Barcelona so take your time in the islands. (Marina Port Vell in Barcelona has since gotten a new manager. Nordhavn 46, Resolution reported winter 06 they showed up on October and they DID honor their reservations. Apply April 1st to Ingrid at MPV.)
Let me make an important point about the Greek island officials. Prior to coming to the Med there were so many negative reports about Greece we didn't buy a cruising guide planning to bypass the islands on our way to Turkey. We were talked into going to the islands by other cruisers and they were one of the biggest highlights of our entire Med cruise. This said there is a major scam employed by the Greek officials. The Schengen Treaty was a European treaty pre-European Union limiting a person's stay to 90 days...period. If you come from the west you WILL be over 90 days and could be fined heavily. I will pass on the NAR boats’ experiences, but as a disclaimer will say this is what we did and what came as a result…I’m not saying this is the thing to do. One boat did not check into or out of the Greek islands opting to anchor out exclusively and never in major ports. The Greek quays are free or nearly free so it is tempting to tie up (but with no electricity or water). You will quite possibly be checked by the port captain if you do. He will want to see your transit log. Some boats checked in (purchased a transit log - about 30 EU) but did not check out. They checked back into the Aegean Greek islands at the beginning of the next season with no consequence. (I would mix up the ports if I did this.) Other NAR boats checked in and out narrowly escaping BIG fines. Other nationalities, non EU, have some horror stories. One Swiss we met in Turkey is still fighting the Greeks after 4 years to get his 15,000 EU back, cash, no bond. Do not miss the Greek islands but choose your strategy wisely. West bound after Turkey check in and out, no problem. (Again, we have since heard a report Greece has reversed their nasty policies and are now cruiser friendly. Current (‘07) cruiser coconut telegraph will help with confirmation.)
The NAR clan wintered in Marmaris, Turkey. Netsel Marina is located downtown Marmaris and very convenient to everything but has few liveaboards. If you come with your own group or are going to spend little time here this is where I would winter. If not stay at Yacht Marine, about 20 minutes away by minivan. Yacht Marine is a huge marina and yard. The location is windier, dirtier, about the same price after figuring everything for a powerboat but has a fantastic social life. Those are your choices. Marmaris has the best marine stores and supplies since Ft. Lauderdale. Our favorites are the 3M Store and Alev around the corner for parts. Egret had a considerable amount of stainless goodies fabricated for a small fraction of Stateside prices by Emin Kadioglu 252 413-0097. His interpreter's name is Mohedi 0555-490-2395. One big plus of Turkey is things can be carried in by you OR your guests with no problem! (Simply go through the 'nothing to declare' line - none of were stopped). If you air freight or mail supplies in, forget it. Customs nightmare. The Egret crew lugged 350 lbs.+ after our Ft. Lauderdale trip with no problems. We paid an airline overweight fee of $125. Others carried in huge amounts as well.
Turkey has great inland touring, inexpensive pricing with lots of history. The Egret crew toured quite a lot with other cruisers. The winter weather is mild with no snow. There are winter storms that blow and rain in the spring. Unless you are negligent, there are no problems. Snow skiing is available a short distance inland.