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Old 07-12-2020, 08:22   #1
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Thumbs up TIPS? Sailing from Sweden to the Med next spring

Hello everyone! I recently bought my first sailboat in Sweden, a 1979 Player 31 in an outstanding condition. I got it from an 80 year old carpenter who really loved her and took well care of. After installing some equipment that the boat didn't have (VHF, AIS, bow anchor, autopilot, etc.) I will set sails from the Göteborg archipelago to the Mediterranean around mid May.

I have been doing some research and I think I have decided to make the entrance through Gibraltar, even though there are some challenging passages before getting there (I mean for me as a non-expert sailor: English Channel, Bay of Biscay, Gibraltar itself). I have plenty of time and will do it slowly (the plan is to take at least 2 months), waiting for good weather and enjoying the voyage while taking water samples for a marine conservation non-profit.

Has any of you sailed this route or parts of it? Any recommendations or advice? All help and information is very welcome
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Old 07-12-2020, 08:25   #2
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Re: TIPS? Sailing from Sweden to the Med next spring

Here are some images of the boat Her name is Violeta.

https://ibb.co/Zg87x77
https://ibb.co/t2P9YVz
https://ibb.co/3yX385f
https://ibb.co/98XGZr0
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Old 07-12-2020, 09:08   #3
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Re: TIPS? Sailing from Sweden to the Med next spring

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Originally Posted by juanpadelmas View Post
Hello everyone! I recently bought my first sailboat in Sweden, a 1979 Player 31 in an outstanding condition. I got it from an 80 year old carpenter who really loved her and took well care of. After installing some equipment that the boat didn't have (VHF, AIS, bow anchor, autopilot, etc.) I will set sails from the Göteborg archipelago to the Mediterranean around mid May.

I have been doing some research and I think I have decided to make the entrance through Gibraltar, even though there are some challenging passages before getting there (I mean for me as a non-expert sailor: English Channel, Bay of Biscay, Gibraltar itself). I have plenty of time and will do it slowly (the plan is to take at least 2 months), waiting for good weather and enjoying the voyage while taking water samples for a marine conservation non-profit.

Has any of you sailed this route or parts of it? Any recommendations or advice? All help and information is very welcome

With a boat that size, weather windows on that route are critical. Pretty much the whole route is very challenging sailing. The good news, however, is that starting in mid-May and with no other schedule constraints (?) you have plenty of time to do it safely.



The first tough bit is the North Sea, as the Germans say, Nordsee ist Mordsee. This is very challenging from all kinds of points of view -- traffic, sea conditions in any kind of weather, routing. I could write a book on crossing the North Sea. You might want to start a separate thread just about this.



Once you're done with that, then you've got the English Channel. This can also be very challenging, even deadly, but the routing is simple (just stay out of the shipping lanes) and you have a wealth of interesting places to stop. Biggest challenge here will be to resist the temptation to take all summer to explore it all. Note: you must be competent in tidal navigation to do this. The tides are ferocious, and the tidal races can swallow up a little boat like that whole.



Once you're done with the Channel, then you've got Finisterre and the Brittany Coast -- a wild and tough place with very few ports of refuge. You should leave some place like Falmouth with a perfect weather window to get you down to Ushant or some place like, then weigh your options with Biscay. Crossing Biscay is harder than crossing the Atlantic. You can go straight across if you are really sure about the weather, or you can sail along the coast, which is the long way around but plenty of good ports of refuge (and beautiful too, and fantastic food).



Once you're across Biscay, you've got the wild coast of Portugal, then turn the corner around the Algarve, and then Gib will be in your sights. None of these places is anything to mess with in bad weather, even in a bigger boat. So your whole strategy is going to be to plan legs no longer than what you have highly accurate weather for (no more than a couple of days except for Biscay if you decide to go straight across).


Be sure the boat is in top condition and that you have proper safety and comms gear. You must have a life raft -- if anything happens in water as cold as the North Sea, you're dead in minutes if you have no way to get out of the water. Very important also will be a way to get weather information. Navtex is sort of OK on that route, but better would be an Iridium Go with unlimited data. Read the recent thread about the couple who lost their much larger boat in the Mediterranean due to lack of weather information.
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Old 07-12-2020, 09:28   #4
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Re: TIPS? Sailing from Sweden to the Med next spring

It's a great trip, I did something similar from Denmark via the Kiel Canal. But then regrettably I was time constrained so did it more or less non stop (one stop in Weymouth after Amsterdam). My solution was to do it with a good friend who is also a very experienced sailor which made it all very manageable. For you, given your self assessment of not being an expert sailor I would also advise to find a buddy who is more or less expert. I tend to agree strongly with Dockhead's assessment (just one example of many: the races off Portland Bill, you simply cannot afford making the mistake of getting caught up in them).


Another very interesting trip is doing it via the French canals. I looked into that but you cannot have more than 1.6m draft so was... difficult.
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Old 07-12-2020, 17:07   #5
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Re: TIPS? Sailing from Sweden to the Med next spring

I've sailed from Denmark to Barcelona twice (once via Kiel Canal and other time via Bergen and across the North Sea). I have also sailed Barcelona to the UK once.

The easiest route in a smaller boat is via the Kiel Canal. Assuming you want short passages, the main tide gates where you have to wait for the tide and a weather window are:


Gothenburg to Kiel Canal to Cuxhaven - no navigational difficulties apart from the Kiel Canal. Movement at night is not allowed so most boats spend a night in the canal somewhere.
Cuxhaven to Haarlingen - there's not much shelter in the Frisian Islands so this is more or less a non-stop leg.
Haarlingen to Ijmuiden via Ijsellmeer and Markermeer - some locks and bridges to negotiate and very shallow outside of the channels
The English Channel - you have to decide whether to go on the French side or the UK side. Tides and tidal range around the Channel Islands are extreme. Up to 12m rise of tide and 4 knots of current and several tide races. On the UK side, Portland Bill is a significant tide gate with a race. There are sufficient places to stop on both sides. Eventually you arrive in L'Aberwrach where you need to wait to pass the tide gates of Chenal du Four and Raz de Sein to arrive in Benodet. In a fast boat it's possible to clear both the Chenal du Four and the Raz de Sein in one tide cycle. Otherwise you might have to stop in Camaret or anchor somewhere.

Bay of Biscay - I like to cross from Benodet to La Coruńa but you could coast hop from Benodet to La Rochelle. There are interesting islands along the coastal route. From La Rochelle make a long crossing to the north coast of Spain eg Santander or Gijon. There are not many good shelters for yachts in the south east corner of the Bay of Biscay.

Often need to wait for a weather window to pass Cape Finisterre. South of this the weather improves. The Rias Baixas are pleasant stops (eg Vigo) and then on to Cascais (near Lisbon, most welcoming marina in Europe with a gift bottle of wine) and then Lagos, Portugal, Cadiz (wait for tide in Straits of Gibraltar and beware fish traps in some seasons of the year), Gibraltar.

Obviously there are many other possibilities but these are the highlights of this route.
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Old 08-12-2020, 09:52   #6
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Re: TIPS? Sailing from Sweden to the Med next spring

Although not an expert sailor now, when you reach the Med you will have accumulated a real good stock of experience and will wonder what possessed you to do it in the first place, but at the same time be very pleased that you did it.
I've done Baltic to Med both ways involving crossing Biscay 3 times and every time I have ended up motoring all the way from Coruna to Ushant, which just suggests that the weather gods will do what they want with you.
It is, I reckon, one of the finest sailing trips in the world you can do. Apart from taking a direct route across Biscay (which you don't have to do), you can pretty much do the whole thing day-sailing if you choose. Beware the Rias Baixas: I called in for some fuel and left a year later!

As others have said, become an expert at weather windows in the comfort of your own home, comparing your predictions with the actual events the following day. Also, get someone to teach you about tides properly during the winter so that they act as your powerful friend between the Elbe and Ushant. After that they aren't so bad and the wind tends to the North until Cape St Vincent, as does the current.

Just do it and what you don't enjoy will be fabulous learning.
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Old 08-12-2020, 10:00   #7
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Re: TIPS? Sailing from Sweden to the Med next spring

If one enters the Kiel Canal at 0700 when it opens, it is possible to transit the canal in one day. Cux haven would be the stop after leaving the canal.

Wind against the Elbe's currents can make the short trip from the Canal to Cuxhaven a bit uncomfortable.

If you have so much time, I would visit The Channel Islands and then continue down the French Atlantic coast to La Rochelle and then head to San Sebastian, Spain.

Belle Isle and Ile d'Yeux are two French islands that are worth stopping at. La Rochelle is a real sailor's town. If you can get berth in the old harbor, it is right in the middle of town.

That's as far as I have gone, but I am planning to go to Barcelona next summer if the lockdowns are relaxed.
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Old 08-12-2020, 10:20   #8
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Re: TIPS? Sailing from Sweden to the Med next spring

Lovely boat @juanpadelmas - reminds me of my dad's Hallberg-Rassy 312 of similar vintage.

We ourselves are planning to commission a new Broadblue 346 next year (our first boat) and slowly take it to the Med (probably to be based in Mahon, Menorca) in 2022 probably via the French inland waterways - who knows perhaps we'll meet up at some point in the future.

I think the advice above both regarding geography and boat handling has been sound and should be heeded. You absolutely need to try and get one or a series of buddies (preferably with more experience than you have) to come along rather than go solo on your first extended trip! There are a variety of ways to advertise for crew if you haven't got a suitable mate to ask.

Best wishes, it should be an amazing and thoroughly enjoyable trip unless you go it alone win which case it could become quite stressful.
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Old 08-12-2020, 12:43   #9
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Re: TIPS? Sailing from Sweden to the Med next spring

Hello Juandepalma - congratulations! You should have the trip of a lifetime.

The advice of the others here on this post is both sage and valuable, I hope you are able to utilize it to the fullest. I did this exact thing you're setting out to do 2 years ago, starting in Gothenberg area and ending in NW Spain (after a couple of months) but had to hire a delivery skipper to bring the boat around Iberia as I ran out of time on my visa and had to return to the U.S. before rejoining the boat the following Spring to enjoy the Med. with my family. I covered these same routes discussed and had similar learning / recommendations to the others. But what may not be mentioned yet and I would add is while a couple of months may seem like sufficient time, suddenly half or all of that time can disappear waiting for parts or weather windows or crew. Especially crew. This isn't negative so much as something that must be planned and budgeted for, you should be able not only to feed your crew and cover the costs of getting them back home to where they started, but you must also endure the time you must spend where ever it is you end up without crew, waiting. This can add time and cost as good people tend to have plans during good weather. Covid will compound the complexity of all of this. The other thing I'd add - Fog. It is difficult to prepare for in all crossings, but it can arrive quite unexpectedly as you get toward the English Channel, and can really hamper forward progress; AIS & VHF are very helpful here, but cannot remove all risks. If I had the chance to do it again, I would have spent another year in Scandinavia before heading south; and if that's a possibility for you (to spend the first season in Scandinavia / Northern Europe before heading to the Med, I'd suggest that it would be time well spent.
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Old 08-12-2020, 12:54   #10
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Re: TIPS? Sailing from Sweden to the Med next spring

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Nice boat!
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Old 08-12-2020, 14:41   #11
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TIPS? Sailing from Sweden to the Med next spring

I have no input to your question but I also think your boat looks nice. I had a Player 311 which is the newer version of the 31. They are very similar though. Yours look nicer than the one I had. Does it Have the original engine or have the boat been repowered? Mine was repowered from a 2 cylinder yanmar to a 3 cylinder 3YM30. Very nice upgrade. Otherwise it is a sturdy and strong built boat that will have no problem getting you to the med.
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Old 08-12-2020, 19:21   #12
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Originally Posted by juanpadelmas View Post
Hello everyone! I recently bought my first sailboat in Sweden, a 1979 Player 31 in an outstanding condition. I got it from an 80 year old carpenter who really loved her and took well care of. After installing some equipment that the boat didn't have (VHF, AIS, bow anchor, autopilot, etc.) I will set sails from the Göteborg archipelago to the Mediterranean around mid May.

I have been doing some research and I think I have decided to make the entrance through Gibraltar, even though there are some challenging passages before getting there (I mean for me as a non-expert sailor: English Channel, Bay of Biscay, Gibraltar itself). I have plenty of time and will do it slowly (the plan is to take at least 2 months), waiting for good weather and enjoying the voyage while taking water samples for a marine conservation non-profit.

Has any of you sailed this route or parts of it? Any recommendations or advice? All help and information is very welcome
We'll I have sailed Sweden to Eindhoven via the Kiel canal.. getting to the entrance of the canal was pretty straightforward and overnighter on the N side at the quay.
You'll need to fender uo well as it's a stone quay and the wash from traffic can bounce you a bit.. get up early so you are hovering around outside the gates for the first opening where you will lock in then tie up at the pontoons to pay the passage fee for transit, a word of caution, watch your footing as the pontoons are slippy as hell.
Do the canal over two days, stop overnight at one off the marinas along the way which is what I did then carry on the next day and tie up in the marina on the starboard side for the night then lock out in the morning to carry on to Cuxhaven.
From there on I leave the planning to you until you reach France where I suggest you jump across to the UK side at Dover and follow the S coast to Falmouth.
Less chance of getting caught by a strong N'ly on a lee shore with few places to hide that ae not tidal and drying ports unlike the UK side.
From Falmouth its around 100nm to Ushant where I suggest you jump through the channel by Ushant rather than mess with the trickier inshore route unless you have a particular desire to stop in Brest.
The Chanel du Four you need to time your arrival for high water or one or two hours after and run through with the ebb, if you depart Falmouth at slack HW water and can average 5kts this usually works well.. I tend to leave in the afternoon so as to run the Ushant in daylight.
After exiting the Chanel du Four you have two choices, steer for La Courna or once clear of the shallows bear slightly to port and down to Le Stables or LA Rochelle.
A straight run to Spain is around 340nm, Le Stables is around 24hrs with fair winds.
Once you round Finistere I suggest your first stop is Baiona, unless you want to play around in the Ria's, it offers two choices, a marina or you can anchor off on the port side by the beach once you enter the breakwater.
From Baiona it's a straightforward run S down to the border, a word of warning with Portugal, most of the ports are at river mouths with dangerous sandbar when the NW swell is running strong.. the easy entrances are Porto, Peniche, Cascais and Sines.. Lisbon you need to run up with a flooding tide else you can be doing 6kts and going nowhere.
Once you round St Vincent there's an anchorage at Sagres, Lagos marina, Portimao has a marina on the port side of the river or a nice Anchorage to starboard as you clear the breakwater. From there to Gibraltar is around 36hrs if your prepared to motor as winds are often light along there, or as others have said you can stop off at Cadiz if the E'lies are dominating the Strait.. from there it's possible to make Gib by late afternoon with an early start.. alternatively there's a marina just E of Trafalgar just watch for the tuna nets.
Don't let the Strait of Gibraltar phase you, time it with the tide and stay on the N side around a mile offshore, just watch for the fast ferries running out off Tarifa and back in from Tangiers.
I also suggest you do it under motor as it's your first time, you can play around under sail once you have seen what's what..
Have a ball, it's a great trip.
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Old 08-12-2020, 20:23   #13
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Re: TIPS? Sailing from Sweden to the Med next spring

Hello Juanpadelmas,

beautiful boat.

I just want to translate dockheads quote "Nordsee ist Mordsee" for those of us who are not so proficient in the German language.

It actuially is a very old saying best translated into "Northsea is murderous sea" because of the severe storms and low temperatures seen there and in consequence many sailors have lost their life here in the past.

It is also the title of a movie which has been translated a bit differently into: "North sea is dead sea".

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0073465...ontext=default


Your plan is doable and many boats are traveling along that route. Watch the youtube videos of circumnavigators. One example would be:






Regards,



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Old 10-12-2020, 08:56   #14
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Re: TIPS? Sailing from Sweden to the Med next spring

Les Sables d'Olonne
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Old 10-12-2020, 09:00   #15
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Les Sables d'Olonne
John
Opps.. Forgot to proofread and a T slipped in there.. Apologies..
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