Half of the Atlantic

Non-stop sailing from Greece to Gibraltar. For the 2500 kilometres I need 15 days and a well-filled diesel tank. It is half of an Atlantic crossing. And it works out fine. Good sailing moments, prudent professional ships and a successful escape from the boiling Mediterranean.

We leave the sheltering bay of Pylos, Peleponnes. Yesterday’s storm has built up swells, not really high, but steep and relentless. The yacht in front of me, at least twenty metres long and beautiful, turns around after ten minutes. Doesn’t the owner want a green nose when he’s already spending millions on his hobby? I swallow a tablet of Arlevert and face the queasy feeling. The first two days are hard, as always. Then it gets fine.


It is easier to sail into the Mediterranean than out. In winter, there were only westerly winds for months. Now it looks different. Northerly wind from the Adriatic, wind and waves hit the ship at a 60 degree angle. It goes just fine, Reykja runs, the waves don’t really slow her down. The wind blows right up to the coast of Sicily. Then it falls asleep.

Proximity to land means internet connection, means weather report. In three days, ECMWF, the European weather model, forecasts an easterly stream off the Algerian coast. It is supposed to last several days. That would be a cheap way out of the Mediterranean, which has now heated up to a fabulous 28+ degrees, anything but a pleasant place to stay.

I choke through the Strait of Sicily with a lot of engine and very little wind. The Mediterranean splits. While in the east and west the water depth drops to 3000 metres, here it gains just a few hundred. The first groups of dolphins appear, in Greece they were as good as extinct.

No one sails the thousand kilometre coast off Algeria. The course is disreputable because it supposedly runs against the current. Besides, I don’t have a visa for Algeria, so I would have to negotiate with authorities in an emergency. However, there are hardly any ports where one could solve emergencies.

So, with a wonderful tailwind, I am the only sailing boat in the route of the cargo ships. Always just outside the twelve-mile limit to Algeria. The crews sail generously around me, changing their course in time so that I am not alerted once at night by the AIS because of a possible collision. I feel well taken care of in their professional world.


Four days later, the wind has exhausted itself. I am at the height of Almeria, Spain. Three days of calm, predicts the weather forecast, and then a full westerly wind on the nose. I have to decide. To bob around in the Mediterranean for a few more weeks, or to brute force my way to Gibraltar by motor? The recent fuel prices speak for the first solution, the leaden, dusty heat against it. I start the engine. At least diesel is duty-free in Gibraltar.

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