We had to motor for 13 hrs to get here from Brixham, but made fantastic time with the tide helping us for the important bits (we made 10.5 kts as we passed Portland Bill). The day got increasingly misty and by the time we turned towards Christchurch (to minimise the tide against us) we were in thick fog with visibility down to a few hundred metres. Lymington often has its own microclimate though, and as we turned up-river, we were back in warm sunshine.
It feels very surreal to be back here in Red Panda, after leaving 3½ years ago for Scotland, and again just over 2 years ago for the Med.
Some figures for the record:
3960 nautical miles this year, 11,800 total (since leaving Lymington for Bristol in April 2008).
730 hrs on passage this year, 2,150 total (70% under engine!).
6 countries this year (2 visited twice), 10 since April ’08.
16 nights at sea this year, 26 total.
Most importantly, we achieved pretty much what we set out to do. We’ve explored some fantastic places and learnt so much about Europe’s early civilisations, at least the ones that settled near the sea. We’ve also learnt that we have a huge wanderlust. Our original aim to spend several years exploring the Med has foundered on the rocks of our itchy feet. We found ourselves getting bored after a few days in one place unless there really was a lot of historical stuff to see. Although we really enjoy the down-time as well (winters or several weeks in one place), we need these places to be different and far apart. The various people who said we should turn west at Gibraltar on the way down were right!
We’ve been talking about what were our favourite places and times, but the truth is that there have been so many! Our wildlife visitors were pretty special, both feathered and cetacean. Sailing into Valletta (Malta) was breathtaking, but so were many of the historical sights we visited. Whilst some of the ruins have been magnificent (especially the Greek temples and forts), our favourites have tended to be the more modest ones like the tiny Minoan village on Crete or Nestor’s Palace on the Peloponnese.
Throughout our travels we’ve met interesting people and made some great friends, both afloat and ashore.
On the way we’ve learnt how to sail and manage a boat. The Med lived up to its reputation for poor sailing: the number of days where we had good sailing stand out, whereas the countless days motoring for one reason or another blur into each other! The expectation that you can just go where the winds take you turned out to be unrealistic; you’ve always got an agenda or a timetable, and that rarely coincides with what the weather wants you to do. Although we never did do the long passage we hoped to on the way back, we were fully ready for it in terms of the boat, provisions and our frame of mind.
Now we can prepare for the next voyage – exciting! We will be in the UK until late next summer, trying to sell Red Panda (longer if we can’t!), buy the next and get it ready for crossing oceans. We hope to be able to use some of this time catching up with friends, so you are warned!