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Winds and Currents of the Mediterranean Sea

The Mediterranean climate is on the whole extremely pleasant, marked by long hot summers and mild winters. Most gales and rain occur in winter months, few storms interrupting the long summer. Local conditions vary considerably, stronger winds and squalls often resulting from local phenomena and not due to the overall weather pattern. Tropical storms do not affect this region.
The Mediterranean can be divided into two halves, Western and Eastern, corresponding to the two deeper basins which are separated by a ridge, running through Italy, Sicily, and Malta to the African coast. In the summer the Western Mediterranean comes under the influence of the Atlantic high pressure area centred near the Azores, while the Eastern Mediterranean is influenced by the low pressure area east of the Mediterranean, which is an extension of the Indian Ocean monsoon. As a rule weather systems move across the Mediterranean from west to east and this is particularly true of depressions in the winter months. The commonest winds over the entire area are from the northerly sector, more from the NW in the western basin, N in the Aegean and NE in the eastern part. Well chronicled down the centuries are the various regional winds, which are a notable feature of Mediterranean weather.
Close to the coast the weather is greatly affected by the height of the land and other topographical features. Local conditions vary enormously, any prevailing wind usually being lighter near the coast, while land and sea breezes have a strong effect. The land and sea breezes are particularly marked in summer months and reach 20 to 30 knots in some places. The direction of the wind changes not only with the time of day, but also with the orientation of the coast. A reversal in the direction of the wind usually occurs between early morning and late afternoon. Local squalls are more frequent where the coast is mountainous and the wind is frequently accelerated down valleys or between islands. These effects are particularly true for high islands and should be borne in mind when anchoring in the lee of such valleys, particularly in Greece in the meltemi season.

Mistral

'Magistralis' meaning 'masterful' was the name originally given to the cold dry NW wind which holds masterly sway over the Western Mediterranean in both frequency and strength. Now corrupted to 'mistral' or 'maestral', these NW winds are formed when cold air flowing down over France is blocked by the heights of the Alps and is diverted to pour into the Mediterranean via the Rhone valley. The mistral blows strongly in the Gulf of Lions and the Gulf of Genoa, while the Rhone delta area and Marseille receive the full force of the mistral on almost 100 days a year. On average 20 knots, the mistral is frequently stronger and can reach 50-60 knots on occasion. The mistral often reaches the Balearics and Sardinia and on occasion can be felt as far as Malta and North Africa. The French Riviera east of Marseille is sheltered by the mountains behind the coast and the mistral is felt less there.
The mistral blows at intervals throughout the year, although it is commonest in winter, normally lasting from three to six days and is typified by clear skies. Along the Spanish coast this NW wind is called the tramontana, being strong, cold, and dry with many local variations.

Vendavales

These are strong SW winds which blow between North Africa and the Spanish coast, especially in the late autumn and early spring. These winds, which do not last long, can reach gale force and are associated with depressions moving across Spain and Southern France. The vendavales are associated with squalls and thunderstorms, but are less strong near the African coast and the NE coast of Spain. They are much stronger when funnelled through the Strait of Gibraltar. Hitting the west coast of Sardinia and the Gulf of Genoa, these strong SW winds are called libeccio in Italian.

Sirocco

In general usage, this name is used to describe any winds from the south bringing hot air off the continent of Africa. Due to depressions moving east across the Sahara Desert, the sirocco blows off the north coast of Africa very hot and dry, often laden with sand and dust, thus reducing visibility. As these winds pass across the sea, they pick up some moisture, and so in Spain, Malta, Sicily, Sardinia, and Southern Italy the sirocco arrives at a lower temperature and with a higher humidity than off the African coast. In those places it is a warm hazy wind associated with a low layer of continuous cloud. Rain falling through the dust carried by these winds can sometimes be red or brown.
A similar wind blows off the Arabian peninsula to affect Israel, Lebanon, Cyprus, Crete, and other southern islands in the Eastern Mediterranean, particularly in the transitional periods between seasons, from April to June, September, to October. In Egypt the sirocco is called the khamsin, which means 50 in Arabic, because it occurs most frequently in the 50 days following the Coptic Easter. It usually blows at gale force for about one day and is most common from February to April. Later in May and June the khamsin is less frequent but can last longer.

Levante

These NE winds blow near the Spanish coast, reaching gale force in spring (February to May) and autumn (October to December). In summer months from June to September, the levante is shorter and has less strength. The levante is formed when a depression is situated between the Balearics and North Africa, usually when there is a high pressure area over the European landmass to the north.
The levante is most common along the central Spanish coast and can continue into the Strait of Gibraltar, where it is funnelled to become easterly and is known as levanter. The levante brings lower temperatures and rain, which is often heavy near the coast, while the long fetch produces heavy seas.

Gregale

These strong winds also from the NE are felt in the Central Mediterranean, on the coasts of Sicily and Malta and especially in the Ionian Sea. They flow out of high pressure areas situated over the Balkans and are common in the winter months, especially in February. These winds usually blow at gale force, are cold, and produce a heavy swell. The NE coast of Malta is particularly vulnerable as the main harbours are open to the NE. It was a gregale that wrecked St Paul on the Maltese coast in the first century AD.

Meltemi

This wind is more commonly known by its Turkish name 'meltemi' than as the etesian wind, which is taken from the Greek word meaning 'annual'. These regular winds blow steadily over the eastern basin of the Mediterranean all summer, commencing in May or early June and continuing until September or even October. The meltemi is at its strongest and steadiest in July and August. Even when the meltemi is not blowing, or while it is being established in the earlier months, it is rare to get winds from any other direction during this time. Periods of calm can often occur at the beginning of the season. The meltemi has many similarities with a monsoon and can be regarded as an extension of the Indian monsoon caused by the low pressure area east of the Mediterranean.
The meltemi blows from the north in the central Aegean, tending to be more NE in the northern Aegean and NW in the southern areas, extending across the whole eastern basin, although it peters out before reaching the southern shores. The meltemi is a fresh wind on average 15-20 knots, and associated with fine clear weather. Often it reaches up to 30 knots, especially in the afternoons and occasionally it reaches 40 knots. It is less strong in the most northerly areas and strongest in the S and SW Aegean. The meltemi tends to decrease at night.

Western Mediterranean

The summers are fine with few storms. Gale force winds do occur, but these are often generated by local depressions over a limited area. Because of this they are difficult to predict and give little warning of their onset, as an impending gale is rarely preceded by a meaningful change in barometric pressure. Strong winds such as vendavales, sirocco, or levante are more common in the transitional months of spring and autumn. The mistral can blow in summer but is much less frequent than at other times of the year. The commonest wind over this area is from the NW, except in the most southerly areas near the African coast, where winds from the E and NE are more frequent. There can be calm periods for several days at a time. There is little rain over this area in summer, except for occasional thunderstorms near some of the coasts.
In winter winds are much more variable and gales more frequent. Depressions from the Atlantic track in from the west, either across France or Spain or through the Strait of Gibraltar. Also some local depressions form in the Gulf of Lions or the Gulf of Genoa and track to the south, bringing strong winds and squally weather. The mistral gales are more frequent in winter months and NW winds predominate over this area. Vendavales and libeccio blow especially in late autumn and early spring. In spite of the increased frequency of gales in winter, there are also some quiet periods. Although most rain falls during winter as showers, temperatures are mild and there are frequent sunny days.

Eastern Mediterranean

The summers are dominated by the seasonal winds from the northern quarter, which blow strongly but are associated with clear skies and fine weather. Rainfall is scant and almost non-existent on the southern shores. The climate of the eastern basin is a little more continental than the western or central areas, which means fewer fronts, less rain, and a lower humidity. It is noted for long hot summers and short winters. Most of the rain falls in winter.
In winter depressions track in an easterly direction either SE towards Cyprus or NE towards the Black Sea. Although small in size, these depressions can be very violent as they develop rapidly and with little warning. Some violent storms in this area are dangerous as they are local in character, arriving quickly out of a clear sky. Although winds from the northerly sector are commonest in winter too, winds from all directions do occur and there are strong gale force winds particularly from the south. Both S and N winds are more prolonged than E or W winds. November to February are the worst months with cold dry N to NE gales and warm moist SE to SW gales which bring dust. When a depression passes there can be a change from S to N within a few hours. At the transitional period between seasons, such as in April and May, calms can occur for several days.

Currents

The Mediterranean loses more water by evaporation than it receives from rivers emptying into it, but there is a general inflow of water from the Atlantic Ocean at all times of the year. This east-setting current is strongest through the Strait of Gibraltar and along the North African coast, where it averages around 2 knots. After passing through the channel between Sicily and Tunisia it gradually loses its strength as it flows eastward. There is a weaker counterclockwise circulation in both of the two basins of the Mediterranean joined by an east-setting current in the Malta channel between the two areas. In the western basin this current flows north up the west coast of Italy. It turns west along the south coast of France and continues south down the Spanish coast. In the eastern basin, the east-setting current turns north along the coast of Israel and Lebanon, west along the Turkish coast, and completes the circle along the northern coast of Crete. A branch makes a counterclockwise circulation of the Aegean Sea, being joined in its southward movement by water flowing out of the Black Sea and into the Mediterranean via the Bosporus and Dardanelles. Another branch makes a counterclockwise circulation of the Adriatic.
Excepting the steady current along the North African coast, the actual currents are very variable and are affected considerably both by the direction and force of the wind and local conditions. For example, when the meltemi is blowing, a S to SW setting current predominates in the Central and Western Aegean. The strongest currents are experienced in the Strait of Gibraltar, the Bosporus, and Dardanelles. Other straits, such as the Strait of Messina, are strongly affected by tidal currents.

Routes in the Mediterranean Sea

Sailing conditions in the Mediterranean have been reviled and ridiculed by modern sailors more than in any other part of the world and the most repeated saying is that 'in the Mediterranean one either gets too much wind or none at all, and what one gets is on the nose'. Fortunately this is not always true and although the winds encountered in this inland sea cannot be compared in constancy to the trade winds of the Caribbean or Indian Ocean, most offshore passages can be made under sail. The Mediterranean has been plied for many centuries by all kinds of wind driven craft and some of the voyages of ancient time have become legend. Being aware of the capricious nature of Mediterranean winds, ships used to be provided with a set of sturdy oars and although slaves have gone out of fashion, diesel engines can replace them perfectly well.
Because of its long maritime history, the weather of the Mediterranean is well known and this simplifies the task for those intending to do some forward planning. As the sailing season stretches over almost nine months of the year, from early March to the end of November, a lot of ground can be covered if an early start is made. This is recommended especially for those planning to make west to east passages as westerly winds are more common during early spring and late autumn. However, because weather patterns in the Mediterranean are less clearly defined than in other parts of the world, a 'best time' to make a particular passage is far less accurate than elsewhere. With a few exceptions, the weather can rarely be regarded as dangerous in the Mediterranean and the most violent storms mostly occur in winter, January and February being the worst months.
The Mediterranean is crisscrossed by innumerable routes, far too many to be dealt with in this book. Also, most of these routes involve a certain amount of coastal cruising and so can hardly be described as offshore routes. Finally, the multitude of good harbours throughout the Mediterranean coupled with the unparalleled richness and variety of places to visit ashore means that most people prefer coastal cruising. In consequence, this chapter deals primarily with the most frequented offshore routes.
In the Mediterranean, perhaps more than anywhere else, forward planning is of crucial importance and as this book is aimed primarily at offshore sailors the routes described and suggestions made are meant for sailors who are not normally based in the Mediterranean and for whom the Mediterranean is only part of a longer voyage.
There are two principal gateways into the Mediterranean, Gibraltar being used mainly by sailoefe arriving from Northern Europe and America, while Port Said witnesses the arrival of sailors who have reached the Mediterranean through the Red Sea and Suez Canal. The latter may be European sailors returning home at the completion of a world voyage, or sailors from other continents, from North America, Australia, New Zealand, or the Far East, in the midst of a circumnavigation. Most of these sailors arrive in the Mediterranean determined to see and do as much as possible in the shortest time possible, which may not be as easy as it first appears. The Mediterranean has been described as the 'cradle of civilisation' and, whether one agrees with that description or not, there is certainly no other region of the world which offers so much to see in such a concentrated area, from archaeological sites to historic cities, beautiful islands and stunning scenery. So the main danger is in trying to cover too much ground in one season and ending up by seeing much less than planned. Also, the Mediterranean is not the small lake it appears and the distance between Gibraltar and the Suez Canal is twice that between Miami and the Panama Canal!
Because many sailors arrive in the Mediterranean planning to spend only one season there the following suggestions are aimed primarily at them. Those starting off from Gibraltar, especially if they have had to cross the Atlantic to get there, are at a certain disadvantage as the sailing season will be well advanced by the time they arrive. For such late starters it is important to get to the furthest point as quickly as possible. As one can never be completely sure what kind of winds to expect, it is wise to cover as many miles as possible early on so as to have time in hand for the rest of the cruise. Such a tactic is particularly important if one wishes to cruise in the Eastern Mediterranean, in which case one should attempt to sail with as few stops as possible to Northern Greece so as to arrive there before the onset of the strong northerly winds of summer. These winds will then ensure favourable sailing conditions while exploring the delights of the Aegean Sea, whether among the Greek islands or on the Turkish mainland.
Gibraltar is an excellent port in which to prepare for an eastbound passage and, although the current is always favourable, it is worth waiting for a spell of westerly winds before leaving. The Eastern Mediterranean can be reached by either going north or south of Sicily. If the destination is the Ionian Sea, or parts of Greece which are easier reached through the Corinth Canal, it is better to sail north of Sicily and through the Strait of Messina. Otherwise, a southern route, which possibly calls at Malta, is to be favoured if the destination is in Crete, Cyprus, or Port Said. A logical decision is to start a cruise in the northern part of the Aegean in late spring or early summer, after which the summer can be spent exploring the Eastern Mediterranean. By August one should start moving westward and, if neither Malta nor the Balearics were visited on the outward voyage, they can easily be included on the return route to Gibraltar.
In the Eastern Mediterranean favourable northerly winds are common throughout the summer, but by early autumn the winds become more variable, and prolonged calms are frequent, especially on passages to Malta. Because westbound passages have fewer chances of favourable winds than passages in the opposite direction, one should allow more time for such passages and also be prepared to motor through the unavoidable calms. A stop in Malta is only recommended for boats coming from Port Said, Cyprus, or Crete. Those coming from mainland Turkey or the Greek islands would do better to sail through the Strait of Messina and continue north of Sicily.
Those planning to continue across the Atlantic should attempt to be in Gibraltar not much later than the end of September so as to have sufficient time for the subsequent passage to the Canaries. Those intending to sail to Northern Europe will find that weather conditions in autumn are rarely favourable and, rather than fight the elements, it is probably wiser to leave the boat in the Mediterranean for the coming winter. There are indeed plenty of good ports and marinas where this can be done at a competitive price. Similarly, American sailors should seriously consider leaving their boat in the Mediterranean between seasons, sailing their boats across the Atlantic during one summer, then finding a suitable place to leave the boat for the coming winter. This then leaves them free to return early the following season and be poised to start cruising as early as April. They then have nearly six months of Mediterranean cruising before preparing for a return voyage via the Canaries and Caribbean.
Most boats arriving in the Mediterranean through the Straits of Gibraltar leave the same way, so a roughly circular route has certain advantages. The main decision to be made is whether this should be done in a clockwise or anti-clockwise direction, the former alternative being more common. In such a case, some of the ports in Southern Spain will be visited first. The next stop will be the Balearics from where it is but a short leg to the French Riviera. Corsica and Sardinia can be visited next, and possibly some of the Italian mainland before negotiating the Straits of Messina. Before crossing the Ionian Sea to Greece, some time should be spent exploring Sicily. The one major detour that may be considered at this stage is a side trip into the Adriatic where Croatia offers some of the most attractive cruising grounds in the Mediterranean. Because the prevailing summer winds in Greece are northerly, it may be better to use the Corinth Canal to reach the Aegean. Alternatively, a route can be taken that goes south of the Peloponnese. The Aegean Sea has so much to offer, both the Greek islands and mainland as well as the Turkish coast of Asia Minor, that an entire season could be easily spent there. Another detour can be considered here: into the Sea of Marmara, the Bosporus and Black Sea. Those willing to carry on east will have the south coast of Turkey to explore, as well as Cyprus and Israel, and even Lebanon and Syria, where the improved political situation has seen a return of cruising boats. Egypt offers hardly any cruising opportunities and is mostly visited by boats using the Suez Canal on their way to or from the Red Sea. By now the route has turned west and a definite stop on the return voyage is the Greek island of Crete. Malta will be visited next before Tunisia beckons. Tunisia is the best destination in North Africa, whereas its neighbour Algeria, where the situation seems to be returning to normal, should only be visited if it is deemed to be safe to do so. As the Mediterranean coast of Morocco has few cruising attractions one is faced with either a nonstop passage from Tunisia to Gibraltar or a detour to Spain's Costa del Sol. The route described above could also be sailed in the opposite direction, especially by those who prefer to reach the Eastern Mediterranean as quickly as possible and visit the countries of the Western Mediterranean on their way west.
Sailors reaching the Mediterranean by way of the Red Sea are in a much better position as they normally transit the Suez Canal in March or April, thus arriving in the Eastern Mediterranean at the best possible time. Having reached that area so early, they can visit first Cyprus and Eastern Turkey, and possibly Israel as well, before following the earlier suggestion and make for the Northern Aegean by June. From there on, the same itinerary will be followed as the one sailed by boats that have come from the Atlantic.
With more time at one's disposal, and this normally means more than one year, unless one is able to move very fast, other areas of the Mediterranean can be explored, from the French Riviera to North Africa, or the increasingly popular Black Sea, where the gradual easing of restrictions in the former Communist countries has opened new cruising areas to those ambitious enough to reach them.

The Adriatic Sea

Cruising guides: Adriatic Pilot. The conflicts between the countries of the former Yugoslavia that ravaged this region in the early 1990s have had no lasting effect on the coastal areas, which includes some of the most attractive cruising grounds in Europe. Croatia is now one of the most popular cruising destinations in the Mediterranean. All three former Yugoslav countries bordering on the Adriatic, Slovenia, Croatia and Montenegro, depend greatly on tourism and cruising and charter yachts are welcome everywhere. As a result, docking and repair facilities have improved considerably. Albania has also opened its doors to cruising yachts. Compared to the diversity of Croatia, the east coast of Italy has very little to offer and there is only a limited number of safe harbours along the entire coast.
Because of its narrowness and other specific factors, weather conditions in the Adriatic tend to be very localised. The most dangerous wind is the bora, a violent northerly wind that occurs mostly in winter. There is a north-setting current along the eastern shore which can be used to advantage when making northbound passages. It is generally advisable to favour the eastern shore when bound in either direction, because of the availability of sheltered anchorages.

The Aegean Sea

Cruising guides: Greek Waters Pilot, East Aegean, Western Aegean, Turkish Waters Pilot. The islands of the Grecian archipelago and the Turkish coast of Asia Minor offer a great variety of cruising opportunities and this is reflected in the large number of sailing boats that ply the Aegean each summer. Navigation rarely presents any real problems, there are countless safe harbours and anchorages, all dangers are clearly marked on charts and even the traditional rivalry between Greece and Turkey affects visiting sailors only in a tangential way.
Ideally, the Aegean should be cruised from north to south, and because of the prevailing northerly winds of summer it is recommended to arrive in the Northern Aegean before the end of May so as to benefit from a favourable wind for the following three months. The ever increasing popularity of these cruising grounds makes most ports very crowded during the peak holiday months of July and August, when more secluded anchorages should be sought out. As the safe cruising season extends from March to November it is possible to visit most harbours either before or after the great summer invasion. This may be also the time to visit some of the adjacent areas, such as Istanbul or the Black Sea.
When the meltemi is blowing strongly offshore, violent gusts often occur in the lee of high ground. Accelerated down the land, this can produce 40-50 knots of wind very suddenly in an area previously calm. This effect occurs particularly on steep southern coasts, both of islands and the mainland. The meltemi is also funnelled through straits, ravines, and between islands. When sheltering on a southerly coast during a northerly gale this squally effect must be allowed for.

The Marmara and Black Sea

Cruising guides: Black Sea Cruising Guide, Cruising Bulgaria and Romania, Cruise Ukraine. Most boats reach this area from the SW, island hopping through the Aegean, although a few boats arrive in the Black Sea by way of the Danube. The passage through the Aegean should be undertaken in spring, before the onset of the meltemi, when winds are either light or non-existent and one must be prepared to motor. Because of the strong outflowing current in the Dardanelles, tacking against a NE wind is almost impossible, the task made even more difficult by the large amount of shipping. A weak counter-current is usually felt on the European side of the strait, which should be favoured as far as Chanakkale, where it is compulsory to cross to the Asian side to clear into Turkey. The rest of the Dardanelles and the crossing of the Sea of Marmara is best done in daily stages, both because of the amount of shipping and the usual lack of wind at night. Passing through the Bosporus should only be attempted in daylight and the European side of the strait should be favoured where a weaker counter current will be found. A thick haze often occurs on summer mornings, which makes navigation very difficult in the strait due to the large number of ships.
Until not so long ago, cruising in the Black Sea used to be limited to a few Turkish ports and the designated ports of entry of the other countries: Bulgaria, Romania, and the Soviet Union. The fall of Communism has certainly brought about an opening up of all those countries. Bulgaria and Romania are now welcoming cruising yachts openly but in both Russia and the Ukraine foreign yachts are supposed to arrive only after having received an official invitation by either a yacht club or a shipping agency. In all these countries tourist visas should be obtained in advance for every crew member. One of the most attractive Black Sea countries is Georgia, but until the situation there is entirely settled, the country should only be visited if it is considered to be safe.
The Black Sea enjoys a climate very similar to the Mediterranean in summer, being mainly fine and sunny, with winds predominantly from the NW or W formed by the same system which generates the meltemi. In winter the weather is much colder, especially in more northerly parts where ice can occur. Very variable conditions prevail in the transition months, April-May and September-October, the winds changing quickly both in force and direction. Local effects as well as land and sea breezes are well marked. In the Dardanelles and Bosporus NE winds are the most frequent as there is a general airflow from the Black Sea into the Aegean. If the wind is not blowing from the NE in these narrows it comes usually from the opposite SW direction.
�10 Mediterranean routes from Gibraltar
M11Gibraltar to the Balearics565
M12Gibraltar to Sicily566
M13Gibraltar to North Africa567
M14Gibraltar to Malta568
With the Strait of Gibraltar safely behind them, eastbound boats have a much easier task when leaving Gibraltar than boats setting off in the opposite direction. The only time when one should not consider leaving Gibraltar is during strong easterly winds. Generally, winds tend to be funnelled either west or east in the strait. At Gibraltar westerly winds predominate in winter and easterly in summer. Levanters are more frequent from July to October and can blow for up to 15 days at a time, although not always too strongly, their average strength being around 15 knots. In winter the
levanter is shorter but stronger, bringing rain, clouds, and haze. Vendavales also occur most frequently in the winter from November to March. In the lee of the Rock the wind causes eddies blowing strongly from different directions only a short distance apart.
From any of the marinas or the anchorage near Gibraltar airport, boats should make their way to Europa Point and WP Mill, south of that remarkable landmark. From that point the recommended route runs parallel to the Spanish coast keeping at least 20 miles offshore where steadier winds will be found. Along the entire length of the Spanish coast there are several good harbours in which shelter can be sought in bad weather. A favourable east-setting current is felt at least as far as Cabo de Gata, which is passed at a distance of approximately 10 miles to the south through WP M112. From this point the route turns NE passing close to Cabo de Palos through WP M113. It is at this point that boats bound for ports further up the Spanish coast should continue on a route parallel with that coast, whereas boats bound for the Balearics head offshore for WP M114, if the intention is to call first at Ibiza, in which case the recommended route passes west of Formentera. WP M114 is 5 miles west of Espalmador Islet and there are several deep channels between the southern extremity of Ibiza and Espalmador Islet. The currents in the channels are strong and often set against the prevailing wind, which can result in rough seas in strong winds. Under such circumstances it is better to pass east of Formentera, which is also the recommended procedure if one is bound directly for Palma de Mallorca. In this case, from WP113 a course is set for WP M115, off the SE point of Formentera. From there, boats bound for Ibiza should alter course for WP M116, outside Ibiza harbour, whereas those bound for Mallorca should set a course for WP M117, in the Bay of Palma in the approaches to Palma de Mallorca.
There are several marinas in Palma and the most convenient, nearest to the town centre, is run by the Real Club Nautico, located in Darsena San Pedro, in the eastern part of the port. The club monitors VHF channel 9 permanently. Arriving yachts should go to the reception dock to be assigned a berth. Club de Mar, located inside Porto Pi, in the western part of the harbour, is a much larger marina but further from town.
The same route, and similar directions as for route Mil should be followed as far as Cabo de Gata. From there the route continues in an easterly direction to WP Ml 23, some 35 miles SW of Sardinia. At that point, boats bound for the Sicilian capital should alter course for WP M124, off Cape Gallo, in the approaches to Palermo. Boats bound for the Strait of Messina should continue almost due east to WP M125, to pass south of Vulcan Island, and make landfall at WP Ml26, off Cape Peloro, in the northern approaches to the Strait of Messina.
Having reached the legendary narrows separating Sicily from mainland Italy, those intending to stop have a choice of ports on the east coast of Sicily, although the busy port of Messina should be avoided because of the continuous ferry traffic.
In the Strait of Messina the wind tends to blow either in a northerly or southerly direction along the axis of the strait. Sometimes the wind will be NE on the eastern side, NW on the western side, and very light in the middle. Alternatively it can be S to SE in the southern approaches, changing abruptly to NW in the northern approaches, which creates a heavy sea. Violent gusts come off the high ground, which together with strong tidal currents and a number of small whirlpools and eddies contribute to the strait retaining the flavour of Scylla and Charybdis of the time of Odysseus. A line of bores called tagli can occur at the change of tide. It is therefore essential to time one's transit of the strait with a favourable tide. The tide sets south on the ebb and north on the flood. Southbound boats should therefore time their arrival at Peloro, at the northern extreme of the straits, to coincide with high water.
There is a large choice of destinations on the North African shore, from the small Spanish possessions of Ceuta and Melilla all the way to the east coast of Tunisia. The latter has become the favourite cruising destination in North Africa, mainly as a result of the opening of a number of good marinas. Few boats stop in Algeria, where yachting facilities continue to be very basic.
From WP M130, south of Europa Point, the route goes south of Alboran Island and stays close to the North African coast to benefit from the favourable east-setting current. If the intention is to call at either Melilla or Sidi Fredj, in Algeria, the initial course goes to WP M131, off Cape Tres Forcas, from where the course can be altered for the intended port of destination. Sidi Fredj has a marina and is reported to have the best yachting facilities in Algeria.
Boats bound for ports further east on the Algerian coast or ports in Tunisia should also take a route that goes south of Alboran Island. Their first WP will be M132, some ten miles south of that island, from where the course is altered for WP M133, off Cape Tenes. From that point, the route follows the North African coast closely to take advantage of the favourable current, passing through a number of intermediate waypoints, all of which avoid sailing into territorial waters. Staying a prudent distance off the coast is also advisable to avoid the areas frequented by local fishing boats, especially at night, as some of the smaller boats do not show lights. One of the dangers to be avoided along this route are the Sorelles rocks, SW of Galite Island. From WP M136, south of those rocks, the course is altered for WP M137, North of Cape Enghela. Having reached this point, boats intending to call at Bizerte should alter course for the coast, whereas those bound for Tunis should set a SE course for WP M138 so as to pass SE of Cani Island. From WP M138, east of Plane Island, the course turns due south and makes landfall at WP M139, off Cape Carthage, in the approaches to the Tunisian capital. The nearest marina is at Sidi bou Said and arriving boats should make their way there to complete entry formalities.
A more offshore route than M13 can be sailed by boats bound for Malta, unless one is determined to take full advantage of the favourable east-setting current along the African coast, in which case the same directions apply as far as WP M137, at the entrance into the Skerki Channel at the NE extremity of Tunisia.
During the summer months, from May to September, the recommended route does not follow the African shore so closely and passes north of Alboran Island as the advantages to be gained by sailing an inshore route are probably cancelled out by the disadvantages. Along the entire North African coast, vessels should keep outside of territorial waters and also pay attention to local fishing boats, especially at night as many do not show lights. Westerly winds are more likely to be encountered along this route during the remaining months of the year, from October to April, and therefore this passage is best planned either at the beginning or end of the season. During summer, if consistent easterly winds are met, it is usually better to make the voyage in stages, stopping either in Spain and the Balearics, or along the African coast. The African coast should be avoided in winter when strong northerly gales make it a dangerous lee shore. If easterly winds persist after leaving Gibraltar, either in summer or winter, better conditions will be experienced by staying closer to the Spanish coast than North Africa. Such a route continues eastwards as far as the south of Sardinia before tacking across the channel between Cape Bon and Sicily.
The direct route takes its departure from WP �141, south of Europa Point, from where an initial course is set for WP M142, 20 miles SE of Cabo de Gata. From there a long offshore leg goes all the way to WP M143 passing halfway between North Africa and Sardinia. From that point, the course become SE and passes through the Skerki Channel to pass close to the north of the island of Pantelleria. The course continues in almost the same direction to WP M145, east of Gozo. From there the course is altered for WP M146 so that landfall is made north of the Maltese capital. Boats should contact Valletta Port Control on VHF channels 12 or 16 before proceeding to one of the reception docks at Msida Marina or Lazaretto Creek. The Yachting Centre can be contacted on VHF channel 9 to request docking information.
M20 Routes from the Balearic Islands
M21Balearics to French Riviera570
M22Balearics to Messina Strait570
M23Balearics to Malta571
M24Balearics to Gibraltar571
M25Balearics to Corsica572
M26Balearics to Tunisia573
The Balearic Islands, and especially Mallorca, are now one of the top yachting centres in the world and both docking and repair facilities are of the highest standard. Very few cruising boats visiting the Mediterranean miss calling at the Balearics and indeed they are an attractive place to explore and also an excellent place at which to prepare the boat for a long passage. This can be of particular interest to those planning to cross the Atlantic to the Caribbean and for whom a stop in the Balearics at the end of summer has a great attraction.
Summers are hot, but winters are mild, the main reason for the Balearics also being one of the main tourist centres in the Mediterranean. Northerly winds predominate in summer and gale force winds are confined to the winter season.
During the summer months the prevailing wind on this route is NW. The worst thing that can affect a vessel bound for the French coast is to encounter a mistral, which can be very violent in the Gulf of Lions. The mistral affects mainly the western parts of the French Riviera, ports lying east of St Raphael being less affected. A direct course can be sailed from the Balearics to practically every port on the French Riviera. If a mistral is forecast it is better to close with the coast immediately and then reach the intended destination by sailing under the protection of the coast, or go into one of the many ports to seek shelter should the weather deteriorate.
Depending on the subsequent destination, one should start cruising at one or the other end of the Riviera. Generally it is better to make landfall at a western port, such as Marseille, and then sail east along the coast as far as Nice or even beyond before taking off for Corsica or Italy. Such a route is also attractive for those planning to return to the Balearics, as a complete circle can be accomplished by sailing from the French Riviera to Corsica and from there back to the Balearics. Such a route also uses the prevailing winds to best advantage.
Boats leaving from Palma de Mallorca have to reach the open sea before a course can be set for a French port. Because of the prevailing summer winds it is better to leave from the west of Mallorca by making one's way to Isla Dragonera, the small island lying off the western extremity of Mallorca. Having reached WP M211, boats bound for Marseille can set a direct course for WP M212, in the SE part of the Bay of Marseille, south of Pomegues Island. There are several marinas in or around Marseille, but for short term visitors the most convenient is the one inside the old port (Vieux Port), which is located in the centre of Marseille. This is entered between the two ancient forts, the reception dock for visitors being immediately on the starboard side.
The route from either Mallorca or Menorca passes so close to Sardinia that most boats make a small detour to visit at least the southern part of this island. Because of its location at the SE extremity of the Balearics, Puerto Mahon on Menorca is a good place to leave from. From WP M221, outside Mahon, an initial course is set for WP M222, SW of Sardinia. Boats intending to stop first at Palermo should alter course for WP M224, off Cape Gallo, in the approaches to the Sicilian capital. Boats bound for the Strait of Messina nonstop should continue almost due east from WP M222 to WP M223, south of Vulcan Island, and make landfall at WP M225, off Cape Peloro, in the northern approaches to the Strait of Messina.
Having reached these narrows separating Sicily from mainland Italy, those intending to stop have a choice of ports on the east coast of Sicily. A convenient port on the east shore of the Messina Strait is Reggio di Calabria, which has a marina where fuel and other provisions are available. A port to be avoided is the busy port of Messina because of the continuous ferry traffic. For more details on weather conditions in the Strait of Messina see route M12. Boats bound for the Eastern Mediterranean and wishing to avoid Messina Strait, can do so by passing south of Sicily and possibly calling at Malta (see route M23).
Similar directions apply for this route as far as the south of Sardinia as those described in route M22. Having reached WP M232, between North Africa and Sardinia, the course continues in a SE direction and passes through the Skerki Channel, then WP M233, NE of the island of Pantelleria and on to WP M234, east of Gozo. From there the course can be altered for WP M235 so that landfall is made north
of the Maltese capital. Valletta Port Control should be contacted on arrival on VHF channels 12 or 16 before proceeding to one of the reception docks at Msida Marina or Lazaretto Creek. The Yachting Centre, which administers the various marinas in the Maltese capital, can be contacted on VHF channel 9 to request docking information.
This route should have favourable winds at least as far as Cabo de Gata. It is at that point that a contrary east-setting current becomes most noticeable, and so the mainland coast should not be approached too soon. Boats leaving from Palma de Mallorca, from WP M241 should set an intial course which passes south of Ibiza and east of Formentera. From WP M243 a new course is set to pass through WP M244, well to the south of Cabo de Gata. The Spanish coast should be approached only after Cabo de Gata has been passed as the east-going current is strongest in the vicinity of this cape. The route then follows the coast of Spain closely so as to avoid the stronger current offshore. If strong westerly winds are encountered when approaching Gibraltar it is better to seek shelter in a Spanish port along the Costa del Sol to wait for a change rather than try to make headway against both contrary wind and current. See also route AN16 (page 55) for details on weather conditions in the Strait of Gibraltar as well as directions for negotiating the strait.
Having made landfall south of the light on Europa Point, arriving boats should proceed to one of the marinas to complete formalities. All Gibraltar marinas monitor channel 71.
The picturesque Menorcan port of Mahon is the best departure point for this passage and should be used as an intermediate port even if leaving from one of the other Balearic Islands. Taking one's leave off Cape Negro, in the approaches to Mahon, the direct route to Corsica passes close to the small island of Asinara, off the NW tip of Sardinia. A most convenient, as well as attractive,
Corsican port is Bonifacio at the southern extremity of that island. Having made landfall off Cape Pertusato, a fjord-like sound leads to the perfectly sheltered port of Bonifacio. This has been identified as the home of the Laestrygonians in the Odyssey and one cannot fail to be reminded of Homer's description as one follows the wake of Ulysses into that magnificent natural harbour.
Whether leaving from Mallorca or Menorca, it is worth waiting for a spell of northerly winds before setting off on this passage. Boats leaving from Palma should set a course that runs parallel to the SW coast of Mallorca to pass through the Cabrera Passage. Having passed Cape Salinas, a direct course can be sailed for the Cani Islands, a cluster of rocky islets close to the northern coast of Tunisia. If leaving from Menorca landfall will be made also close to the Cani light. From there the route turns south towards Cape Carthage and the approaches to Tunis. Although some of the better marinas are on Tunisia's east coast, Sidi bou Said has the advantage of being close both to the capital of Tunis, and its airport, and also near to the ruins of Carthage, Tunisia's main tourist attraction. Facilities at Sidi bou Said are the best in the area.
M30 Routes from Mediterranean France
M31French Riviera to Balearics574
M32French Riviera to Messina Strait575
M33French Riviera to Malta576
M34French Riviera to Gibraltar577
M35French Riviera to Corsica578
M36French Riviera to Tunisia578
M37French Riviera to Italy579
The French Riviera, and particularly the Cote d'Azur, from Marseille to the Italian border, has one of the highest concentrations of marinas in the world. As to be expected, yachting facilities are of the highest standard. Sailors hailing from other parts of the world are somewhat at a loss when a decision has to be made concerning cruising along this coast. One important suggestion is to avoid
arriving at the height of summer, in July and August, when all ports and marinas are full and in most places it is impossible to find docking space. A much better time is either late spring or early autumn, when the weather is pleasant and neither the ports nor the resorts are so crowded.
The weather is pleasant for most of the year, although summers tend to be hot. The Gulf of Lions
is especially noted for sudden changes in wind and weather, with very different conditions in places near together. The strongest wind is the mistral, which can produce unpleasant conditions. After the mistral, the next common wind is the marin, which blows warm and moist, SE to SW off the sea, and although not as strong as the mistral it raises a heavy sea.
Marseille, or one of the ports in its vicinity, is a good point of departure for boats that have cruised along the French Riviera coast in a westerly direction. Those who may have cruised in the opposite direction will take their departure from a port further east, possibly as far as Menton, near the Italian border. For those starting that far east, a detour to Corsica has certain attractions. If sailing nonstop, a convenient port of arrival in the Balearics is Mahon, on Menorca (route M31 A). Landfall is made at WP M312, off Cabo Negro, from where the narrow channel is followed into the port of Mahon.
Boats leaving the Riviera from further west (route M31B), such as Marseille, should take their
departure from WP M313, east of the small island of Pomegues, in the SE part of the Bay of Marseille. From that point a direct course can be sailed across to Mallorca. Boats bound for Palma de Mallorca, should make their landfall on the NW coast of the island and then follow Mallorca's west coast into Palma. There are a number of marinas in the Bay of Palma, while in Palma itself the most convenient, as it is nearest to the town centre, is the marina run by the Real Club Nautico, located in Darsena San Pedro, in the eastern part of the port. The club monitors VHF channel 9 permanently. Arriving yachts should go to the reception dock to be assigned a berth.
Most boats bound for the Strait of Messina and beyond will probably stop in Corsica on their way south as the island straddles the direct route south. Because the west coast of Corsica is more attractive and has a number of good harbours, most boats leaving the Riviera make straight for Calvi or Ajaccio. Favourable winds can be expected during the summer months and even the mistral blows from the right direction, although it is usually associated with rough seas. From WP M321, off Cap Ferrat, in the approaches to the port of Nice, a direct course can be sailed to WP M322, off Ajaccio. A first suggested stop is at this attractive Corsican port.
From Ajaccio the route continues around the SW coast of Corsica and reaches the Tyrrhenian Sea through the Bonifacio Strait. Another suggested stop is at the port of Bonifacio, on the north side of
the strait. This strait, separating Corsica from Sardinia, is an intricate waterway dotted with rocks and islets, although navigation through the channels that traverse it is not too difficult. Although the main channel is easier to navigate, in strong winds the seas quickly build up, so under such conditions it is better to use South Channel. This well-buoyed and lit channel runs between Maddalena and Sardinia, and is used by some of the local ferries. Having passed through the strait and regained the open sea, from WP M323, NE of the Italian island of Maddalena, a direct course can be set for WP M324, between Panaria and Salina, in the Aeolian Islands. A slight course alteration is needed to reach WP M325, off Cape Peloro, in the northern approaches to the Messina Strait.
The timing of the passage through this strait separating Sicily from mainland Italy should be calculated in relation to the state of the tide. The currents through the Messina Strait depend on the tide and can attain over 4 knots at springs. The south-going stream has a longer duration and this can be further increased by a northerly wind. Each turn of the tide is accompanied by one or more tidal bores. These waves are only dangerous to small craft if a strong wind is blowing against the tide. The tide sets south on the ebb and north on the flood. Southbound boats should therefore time their arrival at Peloro, at the northern extreme of the straits, to coincide with high water.
Favourable winds can be expected for most of this passage during the summer months. Depending on the port of departure, there is a choice of routes, as one can go either east or west of Corsica. The more direct route (M33A) stays west of both Corsica and Sardinia, and is recommended especially if leaving from one of the more western ports on the French Riviera. If leaving from a port such as Marseille, from WP M331, east of the small island of Pomegues, in the SE part of the Bay of Marseille, a direct course can be set for WP M332, off Sardinia's SW point. From there, the route runs through Skerki Channel to WP M333, north of the island of Pantelleria. Boats leaving from one of the more eastern ports, such as Nice, may prefer to sail first to Corsica, and from there take a more indirect route (M33B) by going through the Strait of Bonifacio and then east of Sardinia. On this route, from WP M338, east of Maddalena, a direct course can be set for WP M333, north of Pantelleria. The two routes join at that point and continue towards WP M334, off Gozo, before the course is altered for WP M335, north of La Valletta.
Valletta Port Control should be contacted on arrival on VHF channels 12 or 16 before proceeding to one of the reception docks at Msida Marina or Lazaretto Creek. The Yachting Centre can be contacted on VHF channel 9 to request docking information.
The number of boats which sail this entire route without stopping is very small, especially as the Balearics, which straddle the direct course, are � very tempting stop. Boats leaving from ports in the eastern part of the French Mediterranean coast may sail a course which passes to the east of the Balearics. The direct route from more western ports, such as Marseille, passes to the west of the Balearics and stays close to the Spanish coast for most of its length.
As far as the Balearics favourable winds are to be expected throughout the summer naonths. The chances of easterly winds in the second half of the passage are higher in late spring and autumn. There is also a higher proportion of easterly winds along the North African coast, so it may pay to take a course which runs closer to that shore, but not close enough to be affected by the east-setting current.
Boats leaving from Marseille and WP M341, east of the small island of Pomegues, in the SE part of the Bay of Marseille, should set an initial course for WP M342, to pass halfway betwen Ibiza and Cabo San Antonio, on the Spanish mainland. The course continues parallel with the Spanish coast to WP M343, off Cabo Palos, before the course is altered for WP M344, so as to pass well to the south of Cabo de Gata and avoid the strong current that sets to the east around that cape. The Spanish coast should be approached only after Cabo de Gata has been passed as the eastgoing current is strongest in the vicinity of the cape. The route then follows the coast of Spain closely so as to avoid the stronger current offshore. The alternative, as explained above, is to seek better winds by favouring the African coast.
Having made landfall south of the light on Europa Point, boats intending to stop in Gibraltar may complete formalities at any marina. All Gibraltar marinas monitor channel 71.
Those continuing into the Atlantic without stopping should consult route AN16 (page 55) for weather conditions in the Strait of Gibraltar as well as directions for negotiating the strait.
This favourite offshore destination for yachts based on the French Riviera gets very crowded during the period of French summer vacations (15 July to 15 August), and finding a place to dock is often impossible. Corsica should therefore be visited in early or late summer, when the weather is perfect and the movement of yachts is still at a tolerable level. The worst weather conditions in the area are created by a strong mistral, and although the NW winds blow from a favourable direction, a strong mistral should be avoided not so much because of the strength of the winds but because of the sea conditions that it produces. In a threatening mistral it is best to head for one of the ports on the east coast of Corsica, such as the marina at Macinaggio, just south of Cape Corse on the NE side of the island. The most popular destination on the west coast is the capital Ajaccio, which also has the best yachting facilities on the island. Another attractive destination, north of Ajaccio, is the old city of Calvi. The best protected harbour anywhere on the island is Bonifacio near the strait of the same name.
The area around Marseille is prone to spells of mistral throughout the year and although the NW wind blows from a favourable direction, this passage should not be started if a mistral is predicted as the rough seas produce extremely unpleasant sailing conditions. The direct route passes close to Sardinia, where shelter can be sought in deteriorating weather. Landfall will be made north of the light marking the Cani Islands, a group of rocky islets close to the North African shore. From there the route turns south towards the large Bay of Tunis, where the marina at Sidi bou Said provides the best facilities in the area and is also an official port of entry. It is also conveniently located close to the ruins of Carthage and the international airport.
Most ports on the Italian Riviera and in the Ligurian Sea can be reached from the Cote d'Azur in relatively short coastal stages. However, if planning to visit some of the ports in the Tyrrhenian Sea, the direct routes pass so close to Corsica that a stop there is almost unavoidable. The island of Elba and ports in the vicinity of Rome are more easily reached by passing to the north of Corsica as described in route M37A. There is a well-known acceleration zone in the vicinity of Cape Corse where the wind strength can increase suddenly. If weather conditions are not favourable, it is possible to stop before Cape Corse at Calvi, on the NW coast. Once past Cape Corse, the marina at Macinaggio is conveniently located on the NE coast immediately to the south of the cape. Macinaggio is a good departure point for the continuation of the voyage to Elba, whose main port of Portoferraio shelters on the island's north coast.
The mainland coast of Italy can be reached by passing Elba on either side. Marina Riva di Traiano, immediately to the south of Civitavecchia, is the most convenient port for visiting Rome.
The more southern ports in the Tyrrhenian Sea are best reached by leaving Corsica to port and passing through the Straits of Bonifacio. The attractive port of the same name lies close to the north of the straits, which are strewn with rocks and islets but not difficult to negotiate with due care. Once the open sea is reached, a direct course can be sailed to the port of destination. If a stop on the east coast of Sardinia is envisaged, the South Channel should be used when going through the Straits of Bonifacio. The prevailing winds in the Tyrrhenian Sea are SE, especially in the vicinity of the mainland where they tend to follow the contour of the coast. See also routes M32 and M35.
�40 Routes from Sicily
M41Sicily to Greece581
M42Sicily to French Riviera582
M43Sicily to Balearics583
M44Sicily to Gibraltar584
M45Sicily to Port Said584
Most boats on a transmediterranean passage call at a Sicilian port or at least sail through the Messina Strait on their way to their destination. Situated at the crossroads of several offshore routes, Sicily has plenty of good ports in which to make a longer or shorter stop. For boats preparing to leave on a passage to Greece or beyond, there are several ports south of the Messina Strait. The small port at Taormina has the advantage of not only being close to the strait, but also convenient for visiting Mount Etna. A convenient port on the east shore of the Messina Strait is Reggio di Calabria, which has a marina where fuel and other provisions are available.
In summer a strong sea breeze blows onshore in the daytime in Sicily, being NE at Palermo, NE to S at Syracuse, and S to SW at Agrigento, on the south coast. In the Strait of Messina the wind tends to blow either in a N or S direction along the strait, depending on the prevailing conditions. Sometimes the wind will be NE on the eastern side, NW on the western side, and very light in the middle. Alternatively it can be S to SE in the southern approaches, changing abruptly to NW in the northern approaches, which creates a heavy sea. Violent gusts come off the high ground, which together with strong tidal currents and a number of small whirlpools and eddies contribute to the strait retaining the flavour of Scylla and Charybdis as experienced by Odysseus. Mirages of a multiple image type are sometimes seen in the strait. The currents through the Messina Strait depend on the tide and can attain over 4 knots at springs. The southgoing stream has a longer duration and this can be further increased by a northerly wind. Each turn of the tide is accompanied by several tidal bores. These waves are only dangerous to small craft if a strong wind is blowing against the tide.
The state of the tide should be assessed correctly so as to transit the strait with a fair tide. The tide sets south on the ebb and north on the flood.
Southbound boats should therefore time their arrival at Peloro, at the northern extreme of the straits, to coincide with high water.
Having passed through the Strait of Messina, boats bound for the Aegean can reach it either through the Corinth Canal (route M41 A), or by rounding the southern tip of the Peloponnese (route M41C). The northern route has the advantage of reaching ports in the Saronic Gulf as well as the central islands of the Aegean more directly. This is important in summer, when the meltemi is blowing strongly and contrary winds can make it very difficult to reach the same islands if coming from the SW. In spring and autumn the southern route is an acceptable alternative. The latter is also to be preferred if bound for Crete, Rhodes, or points further east.
Once the strait has been left safely behind, from WP M410, off the port of Messina, the initial course goes due south to WP M411, off Capo dell' Armi.
Boats sailing the northern route should alter course for WP M412, south of Cape Spartivento. From that point a direct course can be set across the Ionian Sea for WP M413, north of Zante Island in the approaches to the Gulf of Patras. Those who wish to clear into Greece can do so in the port of Zante, on the east coast of the island of the same name. Those who prefer to continue towards the Corinth Canal may clear into Greece further east, such as in the port of Patras, close to the western entrance to the canal.
A convenient port of entry on the SW coast of the Peloponnese is Pilos, the final destination of route M41B. This attractive port is set inside a well-sheltered bay that has been the scene of several battles in history, and is an excellent starting point for a Greek cruise.
From WP M411, south of the Messina Strait, boats sailing the southern route can set a direct course for WP M414, SW of Sapientza Island. From this point, the route goes around the three fingers of the Peloponnese by passing through WPs M415, M416, and finally reaching M417. The last waypoint, off Cape Malea, is at the SW extremity of the Aegean Sea, with its multitude of destinations.
Boats bound for Crete (route M41D) should leave the above route at WP M415 and set a new course for WP M418, south of Antikithera Island. From there, the route runs parallel to the north coast of Crete to WP M419, west of Dhia Island, in the approaches to Iraklion, the main port and capital of Crete. Boats should proceed into the old Venetian harbour, where there are a number of pontoons for yachts. If there is no free space cruising boats may use the quay immediately to the east of the small boat harbour.
Boats bound for Corfu should follow route M41E which runs close to the heel of the Italian Peninsula before crossing the Ionian Sea towards the Greek mainland. The weather in the vicinity of the Italian mainland can change suddenly, resulting in rough seas. The course leads to WP M4112 off the southern tip of the island of Kerkira (Corfu) from where its east coast is followed into the main port of the same name.
The direct route from the Strait of Messina to Corsica passes through the Aeolian Islands and traverses the Tyrrhenian Sea to the Strait of Bonifacio. There are several channels leading through these narrows, the main passage (Boca Grande) being the easiest to negotiate. This route is often taken by boats heading for the Canal du Midi at the end of their Mediterranean cruise. With persistent NW winds it is better to sail from Corsica to the nearest port on the mainland French coast and make westing by sailing along the coast. This is also the recommended practice to avoid a strong mistral, when conditions can be become very rough in the Gulf of Lions and it is better to wait for an improvement in one of the many harbours along this coast.
Having negotiated the Strait of Messina, from WP M421, in the northern approaches to the strait,
an initial course is set for WP422, west of Panaria Island. From there, the route continues to WP423, off the island of Maddalena in the approaches to Bonifacio Strait. This strait, separating Corsica and Sardinia, is dotted with rocks and islets, although the channels are clearly marked and it is not difficult to traverse it. If a stop in Corsica is not intended and having regained the open sea, from WP424, west of Cape Pertusato, a direct course can be sailed for the French mainland and WP M425. A good landfall is east of the island of Porquerolles at the entrance into the Bay of Hyeres. A first stop can be made on Porquerolles itself, where there is a small harbour (43�00'N, 6�12'E). Hyeres itself has a large marina and is one of the biggest sailing centres on the Riviera.
An alternative route for those who wish to visit ports at the eastern extremity of the French Riviera is to stay east of Corsica and cross to the mainland from its northern point. In this way the NW winds of summer will be met at a better angle and the worst of a possible mistral may also be avoided.
Because of the difficulties associated with a passage through the Strait of Messina from south to north, an alternative route for boats sailing from Greece to Corsica and Southern France is to pass south of Sicily, thus avoiding the Messina Strait altogether.
Most boats bound for the Balearics from Sicily take their departure from the Messina Strait. From WP M431, north of the strait, the route runs west parallel to the north coast of Sicily, to WP M432, south of Vulcan Island. The course is altered there for WP M433, south of Sardinia. From that point, boats bound for Menorca can set a direct course for WP M434, off Cabo Negro, from where the narrow channel is followed into the port of Mahon.
Boats bound for Palma de Mallorca should set a course from WP M433 for WP M435, off Cape
Salinas, at the SE extremity of Mallorca. From there the course is altered for WP M436, in the Bay of Palma. There are several marinas in the Bay of Palma, while in Palma itself the most convenient, as it is nearest to the town centre, is the marina run by the Real Club Nautico, located in Darsena San Pedro, in the eastern part of the harbour. The club monitors VHF channel 9 permanently. Arriving yachts should go to the reception dock to be assigned a berth.
Boats that have passed through the Messina Strait should follow a course which runs parallel to the north coast of Sicily. From WP M441, off Cape Peloro, north of Messina Strait, an initial course can be set for WP M442, south of Vulcan Island. The route continues almost due west to WP M443, south of Sardinia. There follows a long offshore leg to WP M444, which has been set well to the south of Cabo de Gata in order to avoid the strong current that sets to the east around that cape. The offshore route may be left after Cabo de Gata has been passed to close with the Spanish coast to avoid the stronger current offshore.
The chances of easterly winds on this route are higher in late spring and autumn. The proportion of easterly winds is higher along the North African coast, so if one has access to weather information it may be better to sail a route which stays closer to that shore, but not close enough to be affected by the prevailing east-setting current.
Having made landfall at WP M445, south of the light on Europa Point, boats should make their way to one of the marinas to complete formalities. All Gibraltar marinas monitor channel 71.
Those continuing into the Atlantic without stopping should consult route AN16 (page 55) for details on weather conditions in the Strait of Gibraltar as well as directions for negotiating the strait.
Favourable winds can be expected along this route for most of the year. Because the current normally sets eastward along the Egyptian coast, and the current is augmented by the waters of the Nile, especially when the river is in flood, landfall should be made to the west of Port Said. As the water is shallow throughout the area, the coast should not be approached beyond the 20 fathom line which can be followed as far as Damietta. Boats undertaking this passage are usually bound for the Red Sea and are only calling in Egypt because of the Suez Canal. Those who wish to stop in an Egyptian port before Port Said can do so at Alexandria. However, yachting facilities for visitors are limited in that port and the only ones available belong to the Alexandria Yacht Club, which is one of the most unwelcoming clubs in the world. Those who wish to visit the interior of Egypt would do better to do it from either Port Said or Suez, whose yacht clubs are much more helpful.
Having transited Messina Strait, an initial course is set from WP M451 for WP M452, off Capo dell'Armi. From that point a direct course can be set from WP M453, off the Damietta mouth in the Nile delta. From there the course is altered for WP M454, in the northern approaches to Port Said and the Suez Canal. Because of the low, featureless Egyptian coast and the shallow depths which extend several miles offshore, the position of Port Said is very difficult to ascertain if landfall is made either too far east or west. The situation is further complicated by the occasionally strong currents in the area, which can be influenced by the state of the Nile waters.
The cluster of ships at anchor is usually the best indication of the approaches to Port Said. The approach channel to Port Said extends several miles to the north and is well marked by buoys. It should be entered at its northern extremity and no shortcuts taken because of a number of wrecks lying outside this channel. Small vessels are allowed to proceed into the harbour without a pilot and all formalities can be completed after the vessel has berthed at Fouad Yacht Club. This is situated on the eastern side of the harbour. See page 617 for details on transiting the Suez Canal.
�50 Routes erom Malta
M51Malta to Gibraltar586
M52Malta to Greece587
M53Malta to Rhodes588
M54Malta to Cyprus589
M55Malta to Port Said590
M56Malta to Tunisia591
M57Malta to Balearics591
M58Malta to Italy592
Malta's position in the centre of the Mediterranean makes it an ideal jumping off point for ports in either the Western or Eastern Mediterranean. Yachting facilities are among the best in the Mediterranean as Malta was an important yachting centre long before the Balearics, Costa del Sol, Greece, and Turkey became such popular cruising destinations. Its convenient location, excellent repair facilities, and pleasant climate make it a good wintering spot.
The summers are hot, while the winters are mild. Being so close to the African coast, the weather is very much under the influence of that large land-mass. The sirocco can be strong and there is also a daily change in wind direction due to strong land and sea breezes.
The autumn is when most passages are made on this route as boats that have spent the summer in the Eastern Mediterranean are rushing west to join the annual exodus to the Caribbean. Depending on the direction of the wind, the route after leaving Malta can pass either north or south of Pantelleria Island. If strong NW winds are encountered SW of Sicily, shelter should be sought in the lee of Pantelleria. With persistent contrary winds it is better to head from Malta across to Tunisia and stay close to that coast as far as Cape Bon. After Cape Bon, the route should stay offshore to avoid east-setting currents on the coast of Africa.
In late summer, early autumn northerly winds can be expected for the first half of this passage, while the second half has a better chance of favourable easterly winds in spring and late autumn. During late summer calms are frequent on this route, especially in the vicinity of Malta.
Unless one has access to reliable weather information, the shortest route should be sailed. From WP M511, outside Valletta harbour, an initial course is set to pass east of Gozo. From that point (M512), the route turns north and passes north of Pantelleria Island through WP M513 and on to WP M514, south of Sardinia. From there the course becomes westerly and passes well to the south of Cabo de Gata, at the SE extremity of the Iberian peninsula. The Spanish coast should be approached only after the above cape has been passed as there is a strong easterly current in its immediate vicinity.
All Gibraltar marinas monitor channel 71. Boats sailing through the Strait of Gibraltar without stopping, should consult route AN16 (page 55) for details on weather conditions in the Strait as well as directions for negotiating the Strait.
Winds on this eastbound route across the Ionian Sea are variable throughout the year with the highest frequency of westerly winds in winter. There is a preponderance of northerly winds in summer, with light winds and calms being more common at the beginning and end of summer. The most direct route to the Aegean (M52A) passes south of the Peloponnese and approaches the Cyclades from the SW. Any of the three channels separating Cape Malea from Crete can be used, although the northernmost Elafonisos Channel, between Kithera Island and Cape Malea, is usually favoured as it is
the most sheltered from the prevailing winds. Boats taking this most direct route to the Aegean can sail a direct course from WP M521, outside Valletta Harbour, to WP M522, off Cape Tainaron, on the middle finger of the Peloponnese. The course is then altered for WP M523 to pass clear of the northern extremity of Kithera Island. The Aegean Sea is entered at the last waypoint (M524), off Cape Malea, from where one has the choice of a multitude of destinations. Those who do not intend to sail nonstop to the Aegean and would like to visit some ports on the Peloponnese coast should make
their landfall at Pilos (36�55'N, 21�42'E). This attractive port is set inside a well-sheltered bay that has been the scene of several naval battles in history, and is an excellent starting point for a Greek cruise.
Because of the constancy of the northerly winds in the Aegean during summer, between the middle of June and the end of August it is more convenient to approach the Cyclades from the NW rather than SW, as described above, and therefore route M52B is recommended in summer. Taking WP M521, outside Valletta, as the departure point from Malta, a direct course can be sailed to WP M525, south of Zante. The south coast of that island is followed around to pass through the channel separating it from the Peloponnese coast. Those who wish to clear into Greece at the earliest opportunity can do so in the port of Zante. For those who do not
wish to stop, from Zante the route continues into the gulfs of Patras and Corinth and reaches the Aegean through the Corinth Canal.
Boats bound for Crete (M52C) should sail a more southern route than M52A and use the Antikithera Channel, south of the small island of the same name and then continue parallel to the north coast of Crete. Landfall can be made at WP M526, off Cape Gramvousa, at the NW extremity of Crete. From there the course can be altered for WP M527 to pass north of Cape Spathi. Boats bound for Iraklion should continue as far as WP M528, west of Dhia Island, in the approaches to the Cretan capital. Boats should proceed into the old Venetian harbour, where there are a number of pontoons for yachts. If there is no free space cruising boats may use the quay immediately to the east of the small boat harbour.
The island of Rhodes is a useful starting point for cruises in Eastern Turkey and this passage from Malta is usually made at the start of summer when winds on this route are variable. Better winds are experienced in summer when northerly winds prevail for most of the distance. There are two routes that can be sailed from Malta to Rhodes, and each has its own attraction. The route which goes around the north coast of Crete (M53A) will appeal to those who prefer to make some stops en route. From WP
M531, outside Valletta harbour, a direct course can be set for WP M532, in the Antikithera Channel, between the island of that name and the NW coast of Crete. From that point the route cuts across the Southern Aegean all the way to WP M533, NW of Mandraki harbour, on the NW coast of Rhodes. The route passes a number of dangers north of Crete, all of which are marked by lights.
Those who wish to reach Rhodes by an offshore route, which stays south of Crete (M53B), may better conditions on this slightly longer route. Such a route will avoid the swell encountered in the Southern Aegean during summer, but may lose the winds in the lee of Crete. When sailing in the lee of that island, especially during July and August, when the meltemi is blowing strongly in the Aegean, violent gusts occasionally blow down the steep slopes on the south coast of Crete.
Boats taking route M53B, from WP M531, outside La Valletta, should set an initial course for WP M534, south of Gavdhos Island. From that point the route continues due east, parallel to the south coast of Crete, to WP M535. At that point, the course turns NE and makes for WP M536, off the SE extremity of Rhodes, before a final course alteration is made for WP M537, in the eastern approaches to the port of Mandraki. The port is reached by rounding the northern tip of Rhodes. Mandraki (Limin Rhodou) is always crowded and visiting boats may find it difficult to secure a free berth, although a marina development has somewhat improved the situation.
The route to Cyprus passes immediately to the south of Crete and in strong northerly winds it is possible to close with the Cretan coast to benefit from the lee provided by the high island. However, when sailing close to the coast, attention must be paid to the strong gusts which occasionally blow with great force down the steep mountain slopes towards the sea.
Because of the declaration of independence by the Turkish side of Cyprus and the still unresolved dispute over partition, the authorities in the Greek side do not welcome boats that have called first in Northern Cyprus and then visit the south. For this reason, those intending to call in Northern Cyprus should perhaps do so after having visited Southern Cyprus. Northern Cyprus, and especially the attractive port of Kyrenia, is a good starting point for visits to the southern coast of neighbouring Turkey.
Boats bound for Southern Cyprus (route M54A), should set an initial course from WP M541, outside Valletta harbour, for WP M542, south of Gavdhos Island, a small island off the SW point of Crete. The route then continues parallel to Crete and crosses over to WP M543, SW of Cape Zevgari, on the south coast of Cyprus. The course continues to WP M544, off Cape Gata, from where boats bound for Limassol should alter course for WP M545, in the NW corner of Akrotiri Bay. Yachts either anchor in the commercial harbour or in the fishing harbour
Leaving both Malta and Gozo to port, the recommended route tends NW and passes close to Pantelleria Island, which may be visited in settled weather. Strong northerly winds will produce short steep seas in the channel between Sicily and the African mainland. Even in moderate northerly winds a route should be sailed that passes through the Skerki Channel and avoids the Skerki Bank, where the shallow waters produce rough seas. Landfall will be made off Cape Salinas, at the SE
extremity of Mallorca. The route passes through the Cabrera Passage, between the island of that name and Mallorca, from where it runs parallel to the island's SW coast to reach Palma de Mallorca. There are a number of marinas in the well sheltered Bay of Palma and the most conveniently located is run by Real Club Nautico, in the eastern part of the port. The club monitors channel 9. Club de Mar, located inside Puerto Pi, in the western part of the harbour, also has good facilities but is further from the city.
With the bulk of Sicily lying astride any direct route to ports on the west coast of Italy, one has the choice of sailing through the Messian Strait to southern ports, such as Naples, or to pass to the west of Sicily if bound for more northern ports in mainland Italy or any port in Sardinia.
The classic route through Messina calls for careful timing and navigation so as to pass through the strait at the most favourable time. Having left the Maltese capital, a direct course leads to the SE extremity of Sicily, where the ancient port of Syracuse makes an interesting stop. An alternative stop can be made at Taormina, which is close enough to the Messian Strait to allow for better timing for the passage through the narrows. Having left the strait behind, the route passes west of Stromboli and also west of the Pontine Islands. There are many opportunities to stop along this route, but if bound for Rome the most convenient marina will be Riva di Traiano at Civitavecchia.
Boats bound for ports in Sardinia, or even destinations in Northern Italy, will find a route that passes west of Sicily both easier and shorter. From Gozo, the route passes between the Egadi Islands. An attractive destination within walking distance of Cagliari is Marina Piccola del Poetto, located on the sheltered north side of a small peninsula NE of Cagliari.
�60 Routes from Greece
M61Greece to Malta594
M62Greece to Messina Strait595
M63Greece to Cyprus596
M64Greece to Port Said597
M65Rhodes to Malta597
The Greek islands continue to be one of the most popular cruising grounds in the world and very few long distance cruising boats pass through the Mediterranean without visiting them. The main feature of the Aegean, from where all of the above routes originate, are the strong northerly winds of summer. These winds prevail from June until August and they must be taken into account when drawing up any cruising plans which include that part of the world. The best strategy is to try to arrive in the Northern Aegean by the end of May and then sail slowly south with the help of the meltemi. By the end of summer one is then ready to embark on one of the following routes.
Whereas boats on the opposite route have to contend with the strong northerly winds of summer and therefore have a choice of route to reach the Aegean, the same winds make the passage to Malta much easier. To leave the Aegean one can use any of the channels between the Peloponnese and Crete, although the closest channel to Crete, which goes SE of Antikithera, is probably the simplest. Boats which have included Crete on their itinerary can join the offshore route at the same point (route M61A). A route which passes close to Cape Malea (M61B) benefits from the shelter provided by the Peloponnese by staying longer in the lee of the land before reaching the open sea. Boats which have used the Corinth Canal, or are leaving from one of the Ionian islands, will join route M61C. From WP M611, in Antikithera Channel, a direct course can be set by boats on route M61A for WP M612, off Valletta harbour. Boats leaving the Aegean closer to the Peloponnese and joining route M61B should take their departure from WP M613, off Cape Malea. The route passes through an intermediate waypoint before a direct course for Malta can be set from WP M615, north of Kithera Island. On route M61C, a suggested point of departure is WP M616 north of Zante Island, from where a direct course can be set for WP M612, in the approaches to the Maltese capital.
On arrival in Malta, boats should contact Valletta Port Control on VHF channels 12 or 16 before proceeding to one of the reception docks at Msida Marina or Lazaretto Creek. The Yachting Centre can be contacted on VHF channel 9 to request docking information.
There are two main routes reaching the Messina Strait from Greece. Boats leaving from the Central Aegean may prefer to use the Corinth Canal and pass north of the Peloponnese (route M62A), whereas boats which are in the Southern Aegean should join route M62B.
Route M62A takes its departure from Greece at WP M62I, in the channel between the islands of Cephalonia and Zante. The route goes right across the Ionian Sea to WP M622, off Cape Spartivento at the toe of Italy. The coast is followed around the next cape to WP M623 to approach the Messina Strait from the south.
Boats taking the more southern route should start off from WP M625, off Cape Malea. The three fingers of the Peloponnese are followed around to WP M628, situated off Sapientza Island, from where a direct course can be set for WP M623 off Capo dell'Armi, in the southern approaches to Messina Strait.
The narrow strait separating mainland Italy from Sicily has its own weather peculiarities. Usually the wind tends to blow either in a northerly or southerly direction along the axis of the strait. Sometimes the wind will be NE on the eastern side, NW on the western side, and very light in the middle. Alternatively it can be S to SE in the southern approaches, changing abruptly to NW in the northern approaches, which creates a heavy sea. Violent gusts come off the high ground, which together with strong tidal currents and a number of small whirlpools and eddies remind one of why this is the presumed location of the Scylla and Charybdis of the Odyssey. A line of bores called tagli can occur at the change of tide. It is therefore essential to time one's transit of the strait with a favourable tide.
The most direct route from Rhodes (M63A) leads to Paphos, a small port on the SW coast of Cyprus, from where it is easy to reach the two major ports in Southern Cyprus, Limassol and Larnaca. Because of the unresolved dispute between the two sides of the island, caused by the declaration of independence by the Turkish side, the alternative route (M63C) should only be used if the intention is to visit Northern Cyprus. The authorities in Greek Cyprus do not approve of boats stopping in Northern Cyprus first, so for the time being it is better to visit the south before the north. An easterly current sets along the coast of Cyprus, and because of this current Cape Andreas, at the NE extremity of the island, should be approached with caution.
Boats bound for Southern Cyprus (route M63A) and intending to stop first at Paphos, which is an official port of entry, can set a direct course from WP M630, off Mandraki harbour, for WP M631, west of Cape Paphos. The small harbour is reached by passing south of this cape.
Boats bound for Limassol or Larnaca (route M63B) should set a course from WP M630 for WP632, SW of Cyprus. From there the course is altered for WP M633, SW of Cape Zevgari, on the south coast of Cyprus. The course continues to WP M634, off Cape Gata, from where boats bound for Limassol should alter course for WP M635, in the NW corner of Akrotiri Bay. Yachts either anchor in the commercial harbour off the town of Limassol or in the fishing harbour nearby. Limassol Marina is a further six miles to the NE (34�42.5'N, 33�09.5'E). The marina uses the callsign Sheraton Harbour and monitors VHF channels 9 and 16. Boats bound for Larnaca should continue across Akrotiri Bay to WP M636, off Cape Kiti. A course alteration will be needed for WP M637, off Cape Dades, south of the port of Larnaca. Larnaca Marina monitors VHF channel 16 and will give berthing instructions. Occasionally yachts are asked to anchor in the outer harbour while a vacant berth is found for them.
Boats sailing route M63C to Northern Cyprus will pass close to the south coast of Turkey. From
WP M630, off the NE tip of Rhodes, an initial course should be set for WP M638, off Strongili Island. From there the course can be altered to make landfall at WP M639, off Cape Kormakiti, at the NW
extremity of Cyprus. The course is altered there for WP M6310, off Snake Island, west of Kyrenia, the capital of Northern Cyprus.
Favourable winds can be expected along this route for most of the year. Because the current normally sets eastward along the Egyptian coast, and the current is augmented by the waters of the Nile, especially when the latter is in flood, landfall should be made to the west of Port Said. As the water is shallow throughout the area, the coast should not be approached beyond the 20 fathom line, which can be followed as far as Damietta.
A direct course can be set from WP M641, off the NE point of Rhodes, for WP M642, off the Damietta mouth of the Nile. From there the course is altered for WP M643, in the northern approaches to Port Said and the Suez Canal.
A more convenient departure point for boats leaving from the Southern Aegean is Agios Nikolaos, on the north coast of Crete. The suggested route passes close to Cape Sidheros, the NE extremity of the island, from where the course is set for WP642. On arrival at Port Said, yachts are normally met by a pilot launch and directed to the Fouad Yacht Club on the eastern side of the harbour. See page 617 for details on transiting the Suez Canal.
There are two routes that can be sailed to Malta, one passing north of Crete, the other passing south. The northern route should appeal to those who intend to stop on the way as there are several convenient ports on the north coast of Crete. Both routes can be sailed nonstop and the waypoints listed above are for direct passages. The northern route, although slightly shorter, has the disadvantage of stronger winds and relatively high swell during the months when the meltemi is in force in the Aegean. At such times the southern route, although longer, may be preferable.
Boats sailing the northern route (M65A), should take their departure from WP M651, west of Mandraki, from where a direct course can be sailed all the way to WP M652, in the Antikithera Channel, NW of Crete. This route passes a number of dangers, such as the Sofrana Rocks, which are well marked by lights. From WP M652 a direct course can then be sailed to WP M653, east of Valletta.
Boats sailing the southern route (M65B) should take their departure from WP M654, NE of Rhodes, from where an initial course can be set to WP M655, off the east coast of the island. From that point the course can be altered for WP M656, off Koufonisi Island, SE of Crete. The route then runs parallel to the south coast of Crete to WP M657, south of Gavdhos Island. From there a direct route leads to WP M653, off the Maltese capital. Arriving boats should contact Valletta Port Control on VHF channels 12 or 16 before proceeding to one of the reception docks at Msida Marina or Lazaretto Creek. The Yachting Centre, which manages all marinas in the Maltese capital, can be contacted on VHF channel 9 to request docking information.
�70 Routes from Port Said
M71Port Said to Malta599
M72Port Said to Messina Strait600
M73Port Said to Crete600
M74Port Said to Rhodes601
M75Port Said to Cyprus601
M76Port Said to Israel603
Having transited the Suez Canal and arrived in Port Said, suddenly the entire Mediterranean lies before one. Routes from Port Said fan out in all directions and, because of its convenient location, most destinations are within easy reach. The exception is for routes heading in a NW direction, as contrary winds are likely to be encountered, particularly in summer. This is a good reason for timing an arrival in Port Said for late spring if one is headed in that direction.
On leaving Port Said, an initial course can be set for WP M712, north of the Damietta mouth of the Nile, in order to reach deeper water. From that point a direct course can be set for WP M713, just outside the Maltese capital. Contrary winds are predominant on this route and every shift of wind should therefore be used to advantage. A good supply of fuel should also be loaded in Port Said to be able to motor if necessary in calms or light winds. Preferably the route should pass close to the south coast of Crete, where shelter can be sought in strong W or NW winds. If shelter is sought in the lee of Crete, or if passing close to the island, attention must be paid to the strong gusts blowing down the steep mountains.
On arrival in Malta, boats should contact Valletta Port Control on VHF channels 12 or 16 before proceeding to one of the reception docks at Msida Marina or Lazaretto Creek. The Yachting Centre can be contacted on VHF channel 9 to request docking information.
The recommended route to the Messina Strait passes close to Crete, where a waypoint (M723) has been set SW of the island of Gavdhos. If necessary, the route can be altered earlier, so as to pass between Gavdhos and Crete. From WP M723 a direct course can be set to WP M724 off Capo dell'Armi, in the southern approaches to Messina Strait.
The narrow strait separating mainland Italy from Sicily has its own weather peculiarities. Usually the wind tends to blow either in a northerly or southerly direction along the axis of the strait. Sometimes the wind will be NE on the eastern side, NW on the western side, and very light in the middle. Alternatively it can be S to SE in the southern approaches, changing abruptly to NW in the northern approaches, which creates a heavy sea. Violent gusts come off the high ground, which together with strong tidal currents and a number of small whirlpools and eddies make it easier to see why the Scylla and Charybdis of the Odyssey are reputed to have been located in this strait. A line of bores called tagli can occur at the change of tide. It is therefore essential to time one's transit of the strait with a favourable tide.
Strong northerly winds make this a difficult passage in summer, but better conditions are normally experienced in either spring or autumn, when most boats sail this route. Boats bound for islands in the Aegean will fare better by taking route M74 and enter the Aegean from the SE. Sailing north from Crete is difficult throughout the summer, so a stop there is better left for the end rather than the start of an Aegean cruise.
From WP M732, north of the Damietta mouth of the Nile, a course can be set for WP M733, east of Cape Sidheros, the NE point of Crete. There are several attractive ports on the north coast of Crete and these can be reached by rounding Cape Sidheros and closing with the coast. Boats bound for Iraklion should alter course for WP M734. From there the route runs parallel to the north coast of Crete to WP M735, NE of Iraklion. Boats should proceed into the old Venetian harbour, where there are a number of pontoons for yachts. If there is no free space cruising boats may use the quay immediately east of the small boat harbour.
A more convenient and closer stop on the NE coast of Crete is Agios Nikolaos which is reached by altering course from M733 to pass south of a group of islands of which Gianissada is the southernmost. The course leads to M736 on the SW side of the wide Mirambelo Bay. Agios Nikolaos is a popular resort with a small marina where finding a space to dock is rarely a problem compared to Iraklion, which is always full.
Having left Port Said and its busy approaches, from WP M742, north of the Damietta mouth in the Nile delta, a direct course can be set for the NE point of Rhodes and WP M743. The port of Mandraki is reached by rounding the NE extremity of the island. Mandraki (Limin Rhodou), the main port of Rhodes, is always crowded and cruising boats may find it difficult to secure a free berth, especially in the summer.
Because of the preponderance of contrary winds along this route, it may be necessary to motor in calm or light winds. If strong NW winds persist while in Port Said, it is better to make a detour via Cyprus and follow directions as for route M83 (page 606).
Cyprus is a popular destination for boats that have transited the Suez Canal as it provides a convenient springboard for subsequent visits to neighbouring Middle Eastern countries. Unfortunately the continuing disagreement between the two parts of Cyprus make it difficult to cruise between North and South Cyprus. As the authorities in Northern Cyprus do not seem to mind boats having called first in the South, that part of Cyprus should be visited first. The small port of Paphos, on the SW coast of Cyprus, is a convenient point of departure for boats bound for either Rhodes or Southern Turkey and can also be used for shelter should the weather deteriorate suddenly.
A direct route for any port on the south coast of Cyprus can be set as soon as the long entrance channel of Port Said has been left behind. Boats bound for Limassol should set a course for WP M752, off Cape Gata from where the course can be altered for WP M753, in the NW corner of Akrotiri Bay. The marina at Larnaca, in Larnaca Bay, is a favourite refitting and wintering spot among long distance voyagers. To reach it an initial course should be set for WP M754, off Cape Kiti, from where the route turns north into Larnaca Bay.
Boats bound for Northern Cyprus (route M75B) will find it much more convenient to round Cyprus from the west as a strong east-setting current makes it more difficult to go around Cape Andreas, the NE extremity of the island. If sailing this route, which leaves Cyprus to starboard, a first recommended waypoint (M756) is off Paphos. From there a small detour can be made into this official port of entry into Cyprus, or one can continue to WP M757, off Cape Arnauti, at the NW extremity of Cyprus. From there the course can be altered for WP M758, off Cape Kormakiti and finally landfall can be made at WP M759, near Snake Island, in the approaches to Kyrenia (Girne), the capital of Northern Cyprus. Cruising boats usually go into the inner harbour, which is very small. As the approaches to this older harbour are not lit night arrivals should be avoided. A new commercial port is located NE of the town.
This is a route taken by those who wish to start their cruising in the very east of the Mediterranean. From Port Said boats bound for Tel Aviv can set a direct course for WP M762, off Tel Aviv Marina. A big swell makes itself felt in the Eastern Mediterranean throughout the year and the seas breaking in the shallow waters off the Israel coast occasionally make it difficult to enter some ports. Boats approaching the Israeli coast are supposed to contact the authorities when 40 miles off to give
details of vessel and ETA. On approaching the coast yachts are met and occasionally boarded by a patrol boat, which then accompanies the vessel to the port of entry. Tel Aviv Marina monitors VHF channel 16, but because of the difficult entrance night arrivals should be avoided. A guide boat is occasionally sent out by the marina to assist those not familiar with the entrance. There is a better marina at Ashkelon (31�40'N, 34�32'E), south of Tel Aviv, which is a port of entry and therefore recommended.
M80 Routes from Cyprus
M81Cyprus to Israel604
M82Cyprus to Port Said605
M83Cyprus to Rhodes606
M84Cyprus to Crete606
M85Cyprus to Malta607
M86Cyprus to Southern Turkey608
M87Cyprus to Lebanon609
M88Cyprus to Syria610
The strategic position of Cyprus in the Eastern Mediterranean makes it an excellent starting point for voyages in any direction. The one major problem is the continuing dispute between the authorities of the divided island, those in Southern Cyprus not welcoming yachts that have called first in Turkish speaking Northern Cyprus. Occasionally yachts which had stopped in Northern Cyprus first have not been permitted to call at a port in Southern Cyprus. The authorities in Northern Cyprus do not seem so particular about boats that have called in the south first. If this situation persists, these facts should be taken into account when drawing up cruising plans for that part of the world.
The weather is generally pleasant with northerly winds prevailing in summer, especially along the north coast. Variable winds are more common along the south coast, where day breezes contribute to a complicated weather picture. An easterly current sets along the northern coast, which is particularly noticeable in the vicinity of Cape Andreas, the NE extremity of the island.
The best point of departure for the short passage to Israel is Larnaca, where up to date information should be obtained from the port authorities concerning sensitive areas to be avoided. There is a choice of destinations on the Israeli coast, with most boats making either for Haifa or for Tel Aviv. The former is a busy commercial port with little attraction for cruising boats. Tel Aviv has a good marina and is also a better place for visits into the interior, such as Jerusalem. Boats approaching the Israeli coast are supposed to contact the authorities when 40 miles off to give details of vessel and ETA. On approaching the coast yachts are met and occasionally boarded by a patrol boat, which then accompanies the vessel to the port of entry.
Whether leaving from Larnaca and WP M811, in Larnaca Bay, or from Limassol and WP M812, in Akrotiri Bay, a direct course can be sailed to WP M813, NW of Cape Carmel, in the approaches to Haifa, before the course can be altered for the port of Haifa. Spartan Reef, in the NW part of the Bay of Akko (Acre) should be avoided as the swell normally breaks over it. There is a small marina at Akko, north of Haifa, and there are plans to increase its capacity. In Haifa itself, the Carmel Yacht Club occasionally has room for visitors at their facility at the mouth of Kishon River.
Boats sailing to Tel Aviv (route M81B) should use the same departure points and set a course for WP M814, NW of Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv Marina monitors VHF channel 16, but because of the difficult entrance night arrivals should be avoided. Tel Aviv Marina is usually full and is therefore no longer recommended, but there are two new and larger marinas north and south of Tel Aviv. Close to the north of the city is Herzliya Marina (32�10'N, 34�47.6'E), while some 20 miles to the south is Ashkelon (31�40'N, 34�32'E). Both marinas have good facilities but only Ashkelon is an official port of entry.
This route benefits from favourable winds for most of the summer. From most ports on the south coast of Cyprus there is a clear run to a point 10 miles north of the entrance into Port Said, which is the recommended anchorage for commercial shipping waiting to transit the Suez Canal. Because of the low, featureless coast and the shallow depths which extend several miles offshore, the position of Port Said is very difficult to ascertain if landfall is made either too far east or west. The situation is further complicated by the unpredictability of the currents in the area, which are also influenced by the state of the Nile waters. The cluster of ships at anchor is usually the first indication of the approaches to Port Said.
Boats leaving from Larnaca and WP M821 should set an initial course to WP M822, to clear
Cape Kiti. From WP M822 a direct course can be set for WP M825, at the northern entrance into the shipping channel leading into Port Said. Boats leaving from Limassol, in the NW part of Akrotiri Bay, should set an initial course from WP M823 for WP M824, off Cape Gata. From that point, a direct course can be sailed to WP M825, off Port Said.
The approach channel to Port Said extends far offshore and is well marked by buoys. It should be entered at its northern extremity and no shortcuts taken because of a number of wrecks lying outside this channel. Small vessels are allowed to proceed into the harbour without a pilot and all formalities can be completed after the vessel has berthed at the Fouad Yacht Club. This is situated on the eastern side of the harbour.
It is generally recommended to wait for a spell of E or SE winds before making this passage, which can be hampered by strong northerly winds in summer. If persistently strong W or NW winds occur after the start of this passage, it is preferable to go on the port tack and head for the Turkish coast where either a change in the weather can be awaited or shorter tacks taken along the coast.
A convenient port to wait for favourable conditions for boats sailing route M83A is Paphos, on the SW coast of Cyprus. Boats coming from ports on the south coast of the island can join the offshore route close to that point. From WP M831, outside Paphos harbour, a direct course can then be set for WP M835, situated off the NE tip of Rhodes.
Boats leaving from Kyrenia, in Northern Cyprus (route M83B), should set an initial course from WP M832 for WP M833, off Cape Kormakiti. The subsequent offshore route passes close to a group of islands off the south coast of Turkey. Those who wish, may clear into Greece at Kastellorizo. Otherwise, from WP M834, off the small island of Strongili, the course is altered for WP M835, in the approaches to Mandraki, the main port on the island of Rhodes. Mandraki (Limin Rhodou) is always crowded and cruising boats may find it difficult to secure a free berth. A marina development has somewhat improved the situation.
Directions are similar to those for route M83, with the advantage that the prevailing northerly winds of summer will be met at a better angle. However, boats bound for islands in the Aegean would do better to sail to Rhodes, as described in route M83, and enter the Aegean from the SE. Because of the strong meltemi, sailing north from Crete is difficult throughout the summer, so when making plans for an Aegean cruise it is better to visit the islands to the north of Crete first and leave Crete for later.
Whether leaving from the south or north of Cyprus, the routes to the north coast of Crete converge in Dhiavlos Kasou, the channel separating Crete from the island of Kasos. Boats leaving from Southern Cyprus (route M84A) will find it convenient to take their departure from Cyprus at Paphos, on the SW coast of the island. From WP M841 a direct course can be set for WP M842, east of Cape Sidheros, at the NE extremity of Crete.
Boats leaving from Northern Cyprus on route M84B, will sail a course to pass clear of Cape
Kormakiti, the NW extremity of Cyprus, before being able to set a course for WP M847, south of Kasos Island. At that point the course can be altered for WP M843, NE of Crete, and joins the route from Southern Cyprus. The route for Iraklion runs parallel to the north coast of Crete to WP M844, NE of the Cretan capital. Boats should proceed into the old Venetian harbour, in the SW corner of the large commercial harbour. If there is no free space at one of the pontoons, cruising boats may use the quay immediately east of the small boat harbour.
A more convenient and closer stop on the NE coast of Crete is Agios Nikolaos, which is reached by altering course from M842 to pass south of a group of islands NE of Cape Sidheros of which Gianissada is the southernmost. The course leads to M848 on the SW side of the wide Mirambelo Bay. Agios Nikolaos is a popular resort with a small marina where finding a space to dock is rarely a problem compared to Iraklion, which is always full.
Reasonable conditions can be expected on this route throughout the summer, with best chances of favourable winds between the middle of June and the middle of August. Calms become more frequent with the approach of autumn.
Boats leaving from one of the ports in Southern Cyprus, such as Larnaca or Limassol, should take their departure from Cyprus at WP M851, SW of Cape Zevgari (route M85A). From this point the route then passes south of Crete through WP M852, south of Gavdhos Island. From there a direct course can be set for WP M853, at the entrance into Marsamxett Harbour.
Boats sailing route M85B from Kyrenia, in Northern Cyprus, should take their leave from the island at WP M855, off Cape Kormakiti, from where a course can be set to pass south of Crete through WP M852 and on to WP M853, in the approaches to the Maltese capital. On arrival in Malta boats should contact Valletta Port Control on VHF channels 12 or 16 before proceeding to one of the reception docks at Msida Marina or Lazaretto Creek. The Yachting Centre can be contacted on VHF channel 9 to request docking information.
Northern Cyprus, and especially the port of Kyrenia, is a perfect departure point for the south coast of Turkey. Boats coming from Southern Cyprus (route M86B) will fare better by starting from a western port, such as Paphos. Rounding Cyprus from the east is not recommended because of the east-setting current along the north coast and in the vicinity of Cape Andreas.
If leaving from Kyrenia, boats sailing route M86A have a choice of destinations, from Anamur on the east side of the Gulf of Antalya, to Antalya itself, or Finike, further west. If the intention is to cruise the Turkish coast from east to west, it is advisable to sail first to Alanya, which is the nearest port of
entry coming from this direction, and complete entry formalities there. From WP M861, north of Kyrenia, a course is set for WP M862. From there the course can be altered for WP M863, south of Alanya. Because the small port is always crowded with local boats, visiting yachts normally anchor north of the pier, where protection from the prevailing wind is good.
Boats leaving from one of the ports in Southern Cyprus (route M86B), such as Paphos, should set an initial course for WP M865. From that point, the course can be altered for WP M863, south of the port of Alanya.
For boats leaving from any port in Southern Cyprus the best port of arrival in Lebanon is Jounieh. Lebanon's only marina is located there and facilities are also of a good standard. The Lebanese Navy must be contacted when still in international waters. The callsign for Jounieh and Beirut is Oscar Charlie, for Tripoli it is Oscar November, and Oscar Sierra for Sidon and Tyre. The other four Lebanese ports are all commercial harbours and this is why Jounieh is recommended. The movement of boats between ports is subject to severe restrictions and coastal sailing should therefore be avoided if possible.
Boats leaving from Northern Cyprus may also sail directly to Jounieh, but if the intention is to visit other Lebanese ports then landfall should be made at Tripoli and then sail southward from there. From the NE extremity of Cyprus at Cape Andreas a direct course can be sailed to make landfall off Ramkin light in the approaches to Tripoli. The Lebanese Navy (callsign Oscar November) should be contacted on channel 16 while still outside the 12 mile limit to request pratique.
Whether leaving from a port in Southern or Northern Cyprus, the best place to arrive in Syria is Latakia. Boats leaving from Larnaca will have a clear run once Cape Greco is left behind. The same applies to boats that left from Kyrenia and have cleared the Kidhes Islets off Cape Andreas at the NE extremity of the island.
Port Control should be contacted at the 12 mile limit and, if bound for Latakia, permission should be requested to proceed to the southern basin to complete formalities. Boats may be asked to take a pilot at the harbour entrance. The pilotage fee is included in the general harbour fee. Those who arrive without visas will be issued shore passes. Coastal sailing is discouraged and subject to restrictions. If going to one of the other two ports open to foreign flagged vessels, at Banias (35�14'N, 35�56'E) and Tartous (34�54'N, 35�52'E), clearing in and out formalities will have to be repeated.
�90 Routes from Israel
M91Israel to Cyprus612
M92Israel to Port Said612
M93Israel to Malta613
M94Israel to Crete613
Only a few routes set out from the easternmost country in the Mediterranean and most boats that sail them usually make a first stop in Cyprus. As most of the eastern shores of the Mediterranean lack natural harbours, boat movement is confined to a few ports. Yachting facilities in Israel itself have
seen a great improvement and there are now several marinas dotted about at convenient intervals along the Mediterranean coast, the two largest and with best facilities being the marinas at Herzliya, situated north of Tel Aviv, and Ashkelon, south of that city.
Contrary winds are common on this route and therefore a more northerly starting port, such as Haifa, is recommended. Most boats sailing this route usually head for Larnaca before continuing around the south or north of Cyprus. Larnaca Marina (34"55'N, 33�38.5'E) monitors VHF channel 16. Occasionally yachts are asked to anchor in the outer harbour while a berth is found for them.
Boats leaving from Haifa should make their way past Spartan Reef, north of Cape Carmel, to WP M911, from where a direct route leads to WP M913, in the Bay of Larnaca. Boats leaving from Tel Aviv and WP M912 can set a course for the same WP M913.
A contrary current usually makes itself felt along this route and it is therefore preferable not to follow the coast too closely, where the current is strongest. If landfall is made too far east of Port Said, it is often difficult to identify any coastal features and the approaches to Port Said will only be indicated by the large number of ships lying at anchor in the recommended waiting area.
From WP M921, outside Tel Aviv marina, a direct course can be set for WP M922, in the northern
approaches to Port Said. The approach channel into Port Said is taken from this point. The channel should be entered at its northern extremity and no shortcuts taken because of a number of wrecks lying outside this channel. Small vessels are allowed to proceed into the harbour without a pilot and all formalities can be completed after the vessel has berthed at the Fouad Yacht Club. This is situated on the eastern side of the harbour.
This passage can be undertaken at any time during summer when mostly northerly winds can be expected. From WP M931, outside Tel Aviv marina, a direct course can be set for WP M932 to pass south of Crete and Gavdhos Island. From there a new course can be set for WP M933, east of the
entrance into Marsamxett harbour. On arrival in Malta boats should contact Valletta Port Control on VHF channels 12 or 16 before proceeding to one of the reception docks at Msida Marina or Lazaretto Creek. The Yachting Centre can be contacted on VHF channel 9 to request docking information.
Inaugurated by the Millennium Odyssey as a nonstop leg, boats sailing the direct route from Israel to Crete have a choice of marinas in the proximity of Tel Aviv from where to take their departure from Israel. Close to the north of Tel Aviv is the well endowed marina at Herzliya, while to the south is Ashkelon Marina, which is given as a recommended point of departure from Israel as it is also an official port of entry.
The direct route leads to a point off Cape Sidheros, the NE extremity of Crete. Although there are a number of ports on Crete's north coast, the best facilities are at Iraklion. The recommended route runs parallel to the coast to make landfall close to the entrance into the commercial harbour. The old Venetian port is where cruising boats normally dock, but if there is no space one should come alongside the quay immediately to the east of the small boat harbour, near the Iraklion Sailing Club.
Rather than sail as far as Iraklion where docking space is always difficult to find, it may be better to stop at Agios Nikolaos, on the NE coast of Crete. The port is reached by altering course from M943 to pass south of a group of islands NE of Cape Sidheros, of which Gianissada is the southernmost. The course leads to M944 on the SW side of the wide Mirambelo Bay. Agios Nikolaos is a popular resort with a small marina.