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Tips for Sailing the Mediterranean

Sailing in the Med is all about action. It’s the things you do that define the adventures you have. Weaving from pastel-hued towns to abandoned bays filled with ancient ruins. Eating at waterfront tavernas that serve the freshest fish you’ve ever tasted. Hopping between Greek islands, skirting the Adriatic coast, or tackling some longer distances on a blue-water passage. Making the most of consistently warm but varied conditions, cobalt blue seas, and stunning surroundings.

Mediterranean cruising is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Here to offer some friendly and practical sailing advice, from blue-water Balearic and wider Mediterranean cruising to more intense passage-making is Oliver, a long-time Base Manager with Sunsail.

The classic Med mooring

Stern-to-moorings always appear more complicated than they really are. Here are my top tips:

Before setting off from your Mediterranean mooring, make sure you keep the one stern line on the same side as the wind is blowing. This approach will help the helm keep control of your bow.  Using this technique, you will find you have complete control over the bow’s position before you slip the line, so you can make nice, smooth progress out of the berth.

When you are using the lazy-line Mediterranean style of mooring, think about attaching a small floating buoy to the end of your line furthest from the dock. This will ensure you can pick up your lazy line from the cockpit and attach it before moving to secure your bow lines. This makes for a very easy and controlled entry.

Wind Vane Steering

When using any form of wind vane steering with its own independent rudder, you will find that a perfect indication of whether a boat is well balanced or not is not having the need to lash the tiller / wheel.  Depending on your sail trim, your yacht should be able to sail perfectly under a wind vane without having to lash the main rudder.


When manoeuvring in a tight spot in a marina, always make sure that your yacht is stationary before going in reverse. I have seen far too many occasions where a yacht is still moving forwards when the skipper steers her the other way in reverse and ends up either hitting an object or just being unable to carry out the manoeuvre.


While I am hardly a galley superstar, I have been known to bake a pretty decent fresh loaf on board. And I can do it without even using the oven! It’s actually not all that hard, with the help of a handy yachtie life hack.  When making your homemade bread, sit the dough in the engine bay for 1 hour, and you can watch it rise perfectly.  But beware: make sure you cover it and don’t stick it directly onto the engine. Nobody wants diesel bread! For best results, I always let my dough rise at the end of the day’s sailing, once we’ve anchored up or returned to the marina, so the engine is nice and hot.


Keeping a tidy ship is very important, both for safety and hygiene. Always make sure that heavy items are stored as low down as possible so that they do not fall out and turn into missiles if it gets a little windy. Always pack a soft-sided bag, and not a solid suitcase, as space is usually at a premium on a yacht.


As a general rule of thumb, the moment you first think about reefing  – reef! Safety never takes a day off, and it is far better to be over-reefed and a little slow than under-reefed and struggling to keep things on an even keel. All of our yachts have roller-reefing genoas and slab reefing mains with lazy jacks, so it’s incredibly easy to take your sails in and to shake the reefs out if conditions ease off and you feel like putting more canvas out.


If a Meltemi or Maestral blows through the harbour while you’re trying to sleep in the saloon, consider this technique. When trying to sleep in storms, I use any dormant sails and sail bags to wedge my body into the berth. This is not only comfortable but will also ensure a good night’s sleep.


Finally, here’s an easy reference for finding your ‘back’ bearing on a compass.  If your heading is between 0° to 180°, to find your back bearing quickly you would simply add 180 to your current heading.  For example if you were heading out of the harbour at 90 °, then your back bearing for entering would be 90°+180° = 270°.  If you’re sailing along on any heading between 180° and 360°, you switch and simply minus 180.  For example, if I was heading out at 300° my back bearing would be 300° – 180° = 120°.

Go Sailing

Well, there you have it, some useful sailing nous you can apply off in the Med and around the world. For more useful tips, tricks and Sunsail snippets, check out our guide to clouds at sea


Ian Pedersen

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