Approaching the North cost of Africa after what felt like a very long night

We arrived in Tunisia early this morning. It was a pretty uncomfortable sail across from Sardenia because we had wind at 15 knots off the port bow and we were close hauled the whole trip, punching into the now all too familiar short, steep waves of the Mediterranean Sea. I found that slowing us down to around 8.5 knots made the ride a bit more comfortable than bashing into the waves at high speed. This required a double reefed mainsail and single reefed jib. Wildling was perfect the whole trip!

There was a lot of boat traffic as we approached the African coast around midnight, and we had one scary incident where we were chased by a fishing boat during Gavin’s watch. I took the helm as the boat came alongside us and started shining his spotlight on us. I changed course multiple times and he kept turning with me. Then I jibed and bore off quickly in the opposite direction and he eventually broke off and went back to whatever he was doing. It was pretty scary and made us realize how vulnerable we are, just a family of four people on a sailboat!

Robin and I didn’t get any sleep after that, as we were dodging around fishing trawlers and tankers all night, but we had no other issues. It was a relief to see the sun rise as we entered the Gulf of Tunis with no other boats around and a short 15 mile sail over to the Gammarth Marina. 

At the dock, Port Marina Gammarth, Tunisia

The marina is essentially brand new and the people here are very friendly. It’s also a relief to be able to speak French again after all our language struggles in Italy! It’s hot and humid here, so everyone on board was happy to plug into the shore power and fire up the air conditioning. The first time we’ve needed to run it this year!

We cleared into the country of Tunisia with the help of the border police and customs officials who both have offices at the marina. The process was quick and easy, with just a small “tax” payment required to complete the affair. 

Tomorrow we have arranged for a guide and driver to take us into the capital city of Tunis.

10 thoughts on “Africa!

  1. Yikes – I always am worried about bandits when you are sailing in different waters. Please continue to be careful.

  2. Wow! You must have felt very vulnerable. How about investing in a couple of shotguns? Hope you all enjoy your stay in Tunisia.

    • I’ve really thought about that, but having weapons onboard make customs clearance a real nightmare and most of the deaths I have read about came from sailors trying to defend themselves with firearms. Things can escalate pretty fast. The best plan is to avoid areas of known activity and Tunisia is reportedly very safe. I’m more worried about the Carribean. There is a lot of bad stuff happening there in recent times.

    • That was my first thought so I turned up the VHF to see if we were being hailed. Most times the coastguard will call on the radio. There was nothing other than some chatter between fishing boats, and this boat had what looked like a trawling net rig on the back. Perhaps he was just trying to chase us away from his nets in the water?

  3. Hi Doug,
    Exciting voyage !
    We’ll be leaving our boat in Tunisia on winter 17-18. I was considering Monastir so far but your article on Gammarth led me to think more about it. The location (close to airport) is more convenient and marina seems on top. So far I haven’t been able to find any info (website, email address, phone number ..) for this port. The Tunisian Tourist Information Center won’t answer so far (Tunisian style I guess :). Would you have any coordinates or way to get in touch with them to send me ?
    By the way, have you noticed that, when zooming on Google Maps on this place, there is a picture of Sailwildling ?

  4. Hi Ben,

    The best way I found to communicate with the marina staff is via email:

    I didn’t visit any other marinas when we were in Tunisia, so not sure if there are other options, but I would have no concerns leaving our boat long term in Gammarth. It is very well maintained and very secure.

    Good luck!

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