We had an excellent passage from Malta to France. We left Valletta on Thursday morning at 10 am and arrived at La Grande Motte the following Tuesday at 10:30 am, so 5 days at sea without any stops on the way.
Since the forecast was showing a Mistral wind was going to arrive on Wed or Thu, we decided to go non-stop to avoid any chance of having to beat into it. After our previous experience sailing in France in 2016 where we had 55 knot winds from a Mistral, I’m pretty motivated to never do that again if I can avoid it!
The PredictWind weather models showed very light wind for most of the passage, mostly from the northeast, which would mean a lot of upwind sailing and motoring required. Definitely confirms the saying in this area that Med stands for Motoring Every Day! We did manage quite a bit of sailing without the engines though, which was really nice, and the light wind meant calm seas for the most part.
The first part of the passage was all sailing with wind 8-12 knots at 70-80 degrees true. This gave us 7 to 8 knots boat speed close hauled at 40 to 45 degrees apparent. In these conditions we had full main and staysail up and the boat tracks perfectly in this configuration. The helm is well balanced with the autopilot holding the rudder angle between 0 and 1 degrees the whole time.
Once we cleared the southwest corner of Sicily and headed for Sardinia, the wind increased to 15 to 18 knots, which pushed our apparent wind to 20 to 25 knots. There was also one of those awful Mediterranean steep wavy seas against us. These happen frequently in the Med, and when you’re headed upwind you just have to pound through it. I hate these conditions, they make you wish you were anywhere else but suffering the crashing and banging required to make headway. Not only is it uncomfortable as hell, it’s stressful to have the boat crashing down off the wave tops all night. We put in a 2nd reef to keep our speed under 8 knots so the motion was a little better, but it was still a long night.
By the morning of the third day we were closing in on the east coast of Sardinia, and the seas calmed down a lot. The rest of the passage was smooth sailing and really fun. We had light winds forward of the beam most of the way, so we had to motor pretty much all the last 2 days. Wildling is slow under engines, so I never like being forced to motor, but we had to beat the arrival of the Mistral so we couldn’t pull in somewhere and wait for better sailing conditions.
When motoring long distances I always run a single engine at a time at moderate RPM, which for us means one engine at 2,000 RPM. This gives us about 6 knots boat speed. If I run both engines at 2,000 RPM we add about 1 knot of speed, so it’s not worth the extra fuel and engine wear. What I find works best is to keep the sails up while motoring and sail an angle where we can use the apparent wind generated by the boat’s forward motion to get some drive out of the sails. In most cases we can get an extra 1 to 2 knots of speed when motoring by doing this.
About an hour out from La Grande Motte, I called the Outremer folks and Sylvain came and met us as we pulled up to the welcome dock. He then helped us maneuver into one of the catamaran berths in the marina.
My injured shoulder did OK on the passage. I was pretty worried about how we would go, particularly since we don’t have Gavin with us to help with the more physical maneuvers. My shoulder was definitely very painful and pretty much out of action, but a combination of mostly light winds, lots of help from Robin and Lindsay, and our electric winches, allowed the three of us to sail the boat with no problems. Robin and I traded watches during the night and Lindsay did a long watch each morning to give us a chance to catch up on sleep. It worked out really well!
We are in London this week so I can have my shoulder looked at. While we are away the Outremer team is doing some maintenance projects on Wildling, so we will be ready to continue on towards the Canary Islands when we get back. I’m really hoping I won’t need surgery on my shoulder, as that would put me out of action for quite a while. I’ll find out the verdict tomorrow!
5 thoughts on “Valletta to La Grande Motte”
Thank you for such a detailed post. Love the insights on Med sailing, and your engine management strategy. In your experience, do you think a long mono hull would have been more comfortable in the short steep seas you described? Good luck with the shoulder!
It’s a good question. Unfortunately I don’t have enough experience on monohulls to know how their motion would compare with a catamaran in those conditions, but having talked with other sailors a bit, it seems that everyone suffers with the short steep waves in the Med, no matter what type of boat. The guys that work the superyachts tell me they try to avoid those type of sea conditions as well as it’s too uncomfortable for their passengers.
Good luck tomorrow! I hope you can get an outcome that allows you to continue your journey without too much pain.
Good luck with the shoulder Doug. i always enjoy your Blog.
Tracey and i have had a good session. We left Sicily, down to Malta then up to Montenegro then Croatia and we ended up leaving Akaroa 11 in Porto Montenegro.