Valletta to La Grande Motte

Satellite tracking history of our passage from Malta to La Grande Motte via, Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica.

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!


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.

Back to Volvo & Adventures in Corbières

On May 23rd, Outremer had arranged a crane to lift a new 5X into the water, so we were able to take advantage of that to lift Wildling out so we could check to see if the saildrives were damaged when we changed over to the EWOL propellers.

The smaller diameter, replacement EWOL propellers weren’t ready in time for the crane lift, but we decided to lift out anyway because I needed to know if the engines were damaged, and the only alternative was to take the boat over to Canet-en-Roussillon which is a 3 day round trip journey, and a major hassle.

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The lift out was very easy, the guys have done this many times, and you can tell. They have it down to a well organized process. The Volvo engineers came and removed the EWOL propellers, then inspected the drives and used some instruments to measure the  shafts to make sure there were no problems with the bearings or the shaft geometry. Everything checked out fine, so they put the original 4 blade folding Volvo propellers back on.

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Our Volvo props back on and ready for action

As soon as we lifted out we noticed that there was a large misalignment between the two rudders. Since the boat was hauled out the previous month in Canet en Roussillon, the misalignment must have been present at that time, but nobody noticed? In any case, it’s another reminder that you should always be there in person when your boat is being worked on!
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After correcting the alignment of the rudders, we put Wildling back into the water, and the following morning we took her out for a quick test drive to make sure the engines were OK. All the vibration and noise that we had with the EWOL propellers was gone, and our engines were back to their previous smooth and quiet operation. A huge relief, but also a disappointment that our EWOL propeller test didn’t work out as I had hoped.

I discussed next steps with Xavier at Outremer, and we decided to wait until the next scheduled haul out to try the new model EWOL propellers, so we will be using our Volvo props for the rest of this sailing season.

The following Sunday morning, Robin, Gavin, Lindsay and I left La Grande Motte, to sail over to Marseille. I had called the Port Cobières marina the Friday before to make sure they had our place ready, and they told me everything was fine. Turns out, not quite!

We left at sunrise (or at least at the the time of sunrise, because the weather was nasty) in a cold drizzle, with very little wind. The forecast called for 15 to 20 knots from the South West by mid morning, so we hoisted the main and jib, and motor sailed for about an hour until the wind picked up.

After an hour, the wind lifted to around 10 knots, and later built to the foretasted 18 to 22 knots, so we had a beautiful sail over to Marseille, sitting between 10 and 13 knots boat speed. The wind was coming from dead astern of our intended course, so we gybed back and forth the entire way, keeping the boat between 150 degrees and 160 degrees to the true wind. This is a nice point of sail for Wildling, with comfortable motion and decent speeds.

I really like coastal cruising like this when we’re tacking or gybing back and forth along the coast. The only tricky part is to not wait too long to come about when we’re on a course that will intersect the land. It’s deceptive how much ground you cover at over 10 knots and a couple of times, I cut it a bit close!

Robin and Lindsay were not feeling too great on the trip over, so they took some seasickness meds and had a sleep, so I was single handing the whole way. This is when I love the self tacking jib! Gybing the mainsail is easy also, so single handing is pretty simple on Wildling, and for me, it’s a great way to spend a day on the water.

We arrived in Port Corbières just after lunchtime, and went to our designated dock, but there was another boat already there, and no places free! Damn! We ended up tying up to a concrete pier near the public boat ramp just next door. Not very safe, but there were no other choices.

I called the emergency numbers for the port, and a guy came over and found a temporary place for us. Robin and I started over, but just as we were arriving at the new place, another catamaran came in ahead of us and took it! Damn! And then another catamaran came in behind us and took the place on the pier we had just left! So we were stuck, and had to hold position in the channel while we negotiated with the port after hours staff and the other boat to let us take their spot.

After about half and hour, the interloper agreed to move to another spot. He was smaller than us, so he had more options of where to park, so we could finally go in and tie up at the dock. We were positioned at the dock in between two rows of boats, which meant we were blocking 4 other boats from leaving their slips, so not an ideal situation, but OK for the night, and we were told the guy who manages the port would sort it out in the morning.

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Finally tied up in our “temporary” spot in Port Corbières

The next day we met the port manager and he assured us he would find us a place that afternoon. He said the same thing the next day, and the next, and the day after that, but finally he moved the boat out of the place he had assigned us, and we were able to move Wildling into her new home on Saturday morning!

It seems the sense of urgency we are used to doesn’t really exist here. People are pretty laid back, which mostly is a really good thing, but Robin and I were getting pretty anxious by the end of the week, so we’re happy to finally have Wildling tied up in a safe place.

Meanwhile, in France…

It’s been a while since I posted, and mainly because we have been busy with work and getting our family established in Aix-en-Provence (near Marseille). Things are going well on both fronts, but it has been a bit crazy.

We spent some time at the Multihull boatshow in La Grande Motte, which was good, but I found out later that I missed out on seeing this amazing catamaran!!!! If we ever feel like Wildling is too small or too slow, I’m going to try and convince Robin we need one of these!

Outremer had quite a few boats on display at the show, including the new 4X, which is a performance version of the Outremer 45. They added carbon and changed the ratio of solid layup to foam sandwich in the hulls to remove weight, increased the power of the headsails and extended the transoms to increase waterline length. The 4X is now 47 feet long, faster than the 45 but still as seaworthy.

Also at the show was a new foredeck canopy manufactured by Delta-Voiles and on display on one of the new 5X boats. Great idea, especially at anchor in the tropics, we’re going to order one of these for Wildling.

This new canopy is made by Delta-Voiles in France for the Outremer 5X, great idea!

This foredeck canopy is made by Delta-Voiles in France for the Outremer 5X, great idea!

In between boatshows and starting new schools for the kids, we caught up with our friends in Marseille, who as usual blew us away with their seemingly endless supply of excellent wine, we loved this one!

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We’ve had some issues with our B&G instruments lately, I’m starting to worry a bit about our decision to go with B&G, as I’m not sure the reliability of the new H5000 equipment is as good as the older Hydra systems we had on our last boat, that were rock solid the entire time we owned it.

In the last three weeks, we had to replace the masthead sensor unit because we lost our wind direction information. Then we had a problem with the main chartplotter not retaining the configuration for the boat speed sensor, so we had no boat speed information. It seems this was an issue that occurred when the system software was updated. And this week, the sea water temperature went haywire, so we are going to have to replace the water temperature sensor. I hope we can get these systems stabilized soon!

I promise you the water temperature in the Med is a lot less than 49 degrees Celsius right now!

I promise you the water temperature in the Med is a lot less than 49 degrees Celsius right now!

The biggest headache we have had to deal with since arriving in France was to find a marina berth for Wildling closer to where we are living. I called nearly every marina between Marseille and Nice and nobody had any room for us. We owe a huge thanks to François from Outremer for recommending we try Port Corbières just west of Marseille, I called them and they found us a place, so we are all set! We visited the Port today and it’s a really nice and very well equipped marina, and it’s only 25 minutes drive from where we are living in Aix-en-Provence. Marseille is also a great base to keep the boat. There are lost of good cruising locations nearby and it’s a good departure point for Corsica and Sardinia, which is where we are planning on cruising this summer.

Wildling's new parking place in Port Corbières.

Wildling’s new parking place in Port Corbières.

Looking east from the dock, there's an excellent view of Marseille

Looking east from the dock, there’s a nice view of the city of Marseille.

I also talked with Sergio from EWOL today about our new, smaller diameter propellers. They are going to be ready in about two more weeks, so we will probably install them after we move Wildling over to the new marina, sometime after the Outremer Cup which is taking place next week in La Grande Motte.

Although we have been busy, we are still finding time to enjoy life in France!

Don’t worry, although we have been busy, we are still finding time to enjoy life in France!

Checking in on Wildling

I spent a weekend with Wildling in La Grande Motte to check on a few projects that were being done before the sailing season begins again.

A beautiful winter's day in La Grande Motte, France

A beautiful winter’s day in La Grande Motte, France

Wildling is looking awesome! She has been moved to a marina berth further inside the marina, which is a bit more protected than where I left her last visit. She was spotlessly clean and all the stainless steel had been polished, which is a monthly service that Stephane at Outremer arranged for me.




Pretty much all the projects we needed done were completed, we’re just waiting on some parts to replace the holding tank gauge that is not reading correctly.

The main items to finish were replacing the goose-neck bolt that attaches the boom to the mast, and the installation of the HF radio.

Lorima, the rig manufacturer, fitted a longer bolt and replaced the old locknut with a larger nylock nut, which should not work loose. They added a locking grub screw, just to be extra sure.

Lorima, the rig manufacturer, fitted a longer bolt and replaced the old locknut with a larger nylock nut, which should not work loose. They added a locking grub screw, just to be extra sure.

Nav station with the new HF radio installed to the right

Nav station with the new HF radio installed to the right

Our new ICOM HF radio was i nstalled. The HF allows us to communicate much longer distances than the VHF, which is important when we are far offshore.

The ICOM HF radio allows us to communicate much longer distances than the standard VHF radio, which is important when we are far offshore.

HF radio antenna tuner installed on the starboard engine room

HF radio antenna tuner installed in the starboard engine room, right below the transom mounted 8m whip antenna.


We also made some progress on our propeller project. EWOL will be bringing the new props over and working with Outremer to run before and after tests. I’ll post results as soon as I have them.

Leaving Cannes

A bit of a sad day yesterday because we said goodbye to Murray and Belinda. They left on the train in the morning to go back home to Brisbane. Robin, Lindsay and Gavin went to see them off at the station and pick up some provisions on the way back. I stayed behind to get Wildling ready to go.

Wildling at the marina in Cannes on our last night before heading west

Wildling at the marina in Cannes on our last night before heading west

The Cannes marina was a bit of a mixed bag. While it’s a good location with great access to the shopping and beaches in Cannes, and not far from the train station for day trips to Monaco and Nice, the marina systems weren’t that great. We couldn’t connect our power cables to the dock outlets without borrowing a special plug that other residents told us are unique to the power outlets in the Cannes marina. The plug has to be wired onto the end of your power cable, so you have to remove your standard plug, wire on the new one, and hope it all works. To complicate things further, the power outlets are 3 phase, so you have to decide which phase to connect your single phase line wire to. I chose phase 1 and it worked fine.

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The Wildling crew in Cannes. You can see Wildling in the background

WiFi in the Cannes marina was pretty much worthless. We were only able to connect every now and again, and then not for long. We had a very strong WiFi signal, but it seems that the whole system is so overloaded by users, it doesn’t really work.

We started our trip west back to LGM and stopped last night in an anchorage in the SW end of St Tropez gulf. We had light winds of 5 knots from the NW in the morning that built to 15 to 17 knots in the afternoon. We were able to sail the whole day with boat speed between 4.5 and 12 knots under full main and jib. Very nice! I probably should have used the Code-0 as we were upwind all day, but the forecast called for gusts up to 30 knots (which we never saw) so I kept a conservative rig setup for the day.

Enjoying a glass of wine in the anchorage in the Gulf of St Tropez

Enjoying a glass of wine in the anchorage at the Gulf of St Tropez

Today we’re continuing west, with no fixed destination in mind, we’ll see how far we get and stop somewhere that looks good in the afternoon. I raised the Code-0 this morning and rigged it ready to unfurl when we start sailing, as I am expecting another light wind morning. I’m also going to try out our Watt & Sea Hydro-generator today. It’s the only system on the boat we haven’t used yet, and I want to make sure I know how to operate it in case I have any questions when we get back to LGM.