Rod Heikell's very informal site on sailing around bits of the world and an eclectic collection of things nautical or nearly so.


Whoever it was who first went down to the sea and floated a log on it, then put up a scrap of animal skin to drift downwind, and then took along some old wild grass seeds that fermented on the trip, well he’s got a bloody lot to answer for …

Douglas Graeme


El Nino, La Nina and ENSO 2009

Ocean Passages and Landfalls mini-cruising guides

(Scandinavia, Greater Antilles, Greenland, East Med)

Ocean Passages and Landfalls



Malaysia post tsunami

Yacht Haven Marina on Phuket

El Nino

From the Skylax blog 15-04-09

El Nino, La Nina and ENSO 2009

The following is from Ocean Passages & Landfalls setting out briefly what El Nino, La Nina & ENSO are:

El Niño and La Niña

El Niño refers to an above average warming of equatorial Pacific waters and conversely La Niña to a cooling of these waters. El Niño is the name Peruvian fisherman long ago gave to these events and means the 'little boy' or 'Christ child' because an El Niño usually occurs around Christmas. La Niña means the 'little girl'.  A La Niña usually follows an El Niño, but not always. The warming of the waters produces high cloud activity which affects the jet stream high in the earth’s atmosphere and this leads to dramatic weather events as far away as the western Pacific coastline, the Indian Ocean and northern Atlantic. In recent years El Niño events have increased.

El Niño is important to yachtsmen because it disrupts normal weather patterns. In the South Pacific the trades are weakened during an El Niño year. In an El Niño year the North Atlantic is believed to experience fewer hurricanes while the eastern Pacific has an increased number. A La Niña year is believed to give rise to more hurricanes in the Atlantic. Tropical rainfall patterns are disrupted by an El Niño year and there can be droughts in areas like Indonesia and Australia and increased rainfall in normally dry areas like Peru. These changes in tropical rainfall patterns affect wind patterns and can lead to the late arrival of monsoons and to the trades decreasing in strength.

Although the exact relationship between El Niño and La Niña events and world weather are not fully understood, it is only prudent for yachtsmen to monitor whether or not an El Niño event is going to happen and look at possible predictions for out of the ordinary weather events. In a very simplistic sense an El Niño can point to the possibility of fewer early or late season hurricanes in the North Atlantic and light tradewinds in the South Pacific.



El Niño and La Niña events lead to a seesaw oscillation of sea level pressure in the western and eastern Pacific. This is called the Southern Oscillation (SO). The SO is usually measured between Tahiti and Darwin. Because the SO is related to an El Niño event, the two terms are often combined to give ENSO. Many climatologists agree that the usage of all these names can be confusing and I mention ENSO here because it has become fashionable to use the term to describe what everyone else has been referring to as El Niño and La Niña events.



At present we are in a La Nina tending to ENSO neutral phase. Sea temperatures along the equator are still around half a degree Celcius colder than normal but have been tending to normal. (Source NOAA.) In a La Nina year there is an increase in the number of hurricanes in the Atlantic and in the number of Tropical Storms and cyclones affecting the east coast of Australia as well as the South Pacific basin generally.

So what is going to happen in the Atlantic?

The predictions for 2009 are for a normal year or a slight increase in the number of Tropical Storms and hurricanes for the 2009 season. The predictions are for 12 named Tropical Storms, 6 of those becoming Hurricanes and 2 of those Hurricanes becoming Major Hurricanes of around Cat 3 or more. (Source Colorado University – NOAA does not make predictions.)

And the Pacific?

With ENSO neutral or La Nina light the predictions are for increased rainfall in the western Pacific over Queensland, Indonesia and SE Asia. And tradewinds will be about normal or maybe a little less than normal.

This means we will be in for some lighter tradewinds, not a bad thing going into Cairns and up the coast and around to Darwin where the trades can blow more strongly than in the eastern and central Pacific. And it will be wet!


These are all predictions. Some agencies are even predicting that in 2009 we will tip into an El Nino event in which case all these predictions can be tipped into the bin and we start all over again.

You might think that the warming and cooling of the waters off Chile have little to do with you. Think again. El Nino and La Nina have an effect out of all proportion to the event affecting the weather in the Artic, droughts in Africa, and even Europe. Think of it like a busy road. Stick up a few road-blocks and start repairing bits of the road and the cars all start taking routes to get around the congestion. El Nino and La Nina events stick road-blocks up in the sky, principally dense tropical rain clouds around the equatorial regions, and so major weather systems get disrupted and take alternative routes. One thing ripples out to another and so weather events in far-flung parts of the world can be affected by El Nino and La Nina.


Cruising Area Guides
These mini-guides are intended to give a bit of a flavour of what it is like cruising around an area. In the new edition of Ocean Passages and Landfalls there will be lots of these with photos and text so that the yachtsman arriving in a cruising area will get a bite at how it works, what sort of cruising there is to be had, and what goes on ashore.


The coastline of Norway is double the length of the UK and four times more spectacular. Denmark has some of the finest sheltered sailing waters and waterside towns in the world. Sweden could easily rival New Zealand as the home of the most sailing boats per head of population. It is surprising how few world cruisers seem to include this area on their travels.

Sailing in Scandinavia is not considered to be a rich man’s pastime but a part of the way of life for ordinary people.  This is immediately apparent from the reasonable fees charged for visitors’ berths, most of which are provided by local authorities who see them as public amenities similar to car parks. Indeed in many places in Norway one pays the mooring fees at a parking meter. Denmark and a few towns in Sweden and Norway have the charming custom of not charging visitors’ mooring fees during working hours. They would rather we spend our money with local businesses.  From the Viking days onward Scandinavians have liked to build their towns around harbours and the visitor often finds herself near the centre alongside a lively and friendly waterfront.


Prize winning scenery

With considerable justification Norwegians don’t ask if you think that their land is the most beautiful on earth, they just take it for granted. Tens of thousands of miles of fjords and sheltered waterways inside the coastal islands make for safe sailing in almost all conditions for very nearly the entire length of their coastline. Sweden is blessed with many fine archipelagos. The most popular for sailors are off the Bohuslan coast and right outside Stockholm. In both places there are countless possibilities for peacefully mooring amongst the rocky islands. There are also many large lakes and quite sizeable cruising boats can access the inland sailing via the Göta Canal. Denmark is a country made up of islands and the sheltered waterways are a delight to sail. The rural scenery with windmills and ancient towns makes a fascinating backdrop to the excellent sailing. Finland’s woods and sheltered waters make for enticing summer cruising. A refreshing sauna at the end of the day is not unusual.

Weather and sailing season

Strangely the longest sailing season is in the far north.  Thanks to the gulf stream there is very little ice above the Arctic circle on the Norwegian coast and boats stay in the water all year round. There is precious little light in mid winter. However, when the light returns in March, there are many who say that this is the best time to cruise in Lofoten when there is still plenty of snow on the mountains and the scenery is at its most spectacular. Further south and in the Baltic ice generally prohibits sailing from January to April though amounts vary from year to year and from Denmark which is rarely affected to the Gulf of Bothnia which can be blocked well into May. The Norwegian coast is often dominated by depressions that sweep across the Atlantic, though, like the British Isles there can be long periods of fair weather in summer. Denmark, the west coast of Sweden and south of Norway tend to oscillate between unstable weather from the west and settled continental high pressure. Once in the Baltic the continental systems predominate and sunny settled weather is the norm in summer. In settled weather land and sea breezes provide the force that drives the sails.

Cruising strategies

From the Atlantic a yacht can approach Scandinavia via the English Channel or around the north of Scotland. If the destination is Norway Stavanger makes a good first port from which to start a cruise northward. The commonest approach route is to sail along the Dutch and German coasts to the Kiel Canal and then through the Danish archipelago to Sweden and on to the Baltic or via the Swedish west coast up to Norway. Once on the Swedish west coast there is also the option to cross the country between Gothenburg and Stockholm via the Göta Canal. There are excellent possibilities to lay up almost anywhere in the area and find cheap flights to other European or international destinations.

Boshulan - island cruising world on the east coast of Sweden


Cycling is popular in all the Scandinavian lands and a bike is possibly more useful than the dinghy. There are many fascinating old towns and some very exciting museums. For those interested in maritime history and the development of sailing vessels each Scandinavian country houses one of the finest museums in the world. Oslo and Roskilde have the Viking Ship Museums with Viking craft over 1000 years old, fascinating reconstructions and other exhibits. Stockholm has the Vasa, an almost intact 18th-century warship that sends shivers down the spine when you come into the building and see the huge craft and her beautiful carvings for the first time. In Åland the ship museum concentrates on the very last square rigged sailing ships that plied the grain trade between Australia and Britain right up to the end of the 1930’s and the four masted barque Pommern still lies at the wharf.


Not surprisingly these are first rate and relatively inexpensive. Boatyards abound, though hauling out can sometimes be a problem as in many places all the boats in a harbour come out at once and a large crane is jointly hired for the purpose. There are chandler’s and fuel berths everywhere. There is never any problem finding food and the usual amenities of town life.


Cruising Guide to Germany and Denmark, Brian Navin.                       Windmills and water in Denmark


The Baltic Sea RCC Pilotage Foundation, Anne Hammick.


Norway RCC Pilotage Foundation, Judy Lomax. Imray


© Andy O'Grady


Greater Antilles

The Greater Antilles comprising the island chain from Cuba to Puerto Rico is the lesser known Caribbean. For most people this is an insurance black hole and normal premiums for the Caribbean exclude Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic. If you ignore the lack of insurance or pay an additional premium and disregard a lot of the stories that circulate about piracy and other goings on then this is a wonderful and largely uncrowded cruising area that is like stepping back into the Caribbean of 50 years ago.

Cuba is a huge island some 700 miles long with more than 2000 miles of coastline. It has a fascinating history and a vibrant culture that few fail to be enchanted with whatever you think of its folk-communism and the last days of Castro. It is surrounded by coral reefs extending up to 50 miles off the coast on the south side and it is largely untrammelled by cruising boats. Marina Hemingway near Havana is the only place you will see any real concentration of yachts and many of them don’t go anywhere else. Around the south side I saw fewer than a dozen yachts sailing around in a six week cruise.

Jamaica is one of the most beautiful islands in the Caribbean, but is a troubled place with a lot of violence away from places like the gated holiday compounds in Montego Bay. There are a number of good anchorages around the island, but you are probably best going to Port Antonio, Montego Bay or the Royal Jamaica Yacht Club in Kingston.

Fishing boats in Ile a Vache

Haiti is a difficult one to pick and although I have cruised there without incident, other yachts have come to grief. You need to pick just one or two spots to go to that are safe and leave the rest. On the north coast most yachts will put into Cap Haitien. On the south coast Ile a Vache is the best destination and here a French couple run a small ‘hotel’ and have moorings with a guard. You need to carefully judge the political situation there and determine whether things are relatively settled, at least as settled as they get in Haiti, or whether it’s best to give the country a miss. If you do go there it’s a bit like stepping back 50 years with fishing boats working under sail alone and dug-out canoes all over the place.

The Dominican Republic has a limited number of marinas around the coast and recent developments have tended to be marina/apartment complexes. Luperon and Puerto Plata on the north coast are popular stops while on the south coast there are a couple of small marinas with berths and a few deserted anchorages.

Puerto Rico has the most developed infrastructure for yachts with marinas concentrated around the eastern end of the island, though there are anchorages and small marinas scattered around the other coasts of the island. It also has the island group off the eastern end known to cruisers as the Spanish Virgins and there are some wonderful anchorages around the group that are just as beautiful as any around the US and British Virgins but without the crowds.

Sailing strategies

Yachts will be on three general tracks: coming north from Panama and Central America, south and east from the USA, or west from the Lesser Antilles.

  • From Panama yachts will have a hard time getting north against the northeasterly trades until at least around 15ºN when the trades start to get a more easterly component (see CAR3).
  • From the Lesser Antilles it is an easy downwind run along the Greater Antilles and the only real choice will be whether to go north or south of the Greater Antilles. If you are interested in cruising this area it is best to go south of the islands and then make a decision on whether to go north or south of Cuba. Going south of Cuba would be my favoured option leaving it late in the winter season to round the western end of Cuba when the trades are a lot lighter.
  • From Florida the commonly used route via the Bahamas (CAR5) touches on the northern coasts of Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, but for an extended cruise in the Greater Antilles I have crossed to Marina Hemingway and then cruised east along the southern side of the island chain. It is not always easy against the prevailing easterly trades, but you are helped at times by fronts passing to the north which will disrupt the trades. At times there are also land breezes off the large islands which effectively ‘hold-up’ the trades so there is less wind and there can be a northeast or even northerly breeze at night on the southern side of the islands.

Seasons and winds

The Greater Antilles lie in the North Atlantic hurricane belt and so the seasons are effectively the same as anywhere else in the Caribbean: yachts cruise in the winter months from December to May and move out of the area in the summer from June to November. Hurricanes regularly hit the Greater Antilles when they start curving NW up towards Florida and in recent years with increased hurricane activity there has been much damage, especially in Haiti, Jamaica and Cuba.

In the winter the prevailing winds are easterly along the southern side of the island chain and east-northeast along the northern side. The trades blow anything from 15-25 knots and push fairly big seas along the northern and southern sides of the islands. In the channels in between the islands, especially Windward Passage between Cuba and Haiti and the Mona Passage between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, the northeast trades are accelerated and these can be very windy places indeed.

In the winter months with the brisk trades temperatures are in the mid-20’s to 30ºC range and the humidity is not excessive. In the summer it is hotter but it is really the higher humidity which makes life less pleasant.


Puerto Rico   You need a US visa BEFORE entry if you do not have a US passport. Clear in at the first customs area where you can get a cruising permit valid for a year. Immigration will stamp your passport. Upon leaving telephone customs and post the immigration docket back.

Dominican Republic   You must clear in and out of every port where there are customs and immigration. A tourist visa is issued for 60 days. Small ‘gifts’ are appreciated.

Haiti   Clear in at Cap Haitien where there are customs and immigration. Things are ‘looser’ at Ile a Vache. Small gifts are almost mandatory though large gifts will be requested.

Jamaica   Clear in at Montego Bay, Port Antonio or Kingston where there are police and customs. A small gift is often requested and worth paying.

Cuba   You must clear in at a major port with a marina with Marina Hemingway near Havana, Santiago in the southeast and Cayo Lago on the south coast the most popular. Yachts must submit an itinerary and check in and out of ports with any officials. Checking out of Cuba must again be from a port with a marina. Despite the cumbersome paperwork it is well worth cruising the island. Small gifts will often be asked for.


Puerto Rico   Good American style supermarkets and a wide choice of restaurants and bars.

Dominican Republic   Reasonable shopping and a good choice of restaurants and bars at reasonable prices.

Haiti   Little in the way of restaurants and bars and don’t bargain on finding anything in the way of provisions though there are some interesting local markets.

Jamaica   Some good restaurants and bars though you need to be careful of where you drink at night. Mediocre shopping for provisions.

Cuba   You will find small simple restaurants and cafes serving simple meals depending on availability, but don’t come to Cuba for the food. There are also official and semi-official paladars where you eat in someone’s home and where the food is generally better. Bars are excellent and so is the rum. Shopping in Cuba is poor because of the American embargo and you should not bargain on finding anything more than the basics and some fruit and vege.


Port Antonio on Jamaica


Yacht facilities are limited until you get to Puerto Rico and the marinas and yards on the eastern end of the island. The exceptions are Port Antonio in Jamaica and some developing facilities around the Dominican Republic. Elsewhere you will have to fend for yourself and in places you will need to ferry fuel by jerry can.


The Gentleman’s Guide to Passages South   Bruce Van Sant. Cruising Guide Publications. Recommended.

ICH chart kits. Seven A3 size chart books covering the coast of Cuba published by the Cuban Hydrography Office (ICH) and available in Cuba. Essential for cruising Cuba’s coast.

Cuba: A Cruising Guide   Nigel Calder. Imray

Cruising Guide Puerto Rico and Spanish Virgin Islands   Steve Pavlidis. Seaworthy Publications.

Puerto Rico, the Spanish, U.S. and British Virgin Islands (Street's Cruising Guide to the Eastern Caribbean)   D M Street. iUniverse.

© Rod Heikell




This is a great wilderness cruising destination. It offers some of the most spectacular scenery anywhere, safe anchorages, friendly people, unobtrusive and helpful officials, good charts and navigation aids, fascinating history and, in summer very long and sunny days.  Considering how close it lies to the major cruising nations of Europe and North America, it is surprisingly less visited than Patagonia and the Cape Horn. I would hazard a guess that more yachts visit Antarctica each year than cruise in Greenland.


This is the dominant factor in planning a Greenland cruise and is probably what puts most people off.  However with foresight and careful planning it is not such a fearsome obstacle. The worst pack ice is concentrated off the east coast, much of which is only accessible in the late summer and then not every year. Up until July there is usually a lot of ice off Cape Farewell and the southwest coast as far north as Cap Desolation.  Further north the west coast is mainly free from pack ice all year round though icebergs and the occasional floe are common. Disko Bay has huge numbers of icebergs that break off the glacier at Illulisat and that is one of the major attractions of a visit.

Cruising strategies

Getting to Greenland is not simply a matter of steering a great circle course for Cape Farewell. However, it is a practical enterprise for a summer sailing season. The easiest approach is from North America when around the end of May a yacht can avoid the worst icebergs by creeping up inside Newfoundland and then sail due east from the Strait of Belle Isle to get clear of the Labrador current which carries most of the icebergs south. Then steer north towards Nuuk or the coast further north, I would recommend a direct course towards Disko Bay.  Working south through the summer the southwest coast should be accessible by late July and August. Sailing back to Labrador and then further south is practicable in late August and September. There is a risk of hurricanes late in the season but these almost always pass south of Cape Farewell.

From Europe the traditional route is to Iceland and then on to Prince Christian Sound, just north of Cape Farewell.  This strategy means that it is usually impractical to visit before August which severely restricts the time available for a Greenland cruise. I would suggest sailing direct Farewell and then steering northwards to come in to the coast in June as mentioned above. It would be necessary to study the ice charts put out by the Danish meteorological service to see exactly how far south and west of the cape to sail (see also my note on weather below). An even better strategy would be to sail direct to Newfoundland and then up to Greenland.

The cruising

The west coast of Greenland is comparable to Norway in the extent of its off-lying islands, fjords, mountains and potential anchorages. Most places are rarely or never visited by yachts. It would require many years to explore this coast in detail. We were particularly impressed with the areas of Disko Bay, Nuuk Fjord, Tunugdliarfik (Eriks fjord to the Vikings) and Prince Christian Sound. To anchor in bays where Viking ships once offloaded supplies from Europe and bartered for ivory and fur, where Norsemen thrived for 500 years before Columbus and where their ruins are still very visible and thrilling to explore is a great experience.  Though there are many good harbours and anchorages (see the RCCPF guide Faeroe, Iceland, Greenland), there is often ice drifting about and a careful watch needs to be kept for floes that may drive the boat ashore or tear out the anchor.

Illulisat glacier ice meets the sea at Disko Bay


The towering mountains and tumbling glaciers of Prince Christian Sound are often compared with the Beagle Channel in Patagonia. Nearby Cape Farewell deserves to be compared to Cape Horn, in fact aboard Balæna, we found it just as challenging. It was respected by the whalers and fisherman who sailed the Greenland seas but lies off the beaten track for most Atlantic shipping so has not acquired the fearsome reputation of its southerly sister. The bad weather here is a much more local phenomenon than at the southern tip of South America where storms can cover vast swathes of ocean.

Even in summer, depressions sweep out of the Gulf of St Lawrence and intensify to the south of Greenland. During the hurricane season the remains of tropical storms travelling up the Eastern seaboard of North America often aggravate the situation. The combined presence of relatively stable high pressure from the cold air of the Greenland icecap and the high mountain chain running down its coast compresses the isobars dramatically in a belt about 100 miles wide to the south and east of the cape. Even quite minor depressions can follow each other like pearls on a string every few days giving a constant stream of gale to hurricane force winds between SE and NE, making this a lee shore, with the accompanying rain and low cloud. Add the ever present icebergs, even in late summer (in early summer dense pack ice stretches far out to sea), and you have the makings of a real hell’s corner in the oceans.

One of the surprising things about Greenland’s weather is that, due to the depressions being deflected S and E of the cape, the weather can change for the better very rapidly as you sail up the W coast and away from Cape Farewell. In the fjords it can be calm and sunny when severe storms are raging to the south. Luckily weather forecasting is very accurate and when leaving Greenland waters there are good places to shelter and wait for an auspicious moment to cast off and run the gauntlet.


In the towns all foodstuffs are available from very well stocked Danish supermarkets, but prices for fresh products, which have to be flown in, are very high. Alcohol is prohibitively expensive, though nobody seems to mind if a boat takes sufficient for her own crews needs.

Boat facilities

The good news is that there is almost no tax on diesel and boat supplies, which are surprisingly easily available as there are plenty of local boats. There are no facilities that are directed towards a cruising yacht. However, there is a very large fleet of pleasure motorboats. There are marinas for motor boats in several places but low power cables make them innaccesible to yachts. In the Nuuk area the local boat club has laid heavy moorings in the fjords and invites visitors to use them. Most of the large settlements have a crane capable of lifting a light displacement yacht and there are fishing boatyards with large slipways in many places. A boat in need of repair or storage overwinter should be able to find help without great difficulty. Marine engineering and motor workshops are also common and run to a high standard.


Faroe, Iceland and Greenland RCC Pilotage Foundation Willy Ker. Imray.

Land under the Pole Star Helge Ingstad. A classic account of cruising the SW coast in a small boat in the 1950’s by the man who found the only proven Viking site in North America.

Viking - The North Atlantic Saga Smithsonian Institution Press. A scholarly and authoritative text on the Viking period with a very heavy emphasis on the Greenland colonies and exploration of Vinland.


© Andy O'Grady



Cruising the Eastern Mediterranean

Its handy to take a line down through Italy and then on through Sicily and Malta to Libya which roughly divides the Mediterranean into east and west. Its as much a cultural line as a geographical one, splitting Roman Catholic Italy down the middle and enclosing the Orthodox Balkans and Greece and the Muslim countries of Turkey around to Libya in an eastern bloc. Like all dividing lines it can obscure as much as it reveals, sailing-wise as well as culturally, but its handy start for looking at the eastern Mediterranean.

Around the eastern basin there are 14 countries and millennia of accumulated history and culture. All around the coast the vestiges of past civilizations can be seen, from the Phoenicians through the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Selcuks, Ottomans, and other Muslim nations as well as adventurers like the Venetians, Genoese, the French and the British. Visitors should make some effort to venture inland and not just touch on the coast.



Milos in the Aegean


Cruising strategies

Yachts coming up from the Red Sea will usually potter up some of the Israeli coast or head directly across to Turkey. Southern Cyprus has only a couple of marinas which are notoriously hard to find a berth in and likewise Northern Cyprus also has little space for visiting yachts. Yachts cruise the Turkish coast and the Greek islands before heading west to Italy and the western Mediterranean before crossing the Atlantic.

Cruising folk often dally in this part of the world seduced by the easy day-sailing from one destination to the next and also by the relatively modern western-orientated cultures that make it easy to refit, travel and fit into things ashore. Some never leave. There is a lot of cruising to be had here and you can easily spend a season in Turkey and then another season in Greece before heading up the Adriatic or dawdling around Italy.

Cruising-wise you have a lot more options for anchoring out and getting away from it all on this side of the Mediterranean. Between the achipelagos scattered around the coasts of Croatia and Greece and the much indented coastlines of Italy, Croatia, Greece and Turkey there are a lot of small harbours and anchorages and fewer marinas than in the western Mediterranean. The coast of the Levant from Syria to Egypt is a lot straighter with fewer safe harbours and good anchorages.

EMYR   The Eastern Mediterranean Yacht Rally is a cruise in company around the southeast corner of the Mediterranean taking just over a month. There is a feeder rally earlier from Istanbul. The rally usually starts mid-May in Kemer Marina in Turkey and visits Syria, Northern Cyprus, Lebanon, Israel and Egypt depending on the political situation. It is a popular way to visit this part of the world and for yachts heading down the Red Sea in late July and August makes a convenient and very social start before going through Suez and on.

Seasons and winds

The normal sailing season here is from April through to October. The summer has a settled weather pattern that is predictable from year to year. In the spring and autumn depressions move over the area or over the land masses to the north or south causing gales over the area. These are well forecast and there are safe anchorages and harbours everywhere. In the summer the meltemi blows briskly down through the Aegean at anything from 15 to 30 knots. In the spring and autumn winds are generally less. Sea areas outside the Aegean are mostly subject to sea breezes in the summer which can be anything from a lazy 5-10 knots to brisker winds of 15-20 knots depending on the area.

Astipalaia in the Aegean

Weather forecasts for the eastern Mediterranean are good with 5 day forecasts available over the internet from official met offices and other sources and grib files are available for up to 7 days. Shorter range 48 hour forecasts are available on Navtex, VHF and SSB. Temperatures in the summer are in the 25º-30 ºC range though unlike the Tropics the humidity is very low so it is a dry heat. Although the climate is benign you are in comparitively high latitudes so you get light until late into the evening and not the abrupt darkness early on of the Tropics. In the spring and autumn temperatures are less and in the winter temperatures drop to 10º -18ºC except in the Adriatic where it can be a lot colder in winter. Greece and Turkey are popular places for yachts to winter over and there are numerous marinas offering good winter rates. Malta and southern Italy are also popular for the winter.


The eastern Mediterranean is a popular place for people to visit both land-based and on the water. This means that in spring through to late autumn there are enough restaurants, bars and cafes to satisfy everyone. Eating out is a national sport in the Mediterranean and an evening stroll (the volta in Greece, passaregio in Italy) after the sun has gone down is a national pastime.

Shopping is good throughout the northern countries from Italy to Turkey where you can buy just about everything and local markets for fruit and vege are excellent. In the south the shopping is less international apart from Israel and Cyprus. Larnaca in southern Cyprus is an excellent place to stock up in if heading down the Red SeaIf you are living aboard through the winter it pays to make a few enquiries about how many of the restaurants, bars and shops stay open through the winter as in some places you will find more than 50% of them will close for the off season. Some marinas provide additional facilities to make life more social for liveaboards during the winter and its worth listening in to the grapevine to find out whats going on.

                                                               Vege market in Turkey


Yacht facilities are well developed in all the northern countries and you won’t have much trouble finding somewhere to leave the boat for the winter afloat or ashore. Deals can be done in some places though not everywhere. Most spares are readily available in the EU countries and can be ordered in the others although customs procedures can be bothersome. On the southern side yacht facilities are sparse and you will struggle to get most things.


Imray Mediterranean Almanac Ed. Rod Heikell and Lucinda Michell. Imray. Biennial publication

Italian Waters Pilot   Rod Heikell. Imray

Adriatic Pilot   T & D Thompson. Imray

Greek Waters Pilot   Rod Heikell. Imray

Ionian   Rod Heikell. Imray

West Aegean   Rod Heikell. Imray

East Aegean   Rod Heikell. Imray

Turkish Waters & Cyprus Pilot   Rod Heikell. Imray           


orth Africa Pilot  Graham Hutton. Imray


  © Rod Heikell


Ocean Passages and Landfalls

Last year Ocean Passages and Landfalls which I wrote with Andy O'Grady and the help of an awful lot of friends out sailing on the oceans was published by Imray. Now I'm not going to do this too often but I've reproduced some of the pages below so you can get an idea of what the book is about. You can get it from Imrays or booksellers like Amazon and others.

Imray has a set of corrections up on their website and I have put a straight text version on the book supplements page. Below there is a random selection of pages.





















































































Malaysia post tsunami

From the Skylax blog 10-07-07

Indian Ocean Cruising Guide proof time .....!

I'm just reading through the page proofs for the new edition of Indian Ocean Cruising Guide ( and I'm amazed how SE Asia has bounced back after the Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004. When I got in contact with people I knew out there a decent interval after the tsunami their message was please, please don't write off the yachting scene here. We need people to keep coming. Below are a few pictures from early 2006 with an almost surreal appearance of calm. We could see only odd bits of debris and damage from the tsunami wandering around Malaysia and Thailand. I remember seeing pictures of Telaga Marina which was a soup of boats and pontoons after the tsunami. Now it looks better than it ever did.

Photos are all by Lu Michell except Telaga Marina tsunami picture

The new Tanjong City Marina in the heart of Georgetown on Penang. So new it had only a handful of boats in it.

The Royal Langkawi Yacht Club looking across to the ferry pier. Shelter is much improved with the detached outer breakwater.

Telaga Marina. Now it looks better than ever post-tsunami.

Telaga Marina in the tsunami



Yacht Haven Marina on Phuket

Zara at Yacht Haven kindly supplied some photos of Yacht Haven and the latest info. below on this marina. I spent some time here a while ago and hope to do so again soon. Its a dreamy lost part of the world, where you figure if you never got in touch with anyone again it would take years for them to find you sipping a beer and contemplating the view for the n'th time.

Hi Rod,

Please find a couple of photos attached.
You will see in the marina helicam shot a few piles with no pontoons...we are in the process of building the docks for these plus more piles and a long finger, perpendicular to the land, from the end of the present piles.  We are then installing 6 x 30m berths, 6 x 25m berths and 14 x 20 m berths in this enclosed area.  Completion planned December 2007.
we are waiting for environmental permissions to build a small boat yard, 150m service dock and fuel dock - hopefully these will be under construction early next year.
We do now have 5 x studio apartments, 1 x 1 bed and 1 x 2 bed, all high standard.  They are preferably long term rentals but we can be flexible...if they are ever available!  We have done several feasibility surveys on shoreside development and presently have plans being drawn up by design developers and architects but I doubt anything will start for at least a year and then it will be a long term project, concentrating on quality, not quantity and being as "green" as possible.
Present shoreside facilities include:  ATM, Wifi throughout the marina, phones to selected docks, SEAL Superyachts(agents), Yacht Solutions (agents), charter and sales brokers, chandlery, coffee shop, restaurant, Internet cafe, car/taxi hire, management services, woodworkers, fibreglass/paint repair, mechanics...and more. 
Please let me know if you need more.
B Rgds
p.s.  Photo shows, Argo, Montigne, Vie sans Souci and Infatuation

Yacht Haven Marina
141/2 Moo 2, Tumbol Maikhao,
Amphur Thalang, Phuket,83110
Tel: +66 76 206 704
Fax: +66 76 206 706
VHF 68   8 10.2N  98 20.5 E
Helicam of Yacht Haven Marina on Phuket
Yacht Haven Marina

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