Fishing while cruising in the Mediterranean

Fortunately (for Gianluca), food would not be in short supply this trip. Up until today, I would have confessed to being one of the worlds worst fishermen. All I could show for two years of effort while underway (and the loss of innumerable lures), was one very small tuna and a seagull. Not anymore!



Behold… (see photo)

I had to stop fishing or I’d catch much more than the two of us could possibly eat!

Fishing, ha, there’s nothing to it. All you need is to be where the fish are.

Or perhaps it being almost November had something to do with it, or the fact that there were no other boats to be seen in the area (since loosing sight of Sardinia), or…

Frankly, I haven’t a clue, but that didn’t stop me fetching my copy of “The Cruiser’s Handbook of Fishing” by Scott and Wendy Bannerot, and with great enthusiasm learning to identify and clean my catch.

After a gruesome and surprisingly bloody job in which Eileen’s push-pit started to look like something out of a B-grade horror movie, we were ready for the good bit. Cooking and eating the catch of the day. I had never eaten such fresh fish, and I must say, Dorado fried in a little olive oil and seasoned with rosemary is truly exquisite.

Marine weather forecasts by SMS


I’ve spent the last couple of weeks improving my weather by sms service for the Mediterranean and East Atlantic (Including E Atlantic islands and the mainland from the bay of Biscay to Cape Verde).

Here is the latest on how to use it.


Send a text message from your mobile phone like so:


to the following Belgian phone number:

+32 498327494

You will receive the wind forecast for Latitude 38 degrees, Longitude 8 degrees. Note the leading 0 before the 8. This is required for longitude entries of less than 2 digits.


For positions west of the Prime Meridian prepend a – symbol as follows:



The sms you receive will look something like this:




+03:F3 W

+06:F3 NW

+09:F2 NW

+12:F1 NW

+18:F1 S

+24:F1 S

+30:F2 NW

+36:F1 N



The first line shows the date and time of the GRIB forecast. In this case 06:00 UTC on the 23rd of October.

The second line gives the position in degrees latitude and longitude. Note that longitude also shows minutes. The reason for this is that the East Atlantic weather information (just to make things difficult) is provided in 1.25 degrees of longitude increments.

-05.00, -06.15, -07.30, -08.45, -10.00…

Hence if you request:


What you receive is in fact the GRIB data for position 35,-08.45

i.e. 35 degrees Latitude N, and 8 degrees 45minutes longitude W

So the idea of the second line is to inform you of the actual position of the GRIB data (which may not be the position you explicitly requested).

Awkward at first, especially as requesting -09 degrees longitude will result in the system NOT finding any data (surely 8.45 was near enough!), but you will get the hang of it.


Having trialled the system this summer in the Mediterranean, I was occasionally caught out, even when the reported wind speed and direction was fine. The trouble was that the sms system neglected to inform me of pending thunderstorms or large seas.

In this enhanced version you now receive a second sms (after about a minute) with the marine forecast for the specified area. Since sms messages are by definition small, I’ve had to create a pseudo shorthand for the forecasts.

All occurrences of North, South, East and West have been substituted with N,S,E,W.

Increasing is shown as < and decreasing as >

occasional as occ. , variable as var. and moderate as mod.

Showers becomes SH and Rain RA


In NW, Mainly SW 2 to 4. In SE, Mainly NE 2 to 4. Rough with NW swell abating. Scattered RA later in N.


It shouldn’t be too difficult to decipher. 😉


While I am testing the system it is available free of charge, but if you find this weather service useful, a small donation at will help pay the sms bill and ensure further development.



Free weather forecasts for sailors by SMS


GRIB data points

GRIB data points for the Mediterranean

I have been keeping myself busy while Eileen of Avoca has been out of the water by setting up my own weather by mobile phone service for the Mediterranean.

See photo for current coverage.


Because when the weather turns, setting the computer up for a quick weather check can be somewhat of a challenge. I wanted something much simpler, and weather forecast  (text messages) by mobile phone fit the bill.

With a satellite phone I can even use the system mid Atlantic! (Except that I have no Atlantic GRIB data as yet, and no satellite phone).

The system uploads Mediterranean GRIB data (at 1 degree resolution) 4 times a day. You access it by sending a text message giving your latitude and longitude to the nearest degree.


Example 36N 25E for the sea between Crete and Kos

36N 13E for Malta

36N 05W for the straights of Gibraltar


You compose an SMS message with the following content (make sure it is all lower case):




and send it to +32 498327494


and a few seconds later you have the 24hr forecast for those coordinates.

Note that west of the meridian you use a negative number, so for the straights of Gibraltar you need to send:




Best of all I offer it to my loyal blog followers for free (all 3 of you). At least while the pre-paid credit lasts.




Caught in a gale!

Day 28

My last minute checks via the Internet (The Yacht Club boasted Wi-Fi) of the expected weather using several sites including

were very accurate for at least 48hrs.

The forecast for day 3 is included here:

Mediterranean weather forecast

Mediterranean weather forecast

Even the most pessimistic weather models did not prepare me for what I was to encounter on the 28th of November just 60NM SE of Crete.
The wind was consistently from the NW and considerably stronger than the anticipated 15 to 20kts but Eileen of Avoca was making steady progress on the auxiliary under control of the Autohelm. I had already dropped the mainsail and hoisted my new trysail so that the gaff would stop swinging from side to side.
I rested during the night and as I had only recently topped up the fuel tank assumed there was little to do until morning. I was right; all was well until daybreak (30NM from Crete) when the motor stopped. I sprang into action, heaving-to and adding another jerry can from my fuel reserve in decidedly heavier seas. The engine refused to start as it had probably sucked air into the fuel line!

Could I sail the rest of the way?

Could I bleed the fuel line in these conditions?



The first question was immediately answered after a quick 360-degree turn. With the wind from the NW I could choose to return to Egypt or head for either Libya or Cyprus. None of the options appealed given the worsening conditions, especially when I was so close to Crete. I would have to get the engine started regardless of the nausea overwhelming me while examining the fuel line. I gave the ignition another try and miraculously the Beta spluttered to life. Joy! Setting a course of 320° at 3kts, I put in two of the companionway boards and huddled in what shelter I could find to count down the remaining miles.
Progress was slow, and the waves grew gradually larger. I would conservatively estimate that the largest (coming from the North 40° or so from the general NW swell) were no more than 4 metres, and the wind speed at the low end of F7, but it certainly felt worse.
The VHF issued a constant stream of severe gale warnings, but I was relatively sure as I approached the lee of Crete to be sheltered from the worse of the gale. Nevertheless I had never been in such rough conditions with my Yarmouth 23.
The sideswiping breakers from the north were my main concern. While infrequent, they would slam heavily against Eileen and push her some distance laterally. The resulting propeller cavitation ceased all forward motion. Despite this Eileen did not seem too troubled by the turbulent seas. I was obviously the weakest link, especially after being thrown against the tiller (while adding the last of my fuel), breaking the Autohelm mount in the process. I would be hand steering for the rest of the journey, unable to shelter from the incessant cascades of water flowing over Eileen’s deck. I unwittingly refrained from any movement deemed less than critical so regretfully I have no photos to share, but perhaps I can be forgiven given that even getting a drink of water was a Herculean task.
Five miles from the coast and ten hours after dawn I was still battling a wild sea. The expected lee from Crete was evasive but as I turned north conditions did gradually improve. With immense relief I anchored off a small beach near Erimoupoleos for an hour to recover.

Three days at sea

Day 16, 17, 18 and 19

The Passenger

The Passenger

We left Ayos Nikolaos just after midnight to take advantage of favourable winds. After rounding Akra Sidheros I set a course of 140° and watched the GPS count down the remaining 300+ NM to Alexandria.

It couldn’t have been simpler. For the first 24 hours we ran with the wind. The next 24 were spent motoring in a calm sea and the last 24 were only slightly marred by a F3 headwind.

I had hooked up my shortwave receiver on day 3 of the passage to confirm the weather forecast (Area B) and have included my data gathering below for posterity:

Meteorological Forecast NE01 [Tu 10:10]

1010 UTC. 18 N*V.



VALID : 1300 UTC 18 NOV.

TILL : 0100 UTC 19 NOV.








H./OF WAVES : 01 – 1.75 MTRS. AT A,B,C

01 – 02 MTRS. AT D


08 – 10 KMTRS. AT B,C,D



CLOUD* : 3 – 5/* LOW + MEDIUM AT A.

* – 4/8 LOW + MEDIUM AT B,C,D


We took 4-hour shifts during the passage arriving in Alexandria by nightfall on the 19th of November.

The city lights were resplendent and as I motored into the eastern harbor.

While winding my way past the myriad of anchored vessels a military official in a small motor boat pulled up alongside and made it known (in Arabic) that he required our passports.

Alexandria Egypt

Alexandria Egypt

Taking them in hand he indicated I should follow as he led us through a maze of fishing boats to a small jetty where members of the Egyptian Yacht Club assisted with mooring. After a surprisingly sincere welcome, and explanations that passports would be returned in the morning after completing the necessary paperwork, I spent my first night in this truly exotic port.