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Fitting out for the Mediterranean

Brilliant sun, rapid wind changes, no tidal flushing, heat and more frequent anchoring are all factors to consider when fitting out for the Mediterranean. And some things are used much less than in challenging northern waters - radar, chart plotters, heavy weather clothing. Read on . . .

Sailboat Rigging. 

Rapid and un-predictable changes in wind strength are a feature of Mediterranean sailing, even in settled weather. Sail reefing needs to be quick and easy.

Sewage; Holding Tanks. 

Sewage discharge (black water) detected within varying ranges of the shore (2nm to 12nm depending on the country) will be heavily fined. A holding tank is therefore essential, though not a legal requirement. Pump out facilities are rare, so discharge has to be under way, distant from the shore. Shower or washing up water (grey water) discharge may also be defined as "pollution" in some countries, and also be fined. "Discharge grey water discreetly" is the advice given by charter companies, who also advise not to shower on deck with soap.

Drinking Water. 

In areas with few marinas, drinking water is not always easily available, so large water tanks (400 litre plus) are an advantage. A water jerry can, 25m of hosepipe (some like a Hozelock reel) and a range of couplings help top these up. A sun heated water bag is useful, so is a deck shower for a post-swim rinse (but think before "polluting " with soap). For voyaging and living aboard for longer periods, water makers give great flexibility, but eat a lot of power, and need regular use, or regular maintenance.

Low Voltage Electrics.

Longer periods on board increase the demands on low voltage power supplies. Consider improvements to all three system  elements - consumption, storage and charging


  1. A fridge allows a much wider range of food storage. First, ensure it is well insulated. An air cooled fridge in cooler climates will use from 40-60 ampere hours (AH) a day - more in warmer weather. South of Biscay, water cooled fridges are far more efficient, using about half that amount 20-30AH.
  2. Portable computers may add a further 30AH.
  3. Lighting. Change to LED where feasible. This one off expense will lower lighting power consumption to 20% of the original levels.

Storage.  Your main cost for low volt (12v or 24v) storage is the need to replace batteries every few years. Battery life depends on how often the batteries are discharged below 50% of capacity. Calculate your battery capacity needs by assuming you do not let batteries discharge below 50%. Track discharge by fitting a Multi-meter which has an AH meter

  • Engine starter batteries, anchor winch feeds, and  bow thruster banks have ro deliver high currents for brief periods. Several hundreds of "Cold cranking amps" (CCA) specify their performance. To achieve this, they have many thin plates. This delicate construction strongly limits the number of times they can be discharged below 50% before they have to be replaced.
  • Domestic banks need to be more robust, and Tractor Batteries are often preferred since they will deliver many more 50% discharge sequences before replacement is needed

Charging. Your main charging source is likely to be the engine alternator, backed up with solar (in sunny climes) and maybe wind in trade-wind localities. Efficient re-charging, supplied by dedicated charge controllers matched to each bank's need, will save engine running time. Shore power, when available, is a boost to save engine running time. A portable 240v petrol genny is very convenient if your engine starter batteries have been overworked, but will need to deliver about 2kw at least. If you have air conditioning and space, a diesel 240v generator may be on your shopping list. 

  • Engine Alternator. Rather than using an internal alternator regulator, use intelligent regulators (Adverc, Sterling, other suppliers) which provide voltages matched to the battery bank to achieve a full charge as quickly as possible. This will save much engine running time. 
  • Any high  CCA batteries will need separate charge control from the domestic bank.  This may be achieved by switched control, or through using separate charge controllers. Separate chargers and regulators are the most effective best . 
  • Solar panels of about 60w to 80w will just about keep up with modest consumption, and with appropriate voltage controllers will keep your batteries alive during layup.
  • Wind generators are rarely value for money in the Med, but used by many in the trade windn belts.

240v Power.

Shore power is often available, but plugging in may require up to 30m of cable. Two lengths, one of 10m and one of 20m are the most flexible provision. Plug adapters may be needed, and a polarity checker is essential if continental plugs are used. Correct this with a made up polarity reverser. A multi-stage mains charger can also be driven from a portable petrol generator, though you'll probably need at least 2kw output for this to succeed. Boats with large electrical loads (water maker, freezer, TV, washing machine, air conditioning) must consider a diesel generator if they wish to run these loads away from shore power.


Camping gaz or look-alike containers and refills for butane are almost universally available throughout the Mediterranean, so consider converting from other types of gas supplies. Some countries offer camping gaz look-alikes, which will not be accepted in exchange for camping gaz cylinders, and sometimes vice versa.

Comfort & Cool. 

A swimming ladder is not just a leisure item, it’s a vital safety tool for recovering people from the water. Make sure it can be deployed by a person in the water at all times. For shade, don't get hung up with yottie blue - it absorbs and re-transmits heat. Use white for reflection. A large area sun awning which can stand up to some wind is needed when at anchor to extend your living space. A 1m x 2m rectangle of canvas with eyelets extends its utility when the sun is low. Some like biminis to provide shade at sea. When there’s a light breeze, wind scoops greatly improve ventilation. A spray hood keeps you dry and warm while bashing to windward. 

Anchor Control. 

Mooring may often be with your own anchor or kedge from one end of the boat, with the other end tied to the quay.  Anchoring with a long line ashore is also common. Some anchorages are 15m to 20m deep, especially in the east Mediterranean. Your bower anchor rode should be at least 70m, preferably 100m. This should be not less than 50m chain with the rest nylon. Your kedge and rode will often be man-handled from the stern, and needs to be light, but with at least 50m rode, 5m of which is chain, the rest nylon. Re-anchoring is quite common, so for vessels over 30ft, an electric anchor winch may be essential. To make stern-to mooring easy when short handed, this should have an up and down control, ideally with a secondary control in the cockpit. (See also, Med Mooring)

Anchor Types.

Hinged plough anchors (CQR type) and claw anchors (Bruce type) used to be very common, but compared to others, they need careful anchoring techniques, set unreliably, and often have to be re-set. Flat anchors (Danforth, Britany, Fortress) are light for their holding power (especially the aluminium alloy Fortress), need a lot of scope, set reasonably easily, but don’t tolerate changes in the direction of pull. However, they are very suitable as stern kedges when on a quay, or as a second anchor on a forked moor. Tests show that a range of more modern designs (Spade, Bugel, Rocna, Manson, Sword, Delta and others) set more reliably (some on shorter scopes), tolerate wind shifts better, and provide better holding power than older generation anchors. The tests also have difficulty proving significant differences between these modern anchors, which gives rise to many arguments about which is better; pointless arguments, since they're all good. Check the prices, and check which will fit your hawse, since changes to your hawse may be more expensive than changing the anchor

Warps, Fenders and planks. 

Two 15m nylon warps are needed to attach to the quay. Nylon has the stretch (20% elasticity) to cope with considerable surge from ferry wash or weather. Many people recommend additional shock absorbers — springs or snubbers — which may add another 20cm stretch.  When the boat is moored up for a period, consider chain loops ashore to reduce chafe. Two long warps (40 to 50m each) will be needed for long lines ashore or holding off in bad weather. Two additional short lines are useful as springs for the rare occasions when you moor alongside. A minimum of six robust fenders are essential to keep the neighbours at a distance in surge, plus one big ball fender for springing manouevres. Getting ashore from your berth will require either agility or some sort of gangway. At the simple end this will be a 2m x 30cm x 5cm plank, with a couple of holes drilled each end to take lashing ropes. At the complex end it will be a halyard hoisted passarelle with guys, hinges, hand rail and caster wheels.  A divided pulpit is useful when mooring bows to, and neat bow ladders help as well.

Essential Extras.

A tool kit to match your skills and maintenance abilities. Spare consumables (filters, impellers, drive belt, light bulbs, batteries, gear oil, engine oil). A long boat hook, long enough to shove lines below your keel/skeg gap. Snorkel kit, to see what’s wrapped around your prop, and to check the anchor is buried. If you have SCUBA kit aboard, check. In some areas its use is forbidden, or requires permission. Courtesy flags of your host country, in good condition, hoisted to the starboard spreader.

Nice to Have . . .

A bow thruster can save marriages in bigger boats mooring stern-to in a cross wind. A deck wash pump saves a lot of time dipping buckets into the ocean. A rope cutter on the prop shaft keeps you mobile after you’ve picked up a mooring messenger line; but you’ll have to dive afterwards to repair the mooring – or pay for a diver.  Air conditioning is real comfort in summer, but you’ll need shore power or a generator to run it. Cheaper to nip into an air conditioned café . . . perhaps using your folding bicycles if you have space to carry them.

Not Nice to Have . . .

Mosquitos are common in some areas. Nets to fit hatches will keep them at bay, while pyrethrin sprays (readily available in local shops) will deal with any invaders. Cockroaches are common where winters are warm, easily brought aboard with cardboard boxes. Boric acid is usually effective. Consider rat guards for your lines if you’re in a harbour where rats are reported as a threat, and don't lie alongside if there's rubbish nearby.

Personal Stuff. 

Oilskins should be carried for those occasional long wet night passages, although using a full set with trousers is rare. A lightweight waterproof top will meet most daytime needs. Sun protection is essential. Light long sleeved clothing is ideal, backed up with sunscreen on all exposed parts. Add hats and sunglasses if necessary. Polaroid sunglasses have the added benefit of making underwater rocks easier to spot, but make some electronic screens difficult to see. Remember any medications you need – though in some countries many of these are easily bought without prescription if you show the packaging.



Low voltage electrics Updated Jan 2018


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