After traveling by van for years, and in the wake of the world re-opening post-COVID, Kelli and I embarked on one of the biggest adventures on our bucket list. Buying and living on a boat in the Mediterranean.
Neither of us had much experience with large, live-aboard boats, although I sailed small dinghies growing up. But both of us, even before meeting one another, had long dreamt about learning how to sail and living aboard a boat.
Having seen so many of our other plans go out the window as we were confined to Australia during the COVID pandemic, this was the one thing we most wanted to get done. In fact, we told ourselves it would be our last hurrah. One more trip, one season sailing the med, before we moved somewhere permanently to settle down.
Now, moored in a marina in Montenegro, about to put the boat up following our second season, we are not sure when this adventure will end. We have fallen in love with sailing, particularly in the beautiful Mediterranean.
This is the guide we wished we’d had starting out. Everything we have learned living on a boat in the Mediterranean.
Can You Live on a Boat in the Mediterranean?
Since antiquity, the Mediterranean has been the backdrop for mythological sailing adventures. While the allure of sailing the beautiful coastline and stunning archipelagos of this fabled sea hasn’t changed, many things have changed and sailing and living on a boat in the Mediterranean is now far less treacherous than it was in the past. Many sailors live here on a permanent or seasonal basis.
The Med is one of the most recognizable and popular sailing grounds in the world, and for good reason. Naturally beautiful, culturally rich, and with excellent sailing conditions, the Mediterranean attracts sailors from all over the world. As such, the strong sailing and boating culture means that the infrastructure, services, and legal framework for living aboard in the Mediterranean are readily available, accessible, and affordable.
Why Sail the Mediterranean?
For us, the Mediterranean was a great choice because of its great sailing, relative affordability, high level of boating infrastructure and services, and because it is a relatively calm and predictable region to learn to sail in. However, there are a multitude of reasons that make this one of the greatest sailing destinations.
The Mediterranean has been recognized the world over as a premiere sailing destination, offering a great sailing experience backdropped by naturally stunning scenery and the rich cultural tapestry of Southern Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa.
It is home to a huge number of popular coastal destinations from the glamorous French Riviera to the tranquil Greek Islands. Whether your vibe is bars and nightlife of Hvar, Ibiza, and Mykonos, the quiet anchorages of the Croatian Archipelagos, or the high level of service and friendly communities found in the marinas and yacht clubs of the Med, there’s something for everyone here.
Renowned for its breathtaking landscapes, including crystal-clear waters, dramatic coastlines, and idyllic islands, the Mediterranean is one of the most beautiful regions in the world to explore by boat. The scenery varies spectacularly from one area to another, offering an endlessly diverse range of environments to explore.
Given the region’s historical and geographical importance at the confluence of Asia, Europe, and Africa, it should come as no surprise that sailing in the Med allows you to explore a wide assortment of cultures and ancient histories including ruins, historic cities, and picturesque villages.
The Mediterranean has some of the world’s most renowned cuisine. It includes celebrated Italian, Greek, Spanish, Turkish, and French as well as lesser-known fare such as Albanian, Tunisian, and more.
The climate is also very attractive, characterized by warm summers and mild winters. This makes it possible to sail year-round, a big plus for many full-time sailors and liveaboards. The calm and consistent winds are another big advantage of the Mediterranean, especially during the summer months. The prevailing winds, such as the Meltemi in the Aegean or the Mistral of southern France, make for reliable sailing conditions.
The compact, enclosed layout of the Mediterranean and its countries is a big plus allowing sailors to explore multiple destinations without undertaking long, open-water voyages, making it accessible for sailors of varying skill levels. Similarly, the Mediterranean offers excellent opportunities for island-hopping. Many islands are in close proximity to one another, again, making it easy to travel slowly and safely, without having to make long, treacherous voyages.
The region also has a well-developed sailing infrastructure, including numerous marinas, anchorages, and services for boaters. This makes it convenient for provisioning, repairs, and mooring. This high level of infrastructure and resources also means that the Mediterranean is generally considered a safe sailing destination with well-maintained navigational aids and rescue services. Additionally, the strong sailing culture here lends itself to the hosting of various sailing events and regattas throughout the year, providing opportunities for both competitive and leisurely sailing experiences.
While the Mediterranean offers numerous advantages for sailors, it’s definitely not without its problems, the big one being the huge numbers of sailors that descend on the most popular sailing regions in summer. Additionally, some areas may have specific challenges to consider in terms of weather, regulations, navigation, or a lack of access to services.
Ultimately, whether the Mediterranean is right for you depends on your personal preferences, interests, and the type of sailing experience you are looking for.
Sailing Conditions and Weather in the Mediterranean
The Mediterranean has distinct sailing seasons with summer being the most popular time for sailing due to warm weather and consistent winds. However, some areas may be crowded during this time, so you might prefer to learn during the shoulder seasons (as we did) for a quieter experience.
The Mediterranean refers to a large area, so knowledge of the specific region you are sailing in at any given time is essential, as is ongoing monitoring of the weather. However, we can provide a general overview of the weather conditions sailors might encounter:
Seasonal Weather in the Mediterranean
Summer (June to August):
- High Temperatures: Summers in the Mediterranean are typically hot and dry with temperatures often exceeding 30°C (86°F) or even higher. In some areas, such as the southern Mediterranean and the eastern part of the sea, temperatures can reach well above 35°C (95°F). This year (2023), we experienced two heatwaves in Greece just weeks apart that saw sustained periods with temperatures hovering around 38°C.
- Calm Seas: The summer months are generally characterized by calm seas and light winds. This is a popular time for leisure boating and sailing, as the weather is mostly stable.
Autumn (September to November):
- Mild Temperatures: As autumn progresses, temperatures start to cool down, but they remain pleasant for sailing, ranging from 20°C to 30°C (68°F to 86°F).
- Increasing Rainfall: Rainfall begins to increase during the fall, and occasional storms can occur, particularly in the western Mediterranean.
Winter (December to February):
- Cool and Wet: Winters in the Mediterranean are cool and wet with temperatures ranging from 10°C to 15°C (50°F to 59°F) on average. In some northern areas, temperatures can drop even lower.
- Storms: The Mediterranean can experience strong storms during the winter which can bring high winds, heavy rain, and rough seas. These conditions can be challenging for sailors, and it’s essential to monitor weather forecasts and exercise caution.
Spring (March to May):
- Gradual Warming: Spring is a transitional season with temperatures gradually warming up. It’s a pleasant time for sailing with temperatures ranging from 15°C to 25°C (59°F to 77°F).
- Variable Conditions: Spring weather can be unpredictable with occasional rain and variable winds. However, the seas are generally calmer than in the winter.
Winds of the Mediterranean
The Mediterranean is known for its prevailing winds, such as the Mistral in the western Mediterranean and the Meltemi in the Aegean Sea. These winds can provide good sailing conditions but can also be strong and challenging. Sailors should familiarise themselves with the prevailing winds in the specific area of the Med they are navigating.
The most prevalent winds through the Mediterranean include:
- Mistral: The Mistral is a strong, cold, northwesterly wind that blows from southern France into the Mediterranean Sea. It is most common during the winter and spring months and can cause sudden drops in temperature and clear skies.
- Meltemi: The Meltemi is a popular northwest wind that blows regularly in the summer through the Aegean and Ioanian Seas. The Meltemi usually begins in the afternoons and drops off by nightfall.
- Tramontane: Similar to the Mistral, the Tramontane is a strong and dry wind that blows from the north or northwest down the Rhône Valley in France. It can be especially intense in the Gulf of Lion.
- Marin: Marin is a warm and moist wind that blows from the southeast onto the coast of Languedoc and Roussillon in France. It brings rain and coastal fog. It blows year-round but is mild in summer increasing in intensity over winter.
- Bora: The Bora is a cold and dry northeasterly wind that affects the Adriatic coast, especially in the winter. It can be extremely strong and is known for its ability to cause rapid temperature drops and rough seas.
- Sirocco: Sirocco is a hot, humid, and often dusty wind that blows from the southeast across the Mediterranean Sea. It originates in the Sahara Desert and can bring high temperatures and sometimes heavy rain, especially in the southern Mediterranean.
- Levant: The Levant is an easterly wind that blows from the eastern Mediterranean, particularly in the region around Greece and Turkey. It can bring moist air and sometimes stormy weather.
- Poniente: Wind specific to the western Mediterranean, affecting the southern coast of Spain. Poniente is a westerly wind.
- Libeccio: Libeccio is a southwestern wind that affects the western coast of Italy and the northern coast of Corsica. It can bring wet and stormy weather to these areas.
Local and Regional Weather Patterns
Sailors should also be aware of local weather phenomena, such as coastal breezes, katabatic winds, and the influence of nearby landmasses on wind patterns.
When living on a boat in the Mediterranean you should always check weather forecasts and be prepared to quickly adapt to changing conditions.
There have been numerous occasions where the weatherman didn’t quite nail the forecast such as our overnight in Kakome Beach, Albania.
Here are some general tips to help you sail and navigate safely in the Mediterranean.
The Mediterranean has few reefs or shallow sand bars to worry about, however, the shoals and rocks, especially near the coasts, can pose a threat to vessels. Pay attention to your depth sounder and charts.
Currents and Tides
Both are generally absent in the Mediterranean. Being an almost closed sea, there is almost no tidal effect. The effects of currents throughout the Mediterranean are also negligible. Some specific regions may experience strong currents such as the Strait of Gibraltar where the Med meets the Atlantic.
What Qualifications Do I Need to Sail the Mediterranean?
The qualifications you need to sail in the Mediterranean Sea can vary based on the specific country you are sailing from and the type of vessel you are operating. However, there are some general qualifications and considerations that you should keep in mind:
International Sailing License/Certification
- All Mediterranean countries require some type of sailing license or certification to operate a boat. The type of license required can vary. For example, in many European countries, the International Certificate of Competence (ICC) is widely accepted.
- The specific certification required often depends on the size and type of the boat you are operating. For smaller vessels, a basic sailing license might be sufficient, while larger vessels may require more advanced certifications.
- In some Mediterranean countries, you might need a VHF radio license to operate a marine radio. This license allows you to use VHF radios legally and responsibly, which is essential for communication and safety at sea.
An equivalent certification issued by your own country may be accepted in lieu of an international license. In Croatia, I was able to use my basic state-issued (Queensland, Australia) marine license in conjunction with a VHF radio qualification to satisfy local requirements. (I had to look up the relevant information and provide it to the harbor master who was not aware of this particular equivalent license).
Some countries require a certain number of qualified crew members aboard the vessel, especially for larger boats. Make sure your crew members also have the necessary qualifications if required by local laws.
What Informal Qualifications and Skills Should I Have to Sail the Mediterranean?
- Experience: Besides formal qualifications, practical experience is crucial. Having logged hours on the water, especially in varying conditions, will enhance your confidence and ability to handle different situations.
- Navigation Skills: Proficiency in navigation, including the use of charts, GPS, and other navigational tools, is essential for safe sailing. Consider taking navigation courses if you’re not already experienced.
- First Aid Certification: While not always a legal requirement, having a basic first aid certification can be valuable in case of emergencies.
- Mechanical Skills: Both sailboats and motorboats need to be able to rely on their engine in emergency situations. Knowing how to diagnose and troubleshoot or repair the engine can be a crucial skill.
- Electrical and Plumbing Skills: While you don’t need to be an expert in these areas having a thorough understanding of the systems on your own boat will be invaluable when issues arise.
- Language Skills: While not essential, having basic language skills in the local language of the countries you plan to visit can be incredibly helpful, especially for communication in marinas and emergency situations.
Resources and Apps For Sailing the Mediterranean
This is a list of resources and apps that we use while sailing and living on a boat in the Mediterranean. If we’ve missed a good one, please comment at the bottom of this post!
- Pilot books and guides for the region you are sailing such as The Adriatic Pilot.
- Windy App this weather forecasting app draws data from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Meteoblue, and the Copernicus Atmospheric Monitoring Service.
- Navionics provides electronic navigation charts with detailed cartography and modern navigational tools and features.
- Navily, a comprehensive community-driven cruising guide, has over 30,000 marinas and anchorages listed as well as 165,000 photos and comments from the community. It has also integrated booking for over 700 marinas across Europe.
- NoForeignLand is a not-for-profit community-driven project where sailors can share information on anchorages, marinas, services, and much much more.
- WikiVoyage is a free web-based travel guide for travel destinations and travel topics written by volunteer authors. It has loads of helpful travel information beyond the scope of sailing apps and websites.
- Hard Copy Charts of the regions you intend to sail should be kept at hand even if you primarily use electronic charts.
- Facebook Groups e.g. Med Sailing, sailing-related subreddits like r/sailing, dedicated forums like Cruiser Forum, and other sailing social media groups and forums offer a wealth of knowledge and a place to ask the community questions. They are particularly helpful when seeking answers about DIY projects and repairs for boats.
Learning to Sail in the Mediterranean
The Mediterranean Sea is an excellent place to learn how to sail.
The Mediterranean is a safe region to learn to sail thanks to its warm waters, lack of reefs, well-documented navigational charts, and well-documented sailing information.
Another benefit of learning to sail here is that the wind and weather in the Mediterranean are quite predictable, especially in the summer months. This makes it easier to plan suitable times and areas to learn to sail.
While winds are relatively predictable (compared to some other sailing regions) the Mediterranean still offers a range of sailing conditions and regional variety. This variability can be a valuable learning experience, exposing you to different scenarios and helping you become a more versatile sailor. What’s more the Mediterranean presents navigational challenges, including busy shipping lanes, and varying maritime regulations in different countries. These challenges allow learner sailors to gain experience as they sail the region.
Because the Mediterranean is so popular for sailing, many regions have well-established sailing schools and yacht clubs with experienced instructors who can provide sailing lessons and certifications. These instructors can help beginners build their skills in a safe environment. Throughout the Mediterranean, there are plenty of accredited sailing courses tailored to different skill levels, from beginner to advanced, and offer formal qualifications. For the same reason, there is good and affordable access to well-maintained boats and facilities for learners. Particularly if you’re enrolling in a sailing school.
Our personal experience learning to sail in Croatia was overwhelmingly positive and affordable. We paid a local family-run sailing school to teach us how to sail aboard our own boat. They focused heavily on docking and anchoring skills, making sure we could safely enter and exit ports and anchorages. We spent 10 days learning how to sail and operate our boat and then we were on our own. In the following season, we slowly developed most of the skills needed to feel confident sailing and living on a boat in the Mediterranean.
Is the Mediterranean Good for Novice Sailors?
The Mediterranean Sea, at least in some areas, has several qualities that can make it a good choice for beginner sailors who have finished learning the basics and are ready to start sailing on their own.
Firstly, the predictable weather patterns already described can help create a stable and controlled environment for beginners to hone their skills. The warm and pleasant climate makes for comfortable conditions for novice sailors to practice and learn without the discomfort of extreme weather.
Some regions of the Mediterranean are particularly advantageous for novice sailors. Regions like the Dalmatian Coast, the Ionian Sea, and the Gulf of Fethiye offer calm predictable weather and ample anchorages and protection. As sailors grow in confidence they can develop their skills in more challenging sailing regions like the Cyclades and Dodecanese islands in Greece, the southern coast of Turkey, the Ligurian Sea in Italy, and the north coast of Corsica in France.
As we’ve mentioned, the Mediterranean has a well-developed infrastructure for sailing, including numerous marinas, sailing schools, and yacht clubs. These resources can be invaluable for beginner sailors in terms of education, support, and access to facilities. During our first season sailing, we had a hard and fast rule to go into the marina, quay, or mooring in winds above 20 knots, it was easy to stick to this rule in many parts of the Mediterranean where so many facilities exist (Albania being an exception).
The Mediterranean is also a wonderful place to spend the summer, surrounded by a diverse range of coastal destinations, each with its own unique charm and attractions. This allows beginner sailors to combine their learning experience with exploration and enjoyment of different cultures and landscapes.
In addition, coastal navigation in the Mediterranean is often straightforward, with easily identifiable landmarks and relatively short distances between ports. This simplicity can be reassuring for novice sailors who are just starting to learn navigation techniques.
The Mediterranean generally maintains high safety standards for boating and sailing. Marinas and charter companies often prioritize safety, and there are regulations in place to ensure safe practices. This can offer great peace of mind to the novice sailor.
And finally, the Mediterranean has a thriving sailing community, including both local and international sailors. This community can provide advice, camaraderie, and assistance when needed, making it easier for novice sailors to connect and seek guidance.
Buying a Boat in the Mediterranean
We bought our boat in Croatia at the beginning of 2022.
If you are planning to live on a boat in the Mediterranean, then buying a boat here can make sense. It is a reasonably straightforward process even if you are not a resident of a Mediterranean country.
With so many boats sailing the Med, it is little wonder that there is a busy marketplace for boats. The high transaction volume means that buyers should be able to find something perfect for their needs and budget. However, a large market can veil some bad actors and care should be taken to make sure you don’t end up with a lemon.
The accompanying costs of boat ownership are cheaper in the Mediterranean than in other places which helps to further offset the cost of buying a boat here.
Here are the steps to help you purchase a boat in the Mediterranean:
- Determine Your Budget:
- Before you start looking at boats, establish a budget that includes not only the purchase price but also ongoing costs like maintenance, insurance, and mooring fees.
- Research Your Preferences:
- Decide what type of boat you want. Are you looking for a sailboat or a motorboat? A catamaran or monohull? Consider your intended use (cruising, racing, fishing, etc.) and the size and features you need and desire.
- Choose a Location:
- The Mediterranean is vast, so determine which part of the Mediterranean you’d like to explore and where you plan to keep the boat. The Greek Islands and Croatia are some of the most popular areas and both have busy marketplaces.
- Search for Boats:
- Utilize various resources to search for available boats:
- We recommend buying through a reputable broker for added peace of mind.
- Inspect Boats:
- When you find a boat that interests you, schedule a visit to inspect it if possible. If it is not possible, ask the seller or broker to set up a video call to inspect the boat remotely. Pay attention to the boat’s condition, and ask questions about maintenance history, and any necessary repairs or upgrades.
- Have a Marine Survey:
- Unless you are an expert, it’s important to hire a marine surveyor to conduct a thorough inspection of the boat. This ensures that you’re aware of any potential issues or necessary repairs before finalizing the purchase.
- Negotiate the Purchase Price:
- Once you’re satisfied with the boat’s condition, negotiate the purchase price with the seller. Be prepared for a back-and-forth negotiation process (people are very invested, financially and emotionally in their boats). Be prepared to walk away if you can’t agree on a reasonable price based on the current market.
- Draft a Purchase Agreement:
- If you are buying through a broker (recommended), they will handle this step. If not, work with a legal professional or use a standard boat purchase agreement template to create a contract that outlines all terms and conditions of the sale. Ensure that all important details, such as payment terms and the timeline for the transaction, are included.
- Complete the Sale:
- Once both parties agree on the terms, finalize the sale. This involves the exchange of funds and necessary paperwork to transfer ownership. If you are buying through a broker, they will handle this step, if not seek legal advice on the best and most secure way to facilitate this step.
- Register the Boat:
- Depending on the country where the boat is registered, you may need to transfer ownership through a local maritime authority. Ensure that all registration and documentation requirements are met. In general, the process is that the seller cancels their registration and provides the buyer with the cancellation documents, allowing the buyer to re-register the boat. We chose to register our boat in Poland as we were able to complete registration online and without a marine survey.
- Secure Insurance:
- Purchase insurance coverage for your boat to protect your investment and comply with local regulations.
- Check-in with the Coast Guard: You will need to present yourself and your boat documents for registration with the Coast Guard now that the boat has changed hands.
The boat buying process can vary depending on the country and specific regulations in the Mediterranean region where you’re making the purchase. It’s a good idea to consult with local professionals, including maritime lawyers and brokers, to ensure a smooth and compliant transaction.
Marinas and Anchorages in the Mediterranean
The Mediterranean has an abundance of safe anchorages and well-serviced marinas. It is possible to sail many parts of the Mediterranean without ever having to go into a marina, as long as you can produce sufficient water and electricity, and can handle the weather. On the other hand, you are never far from a marina, if you prefer comfort, amenity, and safety.
Additionally, in some regions, quays or moorings are made available to sailors by the government or local businesses either for a small fee or in return for supporting local businesses.
Marinas in the Mediterranean
Marinas are specially designed and equipped facilities that provide berthing and services for boats and yachts. Marinas typically offer amenities such as docks or moorings for boats to tie up, fuel stations, electricity, fresh water, and waste disposal, and often include toilets and showers, restaurants, shops, and other recreational facilities for boaters. They serve as safe harbors, offering boaters a place to dock, refuel, and access services while also providing a sense of community for boat owners and enthusiasts.
There are many marinas throughout the Mediterranean generally offering high levels of service and facilities. Prices range depending on the size of the boat, the quality of the marina, the region, and the time of year but prices in the Mediterranean generally range from €30 – €150 per night, with deep discounts for long-term, semi-permanent or permanent arrangements.
Additionally, some regions of the Med have quays, pontoons, or mooring buoys where boats can tie up for free or for a small fee (€10 – €20). Often services like water and electricity may be available for a nominal cost. In some instances, these services will be provided by the municipality, in others local businesses might provide these services free in return for patronage.
Shipyards and dry docks are also widely available as options to cheaply store your boat out of the water if you are sailing seasonally.
Some liveaboards choose to stay on their boat for the winter, but keep their boat in a marina. Many marinas in the Med cater to live-aboard communities that hunker down over the colder months.
What is Med Mooring
Many regions of the Mediterranean are so popular that sailors must be particularly conscious of space on pontoons and town quays, especially during the busy summer months. Due to the limited space as well as the layout of many ports in the Med, stern-to-mooring is preferred.
In situations where “lazy lines” aka “mooring lines” are not available, sailors are required to utilize their anchor to complete a “Mediterranean mooring”.
Here’s how Med mooring typically works:
- Approach: When approaching the quay or dock, the boat moves slowly, stern-first, toward the desired spot along the quay.
- Drop Anchor: As the boat approaches the quay, the anchor is dropped from the bow (front) of the boat at a suitable distance from the quay usually around three times the length of the vessel.
- Back In: The boat then backs up toward the quay, as the anchor chain is paid out.
- Secure to Quay: Once the boat is parallel to the quay and in the desired position, crew members on board or on the quay secure lines from the boat to bollards or cleats on the quay to hold the boat in place.
- Adjustments: Adjustments may be made to the lines, anchor, and fenders to keep the boat securely positioned against the quay and to prevent it from swinging or rubbing against other vessels.
Med mooring requires careful coordination and skill, as it involves maneuvering a boat in reverse and coordinating the timing of dropping anchor, backing in, and securing lines. It’s essential to be aware of wind and current conditions, as they can affect the maneuver. While the Med moor can be intimidating to begin with, if you are sailing in the Mediterranean for any length of time, you will quickly become proficient.
Anchorages in the Mediterranean
For those who prefer to anchor each night away from busy marinas and town quays, the Mediterranean offers no shortage of beautiful and protected anchorages.
In some areas, of the Mediterranean coast, especially in archipelagos of Greece and Croatia, it is possible to find protected anchorage in any weather. In other areas, anchorages may be open to weather and swell in some conditions making anchoring a riskier prospect. No matter where you sail in the Mediterranean, the potential to anchor each night is restricted only by your own level of self-sufficiency and appetite for risk and discomfort when the weather gets rough.
In most parts of the Mediterranean, the sea floor is suitable for anchoring although there are some areas where steep drop-offs or rocky or weedy bottoms may make anchoring more difficult. Having the proper navigational charts and depth-sounding instrumentation is essential for safe anchoring.
Is it Free to Anchor in the Mediterranean?
Yes, it is free to anchor throughout the Mediterranean.
Aside from fees and taxes paid upon entry to the waters of a Mediterranean country when you first enter, you should not have to pay fees to anchor.
In the isolated cases where enterprising locals demand payment they are likely not authorized to do so, and finding the next beautiful free anchorage is never an issue.
Tips for Anchoring in the Mediterranean
Many anchorages in the Mediterranean become very busy in the summer months it is very important to be aware of other boats.
- Position yourself far enough away that you will not swing into another boat with a change in the wind.
- Anchor salad is the term for the tangle of anchors that sometimes occurs in busy anchorages in the Mediterranean. Be careful not to drop your anchor over another boat’s anchor. Simply communicating with other sailors and asking where their anchor lies is an easy way to avoid this. Some people use floats to mark where their anchor is set.
- Set your anchor correctly to reduce the risk of dragging in strong wind. If you don’t feel confident in your ability to properly set your anchor, learn this skill before sailing in the busy Mediterranean.
- There is no need to be a hero and set or pick up your anchor under sail in a busy anchorage.
- Use a line ashore to conserve space in busy anchorages.
How Much Does Living on a Boat in the Mediterranean Cost?
We spend approximately $450 USD (€430) per week living on a boat in the Mediterranean.
These are our week-to-week living costs, exclusive of recurring annual costs like boat maintenance and storage, flights, insurance etc.
Here is how our weekly budget breaks down.
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The cost of living on a boat in the Mediterranean will vary widely depending on several factors, including the type and size of the boat, your lifestyle choices, and the locations you visit. Here are some of the key expenses to consider when estimating the cost of living on a boat in the Mediterranean:
If you buy a boat, you’ll have initial upfront purchase costs or financing payments.
If you charter a boat, the cost will depend on the type, size, and location of the boat, as well as the duration of the charter but may cost between €500 – €1000 per day.
If you plan to live on a boat for any length of time, then purchasing a secondhand boat and selling it when (/if) you finish with it is usually the economical option.
We paid €23,500 for a 1986 Beneteau First 29. It was well-equipped for sailing the Mediterranean and required minimal work.
The cost of a seaworthy and properly equipped second-hand sailing boat starts around €20,000 and runs up into the hundreds of thousands of euros for larger (50-foot) monohulls and catamarans. New boats cost considerably more starting around €100,000 and running into the millions.
Other costs associated with purchasing a sailing vessel include:
- Pre-purchase survey reports – $10 – $25 per foot
- Insurance – between $500 and $1,500 annually. Boat insurance is generally cheaper than home or vehicle insurance.
- Registration costs – variable but likely several hundred dollars for a liveaboard-sized boat.
You can count on maintenance costs appearing from the first time you inspect a secondhand boat, and not long after you sail away on a new one.
The rule of thumb is that maintenance costs for a boat will be around 10% of the purchase cost. Perhaps more for older boats that have not been well maintained, or less for newer boats. Read our article The Cost of Living on a Sailboat Full-Time to learn how you can more accurately estimate maintenance costs.
Mooring and Marina Fees
Mooring fees at marinas and anchorages can be a significant expense. Prices will vary based on how often you stay in marinas and which part of the Mediterranean you plan to sail. It goes without saying that you’ll find higher costs in popular tourist destinations.
Fees can range from €20 to €150 or more per night, depending on location, boat size, and time of year.
Fuel costs depend on your boat’s fuel efficiency, the speed at which you plan to travel, and how often you use the engine.
By way of example, we travel less than 50 nautical miles a week. Say we sail half of that time, that’s 25 nautical miles a week to motor (basically nothing). Our boat tops out at a little over 5 kn. This means we might motor for about 5 hours at top speed we are burning about 2 liters of diesel an hour. Our fuel consumption is a paltry 10 per week! In 2022 marine diesel costs $2 a liter which puts our fuel costs at $20 a week.
Boat insurance is essential to protect your investment and is also a requirement for sailing in the Mediterranean. The cost of insurance depends on factors like the boat’s value and the level of coverage you choose. Insurance is a recurring cost so make sure you factor this annual expense into your budget.
We pay $375 USD per year for insurance and this would probably represent close to the minimum.
Budget for groceries, food, beverages, and other supplies. Your expenses will vary based on your dietary preferences and how often you dine out versus preparing meals onboard. In many parts of the Mediterranean provisions are cheap.
If you want to keep costs down, make a point to stock up at supermarkets that the local people use and not the supermarkets in nearby marinas which are often much more expensive.
Customs and Port Fees
When traveling between Mediterranean countries, you will encounter customs and port entry fees. The fees and the fee structure change from country to country and are usually a function of the length of stay and size of the vessel. Research the regulations and fees for each country you plan to visit.
We pay on average around $30 USD per month in customs in port fees. Larger vessels or sailors changing countries more frequently might expect to pay more.
Navigation and Safety Equipment
Ensure you have the necessary navigation and safety equipment on board, including charts, GPS, life jackets, flares, and communication devices.
The required safety gear will be dependent on how you use your boat. For example, if you plan to get more than 12 miles offshore extra safety equipment such as a life raft is mandatory.
This equipment can be expensive so budget carefully.
Entertainment and Activities
Factor in expenses for entertainment and activities such as dining out, visiting attractions, and participating in water sports or tours.
Our activities budget mostly gets spent at the pub or restaurants on weekends, we also spend a few euros at the gym, paying for our sins during the week.
Utilities and Services
Consider costs for utilities such as water and electricity when docked at a marina. If you’re at anchor, you may rely on alternative power sources like solar panels or wind generators.
Budget for communication expenses including mobile data, internet access, and satellite communication if needed.
We rely on local data sim cards which cost us around €10 – €15 euro per week depending on our data needs and where in the Mediterranean we are.
Healthcare Insurance and Travel Insurance
Ensure you have adequate health and travel insurance coverage for your needs. Consider the cost of medical care and prescription medications when planning your budget.
SafetyWing Insurance is a great solution for liveaboards. They offer comprehensive travel and health insurance solutions tailored to long-term or indefinite travelers and nomads. Perfect for sailors spending a season or more exploring the Mediterranean.
We have needed to use travel insurance once while sailing in the Mediteranean and were so grateful to have the right insurance when we needed it.
Some of the benefits of using a nomad insurer like SafetyWing rather than a traditional travel insurer are;
- They offer global coverage, barring North Korea, Cuba and Iran
- It’s often cheaper than traditional insurance
- You can start, or pause plans after your traveling has already commenced, a feature not always offered by traditional insurers
- They cover you to travel home for 30 days (15 in the US) so you don’t have to take out insurance to visit home
It’s wise to set aside a reserve fund for unexpected expenses or emergencies.
The cost of living on a boat in the Mediterranean can vary greatly from one person or family to another. It’s essential to create a detailed budget that reflects your specific circumstances and preferences. Keep in mind that the Mediterranean offers a range of destinations from more affordable options to high-end, luxury experiences, so your costs can be tailored to your desired lifestyle.
Can I Sail the Mediterranean Cheaply, on a Budget, or for Free?
It is totally possible to sail the Mediterranean extremely cheaply. While it may not be possible to do it for free, as there are administration costs that are impossible to eliminate, if you have the right equipment and can be completely self-sufficient then you can anchor freely throughout the Med, keeping costs low.
Alternatively, there are opportunities to sail for free or even be paid if you are prepared to work as a skipper or crew in the Mediterranean.
Best Sailing Destinations in the Mediterranean
The Mediterranean is renowned for its stunning sailing destinations, each offering its unique charm and appeal. The best sailing destination for you will depend on your preferences, interests, and experience level. Here are some of the top sailing destinations in the Mediterranean:
- Greek Islands: Greece boasts a multitude of beautiful islands, each with its own character. The Cyclades, Ionian Islands, and Dodecanese are popular choices. You can explore ancient ruins, enjoy picturesque villages, and experience vibrant nightlife. Despite its popularity, many parts of Greece remain affordable for sailing and there are many cheap town quays available throughout the islands.
- Turkey: The Turkish coast along the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas is dotted with historic sites, charming villages, and beautiful bays. Places like Bodrum and Göcek offer excellent sailing opportunities.
- Italian Riviera: Italy’s Ligurian and Tyrrhenian coasts offer a mix of natural beauty and cultural richness. Explore the picturesque Cinque Terre, the Amalfi Coast, and the islands of Sicily and Sardinia.
- Balearic Islands, Spain: The Balearics, including Mallorca, Ibiza, and Menorca, offer a mix of lively nightlife and serene anchorages. You can enjoy a vibrant atmosphere or find secluded coves for relaxation.
- French Riviera: The Côte d’Azur in France is synonymous with luxury and glamour. Sail along the French Riviera to visit cities like Nice, Cannes, and Saint-Tropez.
- Malta: Located in the central Mediterranean, Malta offers a rich history, beautiful landscapes, and clear waters for sailing. The islands of Malta, Gozo, and Comino are popular stops.
- Corsica, France: Corsica, known for its rugged coastline and natural beauty, offers excellent sailing conditions. Explore remote beaches, hiking trails, and charming villages.
- Sicily, Italy: The largest Mediterranean island, Sicily, is a melting pot of cultures and offers diverse landscapes, historic sites, and excellent cuisine.
- Sporades Islands, Greece: This group of islands in the northern Aegean Sea is known for its lush greenery, clear waters, and charming villages. Skiathos and Skopelos are among the highlights.
- Southern Spain: The Costa del Sol in southern Spain offers a mix of culture, history, and beautiful beaches. Visit cities like Malaga and Marbella.
- Tunisia: Tunisia’s Mediterranean coast is often overlooked and far less crowded than the European Mediterranean. It offers a unique blend of ancient ruins and North African culture.
- Croatia: Croatia’s Adriatic coastline is known for its crystal-clear waters and historic towns. Sailing along the Dalmatian Coast allows you to visit places like Dubrovnik, Split, and the stunning islands of Hvar and Korčula. As Croatia’s popularity continues to surge so too do the prices here and the number of sailors on the water.
- Montenegro: Often underrated Montenegro’s short stretch of coast between Croatia and Albania has some of the most beautiful coastline in the Adriatic, world-class marine facilities, and the breathtaking Bay of Kotor. It is not yet as popular for sailing as neighbouring Croatia which means far fewer boats to share it with.
When deciding on an area, or areas to sail, consider your sailing experience, the level of difficulty, the level of services available, and the weather.
Best Areas for Novice Sailors in the Mediterranean
The Mediterranean offers a variety of excellent sailing destinations for beginners, with calm waters, favorable weather conditions, and well-established sailing infrastructure. Here are some of the best places for novice sailors in the Mediterranean:
- The Ionian Islands, Greece:
- The Ionian Sea, located off the western coast of Greece, is known for its gentle winds and sheltered anchorages, making it an ideal destination for beginners.
- Islands like Corfu, Kefalonia, and Lefkada offer beautiful scenery, calm seas, and plenty of places to explore, both on land and by sea.
- The region has numerous sailing schools and charter companies catering to beginners.
- The Dalmatian Coast, Croatia:
- Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast, along the eastern Adriatic Sea, is famous for its stunning coastline, clear waters, and countless islands and coves to discover.
- The winds are generally mild, and navigation is relatively straightforward, making it suitable for beginners.
- Charter companies are prevalent in cities like Split and Dubrovnik, offering a range of sailing options.
- The Balearic Islands, Spain:
- Mallorca, Ibiza, Menorca, and Formentera are part of the Balearic Islands in the western Mediterranean. These islands offer a mix of sheltered bays and open-water sailing.
- The region enjoys a Mediterranean climate with generally favorable weather conditions for sailing.
- The well-developed tourism infrastructure in the Balearics caters to sailors of all experience levels.
- The Turkish Coast:
- The southwestern coast of Turkey, along the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas, offers calm waters, beautiful anchorages, and a mix of historic and scenic destinations.
- The Meltemi wind can be a factor in the Aegean, but it’s generally milder in this region compared to further east.
- Several Turkish marinas and sailing schools provide services for beginners.
- Sardinia and Sicily, Italy:
- These two Italian islands in the central Mediterranean offer diverse sailing opportunities for beginners.
- Coastal towns like Palermo (Sicily) and Cagliari (Sardinia) are excellent starting points for exploring the islands and nearby coastlines.
- The summer months provide stable weather and moderate winds.
Best Areas for Advanced Sailors in the Mediterranean
If you are looking for more challenging sailing conditions, the Mediterranean has those too.
These are regions where skippers with a bit more experience might enjoy:
- The Cyclades Islands, Greece:
- The Cyclades, including islands like Mykonos, Santorini, and Naxos, are known for their strong and variable winds, especially the Meltemi in the summer.
- Experienced sailors can navigate challenging open-water passages and explore remote anchorages.
- The Dodecanese Islands, Greece:
- Located in the southeastern Aegean Sea, the Dodecanese islands offer a mix of sheltered bays and open-sea sailing.
- The region experiences the Meltemi wind, providing opportunities for advanced sailors to test their skills.
- The Southern Coast of Turkey:
- The southern Turkish coast, particularly areas like Bodrum and Marmaris, can provide challenging sailing conditions with strong winds and open seas.
- Experienced sailors can explore the Turkish Riviera and nearby Greek islands.
- The Ligurian Sea, Italy:
- The Ligurian Sea, along the northwest coast of Italy, offers advanced sailors opportunities to navigate busy shipping lanes, strong Mistral winds, and complex currents.
- The area includes the beautiful Italian Riviera and the island of Corsica.
- The Saronic and Argolic Gulfs, Greece:
- These gulfs near Athens offer varied sailing conditions, including calm waters in sheltered areas and stronger winds in open sections.
- Advanced sailors can explore historical sites and navigate challenging channels and straits.
- The North Coast of Corsica, France:
- The northern coast of Corsica features rugged terrain, strong winds, and challenging passages between islands and rocky shores.
- Sailors can experience more demanding conditions while enjoying the beauty of the Corsican landscape.
- The Strait of Gibraltar:
- Sailing through the Strait of Gibraltar, which connects the Mediterranean to the Atlantic Ocean, can be challenging due to strong tidal currents and variable weather.
- Advanced sailors can test their navigation skills and experience the transition between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic.
- Majorca Channel, Spain:
- The channel between Majorca and Ibiza in the Balearic Islands can have strong winds and challenging seas, providing opportunities for experienced sailors to hone their skills.
- Malta to Sicily Passage:
- The open-water passage between Malta and Sicily can be subject to strong winds and currents, making it a challenging route for advanced sailors
Popular Mediterranean Sailing Routes
Sailing in the Mediterranean offers a wealth of popular routes that cater to different preferences, sailing durations, and interests. Here are some well-loved routes for sailing the Mediterranean.
- The Greek Islands Route: This is one of the most popular routes, offering numerous options for island-hopping. You can start in Athens and explore islands like Mykonos, Santorini, Paros, and Naxos. This route is known for its beautiful beaches, charming villages, and rich history.
- The Amalfi Coast Route: Begin in Naples or Salerno and sail along the stunning Amalfi Coast in Italy. Explore picturesque towns like Positano, Amalfi, and Ravello. This route is famous for its dramatic cliffs, crystal-clear waters, and Mediterranean cuisine.
- The Croatian Island-Hopping Route: Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast is ideal for island-hopping. Begin in Split or Dubrovnik and visit islands like Hvar, Korčula, and Vis. You’ll find historic towns, vibrant nightlife, and secluded anchorages. Continue to explore underrated Adriatic Gems Montenegro and Albania, before reaching Greece’s Ionian Sea.
- The French Riviera Route: Start in Nice or Marseille and sail along the glamorous French Riviera. Visit iconic destinations like Cannes, Saint-Tropez, and Monaco. This route offers luxury marinas, upscale dining, and beautiful coastal scenery.
- The Turkey-Greece Route: Explore both Turkey and Greece on this route, starting in places like Bodrum or Marmaris in Turkey and sailing to Greek islands such as Rhodes, Symi, and Kos. You’ll experience a blend of Turkish and Greek cultures.
- The Balearic Islands Route: Begin in Palma de Mallorca and explore the Balearic Islands, including Ibiza, Menorca, and Formentera. This route offers a mix of vibrant nightlife, pristine beaches, and tranquil anchorages.
- The Sicilian Coast Route: Sail along the coast of Sicily, starting in Palermo or Catania. Explore the historic cities, picturesque fishing villages, and the beautiful Aeolian Islands.
- The Malta-Sardinia-Corsica Route: Begin in Malta and sail to Sardinia and Corsica. This route offers a combination of rich history, diverse landscapes, and clear waters.
- The Turkish Riviera Route: Start in Gocek or Fethiye in Turkey and sail along the Turkish Riviera, visiting places like Kas, Kalkan, and Antalya. This route offers a mix of historical sites, natural beauty, and secluded anchorages.
- The Southern Spain and Morocco Route: Explore southern Spain’s Costa del Sol and sail to Morocco’s Mediterranean coast. This route offers a blend of Spanish culture, Moorish architecture, and North African cuisine.
Again, when planning a Mediterranean sailing route, consider factors like the duration of your journey, your sailing experience, and your interests. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
Provisioning a Boat in the Mediterranean
Because the Mediterranean is so populated around the coastline it is easy to take on provisions as you go.
However, different countries throughout the Med have different access to different ingredients and different qualities of ingredients. Forward planning will ensure you have the right provisions on board for a reasonable price.
Tips for Provisioning a Boat in the Mediterranean
- Plan Ahead:
- Create a detailed provisioning list that includes all the items you’ll need for your trip, such as food, water, cleaning supplies, safety equipment, and any specialty items.
- Research Local Markets:
- Familiarize yourself with the availability of markets, grocery stores, and supermarkets in the ports and anchorages you plan to visit. Some destinations, like smaller ports or islands, may have limited provisioning options, so plan accordingly.
- Visit Local Markets and Supermarkets:
- While in port, visit local markets and supermarkets to purchase fresh produce, meat, dairy, and other perishable items.
- If you are on a budget, avoid using supermarkets or mini-markets within marinas as these, while convenient, tend to be more expensive.
- Buy Non-Perishables in Bulk:
- Non-perishable items like canned goods, pasta, rice, and dry snacks can be bought in larger quantities to ensure you have an ample supply for your trip.
- Consider Dietary Preferences and Restrictions:
- Some areas, especially remote areas, may not have considered this in advance.
- Stock Up on Water:
- Water is a critical provision. Ensure you have MORE than enough drinking water each time you set sail.
- Always carry and store spare emergency drinking water separate from your main water supply.
- Consider a water maker to maximize self-sufficiency and minimize the need to come into port.
- Provision for Special Occasions:
- If you plan to celebrate special occasions or host guests during your trip, purchase items like wine, champagne, or special treats in advance.
- Pack Efficiently:
- Organize your provisions efficiently to make the most of your boat’s storage space. Use containers, bins, and storage solutions to keep items secure and prevent spoilage.
- Consider Storage Capacity:
- Be mindful of your boat’s storage capacity. Avoid overloading it, as excessive weight can affect the boat’s performance and safety.
- Plan for Longer Voyages:
- If you’ll be on an extended voyage or in remote areas, consider stocking extra provisions to account for unforeseen delays or limited access to supplies.
- Check Expiration Dates:
- Ensure that all provisions have clear expiration dates, and use the “first in, first out” principle to rotate your stock to prevent items from going bad.
- Keep a Provisioning Log:
- Maintain a provisioning log to track inventory and monitor consumption during the trip. This helps you stay organized and avoid running out of essential items.
- Provision for Safety:
- Include safety provisions such as first aid supplies, emergency rations, and a well-stocked medical kit.
- Reduce Plastic Waste:
- Be environmentally conscious by minimizing single-use plastic packaging and opting for reusable containers and bags.
- Local Specialty Items:
- Don’t forget to sample and enjoy local specialty items and cuisine unique to the specific region during your provisioning stops.
Provisioning is an essential but often overlooked aspect of trip planning and sailing. Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t have to be a drag in fact planning our meal is a great way to pass the time on long passages, and restocking the provisions makes for a nice outing off the boat (but that just might be us).
Being Part of a Community Living on a Boat in the Mediterranean
Joining local boating communities and connecting with other liveaboard boaters can be helpful for information, and support, as well as having a social outlet. There are lots of opportunities to network and build connections with other sailors when sailing the Mediterranean.
Your Local Marina
If you plan to use a marina as a ‘home base’ while living on a boat in the Mediterranean, you can start by connecting with other live-aboards at the marina. They can offer a wealth of experience and advice about sailing in the area.
Online Groups and Forums
Sailors in the Mediterranean are, for the most part, a friendly group and very willing to strike up a conversation at anchor or in the marina.
Winter Sailing in the Mediterranean
Winter sailing in the Mediterranean can be a beautiful and peaceful experience, but it also comes with its own set of challenges. It is important to plan and prepare for winter sailing in the Mediterranean.
The Mediterranean has milder winters compared to many other sailing destinations, but the weather can still be unpredictable. You may encounter occasional storms and strong winds, so it’s crucial to monitor weather forecasts regularly.
Winter in the Mediterranean typically brings cooler temperatures, especially in northern areas. The southern and eastern parts of the Mediterranean tend to be milder.
Tips for Living on a Boat in the Mediterranean Over Winter
- Stay warm: Ensure you have appropriate clothing for cold weather, including insulated and waterproof gear. Layering is essential to stay warm. You will likely also need a heating system for your boat to ward off chilly evenings and stay comfortable through the winter months.
- Plan for short days: In the winter, daylight hours are shorter, so plan your sailing schedule accordingly. Make sure you have proper navigation lights and consider limiting long passages during the darkest hours. Also, take into consideration the effect on solar power production if you are using solar panels.
- Check the availability of services on your route: Many marinas in the Mediterranean have reduced services or may even close during the winter months. Check ahead of time to ensure you have access to the facilities, water, and fuel along your route.
- Understand the tourist season: Much of the Mediterranean runs on summer tourism and many businesses including restaurants and grocery stores close over the winter. Stock up on provisions before heading out, as some coastal towns and anchorages may have limited services.
- Be aware of potential navigation hazards: Winter can mean increased debris in the water and reduced visibility due to fog. Keep a sharp lookout, and use radar and AIS if available.
- Prioritize safety: Winter conditions can be challenging. Ensure your crew is well-trained and familiar with cold-weather procedures. Carry emergency equipment like a liferaft, EPIRB, and sufficient flares.
- Use local knowledge: Seek local advice and knowledge about winter sailing in the specific region you plan to explore. Locals can provide valuable insights into weather patterns and recommended anchorages.
- Consider staying in a marina over the winter: Many liveaboards remain on their boats over winter, but not necessarily sailing. Some marinas have liveaboard communities that return each year to batten down over winter and enjoy the social camaraderie that comes with being part of the liveaboard community.
Winter sailing in the Mediterranean offers a quieter atmosphere compared to the busy summer months. However, it’s crucial to be well-prepared, vigilant about weather conditions, and focused on safety to ensure a successful and enjoyable winter sailing adventure.
Organizing Services When Sailing in the Mediterranean
One of the most perplexing, challenging, and frustrating experiences of sailing the Mediterranean has to be organizing services in the Med.
Sailing and boating mean you will almost certainly need to get professional repairs or maintenance from time to time.
The good news is that marine services are widely available throughout the Mediterranean where you will find
- Marine Electricians
- Sail Makers
- Yachting Agents
And all manner of businesses servicing the busy yacht industry.
However, a combination of an overwhelming high season, lack of specialists, and the absence of a ‘service mentality’ in many of the Mediterranean countries can lead to a frustrating experience when you most need assistance.
If you come from a country outside the Med, the nature and culture of organizing such services may surprise you. The approach of professionals can be difficult to come to grips with. Expecting the same sort of sympathy, enthusiasm, or adherence to any timeline you might be used to will leave you frustrated.
Make sure you plan ahead to organize any work or marine services. If possible have these activities done during the winter or shoulder seasons. In many parts of the Med, especially those where there are charter boats, demand is sky-high for marine services over the busy summer months.
Leave yourself plenty of time to allow for delays, and line up several options for technicians, in case your preferred operator doesn’t come through.
Rules and Regulations for Sailing in the Mediterranean
Different countries in the Mediterranean have varying regulations regarding, sailing, boat ownership, visas and residency, and taxes.
Region-Specific Regulations for Boats, Safety, and Navigation
Maritime laws will vary from country to country so it’s very important to understand the rules in each country. While forums, groups, and websites can be helpful to get ideas, always confirm shared information as there is a lot of misinformation out there (trust no one not even this blog). In general, the maritime authority for each country should provide the rules and regulations online.
For example here are the regulations for Croatia.
Maritime laws govern issues including but in no way limited to:
- Boat speed
- How close vessels can go to shore
- Skippers license requirement
- Safety equipment requirements
- Submission of crew lists
- Discharging of black water tanks
- Holding Tank requirements
- Swimming areas
- Rights to inspect
- VHF operation
Throughout the Mediterranean stringent safety regulations are enforced for sailors. These rules while subject to variation generally include:
- Life Jackets: Throughout the Med (and the world) you need to ensure everyone on board has a properly fitting life jacket. If the life jackets are not being worn they should be close to hand, and everyone onboard should know where they are, and how to use them.
- Safety Equipment: Have necessary safety equipment on board, including a first aid kit, fire extinguishers, and communication devices. Be aware of the mandatory safety equipment for your class of boat in the region you are sailing in. Requirements are more stringent for off-shore sailing.
- Seaworthiness: Skippers are responsible for making sure their vessel is seaworthy to avoid putting themselves and others at risk. In some areas, the maritime authority may have the right to inspect your vessel.
Throughout the Mediterranean, the use of VHF communication is strictly regulated and enforced.
- VHF Radio: Generally, larger vessels should have VHF radio on board for communication with other vessels and harbormasters.
- Licenses and Qualification: In some areas, the use of VHF is subject to licensing, qualification, and or registration.
Sailors have a moral and legal responsibility to protect the environment they are sailing in. Environmental rules vary considerably from country to country but it is important to be a good guest and avoid damaging local environments.
- Waste Disposal: Dispose of your waste responsibly. Use designated facilities for garbage and sewage disposal. Some jurisdictions have requirements for boats to be fitted with holding tanks, and all have requirements for discharging tanks and toilets.
- Marine Life: Respect marine life and delicate seabeds. Do not disturb or damage them. Be aware of fishing rules and regulations.
Throughout the Med, it is a requirement to be properly prepared for emergencies
- Emergency Contacts: Have a list of emergency contacts for each country you plan to visit.
- Emergency Procedures: Have clear emergency procedures in place, and ensure everyone on board knows what to do in case of an emergency.
Your boat must be registered to sail in the Mediterranean. You may choose to register it in your home country or in a foreign country. The process and price for registration vary dramatically from country to country so investigate to find out which conditions suit you best.
We chose to register our boat in Poland because the fees were low and we could register the boat remotely without the need for a marine survey.
Another requirement for sailing in the Mediterranean is insurance. There are many insurers but finding the right insurer for your combination of boat, residency, and country of boat registration can be a bit of a headache. It might be worthwhile asking the sailing community what insurers people in a similar situation to you use.
We had trouble finding an insurer that wanted to work with our specific combination of an old boat, registered in Poland with American and Australian owners. Finally, we found SeaHelp Yacht Insurance who were able to insure us.
Visa and Residency:
Depending on your nationality and how long you plan to stay, you may need a visa or residence permit to live on a boat in the Mediterranean. These requirements can differ from one country to another.
Understanding the Schengen Area
Many of the most popular sailing destinations in the Mediterranean are part of the Schengen Agreement. Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Spain, Slovenia, and Malta all fall under this agreement.
If you are from a country not part of the Schengen agreement you are likely restricted from spending more than a combined 90 days in a given 180-day period in these countries on an ordinary tourist visa.
There are a variety of solutions if you plan to stay longer. They involve alternative long-term visas (such as Digital Nomad Visas), registering as working crew, or the most popular, doing the Schengen Shuffle.
Plan Your Itinerary and the Schengen Shuffle
The Schengen shuffle is the fine art of spending the right amount of time outside the Schengen area while sailing the Med. After spending your allotted, 90 days in the Schengen area, you can spend time exploring countries like Montenegro, Albania, Cyprus, Turkey, Tunisia, and more while you wait for your Schengen clock to reset.
Unfortunately, Croatia’s recent addition to the Schengen area has removed a wonderfully well-provisioned sailing region from the options of countries to run down the clock. Nevertheless, it is still possible to enjoy year-round sailing in the Mediterranean by carefully planning your itinerary.
Border Crossing When Sailing the Mediterranean
With 22 countries sharing access to the Mediterranean, any long-term sailing in the region will likely include border crossing.
Crossing borders in the Mediterranean while sailing involves navigating the customs and immigration procedures of the countries you intend to visit. The process is usually a bit different (and more involved) than crossing borders overland or by air.
The process is different for each country but the are some general steps and considerations for crossing borders in the Mediterranean.
Make sure you are familiar with the navigation rules in the region of the Mediterranean you plan to sail. In particular, pay attention to any requirements for flying the correct flags, not disembarking, or quarantining prior to clearing into a country. Also, be aware of the requirements for safety gear and equipment. Failing to follow the local rules can result in fines and put your permission to enter the country at risk.
- Check Visa Requirements:
- Ensure that you and your crew have the necessary visas to enter the countries you plan to visit. Visa requirements can vary depending on your nationality and the country you’re entering.
- Prepare Documentation:
- Have all relevant documentation in order including passports, visas, boat registration, and insurance papers. Make copies of these documents and keep them in a secure place.
- Check-In and Out of Ports:
- When entering a new country, you’ll typically need to check in with local authorities at a designated port of entry. This may involve filling out customs and immigration forms, presenting your boat’s documentation, and providing information about your crew and passengers.
- Clear Customs and Immigration:
- Be prepared to undergo customs and immigration inspections upon arrival. This may include verifying your boat’s inventory, checking for restricted items, and confirming the identities of your crew and passengers. So far our boat has never been boarded by customs.
- Declare Goods:
- Declare any goods or items that are subject to customs duties or restrictions. Each country has its own regulations regarding what can and cannot be brought into the country.
- Pay Fees and Taxes:
- Countries generally charge entry and clearance fees. Be prepared to pay these fees as required.
- Follow Health and Quarantine Regulations:
- Depending on the country and the health situation, you may need to comply with health and quarantine regulations. This could include health screenings, vaccinations, or quarantine periods.
- Comply with Local Laws:
- Familiarize yourself with the local laws and regulations of each country you visit, particularly navigation rules, safety requirements, and anchoring restrictions.
- Maintain Open Communication:
- Stay in communication with local authorities and follow their instructions. It’s important to be polite, cooperative, and patient during the customs and immigration process.
- Keep Records:
- Maintain records of all interactions with customs and immigration officials, including dates, names, and any documents provided.
- Exit Procedures:
- When leaving a country, follow the exit procedures, which may involve checking out of a port of exit, presenting your boat’s documentation, and settling any outstanding fees or taxes.
- Consult Local Resources:
- In addition to national customs and immigration authorities, consult local sailing resources, guidebooks, and cruising associations for up-to-date information on entry and exit procedures in specific Mediterranean countries.
- Stay Informed:
- Be aware of any changes in regulations or entry requirements, especially in light of global events or health crises that may impact border crossings.
Crossing borders in the Mediterranean requires careful planning, compliance with local regulations, and a willingness to adapt to different customs and procedures in each country. Make sure you research ahead of time. Facebook groups like Med Sailing can be a great
Sending and Receiving Packages and Mail in the Mediterranean
Something you might not have considered when thinking about living on a boat in the Mediterranean is exactly how you are going to send and receive mail.
We are sorry to report that our experiences with postal services throughout the Med have been less than excellent, with the exception of Croatia.
However, it’s still possible with some planning and the use of various methods and services. Here are several ways to send and receive packages when sailing in the Mediterranean:
- Marina Services: Many marinas in the Mediterranean provide mail and package reception services for visiting boaters. You can have packages sent to the marina’s address, and they will hold them for you to pick up when you arrive. Be sure to contact the marina in advance to confirm their policy and inquire about any fees.
- Local Post Offices: In some coastal towns and cities, you can use the local post office for general delivery services. Contact the post office in advance to confirm their procedures and hours of operation.
- Courier Companies: International courier services like DHL, FedEx, and UPS operate in many Mediterranean countries. You can use these services to send and receive packages. Ensure you have a reliable address for delivery, which could be a marina, a local business, or your next port of call.
- Local Businesses and Restaurants: Some local businesses and restaurants may be willing to accept packages on your behalf. Establish a friendly relationship with the proprietors and discuss the arrangement in advance.
- Forwarding Services: Consider using a mail forwarding service that specializes in handling mail and packages for travelers. These services provide you with a dedicated mailing address, and they can forward your mail and packages to various destinations as needed.
- Yacht Agents: Yacht agents, often used for clearing customs or facilitating other logistical tasks, may assist with receiving and forwarding packages on your behalf. Check with a local yacht agent for their services and fees.
- Local Contacts, Friends, and the Wider Sailing Community: If you have friends or contacts in the Mediterranean, you can use their address for package delivery and arrange to pick up the packages when you reach their location. You can also reach out to members of the sailing community who may be able to help with the transport of packages.
When using any of these methods, it’s crucial to communicate with the sender and the recipient to ensure that the package arrives safely and to arrange for its collection. Keep in mind that package delivery times and reliability can vary from one region to another which can be a little bit of a logistical nightmare when sailing around the Mediterranean. Careful planning and patience are key, as is having a backup plan if you can’t connect with your mail.
Customs Duties and Import Taxes on Packages and Mail
Be aware of customs regulations and import duties that may apply when sending or receiving packages across international borders in the Mediterranean.
It’s essential to research and comply with the customs requirements of each country you visit to avoid any issues with package deliveries.
We were forced to pay hundreds of dollars in import taxes to receive our own drone which had been sent out of the country for repair because we hadn’t filed the correct import paperwork when sending it.
It can be really hard to find the right information on which form or payment is required. One good way to begin is to ask others who have been in the same boat using some of the forums and communities we’ve mentioned like Facbook, Reddit or Cruiser Forum.
Wintering and Storing a Boat in the Mediterranean
Preparing a boat for winter storage in the Mediterranean is much the same as in other places, although in general, you won’t have to worry about the effects of cold winter temperatures.
For the full step-by-step check out our full article on Preparing a boat for winter storage in the Mediterranean.
Here is a quick guide:
- Clean the Boat Thoroughly
- Take Down the Sails
- Prevent Fuel Spoilage
- Pack Up the Tender
- Give the Engine Some Love
- Don’t Forget the Outboard
- Thoroughly Clean the Bilge Until Spotless
- Flush Toilet System
- Treat Water Supply
- Remove the Anchor from the Anchor Well
- Protect Your Boat From Pests
- Protect Your Boat From Mold
- Turn Off All Sea Cocks
- Maintain Batteries
- Cover Boat for Winter
Hopefully, you have found this information about living on a boat in the Mediterranean useful. If you have a question or a comment, please let us know below!
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