So the Burnetts spent three and a half days on the water and have finally arrived back in a familiar port: the Queensway Quay marina in Gibraltar. The Med literally spewed them out – after a solid two days of motoring in a dead calm, over just 5 hours the wind ramped up to 22-30 kts, and Mel and Greg found themselves hand-steering at times in 6-9 feet of downwind swell. They timed things well, however, and rode the northern Gibraltar strait current for a free extra 2-3 kts of speed, hitting the southern entrance of the Bay of Gibraltar exactly 3 hours before high tide. Yes, they have gotten that good.
Oh, and by the way, Med: message received. It was time to go. There is some vagueness online about when one should leave the Med before winter comes, when the weather gets cold and nasty. “You should leave in the fall sometime” is not helpful. Mel will clarify this right now, based on their experiences transiting the Med in November: November 1st. Trust me, you want to be out of the Med by November 1st.
So Mel has diagnosed the Mediterranean Sea with “Bipolar Disorder, Mare subtype.” This condition, described here for the first time, is seen in seas which are unable to maintain normal weather for a sustained period. The sea suffers from moments of extreme elation, manifesting as 25-50 knot winds, and extreme depression, manifesting as flat calm. Transitions between the two states can be abrupt, and always in the background there is an inability to make any sense, demonstrated by choppy, clashing seas with multiple directions of origin. Unfortunately, the condition is incurable. Mel would prescribe a massive overboard dump of lithium to amend the situation, but that would be an environmental disaster.
When one completes a major transit, it is prudent to give awards. So here they are, the awards for our Med experience:
FAVORITE COUNTRY: Greece. Wonderful, welcoming, happy-appearing people, fantastic food, gorgeous towns not yet destroyed by tourism (or vandalism), and most people speak English! As Americans visiting Europe, we felt the most kinship with the Greeks.
MOST MEMORABLE (adults): Mel: “Visiting the mountain town of Monsaraz in Portugal, viewing Cadiz, Spain, from the cathedral tower; exploring the creepy history of Sardinia, seeing the Bernini statues in the Borghese Gallery in Rome, eating amazing pizza in Naples, visiting Pompeii, discovering Ventotene, transiting the Corinth Canal, exploring the Greek towns on Kythnos, witnessing the spectacular Sarakiniko and Kleftiki “beaches” of Milos, showing off Marvin in the beautiful harbor of Hania, Crete, and meeting all of the wonderful people along the way!” Greg adds: ”Grilled halloumi cheese, the charnel houses of Portugal, the really ancient tombs in Sardinia, the Pantheon (Rome), Maximillian’s Basilica (Rome), Olympia, all of Crete, and Cretan mountain and carob tea.”
MOST FUN (kids): Tommy: “Getting 60 gigs of cellular data in Portugal.” Allie: ”Eating Mexican food (at Senor Zorbas) in Santorini.” Both kids: “The Water City waterpark in Crete.” Yep, you read that right. We took our kids halfway across the world and exposed them to thousands of years of history and culture and what did they love? Wi-Fi, Mexican food, and a waterpark. FU, kids. FU.
Update: After Mel read this last paragraph to the kids (except for the FU part, of course), the kids now say: Allie: “The Parthenon.” Tommy: “Olympia and Delphi.” Mel reclaims her children as her own.
PLACES FOR NEXT TIME: Spain: Classy and friendly people, beautiful architecture, great history, and affordable! Menorca and the Balearics: Looked like they would be a hopping place in the summer, especially for sailors. Greece: We have left a lot of the Peloponnese and Cycladic islands untouched, and we would love to visit the Dodecanese. We also never made it to Croatia, Montenegro, or Turkey.
The negatives (few):
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: Mainland southern Italy. Dirty cities covered in graffiti, haughty people that kept to themselves, grumpy service industry employees, a lack of English speakers, crappy (and rationed!) cellular data plans, and not-so-great food. That’s right. It turns out that, overall, Italian-American food is better than the Italian food they serve to tourists. Except for the pizza in Naples, of course. And the wine was good. But, the kids asked after a few weeks in Italy, “Mom, is Italy a third-world country?” Never fear, the Burnetts came up with a solution: when exploring Italy, just look at everything from 12 feet off the ground on up. Italy is beautiful again!
BIGGEST RIPOFF: Malta. Like, all of it. And that restaurant in Santorini by the cruise ship port that left us with a 100 Euro bill for desserts and cactus juice. Visiting Italy in August.
Enjoy these pics of our passage!