Winter sailing in the Mediterranean: How to enjoy the sea during the low-season
Author: Marie-Hélène Couette
The Mediterranean Sea is undoubtedly one of the best sailing destinations in Europe. With over 20 countries sharing a coastline with the Mediterranean, the area is thriving with islands and breathtaking scenery to appreciate.
However, most sailors and tourists visit during the summer, experiencing only a glance of what the region offers. The Mediterranean is so much more than its sun and beaches!
Below you’ll find the benefits of sailing during the low season.
Why sail the Mediterranean in the winter?
For most people, the Mediterranean is all about warm sunny days, swimming and vacations. Although a dip in the sea won’t typically be on the agenda from November to April, this region still offers plenty of sunshine and a relaxing atmosphere.
Winter sailing allows you to take advantage of some of the best sailing conditions and is an opportunity to discover an authentic side of the Mediterranean Sea.
Escaping the crowds
In the past decade, the tourism industry continues to grow in many coastal cities, such as Split and Dubrovnik, making them some of the most popular destinations in the Mediterranean. With almost 20 million visitors to Croatia in 2019, you can only imagine how busy it can get in the summertime.
In winter, however, the atmosphere transforms.
From the hustle and bustle experienced in peak season, the low season offers fewer crowds, calmer days and an air of serenity making it the perfect time to experience the region. Marinas are also much quieter, allowing you to explore the sea with ease.
Reconnecting with nature
Winter sailing allows sailors to admire the sea and appreciate an unspoilt landscape with the country being quieter. It is said that the colder season usually serves more spectacular sunsets, crystal clear waters and brighter stars to illuminate the night.
Winter is also the perfect time to visit usually crowded islands and natural parks. Not only will you generally have the place to yourself, but you’ll also enjoy a unique perspective worthy of lifelong memories.
Winter sailing is often more active and operational than summer sailing, especially in the northern areas of the Mediterranean Sea. Winds can be much more robust, affecting the sea and the waves.
However, with the proper equipment and excellent sailing skills, you’ll be in for an adventure filled with thrills and adrenaline. One thing is sure, you won’t get bored!
If the conditions aren’t favourable on certain days, you can always dock in a marina and explore the town, enjoy a meal or socialize with locals all at your leisure.
What can you do in Southern Europe during the winter?
Although it doesn’t get as hot as the summer, in most coastal areas along the Mediterranean, the weather can still reach warm temperatures during the winter. Throughout the day, temperatures are often above 10-15°C (50°F/59°F), and present good winds making the experience more pleasant for the sailors.
Sea winter activities
Regardless of the weather, there are always things to do on your vessel. Winter is a particularly enjoyable season to catch great winds and appreciate the horizon.
During the day, when the sun is at its prime, relax onboard by reading or trying your hand at catching local fish you can cook later on!
Daytime is also a great opportunity to explore islands, bays, ports and marinas, where you can warm up whilst discovering new locations.
In the evening, appreciate your well-deserved dinner with a glass of wine and light entertainment. Top Tip: Rug up and get on deck to stargaze far from the city lights.
Whilst you’re in the region, take the opportunity to explore the town you’re in. During the winter season, accommodations and tours are usually cheaper and less crowded.
The beauty of the Mediterranean is that it offers something for every type of traveller. From strolling through old cities to tasting the local gastronomy, you will better understand what makes this region and its people so unique.
Most museums, restaurants and shops are open throughout the year in popular tourist destinations. For more remote locations, ask a local what’s open and worth a visit!
There are also a number of events during the winter, such as Dubrovnik’s Winter Festival, with many countries celebrating Carnival or Mardi Gras. Wherever you are, you’ll be in for an amazing and colourful experience!
How to prepare for your winter sailing adventure?
There are many possible sailing itineraries from day trips to a few weeks. Although the conditions tend to be favourable in the south, you can enjoy the whole Mediterranean region during the winter.
Before leaving the shore, it’s important to have the proper equipment on board. Include waterproof clothing and additional layers to quickly adapt to the temperature variations.
- To stay warm, bring extra blankets and insulated gloves.
- To keep yourself dry, pack some wool sweaters, wool socks and plastic bags.
- To protect yourself from the sun, apply sunscreen, wear a hat and sunglasses (or ski goggles for extra wind protection).
Top Tip: Use a flask to keep your drinks and food warm for longer periods of time! Most of all, find ways to stay active and keep that blood flowing.
Hiring local Skippers
If you have little or no experience with winter sailing, consider hiring a local skipper. Croatians, for example, have been sailing the Adriatic and the Mediterranean Sea in all four seasons for years and have a good knowledge of the winds.
Since tourism is much slower in the low season, it will be easier to find an available sailor to join you on your adventure.
If you’re looking for a hassle-free experience of winter sailing, some companies offer luxurious winter tours on bigger boats where all you have to do is sit back and enjoy the view!