Rupert Holmes explains the most useful equipment he carries on board for low-hassle, reliable and self-sufficient Mediterranean cruising on a budget

Mediterranean sailing: the essential kit you need

In the decades I’ve kept my Discovery 3000 Ammos in the eastern Mediterranean certain items of kit, many of them low cost, have repeatedly proved their worth.

She lives in a relatively remote part of Greece where marina facilities and conveniences such as shore power are rarely, if ever, available.

Therefore, right from the start, my philosophy has been one of creating an efficient but simple, self-sufficient boat with reliable and robust gear that requires the minimum of maintenance.

There’s also an element of redundancy in terms of both equipment and spares, so a single breakdown won’t interrupt plans.

The following are some of the items that I consider essential for safety, comfort or just to make sailing more fun and maximise the boat’s performance potential

Mediterranean sailing: DIY sun shade

The importance of shade must never be underestimated, but when I bought Ammos she had no Bimini, and ready-made models back then were exorbitantly expensive.

I bought a parasol for €10 and then a fellow cruiser gave me an old tarpaulin to use as a boom tent.

A boat anchored off an island

Ammos gets shade from a free tarpaulin ‘boom tent’ and an €10 parasol

This combination worked really well – the parasol provided shade when sailing with the apparent wind up to 15-20 knots.

It neatly fits into the top of a winch and only takes a moment to rig, tilt or move to a new spot when tacking.

I wouldn’t rule out a Bimini in future, but as Ammos is a relatively small boat, it’s not near the top of the wish list at the moment.

Mediterranean sailing: Catching the breeze

It never ceases to amaze me how infrequently Windscoops are seen in the Med.

A windscoop on a yacht

A Windscoop is a boon in the fierce Mediterranean summer heat

Even though the Aegean is generally blessed with good afternoon winds, the scoop creates a cool breeze below deck on hot days, and keeps the air moving in the forecabin on hot nights.

Although it works best – sometimes too well – when swinging free at anchor, it can also be used moored stern-to a quay.

€15 insect screens

Insect screens are vital anywhere there are mosquitoes – so most of Greece in summer.

The latest hatches with built-in fly screens would blow the annual budget in one go.

A DIY mozzie net on a boat

Keep out the mozzies with mesh

However, the older Lewmar hatches on Ammos have a lip on the frame that allows mesh netting to be secured with a loop of shock cord – not as convenient as a built-in fly screen, but it only takes a minute to rig on all four hatches.

The mesh is available from local hardware stores and costs €15.

The first batch lasted around five years before it had to be replaced.

Toolkit and spares

Being self-sufficient and running a boat on a budget means getting involved in maintenance, so a comprehensive, well-organised toolkit and supply of spares is essential for routine maintenance and dealing with unexpected breakages and failures.

Chandlers are thin on the ground. Even when laid up ashore the nearest for me involves a three-hour round trip, so I carry multiple

A toolkit for a boat laid out on a bench

Carry a comprehensive toolkit and spares as chandlers are hard to find.

For the engine, I aim to keep at least three sets of filters, drive belts and water pump impellers on board.

The showerhead attachments last less than two years, so I keep a supply of them too.

This means that when an item is used from the boat’s stores there’s no need to schedule a special journey to replace it.

Bike as barrow

As well as speeding access to supermarkets for more varied and economical provisioning than is usual in harbourside shops, a bicycle opens up a much wider area to explore around each port.

One winter, when I laid the boat up in Argostoli, Kefalonia, there was no boatyard – you hire a mobile crane to lift the boat on the

A woman on a bike by a marina in Greece

Expand your range with two wheels

I had to provide all the shores, including the cross-braces needed to ensure they remain standing in an earthquake.

The local builder’s merchant quoted an eye-watering price for the timber but, with fly-tipping very prevalent in Greece, everything could be found within a two-mile radius, strapped to the bike and wheeled back to the boat.

A decent dinghy

Although in Greece you’re more likely to moor to a quay than be swinging on an anchor, it’s still surprising how frequently the dinghy gets used.

Upgrading from an ageing Avon Redcrest to a more substantial 2.8m model was a revelation – the larger tubes and load-carrying ability make a big difference to the comfort factor and ease of rowing.

A woman rowing a dinghy while Mediterranean sailing

A quality dinghy and decent oars are a must for self sufficiency

Decent oars are a must – we use 1.8m (6ft) ex-Mirror dinghy oars, but even these could do with being 25% longer.

If opting for a cheaper PVC dinghy for use in hot climates it’s best to choose one with bonded seams, as glued seams may not last for as long in high temperatures as they do in the UK.

I learnt this lesson the hard way, when one of the seams failed, leaving two of us paddling the boat Canadian style, while sitting astride the one remaining intact buoyancy chamber.

Fender protection

A plentiful supply of fenders minimises the chances of sustaining damage when berthing in a tight space, especially in a strong crosswind.

And avoiding damage means avoiding delays and expense while the boat is being repaired.

Perhaps even more importantly, in a country that can be very bureaucratic at times, avoiding having to explain to the authorities your part in an incident that damaged someone else’s boat minimises hassle and stress.

Fenders tied onto the side of a yacht

Plenty of fenders to prevent damage

I aim for four fenders each side, including one large round one, plus one for the transom, giving ample protection when moored alongside a concrete wall.

You can never have too many fenders – the relatively modest investment has paid off handsomely.

Continues below…

Ground tackle

Ammos has three anchors, with the smallest two being the size recommended for the boat.

The largest one, which we use as a bower, is suitable for a vessel 50% heavier than Ammos, which is reassuring when the wind picks up during the night.

Plenty of rode is equally important – we have 25m of chain, backed up by a further 75m of oversized nylon warp.

Good ground tackle is only part of keeping a boat secure at anchor – your anchoring technique must also be beyond reproach.

Yet many skippers don’t appear to use their engines to ensure the anchor is properly set.

I won’t sleep well if it doesn’t hold with full revs in reverse – and when anchoring stern-to a quay make certain that load is put on the rode before reaching the quay.

If possible, I like to tug the cable with near full throttle in reverse to dig the anchor in securely.

Even then there’s often some slack that can be taken up after a few hours, as the anchor digs itself further into the seabed.

Light-weather sails

Even in the Aegean, which has stronger winds than the Ionian, it’s inevitable that a lot of time will be spent in light airs, especially in early summer before the Meltemi has fully established.

A yacht with a pink sail

A cruising chutes can make all the difference! Credit: David Harding

When reaching or running a cruising chute or spinnaker makes the difference between drifting at only two or three knots under mainsail and genoa (which means in reality you will normally motor), or sailing at a sedate but respectable four or five knots.

As well as sailing being more fun than motoring, with diesel having tripled in price in the last five years and sure to rise further, if you can find a serviceable secondhand sail it will quickly pay for itself.

Bathing platform for easy loading

I’m surprised at just how much I value this.

Obviously being able to swim and get on board easily is a great luxury, but there’s also a more practical aspect as it allows the dinghy to be tied across the transom, enabling people and gear to be transferred with minimal risk of falling in.

A woman in a dinghy by the side of a boat

Boarding is easier from the bathing platform

I wish my boat in the UK, where the water is perilously cold and strong tides present a real risk of being swept away from the vessel, had the same facility

Other useful items for Mediterranean sailing

There are a few smaller items that would be possible to live without, but which certainly make life on board easier, and help to take care of the boat.

A small solar panel ensures the domestic battery is kept topped up when the boat’s not in use.

Sailing gear: a foldable solar panel

A small solar panel – like this Solar Technology International PV Logic 8W – can help keep the batteries topped up. Credit: Yachting Monthly

Equally, a combination of LED lights, both for cabin lighting and the masthead tricolour, helps to minimise power consumption.

Provided laptops are not repeatedly being charged from the boat’s batteries, the engine only needs to be run an hour or two per week to keep the battery topped up

Big water tanks – Ammos carries more than 300li – also help to make you more independent, without the hassle and expense of a water maker.

Having sailed boats with much smaller tanks, I really appreciate not having to plan an itinerary around filling the tanks every two or three days.

Neither would I want to be without the holding tank – apart from being a legal requirement in Greece, pumping sewage into the same bay that you or others swim in would feel very wrong.

Having bought a boat in Greece it seems natural to have a bin next to the toilet for paper, and it’s never caused a problem, providing the heads is serviced periodically and limescale-furred outlet pipes are changed every six or seven years.

What we don’t have for Mediterranean sailing

Although I would be loathed to give up any of the already mentioned items, there are three others that most people consider essential, but that we happily manage without.

The first of these is a fridge, as a couple of bottles of frozen water will keep food cool in a well-insulated toolbox for a couple of days.

If we used the boat in a different way in high summer – trips at that time of year tend to be in ‘holiday’ mode, visiting friends and spending a lot of time socialising and eating ashore – a fridge would be higher on the list of priorities.

Rupert finds he has no need for a conventional boat fridge; instead he just uses a well-insulated coolbox with bottles of frozen water

We would also invest in a permanently mounted solar panel of a size that would provide most of the electricity needed to drive the fridge compressor.

Also, there’s no outboard for the dinghy – we rely on the oars and importantly have invested time in developing effective techniques for rowing.

The benefit is one of simplicity – we don’t need to find space to stow an engine, worry about its security, carry and replenish a different type of fuel, or service and repair it.

We also don’t have an anchor windlass, despite Ammos’ oversized ground tackle.

On a larger boat, I don’t think we could comfortably get away without one, but the anchor is relatively easy to lift.

If extra grunt is needed we take a line back to one of the primary winches – it’s easier to throw body weight behind that than most deck-mounted manual windlasses.


Solar panels mounted on boards are ‘portable’ to be set up wherever the sun is strongest

In the Med, the wind has the potential to increase considerably in a short length of time, so you may occasionally need to thrash to windward in a blow.

A well-cut laminate roller headsail would be my first choice for this, but the cost is way out of budget so Ammos has a selection of hanked-on headsails, mostly bought second-hand, so we can always choose the most efficient sail whether there 4 knots of wind or 40.

We tend to keep two sails on deck, with the next one that’s likely to be needed already hanked-on to the forestay before the one in use.

Therefore, with practice, one person can change headsails in only one or two minutes, and when changing down we tend to heave-to, which makes the experience more pleasant and much less fraught.

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