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Is Sailing the Mediterranean on Your Bucket List?

Is Mediterranean Sailing on Your Bucket List?

One dreamer’s transition from dream to reality.

You wouldn’t be the first person to have Mediterranean sailing on your Bucket List. Thousands of yachties, including dozens of Kiwis, make their Mediterranean sailing dream come true every year. Flying half way round the world for a season, or a week or two cruising some of those postcard, picture perfect exotic bays and anchorages. Some choose to charter a boat, some piggy-back on friends boats and some make it a three, four, five year plan with their own boat.

For Don Gilkison, formerly of Te Anau, fulfilling his cruising dream became a priority to be ticked off on his ‘Bucket List’. He made the transition from novice sailor to yacht owner via Coast Guard courses within the space of a year.

In February 2011 he purchased his first yacht, the Beneteau Cyclades 43, ‘Sojourn’. Originally owned by Ross Backman who had the yacht commissioned in Valencia during the America’s Cup and sailed her to New Zealand via the Med, Caribbean and across the Pacific. Don explains his transition, “I figured that if ‘Sojourn’ had delivered Ross, family and friends half way around the world, she would certainly do for me, a novice sailor and first time yacht owner. Thrown into the mix was a wonderful night at Ross’s dinner table with Ross, his lovely wife Jo, Pippa Blake and my broker, David Woodley. Sitting at that table on that night I realised there was thousands of blue water miles sitting with me and that was it, I was going to make it happen”.

Don had originally planned to spend the season cruising ‘Sojourn’ in the Bay of Islands. After a few weeks of doing exactly that, distant shores called and he sailed off to Tonga for the winter and a season in the tropics. After one season on Sojourn Don felt he’d outgrown that boat, contacted his broker with the instructions to “Sell Sojourn and find me something bigger, fifty, fifty five feet, I don’t really care where in the world it is”.

The Jeanneau 54 Deck Salon ‘Wanaka’ showed up on his radar, owned by another Kiwi, 3 years old, cruise ready and at the time winterised in Preveza, Greece. With his offer accepted it was off to Preveza for survey and sea trials, culminating in cementing the deal and becoming the proud owner of ‘Wanaka’.

Back in New Zealand Don was now ‘boatless’ for the New Zealand summer but spent his time planning his first Mediterranean adventure, spending many hours scouring the pages of Andrea and Ian Treleaven’s Mediterranean sailing bible, ‘Letters From the Med’, talking to others who had ‘been there, done that’ and trolling the internet for other sailors blogs, “All were great sources of advice and inspiration”.

By the time May 2012 rolled around his next ‘Bucket List’ dream was well advanced and it was off to re-launch Wanaka in Greece, set sail for Greek Islands and the Croatian Coast. A Mediterranean sailing dream about to be realised.

Over the coming months Don and ‘Wanaka’, joined at various points by a host of piggy-backing Kiwi’s, cruised the idyllic Ionian Sea, visiting Greek Islands and Croatian paradises. Exotic destinations like Corfu and the Corinth Canal were no longer places on a distant horizon, but places where dropping the anchor or berthing Mediterranean style stern to at the town wharf’s of Preveza and ….. were a part of everyday life.

Wanaka was winterised again in Preveza at the end of the 2012 season, awaiting another adventure next year.

For the 2013 season Wanaka set sail east south towards Athens, Myknonos, Crete, again joined by many Kiwi’s escaping the cold New Zealand winter in exchange for a Mediterranean summer. The season ended with ‘Wanaka’ cruising the southern Turkish coast and winterising in Marmaris.

Now in 2014, after extensive Turkish coast sailing and cruising some of the Eastern Greek Islands, ‘Wanaka’ has ticked Mediterranean sailing off Don’s ‘Bucket List’ and he is selling her. Planning his next sailing adventures closer to home in the Islands of the South Pacific, ‘Wanaka’ must be sold before the next dream can be realised.

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