Position: 40°33’N 8°18’E
The Gulf of Lion is notorious for strong winds. The Tramontana skip off the top of the Pyrenees and blast south and west. It’s more famous cousin, the Mistral, bundles up against the Alps, then funnels south and east. The release of energy from either system can be extremely sudden. In a matter of minutes, the Gulf of Lion can go from placid to batpoop crazy. Winds of 50 knots and seas of three metres (10 feet) are common, terrorising the unwary. We just completed the crossing from Menorca to Sardinia.
Local forecasters will tell you a Mistral blows in multiples of three days. So if you’ve been in port for 4 days hoping for a break, expect at least a couple more days off before setting sail. As our friend and mentor Jonathan Lloyd advised us, the Med has either too much wind, or too little. He didn’t mention that it turns on and off like a light switch.
The Gulf is one body of water you don’t want to bugger up the weather window on. Thanks to apps like Windy and Predict Wind Offshore, we studied the American and European forecasts for days before we left.
Finally pulling anchor at 6:15AM on Wednesday, we hoped the thunderstorm to the west would keep to its southerly path. It did, clearing the way for a perfectly nice sail. Winds increased steadily to around 16 knots, but the seas never got bulkier than two metres. We rolled a bit through the full moonlit night, but that only reminded us of our Atlantic crossing last year.
Speaking of which, here are a few edited highlights from some recently discovered archival footage of our epic Atlantic trip. The real revelation from the video is how happy the crew appears to be after 13 days at sea.