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Circumnavigating Europe: 11 years of great cruising

By Bob Kinnier — last modified Jan 12, 2015 03:09 PM
US cruiser Bob Kinnier has spent the last 11 years visiting 35 countries on his mission to circumnavigate Europe. Here he reports on how and why, highs and lows and how the Schengen and VAT rules have affected him.

Published: 2014-02-07 00:00:00
Topics: Cruising Information , European Union
Countries: Albania , Azores , Belgium , Channel Islands , Croatia , Cyprus , Denmark , Estonia , Finland , France , Germany , Greece , Ireland , Israel , Italy , Latvia , Lithuania , Montenegro , Netherlands , Poland , Portugal , Romania , Russia , Slovenia , Spain , Sweden , Turkey , United Kingdom

Circumnavigating Europe: 11 years of great cruising

Convoys tend to form waiting for bridges to open through the many towns in Holland: © SY Polaris

Originally, my plan when departing Milwaukee in 2001 was to sail around the world. Since I had already sailed in the Caribbean, I decided that I would go to Europe first. The history and culture are the magnet that attracts us there… but the winters in Europe are rather uncomfortable, so we quickly adapted the idea of going back to Florida for the winter. Even down in the Med, cruisers hunker down for the winter. We are fortunate to have a home in Pompano BeachFlorida…. So it has been a no brainer to leave Europe when it gets cold. With the pirate problems in the Indian Ocean and truthfully lost enthusiasm, we have settled on cruising Europe. The next question is what to do after the European circumnavigation… right now my thinking is to start going around again…. As long as the bones will hold out.

We have visited 35 countries so far…. Bermuda, Azores, Portugal, Spain, France, Channel Islands, England, Ireland, Scotland, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Cyprus, Israel, Greece, Albania, Montenegro and Italy. My goal right now is to circumnavigate Europewhich I should accomplish in a few years…. I am not in a hurry.

On my website (www.sailpolaris.com), I have a log of the entire 13 year cruise. Going down theDanube was probably the most adventurous. This is a one way trip going down stream, so no one we met upstream had been downstream or knew what to expect. And as usual, the people upstream had nothing good to say about the people downstream… many said that it was impossible.

Avoiding the Schengen has never been an issue for the simple reason that usually we are only cruising less than 3 months per season. That being said, there are places to escape such as the Channel Islands, EnglandRussia, some Baltic States, some Eastern European countries, TurkeyIsrael, some Balkan countries. There are other issues for example being in Turkey more than 5 years. My bigger problem now is escaping the European Union and the VAT. Right now my boat is in Sicily and I am headed for Tunisia to restart the clock… originally I was very wary about going there but now have actually decided to spend this whole season in  Tunisia. This will give me 2 years on the VAT clock (including layup time) then I will head for Morocco to restart again.

I might also mention that only one time has anyone checked on us regarding the Schengen…. It was a rather humorous experience. It occurred in Belgium and to be honest I really knew nothing about the Schengen and still have only limited knowledge. About 9 pm we got a knock on the cabin by a young policeman. We invited him on board and he started to ask questions. I also wanted to know about the Schengen. I asked what countries were in the Schengen… he did not know. The conversation then quickly turned to his wife. He said that she had run off with a guy from Florida who she had met on the internet. After a long conversation about his situation, he said good night and departed.

To me the VAT is a more serious problem then the Schengen. Each year more countries join the EU which makes it more difficult for cruisers to escape.

I hope that my photos, logs and travelogs will help other cruisers get a sense of what to expect. That being said, cruisers need to understand that our experiences are a snap shot in time. In no way should anyone assume that their situation with be exactly the same.

Bob Kinnier
www.sailpolaris.com

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