Portrait of a Cruiser: Chris and Valeria Thorne
The seventh in our “Portrait of a Cruiser” series, this month we are profiling a British couple who are seasonal cruising in the Mediterranean. After retiring in 2015 they are enjoying seeing some of the worlds on their doorstep, learning about their boat and life on board before moving on to longer offshore passages.
Published 5 years ago, updated 4 years ago
Names of Owners: Chris and Valeria Thorne
Boat Name: Windependent
Boat Type/Model and Size: Lagoon 39 (catamaran)
Home Port: London
How did you start cruising?
I have salt water in my veins. After a career in the Merchant Navy it was always my dream to buy a boat when I retired and sail – away. Valeria’s plans were to travel around the world renting apartments, staying in hotels etc., and so it became apparent that we could both follow our dreams and take our house with us. We retired, bought the boat, rented the house and set off in 2015.
Describe what sort of cruiser are you:
Liveaboard couple. Although we tend to leave the boat over the winter, return to the UK and continue our travels from there.
What type of cruising are you doing currently?
We’re starting off on short distances, and the Med is ideal for that, getting used to the boat and getting Valeria used to sailing, working our way up to longer ocean passages and seeing some of the worlds on our doorstep.
How do you select a suitable marina/yard to leave your boat?
Finding somewhere suitable can be challenging. Our selection is based on the need for a secure marina where we can leave the boat unattended while we travel, proximity to ship-yards for servicing, cost and location. We obviously use the Pilot Books, but there are a number of Facebook Groups, websites and other cruisers that add the local knowledge required to make the final choice.
Leaving your boat afloat or ashore attracts some discussion. Obviously remaining afloat and stationary allows hull growth and is generally more expensive, but being stuck on a hard somewhere means you cannot realistically stay on board and so you incur additional accommodation expenses. You also reduce your use of the boat – you can’t go for a day sailor invite friends to visit if you’re on the hard.
Costs are variable, but winter rates are usually quite favourable when compared to the summer ones; you generally end up with a 6-month mooring contract and you can stay or go as you please within that period. It is difficult to give average prices. We have been quoted anything from €1400 to just under €3000 for this winter for a 12 m catamaran in the Eastern Med.
What were the key reasons you selected your current boat?
We wanted something small enough to be handled by just the two of us but large enough to live on. It rapidly became apparent that only a Catamaran would cover these bases. And having looked around a large number of different makes we settled on Lagoon because it seemed to us that made the best use of internal space.
What other boats have you owned?
None. Until now, we were of the mindset that you should know someone who does own a boat rather than owning one yourself!
What changes have you made to your current boat?
The first addition was a washing machine and tumble drier fitted in the port forepeak. Subsequently, I had the starboard forepeak converted to a sail locker/rope store. We also have an SSB radio.
Most useful equipment fitted, and the reasons for this choice:
The washing machine. Not having to spend a day lugging laundry around town looking for the launderette, if there is one, is priceless.
An AIS transceiver. It falls under the old adage of ‘be seen be safe’.
Equipment regrets, or things you would do differently:
So far, nothing.
List the countries you have cruised:
France, Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece.
Future cruising plans:
Under discussion. I want to do a circumnavigation, but Valeria isn’t entirely sure yet. We’ll be in the Med for next year and perhaps cross the Atlantic in 2019.
List the oceans/seas you have crossed: Biscay to the Aegean.
Approximate sea miles: 5000
Scariest day on the water:
Sailing around Cape Trafalgar in a 4-metre beam sea and a building wind and being unable to reef the Main Sail because the Main Halyard tackle was twisted and had jammed at the masthead……
Best cruising moment:
…… getting the reef in.
Favourite cruising area and why:
Greece, so far. Picturesque islands, delightful town quays, quiet anchorages, friendly people, relaxed lifestyle.
Favourite anchorage: Too many to count.
Favourite cruising websites:
Noonsite, obviously. Predictwind, zygrib.org, Windy and Windguru for weather. An American site called ‘Active Captain’ which includes anchorages as well as ports and marinas.
What advice or message would you want to pass on to anyone new to cruising or thinking about casting off the dock lines?
Clichéd, but I know enough about seafaring to know that I don’t know enough to give advice.
Why cruise? In a few sentences, what is it that inspires you to keep cruising?
It is something I have always wanted to do. It is the best way to see the world if you are in no hurry.
Any other comments:
The Reality of Mediterranean Cruising:
It is generally infuriating for sailors, 9 times out of 10 the wind is too much, too little or in the wrong direction, sometimes all three at once. You can usually end up with as many weather forecasts as you have sources. You obviously can pick your ‘window’ but you have to expect to motor for most of a long passage unless you are happy to bob around in light airs waiting for the wind; if you are doing a 10 mile trip between anchorages and can take all day you may get there under sail ….. or not. That, however, is the Mediterranean.
Many days I have sat and wondered how civilization spread across the Med in square-rigged galleys plagued by contrary winds, but then they had lots of oars and very large whips.
Contrary winds are exceptionally annoying when combined with expensive marinas and a lack of anchorages. I think, in-season, mainland Italy is the worst place for ‘shoestring’ cruising where prices can be obscene and anchorages few and far between. The coast of France offers a better balance and Spain falls between the two.
The mainland Spanish coast appears to be one long ribbon development and is hardly picturesque, but Spain is a wonderful country and the Balearics just beautiful. The French coast is far more interesting if you skip the Gulf of Lyon, but once into Italy prices rocket and options diminish.
Greece is a different story. It has wonderful unspoilt scenery, numerous anchorages, town quays and a few larger established marinas. It is generally far less expensive than the rest of Europe and quite a few harbours still have no one to collect harbour dues. In theory, if you time your cruising to the prevailing winds, you should have a great time.
The Med offers massive variety, but the drawback is that the winds are almost always too little, too much or the wrong direction.
It’s really good to get information like this when trying to plan for longer-term cruising there is nothing better than first-hand experience and information