Mediterranean: Coping with Schengen Schenanigans
Doing the “Schengen Shuffle” is a well-known dance that non-EU cruisers have to deal with when cruising Europe and the Med. Following Brexit, this is now a dance that UK boats also have to learn to manage. In this report, a UK Skipper gives his first-hand experience of sailing the Med and dealing with the Schengen Zone.
Published 2 years ago
We left the U.K. in a small yacht in September 2019, sailing towards the Mediterranean. We arrived in Jersey to winter and ended up staying seven months due to the Covid-19 outbreak and travel restrictions.
We eventually left Jersey in June 2020 and reached the Balearics where we spent the winter, but with Brexit 90 day regulations beginning on 1 January 2021 we had to face the What Do We Do Now? question.
We looked at extension visas, but that avenue looked troublesome and bleak. We felt we were in a Catch 22 situation that we had no chance of escaping.
A Calculated Risk
We waited very patiently for a safe weather window to cross to Sardinia that finally appeared after 100 days which rendered us as 10 day overstayers! Two days before departure we had serious engine problems which meant waiting about six weeks for spare parts and finding reliable engineers that were up to the job.
We finally departed for Sardinia where we ended up anchoring in various locations, sometimes next to Coastguard vessels, that was close, phew! We then waited for a weather window to get us to Sicily. From Sicily we were approached by Coastguard and spoken to very briefly which yielded another narrow escape!
Finally, we made it to Montenegro where we got our passports stamped which were the first stamps in our passports as we had only ever visited EU countries since we obtained them new in 2014. Then it was on to Italy where we got our passports stamped on arrival and stamped out on departure by reluctant Coastguards, in doing this, technically, we were beginning our 90 day stay doing the Schengen Shuffle.
We’re now on our way to Cyprus before our 90 day period is up but can we do it? The Meltemi winds can blast for a whole week or more making progress very slow, the winds south of Corfu are sparse, generally minimal and last for a few hours at best, it is very easily possible to wait a week just for the wind to flow in your general direction.
We have felt like we were on the run, worried, on the look-out 24-7, unable to visit a marina, we were raiding by tender for water! There existed the bitter nasty hostility surrounding Brexit combined with the fear that Coastguards would be over zealous and hungry for an arrest or large fine due to much inaction, we had dark fearful visions of being taken away in handcuffs.
I have read that the U.K. was initially offered a reciprocal 180 day period of stay in the EU for sailors but this offer was declined by the U.K. government and I am now incredibly incredulous. My experience tells me that 90 days isn’t enough to sail in the Mediterranean, 180 days isn’t really practical either and once Croatia, Montenegro and Albania become part of the Schengen zone, the only other viable safe havens will be Turkey, Cyprus and Morocco.
The current situation in Tunisia is tentative and travel outside of any marinas there isn’t really recommended. There’s also the chance that Turkey might possibly join the EU Schengen zone in the next decade!
The greatest danger amongst all of this schenanigans is the perilous pressure to undertake a risky offshore passage anything from 12 hours up to 60 hours where the weather forecast is finely balanced just between safe and very unsafe, the pressure to meet such short deadlines will eventually culminate in deaths and a much much higher number of rescues at sea.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of Noonsite.com or World Cruising Club. The Schengen rules and enforcement of them are quite serious. It can mean your passport could get flagged at borders and denied entry. Sometimes they will literally stamp a big “OVERSTAY” in your passport. The fines are serious. And/or you could be arrested. Official rules and formalities for entering all countries visited by pleasure yachts can be found on Noonsite.
- Noonsite’s European Union Page – with full details on Schengen rules
- Cruising in Europe: Learning to be Flexible
- Cruising Europe: UK Boat Owners Caught in a “Perfect Storm”
- Tunisia: A Five-Star Schengen Bolthole
- Circumnavigating Europe: 11 years of great cruising
- Schengen Visas and VAT: Reports on Cruisers’ Understanding
- Mediterranean Bound? Some Useful Noonsite Articles and Links
Related to following destinations: Albania, Channel Islands, Croatia, Cyprus, Italy, Jersey, Montenegro, Morocco, Sardinia, Sicily, Turkey, United Kingdom
Melilla and Ceuta (Spanish North Africa) should not be relied upon as a Schengen “get out”. These territories are part of Spain and as such are in the EU Schengen zone with special rules for local immigrants only. Spain is required to police movements between each of the territories and the remainder of Schengen. Noonsite has liaised with the Cruising Association RATS team [https://www.theca.org.uk/] who have researched this in depth and confirm the same. See our EU page for more information – https://www.noonsite.com/cruising-resources/european-union/.
As a non-EU cruiser who has had to listen to snotty Brit comments for years and a general insensitive attitude towards this issue, this just sounds like whining to me. As a cruiser you ‘plan’ for these scenarios. You make a cruising plan that leaves your boat and you where you need to be at the end of your cruising season, You need to expect and plan for weather. This isn’t a train on a schedule. You and weather will create delays that you must anticipate in your plan.
For new cruisers or any one who wants to know how to work with the rules and enjoy cruising in the Med, talk to the foreign boats. These people have fun, sail a lot, see a lot and have sailing plans for the past few years that you can use to brainstorm your own summer.
It’s not that difficult! It’s easily attainable. We spend 6 months in the Med and go home. We bounce around between Schengen and non-Schengen countries. I don’t think we would have seen nearly as much if we had just stayed in the Schengen Zone the whole time. That said, if you do want to stay in one country mostly, like Greece, get a resident visa.
There! Now let’s try to encourage more sailors to experience this wonderful area of the world! It’s been a long time since a boat could just wander as they pleased…with only pirates and scurvy to deal with. Arghhh.
Sounds like a stupid story to me.
So where has it been stated that the UK government turned down reciprocal 180 days? News to me?
It is most unfortunate that this UK skipper has written this article on Noonsite. It can now be read and acted upon by any and all officials in the EU.
Fine to accept the advice of other yachties in the Balerics but you should have kept it to yourself ..Now the very folk we don’t want knowing… KNOW !!
All non EU flag boats skipper and crew will be questioned wherever we anchor..and the chance of sailing “under the radar” has just been destroyed by this rather foolish, naive article.
Be interesting to see what happens this coming summer season in the Med for boat owners who are not part of the EU.
And Noonsite for publishing it.
This site is a shadow of what it once was.