1238 – ‘Medsail’ – Mediterranean

Exercise Medsail is a Sailing Exercise run annually by the Joint Services Adventurous Sailing Training Centre (JSASTC) sailing around the Mediterranean Sea. Personnel from 151 Transport Regiment boarded on Leg 2 of the Exercise, sailing over 2 weeks from Alicante to Barcelona.

Day 1 – We travelled to Gatwick where we met our 1st Mate Pete Crowson from JSASTC before flying to Alicante, Spain. On arrival at Alicante it was straight off to the Marina to see the Yacht we would be living and working on for the next 2 weeks and meet the Skipper John Branson, also from JSASTC, who introduced us to “Dasher” the Nicholson 55 yacht.

Day 2 – Most of us were novice sailors, so day 2 was spent in the marina harbour learning the ropes (no pun intended), including sail types and uses, frequently used knots, winches, shackles, sail ties and ropes, warps and sheets. Inevitably, there was the usual H & S lesson including the vast amount of equipment available on the yacht and how it is used in an emergency. Unusually however, everyone actually listened, acutely aware that if anything was to go wrong at sea we were potentially a long way from help.

Day 3 – Our maiden voyage. With a couple of set backs sorted out, one of which involved Cpl Paul Moon being democratically volunteered to don the goggles and snorkel to check that a rope had not wrapped itself around the propeller. In the afternoon we finally slipped out of Alicante Marina and headed for Ibiza. It was a long journey, almost 14 hours at sea most of which was through the night. We split into 2 teams of four so one team could rest below deck whilst the other was working.

Day 4 – Arrived in San Antonia, Ibiza, We put ‘Dasher’ to bed. This is a routine carried out every time you moor up in a marina or harbour which involves packing and stowing all of the head sails, shackling all halliards to the bow, packing and covering the main sail, coiling up and stowing all unused ropes, warps and sheets and then ensuring all other equipment is properly secured.

Day 5 – We hand railed the coast of Ibiza to Cala Llonga on the east coast which was a particularly memorable stop over. It was a secluded cove with steep sided cliffs on each side and a beach at the end – there was no marina, just a few buoys that we moored up to.

Day 6 – We sailed for Sa Rapita, Majorca and were averaging our normal speed of about 7 knots, but the wind completely dropped off when we were about 12 Nautical miles from our destination forcing us to use the engine to motor the rest of the way in.

Days 7-9 – The next few days we leap froged around the island visiting Sa Rapita, Porto Colom and Porto Cristo, our sailing and navigation skills getting better and better each time. We each took turns at the helm including changing head sails, plotting routes onto navigation charts, putting in or taking out reefs on the main sail and filling in the log and practicing our ‘man over board’ drills using a buoy rather than a crew member.

Days 10 – 11 – Longest voyage, 18 hours sailing to Villanova (mainland) Spain. When you are tens of miles out to sea with zero light pollution and clear skies, the sight of thousands of stars was spectacular. At dawn we were also greeted by a pair of dolphins swimming alongside.

Day 12 – Last voyage, about 20 miles along the coast to our final destination, Barcelona. It took only a few hours so we was all up on deck savouring our last hours of sailing and before long we put Dasher to bed for the last time at Barcelona Marina.

The crew and I thoroughly enjoyed the 2 weeks and would recommend Exercise MEDSAIL to everyone. In addition the 6 novice crew members covered the necessary syllabus and showed the right skills to become Competent Crew qualified.

Cpl Jim Heath

With thanks to:

Ulysses Trust

In partnership with:

Nuffield Trust