This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)

To welcome the New Year aboard their boat is a tradition many boat owners can’t give up. Honestly, most of these just arrange a gargantuan lunch to be shared with friends or family in the comfortable and warm dinette while being moored at the usual marina, mainly due to the lack of initiative of said friends or family members who do not long for sailing in the cold season. However, there are a number of sailors who plan a cruise in the last days of the year to enjoy places almost inaccessible in summer.

The destination of an end-year cruise is usually near the marina where the boat is moored, both due to limited days availability and to higher weather unpredictability. However, if you don’t mind flying to the other side of the ocean for a charter all inclusive, you will have a great experience and enjoy the exotic tropical seas. In short, everyone can make his own choice based on time and budget as well as on cruise mates, of course.

Those who plan their cruise on the Italian, French or Croatian coasts between the end of December and the beginning of January are spoilt for choice. The countless roadsteads are far from being crowded and berthing places are easily available in marinas at affordable prices. In this time of the year you can very often enjoy fireworks from your boat, as such displays are quite popular especially in Italy. What is left is just to decide your destination and plan the course. Don’t forget to work out one or more back up plans, just in case. In fact, sea and weather conditions may suddenly change and consequently drastically affect your wishes, with no other choice but change your plans.

Generally speaking it is advisable, when planning a cruise in the cold season, to make sure you can leave the boat moored in case weather conditions get worse, go home by train and come back to recover the boat on the first weekend of fine weather. This is an available option on the whole Italian Peninsula coastline, but it has to be checked on island coasts. There, you may have no other choice than to wait – together with your boat – until weather improves, or, to undertake an uncomfortable and often expensive journey back home by ferry, followed by a second journey to reach and sail your boat home as soon as weather conditions permit. This is way destinations such as Corsica and Sardinia should be carefully assessed when planning a winter cruise. Despite their incomparable beauty, they are many hours sailing away from any port on the Tyrrhenian coast. This can turn your stay into hit and run tourism, a one or two-day trip dependant on weather conditions.

In this respect, the island of Elba offers a better prospect. Breath-taking views are guaranteed just a handful of miles from the Italian Peninsula, while fully-equipped marinas and countless roadsteads sheltered from the wind let sailors enjoy cruising even in winter.

Cruising along the Italian coasts is certainly safer. Heading from Liguria to the near Cote d’Azur means to enjoy far better weather conditions. There marinas and shelters are everywhere, as well as fashionable seaside resorts and charming and tranquil villages. And, last but not least, should weather conditions deteriorate, you can decide to interrupt your cruise and quickly get to your destination thanks to the efficient local railway lines. Mentone, Nizza, Cannes, St. Tropez, Porquerolles, among others, are just some of destinations perfect for a short end-year cruise. Heading north from Tuscany, in case you are not interested in Elba, Capraia and Giglio islands, the Gulf of La Spezia is within reach, as well as Portovenere, this, too, an enchanted place to drop anchor in a roadstead. The Cinque Terre are only a few miles far away. There, the coast does not offer any shelter, however they are close enough to plan a day-long to and fro trip.

Heading South, Pontine islands are a recommendable winter cruise destination. Within reach in a few hours navigation, these are places of stunning beauty especially off-season. Procida, Ischia and Capri islands are not far from Campania. It is advisable to book a berth in advance or carefully choose if and where to drop anchor as roadsteads are here not so numerous as in other areas.

In Sicily, Eolie and Egadi islands are of course well worth a visit if your boat is moored nearby. However, their being small and the peculiarity of the coast (very deep bottom) require a careful scheduling of stops in small harbours and shelters as to be caught by bad weather may cause serious troubles.

If you are sailing in the Upper Adriatic you cannot miss the Croatian coast – if allowed by Covid restrictions. Itineraries and tours are almost countless and the natural environment is not less attractive than the Italian coasts. However, the unknown weather factor has to be seriously taken into account as weather conditions in the Adriatic Sea, due to its shallow seabed and exposition to strong wind, can turn to be extremely harsh especially in winter months.

More than even, in these times of pandemic marked by sudden changes of scenarios, the best recommendation is to choose your end-year cruise route taking into account also the health care preventive measures in force (e.g. mandatory swab tests and/or quarantine) paying attention to avoid unexpected and unplanned travels back home. Beautiful coasts appreciated all over the world are at a stone’s throw for us to be enjoyed especially in winter!

Stefano Sergi
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