The salty scent of the sea, the gentle lapping of waves against the hull, the promise of uncharted waters, and the allure of distant shores – these are the dreams that led us to our decision. We were going to sail the Mediterranean, and we were going to do it on a budget.
The Mediterranean, with its azure waters and sun-drenched coastlines, was a siren call for us. But we knew that such a journey required more than just dreams and desires. It required careful planning of the boat inventory and sailing route, a frugal mindset, and a willingness to embrace the unexpected.
Our adventure began not with the turn of a key in an ignition, but with the snip of a pair of scissors. On a chilly February day, I found myself seated in front of Mélanie with scissors in hand, ready to shed half of my hair’s length. It was a practical decision, one of many we would have to make in the coming months. Shorter hair meant less water for washing, fewer chances of it getting caught while sailing, and a cooler head in the Mediterranean sun.
As I watched my locks fall to the floor, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of exhilaration. This was it. The first real step towards our dream. We were no longer just dreamers, we were doers. We were about to embark on a journey of a lifetime, sailing the Mediterranean on a budget, making the most of what we had, and discovering the joys of life at sea.
This is our story, a story of adventure, discovery, and sailing against the wind. Welcome aboard.
Picking up the keys and initial cleaning
The 26th of February dawned bright and clear, a day marked with anticipation and excitement. It was the day we picked up the keys to our new sailboat, our home for the foreseeable future. The keys were cold and metallic in our hands, heavy with the promise of adventure. As we turned the key in the lock for the first time, we felt a rush of exhilaration. This was it: it was finally happening!
The sailboat, while sturdy and reliable, showed signs of its previous life. The couch covers, mattresses, and pillows carried the faint scent of sea and sun, a testament to the many voyages it had undertaken. We knew our first task was to make this sailboat our own. So, armed with determination and a sense of purpose, we began the cleaning process.
We removed all the covers and piled them up to take back to Bagnols-en-Forêt for a thorough wash. We removed some of the lines outside, covered in layers of salt and grime, to wash them just like the marine surveyor told us. The sailboat began to transform before our eyes, slowly shedding its past and embracing its new journey with us.
Amidst the cleaning, our stomachs reminded us of the passage of time. We took a break to eat some sandwiches, our first meal on board. The sandwiches were simple, nothing more than some cheese and ham between slices of bread. But as we sat there, munching on our sandwiches in the cockpit, looking around at our sailboat and the marina, we couldn’t help but feel a sense of contentment. This was our first meal on board, the first of many. It was a simple meal, but it tasted like adventure and promise.
The impact of COVID-19 on our plans
Just as we were immersing ourselves in the thrill of our new adventure, a shadow loomed on the horizon. The first case of COVID-19 had been registered in Romania. Two days later, Italy, the first country on our itinerary after leaving France, moved to alert level 3 for the CDC. The news sent ripples of concern across Europe.
The virus was no longer a distant news story. It was a reality that had the potential to disrupt our plans. Our medical and travel insurance, while comprehensive, had a clause that excluded coverage for anything related to the coronavirus infection if we ventured into a level 3 alert country.
We found ourselves at a crossroads, with the excitement of our journey on one side and the uncertainty of the pandemic on the other. But we saw ourselves as sailors, and sailors are nothing if not adaptable. We knew that the sea was unpredictable, that plans could change with the wind, and that we had to be ready to adjust our sails.
Being cautious by nature, we weighed our options. We could change our route, avoid Italy, and sail to safer waters. But we were also relaxed, knowing that we would still have coverage for everything else. After much discussion, we decided to stay the course, to continue with our plan, but with an added layer of caution.
On the 29th of February, Mathieu went to Marseilles to buy a Genoa and also returned with an annex and an outboard engine, all second-hand. The engine was not working at the time of purchase, but he didn’t see it as a problem but as a challenge to overcome. I, on the other hand, decided to stay at home, declaring that I was done with Marseille.
The shadow of COVID-19 loomed large, but we chose not to let it dampen our spirits. We were going to be sailing during the pandemic, navigating uncharted waters, but we would doing it together, and that made all the difference.
Family time in Bagnols-en-Forêt
In the midst of our preparations, we found ourselves drawn to the warmth of family. Mathieu’s nieces, Ninon and Maxine, were a constant source of joy and laughter, their youthful energy a welcome distraction from the growing concerns of the pandemic. We wanted to leave them with something special, a tangible reminder of our time together before we set sail.
Their old plastic cabin, once a vibrant playhouse, had been carried away and broken by the strong Mistral wind. It stood forlorn in the garden, a sad testament to the power of nature. But we saw potential amidst the wreckage. We saw an opportunity for a DIY project, a chance to create something new from the old.
So, on February 27, armed with tools and a spirit of adventure, we set out to build a new cabin. We chose a spot under their slide, shielded from the wind yet bathed in sunlight. Mathieu shaped and fitted the wooden planks, transforming them into a cozy little cabin. I let him work and helped him as requested while keeping the girls busy in his vicinity.
We managed to salvage the plastic blinds and door from the old cabin, giving them a new lease of life in our creation. Towards the top, we left two sides open and stapled transparent plastic to allow light but not rain inside. We also added some pretty solar lights, casting a warm, inviting glow as the sun set, making the cabin a cozy retreat even in the evenings.
By the time we finished on March 12, the cabin had transformed from a pile of wooden planks into a charming playhouse. It was our gift to Ninon and Maxine, a reminder of the love and laughter we shared, a place of joy and imagination that would stand long after we set sail.
Sail maintenance and repairs
As the days passed, our sailboat began to feel more like home. But like any home, it required care and attention. Our sails, the heart of our vessel, needed some TLC. They were sturdy and reliable, but the wear and tear of previous voyages had left their mark. It was time for some sailboat renovation.
We started with the mainsail, unfurling it on the terrace of the vacation house in Bagnols. It was a canvas of stories, each crease and stain a testament to a journey undertaken. We gently scrubbed it with a soft brush, using a gentle biodegradable shampoo. As we worked, we could see the grime of past voyages washing away, revealing the strong, resilient fabric underneath.
Once it was clean, we inspected it for damage. A few small holes and frayed fabrics caught our attention. With needle and thread in hand, we set about repairing them, each stitch a promise of future voyages. The following day, we repeated the process with the genoa. Our sails were not just clean – they were renewed, ready to catch the winds of our upcoming adventure.
But our sailboat renovation journey didn’t end there. After a stormy night, we found one of our fenders had given up the fight, crushed between us and the starboard neighbor’s boat. We replaced it, securing the new fender in place, a silent guardian against the relentless sea. It was only the first fender of many.
These tasks, while mundane to some, were a part of our sailboat renovation journey, a journey that was as much about preparing our vessel as it was about preparing ourselves.
Another step towards the permanent move on our sailboat
A home, especially one that’s about to embark on a Mediterranean trip, needs more than just clean sails and sturdy fenders. It needs the comforts and necessities that make life at sea not just survivable, but enjoyable.
One of our first purchases was a cordless vacuum cleaner. It was a practical choice, a tool that would help us keep our living space clean and comfortable. We chose a model that was compact and energy-efficient, perfect for our needs. As we tested it out, vacuuming the nooks and crannies of our sailboat, we could already see the difference it made. Our sailboat was becoming more inviting, turning slowly into a place we could truly call home.
Next, we bought an electric heater. The Mediterranean sun was warm, but the nights before the summer months could be chilly. The heater was a small luxury, a promise of cozy evenings spent below deck, sharing stories and making plans. We could already imagine it, the gentle hum of the heater, the warmth spreading through the cabin, turning our sailboat into a cozy retreat from the sea.
However, preparing our sailboat for the Mediterranean trip was not just about comfort but also about safety. We purchased two self-deployable life vests, a reminder that while we were adventurers, we were also responsible sailors.
Each purchase, and each step we took in preparing our sailboat for the Mediterranean trip, brought us closer to our dream. We were not just preparing a vessel but also creating a home ready to sail the azure waters of the Mediterranean, carrying us on the adventure of a lifetime.
Boat inventory discovery
As we continued to prepare our sailboat for the Mediterranean trip, we embarked on a different kind of journey, one of discovery. Our sailboat turned out to be a treasure trove, its cupboards and compartments filled with remnants of past voyages and forgotten moments.
The galley (kitchen)
In the galley, we found a culinary time capsule. Boxes of fine salt, bottles of red wine vinegar, and olive oil sat alongside expired packets of spaghetti and jars of Nutella. There was a sense of nostalgia as we sifted through the items, each one a glimpse into the past. Amidst the expired food items, we found a set of white plastic plates, bowls, and glasses, their surfaces adorned with famous sails drawn in dark blue. It was a charming find, a nod to our shared love for sailing.
Here’s the detailed list for the galley inventory:
- 2 boxes of fine salt
- 1 bottle of sugar mint syrup
- 1 bottle of red wine vinegar
- 1 bottle of olive oil
- 1 box of Herbes de Provence
- 1 box of ground gray pepper
- 1 box of cocoa powder
- 1 can of liver pâté
- 1 large can of sausage with lentils, still good to eat
- 2 jars of instant coffee, expired since May 2016, respectively May 2019
- 1 box of Camargue Mediterranean rice, expired since 2018
- 1 jar of Nutella, expired in May 2018
- 2 packages of expired spaghetti since 2017
- 1 package of flour, expired since 2015
- Several sachets of instant coffee expired in March 2015
- 1 set of 6 flat plates, 4 glasses, 4 bowls, and 1 tray, all in white plastic with famous sailboats drawn on them in dark blue
- 4 flat plates, also made of plastic, with a blue or red zigzag pattern
- 3 blue plastic cups, semi-opaque
- 2 boxes containing disposable plastic cups
- 1 box with disposable plastic straws
- 2 ice cube trays
- 1 box with ice cube bags
- 1 box with freezer bags
- 1 white plastic chopping board
- 1 kitchen towel
- 1 large plastic bowl
- 1 large colander
- 2 small colanders
- 1 corkscrew
- Unmatched cutlery
- 1 pack of paper napkins
- 1 roll of paper towels
- A few clothes hooks
- 1 spray bottle with kitchen cleaning solution
- 2 rolls of cling film
- 2 rolls of thick aluminum foil
- 5 rolls of garbage bags of different sizes
- 5 dish sponges – 3 new and 2 used
- 4 wire sponges for scrubbing pans
- 1 container without a lid
- 2 lids without containers
- 2 pairs of new cleaning gloves
- 2 smoke detectors, still in their original packaging
- 1 vegetable grinder
- 1 grater
- 1 square glass tray, for the oven
- 1 brush for painting in narrow spaces
- 2 thermal stands for hot dishes
- 1 rusty, full, and long-forgotten ashtray under the stove
- 2 stainless steel trays with metal handles
- 7 pans of different sizes
- 1 metal lid suitable only for the smallest pan
- 1 glass lid suitable only for the largest pan
- 1 set of paper covers to prevent hot oil from splashing
- 1 grid for leaving food to cool.
The aft head (bathroom)
The aft bathroom held its own surprises. Olive oil soaps, Petit Marseillais soaps, and a tube of shaving foam were just some of the items we found. There was also a spray against mosquitoes, a sun protection cream, and a lemon-flavored shower gel – essentials for life at sea. Here’s the full list:
- 2 olive oil soaps
- 4 Petit Marseillais soaps
- 1 tube of shaving foam
- 1 tube of toothpaste
- 1 sealed toothbrush
- 1 tube of hand cream
- 1 bottle of shampoo for normal hair
- 1 spray against mosquitoes
- 1 spray for sun protection
- 1 sun protection cream
- 1 lemon-flavored shower gel
- 1 lavender-scented room freshener
- 1 gel for manual laundry
- 1 used hair brush.
In the saloon, we found an eclectic mix of items. From a collection of old calendars printed on canvas to an old CD-player, each item was a piece of the puzzle, a clue to the boat’s past. We also found several food items, some still within their expiry date, others long past it.
Here’s everything I found in the cupboards:
- 1 empty box of chewing gum
- 1 old brief (eew!)
- 1 large yellow dry bag
- 1 inflatable sleeping mattress for one person
- 2 kitchen towels
- 1 old CD-player
- 1 obsolete charger for cigarette lighter socket
- 1 adapter we don’t know what for
- 1 solar garden lamp, still in its original packaging
- 1 box of spirals against mosquitoes
- 2 mosquito and wasp sprays, both expired since 2019
- 4 half-liter bottles, filled with expired still water
- 1 box with cutter blades, almost empty
- 1 box with rubber gasket for windows
- 1 kit with protections to be mounted over the adjustment areas of the balcony railing
- 1 kit to repair the annex in case of emergency
- Several rolls of adhesive tape of various types and sizes
- Flags of various sizes (Bavaria Yachts, St. Raphael, Quarantine, etc.)
- Several plastic or wooden hangers, of various models
- 1 line pocket, to be attached to the balcony railing
- Various lines and elastics.
Here’s what we found under the couch cushions:
- Fishing accessories (rods, hooks, dry baits, etc.)
- 1 collection of old calendars printed on canvas, the oldest one from 1966
- 2 fondue Savoyarde recipes printed on canvas
- 2 children’s life jackets, both expired and not reviewed to extend their validity
- 1 very old and color-faded cap
- 1 package of farfalle pasta, still good to eat
- 1 tin of peeled tomatoes in broth, still good to eat
- 1 large tin of lentil sausage, expired as of October 2019
- 1 jar of tomato basil pasta sauce, expired since September 2019
- 1 jar of Bolognese sauce, expired from January 2019
- 1 box of long grain rice, expired as of November 2018
- 1 can of cooked lentils, expired since October 2018
- 3 large cans of green beans, two still good to eat and one expired as of September 2018
- 1 large can of green peas, expired since August 2018
- 3 large cans of mixed peas & baby carrots, two still edible and one expired in August 2018
- 1 jar of Breton pork loin, expired from April 2018
- 1 large can of vegetables for couscous, expired since March 2018
- 1 box of country pate expired in March 2018
- 1 box of liver pate, expired from March 2018
- 1 box of instant mashed potatoes, expired as of March 2018
- 1 keg of Kronenbourg beer expired in March 2018
- 4 cans of ultra-crispy corn, two expired in 2018 and the other two expired in 2017
- 1 package of spaghetti expired in 2017
- 1 canned mackerel fillet in lemon and olive marinade, expired March 2017
- 2 cans of mackerel in tomato & basil sauce, one edible and one expired in January 2017
- 2 cans of tuna in its own juice, one still within the deadline and another expired since 2016
- 3 tins of tomato pulp in broth, expired as of September 2016
- 2 packs of tabbouleh with tomatoes, mint, lemon & olive oil, expired in September 2016
- 3 cans of Kronenbourg 1664 beer expired in March 2015
- A shopping receipt from 26.07.2017.
The bow cabin
The bow cabin was a treasure trove of mismatched items. Fishing accessories, a protective coverall for painting, a lifeline in a resealable plastic bag, a wind scoop that I initially mistook for a kite, and even a wooden yoyo decorated with the flag of Great Britain. Under the mattress, we found a somewhat rusty harpoon, a lobster net, and a storm sail, among other things.
Here’s what I found in the bow cabin cupboards:
- Mismatched bedsheets
- Lots of towels of various sizes and colors
- 1 wind scoop
- 1 Bosun chair, to climb on the mast
- 1 empty bag of chips
- 1 empty chocolate bar packaging
- A single-use protective overall for painting
- A lifeline in a resealable plastic bag
- 1 small tube with silicone for the bathroom
- 1 wooden yoyo decorated with the flag of Great Britain.
And here’s what I found in the storage area under the mattresses:
- 1 rusty harpoon
- 1 lobster net
- 1 net to keep the fish in the water
- 2 rectangular pillows, probably for the living room
- 1 box with 5 bags of dry baits for attracting fish (Mediterranean cheese, red stock with I don’t know what in sardine oil, shrimps)
- 2 bags of grain bait for sea bream and sea bass
- 2 blue foam rafts (we used them for swimming and boat protection)
- 1 storm sail
- 1 new spinnaker with its spinnaker sock
- 1 quilt for one person
- 1 sleeping bag for one person.
The bow head (bathroom)
The bow bathroom held fewer surprises. It only had:
- 1 used cloth
- 1 used sponge
- 1 pair of used or just very old latex gloves
- 1 empty box from a room freshener
- 1 new set of clothes hooks.
Our boat inventory discovery was a journey in itself, a journey through time and memories. It was a reminder of the boat’s past, a testament to its resilience, and a promise of the adventures to come.
Note: wherever I didn’t mention anything about the expiration date for perishable goods it means I didn’t identify it on the packaging and just threw the item away.
Unveiling the past, preparing for the future
As we stood on the deck of our sailboat, looking out at the deep blue waters of the French Riviera, we couldn’t help but reflect on the journey we had undertaken. It was not just a journey of physical preparation, of cleaning sails and stocking cupboards, but one of discovery and anticipation.
Each item we found and each task we undertook brought us closer to our dream. The old plates, the mismatched cutlery, the rusty harpoon – they were all pieces of a puzzle, fragments of a story that was now ours to continue. They were reminders of the boat’s past, echoes of voyages undertaken and adventures experienced.
But they were also a promise of the future filled with the gentle sway of the sea, the whisper of the wind in our sails, and the thrill of exploration. We were preparing for a life of adventure, a life at sea.
To those of you considering a similar adventure, I say this: embrace the journey! Revel in the preparations, in the discoveries, in the anticipation. Each step you take brings you closer to your dream. Each task, each challenge, is a part of your story, a story that is as much about the journey as it is about the destination.
As we prepared for our first sail, we looked forward to the adventures that awaited us. We looked forward to the challenges, the triumphs, and the memories we would make. But we also looked forward to sharing our journey, to inspire and encourage other sailors-to-be to embark on their own adventures in the Mediterranean or beyond.
Mirela Letailleur is a travel blogger, a seasoned adventurer, a connoisseur of European travel, and a master of affordable exploration. Coming from Romania and now residing in the picturesque South of France, Mirela has turned her passion for travel into a resource for fellow explorers through her blog, The Travel Bunny. Her unique and comprehensive travel guides have become a beacon for those seeking to discover Europe’s hidden gems without breaking the bank.
But Mirela’s expertise extends beyond the realm of land-based travel. She is also a savvy sailor, skilled in the art of sailboat renovation and preparation. Her recent journey of purchasing a used sailboat, uncovering its inventory, and preparing it for a Mediterranean voyage has equipped her with invaluable insights. From cleaning processes to inventory discoveries, Mirela’s experiences have made her a leading voice in the sailing community. Whether you’re a seasoned sailor or a novice about to embark on your first voyage, Mirela’s advice is a treasure trove of practical tips and engaging storytelling, making her the go-to expert for all your sailing needs.
After discovering this used boat inventory, check out these travel blog posts
From dream to reality: Med sailing during the pandemic in 2020
Our sailboat search in France: finding the right sailboat
The ultimate guide to buying a used sailboat: Baffi’s boat inspection