How to take a Mini across Europe

Once the excitement of buying a new boat faded away and my Pogo was safely resting in Marseille for the winter, I started pondering seriously about how on earth I would manage to bring it home, or more precisely, to the Life Harbour in Limanu. As winters tend to be long and mostly dark, they are perfect for adventure dreaming. With Google Earth opened in the cozy comfort of my home, I plotted different routes from Marseille to the Black Sea. And as it usually happens, it was just an email exchange with Marc, who graciously took care of the entire buying procedure, boat transportation from Bandol to Marseille, the winter storage preparations and acted as an advisor, that killed all my sailing plans – in his sparse English he only mentioned that my 4 hp Yamaha outboard would not push me up through the Bosphorous. So, even if I had miraculously managed to sail unscathed with a new boat that I did not know all the way to the Marmara Sea at the beginning of spring when the weather in the Mediterranean is ussually stormy, I would have still needed to find a solution there to transport the boat by land to the Black Sea. It looked like I would have to change directions, abandon my seafaring plans and look for a road transport…

It was just before Christmas when Luci, my friend from Mangalia who took care of Mem Pas Peur while it lied in Limanu the previous year, called me with the news that a boat bigger than mine had arrived from Netherlands by trailer, transported by a Romanian driver. His name was Bogdan Dobrovat and I got in touch with him immediately. He was keen to take up the challenge to bring my Mini from Marseille, BUT (since there is always a conditional “but” when things start to look good…), he warned me, “we have to think about how we are going to cross the entire Europe with a 3 meter wide boat, when the maximum width allowed on roads ranges between 2.55 and 2.65 m”… This I never considered since almost all the Mini skippers in Western Europe had trailers and freely drove their boats from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic coast. I also asked Marc’s opinion and he confirmed that even in France that was illegal, but since sailing is such a huge sport there, no one stops Mini boats on a trailer. That was not the case though in Italy, or Croatia, or Germany and Austria for that matter, not to mention Hungary and Romania.

There were only two options left. One, to apply for legal permits in all the countries that Bogdan would cross on the way to the Black Sea. But that would lead to a ridiculous amount, probably costing more than what I paid for the entire boat. I could not make peace with this option, and kept pressing Bogdan for a second option. I saw that some Mini skippers had special trailers on which they can mount their boats in a canted position. I asked for offers to have such a trailer built, but then again their price was way too high. Bogdan had a custom trailer designed to transport older and heavier boats, but up until now none of them was wider than 2.6 meters. After careful calculations and many-many discussions that took place over the winter, he finally confirmed that he could build special poles, shorther on one side of the trailer, and longer on the other, fully customisable in length. Good, we had a trailer that could, theoretically, accomodate my Mini in a canted position.

There was one final issue left – to place the boat on a trailer in such a position, close to 45 degrees, you definitely need to remove the keel. And we had no idea if that was possible with the Pogo 1. I exchanged ideas with Marc who decided to give it a try at taking down the keel. Removing the 10 bolts that kept it in place was not extremely difficult. However the keel juncture to the hull was covered in a thick layer of fiberglass. Even without the bolts, when the boat was lifted by crane, the keel would not bulge at all. Marc started a very tedious job of removing the fiberglass around the keel joint, and finally when the layers were peeled off, they tied the keel to the ground, and then lifted the boat again. Finally, the keel came off and we got the green light for coming to Marseille to load the boat πŸ™‚

When I arrived in Marseille at the beginning of April, 2017, I found my boat entirely deconstructed, the empty hull lying on a craddle, the keel on the ground underneath, the mast and the entire rigging tied together in a different part of the yard, the engine, the battery, the liferaft somewhere else. Only the sails were crammed inside. I scratched my head at the enormity of the task of putting everything back together. But first things first… our first goal was to take the boat from there by trailer. Bogdan was supposed to arrive there the following morning. Marc Β and the owner of the yard, Mr. Pardessus, promised to give us a hand. Although optimist by nature, Marc was mostly curious to see if and how we will manage to accomplish this task, being convinced that we would fail… he kept stressing this in an amused way.

And so, our job began…

My Pogo with the keel removed, waiting to be lifted on the trailer
The mast and the rigging tied together…
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The boat already in the crane, waiting for the trailer…
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Bogdan, starting to prepare the trailer…
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Ready to start the mounting procedure πŸ™‚
The boat is placed in a canted position…
Bogdan starts to tie in all the slings that would keep it this way for over 2,500 kms…
Now you get a clearer view of the actual inclination angle πŸ™‚
On this side, the longer support poles…
Bringing the keel to the trailer…
Final checks before taking it to the trailer…
Placing the keel on the trailer, under the boat…
And “la piece de resistance”… the mast turned out to be much heavier than I expected 😦
Mounting the mast on a canted boat by 2 people… quite strenuous
Almost there, almost there….
Finishing tying up the mast and securing everything for a long trip…
Final checks before departure…
Final destination – Mangalia πŸ™‚

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