Doing the "Schengen Shuffle"
Montenegro, our surprise destination, is lovely!
We planned out an extremely detailed itinerary spanning 6 months in the Mediterranean, from June-Nov. On June 6, prior to leaving Sardinia for the Amalfi Cost, our plans were foiled after a trip to the Sardinia police station to stamp out of Italy.
Anyone heard of the Schengen Area? 23 out of 27 EU countries comprise the Schengen area. These countries share a common visa and function under a single jurisdiction when it comes to border patrol. The rule is that foreign travelers can only stay 90 days in a 180-day period. I was quite uneasy about how we would pull off just 90 days when our itinerary in Europe extended until mid-Nov., when Dale and crew (friends and family) planned to take Helios across the Atlantic again for the third time. However, Dale was convinced that we could work around it since we would be at sea so many days. But 90 days at sea seemed excessive to me. Does border control count days at sea? Does it count when you anchor off an uninhabited island and never step on land?
Well, we got our answers June 6 as we were trying to stamp out of Italy since we would be at sea for 6 days before entering the Amalfi Coast. We were planning on stopping by some islands only to anchor and rest. However, we connected the dots fairly quickly when we were told we would have to leave Italy immediately if we stamped out of the country. When Dale mentioned we were planning on leaving super early the next morning and that we were going to anchor by an island for the night (while we tested all of the systems on the boat), we were told we could not sail or anchor within 10 nautical miles of Schengen territory. So anchoring became out of the question, as our anchor would not be long enough to secure our boat so far out at sea. We left the police station not stamping out so we could figure out our next move. That night, around midnight, Dale and I made the very difficult decision to forgo our June itinerary starting June 7, stamp out of Italy late morning (at the same police station) and head directly to Montenegro, a non-Schengen area. This would temporarily stop our Schengen clock and "buy" us more time at the back half of our trip before having to check into Greece (Schengen country) at the beginning of July to pick up guests in Corfu...and that is what is affectionately known as "the Schengen Shuffle," as we have met several cruisers in Montenegro doing the same dance.
After recalculating our days in Schengen region, we figured we can stay until Sept. 20, the latest. Unfortunately, that meant canceling our guests we had scheduled from mid-Sept. and beyond and forgoing our Atlantic Crossing. Our current thinking is to keep Helios in Greece and return next summer to circle back to the Amalfi Coast and Mallorca.
Below is a chart with our original itinerary versus our current itinerary. The aqua-highlighted rows indicate major changes.