Meandering to Montenegro 2008
Meandering to Montenegro
Aqua Blue my thirty year old Kelsall trimaran winters in Monfalcone near Trieste. We have cruised the wonderful but increasingly crowded Croatian coast and islands for several summers, since sailing up from Greece in 2004. Now after some considerable refitting we were ready again for a longer trip. My wife Stella was keen to see Montenegro before the threatened rapid development, and I had driven round Kotor fjord decades ago and would enjoy revisiting under sail.
The much travelled tri was craned into Nautec marina on the 4th July and refitting continued for another week till my crew Eddie arrived to help immediately with the sails and dinghy. We were quickly ready for the trip south and headed out of the Timavo river on Friday 11th July.
A light southeasterly drew us directly across the bay of Trieste to Capo d'Istria. We soon entered Croatia at it's most northerly port Umag, which is convenient for visiting the authorities and refuelling, as well as having council provided moorings in it's circular protected bay. Eddie even found a decent restaurant (Santa Maria) as well as the giant supermarket.
Southerlies were forecast and as so often before we had to beat down to Rovinj in a rising wind. However it's a calm anchorage and after chatting to a NZ couple we later walked a mile into the fashionable artist's colony to enjoy the views from the church. Back on board southerly gales were imminent!
Very few yachts joined our exit in the morning, as we slowly motored over the swell between the outlying islands, until in clear water we could raise a reefed main and the self tacking staysail to commence motor sailing southsoutheast. After a few hours the wind starting veering and dropping and we could unroll the genoa inside the Brijuni islands, where Tito used to entertain foreign dignitaries. Tacking past Pula with it's sunken breakwater we then entered Soline, a much cleaner anchorage which was surprisingly full of sailors even more cautious than myself! Eddie christened the new kayak and later we had a wonderful fish platter at restaurant Barka only a short walk up through the trees.
I waited for the morning forecast as it slowly blued up to confirm the improvement, but we still found it pretty bumpy off Kamenjack, the most southerly point of Istria. However the westerly now rushed us across the gulf of Kvaerner away from the mainland thunderstorms as the sea gradually went down, to the islands where we picked up one of the last buoys in the Ilovic channel, where crews arriving from the south were wearing oilies.
We were deterred from shopping in Ilovic in the morning, since rowing back against the now moderate NE Bora would have been tedious, so we stretched our legs on Sv Petar island. However on our return to the boat the ignition failed and we spent two hours finding and fixing the corroded earth connection on the engine and even replacing the starter button with a switch. The Bora remained moderate so we then set off downwind under genoa alone and made Ist for tea, where we were soon joined by some Austrian nudists. You don't know where to look sometimes, so we admired their all over tans! Another good fish meal overlooking the anchorage was followed by architect Eddie touring the many converted stone houses, it's a smart place.
The summer Maestral returned in the morning and we ran downwind initially with the drifter, easily reaching Zut to anchor in the NE corner past the marina. Firemen were there, waiting to be picked up after dousing yet another forest fire. We had already sailed past a larger fire being bombed by seaplanes, and then had a closer view on the yachtclub tv! A leisurely start included a brief pause to tighten up the "nodding" bow roller, which I do like but am gradually replacing the machine screws with bolts where possible. Then 41nm closehauled but laying the course brought us to Rogoznica by 6.45pm, to anchor inside the causeway. We just stopped at the first restaurant yet had good cheap Dorada. I made Eddie walk round the island in the morning before we drifted round to the charming little island port of Drevenik Veli by only mid afternoon, to anchor next to a UK Moody 39, who promptly left. I always find this slightly disconcerting but I think they were annoyed by a coaster unloading gravel, rather than the arrival of a trimaran! Eddie found a very good restaurant Tramontana run by a German couple, up the hill behind the port.
We spent the following day only three miles away on the mainland in Vinisce after a blast across the channel in quite a brisk westerly. I had selected it to await the arrival of my family in nearby Trogir later in the week. We then found and fixed a water leak in the exhaust system, a plastic elbow had been rubbing on an engine foot, spraying water on the gearbox. Cruising really is about maintaining your boat on holiday! Vinisce is a large sheltered shallow sandy bay, quite unusual in the Adriatic and eminently suitable for multihulls; there's even a small crowded marina in one corner, but we prefer to anchor.
Eddie flew home 36hrs later after touring impressive mediaeval Trogir. Unfortunately you have to pay 150 Kuna to anchor in the polluted water and I find the restaurants indifferent, but it's the closest shelter to Split airport and has the necessary port authorities in addition to fuel and fresh water. I returned to Vinisce for more floating maintenance and improvements. A trough produced quite strong winds while I was commuting between Vinisce and Trogir to pick up my wife Stella and daughter Louise, later joined by crew Humphrey and the Croatian paperwork was attended to.
On Sunday 27th July we recovered the Rocna from the stinking mud and sailed south to Brac where we nosed into Smrka on the sw coast, partly to see the bunker but also to swim again in clean water. After morning bathing and bunker photography we motorsailed to fashionable Hvar, but avoiding the crowded town anchorage we continued on to anchor in the lagoon at Marinkovac, for a lazy afternoon and a good but surprisingly moderately priced meal in restaurant Antonio, from where I admired a purposeful looking Outremer 55 "light".
The wind now deserted us and we motored for seven hours over a glassy calm till we reached the sailboarders in the Peljeski canal, then expended film as beautiful Korcula town went past, before finally pulling into nearly empty Racisce bay under the stares of some nude powerboaters. We then walked through to Lumbarda (where anchoring is forbidden) to shop at the Studenac, also finding an internet cafe for Louise in a smart hotel. After a very quiet night in the shelter of Vrnik island we again motored all day, the full length of Mljet island and crossed to Lopud, one of the Elefaniti islands off Dubrovnik, just dropping the hook in the open bay off the classy little resort town, where Humphrey wined and dined us in one of the smart waterfront restaurants. Morning sightseeing led us to the old fortified monastery on the headland and there are hikes up to the hilltop fort or through the woods to a southern beach. However we pressed on via Kolocep, to expend more film passing Dubrovnik and soon entered Cavtat, the most southerly port in Croatia, another smart little ex Venetian town with two bays to choose from.
The authorities reserve wall space for transiting boats and even provide a large blue freshwater hose. We were grateful in the morning, although backing a 25ft wide tri up to a wall crowded with giant gin palaces requires a certain firmness, aided by a tyre hung down the transom and well fendered floats! The helm operated windlass is so useful, as is the Kiwi prop, so powerful in reverse. I was twice sent between the harbourmaster and port police while paperwork from Trogir was corrected! We were then shooed away from the wall while the girls were still ashore and Humphrey had to collect them in the dinghy. However by 11.00am we were again motoring south, passing through Molunat anchorage on the way, till we turned into Kotor fjord and proceeded past Hercegnovi to find the harbourmaster at Zelenika, where there's a huge commercial quay to moor to. I paid 57 euros for a 7 day vignette plus 10 euros to customs to officially enter Montenegro, then motored back to vertical Hercegnovi where anchoring is discouraged, so we again backed up to the this time crowded, hot and noisy harbour wall. After swimming in the murky water we managed the many steps up to the piazza for a simple meal with good views over the gulf. Descending later to an impressive firework display we found the mooring manager still in his kiosk, whereupon I surprised myself by successfully refusing to pay the multihull surcharge.
Somehow I slept through the discos, and in the morning we refuelled after waiting while a fishing boat took on 2000 litres of diesel! Since there was still no wind we continued south to Budva and used the open anchorage off the beach although the charts discourage it. It's an interesting town rebuilt after an earthquake, incredibly crowded with east european tourists and the discos behind the beach are supersonic but again I did manage to sleep. I tell myself that I actually like the music. In the morning we moved to anchor off the very photogenic Sveti Stefan island which now belongs to a hotel chain and is closed to visitors, our most southerly point this year. We now retraced our steps northwards and diverted into the great anchorage of Bigova; we liked it so much we spent the rest of the day there. There was a New Zealander at anchor, who spends the northern summers living on his Med yacht, and the southern summers living on his antipodean boat!
On Mon 4th August we finally reached the head of Kotor gulf and were waved onto the pontoon at Kotor town by a young man who charged us 50 euros a night. We were glad of the space though and coughed up this time. It was 90F, hot and windless, but we had travelled a long way to see this complete mediaeval walled town, supported by Unesco. We tramped the streets after sunset marvelling at the preserved buildings. In the morning I managed (needless to say on my own!) the 1356 steps up the crumbling town walls which had twice successfully repelled the Turks (although not the Brits!), to the summit above where I met a Japanese teacher who had arrived by bus from Albania! An afternoon siesta was imperative with it being 94F in the cabin with two fans running, till the sun again hit the high mountains. Whereupon we explored further making a particular point of the maritime museum, I can now distinguish between a Xebec and a Felucca!
Leaving early we paused to photograph Perast and I expect a multihull could go alongside in the morning calm. However there were no tripper boats at Skrpela so we seized our opportunity to tie up to the artificial island with its picturesque church. We still managed to clear out of Montenegro at Zelenika shortly after 11.00am and were swimming in Molunat, Croatia at lunchtime. Reaching Cavtat a few hours later we negotiated the gin palaces again, to regain the customs quay for the second round of formalities that day. We then scurried round to shallower quieter Tiha bay just east, which still gives easy access to the town. Louise and I went ashore for for an internet cafe, but a power cut sent us back onboard from where we endured a very loud and amateurish rock band onshore which did keep keep my tired body awake! It's the going ashore that wears you out!
Stella was determined to visit the impressive Mestrovic mausoleum to the Racic family, all victims of the "Spanish Flu" in 1918, so we all accompanied her to the headland graveyard, which also has great views north. After much photography we then motored past Dubrovnik again to anchor off Sudurad on Sipan island. A very interesting village from the XIV century, with two fortified towers and battlemented walls to repel pirates. The beach which just slopes into the small harbour was used for boat building. We then passed through the narrow channel between Sipan and Jaklan, to anchor in the shallow bay north of the equally attractive XVI century Sipanska. A trough must have arrived overnight since our return to Cavtat was very sloppy, and Tiha bay was rather crowded. We were DVD'ing in the cockpit after another good meal ashore when a collision between two boats nearby alerted us to a rising northeasterly, the one direction Tiha is not really protected from. We were soon dragging ourselves, so returned to Cavtat harbour, but still failed to find good holding in the thick weed during the increasing gusts. I had little sleep before 4.30am. After an early morning lull a rising northwesterly Maestral then made Cavtat itself uncomfortable by midday so we returned again to Tiha! The two attractive bays are rather open to the north. In the evening we rendezvoued with our new crew David in restaurant Ivan overlooking Tiha. Fortunately this time I had taken the precaution of also laying our second Fortress anchor which does seem to cut better through the weed. However the again fresh northeasterly made the several dinghy trips back to Aqua Blue problematical after the outboard was swamped and then an oar snapped. Eventually we were all back on board although rather wet!
After more sighteeing in the morning Stella and Louise taxied conveniently to nearby Dubrovnik airport. Humphrey and David had already stocked up so we left by midday. However the wind had vanished again and we motored all the way to Okulje on Mljet island, where we picked up a buoy proffered by a child in a dory. His Dad soon arrived and we agreed to eat in restaurant Maestral for our "free" mooring since there is virtually no room to anchor and the meal was indeed freshly cooked and reasonably priced. Back on board I received a text from Louise asking me to find Stella's wedding ring. I had earlier noticed it hanging above her bunk and was already wearing it, so spent the rest of the trip married to myself! A very slow start in the morning was due to me inexplicably pulling a muscle in my side. It took me 15mins to dress and gain the cockpit with the aid of prescription drugs, and it was an hour before I dared swim! We exited the Mljetski canal and motorsailed back to Korcula, where after finding the fuel quay "out of fuel" we spent the night anchored in very crowded Luka bay. We were definitely back on the beaten track.
Rather low on fuel we returned to the quay in the morning to find a long line of Gulets and Gin palaces so we turned NW again past Korcula town, where in fact a brisk easterly enable us to run up the Peljeski canal (it should be the Sailboardski canal) at good speed before it turned light again. We pressed on at very modest revs and pottered into Hvar, penetrating the crowded shallows of Krizna Luka to once again find empty fuel pumps. I was again glad of the Kiwi prop to back out and we returned to Marinkovac lagoon. On the way I was keenly watching some idiots straight ahead in a "cigarette boat" who were transiting the crowded anchorage at a ludicrous speed, only to have another bozo in an inflatable try to impale himself on the port float. I had to slam the twenty year old Yanmar into reverse so the Kiwi could save his stupid skull, whereupon my crew loudly educated him about his lack of parentage. The probably inebriated oaf then rammed another dinghy! Frankly Hvar should be avoided in August, despite the fact that my sister spends her summers there.
We left early in the morning calm with David scanning the pilot book for fuel stations and he found one in Rogac on Solta. We pulled in and were able to completely fill with diesel at a cost of 1000Kuna. So we easily made Rogoznica by late afternoon and anchored behind the causeway again. With us now full of fuel the wind returned with a vengeance overnight and by 7 am we had swung too close to the causeway with other late arrivals hemming us in, so we hauled the Rocna and extricated ourselves, heading up the eastern arm where we again had trouble penetrating the thick weed till we deployed the Fortress as well. And there we lay uncomfortably and boringly all day in up to 30kts of wind and 92F. The conditions weren't conducive to maintenance or sailing! Fortunately the cold front went through in the early hours and the anchorage was calm at breakfast. After unwinding the two anchor cables the crew restocked in the supermarket back at the causeway, while I managed my first ever SSB Ham transmission (M0DKD if you want to call me), using the second hand Icom 706, whose ATU it had taken me too long to finally install. We nosed out after lunch to find a two metre plus sea piling up in the entrance. However the crew manfully raised sail while clinging to the rigging and we slowly crawled up to Prvic island off Sibenik. The architecture reminded me of Sipan and we had a very good meal in restaurant Punta, including the most intense garlic fish soup I'd ever enjoyed. I explored the many converted stone houses and we were also treated to a very clear lunar eclipse.
The trough was thankfully followed by the return of normal summer northwesterlies, known as the Maestral in the Adriatic. They arrive late morning following a light period after the overnight northeasterly land breeze, so we easily sailed back to Zut. The following day in a fresher Maestral we tacked all the way up to Molat to pick up one of the many buoys behind the sheltering island, passing on the way three yellow flying boats picking up water to bomb fires on Tun Veli. With a slightly rolled genoa, the staysail, and one reef in the new fully battened mainsail the old bus touched 8.5kts to windward in the flatter waters off Molat, despite the huge weight of spares, fuel, water and alcohol onboard. The combination of the Kiwi prop and the fully battened main has produced a worthwhile improvement. If only we could shed the cruising weight! A cool night and some Ballantynes ensured deep sleep.
David and I explored ashore in the morning although there are few facilities to justify all the moorings. A topless beauty strolling under the trees greeted us but strangely she didn't want to go sailing. We then motored up to and through the narrows of Prolaz Zapuntel while I called the Med net on 14303Khz, before the wind arrived and we just managed to lay Ilovic in a freshening breeze. Approaching the entrance channel at a very good speed on starboard tack, I had to bear away to avoid a speedboat on our port bow who was taking no evasive action. Unfortunately the helmsman then woke up and turned right, so that for a short period we were facing a head on collision. I span the wheel further and of course we accelerated, only just passing behind him as he fortunately straightened up again. Quite a near miss really, I must attach a foghorn to the saloon door, it's often needed in August! We grabbed the last of nearly one hundred buoys in the Ilovic channel, just off the ruined tower, followed by a reasonably priced meal ashore despite the crowding.
After visiting the (inhabited) tower and swimming, we passed an interesting Austrian open bridgedeck cat from Lepanto marina fitted with a tubular alloy day cabin and a wingmast rotating on a fixed light scaffold tower. A light southerly then drew us towards Susac and eventually right across the gulf of Kvaerner to round Kamenjack surprisingly early and enter Soline bay by 4.30pm, by it's very shallow southern entrance. Later I marched David and Humphrey back up through the trees to restaurant Barka again, for our final and excellent fish platter for three, 610 Kuna including wine. Barka is run by a hospitable German/Croatian couple. Back onboard we sat through Apocolypto by Mel Gibson, the stuff of nightmares!
A reasonably early start enabled us to make some progress north before the land breeze died away, but before long the Maestral returned and even multihulls can sail north in the "lift" along the coast of Istria on one long port tack. We easily made Novigrad by mid afternoon and picked up a buoy off the vast new marina which now occupies half the bay. Use the swimming beach to get ashore, the town quay unusually in the Med is far too high! After a welcome cool night we awaited our turn on the customs quay whereupon we cleared out of Croatia easily ( due of course to keeping on top of the paperwork during the earlier crew changes). We motorsailed north alongside a German tri from Umag. It's an unusual folding design with a completely enclosed forward cockpit. Then we crawled across the bay of Trieste under full main and drifter with me dozing in the dinghy on the starboard netting, arriving at the entrance markers a mile off Grado. Motoring in we found the entrance channel to the town dock a bit thin for a 25ft wide tri so just anchored close to the mud outside marina San Marco and took the dinghy up the channel. It's a pleasant town. Frontal cloud appeared in the west and it was a sticky night.
By early morning a southeasterly had swung us close to the bank and piles, with strong southerlies forecast. So we headed out over the slop on the very shallow sandbanks which must be avoided in bad weather. The already veering wind enabled us to reach and run outside the banks to arrive off the Timavo river entrance by 11.30am. Karl the Nautec manager had left a T pontoon for us and the crane was already booked for 48hrs time. Humphrey and I unnecessarily washed the decks down since we were in for a violent night with many thunderstorms and spectacular lightning. It's often like this during the last week in August and we were glad to be back in! However there's good sailing in September too, although I was home via Ryanair by then.
Venice to Vis 2006
GOOD VIS, BAD NEWS 2006
I spent half of May and much of July making reasonable progress with an extensive refit which Aqua Blue my Kelsall 39 trimaran has needed for some time. On arrival in May I had been shocked at the damp inside the boat and found seven leaks, so started by replacing some of the saloon windows with acrylic I had brought out with me, making new seals from bicycle inner tube which works well. A new Vetus saloon hatch replaced the unsatisfactory previous model and is a huge improvement. I was beginning to wonder if a waterproof hatch was actually made! The cockpit seats were also rebuilt. I also started the engine and was surprised to find the bilge slowly filling with oil!! Fortunately it was an easily replaceable external oil pipe on the Yanmar 2GM20.
In July the Yanmar's rusty engine mountings were also finally replaced after quite a struggle to undo the gearbox/propshaft flange bolts which had been well tightened seventeen years earlier. The engine was lifted out onto a cockpit seat, where it's further upgrade was quickly undertaken. The removal of the corroded coach bolts holding down the collapsing old mountings needed a day with a hacksaw in very high temperatures, but the freshly painted new mounts were eventually in place. The now blue engine looked quite smart held down on the Hammerited mountings with giant stainless washers. The dreaded shaft/gearbox alignment was accomplished without too much difficulty. I had also cleaned and lubricated the starter motor drive and freed a sticky throttle lever and fitted a new fuel pump.
Subsequently I completed the installation of a new Kiwi prop. This all took so long that some planned repainting has been postponed yet again, however function must come before beauty. I don't resent the time spent on maintenance and hopefully improvement, it's an essential part of the cruising lifestyle, so often described as "working on your boat in exotic locations". Nautec marine in Monfalcone where Aqua Blue winters has good facilities including a bar/restaurant and friendly staff. I was particularly grateful to Maurizzio the Italian engineer who procured the new engine mounts in two days.
My wife Stella, and daughter Louise then arrived along with one of her school friends Shanthi. I collected them by car from Venice airport and we stopped in Portogruaro on the way back to visit the ancient watermills. The girls enjoyed the pool in the heatwave for two days and Stella helped me fit the sails, inflate the dinghy and provision. I also completed the wiring for the new Lofrans windlass and was mildly surprised when it worked immediately! On motoring out of the long Timavo river the engine was noticeably quieter on it's new mounts and revving more freely, with significantly more power being delivered by the Kiwi prop, in fact reverse with it's coarser pitch was a revelation. Instead of heading straight for Croatia, we had decided to visit Venice lagoon, so our first day at sea was spent making good progress west along the very shallow coast in a strengthening sea breeze. Eventually crossing the very shallow banks to enter Lignano, anchoring just off the starboard side of the entrance channel into the large lagoon for a peaceful night. These banks are to be avoided in bad weather and in fact a fishing boat was unfortunately rolled here with loss of life later in September.
Lighter winds the next day meant we motorsailed much of the way to the Lido entrance to Venice lagoon, easily recognisable with it's checquerboard light structure. Initially we anchored in the Canale Treporti just past the Marina Lio Grande for a swim in the murky water after fitting the larger sunshade, as it was still very hot. Later we moved up channel to anchor north of Burano for the night and the ladies spent the morning in Burano admiring lace and colourful architecture while I failed to start the outboard. The local church has a leaning tower at a much more drunken angle than Pisa's. Later we attempted a clockwise circumnavigation of Torcello but couldn't manage it even in a multihull so retreated and tried anticlockwise which got us up a creek very close to the ancient Basilica whose campanile Stella and I climbed in the stupendous heat 97F. The mosaics are very impressive . Later we followed the marked channel down to anchor north of Murano. However the heat gave way to wind and rain, and at dusk it was uncomfortable enough in the northeasterly wind to make me motor round to the southwest side of Murano, to anchor just outside the channel much to the surprise of the passing high speed water taxis which sped to and fro from Marco Polo airport all night. We returned to the recognised northerly anchorage in the dawn calm. The rubbish dump has been landscaped and this spot offers the easiest access ashore down one of the small canals. Stella and the girls spent the morning admiring glasswork while I did more jobs onboard including another ventilation fan. The afternoon heat drove us down to anchor south of Erasmo island to swim off the sandbank the locals use as a beach, although frankly I don't recommend bathing in the lagoon!! We returned to the Murano anchorage for dinner ashore and slept through the northeasterly night breeze this time, the popply conditions ending at 4.00am. It may be possible to anchor in the lee of one of the small islands to the east of Murano for a quieter night and Venice is worth visiting by yacht if you have time to seek out the few anchorages.
Shanthi left us in the morning, conveniently getting a water bus from Murano to Marco Polo airport. After further exploration of Murano we upped anchor and headed south, spending much film on views of Venice, although I refrained from attempting the Grande Canale. Following the long channel inside the barrier islands of Lido and Malomocco eventually brought us to Chioggia where there was no room in the town harbour, although there is a crowded marina to the northwest and also another to the east inside the beach resort of Sottomarina, where I just ran Aqua Blue on to a mudbank for two nights peace, again alarming passing boats. Before the morning heat we had capuccinos and croissants in a fisherman's cafe and then walked round to explore Chioggia which is a charming island port with very few tourists. We spent the afternoon on the beach at Sottomarina behind which is an impressive Roman sea wall, and later obtained water at the small marina which does in fact have a few visitor's berths, although the approach channels through the mudbanks are baffling to a visitor. A good fish supper ashore too, although Prosecco is a better aperitif than an accompaniment to a meal in my opinion.
An early start was prevented on the second morning due to it being low tide, but patience and winching eventually recovered the anchor. We left the lagoon via the Chioggia entrance and had a rather boring day motoring most of the way across to Porec in Croatia. However there was an available mooring buoy and ashore there's a Mac internet cafe where Louise and I spent some time, after a meal in the courtyard of the Basilica, whose wonderful mosaics are not to be missed. In the morning we were relieved of 1037Kuna for our annual cruising permit by the friendly harbourmaster. No mention of the theoretically required skippers certificate, perhaps it's asked of charterers, to nudge them towards hiring a skipper! The port police were more severe but still polite, they are basically a frontier post for marine travellers.
We headed south and anchored off Sturago island for a swimming lunch. However we were brought up short as the Delta terminally engaged under a rock ledge and no amount of motoring around would budge it. It was just too deep for me to attach a tripping line to the anchor so reluctantly I buoyed the chain and left the lot, probably for someone else!! Continuing south at good speed as though the boat was glad to lose all that weight at the bow we made Pula harbour by evening and dropped the alloy Fortress into the filthy water on the second chain and rope, off the boatyard which now seems to be a charter base. Louise and I went ashore to eyeball the local chandlery and use the internet cafe leaving Stella on board. As we rowed back in the dark we could see lightning to the northwest. The increasing wind had me up again at 11.00pm as a thunderstorm crossed the harbour. During the first blast I lashed down the dinghy and let out more scope. However before long we were virtually lying ahull in 36kts (I should have fitted a bridle), and the large harbour was filled with short breaking waves. For a while I ran the engine to keep the bows into the wind and was wiping sewage from my face. The Fortress passed it's test though in the glutinous mud and prevented us from involuntarily entering the marina behind us, and the deluge was over in half an hour. In the morning I bought another 25mtrs of 8mm chain and struggled back to the boat with it on an alloy trolley we usually use for fuel cans, despite the oaths being directed at me by the supervisor of the rowing pontoon I was using as a dinghy dock. I winched the chain from the dinghy to the foredeck with the spinny halliard and after attaching the CQR which had spent several years under the engine, we could use the new windlass again. Surprisingly the CQR was a good fit in the new nodding bow roller. We then waited an hour for a superyacht to leave the fuel dock before we could refuel ourselves. Finally we escaped Pula although it is worth visiting for the huge Roman amphitheatre and temple, and passed through the inside passage at Kamenjack rather late at 2.15pm.
We were able to slowly sail across the gulf of Kvaerner in a light southerly since the trough that had produced the thunderstorm was slow to clear. I was immediately aware that the Kiwi prop had reduced drag since we were doing six knots in ten knots apparent despite being full of fuel and water, whereas previously we'd been pleased to approach half wind speed at cruising weight, and now could more easily exceed it. The white painted Delrin blades trailed aft like rocket fins. Later we were overtaken by a roll cloud with a blast underneath it which sent us scurrying into Artaturi bay on Losinj island to anchor next to a large cat. In the morning I fitted a new shower head of the garden variety, a huge improvement over the nautical version. After transiting the many buoyed anchorage between Ilovik and Petar we drifted down to Zapuntel on Molat island. The mooring buoy's ground tackle was corroded, and small jellyfish deterred Louise from swimming, but it was a quiet night although rather open to the northeast for a popular anchorage. In fact it was popply enough to wake me at dawn and we motored round to the double headed bay just north of Molat town for the rest of the morning, a beautiful spot with brilliantly clear water for swimming.
I tried to tighten the slipping alternator belt yet again and had an unwelcome surprise when the threaded lug on the alternator snapped off!! Fortunately there was just enough to still hold the bolt but I added another one underneath the lug as well. A temporary repair which may well be there for some time. In retrospect I think a fatter belt is needed. When the northwesterly Maestro returned at lunch time we left and easily sailed down inside Dugi Otok to pick up a buoy in Uvala Lucina off the village of Brinj. We only moved 15mls that day, real lotus eating. Dinner on board followed by American Gigolo on the new 12v Sevic DVD player, which the batteries can just manage. The light southerlies returned on the 1st August and the three of us tacked slowly southeast for most of the day making Zut island by three pm to anchor north east of the marina for a siesta, and later a meal in the large restaurant. There's also a small but pricey shop and a water shortage, but we did manage a few jerry cans when the taps were switched back on at 8.00am
After our morning departure the 12yr old Lowrance GPS with it's valued large screen failed to find any satellites and could not be brought back to useful life even after re-initiallising. Sharing a battery with the windlass was too much for it. Fortunately the handheld Magellan which talks to the laptop wasn't so fussy. A SW wind had us closehauling SE to Tijat for an afternoon swim before motoring into Sibenik. We backed up to the town quay at the first attempt to pick up the laid mooring ropes, never easy especially short handed in a trimaran, since the ropes have to be passed round the floats. The old town has been noticeably cleaned up for tourism (which can't be said of the harbour) and we had a surprisingly good fish meal at a pavement cafe, and the internet was available in a couple of places, topped off by a free jazz concert in a small square. The Cathedral on the front is worth a visit and there's also a water hose .Humphrey our regular crew arrived in the morning by bus from Split airport and was added to the crew list by a friendly official in the harbourmaster's office. However the SW wind was increasing and the berth becoming uncomfortable, in fact a charter yacht alongside snapped it's bow rope and ended up broadside to the quay. As the crew winched it back out we made our escape and motored up the river Krka to to anchor almost under the trees outside the full marina at Skradin. Humphrey caught up on sleep, and we swam in the warm fresh water before I filmed a Dragonfly tri which tacked up through the crowded anchorage.
We were ashore for the ten am river boat up to the famous falls, whose nature trail we spent a couple of hours hiking round before returning to Skradin for a late lunch. It's a surprisingly fashionable little place with good restaurants. We retraced our steps down the river in the afternoon and exited Sibenik via the canal again, to run down the coast under sail and pass under the low road bridge into large Morinje bay for the night. There were only three other yachts there in early August and being shallow it's ideal for multis. Back out in the morning under the only 22mtr arch bridge we motor sailed SE to Drevenika Veli at the east end of Solta for tea and swimming. However before long a brisk westerly had us swinging too near Krknjas so we ran over to Brac where we rejected Maslinica as too open, and continued round to enter the fjord like inlet of Sesula. Unfortunately the CQR was ineffective on the thin sand over rock and we reanchored no less than three times, before squeezing up to the head of the inlet and reversing up to the trees alongside a large Dutch yacht. We joined the skipper and his children in a "thatched hut restaurant" up the cliffs, run I suspect by students, but the meal was fine and the jazz appreciated. Of course once we were in our bunks it turned into disco inferno, but I managed to doze by telling myself that I actually liked the music. Mind over matter!!
Our Dutch neighbour was from the Frisian islands and chartering a yacht based near Split, as so many are in this area, producing the crowded summer anchorages. After extricating ourselves from the fjord we motorsailed south to Vis by early afternoon to anchor in Luka Rogacic past the naval bunker. As the others siesta'd I tackled the installation of a new CD player and associated wiring and before too long we had John Scofield playing in the cockpit. By the cocktail hour we had re-anchored off Kut at the east end of Vis harbour and had a good meal at the waterfont hotel. Later at the internet cafe I learned from my brother Paul (who was staying in our house in Brighton) that my poor Dad was seriously ill in hospital.
I had intended to spend a few days in Vis, which I'm rather fond of, although it's much busier than only a few years ago. But now the news was not so good, we had to immediately start retracing our steps. Stella and Louise flew home from Split three days later and I nearly joined them. However Humphrey and I day raced north through indifferent and even stormy weather, arranging flights on the mobile, anchoring for short nights only and not going ashore for five days, till reaching Umag to clear Croatia. Next day we were back in Monfalcone and within 24hrs via Ryanair I was at the Princess Royal Hospital, Haywards Heath. Much to the welcome surprise of my parents!
Tri to Trieste 2004
TRI TO TRIESTE 04
One Thursday in late July, first mate Humphrey found me at Heathrow and two flights later we were in western Greece, negotiating Preveza Marine in the dark to find a ladder helpfully propped up against Aqua Blue, my Kelsall 39' tri. Two days rapid fit out with Humphrey's help included several trips up the mast and antifouling all three hulls in the fierce boatyard heat. We also fitted a groundplate while the boat was out of the water and I looked critically at the rudder and centreboard which seemed as strong as ever.
On Saturday we motored straight down to Vliho Lagoon to anchor off restaurant Hippocampus, above which live good friends Danny and Sue Keane of IGR Yacht Services, who entertained us to several good meals. Fitting out continued afloat; being able to dive overboard does ease the heat acclimatisation, since Vliho is very hot in July/August. I bought new chain and a 35lb Delta anchor from IGR and left the rusty old 45lbCQR and chain buoyed on the bottom as our private mooring! We left on Monday morning in an unusual strong southerly and had the strange sensation of being blown down the Levkas canal towards the swinging bridge which was not yet open! Just as I One Thursday in late July, first mate Humphrey found me at Heathrow and two flights later we were in western Greece, negotiating Preveza Marine in the dark to find a ladder helpfully propped up against Aqua Blue, my Kelsall 39' tri. Two days rapid fit out with Humphrey's help included several trips up the mast and antifouling all three hulls in the fierce boatyard heat. We also fitted a groundplate while the boat was out of the water and I looked critically at the rudder and centreboard which seemed as strong as ever. was doubting my ability to hold Aqua Bluein reverse or do a three point turn, the bridge operator relented and we were through into the Ionian Sea. Leaving Preveza behind to starboard after six years, we ran north in an increasing swell and made very good time to crowded Lakka on the north tip of Paxos. Max speed 9.8 knots, not bad in a 28-year-old cruiser full of fuel and water. Overnight there was a violent thunderstorm with very strong gusts, enough to get me up to dress in a jumper and oilskin top in case we dragged, but the Delta passed its first test. However the rain at dawn was torrential and was filling the cockpit lockers as fast as they could drain. Unbeknownst to me the bilge pump exit hose was underwater and a siphon set up, which partially flooded the engine compartment. Humphrey in the rear cabin was alerted by his wet feet! Bucket bailing was called for until the penny dropped and I fished the exit hose out of the locker. Fortunately the starter motor survived its near immersion. Needless to say the exit hose now has a one way valve! After a few other jobs the sea outside started to go down, so we ventured out and again made good time in fresh westerlies to enter Gouvia Marina for a meal ashore and a good night's rest. I was already a bit stressed! Gouvia in the morning is very convenient for shopping, fuel and a written weather forecast at the office.
We motorsailed up the Corfu channel, overtaken by the daily hydrofoil from Corfu to Sarande in Albania only a few miles away. In fact I do suspect that close hauling up the Albanian coast is the right way to head north, but like everyone else we turned left for southern Italy and beat all day into a west-northwest F4 or 5 over an increasing swell and made the south bay on Erikoussa (the most northerly Ionian island) by 6pm. There were only three yachts there in late July. The mobile still worked and I rang home to report progress, while Humphrey demonstrated his culinary skills in the galley, laughing like a drain to a Jeremy Hardy tape. We left by 7am, it was pretty lumpy until we got off soundings since the wind had blown all night, always a sign of real weather in the Med. We close hauled past Othoni and the wind increased to 22 knots at times with short steep seas as we crashed our way across the Otranto Straits under cutter rig, fetching Cape Otranto by teatime. A few more tacks into the low setting sun brought us into Otranto Harbour itself after 13 hours, to anchor under the castle walls where we enjoyed Humphrey's cockpit dinner, listening to jazz coming down from the cafés above. We crashed out ourselves shortly afterwards. Up early to start again we had another very long day beating up the coast from Otranto to Brindisi. I had a numb right arm from nerve compression and Humphrey was heroically doing all the winching while I steered with my left arm into the night, until eventually we passed the huge breakwaters in the dark at some speed under sail. In fact you continue for a mile into the harbour before rounding up to drop sail and motor into Brindisi town basin, where we tied up under the Sailor's Monument. Rather wearily we dragged ourselves on deck soon after dawn (we were still on Greek time) and headed out. However after about an hour of crashing offshore the wind was 26 knots on the nose and the seas already two metres, very short and building, so I only half reluctantly spun the wheel and we ran back even faster into the harbour. This time going alongside just north of the steps at the end of the Appian Way. The trawlers seem to have been banished to the other side of the harbour. From this fashionable and very convenient spot I rang my partner Stella whom we had been trying to meet from a Ryanair flight into Bari. She laughingly accepted the inevitable and for the second time had to take a train with our daughter Louise from Bari to Brindisi where Humphrey and I met them at the station on Sunday, August 1.
At least we had a day and a half of much needed R&R and caught up on maintenance, including beefing up the heavily used staysail sheet attachment points and completing a new formica covered saloon table. I also fitted the new Nasa Weatherman and stuck its aerial out of a deckhatch. It promptly confirmed northwest five to seven in the Southern Adriatic! However there were two good Trattorias on the quay for dinner, after we'd walked the old town, as well as water hydrants. On Monday morning the sea of course was flat calm and we motorsailed gently to Monopoli to dine at anchor in the company of only two other yachts. Going alongside in the morning by the fishing boats enabled easy shopping in the wonderful medieval port. We topped up the fuel tank and commenced motoring north-west along the coast past Bari where we turned more north in a southeast breeze under the MPG, or code zero as they seem to be called now. Eventually we headed north-east and sailed all night, including running at speed before one persistent thunderstorm, arriving at the Croatian island of Lastovo by mid morning. It's a port of entry in season and the officials in Ubli readily trousered the �'�210 for the cruising permit. We lazed away the rest of the day in Skrivena Luka bay where I caught up on sleep. We then started our progress up the Croatian island chain, first pausing for a swimming lunch at the south-west corner of Korcula, before continuing under sail to Hvar town on Hvar Island. Anchored off the crowded harbour were a Cross 50tri and a Shuttleworth cat Solea. The Cross skipper paused alongside in his dinghy to chat about tris. They were six years into their circumnavigation from the US. Hvar is very fashionable in August and Paul Allen's enormous gin palace Octopus was anchored offshore with two helicopters on deck! The Venetian town is well worth a visit with its marble Piazza. We had a good meal on a hotel terrace overlooking the busy harbour, with Stella quoting from the Rough Guide to Croatia. It then rained all night, strongly enough in the morning for Stella to collect water for washing, as we watched torrents cascading down alley steps into the harbour. The rain clouds left no wind behind them and we motored all the way past Brac and Solta to anchor in the large bay of Rogoznica on the mainland, opposite the huge marina which strangely did not seem to have a fuel berth.
In the bright morning we motorsailed to Zirge Island for a lunch stop on one of the mooring buoys. Then a good long afternoon sail in the thankfully returned Maestro all the way to Lopatica Bay on Kornati Island. The islands, although mostly uninhabited, were dry stone walled right over the summits to encase hardy brown sheep. The park rangers called by in their RIB and made a small charge since the Kornatis are a protected national park, but they were keen to take our bagged rubbish. I understand they take a dim view if you don't have any! We could have spent a week in the Kornati islands but Stella was keen to see Zadar. So we continued north and exited the archipelago via the narrow canal at the top of Kornati and then under the low bridge between Uglian and Pashman. East of the bridge we paused for an afternoon swim and were promptly joined by a small modern racing tri with four female crew, who were keen to get extensive tans like everybody else in Croatia. By evening we were backed up to the marina outer wall in Zadar Harbour, where water and power were still available. We were the only diners in the yacht club restaurant but had a good meal. Zadar's historic centre is worth a full day with its walls and marble streets and many fine old buildings, despite being extensively bombed in WWII. There's an internet café and even a chandlery! The threatened multihull surcharge was not levied when we left in the morning.
We paused at the top of Uglian and then had another good trip under full cutter rig laying Simuni on Pag Island where there is yet another marina, but we managed to back 25 foot wide Aqua Blue into one of the few shallow spots in the outer bay. The bollards on the rough quay were made of plastic buckets full of concrete! I was surprised to learn later that the entrance is sometimes subject to dangerous gusts, presumably in a Bora which thankfully are uncommon in high summer. In the morning one of the island sheep was bloodily slaughtered on the quayside! We then had to motor along the rest of Pag before turning right to drift over to Rab Island, anchoring in Fumiga Bay northwest of the main port. All the vegetation on Rab is on the west coast since the east is so mercilessly blasted by the Bora in the Velebitski Canal. Humphrey left on the 6am ferry heading for Trieste airport and a wedding in the UK. We enjoyed medieval Rab town with its many bell towers (campaniles) to climb, as well as the fine park we were anchored off. We were visited by a radio ham from Slovenia (whom I had contacted in the winter), who spent every summer there to enjoy the naturism on the Frkanj Penisula protecting our anchorage. In fact Edward VIII and Wallace Simpson were there in 1936! However the nudist colony did not protect us from the fresh southerly which arrived at 2am! I had to rise and lay the second anchor to keep the stern away from the shore, blessing the alloy Fortress I carry for just this purpose.
The depleted crew recovered both anchors in the morning without too much difficulty, before we hoisted reduced sail and blasted across to Jadriscica Bay on the south tip of Cres Island, where of course the wind promptly dropped. We lazed away the rest of the day in the fjiord like inlet with its inevitable naturist campsite! Being British we kept our empire building shorts firmly on! Even managed a film show in the evening on Louise's new laptop. In the morning we had to head south for an hour till we rounded the southern tip of Losinj, then spending the afternoon in Balbanida Bay, before continuing to spend one night in Aratur Bay. There was some Croatian festival and two restaurants turned us away. So we bought fresh pasta and returned to Aqua Blue for a cockpit meal to Cuban music, which we've been fond of since a trip to Havana two years ago, (by British Airways/Iberia I hasten to add!). We made an early start for our crossing to Istria. In fact the north-easterly was quite fresh as it often is in the gulf of Kvaerner, and we had a fast bumpy close reach for several hours before rounding Kamenjak the southerly point of Istria. We then siesta'd in shallow Paltama Bay where the previous industrial facilities are being converted into holiday apartments. Later we motored in rain up and into huge Pula Harbour to drop anchor north of the marina off the impressive Roman ampitheatre. We found ballet rehearsals in progress in the ampitheatre which is one of the very few with complete oval walls. Pula also has a small Greek temple to Augustus, unusually with its roof in place. Although after surviving two millennia it succumbed to American bomb disposal (in the harbour of all places!) at the end of the war and was not rebuilt till 1954. I bought water in the morning by the tripper boats (20 Kuna). We then motored inside the Brioni islands where Tito entertained foreign dignitaries rather than in Belgrade, and slowly close hauled up the coast in light winds to anchor in the bay immediately south of Rovinj. The yacht population had exploded since our arrival in Istria, although we were invariably the only Brit and trimaran.
We were ashore at 8am for the walk round Rovinj which is an artist's colony and former Italian town with bilingual street signs like so many on this coast. There had been several boats burnt out on the hard standing at the marina. An electrical accident it was said! Great views of the town and seascape from the front of the cathedral on the headland. The morning brought a southery breeze so the rest of our trip up the west coast of Istria was unusually downwind. At one point our path was crossed by a nude yacht crew from a naturist marina! I had no idea there was such a thing. The Limski canal is prohibited to yachts so we continued to Porec. We sought shelter from the fresh southerly by anchoring inside Nikola island, the town quay was quite choppy. Although next time we'll use one of the mooring buoys off the marina. Another Italian town with a wonderful Basilica whose tower we climbed before a good meal in the courtyard below. Louise and I were in Mac heaven at the local internet café. I was in email contact with Lucian Comoy* in Trieste who was guiding our trip north to his boatyard up the Timavo River. The southerly blew all night and we slept as though in the UK. Back to the Euphrasian basilica in the morning to view the ancient mosaics, the best outside Ravenna apparently. We'll check next year! After our usual iced coffees (and how they vary) we struggled a bit to recover the well dug in Delta. I think we must get an electric windlass for the next 10 years!
The still fresh southerly blew us up the coast past Novigrad our original destination and on to Umag or Umago as the Italians still call it. Inside a very narrow entrance is a broad shallow harbour where the council have usefully laid some moorings beyond the marina. We swung to one all afternoon before a shore trip. All the restaurants are on the south side of the town so we had a windy meal sheltering behind some bamboo screens in one of them, with a good view of the cement works! Ashore in the morning I found internet access in the public library, still trying to arange to meet Lucian. Then we had to bring Aqua Blue alongside the ferry quay to visit the authorities before leaving Croatia. The Port police complained that Humphrey had left the boat without being stamped out or removed from the crew list. However a kind lady at the harbourmaster's where I had taken Louise amended the documents so the port police would accept them. We then had great difficulty leaving the quay since a light breeze was blowing us into a corner. Three point turns are not easy in a trimaran. Finally we extricated ourselves and headed for the Capo d'Istria. We anchored for lunch in the lee of Piran(o) under the buttressed escarpment below the cathedral. The echo sounder was on the blink and we dropped the anchor in far too deep water and (missing Humphrey's gym honed muscles) ended up hauling in a huge weight of line and chain. One more job for the winter!
After running past Izola and Koper we passed through the southerly gap in the three huge breakwaters that shelter Trieste now visible rising up the hill ahead. However we turned into the new marina at Muggia, the Porto San Rocco. Where we found the beautiful Shuttleworth 56ft tri La Goia. Painstakingly built over many years by an Austrian surgeon. One can only wonder what the mooring charges are at over 30 feet wide. We paid 55 euros for one night. It was very hot and muggy in Muggia but we walked to old town and had a very good fish meal in Trattoria Risorta, facing the belching chimneys across Muggia Bay. One could only hope the fish were caught some distance offshore, although if you look at a satellite photo it's obvious how the river Po is polluting the whole north Adriatic. In the still very warm morning we took the Green Dolphin ferry across to Trieste for some sightseeing in the formerly Austrian port, whose inhabitants were celebrating the 50th anniversary of their town's reunification with Italy in 1954. The waterside buildings are very grand and there's both a Russian and Serbian Orthodox church. As well as a small Roman theatre where Joan Baez had recently played. The heat demanded an early pavement lunch with iced beer. We were back in the marina by mid afternoon and left immediately since our overnight fee was valid till 6pm.
We had to motorsail north past Trieste and Miramar castle to anchor in crowded Sistiana Bay where we'd arranged to meet Lucian on Saturday morning to act as our pilot up the Timavo River for which there was no info in my Imray pilot by Thompson. Stella spotted a flea market ashore and coveted something she could see in the binos. Before letting her go I checked the Nasa Weatherman RTTY forecast and was surprised to read that south-west near gale force winds were expected in the early hours! This of course is the one direction Sistiana is not sheltered from! It was obvious we would have to leave immediately and find the Timavo River in the remaining hour and a half of daylight. Another rapid anchor recovery was followed by motoring north-west into the setting sun past Duino castle till we could make out the fortunately plentiful wooden piles guiding us up the winding Timavo River. In fact our 25ft beam was using a lot of the channel! We rolled up the centreboard on one shallow patch and it grew misty and cool before we finally made it to the ex-commercial basin that Nautec marine occupies. We claimed a vacant finger pontoon and were promptly attacked by large mosquitoes! However they were then dispersed by heavy rain so we retreated inside for another DVD now we had shore power again. The strong winds did arrive in the morning and the few boats that ventured out soon returned. Lucian, surprisingly an art historian like Stella, found Aqua Blue and introduced us to the friendly staff of Nautec which will be our base for a while. I recommend the Adriatic to anyone whose boat is in the Med.
* Lucian Comoy's website www.comoy.com/saillinks.html is most informative on all matters marine and Adriatic.