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.
Let's Split 2002
LET'S SPLIT 02
Four years after our last abortive attempt on the Adriatic we were sufficiently intrigued by the prospective of welcoming Croatia to "have another go". But first I was determined to continue repainting Aqua Blue my Kelsall 39 tri in the Greek summer sun, lifted out as she was at Preveza Marine. Sanding wearing a mask and sun hat was very hot work and I had to use plenty of thinners to avoid wasting the £20 tins of two pot polyurethane. It's worth it though, providing a very durable waterproof and quite good looking coat after a few days work. One hull at a time!
Before launching I borrowed a Croatian ensign from a British yacht just returned from Dubrovnik, in fact the skipper told me they had manged 48hrs from Dubrovnik to Erikkoussa in quite big seas after setting off with a good forecast!
After launching I had to visit Preveza port police to pay over 100 Euros to obtain the boat's "Permision to stay" and "Maritime traffic document" which is supposed to be stamped twice in every port! Why the Greeks have brought back this dated sort of paperwork when we have freedom of movement within the EC is a mystery.
I then spent a further week anchored in the shallow water on the east side of Vliho bay, off the restaurants at Geni. A Farrier F24 "Farfalla" came to join me while Eric the owner daysailed with his children. Eric visited Aqua Blue and was amazed by the accommodation, whilst I was amazed that his 24ft boat would do 14kts! It's a long time since Aqua Blue has surfed at this speed, with all the cruising gear on board. I watched him sail out of the anchorage every morning in almost no wind.
On Monday 22nd July, Humphrey my crew and I retransited the Levkas canal and started tacking north up the west coast of Greece until by the evening in a now quite fresh breeze we came up to Parga and anchored off the long beach. We repeated the process the next day and made Gouvia after some strenuous tacking, again anchoring outside for the night.
In the morning calm we motored over to the fuel berth to wait for the attendant to arrive, and filled up with fuel and
"drinking" water although you should boil it first! We then had to motor all the way to Erikoussa unusually, before a light southerly arrived and we could sail towards the heel of Italy under main and masthead reacher. The wind slowly veered and increased until by 3.00am the lights of the Italian coast were sliding past. In the early morning a brisk front arrived from the northwest and by 9.00 am, bouncing around in up to 30kt gusts, we tacked and charged out of the rapidly rising sea into huge Brindisi outer harbour. I was not dissatisfied with 123 miles in the 24hrs since Gouvia but rightly concerned about the length of our enforced stop. However there is a free wall to tie to, off a pleasant residential area, and even a small ferry to the town centre where you can admire the marble columns at the end of the Appian way.
We had been preceded in by a Wharram cat "Risho Maru" who like us had spent several years in Preveza, but was now returning to northern Italy via Croatia. We got to know them over the next few days as the bad weather continued outside. In fact the anchorage is so far from the sea that you have to question later arrivals to keep up to date with the conditions outside.
We eventually spent four nights in Brindisi. On the third day I persuaded my family who were arriving in Pescara by Ryanair, to get straight on a train and come down to Brindisi in only four hours. Stella and my daughter Louise enjoyed one rest day here as well, since Risho Maru returned to the harbour after our shopping trip ashore, to report 3mtr seas and no wind outside. We found a space to play tennis instead, and Humphrey had completed a fair amount of maintenance to keep himself occupied and keep the skippers morale up as well.
In light airs we motorsailed to Monopoli to anchor in the large clean harbour. Swimming was back on the agenda, and in the morning some helpful fishermen proffered their hose for us to fill with really good water, an opportunity not to be missed in the Mediterranean summer. We continued in slightly more wind and tracked further offshore towards the Gargano peninsula. Dried tomatoes, cured ham and olives for lunch, washed down with the strangely weak Italian beer. Nothing stands up to Harvey's from Lewes! In the evening our weak nav lights and struggling autopilot alerted me to alternator failure no less. Off with the fridge and even the lights and I hand steered into the night, only just managing to start the Yanmar to anchor in a bay outside Vieste at 4.00am. After a breakfast swim to wake up I transferred another solar panel from the instrument battery to the service battery and it slowly came back to life with up to four amps "free" from the sun. We moved into Vieste harbour and spent the rest of the day anchored near Risho Maru again. I carry a copy of Captain Denham's The Adriatic for almost historical reference nowadays and he is strangely dismissive of Vieste. We found it a pleasant characterful town on a bluff overlooking the improved harbour which is an ideal jumping off point for Croatia.
Up early and out of the harbour by 6.00am we headed due north towards Vis, in contrast to Risho Maru who headed north east towards Lastovo, which is probably more sensible if the prevailing northwesterlies are blowing, but this was most certainly not a typical year in the Adriatic. We crawled up to and past Palagruza island, the GPS being spot on, although the log was undereading somewhat. Louise was disappointed to miss five dolphins that Humphrey spotted only once, and we all tried various pursuits from fishing to dominoes to pass the time as we eventually motored all the way from Vieste to Vis, anchoring in a bay on the west side of the outer harbour at 11.30pm.
A short motor round to the town harbour in the morning revealed the architecturally impressive waterfront refreshingly free of neon signs and adverts. We found the harbourmaster who's Australian assistant quickly produced our cruising permit for 1400 Kuna, even pointing out the bank ATM which provided this unusual currency, conveniently ten to the pound! After the port police had stamped our passports we had really good pizzas in a waterfront cafe. I think I was still slightly surprised we'd made it to Croatia at last, as I peered at Aqua Blue over my thankfully stronger Croatian beer. Vis being one of the more outlying islands is not so busy even in August and it's beauty certainly repays the effort of getting there. Good Vis we now say!
In the afternoon we crossed to the Pakleni islands for a swim and observation of the keen naturism, before continuing to find a spot to anchor outside fashionable Hvar town, whose harbour would not accommodate a 40ft trimaran in high season. However it was very pleasant just watching the evening promenade while we ate in the cockpit, before a spectacular firework display very close to the spot we had originally tried to anchor in! Ashore in the morning the old town surrounding the harbour was most impressive with it's arsenal and theatre and huge piazza. Much of it polished marble, in fact we even met a man hoovering the streets, there's concern for the returning tourists. A small air conditioned mini market topped it off, it was quite humid for sightseeing. It's well worth having a land guide for these impressive towns.
We tore ourselves away after swimming and sailed slowly north between Brac and Solta to bear away for Trogir where we anchored at 6.00pm between a large Catana and a small Dragonfly, unfortunately near some drains. However the town was mediaeval and perfectly preserved. I particularly admired the Fortress in the morning and the Cathedral Portal, the most striking sculpture being of a "Libertine being torn apart by serpents".
Pausing at Fumija island for swimming we arrived off Split harbour and entered under sail in the late seabreeeze to find ten yachts at anchor within sight of the walls of Diocletian's palace. The harbour was much cleaner than expected, I had feared for our topsides and white dinghy! During two visits ashore we explored the vast Roman walls encompassing the extensive mediaeval city. Most impressive of all was Diocletian's mausoleum converted into the earliest Catholic cathedral, from whose high bell tower we could photograph Aqua Blue below. As Stella says every year, a large trimaran is not dificult to find even in a strange harbour! We also enjoyed a good meal in restaurant Adriana on the front, despite the east European dishes being unfamiliar to us.
The chandlery near Split marina was shut, since 5th August was a Croatian national holiday. However the marina office told me Yanmar spares took a week to arrive from the main dealer in Pula, so there was no alternative to continuing solely relying on the solar panels. These are so effective in the Mediterranean sun that we were running the fridge again in daylight and still starting the engine next morning, (I do not carry a seperate starter battery), although the instrument battery is available if necessary. Neither Humphrey or I have ever been able to start the Yanmar by hand. In fact the engine is very much an auxilliary since the tri sails faster than it motors and can move in pretty light winds. The self tacking staysail is available if we have to short tack into an anchorage but of course you would usually run out of wind on the final approach and have to anchor too far out, which usually means too deep in the Med. The diesel is a huge improvement over the previous outboard, both for the greater range it offers and also since a decent reverse enables three point turns in tight spots. I once ran it for 35hrs from Crotone to Corfu.
After our second ascent of the bell tower and a convenient fuel and water stop in Split harbour, a light westerly carried us south to Starigrad on Hvar island. It's a long fjord like harbour which was deterring some yachts but we used our shallow draft to back up to the northern wall, from where it was a pleasant stroll into the quiet town, such a contrast from Hvar town itself.
Supplies obtained, we found outside a fresh southeasterly which blasted us along the flat water north of the island, until we had to reef and beat back east along the Pakleni canal. Outside Hvar town we tacked south and squeezed through between Jerolim and Marinkovac, literally feet from rocks and daytrippers, to continue offshore in a slowly rising sea. Louise and Stella took to their bunks with books while Humphrey and I pressed on, but the beating became tediously uncomfortable so we threw the helm over and found we could lay Scedro, un uninhabited island south of Hvar island, whose quite decent harbour we entered in torrential rain and lightning a few hours later. We had plenty of company so just dropped the hook in 50ft and tied the stern to a tree for a quiet night aboard. Next to us was an Italian ex racing boat with a Mustapha wind vane attached to the tip of it's extreme reverse counter. I want one too. Does anyone have a contact number!?
The morning Navtex promised a fresh northwesterly and indeed we had a brisk run down the Peljeski canal until we could see Korcula town in the binos. An F27 passed us beating west with the family crew wearing lifejackets (I can only admire such stern discipline), and soon we were enveloped in a swarm of boardsailors who seem to spend the whole day charging back and forth across the canal. In fact one or two of them nearly impaled us, possibly doing twenty knots to our eight! Much film was used as we reached past Korcula town, the western quay being too rough to use, but we found room to anchor in Luka bay only a short walk from the town. We spent two nights in this very pleasant spot and the culture vultures were satisfied in town. Stella even obtained the last tickets for the Moreski dance performed in the open air theatre inside the town walls.
On leaving we had to tack again into a rising southeasterly for five hours to make Polace harbour on Mljet island, finding another fjord like anchorage which is in a national park. In fact an official charged us 55Kuna which included a bus and ferry trip to a monastery on an island in a lake. Next time we'll visit it. In the morning we had to motor two miles east along the "fjord'' to regain open water and close hauled along the north coast of Mljet slowly being pushed offshore. The forecast had been for up to 28kt southeasterlies and when we saw a funnel cloud forming ahead I thought fondly of the missed monastery visit. Louise was very impressed but fortunately the funnel did not reach the sea. The wind and sea increased markedly though till we got very wet on some "big ones", and explored how small the Crusader genoa will roll on the Profurl while still pulling us to windward. I had considered turning back before we shot through north of Jaklan island and charged across the white water of the Kolcepsi canal to reach the shelter of Slano harbour. The weather cleared in the afternon and we swam and ate ashore, exploring the rebuilt village which was destroyed in the recent war.
The night brought ferocious squalls from the early hours until 8.00am. I was surprised we didn't drag although the 35lb CQR is pretty reliable and the Fortress waits in reserve. I was also surprised the sea outside viewed in the binos had gone down. So we hauled anchor and slowly beat south along the canal towards Dubrovnik. We came up to the commercial harbour of Gruz in pouring rain, identifying it's position by the huge new bridge and unusually there was a space wide enough to back a tri into. The port official took our lines and charged us 120Kuna a night, only the second time we had to pay in Croatia. He also said local opinion had it that this was the worst summer for thirty years. It seems the depression that deluged Poland and the Czech republic was hanging fronts down over the Adriatic.
However now we had finally reached Dubrovnik the weather started to improve. We walked the walls in the morning sun and had a lazy lunch in a shady restaurant. Most of the waiters spoke English with an American or Australian accent and the papers were full of funnel clouds and flooding. We met friends of Stella's who had bought property in Dubrovnik and they're not the only ones. The palaces and museums and nearby beaches and islands could occupy one for a month. I twice visited an internet cafe and Eurometeo promised the return of NW3 for days ahead, which is what we'd expected for the whole trip.
In fact when northwesterlies return after lower pressure they can be quite fresh and this is what we found when we finally cleared out of Croatia with minimal hassle one afternoon. Dubrovnik and Brindisi are both nearly on 18.00E, so we reached due south at good speed untill by the following midday we jybed off Brindisi and continued more southeasterly alongside a large Fountain Pajot cat that was motoring. Both their engines must be larger than Aqua Blue's two cylinder Yanmar! During the second evening I realised the instrument battery was finally getting flat since it's single panel had been in the sail's shade mostly, but the GPS was still indicating good speed in the right direction. At dinner we were slowly overtaken by a small group of dolphins, one doing backwards flips to Louise' delight. As it got dark we could just see the low coast of Puglia and the dark mountains of Albania at the same time. There was a slight reduction of the following seas which had earlier made us reef to ease the steering. Louise and Stella manged another good fresh meal before we started night watches again. In the early hours I was awoken by the increased motion and rose for further reefing as the wind built to nearly thirty knots, and I restarted dead reckoning. However by now we could see the lights of Othoni and Erikousssa as well as the north coast of Corfu, and in pitch darkness there being no moon, we rounded the southwest corner of Erikousssa and crept into the south bay, where I was entirely reliant on Humphrey's better night vision to avoid earlier arrivals. Our 210nm charge south in 35hrs was one of our better runs and a few whiskies were downed in the cockpit before we could relax and crash out.
After a lazy morning on the beach we raised the still double reefed main since the wind had not dropped all night, always a sign of real weather in the Med, and continued to Corfu. Although the navtex forecast was for only 18kts NW, we experienced gusts in the thirties and the seas were feeling the bottom and breaking off Cape Aikaterin. After one white knuckle surf with all three bows awash we rolled away the already reefed genoa and continued under reefed main alone. I'd expected this to increase weather helm, but it was fine and the waves now overtook us rather than launching a sleigh ride, with the helm surprisingly light. Two and a half hours brought us to "the Albanian battleship'' Peristerai, and we shortly entered Ay Stephanos with it's Knightsbridge residents and pricy restaurants, although it' s yacht friendly despite poor holding.
We were blown out backwards the next afternoon as the gale force northerlies continued, and I commenced tedious battle with Greek officialdom in Gouvia and Corfu town, to get Aqua Blue and her crew re-entered into Greece.