23 July 2012. 12:00 We slip out of Skrivena Luka and sail the five or so miles around to Velji Lago the main port on the Island Otok Lastovo passing varied and abandoned military fortifications which was probably the main reason why this Isalnd was out of bounds to visiting yachts until about 8 years ago.
Sailing amongst the bays in Velji we were surprised to discover a large structure built into the bush and for all the world it would have been a very secure submarine pen or a hiding place for a sub chaser. Our imaginations worked hard as I recalled all of the books about the struggles undergone in the area during the second world war.
We decided to take a closer look in the morning.
Meanwhile thunder clouds were gathering and the temperature dropping with rain and little squalls everywhere. We found that the bay with the Submarine Pen in it looked like a good prospect for the night and along with 6 or 7 other cruisers and yachts we set stern lines ashore and congratulated ourselves for finding such a place to wait for more clement weather. 22:00 and the sky light up with broad flashes and sharp forks of lightning again and the rain came down in buckets. The wind went through 90 degrees so instead of coming from astern and the land it blasted across the two mile bay and hit us side on. I was sitting in the cockpit with some trepidation as to the strength and consequences of that broad side and had just called Phil and Jenny up to retrieve our lines and get out of there when a 45knot vicious blast hit us and our anchor spat the dummy and let go. I hit the motor start button grabbed the knife and cut our stern lines. Still another blast hit and we were driven back towards the rocky shore, despite full power on, when bang, our rudder came down on a rock but by then we were under way and were moving out into the deeper bay. Horizontal rain coming in vast sheets, black as pitch, winds still 40knts, lightning showing all boats now struggling to get out. Once were in the deep water of the bay and I had the opportunity assess damage, I was relieved to find that we had good steering and all seems to be ok for holding together. There was a large Navy ship in the bay that had dragged its anchor too and it was now maneuvering to escape to the open sea and was taking up all of the centre and a large area around it to complete its task. All we could see of it was its lights, but from time to time it was light up in the lightning and we could make out its huge and ominous shape and relative location, too difficult to assess its speed so keeping well clear was the order of the night. This ship caused us twice to make 180 degree turns and retrace our gps track to keep clear, finally it escaped out of the bay with about three big super yachts and left it to us. Considering all the vessels now floundering around in the bay it was a time to keep cool and use everyones' number one eyeballs to locate and identify marks and other yachts. Situations were changing every few seconds with yachts, super yachts and the big ship rapidly changing location so that our radar was of no use to us as to use it would mean losing a set of eyes from the cockpit and I was not about to risk that. Earlier in the day I had taken notice of a the main ferry wharf which was out of bounds for yachts but considering the situation and not expecting any ferrys around midnight I decided that we would make a 2 mile bee line for that and secure ourselves thereto.
Half an hour later all totally saturated and no doubt looking very weather bashed with sopping lifejackets and wide eyes showing all their whites we were secure and safe for the night. I lay awake all night worrying about Elixir's rudder.
24 July 2012 Crack of dawn and I was over the side with goggles on to inspect damage. With relief there was some bruising on the very bottom of the rudder and a small crack going up about 10cm near the stern thereof. No great worry and any fear I had of it delaminating or causing steerage problems were put to rest. A small job for a boat builder to fix back in Greece and the ends of our cruise. We all had a good breakfast and went to the bay and retrieved our shore lines before putting to sea again. Didn't bother exploring the sub pen, stuff it, we wanted out of there!.
As we sailed out of this very pretty island with its greenery and blue blue water it was hard to overcome the feeling that but for keeping an anchor watch and being prepared for eventualities Lastovo could well have turned out to be our Last "overture". Lesson number one is not to underestimate the viciousness of the summer storms in these parts, or the way that winds can ever so suddenly change dramatically in direction and strength.
10:00 Lovely 19 mile sail to Vela Luka on Korcula with one reef in the main and also in the genoa. Beautiful day and all was well. It appears that everyone's eyes had returned to normal shape and colour. Tied stern to with tailed moorings to the town pier and attached to power and water. Pizza for tea, one huge seafood pizza and the three of us had a hard job dealing to it due to its size. Return to Elixir to find some scumbag had stolen our Irish Flag including Elixir's flagpole. You will find a bastard anywhere. We had had that Flag with us all the way from Kinsale and are required to fly the national flag of the country in which the vessel is registered. We fly the Silver Fern from our port spreader to signify the nationality of our crew.
Until we get a new Flag we will just have to fly the NZ one from our stern. For a flagpole we are using the old beach umbrella spike as a pole.
25 July 2012 12:00 and we sail 25 miles to Vis but have to motor the first 10 miles due to lack of a breeze. We all discuss the size of the lighthouses hereabouts. We have seen about half a dozen built on top of two story homes which homes being so big as to have enough rooms on the upper story to house 30 or 40 people. Beats me! Go to town pier in Vis with stern lines, power and water. Our Pilot Book explains that this island was home to Neanderthal people up to 20,000 years ago. There is ancient sign everywhere of Roman, Venetian and Greek occupations, we did not notice any Neanderthal people anywhere.. Makes for very interesting walks and studies of architecture and the people themselves with a special kudos to go to the person first to spot a Neanderthal!. The unclaimed prize is still available.
A highlight was an evening walk through the back streets wherein we discovered a menu attached to the wall with a light over it. On closer inspection we found the most delightful of open air restaurants with great service and atmosphere. We all thought at the time that it was the very best restaurant that we have been too but on reflection there is no way that one could rate them as such because each had been unique and often un repeatable. A few of course we would never want to go to again but these were in the minority.
26 July 2012 Cast off to sail to the western most part of the island in order to go on a day trip to the blue caves on Otok Bisevo. A plan that was abandoned due to high winds right on the nose. 180 degree turn as not wanting another windswept night we made for the little group of broken Islands on the west end of Hvar where indeed we found a delightful small bay well protected from the winds to spend the night.
27 July 2012. Sail into Hvar town basin and quickly leave again as the traffic was horrendous with yachts and power boats jockeying for space. It was a bit like Auckland at the end of a major regatta.
Jenny is the one in the blue!
We move on to Brac for supplies where Jenny did a bit of a deal with a lady that made doyleys before staying overnight in Livka on the Island of Otok Solta before moving to the eastern end and a lovely sheltered bay called Sesula. Where I write this blog update.
15 July 2012. We creep away from the Taverna at Polace on Mljet at 7am and made our way down the beautiful deep seaway of the National Park and set sail for Korcula.
A bit of concentrated navigation as we made our way through several narrow passes with plenty of off lying rocks before stopping for lunch and a swim by an off lying Island with the, still intact, remains of a large convent on the shore. Like the grand Monastery on the Greek Island of Symi this convent is in bad need of a clock adjuster for its bells were a little bit out of time.
It was however a beautiful anchorage with crystal clear water and dead flat sea so we stayed on for an hour or so before motoring the remaining three miles into Korcula town where there is a Marina which we entered for the night. All crew head off to visit the old city which is one of those ancient Venetian affairs with very narrow streets build using stone. The street stones had got so shiny over the years from being trodden on by zillions of sandals that one had to watch ones step for danger of slipping and breaking a hip or something. The architecture with its high archways and magnificent steeples was amazing as was the ambience of the whole place. A totally acceptable place to celebrate Jenny's birthday. The main call to fame of Korcula is that it was the birth place of Marco Polo and the Korculans have not missed the opportunity of making a buck or two out of the historical memory of the old chap.
16 July 2012 Next morning we had the chore of provisioning Elixir for the next few days and topping up the water. Paid the Marina Fee of 136 euro. That was our second night in a Marina in Croatia and due to the expense for very little in the way of facilities it is not a thing that we are keen to repeat too often. We return to bay of the Convent with the intention of anchoring there for the night only to find that the anchorage had become crowded and the wind was playing havoc . A quick change of plan to find a anchorage further down the coast towards Dubrovnik once again as sadly it was time that we were moving in that direction to drop off Keith, Rosemary and Philip Searle and to pick up Phil Clemow.
1900 hrs being 12 miles later we drop anchor in Trstenik for a very worrisome night being blown by 30 knot plus winds that meant that I had little sleep at all as Elixir bucked and snubbed at her anchor as we were hit by squall after squall. 17 July 0600 hrs and our anchor broke out and we headed straight for the rocks so there was a very active few minutes where all hands were called from various stages of sleep to retrieve the dragging anchor and set sail south. Stopped for a break at even another small island before make our way into Slano, a supposedly sheltered harbour on the mainland. Slano's was virtually wiped out in the wars of the 1990s where every house except for one was destroyed by artillery fire. Amazinglly the church also survived.
Now it has a couple of ultra modern looking hotels whose glass facades do nothing to restore what must have been a quite unique little coastal town. As we entered the bay we were approached by a jet ski with a woman in a white dress, complete even to wearing a string of perls, riding as pillion passenger. This lady spoke English and invited us to tie stern to with tailed mooring at their Taverna. There three other yachts tied there and I was in bad need of some sleep after the rough preceding night so we accepted their invitation. Around the Med if you accept the offer of a free mooring then you unreservedly accept that you will be eating at the offerer's taverna that evening. It looked a nice place and the safety of being tied to the shore was very attractive to all.
Well when we backed in towards the quay I suddenly became very aware of the depth that looked to all of us as though it could not accommodate us without our going aground. The Taverna owner assured us that there was enough depth and pointed to the larger yachts tied thereto. Five minutes later and hard aground we were stuck for the night. It was high tide and it was unlikely that we would be moving anytime soon.
The other yachts were also hard on the putty! Never mind we had a great dinner and the service was wonderful as was the nights sleep. 0500 and I am pacing the deck trying to work out how to get out of the mud. I decided that there was nothing I could do until the boats next door moved as I needed to use the spinnaker halyard from the top of Elixirs mast tied to the far end of the quay to winch her over enough to lift the keel out of the mud and float off. The challenge with this idea was that the other boats were also stuck. Eventually however I managed to persuade them to allow me to put my line over the top of their backstays to the end and tip Elixir and wulla! We floated out of our sticky trap. A quiet sail over to Sipan for lunch before we noticed a very dark patch on the water to windward and decided to up anchor and bolt from there too. Just in time we got away before all hell broke loose amongst the other anchored yachts and most followed us out of the windtunnel.
No shortage of pretty little towns to look at along the coast.
We made our way from there under headsail alone doing some 8 knts to Dubrovnik where we would anchor in a bay and wait the arrival of Phil Clemow and the departure the following day of the Searles.
A very tired looking Phil Clemow looked like he had hitchhiked all the way from New Zealand! He assured us however that he had only been traveling for 36 hrs.
All on boasrd for the Searles last happy hour with us - this trip.
20th July and we wave goodbye to the Searles who we are going to miss a lot as they were really good company and by the end of their holiday had become very good handlers of Elixir and all of the things that go with being an excellent and fun crew.
On the way we get a welcome visit from our friends the dolphins.
21 July and having re-provisioned we head north once again through lots of island and sailing nicely under full sail we cover the 36 miles to Polace National park and anchor with stern lines to the shore.
22 July, Jenny and Phil do the bus trip thing to the lakes and I proceed to pay a 1,000 Kuna fine for exceeding 5kmh in my rubber ducky with its 5hp motor. (1,000 Kuna = nz$250 and a repentant red face). I was rather pleased however to find that my little rubber ducky can apparently exceed 12knots with just me on board. Brmmm Brmmm! Leader of the pack! Latent outlaw!
15:00 and we sail out of there for one of our better sails averaging under 8knots the 30 miles to Otok Lastovo Phil who was given the helm had a smile from ear to ear and looked in 7th heaven. For the first time this cruise we set a double anchor as there was lightning everywhere and we were obviously in for a good stormy and dark night. Already there were yachts dragging their anchors in Lastovo when we arrived. Well it blew and it thundered, there was both sheet and forked lightning, a proper light show.
For the first time in the years that we have been coming to the Med we had heavy rain but with our two anchors set at about 20 degrees apart on an angle looking from our bow we sat peacefully all night and now on the morning of the 23 July I am bringing this blog up to date.
11:00 12/07/12 we leave under the new Dubrovnik suspension bridge and head out to the island of Luka for the night.
13/07/12 Arrive in the Croatian National Park at Luka Prozura and tie stern to a Taverna. It appears that if you anchor in the bay you must pay anchorage fees to the National Park which roughly equate to having a meal at the Taverna where no fees are required to be paid. One does not have to be born a mathematician to work out the best deal!
14/07/12 I am writing up this blog whilst the Searl Family are off doing the National Park Tour and Jenny is having a catchup on the housekeeping
Midday and we arrive at Cleopatra Marina in Preveza and located Elixir looking all forlorn and a little ready for a bit of TLC. Located an unguarded ladder from elsewhere in the marina and boarded to find her just as we had left her in excellent condition down below with minimal dust and no sign of being any the worse for the long time without occupation. By the time night fell and we had returned the rental car we had restocked the pantries and fridge, went to town and did the supermarket, Port Captain and Customs essentials and located a SIM card for our telephone. We had removed a half a ton of winter grime off the decks and had her looking all shipshape, this night we slept despite the 27 degree midnight heat and having to attend toiletries by way of a steep ladder and walk on the rough mettle. Next day was a work day first up at 08:30 we had a man up the mast replacing our wind transducer that we had brought from NZ as hand luggage for fear of getting it squashed in our general luggage. I recalibrated our wind direction indicator and auto pilot, replaced the engine oil, oil filter and water pump rotor.
01/07/12 Jenny cleaned and scrubbed and did essential washing. Next morning paid our marina fees and had Elixir dropped in the briney. The motor started first pop and off we went over the harbour to the waterfront in the town basin.
Had a Gyros for lunch and set about bending on our sails and setting up for sea.
Midnight and we cast off from central nightclub disco frenzy and put to sea. A wonderful 30 mile moonlight sail, watching shipping go by on the radar and even had to don a light jacket about 3am as the moon set and the night got a chilly 16deg, by daybreak we had dropped anchor off Paxos. Had a swim before breakfast and moving in the narrow seaway to tie stern to the rocks and trees with our anchor having the job of holding our bow out to sea.
02/07/12 24 hours later so here we are!
To quote Ratty "There is nothing, absolutely nothing, like messing around in boats"
Just a very quick update. We received a garbled skype call from Carolyn and Paddy Mitchel (Caroyln in my Cousin from Aus.) on the night of the 2ndfollowed by a legible email letting us know that their Australian Yacht Kristiane was anchored at the North Eastern end of Corfu ready to head North to Bar which is a port town in Montenegro. Both Jenny and I were worried that our paths would not cross further north so we left Paxos early yesterday morning and headed the 35 miles to where we understood they were due to be anchored. It was a good opportunity to catch a breeze in daylight hours and do a bit of real sailing. We made the decision also in the knowledge that John Bamley off NZ yacht Rumba was planning to try to catch up with us at Paxos or Corfu. But as John had yet to arrive in Greece we took the most likely course and decided to cut Paddy and Carolyn off at the pass.
Around 3pm yesterday we did indeed see Kristiane anchored all by herself in a small bay called Agni. No one on board so we dropped our anchor beside them and settled down to wait for them to come out of hiding! Indeed an hour later, having no doubt reached the conclusion that we were not going to go away, they came back in their rubber ducky from the taverna in the bay next door and were most surprised to see us and a very happy hour ensued. We had the added bonus that their daughter Catherine was visiting them so we had the delightful opportunity to meet another of our Australian relatives. Kristiane finally had to head North as planned and we waved them all good bye and settled down for the rest of the night. This morning Jenny and I motored the 6 miles South to Limini Gouvion where we were sure to get better internet connection and be able to catch up on long overdue correspondence. We are anchored in beautiful clear blue water with a view out across the bay of cruising yachts and motor vessels and of course the buzzing water skiers and banana boat riders. We will settle here until the 6th when we check into Gouvia Marina to pick up Tauranga couple, Keith and Rosemary Searle before heading on up North, now with a crew of 4, to Montenegro. For those of you who are used to Google Earth you can spot our anchorage 39 39.7n 19 51.3s. SWMBO keeps asking what the plan for today is - I have no plan! (A swim and a sleep may well suffice)
07/07/12. Piked up Keith and Rosemary Searle and immediately went into Corfu Port by Bus to complete formalities for leaving Greece. Back by mid afternoon and having provisioned up we slipped out of Gouvia Marina and moved back up the coast for the night tied stern to a rock in Agni.
0600 08/07/12 and we motored North West away from Corfu and stopped for lunch and a welcome swim 25 miles away alongside the small Greek Island of Erikoussa.
Headed straight North lunch up off the coast of Albania destined for Bar in Montenegro 168 miles away. As the afternoon wore on the wind strengthened from the north and we were in a dead beat making our way up the coast, we found the best tack took us close along the coast of Albania and within 100 metres of the shore at one place. Deep reef in the main and motor sailing to gain height with 40knots across the deck. The wind finally died down around 18:00 although the seas remained rough. 20: 30 hours and we are off the Albanian island called Ishull I Sazanit with its huge light on its northern. With that light for company we entered into darkness hours and with the motor now doing 2300 fevs we were making good speed up the rhumb line. 30 hours straight of hard yakka and I believe that Jenny and Rosemary deserve a certificate for not chundering even once!
10:00 09/07/12 we enter the industrial port town of Bar in Montenegro and I head immediately off to Customs to be told that we would not be allowed to entre Montenegro because I did not have a copy of my coastal skippers license onboard. I sat that ticket back in the 1970s and have never before been asked to produce it. Montenegro it seems believes that to be safe one must have that piece of paper. We load up with fuel and water and leave at the end of the day with heavy hearts as this means that we will not have access to the Bay Of Kotor and so must straight to Dubrovnik, but we fooled them we found a sheltered little bay and all went swimming and lay at quiet anchor for the night.
04:00 10/07/12 Up anchor and motor quietly on up the coast seeking a breath of breeze.
We passed the Bay of Kotor later in the morning and proceeded to swelter in the +30 degree heat. We motored with our boom tent in place to provide a shady place to sit.
14:00 10/07/12 We obtain permission to go alongside the international wharf in Dubrovnik to clear customs and immigration before moving out to a small island for the night with all formalities in place.
08:30 11/07/12 Tied up at Dubrovnik ACI Marina for where we were due to stay overnight and to pick up Phil Searle who was flying into Croatia from the UK the next morning. Jenny and I took the opportunity to catch a bus the 5klm into the city to procure a Coratian Sim card for our phone with not less that 1 x gig of Internet Broadband.
Just a note as to some of the costs. Cruising Permit for Croatia 1 x month with Boat entry 2480 Kuna (4 x Kuna = $1nz) Sim card with Time 100 kuna. Bus trip 30 kuna each for day pass. Marina for 1 night 1,108 Kuna (Ouch!!!) Time to get out to the islands.
27/06/12 Left NZ on Jetstar for Singapore to have 8 hours in transit before leaving for Kuala Lumpur. The flight from NZ was the flight that cattle go on when they fly cattle's cattle class. We amused some passengers by breaking out our Subways and packets of nuts and enjoying a picnic, without a rug, about the half way mark. The plane you see would not stop! We spent plenty of time observing the unchanging landscape of outback Australia. After having a totally indulged few days with Ian and Jenny-May in Kuala Lumpur where those two went to no end of trouble and extravagant expense to ensure that we enjoyed the eating out experience that is so by far the best we have had anywhere in the world, Jenny and I left, comfortably bloated, on what was to be the most arduous part of the journey. We flew Malaysian Air from Kuala Lumpur leaving at midnight non stop 10 and a half hours to Istanbul, 4 hours in Istanbul transit to board a one and a half hour flight on Olympic Air for Athens where we had another 5 hour wait in transit. Re-boarded Olympic Air and flew straight to Corfu, rushed from the Corfu Airport to the ferry terminal and caught a late evening ferry to Iguomentsia. Off the ferry and located a little rental car then off to find our hotel. Had a shower and hit our pillows a straight non sleep 30 hours from Kuala Lumpur and still I could not sleep. My ankles were swollen my legs ached and I spend half the night worrying about what condition I was going to find Elixir in at Preveza the next day. First rule of driving in Greece is do not trust your navigator! When Google Maps says turn off a motorway at 11km then you probably should have turned off at 7km so we find the next off ramp for a little sojourn into the country areas of no English speaking but very friendly village people, but first find a village.
30/07/11 Jenny and I rent a 100cc scooter for the day at a cost of 12 Euro. Actually last time we rented a scooter was two years ago and that was a 75cc model, I figure that SWMBO might require a bit more power by now! Anyway the reason for the scooter is that Preveza is some 30km away and we are booked to have Elixir lifted on the 8th August so we needed the opportunity to go there to check it all out and familiarize ourselves with the whole environment.
Well it turned out to be a great day starting off by crossing the swing bridge, a steel affair with reinforcing type rods welded to the bridgetop for grip causing a real shudder for our scooter and for Jenny to declare once again that this was not her favorite form of travel! Wasps became a bit of a worry as I was wearing baggy shorts! My imagination of the repercussions if one was to actually catch one of these beasties meant I took it fairly easy most of the way. We were pleased with what we discovered at Preveza and also grateful for a Italian yacht that was showing us graphically what would happen if we ignored the cross current on arriving at the travel lift. The Italian yacht had a entanglement with about four other yachts and caused a great deal of consternation. Message learned there and part of the reason why I wanted to check it out. We went old castle visiting on the way back... again. All the while David and Elizabeth stayed back in Lefkas on yacht minding duties.
Next morning 06:50 we cast off from Lefkas and motored up the canal, through the bridge, hoisted sail and headed north 30 miles to Andipaxoi .
Passing through the swing bridge
Sun rising on exiting the canal
And Chanel now behind us
We enjoyed the sail while we had wind and getting out into some seaspace again.
Stopped at Andipaxoi for a swim and lunch after which we sailed on to Paxoi itself (pronounced "Paxos").
Entering the narrow channel of Paxoi
Such a Lovely little village that at nightime after all the tourist day boats return to Corfu becomes a joyful place to just be without all the hustle that goes on in the larger tourist traps.
David and I have no trouble launching the rubber ducky.
After we have done our mooring line knitting for the night along intertwined with all the other stayovers mooring lines we feel nice and secure.
Next day we visit the caves on the south side of the island and jenny and david actually take the rubber ducky right inside. It was faily crowded with visitor boats that I stayed onboard.
After visiting the caves on Paxoi we sail back to the mainland to a bay with an ancient castle and town called Parga.
The famous castle at Parga
This is what we were told happens when a Greek charter launch starts to lose money. If it sinks it stops costing for mooring and maintenence.
Next morning it is a nice walk into Parga and a vist to the castle.
So - Girls the above is all about shopping in Parga.
The Sail 40 miles back to Preveza
08:00 Waiting for the bus that will take us the 6 hours to Athens and the plane to Istanbul, Kuala Lumpur and eventually home to New Zealand for another 10 months. It has been an interesting and eventful 2011 Cruise all the way from Marmaris in Turkey to Preveza on the Ionian shore in Greece.