21 April 2017 | Trogir, Croatia
22 September 2016 | Hvar, Croatia
20 July 2016 | Venice, Italy
03 July 2016 | Isola di Vulcano
02 July 2016 | Trogir, Croatia
02 June 2016 | Cortina d'Ampezzo
09 February 2016 | Cortina d'Ampezzo
14 January 2016 | Sardegna to Amalfi
10 September 2015 | Pompei & Amalfi Coast
25 August 2015 | Isola di Elba
25 August 2015 | Isola di Elba
21 July 2015 | Isle des Porquerolles
10 July 2015 | Mallorca & Menorca
06 July 2015 | Valencia, Spain
Preparing for the Upcoming Season
21 April 2017 | Trogir, Croatia
Escapade wintered over on the hard in the Marina Trogir in Croatia while Debbie and I tried to find some skiing in the Dolomites at Cortina. Unfortunately, for the second year in a row Cortina experienced a very serious drought - literally no snow in the village all year and very little in the high mountains. Unlike our native Squaw Valley in CA the Dolomites have extensive top to bottom snow making saving the season for the skiers and for the local merchants.
Escapade seems to have survived the winter reasonably well with virtually no damage other than a serious coating of dirt. Now we will put in the necessary month cleaning up, supetvising the yard doing some pretty extensive and overdue hull sanding, compounding and waxing and a complete refit of countertops and plumbing fixtures for the galley and both heads. It's really nice to be able to upgrade some of the things that you touch and use everyday. And were always proud parents when Escapade is looking good!
I almost forgot: I bought Debbie a present of a brand new Lofrans windlass! She's more excited than a trip to Tiffanys! Escapade carries 400' of 3/8 HT chain and a 55 kilo Rocna anchor so we never want to be in a position to try to get that up by hand. The old one still worked but it was giving out definite signs of impending retirement. We got a great price on the windlass from a marine store named Nauticogallo just S of Venice - highly recommend them.
March has been beautiful with sun everyday and temps in the mid-60's. The old twn of Trogir is waking up and businesses and restaraunts are readying for the upcoming tourist onslaught. We're able to ride our bikes everywhere.
The one serious negative about Croatia (other than no Italian food and no Italians) is the 4,000 bareboats plus the 150+ crewed charter boats. Not only do they drive up the marina prices and make marine work difficult to get done in season but the standards for chartering have bottomed out and it can be a bit dangerous out there. The charter companies advertise that you can vacation cheaper in Croatia by renting/sharing a cabin on a bareboat than by staying in a hotel or apartment and taking a ferry between islands. To this end more and more buoy fields are sprouting up to make 'parking' easier.
On a positive note; we have been able to identify a number of excellent Croatian wines and figured out that it's far more reasonable to buy them by the multiple caseload at the winerey. We are concerned about the quality of the Retsina in Greece which is our destination this summer so prudently we are laying in supplies before we depart.
Now we will make a quick trip to CA to check in with friends and family while looking forward to returning to Trogir mid-May to splash the boat and head south to Montenegro, Albania, Greece and Turkey...
Facts of Life: The World Has Changed (and Not Always for the Better)
22 September 2016 | Hvar, Croatia
No longer can you pack your backpack, jump on a plane, arrive in Istanbul and then wander around looking for a hotel at 11:00 at night (alone) as my younger sister and recent graduate of UC Berkeley did in 1969. Not only is the world a much more violent place but currently there are thousands of refugees fleeing violence and poverty in their own countries resulting in upheaval in the wealthier countries of Western Europe.
Before the fantasy sets in about sailing your own boat in the Mediterranean there are two major current areas of law in the EU that you need to carefully consider - neither of which affect the normal tourist vacation to Europe.
The first concerns your boat: A non-European Union flagged boat is generally allowed to stay in the EU for 18 months. At the end of 18 months the Value Added Tax (roughly 20% depending on the country) will have to be paid on the boat. Whoa! That’s a big number. But this is actually the least of our two problems because all you have to do is take the boat out of the EU for an unspecified period of time (1 day?, 1 week?, etc.) and the 18 month clock begins ticking anew on your reentry into the EU. Reasonable countries to visit are Montenegro, Albania and Turkey….maybe Turkey as the political situation is rapidly changing. Morocco will work as well. Tunisia used to be a favorite spot, but much less so since the Arab Spring. Make sure to have proof that the boat has been out of the EU your passport is not proof of the boat leaving the EU. We keep dock receipts and fuel receipts. An EU resident can only be aboard this non-VAT paid boat for 30 days. This means your European friends, and I interpret it to mean me, if I have a residency in the EU such as a Carte de Sejour in France or a Long Term Residence Visa in Italy. I wrote to the Noonsite office and they share this opinion.
The big elephant in the room is the Schengen area agreement. The primary purpose of Schengen is to allow the citizens of the 26 signatories of the agreement to travel freely and work throughout the area. Most non-EU citizens of the world need to obtain a visa to travel within the Schengen area. Citizens of the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand may travel for 90 out of the preceding 180 days without a visa. There are certain exceptions to this rule; Portugal will extend the stay but only for travel within Portugal and a few countries have prior bi-lateral arrangements that they continue to observe.
The key to the 90/180 is to think of it as a rolling clock and to know that any combination of days is acceptable, 90 days does not have to be consecutive. For example, stay with me here, you have been in Italy for 60 days and you now sail to Croatia (which is EU but not Schengen) and sail for 30 days before arriving in Greece. You have now used 60 of your 90 days and have 30 days to remain in Schengen Greece. At the end of 120 days you must leave the Schengen area as you have accumulated 90 days within the 180 day period so you sail off to Turkey (non-EU and non-Schengen). At the end of 60 days in Turkey you count back and you can see that you have your full 90 days in 180 in the Schengen countries, BUT it is now 180 days since your arrival in the EU so now each succeeding day you are loping off day 181, then 182 etc. from your time in Italy. So you can return to Schengen. Mark your calendar and count back 180 days.
OK, so this is too much trouble and you decide to ignore the whole Schengen thing. What happens: The answer is anything can happen from likely nothing if you remain on your boat to possibly a fine and/or an “Overstay” stamp on your passport, especially if transiting through airports. Some people think Italy and France are pretty lax on this while Germany and Switzerland (non-EU but Schengen) are more organized therefore more strict. However, we have had our passports scrutinized very carefully by immigration at the airport in Venice. So what to do? If I didn’t have my boat here I wouldn’t overly concern myself with it. After all, I’m not taking someone’s job, all I’m doing is contributing to the local economy. I own a boat, I make a big contribution to the local economy! This part of Schengen just doesn’t make sense to me as it only hurts their economy. But, I’m pretty sure we cruisers are such a miniscule portion of the number of people affected by Schengen that the authorities barely notice us. Noonsite reports that there is a movement trying to influence the authorities to modify Schengen to offer a one year touring visa. You can sign a petition online. Because I have my boat here I will continue to try to play by the rule.
Also, be aware that Croatia, Montenegro and reportedly Turkey who are all non-Schengen also have their own 90 day stay limits. Cyprus is non-Schengen. The good news is these 90 day limits are not linked to Schengen countries…but you are limited to 90 days in each of these countries within a 180 day period. Be aware that Croatian authorities are a real pain in the ass. They go out of their way to fine cruisers. We recently spent 12 days in Montenegro just to “save” enough time on our Croatian 90 day limit so we could return and have enough days left to make our scheduled haul out and flight back to the US. On the bright side we purchased duty free fuel for approximately .50 Euros per liter at Porto Montenegro.
While I complain about Schengen to anyone who will listen I’m aware that the US has some very stringent rules affecting Europeans cruising in our waters. I would like to hear more about this…
20 July 2016 | Venice, Italy
Venice is, as most of you know, is one of the most interesting and beautiful cities in the world. What you might not know is that she celebrates her 500th birthday this year.
We berthed our catamaran, Escapade, on the island of Certosa directly across from St. Marks Square and minutes away from everything by water taxi. The island served as a naval base for many years and has now been turned into a park. Venetians arrive on the weekends to let their dogs run and escape the hoards of tourists that have enveloped the city sights. The marina was inexpensive around 75 Euros per night. Significantly less than in Sardinia, Almafi Coast and all of Croatia and Montenegro!
I had been to Venice twice before by land, but visiting on your own boat is an entirely different and much better experience. I loved being in such a beautiful place that really has not changed all that much in the last 500 years. We met my sister Patty at VCE, San Marco Airport, and took a water taxi directly to our pontoon. The canals immediately transport you back to the origins of life in Venice. There are boats everywhere and in every shape and size. Imagine that everything coming in and going out is transported via the canals. A dinghy ride in Venice is not for the faint of heart, a freeway of boats in every size all trying to navigate through the small waterways that connect the city.
One of the most memorable days of our time spent in Venice was our private tour of the glass blowing factory, Zanetti ,on the island of Murano. Our guide Sylvia Scarpa +39 349 1917653 who is third generation Muranese introduced us to Damien Farnea whose father and grandfather were both master craftsmen and had owned the business for generations. Glass blowing on the island of began in 1291. To this day many of the craftsman in Murano date back 3-4 generations. We watched a team of five make a Golden Lion which is the mascot on the crest of the Venetian flag. Like crew on a boat each member of the team had a specific and integral role while the Master Craftsman, the helmsman, applied the artistic touches. It was quite a dance with movement coming from five different directions and the piece in progress going in and out of the roaring furnace. Overcooking causes the glass to crack and as such timing is essential to having the glass warmed just at the right temperature to allow the Master to facilitate the design. The Master is the only one seated, surrounded by his tools that shape and add detail to the molten glass. There is continuous rolling, shaping and blowing from the team in unison and without any dialogue.
Within three hours the Lion was finished and resting comfortably in an oven at 500 degrees to cool down. Zanetti’s and the glass it produces are exceptional. Truly works of art and treasures to be enjoyed for life. Unfortunately living on a boat and crossing oceans is not the right environment for this type of purchase.
Much more crowded in Croatia now than it was earlier in the season but with over a 1000 islands there are so many anchorages you don’t have to get stuck in a crowd. There is something for everyone here…warm crystal clear water surrounded by beautiful medieval villages with great hiking and biking. Small protected inlets for paddle boarding with water so clear you can see to the bottom.
The differences between Croatia and Italy are interesting. Croatia has all of the natural beauty, great anchorages and beautiful historical towns. Italy has better food and wine, but Italy’s real plus is that the people are so warm and friendly. The Croatians are friendly, too, but nobody is as warm as the Italians. And it makes a difference.
We were surprised to finally start seeing some boats flying American flags, but when approaching these boats to engage with some fellow Americans we were surprised when they turned out to be Russians and Israelis. Imagine using the American flag as a flag of convenience.
We have no idea what we are going to do next, as we change our plans every few minutes. Having had problems with our French Long Stay Visa, we are thinking about trying to get one from the more friendly Italians!
The Medieval Cities of Croatia - Korcula
07 July 2016
Korcula, on the island of the same name, is the next medieval walled city of the Adriatic as you continue north. It resembles Dubrovnik but in a compact more manageable size. Anchor in the well protected Uvala Luka just to the south of the marina. The marina is nice (expensive) and it is well positioned adjacent to the town. The transient berths are four point moors, most on the outside of the breakwater. I saw one 33' sailboat anchor directly off the walls and tie their dinghy to the swim ladder walking up the stone stairway directly into the heart of restaurant row. They were stopping only for breakfast and before the high season was in full swing.
This entire Eastern escarpment of the city is lined with restaurants and bars. Most of the seating is outdoors looking directly over the sea. Absolutely beautiful! This street is called the Street of Thoughts because it is the only street within the city that is not stepped. Therefore you can be lost in thought as you walk down the street!
Korcula is surrounded by walls and the streets are laid out in a herringbone pattern allowing good air circulation yet blocking the strong winds from blowing straight through. The city is built on a rock promontory (see picture) and was originally built to guard the sound between the island and the mainland a short distance away. The wind will accelerate down the sound due to the venturi effect. Be forewarned.
The Medieval Cities of Croatia - Dubrovnik
06 July 2016 | Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik is the first of Croatia's coastal medieval cities as you sail up the Adriatic from the south. The breathtakingly beautiful fortified old walled town is the jewel of the Adriatic coast and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Be sure to treat yourself to a walk around the perimeter of the town along the top of the fortified walls. Like most touristic offerings in Croatia there is a fee for the walk, and like many things in Croatia it is stunningly beautiful with views of the well-preserved limestone buildings framed by the azure blue of the Adriatic Sea. The town suffered damage in the civil war but restoration is nearly complete.
Expect tourists, loads of tourists. We were there in June and it gets much worse in July and August. Word has it that there are currently only 500 year-round inhabitants, with most residents having sold their properties to tourist oriented businesses and moved out to the suburbs.
If arriving by private boat there will be no place in the harbor for you. The well protected harbor is completely filled with local boats, tripper boats and ferries serving the tourist industry. You can take ferries to and from the larger islands as well as from the international airport located south of Dubrovnik close to Cavtat, our port of entry in the south (summer season only). There is a fee charged to anchor outside the harbor off the beach to the east of town. While very convenient (we just tied our dinghy to the quai in the harbor where we thought it would be the most out of the way) it is very bumpy from the near constant stream of boats entering and leaving the harbor. In reasonably settled weather a quieter anchorage can be found adjacent to Lokrum Island a very short distance away.
Overrun by tourists, Dubrovnik is still not to be missed!
The Southern Croatian Islands - Dubrovnik to Split
05 July 2016 | Korcula
Arriving in Cavtat the southernmost town in Croatia we were warned not to anchor rather to proceed directly to the customs dock to check-in with the authorities. This small event probably set the positive tone for our cruise in Croatia. Before departing Montenegro I was totally bummed to read all the disparaging remarks about cruising Croatia on the Noonsite website. All five posts were exceptionally negative, all revolving around the money hungry nature of the people and the nasty authorities that were supposedly quick to fine cruisers for contravening the smallest rules. One such complaint involved the police in Cavtat.
While slightly annoyed with the 'barker' atmosphere in front of the restaurants and tourist shops, we have encountered none of the larger problems. Yes, it is an expensive place...a summer waterfront Disneyland packed full of tourists with the locals trying to make a year's living in the short two month high season. Yes, you have to pay to anchor in a few anchorages, notably Dubrovnik and Korcula, yes the food is mediocre compared to Italy and you don't feel the innate goodwill you feel in Italy, but the cruising grounds are stunning, the marine facilities first rate and the weather has been generally quite good this last week of June.
We met up with our friends Richard Spindlar and Donia de Mallorca in Dubrovnik for a week's sail north thru the islands to Split. Richard's comment after seeing the incredible number of anchorages and beautiful seaside towns was you could take a month to do this one week cruise. No problem. We decided to do it again next year! Richard brought his drone and took some stunning photos. I was a little apprehensive about how the drone might be received especially flying off of a US flagged boat ☺ but he was careful not to fly it too close to people and was aware of not intruding on their space, and the people that did notice it seemed entertained as they pointed it out to their friends and watched the drone do its thing. The seabirds were also fascinated and alternated between squawking and shadowing it. Please take a look at the interesting arial perspective of the photos in the adjacent gallery.
That first night in Dubrovnik was the closest I have come to ending up on a lee shore... in this case the rocky breakwater protecting the harbor of the old town. When the wind did a 180 and started to blow out of the south we assessed the situation and I felt confident in our chain and the set of our 55 kg Rocna anchor. Confident but I took the ipad with Escapade tracking on the Navionics chart down to bed with me. I checked it occasionally then fell fast asleep. Waking from a sound sleep with a start I looked over at the ipad and quickly saw the long straight track that indicated we were dragging. Springing out of bed I ran up the companionway and out into the cockpit to see the breakwater right behind us! I started both engines and called out for everyone to come on deck. Richard took the controls and slowly motored forward as Debbie operated the windlass and I removed the bridle. We then could see that the wind had increased considerably and decided to go to Plan B which was to motor across the channel and anchor behind the island of Lokrum. Once we passed the mile or so to the lee of Lokrum we could see that not only was there little protection as the wind blew around both sides of the island, but the water was 35 meters deep. Plan C became a midnight sail to the 10 mile distant Kolocep where we anchored a respectable distance offshore in an open roadstead and slept until dawn.
Shortly after dawn we struck out for the day's intended destination, Sipanska Luka, on the island of Sipan. Since we were already halfway there we arrived well before noon and enjoyed the day on the SUP's, swimming, droning and laying about in the placid waters of the most protected anchorage of the Kolocep Kanal. Some time in mid afternoon Richard and Donia went ashore to rent bicycles. I thought we had had plenty of activity for one day after the abbreviated sleep of the previous night but Debbie and I dutifully hauled our trusty bikes ashore and we all started out for the other end of the island hoping to find a decent sized market. Sipan is wonderfully rural and typically Mediterranean with fields of olive trees and rows of vines interspersed with stone ruins that have stood for centuries. It was hot and we crossed paths with two young women 40 years our junior who were pushing their bikes back up the hill toward us. That was the second warning sign, hard on the heels of the very hot climb we had to make on the way out of Sipanska-Luka. Pressing on I think we all enjoyed the ride but it was obvious that Debbie and I had been doing more riding and were riding bikes that fit us properly as we arrived first at the S end of the island.
Debbie went on ahead to scout out a grocery store while I waited a short while for Donia and then Richard to show up. Descending a small hill into the village the road became narrower and narrower until it was no more than a footpath. As we came out into the town square I could see the waterfront with a few moored charter boats and the ferry from Dubrovnik. Meanwhile Debbie had found a grocery store, but no main courses nor much of what we needed. After a look around Donia and Richard found a local taxi willing to take them and their bicycles back to the barn. After a welcome rest in the shade and a bottle of water Debbie and I had a very nice albeit leisurely ride back to Sipanska-Luka.
We had heard that the walled town of Korcula on Korcula island was a beautiful miniature version of Dubrovnik and I was keen to see it. Serendipitously that morning we had received an email response from Andrew Vik a young San Franciscan who has cruised the islands for 7 or 8 years. He suggested a couple of stops on the western end of Mljet lying halfway to Korcula. Since we're not on a schedule of any kind we worked our way through the smaller offshore islands into Polace...I'll let the photos attest to the beautiful anchorages and deep deep blue waters of this very special area. After stopping for lunch, a swim and a dinghy ride ashore for Donia and Debbie to find some supplies we headed around the western tip of the island to Pomena where Andrew assured us we would find even better restaurants. Navigating a narrow pass into town we were waved to the quai of each restaurant we passed. A dangerous thought, I thought. Once on their quai we would be obligated to eat there....what if we chose the wrong quai? Hands down Richard and I were leaning toward the young blond in the black dress who beckoned us to her restaurant...what to do?
Overcoming our natural tendency to take her up on her generous offer we proceeded to anchor out surmising that not only could we then choose the restaurant more on the merits of its food, but it would be cooler sleeping at anchor and anyway we were all ready for a swim and to go boarding. Dinner on the boat turned out to be a better alternative and we will have to wait for our trip back down thru the islands in August to choose a restaurant. By then there will not be a chance to tie up to the quai with the hordes of boats that descend on these islands the last half of July and all of August.
The old Benedictine monastery on the island of Badija and shortly thereafter the arrival at Korcula itself gave us tremendous photo ops, especially for Richard and his drone. From the angle of the arial shots you can see down thru the translucent waters and see the rocky peninsula supporting the old city of Korcula. Stunning, as is the city itself. Indescribable little alleyways filled with shops, restaurants and bars. The whole of the eastern escarpment of the city is lined with restaurant terraces where you eat overlooking the sea. Not to be missed! (At least not in June).
The next morning we sailed over to Borovo Uvala on Scedro for lunch as we worked our way west and north to the Pakleni Otoci. Ho hum, just another of the most beautiful anchorages on the planet! Certainly too small for Escapade to spend the night but with a series of small bollards and rings on the shore you can see how the smaller monohulls anchor in a row with fenders between them and the sterns tied to shore, a common occurrence here in the Med.
We explored most of the anchorages on the S side of Pakleni Otoci and were surprised to see only a few boats in each cove and fifty or more boats packed into moorings in one mid-size cove. As we entered Uvala Vinogradisce we could see the reason for all the action: bars and discos lining the shore. When did we change? When did we stop wanting to go to where it was 'happening" and start preferring going to places that are peaceful and remote?!
Certainly the next day we arrived at the 'center of where it is all happening' for the masses of pink (and sometimes scarlet) young people that flock to the "nightlife tours" and "yacht weeks" that go from hot spot to hot spot each night, Hvar. If you are reading this and you're under 30 years old and if it's summertime and you can get to Croatia - Hvar is the place to be! Hvar is the kind of place where you learn how to drink. You can drink on the boat or at the beach clubs all afternoon, nap in the early evening and hit it hard for the second time as the sun slips over the horizon. Pace yourself the second time because clubs such as the Hula Club and the like pump it out all night long! How do I know? Because Debbie told me...she doesn't sleep with earplugs like I do!
The week was too short and we missed so many wonderful anchorages we will have to do it again. Indeed, in Korcula we met Peter and Lisa cruising on their Nauticat 33 they had purchased 7 or 8 years ago with the idea to cruise the Med and then sail it back home to Sausalito. All these years later and they have not left Croatia... As they said, there are 1,100 islands to explore.
The next day we sailed up to the beautiful seaside town of Milna toured thru the harbor then anchored out for lunch and a swim and later sailed over to Split for our penultimate evening with Richard and Donia. The large city of Split wasn't calling me but when Debbie and I went into town looking for Richard and Donia later that night we were very pleasantly surprised by the beautiful old town built in and around the palace of Diocletians dating back to the fourth century AD and pictured on the reverse side of the Croation 500 Kuna note. This is reportedly the best preserved monument of Roman architecture anywhere in the world.
When arriving or departing Split by air the best place to meet your boating friends is in Trogir the UNESCO heritage site just to the west of the Split airport and yet another fabulous place to see.