Calla Badella, near Bali Hai
We revisted Calla Portals with its three nudist beaches. The water was still warm but the wind found its way into the small bay. My reading that day included a list of Imray publications of maps and pilots for the months ahead. For a few seconds I pondered item RB0073 "The Gentleman's guide to Southern Passages" and found myself gazing towards the nearest beach.
An early start for Ibiza and Cala Portinatx with its interesting rocky formations. Then Calla Badella where we anchored in a steep sided gorge. Very pretty scenery along this coast although not as good as western Mallorca. We swam to the beach and enjoyed some more eye candy, probably our last.
Not far away we saw the majestic rocky peak of Illa d'es Vedra that I understand was used for the distant island shots in the film Bali Hai. I think they obtained beach scenes elsewhere.
An early start for Puerto de Calpe on the mainland. A massive rock stands over the small port like a sentinel to the parade of fishing boats that race beneath late in the afternoon and out again before dawn the next day. Seagulls with their distinctive cries follow like vultures.
Danny observed that the water was getting cooler but for a Scott it is still like a warm bath. Puerto Torrevieja offered shelter from the wind but little else, other than a fuel depot that said open with the times listed but was actually closed.
Puerto de Aguilas was a little better and we went ashore. Eventually we stumbled upon a steep back street with chairs inclined with the gradient. Wisely choosing to face downhill to dine, we enjoyed a local scene that shone through the urban mediocrity that hides these gems. Crammed in on small wickerwork chairs, the locals were having a good time and, as darkness came, we were swirled into a small crowd of young people ready to party. We enjoyed the atmosphere but it was time to go back and anyway we didn't have our castanets. Adios the neighbours said warmly and the sailors walked back into mediocrity.
Almeria was the highlight on this coast. Our anchorage was a little wobbly but we're used to it. The Moorish Alcazaba (castle) was well worth visiting and the back streets through which we walked were enjoyable. After an excellent time it was a shame that the fuel depot at Club de Mar tried to charge us for fuel we didn't get, early the next day.
At first we thought it was the old hose trick because it was exactly 20 litres out. The meter didn't display, so it may have been the meter trick. Cash, no docket or receipt, so we demanded a docket. He reluctantly gave us one where the fuel amount had been changed by 20 litres. Caught in the act but of course he couldn't speak any English. I reported him to the club by email as we couldn't hang around and boats were waiting.
Many areas along the south coast are draped in plastic sheeting to protect the huge veggie patches that feed much of northern Europe in the winter. Combine these with the ugly sprawling high rise developments for budget holidaymakers, a few wind farms and you have a sad landscape.
Puerto de Adra was very windy and needed plenty of chain. No inspiration to go ashore, so we watched the fishing boats surge past us as we clung to our beers.
We tried to anchor in Puerto de Motril for a late lunch and perhaps the night but were moved on. A very unfriendly place. Hundreds of seagulls were sheltering behind the breakwater. Outside, the wind was whipping up three metre waves that were on the nose but, after a few hours, we reached a lovely little bay on the southern side of the Marina del Este. A posh marina and a lovely dinner but, more importantly, Danny found a shop with a jar of Bovril! His day was made when the English proprietors offered it to him for half price as they were going out of business. Times have been hard this year.
Benalmadena, next door to Torremolinos is mega tourist. We found the marina and staff pretty useless as usual eg locks that don't work, water that doesn't flow. They put us in a stern-to spot that the neighbouring boats had swung into. The wind was 18 knots in the marina and we motored back to the marina office to tell them this but they couldn't give a ... We can't wedge in as our stern is almost our widest part and Danny can only work one side at a time. So we crept up and down the quay asking for volunteers to pull the boats apart. We soon had several decent yachties to open up the gap and shoe-horn us in. It worked a treat.
The next day we had to move to the Jeanneau agent's pen and had the same problem with badly tied boats. The absent windward neighbour had his boat leaning on us for a week and the fenders called out to me every night to let me know. I hope there is a little gelcoat left by the time we get back to Oz.
Jeanneau's agent Benalnautic was Roberto the manager, English liaison Mark and our assigned Mr Fixit, Francisco. Hi Oh, France soon gave the OK to fix some items and Francisco completed the work a day ahead of schedule. I was impressed with Francisco's speed and expertise. I wished I could pack him in a locker next to the tool kit.
Danny left for the airport and Chris joined me for the fifty mile trip to Gibraltar. Motor and Genoa but at least we were off the wind. We had emailed 10 days ahead to both Marina's but they were "full". At Marina Bay we counted 22 places at 2300 hours but they had promised these to the "Blue Water Rally" participants when they turned up anytime over the next week. A dozen non-rally boats a day were being turned away. It looked like a severe case of bad organising, not what you would expect from the Brits. Must be all that paella and sun.
Security is tight in Gib with so many illegals trying to get in and the threat of terrorism. There is no marina pen and anchoring is not allowed. You can't go ashore outside a marina until you have registered with a marina and been given a pen. The only alternative is to go to the Spanish side at La Linea, change the courtesy flag and wait for a spot but you can't enter Gib waters by tender. I had to get the boat in for antifouling, servicing, provisioning etc.
The only suitable structure for docking was a pontoon at the Port Authority and Customs dock, absolutely verboten we were told. After a lot of jawing, I found out that the pontoon belonged to a ferry company which had leased that part of the dock from the port authority. Bingo, we had a loophole that meant customs and the port authority couldn't give us permission to dock or force us to leave.
Customs couldn't register our entry, only a marina, so that evening we talked our way past customs and illegally entered the country to sort out the marina issue and arrange for Chris to catch a bus the following day.
The next day the ferry company gave us unofficial permission to stay until we got into a marina. However, we were warned that the police had the power to move us on because there was a fuel depot nearby.
The marina, only one hundred metres from our pontoon, was tactfully made to see the financial benefit of filling one of the many spaces until Monday. We were now legal but only just in time as a senior customs officer stormed over to demand we left immediately or we would be fined and impounded.
Chris got his bus and now it's raining like it does in the UK, miserably. Fandango waits until Monday for a lift out, providing it's OK with the stevedores. Where we go after that will require some of finagling.
Norman Castle at Cefalu, Sicily
Catania to Porto Palo, on the south eastern tip of Sicily, was a reasonable run with the Genoa to assist the motor. The weather forecasts were for storms north of us and we saw lightening and dark clouds. A few drops of rain for us but nothing more.
At Porto Palo the sun was low, the anchor was in and Fandango was gradually taking up the chain as we drifted back. Standing on the foredeck and looking down, the shape of a wrecked fishing boat suddenly appeared through the murky water just to our side and leaving insufficient clearance. It looked really spooky but there was no time to gaze. The anchor came up in a flash and we tiptoed to another spot.
It was decided to say farewell to Italy by drinking more wine than normal from our cellar, carefully selected by Attila who, with Urs, cooked a tasty meal. In reasonable shape the next morning, we set out for Malta and even sailed for a while without the engine. On the way, a pigeon circled the boat and landed on the bimini for a rest. It left a calling card and then flew off to Italy, probably not realising that we had been sailing away from Italy and it would have to make up the extra miles.
That afternoon saw us at San Niklaw on Comino Island, Malta. There are not many anchorages and this one was crowded. It also had jelly fish and Urs was stung. With a mask you can at least see and avoid them. Nothing interesting ashore so we ate on board again. Attila and Urs are very accomplished in the galley. Attila has his own crepe pan and yes, they were delicious. Theo would have been impressed.
A two hour trip to Valletta and wow, what an impressive group of heavily fortified harbours. No room at the Grand Harbour marina, so we picked up a vacant mooring in a spot nearby which had more breeze and did we need it. We took an open-top bus ride round half of the island and saw many old buildings, often with fascinating doors and doorways. We were told that there weren't many tourists because they avoided the hotter months like the one we were in. Malta had an odd feel about it, as if it had closed shop after the British left.
We dined both nights at an outdoor restaurant at the foot of a fort near the boat. A small docking area and a series of archways made it magic. The ambiance was Knights of St John and rule Britannia. I imagined Hornblower stepping on to the quay and asking for rum.
Adrian flew back to the UK and we had some overnight trips to do, the first leg was to Lampedusa. It was disappointing for a nature reserve, however, we did find some pleasant snorkelling with small numbers of three types of fish. One of these had what appeared to be folding wings and sat on the bottom pretending not to be there. On route later we saw hundreds of "compass" jellyfish sliding past the boat.
The second leg was to Pantelleria and it was also disappointing. The third was to Tunis. A calm sea again meant that we were doing a lot of motoring. Pollution and azure water welcomed us to Sidi Bou Said marina just outside Tunis and near the President's Palace. His photograph was absolutely everywhere. The French legacy made it easier to communicate but harder to get things done on time, just like Les Sables d'Olonne.
Old Carthage, close to Tunis, had a lot to offer but we had the usual hassle with taxi drivers which reduced the number of places we managed to see. Impressive was the old king's palace, now museum, with Moorish ceiling embellishments which reminded me of the Alhambra.
The medina was fascinating and we explored a bit off the tourist lanes and walked up to the roof tops for good views. We decided to follow up on a recommendation and eat posh that night in the medina. There were no signs outside the huge ancient wooden door studded with iron at 5-10 Rue Dar El Jeld, La Kasbah. The door opened immediately upon knocking and Attila, Urs and I were each handed a small bound posy of scented buds. We were escorted through rooms with antiques and sat down for drinks whilst our table was prepared. The staff, immaculately dressed in an east meets west conservative style, completed the Hercule Poirot setting. I returned to this century just as the maitre d' arrived and wished to inform us that our table was ready.
We were escorted to our table through an impressive doorway into a series of tiled rooms hung with chandeliers worth six figures each. Well, the others were escorted, I was discretely whisked away to another chamber. In tropical north Queensland, eating posh means tucking your clean polo shirt into your shorts. Sacre blue, not here mate! I was kitted out in a full length white embroidered gown to cover my shorts (the others wore trousers) and only then escorted to our table.
Not wanting to let the side down, I did my best impression of Lawrence of Arabia and held my gown as I had seen others do and slowly flowed past the tables to where the others were seated. Gracious smiles were exchanged with other patrons as I tried to look normal. I must admit I got a buzz out of it. The comfortable chairs had padded arms and the food was excellent. The walls and floors were tiled in a similar style to that of the palace visited earlier and the ambiance elevated by a musician playing what I presumed was traditional music on a strange stringed instrument. It was an excellent evening and on our way out our hands and arms were sprinkled with rose water. The huge heavy door closed behind us and so did a portal to another world.
Back at the marina, the laundry index hit a new high with 8kg costing over AUD60. The internet place wanted to close just after I had started and promised they would turn it on for me the next morning. No chance. Peut-etre après midi? Too late we were gone.
We stopped to top up fuel in Bizerte where they did the hose trick and tried to overcharge. However the fuel was at least cheaper than in the EU. Customs and immigration nearly gave us a hard time because we had been cleared out at Tunis and therefore had to re-enter again to get the fuel. A few smiles and the fact that we were preventing other boats from refuelling sped the process up to one form only partly completed. We should have done this again for our next stop at Galite but we took a chance that there would be nobody about and we were right.
Isle de la Galite, off Tunisia. What a big name for such a small place with a bay surrounded by hills. Very imposing and some shelter from the strengthening winds. From here the next morning we set out for a 48 hour trip to Menorca. Urs, an ex professional chef, assisted by Attila made meal times look easy from a small galley.
Some sailing but mostly motoring brought us to Cala Binibeca in Menorca, a pleasant bay with nothing much to offer. Weather was brewing north of Menorca so we kept south and reached the old capital of Puerto Ciudadela, which we enjoyed although nothing exceptional. The next day we set out for Mallorca to escape the force 8 coming down from the north. We had some lively sailing with a four to five metre swell and a few big rogue waves amongst it.
The majestic cliffs of northern Mallorca loomed up against a cloudy backdrop and we found shelter in Cala Murta, a beautiful high sided small bay. We saw wild goats and enjoyed the panorama of huge craggy rocks dotted with trees similar to a Japanese painting. Next Cala de la Calobra with its rock tunnel and then on to Puerto de Soller, where we took the tramway to the old town but decided to move on. That night found us at Peninsula de la Foradada. The NW coast has some magnificent cliffs but this place took the cake. Our spot was once used by an Austrian duke to moor his yacht and no wonder.
Back to the big smoke but first a night at Cala Portals, with its caves, just south of Palma at the mouth of the bay. Heaps of boats but by dusk the number had reduced to us and two others.
The smell of Palma invaded our noses and the pollution haze spoilt the view. We took a berth in the RCNP marina as we had done last year. Charges were higher but the wifi was still not working in the marina area. That night up in the old town main plaza the six or so restaurants were almost empty all evening. It was hard to believe after the number of people I saw there last year. Our waiter confirmed that this year had been a very bad one for those that survive on tourists. Before leaving Palma, I revisited the cathedral and marvelled again at the intricate masonry.
Attila and Urs left and Danny joined Fandango for the next leg to Benalmadeena and my confrontation with Jeanneau.
Mt Etna side vent
Theo, George, Adrian and I headed south from Trogir (next to Split) to Stari Grad on Hvar. We had a swim near the mouth of the estuary before going in to anchor. Fandango was here on the last leg and again we enjoyed this pretty harbour village and surprisingly good bread.
Our last port of call in Croatia was Vela Luka on Korcula. All the bureaucracy was in place to process our departure, except the policeman who was away that day and might be back tomorrow. The port authority lass was so apologetic and even shook my hand.
The charter business must be having a hard time because there was only one other yacht at anchor in what was last time a tightly packed harbour anchorage. This private Italian registered boat tried to anchor right on top of us, even with so many spaces available. Do yachts have pheromones? We're beginning to think so.
We enjoyed our final meal in Croatia and spent all but our last few pieces of shrapnel at the supermarket because Kuna would be hard to change outside Croatia. On the way back to the boat we gave the shrapnel to some kids who, like most Croatians, spoke good English.
No time to hang around waiting for the police, so we sailed at dawn the following morning as scheduled. After eleven hours with genoa and main up to assist the motor, we made Vieste on the Italian mainland. We decided to use the marina because of exposure at anchor. It was expensive, in cash as usual in Italy and the showers weren't working.
The old town was a bit of a come down from what we were used to in Croatia and the service was so bad in the first restaurant we tried that we walked out. On our way back to Fandango, we were amazed to find a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig lying in front of the marina gate. I gave her a good rub and a scratch and she made little sniffling noises in appreciation. Her minder appeared and after a few snorts they went back to her pen.
Another early start to cross the Gulf of Manfredonia and head down to Monopoli. There was just enough wind angle to get the genoa working with the motor but after a couple of hours it was, you guessed it, on the nose. We enjoyed Monopoli's interesting old buildings.
Brindisi was a long run and we got into the big harbour just as a storm was brewing. We anchored close to a big monument which turned out to be a tribute to Mussolini. Near us was a large Italian warship but no activity. A few old buildings ashore but nothing special.
The wind was up at dawn when we left. We cruised past Otranto but kept going to Santa Maria di Leuca on the very tip of Italy's heel. Storm clouds, gusty winds and rain met us before we rounded the cape but fizzled out as we turned. We had a mediocre meal and there was not much to look at.
Next stop was Cretone. Nothing much here either. Early the next day we moved on to Roccella Ionica. Fandango pulled in here last year. The place was falling apart and now even the washing machine has gone from the shower block. You need to carry your own toilet paper and soap with you for some toilets in marinas and restaurants. But here at least the beer was cold and pizza sold by the metre.
The following day it was a 0500 hour start for Catania in Sicily. The horizon was starting to lighten as we negotiated our way past the badly silted approach to the harbour and edged out to sea. There were storms brewing behind us but our forecast was good and it turned out to be a lovely day for the 80 nm trip. We saw dolphins and actually got the main up again and sailed with the motor off!
Catania had a big harbour with two fuel wharfs that were inaccessible. Our marina, the best there, had one portaloo for all the boats, as well as low pressure hose water and electricity on the pontoons. Behind this disappointing marine door mat and through the rubbish strewn streets, we found some intricately decorated old buildings. The city was dirty with the excuse that Mt Etna might wipe it out again at any moment. This tends to make you eat your pasta looking frequently over your shoulder, as you work the al dente down the hatch.
I find the Italian obsession with beauty and style irreconcilable with the rubbish found everywhere and the dirty, ugly modern buildings. The young so slim and good looking but a generation later so fat and unappealing.
Attila and Urs joined us making six and the next day with two hire cars we went to check out Mt Etna. It was big, smoking and had a habit of burying things nearby every few years. The steaming crater around which we walked wasn't there two years ago. Many people were coughing from the dust and sulphur, which were good excuses for a birra further down the mountain. Then we saw Taormina and the roman theatre further up the east coast.
On day two, we drove to picturesque Cefalu and had a chance to go inside the Norman cathedral. Later, Monreal was enjoyable with another Norman cathedral in excellent condition and finally on to Trapani. Nothing here to interest us but George was delighted when he knew he wouldn't miss his flight. We stayed the night near Trapani and saw Roman ruins in various spots on the two day drive back through the bucolic countryside to Fandango at Catania. The most impressive was the Roman Villa Imperiale del Casale with, I am told, the best roman mosaics in the world. It certainly had me floored.
It was our final night in Catania with Theo leaving the next morning. He was a bit off colour in the afternoon and may have been suffering from gelatinitis. Tomorrow Attila, Urs, Adrian and I sail for Porto Palo and then to Malta.
Blue Grotto on Bisevo
We returned to Rab and enjoyed a nice stroll along the promenade draped with sunbathers, some less modest than others. We checked if the tower was still standing with its dilapidated banisters. Very picturesque.
Novalja above Pag on Pag was next. We had a tip from the Perth couple on "9 Lives" about a posh winery/restaurant not far from here. We tried the wines and bought the best of the famous Pag cheeses. A nice change from the usual fare. Next day, Pag on Pag was just around the corner but the wind had come up and robbed us of a leisurely broad reach.
We found an excellent anchorage at Zadar and stayed two nights in order to see the old town properly. It was well worth it and we even climbed the bell tower's 180 odd steps.
The first night we dined in a courtyard under a big tree. The young waitress' meticulous makeup reminded me of queen Nefertiti. This attractive Croatian smiled and laughed with very little effort on our part. Then in flowed a tanned man in an amazing wide shouldered white ensemble, followed initially by attractive women also emblazoned in white and wearing a similar religious looking medallion. The waitress, these people, perhaps a party or show?
Being accustomed to eclectic discussions on the boat and having covered only that afternoon the latest findings on molecular structures, genetic re-engineering and the missing link, we found that our fellow seated patrons were from another planet and were discussing the same thing too! Check them out at www.rael.org. On levitating back to the boat, more from alcohol than molecular means, we found something that had previously disappeared and a few things that had started working again. Spooky.
Then we prepared for a clandestine re-visit to the Kornati marine national park to show Theo and Val without having to pay the exorbitant fee again (we didn't even stay the night last time but still had to pay the AUD 100 fee). We spent the previous night at Luka Zut on Zut (Zut Zut) just outside the park. This was interesting in that one of the tavernas had an amazing and expensive wine list that included Australian wines. The anchorage was crowded and Theo made sure that other boats were aware of proper proximity.
Just after dawn, in stealth mode with active radar reflector turned off and binos beamed in all directions for enemy patrol boats, we shot into the park's waters to check out the famous Otok Levrnaka and look again at Kravljacica. It was slightly greener from some rain a few days earlier but still no more inspiring than anywhere else. We saw dolphins and a big turtle on the way to the park but not in the park.
A brief interlude with the genoa unfurled brightened a long and interesting trip to see Sibenik from the waterfront and on to Skradin. The white swans were still there, now with three small signets, but the house in the old town from which we had previously heard what sounded like choir practice was silent.
We travelled down the river to Sibenik and tied up amongst the big boats next to the old town. We were allowed two hours before they would charge us the equivalent of nearly AUD 100. We saw the old town and concentrated on the famous St James Cathedral and other churches. Three of the churches were doing organ practice and the bold sounds gave life to the dark interiors. The stonemasonry was exceptionally good, not just in the churches but on doorways around the town. Sibenik, a living museum, was well worth visiting and having seen the essentials we sailed off thinking that we should have said a prayer in the church for mariners that was draped with flags from the ceiling.
Primoset was not far away and we anchored a few metres from the attractive old town by the beach. We swam and luxuriated on Fandango for over five hours before leaving by tender for our usual walk and dinner. Half way across the water, the harbour master's speed boat intercepts us and tells we can't anchor there and to move a mile to the other side of the bay. We applied our secret formula and he laughs and says OK we can stay.
We noted that the church on the hill was fairly new and were surprised by the size of the big family burial plots. Small stone slabs are used for roof tiles here and elsewhere on older houses. Walking down the lanes you can't help noticing the occasional Dalmatian dog in this their homeland.
We chose a more upmarket restaurant and were delighted to find that a traditional show was staged in the floodlit old village square right in front of us. Colourful costumes, dancing, singing and an excellent band. There were many spectators in the small square who applauded but the rest of the patrons in our restaurant just ignored them and gobbled their chips, which come with every meal as they do in Greece and Turkey. That night the wind picked up and we had to move to the other side of the bay anyway at about 5am.
The weather forecast didn't look too bad but it was a bit rough ploughing into the waves on our way to Luka Drvenik on Otok Drvenik Veli (not to be confused with Drvenik Mali but I am sure you wouldn't). Of course, not long after anchoring the wind changed to the only exposed direction in the harbour and we sat bobbing around for the rest of the afternoon. The wind didn't stop more than one hundred people, mostly youngsters, from swimming all around the small harbour. They swam across the harbour, around the edges and past the boats. One girl ferried her little white fluffy dog on an inflatable cushion to and fro across the harbour. Was there something about the water or was this home of the next Olympic swimming champion.
We walked around the harbour and were saddened to see the rubbish from a garbos strike piled up against their war memorial. That night we dined on, well, ingested something extremely overcooked whilst overlooking this giant swimming pool. The next event below us was the yacht parkathon in which keen skippers and crew try to anchor in the smallest of spaces. As more arrive with the sun's dying rays, the spaces get smaller and smaller until a few start to raft up. Our, dare I say, brilliant anchoring earlier in the day was wasted as boats got far too close to us. Back to the boat so that Theo can shoo some of them away, like a dog behind a fence he barks whenever anyone gets too close. Fortunately the wind dies overnight and in the morning the boats are still apart.
At Stari Grad on Hvar, we picked up a mooring and looked around this pretty village. We had a superb meal at a restaurant that was almost empty. The décor needed a little improvement but tourism is down and the waiter fears he may lose his job. The following morning I went back to access the internet, at last, and saw about twenty musicians with their bulky instrument cases going into the rear of the same restaurant. About half an hour later they all came out again. It looked like a secret agents' meeting strategy from Get Smart and yes, one of them did look like agent 99.
Next we reached Komiza on Vis. Another of the many pretty villages that make the Adriatic so enjoyable. We walked up a hill to an ancient fortified church but it was closed. As we were having our cleansing ale by the harbour, an old fashioned launch pulled up with a Royal Navy ensign. A captain and commander without hats and looking low key helped an elderly lady and some friends out onto the quay. We thought it very unusual but didn't rush over.
A mediocre meal by the harbour and back to Fandango. Earlier that afternoon, we took our usual care in visually checking that the anchor was properly set, done whenever I can snorkel over it. The area that looked the most inviting turned out to be a smooth rock bed with very shallow patches of sand. So we moved the anchor further out to better ground and extended the chain. Thus Fandango was lying serenely, as always, over this deceptively dangerous patch. Her allure again when at anchor was now becoming quite alarming. When we got back we found many boats had parked close to us, with anchors likely to be lying unset on this patch. At about 4am the wind increased and the boat nearest to us dragged its anchor and tried to take it up. We woke when our chain rattled and on deck saw this boat coming towards us as it slid up our anchor chain. They had plenty of crew and damage was prevented as we drifted outside the harbour with them hanging off our chain.
We re-anchored outside the harbour until daylight to avoid a repeat performance and later set out for Bisevo to see the famous Blue Grotto. It was well worth the trip to see the sunlight shining in under a ledge and illuminating this deep cave and the water beneath. The almost iridescent azure colour of the water was stunning.
As we left the grotto, the same launch as seen the evening before went past us. We noticed the name "Fair Lady" on the launch and also, waiting patiently outside, on a magnificent single funnelled early to mid nineteenth century yacht flying the RN ensign. Was this a royal yacht, a ghost ship or had we touched another time zone? She and Fandango were the only ones in a mess of yachts that morning showing a black ball and I like to think they shared a special moment as they complied with rule 30 of the "coll regs" at one end and flew Her Majesty's ensign at t'other end.
Fair Lady disappeared into the distance and we soon followed on our way to Vela Luka on Korcula. Once again an amazing number of yachts managed to squeeze into far too small a space. After unleashing Theo on the pulpit we managed to get some space. Eating in a "local" konoba made no difference to the fare but there was more folk dancing and singing later. The Croatians certainly enjoy their traditional music.
No overnight dramas with other boats. Off we went to Trstenik and were the first to anchor in this small harbour by, as the pilot guide said, and unspoilt village. This is where the famous Dingac wine comes from. We decided against paying over AUD 100 a bottle in the restaurant and bought the same labelled bottle from the supermarket at AUD 35 to take back to the boat. Sipped with the best of the Pag cheeses it was very good but not worth the price.
After a quiet night we headed for Hvar, which we visited on the previous leg and on the way did a close inspection of Korcula on Korcula from the boat. Anchoring in Hvar was even worse than last time with boats too close for comfort. Theo and Val went up to the castle whilst it was my turn to be the bulldog on the bow, telling people to sling their 'ook elsewhere. Just behind us was "9 Lives" whom we met on Pag.
Uvala Vinogradisce sounds really sumptuous, perhaps even a bit naughty. It was a simple but very pleasant inlet on Otok Sveti Klement, which sounds the exact opposite. We were in nudist territory and it made a nice change from noisy Hvar.
We explored a few other bays on the way to Luka Milna on Brac, which we were told was popular. There was not much to see and we had problems with other boats causing us to re-anchor around 3 am.
Maslinica on Solta was picturesque but the wind turned to our exposed side despite the forecast. We almost decided to stay on board for dinner but by 2000 hours the wind had abated and we felt it was safe to go ashore. That night was as calm as could be.
And finally we returned to Trogir. We explored more this time, including the impressive and beautifully carved portals of St Lawrence's Cathedral. A former bishop had a more impressive memorial in the church than Jesus. All agreed that the old town here was much nicer than nearby Split. However Trogir comes at a price and they charge you even for anchoring.
Croatia has been very enjoyable. Val leaves for France and Theo and I are joined by George and Adrian for our leg to Catania in Sicily. Better buy some wire and chain for the tender.
The two Ken's, John and I left Corfu early under low explosive storm clouds, dark and menacing as they rolled down the steep hills. The wind and waves were freshening and the rubbish in the water increasing. Not what the three forecasts had predicted. We ran close to Albania on the way up to Croatia having been told that pirates and aggressive coastal patrols were a thing of the past. The weather improved during the day but that night, now well offshore, we were lashed with a thunderstorm and 40 knot gusts. To remind us how puny we were on the high seas, the fluxgate compass went on the blink again. Sheet and plenty of forked lighting danced round Fandango as the storm passed overhead.
The following afternoon at Mulnat, just inside the Croatian border, we enjoyed a pleasant stroll around this quiet village. It was often hard to get the locals to smile.
Next stop was pretty Cravat just below Dubrovnik. We cleared all the paperwork but were peeved when we were told to move from our anchorage and tie up alongside the 15 metre "immigration" key. They never looked at the boats that one by one had to go through this pointless exercise before going back to re-anchor. Being VIP's, a band with marching girls had been specially organised for our arrival (see Photo Gallery). Well, we liked to think so.
We tried to find an anchorage in the estuary behind Dubrovnik but reluctantly took a berth in the expensive marina at the end. No smiles at reception. A large but neglected old manor house and grounds separated us from the road.
Dubrovnik fort was impressive. The old town inside the well maintained walls had been repaired after the recent vengeful shelling by various neighbours. Mostly the roofs and now all in matching terracotta.
We nosed our way into a very sheltered spot at Luka Polace on north west Mljet. This part of the island is a national park. Densely wooded with many firs, it was a delightful spot. A pivo (beer) by the ruined palace wall before squeezing into a mini bus to go to the island monastery. A few intricate stone and wooden carvings amongst the rough stone construction with nearly a thousand years of patina. In the stillness I mentally enrobed myself, inhaled imaginary incense and muttered a silent chant. Suppose I was unable to return to the present day? Another pivo after our walk seemed appropriate as we enjoyed the fine view and waited for the ferry. Not many tourists that day thankfully.
The rain and looming deadlines put the next main waypoint at Hvar on Otok (island) Hvar. The harbour was crammed with yachts, some even rafted together. Watching and commenting on the boats anchoring provided amusement with our pivos and peanuts before going ashore. We walked up the steps and steep paths to the fort overlooking the old town. The dank prison reminded us of what life for the unfortunate must have been like. We had more pivos in the old gun battery to ensure we were properly rehydrated for the descent back into the town.
Between Otoks Solta and Brac we set course for Otok Ciovo and Trogir close to Split's airport. Trogir has a nice old town and an interesting fort. We took a ferry to Split and bussed back. Split was well worth a visit. We didn't enter all the fee charging entrances to the palace but walked everywhere else and around the old town.
"Last drop" Ken and John flew back to the UK. "DJ" Ken and I headed off to Jadrtovac just below Sibenik. We were the only boat at anchor in this calm lake having entered the estuary under a bridge with two metres to spare. There is thunder above and tranquillity below. Mullet swirled all around us but they didn't like Ken's bait.
Next morning we motored up the Krka river past Sibenik to anchor at Skradin. The hills in places are laced with crumbling low rock walls, presumably territorial but without any livestock or crops. We have seen this in other places but it is a noticeable feature here.
Suddenly we are under attack! A wall of water dropped by a small fire fighting plane splatters nearby. Then another and another as they practise their skills on the lake we are passing through.
We enter the national park with no smiles at reception and took a ferry to the famous waterfalls set in hilly forests. Knotted tree roots and rocks sculptured by time evoked scenes from Tolkien. Very beautiful indeed and trout in all the pools above each fall. As with most of the ancient buildings and hillsides we have enjoyed, the walkways and low walls were much less fettered with safety rails than in over-regulated Australia. Although it would have been fairly easy to accidentally see the falls from the closest of perspectives, it heightened our enjoyment to be in it rather than beside it. On the way back in the ferry, the stench of burnt lamb chops confirmed that its motor did indeed run on biodiesel, as declared by a proud sign on its side.
Back down the river and on to Kornati National Park, which was a great disappointment. Long barren islands with nowhere interesting or attractive to pull into. The water is supposed to be blue but it looked just like elsewhere. We stopped for lunch at Uvala Strizna Bay (a mile SE of Kravljacica if you don't know it) to see if we could warm to it but within fifteen minutes we were jumped by rangers in a speed boat who demanded K400 (AUD100) per day. No smiles.
We picked up a buoy at Uvala Lucina on Otok Dugi. Our waitress that night actually laughed. We had worked out that you have to say something startling or cheeky and then the Adams Family frown melts. It worked sometimes on blokes too.
Pag on Otok Pag was next where we gate crashed a promotion or something in an old building used for salt making demonstrations. We sampled the famous cheese, pleasant but nothing special.
Rab on Otok Rab had a delightful old town with an ancient history. We climbed the bell tower and noted the usual lack of safety features. The wooden steps and handrails inside were loose or broken and there was nothing to stop you doing a Spiderman stunt from the large openings on each landing.
Not far was Krk on Otok (you guessed it) Krk. Not much of an old town but we found Punat nearby a more suitable anchorage and there was free wifi for the first time on our journey in Croatia.
DJ Ken left for his son's birthday party and I managed to get some work done on the boat during the thunderstorms and strong winds. Theo and Val join Fandango tomorrow and we zigzag down the Adriatic and then start heading west.
Heather with chauffeur on Naxos
It was only a short trip from Kusadasi to Samos and we chose Pythagorio (as usual there are about ten ways of spelling this in two alphabets) home town of Pythagoras. Restaurants ringed the harbour as usual but the smell of roasting lamb had changed to grilled fish. Local conversations seemed louder as acquaintances tried to out boom each other. You can't help immediately noticing the increase in prices, fewer places taking credit cards, and the similarity with Turkish dishes, including Moussaka. Hardly surprising given the way they have swapped dominion over each other for several millennia. If you don't like chunks of tomato and thick slabs of cucumber, eating any meal out can be limiting in either country. You can understand our strong urge for Italian, the only other choice.
We had a quick look at Agathonisi and then on to Skala on Patmos. It has a fascinating monastery and shrine to St John where he did some work on his bible blog. The museum in the monastery contains ancient religious documents and objects that are very interesting. We took a taxi up and walked back down the old donkey track through the fir trees. Very enjoyable.
Seeing a weather window, we high-tailed it to Ormos Roussa on Dhenoussa. Good shelter from the Meltemi the pilot guide said but 25 knot gusts gave our wind generator plenty of power. We didn't fancy another night there.
The following day we tackled three metre waves and strong winds for five hours to reach Naxos where we anchored in the new harbour. The old town was interesting and we started to like the place. It had a very nice atmosphere and an old town full of the usual tourist shops.
Two days later we boarded a high speed ferry to re-visit Santorini (Thira). They take great delight in sounding one deafening blast for at least 30 seconds as they turn to starboard. The water surges, spume flies, the windward anchor plummets and the huge ship backs up with tail loading ramps unfolding on to the dock, like a giant praying mantis about to pick up a human feast from those waiting below. As we walked up the internal stair case to the ship's lounge I noticed the manufacturers plate, it was built in Western Australia! Well you could have knocked me over with a short length of baggywrinkle because I thought Aussie manufacturing was dead.
We sailed round the inside of Santorini's crater last year and but leaving the boat near the old town was not possible. The very high speed ferry saved time and a Meltemi head wind had we sailed back. Santorini from the crater rim is breathtaking and the old narrow lanes and carefully painted houses and walls are very picturesque. The old town is crammed with tourist shops as one would expect but fortunately there were not many tourists.
The water is invitingly blue in the sandy shallows. The weather is definitely getting warmer but still too cold for us to swim. The local kids didn't think so. Two of them swam out to our boat for a chat.
The wailing call to prayer was gone but on Sunday morning the bells kept ringing from all around. They had a certain urgency. Was it for us? Surely not.
We made friends with Yannis, the Greek waiter at an Italian restaurant near the boat. The exception to the rule, he provided excellent service and friendly banter. He even took Heather on his motor bike to a good food market at the end of our stay. The lad at the shop offered to walk our groceries back to the boat. Later, the chandlery was closed so a nearby shopkeeper phoned for the owner to open it up! Naxos was indeed a very friendly place. Perhaps they were not yet jaded by the hordes that were to descend upon them over the coming months.
Tomorrow we head north to Mykonos, light winds and a bit beamy Windguru said yesterday. The day after the Meltemi starts up again. We are at an internet café to post this blog but guess what? No wifi tonight and no one knows where the unit is, let alone how to use the reset button.
The Original Crew
There are crew and there are guests. Crew need some sailing experience and are expected to stand night watch when required. Guests need no sailing skills and are welcome on the easier legs. However we'll call them all crew to make it easier. We normally have no more than four people on board (POB).
In order of joining Fandango:
British/Australian. The skipper, on his latest adventure. Complains a lot about dysfunctional gear. Likes chillies with paella. In fact, likes almost everything hot and spicy.
British/Australian. Adventurer and inventor. Orange inside and out. Holds the record for stacking the most fruit into a dessert bowl. Uses the mantra "Paella" when cruising eateries.
Brazilian/Canadian. Techo professor. Very relaxed. His snoring was so loud it interfered with the sonar. Likes chips and coke with a little paella.
Ukrainian/Canadian. Another techo. Ex military, the sort of guy you want on your side. A key operative in Mission Impaella.
Romanian/Australian. Oil diviner, roving Wikipedia, our tour guide and Telstra's biggest customer. Paella gourmet.
British. Translator. Never sailed. After the initial briefing she asked if she should also pee off the transom when conditions allowed. Gud on yer mate.
East German. "Ve invented ze nudity". Unfortunately, after a few weeks she turned into a nightmare and was dumped in Italy.
Kiwi. He was supposed to be looking after Jacqueline for his mate, Jacqueline's boyfriend. However, he stuffed up, got drunk and nearly jailed. He was jettisoned with Jacqueline.
Scottish/Australian. Skip's wife. Skip's mother was Scottish too. Artist and will try anything. Experienced some rough stuff offshore and then decided that she absolutely loves sailing as long as it's fairly calm and the motor is on. Enjoys the boat and doesn't get seasick.
Polish/Australian. Documented adventurer and old salt. Skip's first regular skipper from the SYC in Melbourne. Ask him about anchoring.
Australian. Stan's wife. Adventurer, artist and published and prized author. Ask her about anchoring too.
Danish/Australian. Charlie liked sailing on Fandango so much that he hopped off to get married and brought his beautiful bride back.
Scottish. Ken's partner. Tessellates well and has done more travelling than Sputnik.
British. A leading authority on draught and bottled beers and has a T shirt for most of them. Enjoys a malt too.