Check-in at Zelenika, Dobardan Montenegro!
17 July 2010
It was a hot, hot motor sail south to Montenegro so, even with only 20 miles to go, the crew needed two cool-off swim stops in surprisingly warmer, deep blue and crystal clear water. Entering "Boka Kotorska" - "the Mouth of Kotor", the Adriatic's only fjord, we proceeded to Zelenika's Custom's Dock to check into Montenegro. Held off by enormous black rubber bumpers, we moored Sangaris alongside and "Deep Blue" then rafted outside of us. It was then off to complete the check-in cha-cha with passports reviewed by the police followed by a visit to the "lady harbormaster" just a few houses to the west of the dock. We were greeted by a very helpful young woman who produced permits, entry papers and a Montenegron courtesy flag in exchange for 237‚'¨, our fee to stay in the country for one month. (137‚'¨ for one week, but we thought that might be too short a time).
We decided to delay our passage deeper into Boka Kotorska and simply anchored nearby off Igalo and Herceg-Novi, the fortified old city. We were well "dug-in" and just beginning to relax when the skies over the 2000 foot mountains went black with thunderclouds and hoolie of a storm quickly whipped up white-caps and huge rain drops that seemed to threaten changing to hail. Amidst tremendous bolts of lightning and winds gusting to 45 knots, our boats danced about but were well separated for plenty of swinging room even with some 200 feet of anchor chain deployed. Although Deep Blue, some 200 yards away, was hardly visible to us during the peak of the storm, a brilliant lightning bolt on the hillside behind us got our immediate attention as within minutes it became a raging fire being spread like a fierce blow-torch-like by the gale force winds.
The storm passed within about 2 hours and the sky cleared to a brilliant rosy orange, but the fire raged on all night and most of the next two days as the charred edge was reignited with wind shifts and, because of the mountainous and inaccessible terrain, fire fighters were only able to establish a defensive line near some homes at one end of the fire. Finally though, around noon the next day, two small planes arrived and began efforts to drop fire retardant chemicals on the steep mountainside to finally control the blaze.
On Monday, with calm wind and a flat sea, we 'dinghied' ashore to explore Herceg-Novi, whose origins date back to the 14th century and history includes Turkish, Spanish, Venetian and Austro-Hungarian rue. The waterfront was bustling with beachgoers, so we climbed one on the numerous stone staircases to check out the city walls and fortresses decorated with lush Mediterranean vegetation of mimosas, eucalyptus, agaves, oleander and magnolias. A stop midway at the Sahat Tower (clocktower) and a caf√© for refreshing iced coffees readied us for the trek up to the Kanli Kula fortress where we had fantastic views of the old town, our boats in the distance and the unyielding smoke on the hillside.
That disturbing landscape, along with the incessant pounding of (sigh, American) "music" from beachfront clubs and an afternoon wind that seemed to be building, led us to get underway and find a calmer anchorage for the night. Amazing mountain vistas and small orange roofed villages delighted us as we sailed through the first narrow opening of the Boka fjord. We found a perfect spot in the SE corner near the tip of Stradioti Island that we soon re-named "monastery bay" for its sunset view and the next day renamed it "Mussel Bay" ... more to come!
Crusiers' notes: as per our "lady harbormaster" there are no harbor dues, town quay charges or anchoring fees collected in Montenegro - your permit covers all except, of course, marinas where dockage includes water & electricity.. Also, the permits run Sunday-to-Sunday, so if you check in on a Monday and get, say a one week permit, it actually doesn't start until the following Sunday, so you really get almost two weeks! Virtually all former anchoring restrictions for military zones are gone (a few specifically posted small areas remain) and you're welcome to go anywhere