08 July 2013 | Montenegro
If I asked 100 people in the United States what they think about Montenegro, 95 would answer “Monta-what?” The other 5 would think it’s a backwards post Yugoslavia state that had attacked Croatia. They, like me, would be apprehensive to visit such a place, fearing some type of extremist people. My vision from reading cruising guides lead me to believe it was a beautiful fiord that was sparsely populated by fairly poor people. I had read also that a new marina was being built for Mega-Yachts but wasn’t finished yet so the prices were low. This was our destination and we had three days to explore the area.
Well, my vision and the reality we experienced could not have been further apart. Never in my life of traveling did I get something so wrong. From the moment we entered the Boka Kotorska (Bay of Kotor) it was apparent this was a magical area. I’m going to break this story into three posts, the first detailing our experience with the people and beauty of the region, the second on the marina Porto Montenegro, and the third an Megan James, a wonderful woman we met in the port.
The cities and homes along the shore were very beautiful as we motored through the bay. There were remnants of the past military all along the coast. Many abandoned submarine and cannon bunkers dotted the shoreline along with century old fortifications. Herceg Novi, which I had expected to be a fishing village, was a full fledge modern city with many new holiday homes. Most of the buildings have a similar appearance to Dubrovnik with red clay tile roofs and white stone exteriors. There is substantial vegetation with flowering bushes and trees along with large strands of pines.
The bay is broken into three main sections separated by two narrow channels. In the first two the surrounding mountains flow gently down to the water. In the last the mountains are very high and steep straight down to the water. There are many small ancient villages along the shore of this bay, which are stunning when viewed from the water. Perast is an old town of seafarers. The Russian Czar sent men to be trained on sailing centuries ago. Now it is for tourists and features two small islands off its shore. One has a church on it dedicated to all the sailors lost at sea and the other has a Monastery. Further down the bay is the medieval city of Kotor with impressive fortified walls extending up the mountain slope. We only viewed this bay from the water due to poor planning and time restrictions.
I must comment on this last bay. It was the most beautiful area on the water I’ve ever seen. In my imagination it reminded me of what New Zeeland might be like. Beyond this I can’t describe, you just have to see it to believe and appreciate it. To add to the natural and man made beauty, there were thousands of locals lining the shore swimming and playing with their children in a simplistic lifestyle. Throw a stone, cast a fishing line with a cane pole, swim along the shore with friends. Montenegran’s are also some of the most pleasant people we have met in our travels. They are happy and helpful. With that, I will make this statement; I’ll not leave the Mediterranean on Palarran without returning to this country in order to fully experience what it has to offer. We all feel this way.
08 July 2013 | Montenegro
As I said before, we were heading to a marina (without a reservation) which I had read was being developed by a billionaire into a Mega-Yacht haven. Turns out that its actually 5 billionaires who are developing this resort and its not in the planning stages anymore. It wasn’t hard to find because even from a distance you could see the ships lined up in perfect rows. Great, I think. Another instance of us looking like trailer trash amongst the jet-setters. But it would not be so.
It is amazing what can be done with a vision and unlimited amounts of money. “Porto Montenegro, Porto Montenegro, this is Palarran over” I called on the vhf. “Yes Palarran, this is Porto Montenegro” came the reply. “Do you have a slip for a 17 meter catamaran for one night” (because I was afraid to ask how much it would cost). “Yes, please proceed to D-24 and we will have someone assist you”. As luck would have it, D-24 is the premier position in the marina, normally reserved for a signature yacht.
Assist – this is something you normally don’t get much of at marinas. At the most they will catch your stern lines and feed you the lazy lines. Here “Assist” means showing up in a golf cart, helping tie the boat up, connecting your power and water, taking you to the Port Authority, Customs, and Immigration offices, filling out the paper work for you, giving you a tour of the marina, and finally returning you back to your boat. Assist – they have a concierge on staff to make dinner reservations, book tours, rent cars, pretty much anything you need, they assist with. And, everyone speaks perfect English.
The port has about 15 high-end boutique stores, 5 excellent restaurants, salon, spa, florist, grocery, bakery, chandlery, and the most amazing pool club called Puro-Beach. Everything is brand new from the docks to the villa / condo units built in the complex. There are dozens of large water fountains set along impeccably manicured floral areas. It really is a marina beyond compare and they are now expanding it to twice the size. When completed it will be the largest Mega-Yacht marina in the world.
As I wrote before, I was afraid to ask how much it would cost per night but it’s a question that has to be answered so to the office I go. The receptionist looks up the price and says, for your boat it will be 200 euro per night. “Can I stay another night”!! This is less then we were paying for crap spots along commercial quays in Croatia. We ended up staying three nights in the port and due to some assistance from our new friend Megan, they dropped the price to 150 euro per day. With water, electricity, and berthing it cost 475 euro. Now, this is significant for another reason. They also sell duty free fuel from the marina when you clear out of the country. We needed 500 liters of diesel, which cost .75 euro instead of the 1.50 euro in Greece and Croatia. 500 x .75 = 375 in savings so our total stay for three days at this amazing port cost a whopping 100 euro, or $130. Can you tell I’m a fan of Porto Montenegro?
08 July 2013 | Montenegro
One of the fun parts of travel is meeting so many great people. I feel blessed that we interact so often with multi-cultural individuals. And every once in a while you meet an exceptional one. Megan James was that for us.
Megan is a character. She owns a 50+ foot gentleman’s yacht built in 1955. It’s a classic and I’ve personally never been on such a boat. I’ll post a picture somewhere on the blog. She was born in South Africa, lived in many parts of the world, and is a Londoner now. We were kitty-corner from her on D dock and she made a point to come over and greet us. Later she asked if Jeanne would like to go to the market with her. This was just to help Jeanne as we later found out she doesn’t have any, and I mean any, food on her boat.
Jeanne and Megan hit it off right away. Jeanne loved her spunk and individualism. Nick and Elaina enjoyed asking her hundreds of questions about who she was and what she had done in her life. I was impressed that she lived aboard her yacht without anyone with her for extended times, a true boating woman. And she was a fountain of information. Where to go, what to do, she knew it. Anyway, on the second night we went to one of her favorite local restaurants for a nice dinner.
While walking to the restaurant I stumbled on a cobblestone and Megan without missing a beat says “Da-veed – do you have a problem walking?”. Ha Ha Jeanne laughs. Later she says “Da-veed, is it impossible for you to do two things at the same time” He He, Jeanne laughs louder. Well, Megan continues to throw softhanded jabs at me to the delight of Jeanne all night. And the night wore on and her and Jeanne continued to drink wine and Grand Marnier.
I got my revenge the next morning. The Grand Marnier hit Jeanne hard and she ended up in bed all day instead of joining Megan at the Puro-Beach pool club. And Megan ended up entertaining Nick, Elaina, and Sam at the club without her partner in crime – He, He – Ha, Ha.
08 July 2013 | Montenegro
On a few things about our time in Montenegro(mostly about the beach club)
As by now it probably has been stated that we love Montenegro so I will try not to gush over it too much. Let me just start by saying that this is like the Ritz-Carlton of marinas. One of the best features in my opinion was the beach club. Now this was no ordinary pool/beach club oh no not at all. During our years cursing on Palarran we have went to a handful of beach clubs but none compare to this one. When you first walk in the lobby you are greeted by receptionist who then will walk you out to the pool area. They then leave you with the pool tenders who will basically assist you with any thing you need. They set you up with beach chairs and lay your towels out for you and then bring you water and a fruit tray that is included with the entire price. During the rest of your time there they will bring you any drinks you order, food and even a complimentary smoothie around midday.
On to the actual pool itself now. The pool was a huge tiled infinity pool overlooking the bay. The actual water the pool was so clean and pure that it was almost like bath water, there was no chlorine smell or anything. In the center there was a huge square arch with basically just made it look fancy, which I am okay with. Megan also told us that on Saturdays they put a floating walk way put down the middle and have people walking up and down it. I have to say that this was by the nicest pool I had been in so far.
David's 50th Birthday
06 July 2013 | Corfu Greece
A very HAPPY, HAPPY Birthday to our most special Captain David!!! We are so fortunate to have this time together as a family and with our friends. It truly has been a once in a lifetime adventure! Each day has brought a new adventure and memory, some planned and some unplanned and none of these events shall be forgotten. We are all so grateful for his planning and execution of a rather complicated travel adventure! It takes a lot of foresight and energy to make it all come together and he has made it happen in spite of our grumbling every now and then. We are working very well as a team and we’ll treasure this extraordinary time together. It could have never been done without you! We love you so much!!! Happy 50th Birthday on a 24 hour sail from Porto Montenegro to Corfu, Greece. Love, Jeanne, Nick and Elaina
06 July 2013 | Montenegro
To begin I would say that I started this trip without previously having any strong desire to sail or spend time on the ocean. It really just happened spontaneously that when I wanted to do something different for a week during the summer, the opportunity arose to join the Lambright family on their adventure throughout the Mediterranean. I couldn’t pass up this chance to take some time off of work and travel to Europe. I would have been much more apprehensive about the prospect of flying into Croatia by myself, speaking only English, with no knowledge on how to operate in a foreign country, without my knowledge that the Lambright family (especially Dave) would have a good grasp on what they were doing and would be able to safely let me tag along with them throughout their travels (I haven’t been lost at sea yet).
The evening that I arrived Nick and I set off to Dubrovnik on a local bus with the intention to scope out the night-life of the city. It so happened that this same evening the most well known Croatian singer was performing in the town square, so we would be given the opportunity to experience the city at perhaps its busiest. Having little clue what we were doing, we just wandered the streets of the city for hours, stopping in at various bars throughout the city to enjoy the local beer. The packed streets and inability to understand and relate to the music that the locals were so engrossed in eventually led us away from the bustle of the city center. We made our way through the alleys towards the fortified outer wall. Squeezing through a small door in the 6 meter thick wall (with a giant faded sign reading “no topless” and “no nudes”) we found ourselves on a cliff-side bar somewhat precariously located on the rocks outside the wall. After enjoying a few more drinks, I really began to realize how comfortable and welcome I felt, even after just a short day in this foreign place.
After another day of moving around the surrounding bays and areas of Dubrovnik, we began to make way for Montenegro. Nothing could have prepared me for the beauty that the bay of Kotor and Porto Montenegro had in store. I had no idea that such beautiful cliffs and mountains would surround the entire bay. The port itself was incredibly welcoming, and felt extremely luxurious and comfortable. I have never seen so many incredible boats and mega-yachts in my life, which occupied this amazing port.
After a day of thoroughly scrubbing the boat in Montenegro (which was by no means something I look forward to doing again) we were treated to an amazing day at the local “Puro Beach” 5-Star pool. This was probably the most relaxing and fun day at a pool that I ever have ever experienced, or will experience in my life. The “infinity” pool overlooks the bay and nearby mountains, and the experience came complete with men in funny looking pants, which adjusted your umbrellas and would come check on you every few minutes just to insure that you had everything you needed. Much to the dismay of our new friend Meegan James (a South African woman who was extremely friendly, helpful, and a very fun companion to spend our days in Montenegro with) Nick and I proceeded to attempt every cocktail on the menu, all while we continually pestered Elaina every five minutes asking her to calculate if each additional order would somehow allow us to remain in-budget for the day.
The biggest disappointment (if you can call it that) was that we had to leave Montenegro for Greece without visiting the bay of Kotor for a second time. During our first journey I neglected to take photos as we explored the bay in the tender, a big mistake on my part, as I believe that will be the most beautiful portion of the trip.
As I write this last paragraph we are approaching Greece after a long, 20+ hour sail through the night. My body didn’t really appreciate my first “bone-yard” watch shift, as I had to lay down after about two hours of the boat bouncing around in the dark. As I originally stated I had few expectations coming into this trip, now I can safely say it has been one of the most amazing experiences that I have taken part of. I have felt completely comfortable during my first week at sea, and have immensely enjoyed exploring Croatia and Montenegro thus far. I very much hope to return to at least Montenegro to explore the bay and city of Kotor more thoroughly. A big thank you to Dave, Jeanne, Nick, and Elaina for allowing me to experience this leg of their adventure, it had been an incredible experience! I cannot wait to return.