Aisling I

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21 June 2015

Trying something new

01 October 2012
This morning it is windy and a bit rainy in Marina di Ragusa, so instead of going running as we had intended we got sidetracked into editing photos. Then I got the idea that I would post a short movie taken from Aisling's foredeck as we motored towards Kotor in Montenegro. After spending far too long trying to resize it into something that could be posted directly on Sailblogs, I finally gave up and uploaded it to YouTube. Apologies for the cinematography, but at least it will give you a glimpse of the scenery!

Here's the link...

Aisling 1 in the Bay of Kotor

Touring the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Kotor

17 September 2012
The journey from the anchorage at Tivat to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Kotor took us through one of the most spectacularly beautiful landscapes we have seen from Aisling's deck. Motoring deeper and deeper into the fjord-like inlet, we passed under imposing grey-capped mountains, with belfries nestled into wooded hillsides and charming towns at the water's edge.



Sailing past the islands off Perast, we recalled that one of the islands was man-made, constructed after an icon of the Virgin Mary was miraculously found on a nearby rock.



When we finally reached Kotor, it was almost an anticlimax, since the full scope of the town and its mighty Venetian walls is not immediately evident from the water. There is a marina on Kotor's waterfront, but since we planned to return to Tivat in the evening we decided to anchor off the town. Fortunately, there were very few boats in the small bay, and we quickly got our anchor set and headed for shore.

On our way down the dock, we spotted Impala, a classic yawl flying an American flag from the stern and a Cruising Club of America burgee at the masthead. Stopping to investigate, we met Alfie Sanford from the CCA's Boston station, and spent a pleasant half-hour chatting in his cockpit. Impala was well positioned, since both the local market and the imposing Sea Gate were just steps away from her stern.

After saying goodbye to Alfie, we spent a few minutes browsing through the market. Most of the vendors spoke little English, but were able to communicate the prices of the fresh produce, beautiful hand-embroidered tablecloths and colourful hand-knitted sweaters being sold. Looking at the sweaters, I wondered what it would be like here in the winter. A bit bleak, I suspect!

The symbols and date on the Sea Gate commemorate Tito's liberation of the area from the Nazis, and the Tito quote (apparently a common Yugoslavian political slogan) roughly translates to "We won't take what is yours; we won't give up what is ours." But the Lion of St. Mark on the wall and the beautiful architecture within the town are evidence that the Venetians were here far longer than the communists.




We've seen our share of walled cities lately, but Kotor seemed special. Perhaps it was the fact that there are few tourists at this time of year, or perhaps it was just the novelty of finally being on dry land. In any case, in spite of the fact that it began to rain moments after we passed through the Sea Gate, we had a very enjoyable afternoon. We began our sightseeing in the "Square of Arms", which is lined with Venetian buildings. This odd-looking thing at the base of the bell tower was the town pillory.



It is a bit incongruous that the most important church in Kotor is the Roman Catholic church of St. Tryphon. During the wars that occurred during the breakup of Yugoslavia, the Orthodox Christians of Serbia and Montenegro were pitted against virtually every religious and ethnic group in the region, including the Roman Catholic Croats. I won't pretend to understand the whole ugly mess, but a consequence of the war is that very few Roman Catholics remain in Montenegro today, just as very few Orthodox Christians remain in Croatia. On the other hand, at least a few Roman Catholics must have remained in Kotor, because St. Tryphon's still seems to be used for worship.



In the interior of the cathedral, we saw soaring columns, some fragments of frescos, a glittering altar and, upstairs, a reliquary that housed the remains of St. Tryphon.



Here is another example of Italian body-snatchers running amok! The saint's remains arrived in Kotor in the year 809, when Venetian merchants who were attempting to "transfer" the body from Turkey to Venice took shelter here during a storm. The weather did not improve, so they decided that this was a sign from heaven that the body of St. Tryphon was meant to remain in Kotor. (The Venetians quickly set their eyes on another saint and in the year 828 they made it all the way from Alexandria to Venice with the body of St. Mark.)

The second largest church in Kotor is the Orthodox church of St. Nicholas, a more modern building. Our Rick Steves' guide points out the differences between the Orthodox and Catholic churches. We've already visited many Orthodox churches in Greece, so the iconostasis (screen of icons), tall thin candles and additional bars on the cross are nothing new. But this is the first time it dawned on me that the absence of pews reflects the fact that Orthodox Christians stand during services. So I assumed that the lovely little church of Santa Clara, with it's beautiful baroque altar, is not an Orthodox church.



Kotor is small and compact, so it didn't take us long to explore the maze of narrow streets. The next item on the typical itinerary would normally have been a climb to the church and fortress that overlook the town. But Rick had slipped on the companionway during one of thunderstorms earlier in the week and had a sore foot and there was no way he was hiking up that hill. I decided to climb as far as the church, while Rick settled himself in a little café in the square.



Unfortunately, finding the path proved to be a challenge. After climbing up about a hundred stairs, I reached a dead end at a private terrace and realized I had taken a wrong turn. So back down the stairs I went, and then back up another set of stairs, only to discover that there was a fee of 3 euros to get onto the stairs. I didn't have a cent, having left my bag in the café with Rick. Oh well. I gave up and joined Rick in the café.

Just as we arrived back at Aisling, all the bells in the town began ringing. What a great end to the visit!

Welcome to Montenegro!

16 September 2012 | Gulf of Kotor
With the weather already getting sketchy we can feel our time running out, but we really couldn't turn our bow toward Sicily without at least a quick visit to Montenegro's Gulf of Kotor. Rimmed by rugged mountains, the fjord-like gulf works its way inland to a spectacular culmination at the UNESCO world heritage site of Kotor. As we sailed through the channel between the outer basin of Hercegnovski Zaliv and the second basin of Tivatski Zaliv, the liquorice-like scent of wild fennel and herbs wafted through the cockpit. Yet in spite of the natural beauty of the towering mountains, we definitely had that "Aisling, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore" feeling as we sailed past ugly communist-era buildings and the rusted-out hulks of abandoned warships. The amount of debris floating past was startling, especially in contrast to the pristine waters we'd become accustomed to in Croatia.

We'd decided to check in at Tivat, but our assumption that a dedicated customs dock would be available turned out to be ill-founded. After a nanosecond of contemplation about the potential costs, we decided to make the process easier by spending the first night in Marina Porto Montenegro, which fortunately had a space available. Before we even had the dock lines properly tied, a young woman from the marina's staff appeared at the bow and asked me to gather our papers and accompany her to the harbourmaster's office. It turned out that our decision to stay in the marina had been a wise one, since not a soul in the harbourmaster, police or customs offices spoke English. I'm not sure the process of getting us checked in would have gone so smoothly if I hadn't had a translator at my elbow. Montenegro is the 11th Mediterranean country that Aisling has visited (and we've gone in and out of some countries multiple times) but this is the first time that I've actually completed the check-in process without Rick. All our documents, including the RYA certification that Rick had recently obtained with the help of our friend Judy Robertson, were reviewed thoroughly. They seem to be sticklers for process, and refused to accept the photocopy of our ship's papers that we usually present, insisting that I go back to the boat to fetch the originals. (In view of this, I found it a little surprising that they didn't insist that I fetch the skipper too, instead of taking my word that he was onboard. Go figure.)

Our friends Liz and Jim (Breakaweigh) had forewarned us that a cruising permit for Montenegro would not come cheap, but it was still a bit of a "gulp" moment to hand over 127 euros for a "vignette" that would only allow us to stay for one week. Then the young woman whisked me into a golf cart and off to the office, where I handed over another 65 euros for one night of dockage plus water and electricity. But in the end, it turned out to be well worth 65 euros for the experience of staying in the most upscale marina we've ever tied up in. "I feel more like the Clampetts than ever" I said to Rick as we walked past an endless parade of superyachts. "There's an advantage to being a bit shabby" he said. "It makes us less of a target for theft". He was right. Almost anyone in the marina would have much better stuff to steal than we do! The showers were just as luxurious as the rest of the marina, and we were feeling great as we settled ourselves at a little bar/café on the waterfront, called "One", for a glass of wine and some people watching. We enjoyed ourselves so much that we eventually decided to stay for dinner. Even though we just ordered calamari and a club sandwich from the "bar menu", the food was delicious.

The next morning, I headed off to a hair salon that I had spotted the previous evening and inquired about the price of a haircut. Thirty two euros was more than I would have paid in Sicily, but since I hadn't had a haircut in nearly two months I decided to grab the chance. What an experience! The head massages before and after the haircut were the best part. The Serbian hair stylist spoke limited English but as he cut my hair he periodically reassured me. "Don't worry." (I probably did look worried, since I've had more than my share of bad haircuts on this side of the pond.) Then he told me that he was flying to Morocco and Paris later in the month, to do Jennifer Aniston's hair "for wedding". "Jennifer Aniston is getting married?" I said (which just shows you how far out of touch I've been lately). "Umm.... friend wedding." he replied. Now I really could stop worrying. If you can't trust Jennifer Aniston's hairdresser, who can you trust?

It would have been nice to do a little window shopping in the marina's upscale boutiques, or go for a swim in the pool, but we had work to do. After spending two hours and our entire 5-euro water allotment on scrubbing the boat, things looked a bit more presentable. Now we were ready to move out to anchor, with a quick stop at the fuel dock on the way. The price of diesel was a pleasant surprise compared even with Croatia, so we managed to save back some of the money we'd spent on the vignette.

With a big blow forecast, we decided to anchor in the southeast corner of the bay and ride it out. For the next two days, we hung on tight as thunderstorm after thunderstorm rolled through. It was quite a display, with everything from dramatic forked lightning, deafening thunder, wind gusts of over 40 knots and even, for a brief period, hail. It could have been a bleak time, had Allan and Holly on "Summer Wind" and Joel and Cheryl on "Amazing Grace" not been in the anchorage with us. Before the first storm arrived we had drinks on Summer Wind, and the next afternoon we donned our raincoats to dinghy over to Amazing Grace for wine and cheese.

Throughout the two days that we spent in the anchorage, Aisling's decks were deluged with water. So much water fell from the sky that it even seeped into the aft cockpit locker and caused one of our life vests to self-inflate. It was a bit frustrating to think about all the time and money that we'd wasted on washing the decks when we simply could have waited for Mother Nature to do the job, but at least any spots we'd missed were dealt with in the process. Finally, the weather broke and we motored up into Kororski Zaliv to visit Kotor. That deserves a separate posting of its own....stay tuned.

We came back to the anchorage near Marina Porto Montenegro yesterday evening. Shortly after we turned in, the wind piped up again, going suddenly from almost nothing to gusts off the mountains that at times were 35 knots or more. Today it's still a bit breezy, but the wind is in the right direction and the forecast looks good. The unsettled weather has confirmed that it's time to get started on the journey back to Marina di Ragusa, so we're departing for mainland Italy later today. I'm typing this in a big hurry and must end now and go rustle up a few things for us to eat for our journey across the Adriatic. Please Lord, let there be no thunderstorms tonight!

Dubrovnik, Pearl of the Adriatic (and last stop in Croatia)

14 September 2012
Everything seemed to fall into place for our visit to Dubrovnik. We left the island of Mljet early in the morning, picked up a mooring in the small harbour of Uvula Tiha behind Cavtat at 1 p.m. and by 2 o'clock we were on the bus to Dubrovnik. As we entered through Dubrovnik's imposing Pile gate, with its statue of the city's patron Saint Blaise over the door, it seemed like we stepped back more than three hundred years in history. Our timing was perfect, since by mid-afternoon the cruise-ship crowds had thinned out.

Dubrovnik was once a wealthy city-state known as Ragusa. The city's motto, "Libertas", reflects the fact that it was independent for centuries, a status achieved by negotiating payments with the relevant powers of the time. Dubrovnik's long era of independence was finally ended by Napoleon early in the 19th century, and the city eventually came under the control of the Hapsburg empire. After a period of decline, it got a new lease on life as one of Yugoslavia's finest tourist destinations, until it was pummeled by the Serbian-dominated Yugoslavian army during the Homeland war in the '90's. More than 200 of Dubrovnik's citizens died and many historic buildings were severely damaged in the siege, which lasted for months. The city has now been carefully restored, but a few shells of bombed-out buildings serve as a reminder of this ugly chapter in history.

This was not the first time that Dubrovnik had demonstrated its ability to pick itself up, dust itself off and start all over again. Many buildings in old Dubrovnik were constructed in the late 17th century, following a catastrophic earthquake that inflicted severe damage on the town. (It seems that many areas in Europe have been devastated by earthquakes at some point in their histories, since we have come across this scenario numerous times.) In Dubrovnik, the few buildings that pre-date the earthquake, such as the Sponza Palace and the Rector's Palace, are elaborate and impressive.

Although we didn't go into every single church and museum, old Dubrovnik can be explored pretty thoroughly in less than a day if you have enough stamina. The old town is entirely pedestrianized, which freed us from any fear of being run down by a scooter, but admittedly made the main thoroughfares feel a bit like the streets of a theme park. The main street, known as the "Stradun", leads to a large town square, where "Orlando's Column" was the site of public announcements as well as public punishments. The tall clock tower actually pre-dates the Orological Tower in Venice- I loved the old style "digital readout" with a combination of Roman and Arabic numerals.

Just inside the door of the Sponza Palace is a room dedicated to the Croatians who died in the Dubrovnik siege. A map on the wall shows the sites of the numerous bomb strikes. The photographs of the "Dubrovnik Defenders" were especially heart-rending, since many were mere teen-agers when they lost their lives. Although all wars are horrible, this one seems to have been particularly pointless and atrocious.

A more positive experience was a visit to the second-oldest pharmacy in Europe, inside the Franciscan monastery. Here, the monks delivered medicines to clients through a tiny window set into the wall of the dispensary. Small windows to limit contact with the public were not unusual in monasteries and convents, but this set-up had the added advantage of reducing the chances of contracting a contagious disease from a patient. The job of a pharmacist was a bit riskier in those days!

After fortifying ourselves with a "Pizza Napoli" in a sidewalk café, we were ready to tackle the two-kilometer up-and-down walk around the city walls. This was definitely the best part of the day, since the views in all directions were stunning. Standing on the old walls, we could see the contrasting colours of the roof tiles: duller browns for the original roofs that had survived the siege; brilliant new terra cotta for the larger number of roofs that have been restored. Since we took dozens of photographs, it took us about an hour to make the circuit, and we came back down to earth just in time to catch the last ferry boat to Cavtat. The sun was dropping in a fiery ball behind Dubrovnik as we roared away from the harbour. Perhaps we were lucky that the boat didn't end up as a fiery ball too, since our deck-hand was quite a character and happily chain-smoked at the dock and onboard in spite of the fact that there were two large jugs of diesel on the deck!

It was a good thing that we'd managed to tour most of Dubrovnik in one go, because we didn't get to return the following day as we'd planned. The next morning, Rick woke up feeling queasy and by mid-day he had a temperature of 102F. Ugh. He spent the entire day in bed, refusing to eat or drink anything other than water and consommé. While Rick slept, I caught up on some work, periodically hanging on for dear life as Aisling was rocked by the wakes of the passing ferries. I must admit, his fever had me pretty worried, but thankfully it had disappeared by evening.

The next morning, we moved Aisling around to the dock on the Cavtat side, parked illegally and crossed our fingers that the ferry would not arrive before we got checked out of the country. Amazingly, the whole process only took about twenty minutes and by mid-morning we were on our way to Montenegro. Dovidenja Croatia, you've treated us very well and we know you have a lot more to offer, but autumn is coming and it's time to move on!
Vessel Name: Aisling I
Vessel Make/Model: Slocum 43
Hailing Port: Halifax, NS, Canada
Crew: Rick and Bonnie Salsman
About:
Crew from Halifax to Horta: Bonnie and Rick Salsman, Dave Morse, Wally Fraser Crew from Horta to Spain: Bonnie and Rick Salsman, Al Salsman, Rob Salsman We left Halifax, N.S. in June 2007, sailed to Horta, and explored the Azores for a month. [...]
Extra:
The info below is a copy and paste from some literature about the Slocum 43. Please excuse the platitudes. Although I may like them , they are not truly mine. Aisling I is a 1987 Slocum 43, designed by Stan Huntingford. She has been designed to satisfy the sailor who wants the blue water, "get [...]
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Aisling I's Photos - Aisling I (Main)
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South coast of France looking West from La Ciotat
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Aisling leaving RNSYS for Europe 2007 -1 (2)
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P4022273b: The Mary B Brooks
214 Tons. Built 1926 at Plympton, N.S., Canada. LOA 99
 
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