Return to Epirus 2012
25 August 2012 | Ionian Marine, Aktio, Preveza, Greece
Dawdling down the Adriatic 2012
Aqua Blue departed Nautec Monfalcone on the 7th July after more than a year's refit, including a new Yanmar 3YM20 , after many goodbyes to Karl, Erika and Hamed of the boatyard who'd accommodated AB's 25ft beam, and also Marino and Gloria of the onsite restaurant who'd fed and watered me royally.
With Stella my wife now onboard we exited the Timavo river for the last time and successfully test ran the engine, up to 6kts at 3000rpm, passing Trieste to anchor in Bartolomeo right on the border with Slovenia. There we inflated the new Honwave dinghy, slightly smaller than the preceeding Suzumar, and relaxed in the pleasant surroundings after so much work ashore.
In the morning we motored round to anchor outside the local moorings off Koper and I rowed Stella ashore with her camera to see Capo d'Istria the ancient capital of this region. I returned to anchor watch and managed a chat with a Ham in Norway using the Icom 706 acquired from eBay no less. The northwesterly Maestral arrived on cue at midday and we had a brisk sail round to anchor off the old custom sheds/salt warehouses at Bernardino, approximately halfway between tiny Pirano harbour and Portoroz marina, where anchoring is discouraged. There was a Yoko/Lennon/Tito exhibition in one of the "sheds".
The other contains a small supermarket where we stocked up in the morning, and behind this is a service station. We left immediately to motor round to Umag finding a fresh southerly off the point but we soon cleared in (not cheaply!) to Croatia. Then tacking south till after 7pm brought us to anchor in Lon bay at Rovinji, inside the new mooring buoys, "only" 88 Kuna.
After a few jobs we tacked slowly down to Kamenjak the southerly point of Istria, from where we motorsailed in the light southwesterly across the Kvarner gulf to Podkujni inlet on Unije, with the new diesel spluttering due to diesel bug from the old tank clogging the filters. In the morning light I cleared them and we went into Mali Losinj for clean fuel, with Stella making bread on the way in a simple hob top "oven". Finally we motored down to pick up the last buoy in the Ilovik channel at only 4.30pm, and there are nearly 100 buoys! There was another half an inch of bug in the filter bowl already and I realised the filler cap had been leaking rainwater for a whole year!! We used the water taxi to get ashore, looking for Housemartin nests in the small village, but found very few compared to previous years.
Morning filter draining was becoming mandatory, after which we motored and sailed to Lucina on Dugi Otok. A sheltered clean ferry harbour with buoys (170 Kunas) and a tiny basic restaurant run by a "battleaxe", which I'm rather fond of. Brbinj over the isthmus is more fashionable but crowded with a large restaurant and makes a pleasant walk.
A long day tacking into a southeasterly brought us to the free calm anchorage at Sepurine on Prvic. It's a delightful village with tastefully converted old houses all in the local stone. No atm in the morning, but a PO gave us 9 Kuna to the pound. There's an old Piver tri in the small harbour receiving lots of tlc. After lunch we motored round and picked up a buoy in Prvic harbour itself, which was less sheltered in the persistent southeasterly. After siesta I carried out hacksaw surgery on some new wheeled batten cars to get them into the 36yr old mast groove, with very pleasing results, I could now raise the fully battened main by hand! A harbour official in a RIB then asked for 300 Kunas and was taken aback when I laughed out loud and refused. I had to settle for 200 Kunas though. The Croats are getting a bit greedy imho, but we've been cruising the beautiful Dalmatian coastline for 8 years now, from when most anchorages were free. We still had the usual good meal in Hotel Maestral and appreciated the wifi. The iPad's a lot easier to lug ashore than the old laptop.
On Sun 15th July we left Prvic with one reef in the main and a few rolls in the Genoa to beat south against the still fresh southeasterly towards Rogoznicas. Thankfully as we rounded Rt Ploca the wind veered to SW and we ran slowly east to anchor in the large sheltered and shallow bay of Vinisce. An ideal multihull anchorage in fact and no charge either. Unfortunately Stella did not quite manage the transition from dinghy to quay and we returned to AB to dry out her camera and mobile.
Fresh northeasterlies herald the first rise of pressure in the Adriatic, so we exited the Splitski canal between Drevenik and Solta, to harden up and beat east, reefing twice in the katabatic winds funnelling down the south slopes of Solta, with the old bus AB close reaching fast on the flat water. By 3pm we had reached Blaca cove on the south east corner of Brac, the anchorage for the Hermitage, and spent the night there in splendid isolation fortunately, since there's not a lot of swinging room.
In the morning Stella hiked up to the monastery taking around 40mins. I accompanied her for a while but returned to anchor watch in the blustery conditions. After a lunchtime swim we found a W7 with short tumbling seas had built up in the Hvar kanal, so we ran east to Vrboska on Hvar, eventually surfing at up to 12.5kts on the GPS, a speed not reached by our heavy tri for many years!! We spent a very windy night in the shallow NW corner of the outer anchorage by the youth hostel, where holding on sand must be good, since our only 15kg Rocna performed well on a short scope without the usual bridle.
Normal summer weather returned at breakfast thankfully and we motorsailed west back past Blaca with Stella photographing the Hermitage, which is only visible from offshore at a certain angle. Bearing away for the west end of Hvar we ran east inside the islands of Sv. Klement and Marinkovac, admiring the enormous gin palaces moored off Hvar town. Then spending the whole afternoon broad reaching southeast most of the way to Lastovo, before I decided to harden up on port tack and we shot north on a close fetch to Brna on the south coast of Korcula. We had the very shallow Kosirina inlet just west of the town to ourselves. In fact on swimming we could walk round the rear cabin of Aqua Blue on the spongy mud! Brna harbourmaster in his RIB amazed me by finding us in this hidey hole after dusk and relieved us of 168 Kuna to lie to our own anchor for the night.
After ten hours sleep in this quiet spot we attended to a few jobs, including removing 2ins of muck from the filter bowl after our bouncy sailing! Then five hours of motoring in a very light southwesterly brought us to Polace lagoon on Mljet, where we anchored on the shallow spot near a big Catana cat. There did seem to be many more mooring buoys and gin palaces this year, but no charge by the national park for the first time. I finally fired up our new 2.5hp Honda, "Henry the second", to have a meal ashore. After admiring the Roman castle of Aegesilaus, who was exiled here by Septimus Severus and eventually pardoned by Caracalla apparently!!
We were still surprised not to have been visited by the park rangers and Polace seems much busier with more restaurants and car/bike/hire shops. Despite motoring away on a flat calm I managed to trip back into the cockpit banging my ankle which immediately and annoyingly started to swell. Stella suggested rolling a cold beer on it and the treatment worked!! The fridge is very high on the essential equipment list on board. We spent a couple of hours pm anchored off the disused Serbian hotel in the beautiful bay on the north side of Jaklan. Don't let the ancient no anchoring sign deter you! The calm night was spent in Sipanska Luka although it is open to the northwest, but it's a pleasant and strangely quiet spot with a couple of quayside restaurants, despite it's proximity to Dubrovnik.
After the usual filter clearing we slowly tacked into yet another light southeasterly, finally motoring past Dubrovnik and on into Tiha cove at Cavtat. Gratefully picking up a mooring buoy (only 110 Kuna), we noted the many trawlers and gin palaces anchored nearby, no doubt due to the now poor weather fcst, which encouraged dinner and a film onboard. Bradley won his Tour time trial!
Morning maintenance included steering quadrant inspection and greasing of the rudder stock, all usually hidden under the bunk in the rear cabin, now being cleared for our new crew arrival. Good lunch in restaurant Bougainville followed by shaded wifi cafe, it being very hot and humid. A water run occupied me pm, then a Norwegian Ovni arrived and we chatted for a while. They were very interested that Stella and I had arrived in Oslo on that terrible day exactly one year ago. The following night was very windy (and more fcst) and we were glad the new buoys had been laid, we hadn't found the holding to be good on previous visits.
Another water run am, since the tri is almost never alongside a water tap. I just take it slowly and will use the spinny halliard to lift water containers out of the dinghy if necessary. Lunch was in restaurant Ivan whose owner shooed away inadequately dressed large mobo owners to our slight surprise. But obviously here sartorial standards come before profits! Dominic our crew arrived from the conveniently close "Dubrovnik" airport. Siesta pm for all of us, then the sky clouded over ominously and our shore trip was cancelled. Shortly the harbourmaster's launch arrived and we were instructed to drop our mooring in Tiha and go round to Cavtat harbour, where unusually we had to moor between two linked buoys, presumably to pack in more yachts. Dinner on board again watching spectacular thunderstorms, which continued for much of the next day too! Carnage on the crowded customs quay in the wind and rain deterred our leaving, but we managed a visit to the hilltop mausoleum and a meal ashore. I now realise that this thundery low was causing a strong Bora further north in the Adriatic.
Forewarned, on Wednesday 25th we dropped the buoy at 7am, but a Danish yacht had already moored sideways onto the short customs quay and we waited over an hour in light rain before backing up to it. Formalities were only completed after two visits each to the port police and harbourmaster, who nearly sent me to a fifth office to pay one day's tourist tax for Dominic! In fact I like Cavtat, but the tiny customs quay and the fact that the main harbour is open to the usual daily northwest wind and Tiha to the overnight northeasterly can try one's patience.
Finally released and outside the harbour, I initially headed southeast along the coast towards Montenegro, but yet another large thunderstorm ahead produced a southerly so we raised sail and headed offshore. It was forecast to clear and the northwesterly returned later thankfully. We broad reached south all night slowly crossing the Adriatic with very clear views of the Milky Way and the occasional company of small dolphins. During one light patch motorsailing, the fuel pipe from the tank was finally blocked by diesel bug. I had to rise from my bunk and detach the fuel line and hose in the engine bay and bring it up to the cockpit and into a gerry can of diesel.
By the following mid morning we were running past Brindisi entrance in a rising wind. We continued south in at least a F6 and up to 2mtr seas before negotiating the bumpy entrance to Otranto harbour. The mooring field is much more extensive than it was, so we joined two other yachts at anchor in the rather open northern roadstead for the night.
At 7am the wind increased further and swell was entering the harbour which really needs a northern breakwater. The windlass was essential for recovering the anchor. I toured the harbour and rejecting the crowded quay, relaid the anchor under the town walls between an unoccupied Wharram cat and the mooring buoys. And there we lay all day, with the conditions eventually making me lay the Fortress as well as the Rocna. I managed some maintenance including re-routing the fuel line, and Stella and Dominic explored the interesting old town pm, especially its cathedral with the floor mosaic "tree of life", and especially the chapel full of skulls of victims of a Turkish raid in the fifteenth century! In the evening we all got ashore for a good and last Italian meal on the beach and a final tour of the battlements with ice creams of course.
Conditions eased overnight and at 6.40am there were no longer seas breaking in the entrance. I roused Dominic and we slowly recovered both anchors, also having to disentangle an old fishermans anchor from one chain rode. I motored out of the still bumpy entrance and soon the waves started to lengthen and we broad reached under Genoa alone heading 100T. We reached the 40th parallel by 12.30 and closely avoided a couple of high freighters. Crossing the shelf north of Othoni, the seas heaped up a bit temporarily and we were speeding again with a few rolls in the genny. One peak passed under the rear cabin then broke over the back of the stbd float! Dominic was learning fast to steer a 5ton surfboard! By 4.15pm we were anchored off the beach at Erikoussa, where many Italian boats were waiting for the weather to improve before heading north. We had averaged 7kts (55nm in 8hrs) and Dominic saw 10kts on one surf! The water here was only 67F but Dom went swimming immediately.
In the calm morning most of our neighbours had already gone, with the fcst now down to VRB3 bec NW4. We had a very leisurely morning at anchor before motoring over a flat calm across the top of Corfu and down into the town harbour, which wasn't really suitable for yacht check in, so we anchored south of the Venetian castle and used the NAOK yacht club to get ashore for a good meal and to explore the old town in the greatly increased heat.
Dom left for the nearby airport on the Monday morning and we motored back to Gouvia, just anchoring outside the entrance to the lagoon. After dinghying into the marina we easily checked into Greece although the officer had no yacht forms and just annotated the crew list in Greek. We then ran gently down to Petriti for the night under genny alone, anchoring as usual inside the other yachts once the centreboard was raised.
Ashore in the morning to stretch our legs and have coffee with the noisy parrot in one of the bars. Heading south again there was absolutely no wind so we just pottered into Parga to conserve fuel. On the 1st August we did manage to sail down to the Levkas canal and Nidri, anchoring off Sioux Sails just through Vliho narrows. We soon found Sue Keane of IGR who'd spent four years building Aqua Blue with me in a previous life!!
In fact IGR ordered the new fuel tank I'd decided was now essential. We hired a car and visited Nikopolis for the first time even finding Octavian's monument to the battle of Actium, although the August heat was excessive for land tourism. Stella flew home on the 5th and I continued with maintenance and R&R in the continuing heatwave till AB was hauled at Ionian Marine ten days later. George the owner welcomed me back after 8yrs in the Adriatic.