15 June 2017 | Ionian Sea
30 May 2017 | Korcula to the Border
20 May 2017 | Trogir to Hvar and on to Korcula
15 May 2017 | Trogir, Croatia
21 April 2017 | Trogir, Croatia
22 September 2016 | Hvar, Croatia
20 July 2016 | Venice, Italy
03 July 2016 | Isola di Vulcano
02 July 2016 | Trogir, Croatia
02 June 2016 | Cortina d'Ampezzo
09 February 2016 | Cortina d'Ampezzo
14 January 2016 | Sardegna to Amalfi
25 June 2017
We have been eagerly anticipating the arrival of our friends from SF and Squaw Valley. But, of course, just prior to their arrival Escapade throws us a couple of curves with a head that quits working and a balky hot water heater on the port side. We want everyone to be comfortable so we make up some excuses and insist they take the owner's side.
The big problem is we don't immediately know where they landed... once the logistics of getting to the boat on a small island from a birthday party in Mykonos became too onerous they did the only sensible thing and chartered a helicopter! The description of flying out of the dry desert island of Mykonos in the Cyclades, over the Peloponnese and into the beautiful green Ionian was breathtaking. A real learning experience Ava (12) can take back to school.
Once we got it all together, we sailed out of Ormos Vlikho bound for Meganisi. After dinner onboard the first night we decided to find an authentic Greek taverna the second. We quickly understood how hot it really was hiking uphill from Porto Spiglia in search of our taverna. The best that can be said of the taverna we selected is that we found the wrong place... incredibly plain food in an airless open air dining room. Most of our best meals on onboard!
Meganisi has some wonderful caves for swimming and crystal clear water. With the high pressure firmly established we can day anchor anywhere. From Meganisi we sailed over to Fiskardho anchoring out and tying the stern to our favorite rock.
Lefkas, Ormos Vlikho and Fiskardo
20 June 2017
Sailing south to Lefkas from Corfu on a pleasant beam reach with a fair breeze and relatively flat water, we arrived at the swing bridge at the entrance to the narrow Lefkas channel late in the day and idled around waiting for the next bridge opening. There was space at the waiting dock but with just two of us onboard it wasn't worth the effort to dig out the docklines and fenders. One drawback to the size of Escapade is the equipment is large and if I need to stay at the controls as in this narrow tidal waterway all the heavy lifting would be left to Debbie. She can handle the boat with a little more room and a lot less current, but it's pretty tight in here and gets a lot tighter once the bridge opens and you have two way traffic.
There was a strong cross wind in the channel and being our first time thru we did not know what to expect at the other end. Fortunately the waterway opened up and we found a spot to anchor. Lefkas isn't much to look at but it's a very good place to get work done on the boat with several chandleries ashore and a number of marine business willing to work on your boat in the nearby marina, on the town quai, or even at anchor. We had a couple of issues looked after but put off buying their very expensive alternator waiting to get to Athens where we saved 500 Euros on the price!
We had a few days before our next guests arrived and since this was the first time we had Escapade to ourselves this season we took the opportunity to sail down to a very secure and calm anchorage at Ormos Vlikho and further on to the widely reported beautiful Fiskardo village and bay of the same name. Enroute we did the tourist thing and did a pass-by of the Island of Skorpios and Jackie Kennedy's private little swimming bungalow.
Fiskardo is picture book perfect as a former Greek fishing village cum quintessential yachtie hang out. A small colorful town laid out around the semi-circular harbor with the town quai lining 70% of the basin. Since we were here for only one or two nights we elected to anchor out with a stern line ashore to avoid the hassle of the docklines and fenders. We managed to make much more work out of getting our 1" diameter line ashore than putting the boat on the quai would have ever been. Oh well. Live and learn.
The Ionian Sea
15 June 2017 | Ionian Sea
Two things I read about the Ionian stand out in my mind: 1) Don't rush through here looking for the Greece of the travel posters. Yes it looks similar to Italy and places you might have already cruised, but to me it is the most beautiful group of islands in Greece. I love the greenery and the crystal clear water. Just a lovely, lovely area, and 2) The Ionian is the most heavily impacted sailing area in Greece during the height of the season because it is such an easy place to sail. Moderate winds, close-by anchorages and wonderful villages and harbors.
We were lucky to pass through the Ionian in June of 2017. Unlucky to pass through too quickly because we needed to get to Athens to pick up a new alternator and have one of our Vac-U-Flush heads rebuilt. Once in Athens/Piraeus our to-do list lengthened considerably. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Robbie left us in Corfu to travel overland back to western Europe before returning to California. Our delightful Italian friend, Sara Bigontina, joined us for her first adventure upon the sea. Sara lives in uber cosmopolitan Cortina d'Ampezzo and has traveled internationally, but I have to say she was quite taken aback with the liveaboard yachting life. For the better part of two days she couldn't stop staring out at the other boats wondering at the livestyles of the people onboard. However, she quickly adjusted helping Debbie prepare meals in the galley, swimming, paddle boarding, and translating for us in the local wine shop - many of the Greeks on this side of the country speak Italian.
Close to the southern tip of Corfu are the islands Paxoi and Andipaxoi. Sailing south the first anchorage in Paxoi is Lakka. We arrived late, about 1800 and the tiny circular bay was absolutely packed with boats. Escapade is 52 feet long and 28 feet wide making an unweildly package to try to dodge in and out of the anchored boats. This is a European anchorage - not an American or even a Caribbean anchorage. There is a reason everyone has their fenders out. We 'found' a place by 'making' a place to anchor in shallower water and closer to the quai than anyone else would venture into. While close by the village, the water quality was noticeably lower than 200 meters across the bay. The next day, once the morning exodus was underway we worked our way to the very north end of the little bay and secured our stern lines ashore with the anchor wedged well into the sand bottom off the bow. This is a popular anchoring technique in the Med eliminating swing and allowing more boats to fit into an anchorage. Here we could swim in safety between the shore and the stern of Escapade, well protected from the passing dingies by our stern lines. The water was perfectly flat for boarding and we soon paddled ashore for minor provisioning. A perfect little anchorage and village complete with a well stocked wine store. Bliss.
Two days later we decided to see what Andipaxoi looks like (equally gorgeous) returning eventually to Corfu town where Sara could catch her 19 Euro(!) Ryanair flight back to Venice. We recovered our spinnaker from Quantum and found a great technician to take a look at our SSB and program the channels for the Greek emergency networks.
Next stop would be Lefkas where we would reportedly find good technicians to solve some of our current problems before our friends, Richie and Traci and Ava Goldman arrive.
Montenegro to Greece
10 June 2017 | Greece
Ahh, Corfu at long last. My hippie trail in the '60s completely overlooked Greece, but Corfu was one of Debbie's all-time favorite places in Europe on $5-a-Day. She always speaks fondly of the time she spent here, of the beauty, but especially of the warmth of the Greek people; and we were looking forward to some warmer people after spending almost the entire summer of 2015 among the mostly transactional Croatians. I know everyone needs to make a living and that the Croats have decided their financial path forward is thru nautical tourism, but you have to at least fake the smile when putting your hand out for the money.
I say this because it is not only a personally held belief - you read the same words in most of the yachting blogs. Some people go so far as to say why cruise in Croatia when you have Italy and the Italians and Greece and the Greeks? Personally I wouldn't have missed Croatia and we did meet some nice people there. And it's important to keep in mind that we (all of 'we cruisers') are traveling around on expensive boats and living the life. Meanwhile the locals we encounter are mostly involved in the tourist business and as my wife used to say about her restaurant employees and herself by about mid-August, "we are running out of nice." Also, we have all learned a lot and unfortunately become a little more cynical since our first trip overseas in our twenties. Certainly all those Greek taverna owners were at least partially happy to see you because of the Drachma you would be leaving behind. They didn't all think you were just the coolest people they had ever met...
So now that I have that out of the way on to Corfu:
We bypassed Albania because: 1) We are always a little too in a hurry to get where we are going, 2) They don't serve Italian food in Albania, and 3) The Breeze was On and with Robbie's assistance we had Escapade's biggest spinnaker up and we were making fast tracks directly to Corfu!
At least that was all true until BANG... the spinnaker floated down to the water, whereupon I took over the helm as Robbie was/is much more able to haul the big spi back on deck, he and Debbie ran forward to drag the water filled sail back onboard as I tried to keep from running over it. It was a big fight, but about 20 minutes later the three of us had managed to wrestle it aboard as the autopilot steered the boat. So what happened?
Now that we had a chance to survey our situation we looked up and the entire head patch of the spinnaker was still attached to the halyard at the top of the mast. The sail had torn out perfectly along the stitching of the head patch. The last heading gust had proved to be too much for the aging sail. Luckily it looks reparable so upon arriving in Gouvia, Corfu we called the local Quantum loft who were happy to drive over and pick up the sail, repair it and return it to the boat a week later. Note: having worked as a sailmaker I was well aware that we would not make any points and it would cost us a lot more to give them the sail dripping wet. The forward trampoline on Escapade allowed the air to circulate and it was reasonably dry in a matter of hours. Like most things related to boats and cruising it was something fairly easily fixed by a healthy infusion of money!
Corfu and the islands of the Ionian sea are beautiful in a very green and mountainous way. Very reminiscent of Italy and completely unlike the pictures you see of dry, desert islands covered with white white buildings and Indigo blue roofs. No need to rush off to the Cyclades when you are enjoying the Ionian...
05 June 2017
The Bay of Kotor is a fairytale type of place - unfortunately marred by the presence of enormous cruise ships disgorging thousands of passengers into the small UNESCO World Heritage site of the old fortified city of Kotor. Occasionally, you can get lucky and pass a day without a cruise ship when you have the city and the gorgeous hike to the chapel above nearly all to yourselves.
Our first stop sailing into the twisting 10 mile deep bay would be Porto Montenegro the latest addition to the proliferating list of super-tony marina developments dedicated to extracting money out of the pockets of the uber rich and (in)famous. Part of our attraction to Porto Montenegro is the ease of checking in and out with all of the authorities based in a small office pod on the quai. Also, once you have a ship's stamp (available for 10 Euros with 24 hour notice) you can fill up your tanks with duty free fuel, some 40% less than we pay in Italy.
Don't make the mistake of taking a berth in the marina, high season prices are astronomical. Like many of these developments Porto Montenegro has a glut of slips and condominiums for sale several years after it opened. Many of the retail shops are empty and available but there are enough restaurants and one good ship's chandlery to keep the new development from becoming a ghost town.
Contiguous to the southern side of the marina is the town of Tivat featuring a beautifully renovated quai backed by the usual restaurants and retail shops. The anchorage in front of the quai is free and generally calm although not well protected from the west. Further down the way is a smaller municipal marina, a large boatyard and eventually Montenegro's international airport.
After spending the first night in the anchorage we ventured further into the bay arriving at the charming seaside town of Perast. The anchorage here is pretty much non-existent due to depth so we moved on further into the Bay of Kotor. Near the town of Kotor the anchorage is reasonbly good although we dragged badly the year before in 40+ knots of wind. Once again, to accommodate our guests we berth Escapade on the dock at the entrance to the old town. The dock prices are reasonable and we are literally across the street from ancient Kotor. Robbie and Paula enjoyed the last couple of days of Paula's Escapade adventure and after moving back around to Tivat where Paula could more easily board her flight, the Escapade checked out of Montenegro and sailed south in the direction of Corfu.
Korcula to Cavtat
30 May 2017 | Korcula to the Border
Sailing south from Korcula a beautiful surprise awaits among the small islands and calm waterways, the Badija Monastery, a very attractive example of Dalmation Gothic style architecture. The entire area is picturesque and we never sail "outside" the islands although we may be missing out on something equally attractive. The always calm water and sometimes spirited sailing is always looked forward to.
Reaching the southernmost tip of Korcula Island we either continue south to the fjord-like area of Polace on the island of Mljet with the beautiful bicycle ride through the national park of Veliko jezero, or we turn eastward and head for the sheltered anchorage Luka Sipanska on the island of Sipan, usually our first or last stop coming from or going to Dubrovnik. This Spring we have a lot of miles to cover to get to Greece where Robbie will leave us to travel overland so we take the shorter route via Luka Sipanska and dare to exit for the first time under the low hanging electrical wires feeding power to Jakljan. This short cut saves us an hour or two.
It takes all morning to sail to Dubrovnik as the wind is light and from the Northwest. Debbie and I elect to stay onboard Escapade while Robbie and Paula explore the walled city. It is not that we are tired of or bored with Dubrovnik, just that we dragged anchor here on our last trip narrowly averting ending up on the rock breakwater. It's not a good anchorage but it has the big advantage of being right next to the old city. The alternate anchorage and the marina require long walks or taxi rides into the old town. Our plan is to continue on to Cavtat this afternoon which is about an hour away arriving before dusk.
This small circular bay of Cavtat is nice and calm and although it is deep we feel good about the anchor and all leave the boat to go ashore, Debbie and I in the dinghy, and Robbie and Paula in the kayak to give them maximum flexibility. Half of the picturesque little bay is lined with outdoor restaurants - Debbie and I settled into the excellent Bugenvila Restaurant while Robbie and Paula go off in search of the essence of the town.
To check in or out the boat MUST be tied up to the customs area on the quai. In fact you are forbidden to anchor or tie up to the overnight quai prior to checking in with the authorities. We have heard reports of substantial fines being levied for these seemingly small infractions.
Escapade had passed through Cavtat the previous year so we understood the routine and cleared out with little hassle or fanfare. Actually, for all the bad stories the authorities have been pleasant the three times we have passed through. NOT their brothers in arms, however. I thought the Croatian Customs 90 foot patrol boat traveling at very high speed directly at us the previous year was going to run us down. A not too subtle intimidation tactic and totally uncalled for. One of those times where they did it because they could...