... and finally for 2022
04 December 2022
… we get around to completing our cruising blog.
We did get a reasonable forecast to sail from Montenegro with wind having north in it but it turned out to be less strong than forecast so we had some engine support for 45 per cent of the trip, arriving on 27th September, and having slowed down for a daylight entry to the anchorage at Preveza.
Our clearance out of Montenegro was done at Porto Montenegro and we are not sure whether the marina’s clearance-helping-staff were just incredibly helpful or thought we had come from the marina itself, but either way Phil was taken to the ferry/tripper harbour by golf cart as the officials were not attending the office in the marina. Nice.
Our return to Preveza provided a surprise when the officials insisted that we have a Transit Log which normally means visiting every port police office at the places you visit, but we were given one for the Ionian. This, unfortunately, is not in compliance with EU legislation regarding UK registered vessels that were VAT-paid and in an EU country on 31 December 2020 (Brexit Day), but this is Greece. We subsequently gained agreement from Greek Customs (as a compromise) that they will issue us with an Unlimited Transit Log on our return in May 2023, which we keep when we exit Greece, and means we can cruise freely in Greece after inbound clearance without checking in to different port police offices. We don’t think this is one of the Brexit opportunities (otherwise known as unicorns) that our joke of a government keeps banging on about.
Once we had cleared in, we headed south through the Levkas Canal to the ‘Inland Sea’ and Ormos Vlikho, where once again we met up with Horatio and AA who very kindly took us for two days of touring around Levkada, visiting Ayios Ioannis Podromos with its fascinating frescoes; the mountainous interior around Drymonas, Exantheia and Rekatsinata; Dimossari Waterfalls at Nydri; Sivota (rather like a food court with a marina in the middle); Mikros Gialos where Horatio warned us of risky southerly winds; and we had splendid picnic lunches prepared by AA on the beach at Agios Nikitas on the west coast and at Agia Kiriaki on the north-east headland of Ormos Vlikho. A truly memorable couple of days.
We also enjoyed the company of James Baker, a fellow RCC member, who was anchored in Ormos Vlikho preparing to head west and who gave us some good tips on places to visit.
The anchorages we visited were Ormos Varko where we swam, Palairos which has a superb supermarket geared to Brits who cannot do without their Heinz Ketchup or HP Sauce, Mitika with a long sandy beach but the beach-side bars were closed for winter, and Port Atheni on Meganisi.
Port Atheni is a good anchorage with sufficient swinging room at the head of the bay. We last visited Meganisi twenty-three years ago and with so much changing in the area since then we wanted to see how Spartachori had fared, so we walked there and looked forward to having lunch on the beach at Panos’s restaurant which we first visited in 1992. Oh dear. Spartachori has seen a lot of development of holiday properties and Panos’s quaint restaurant is now a cavernous canteen capable of seating vast numbers of charter crews … and the food was pretty ordinary. We often say that we should not go back to places and always be seeking something new and this time we were right.
We returned to Preveza on 12th October to prepare for a 5-days visit by Julia and Tim, who were holidaying later in Athens and Marathon. Our cruise with them took in Vlikho, Port Atheni, Mitika and Palairos again, and was all too short but hugely enjoyable.
Then we had all the lay-up tasks and the compilation of a long list of work for the technical staff of Cleopatra to complete over the winter. The head marinero, Michaelis, at Cleopatra marina was his usual welcoming, efficient and professional self, so berthing was easy and our haul out went smoothly.
We had a truly marvellous time despite the delays at the start and the lack of wind a lot of the time. Now we are settling back into life in York and enjoying the delights of the Yorkshire Wolds, the North York Moors and the vast range of ales on offer in Yorkshire’s glorious pubs.
Our best wishes to any and all readers of our cruising blog.
18 September 2022
Apart from the fact we had never been and wanted to see the majestic Bay of Kotor, we were coming to Montenegro for a Royal Cruising Club Meet and to get a replacement impeller for our Yamaha outboard. We chose to clear in at Porto Montenegro which is a large megayacht and superyacht marina so we could have the outboard collected and assistance with clearance (not that the latter was necessary). All was good.
Porto Montenegro could be anywhere that has a Mediterranean climate. There is nothing about it that says "Montenegro". It has a retail offering that is exemplified by Rolex, Bulgari, Dior, Chanel and so on. There are many apartments (a one bedroom apartment is c.Euros 500,000). Restaurants and cafes abound. The two grocery shops are very expensive ... and pretentious (one is called Healthy Food Concept - what is the 'Concept' about?). However, it is a short walk to downtown Tivat and something approaching (for us) normality. One of the most telling things about the marina is that there is no DIY laundry. We can only guess that there are two reasons for this: 1. Wealthy megayacht owners don't do their own smalls, they have crew and machines onboard for this, and 2. Wealthy people don't want to see boats festooned with drying clothes and linen.
Notwithstanding this the showers etc were very good and the staff were very pleasant.
Montenegro is not covered by UK mobile phone roaming, but there is an amazing deal available: a data SIM card for 30 days with 500Gb ... for Euros 15. We will use barely a fraction as we don't do much streaming.
Our outboard was collected and we had sent model and serial number information in advance so that they could order the impeller, gaskets and o-rings. Then HM QEII passed away and because the RCC Meet was due to start on the day of the funeral, it was cancelled.
In amongst the sadness and remembering, the airwaves then filled with advice on flag etiquette and because our ensign staff is relatively short, we could not have the ensign at half-mast, so we adopted the alternative which is to have a black cravat/ribbon tied at the top of the staff - one of Norma's old T-shirts suitably dismembered and sewn appropriately.
A couple of weeks previously we had spotted on the Ocean Cruising Club Fleet Map that there were quite a few OCC boats around Montenegro and in conjunction with our friend Mark on s/y GRACE RICHARD, we organised a meet at Kotor for Tuesday 13th. It turned out to be a select bunch as some OCC members and crew had returned to their home countries for various reasons, but Keith and Di on DIZZY DI and Duncan and Joan on TALISA joined us for a lovely evening and dinner.
The following morning, we made the climb to the Kotor Fortress which provides stupendous views north along the bay with its steep-sided mountains rushing down into the water.
With a forecast for some strong winds, rain and thunderstorms later in the week, we headed for the relative shelter of the island of Sveti Marko near Tivat. It has been good - the wind and rain made an appearance and we have been fine, anchoring in 11 metres of mud with 55 metres of chain out, albeit at times it would have been nice to have had a shorter fetch for some wind directions.
Mark on GRACE RICHARD has been here so the socialising has been good and the craic has been mighty. Mark had us driving the dinghy around for some photos to accompany an article he is writing about dinghy safety so we had to do bad practice photos and good practice photos. It was reassuring to know that our normal practice is good practice.
We have a reasonable forecast (northerly winds mostly) for departure on Tuesday 20th September for the 240nm to Preveza, Greece, so two nights on passage. We will by-pass Albania and save that for a visit next year. Preveza officials have been very nice and easy to deal with and we also want to set up our winter work programme with Cleopatra marina. It will be good to have a month or so in the Ionian before the season comes to an end.
18 September 2022 | Cavtat
We had a very nice hike in Slano along the west side of the bay, reaching the light at the point. A painted sign said “The End”. However, there was evidence of a path the other side of a fence which was easily negotiated. The path though came and went and we found ourselves walking on broken and rocky ground and walls. There were lots of bunker-like shelters that had clearly been used for protection by troops or villagers during the 1992-3 war. Eventually we did reach a path that was a route into the bunker complex. There were lovely views over the bay at Slano and by careful framing the dominating hotel was excluded from photos.
On 6th September we motored the 23nm from Slano to Cavtat, passing close by Dubrovnik old town and its fortified walls. Having visited in 2004 and knowing how busy it would be we declined the bus trip from Slano. We were not disappointed in our decision as we could see the continuous, single file procession of folk walking the walls. Notwithstanding this, it is a very scenic, interesting and historic place to visit.
There are supposedly two anchorages at Cavtat – in the harbour on the south side or in the bay on the north side. We checked out the former and there were too many small boat moorings for our comfort, and since there was only very light wind forecast, we anchored in the north bay, Uvala Tiha, in 7-8 metres having searched for a sandy spot to drop the anchor. All was well.
Cavtat is not only a Port of Entry (and exit) but also is quite pretty and has lots of bars and restaurants, and so is a favourite destination for visitors to Dubrovnik and its environs. It is a pleasant place. We were there to clear out and the Harbourmaster and the Police couldn’t have been more polite and friendly. The only hassle is that you have to take the boat to the Customs dock, drop anchor and go astern to tie up. We arrived just ahead of a very large motor superyacht and decided to let them go first as the person who is supposed to be there to take lines wasn’t, and we thought we could ask crew on the superyacht to take our lines. The only mistake we made was not asking how long was the superyacht as we could have estimated the ideal distance to drop the anchor. We dropped and went astern, with Norma coming back to the cockpit using the remote control to let out anchor chain … and more anchor chain … and even more anchor chain. A bit of a burst astern should have brought us to the dock but the anchor was well dug in … so more anchor chain released and eventually we got the stern lines ashore. Checking how much chain we had out, it was c.75 metres … we carry 80 metres …
The superyacht cleared out before us and we had plenty of room to recover the chain.
We motored on to Montenegro, passing an enormous lookout station with vast arrays of radar and antennae. The Croatians monitor marine traffic closely and anyone deciding to stop for lunch will be spotted and fined.
Our two months in Croatia had been absolutely marvellous. All the negativity on social media about officials being rude, unhelpful and even corrupt was far removed from our experience. We had avoided the very popular places where folk have said you can be ripped off by people claiming you have to pay to anchor and went for quieter and in many ways more picturesque places because they were not so busy. In 62 days, we anchored for 54 nights, had two nights in Preko marina, two nights on a restaurant pontoon (free if you ate at the restaurant), three nights on paid moorings, and one night on a mooring in Kornati which was included in the park entrance fee.
We really recommend Croatia and especially the northern chain of islands and the mainland places we visited.
More Gallery photos
16 September 2022
Lots of rain today in Montenegro so we are at anchor on the south side of Sveti Marko, in the Bay of Kotor. With out 500Gb of data it is a great opportunity to catch up. Seven albums added to the Gallery covering Zadar and Ugljan, Kornati, Murter, Krka, Stari Grad on Hvar, Loviste and Peljesac, and Korcula and Slano. Blog up date for departure from Croatia and Montenegro experience will follow shortly. Incidentally, we have been in Montenegro for 9 days and only used 10Gb of our 500Gb - we may have to stay for another month and a half to get our money's worth.
09 September 2022
We arrived in Montenegro on Wednesday 7th September and our UK SIM cards do not have free roaming as we are now outside the EU, but a 500GB data card is available for Euros 15. Yippee - we can work on some photo uploads, so more from Venice, Certosa Marina, Trieste, Istria and some of the northern Dalmation islands are now in the Gallery.
04 September 2022 | Mt Ilias
We toyed with the idea of visiting Korcula and Mljet, but again we were put off by the mooring options and so headed for Loviste at the western end of the Peljesac peninsula. This is a small, sleepy village with one shop and a few bars/restaurants but it provided a very large and secure anchorage with good holding and protection. It also provided an unexpected bonus when we found that there was a good hike to be had. Mt Ilja summits at 961 metres and we could get a taxi to the start of the trail near Nakovanj pass, not far from Loviste and this gave us a commencing height of 269 metres. It is a there and back route of 15km partly along a gravelled track, partly though steep and rugged karst, and partly through pine forest. The view from the top is superb. The round trip took us 6 hours including stops – it was very hot but a super hike. We had been advised to watch out for adders and viper but saw none. Highly recommended.
Where next? We have continued to an anchorage at Slano on the mainland, not overly far from Dubrovnik which we visited in 2004 and don’t feel the need to join the crush of visitors. Slano provided a large and safe anchorage – we are in 12.7 metres with 50 metres of chain as the forecast is for light winds only.
Our trip here from Loviste provided us with some of our best sailing in Croatia with a close reach along the Peljesac peninsula past Mljet with a F5/6 … for 17nm, until the nice big black cloud providing the wind dissipated and we were back to motoring for the last 18nm.
Slano is another sleepy village with a couple of shops and restaurants, a marina, an enormous hotel, and remaining evidence of its devastation by Serbian artillery in the 1992-3 war. This will be our jump off for Cavtat and outbound clearance in few days’ time.
Gallery photos when we have better wifi.