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19 June 2024 | Ҫandarli, Turkey
10 June 2024 | Ҫeşme Marina and Goldensands Beach, Turkey
03 June 2024 | Aegean Sea
18 May 2024 | Saronic Gulf, Greece
14 May 2024 | Porto Montenegro to Athens
14 April 2024 | Zakinthos to Sounion, Greece
13 November 2023 | Orikum, Albania
30 October 2023 | Durrës, Albania
29 October 2023 | Porto Montenegro to Athens, Greece
22 August 2023 | Montenegro

Himarë, Albania: an old town, a visit from a policeman, and chillin' on the Albanian Riviera

27 November 2023 | Himarë, Albania
Vandy Shrader
May 5-7, 2023

The downwind ride to Himarë was loud, educational, and expensive. The wind, which was from behind us, built throughout the day, to a peak of about 25 knots in the afternoon. The waves were about 1 meter, not that big, but they were choppy and on our stern quarter. They introduced themselves to Awildian's hulls with bangs and bumps every few seconds. This, along with the whining of the wind in Awildian's rigging, was the "loud." But hey, we were sailing, which was something of a novelty for us, here in the Med.

The "educational" was our opportunity to try several maneuvers with Awildian - reefing while underway, sailing downwind in strong wind, and turning him upwind through the strong wind - that we hadn't done with him before.

The "expensive" was making the decision to buy an additional headsail for Awildian, probably a Code 0, that would allow us to fly two headsails wing on wing (with no mainsail) when going downwind, like we did on SCOOTS. For more than a year, we'd been considering whether we wanted to deal with the expense of buying the sail, bowsprit, and compression post, but this downwind trip solidified it for us.

As we skimmed along the coast, we passed long white beaches, with lots of new hotel and apartment construction going on behind them, all in the boxy "Soviet bloc" style. This part of the coastline, known as the Albanian Riviera, is apparently a popular tourist destination. Himarë, where we were headed, is the most popular spot along the Riviera.

Here's more info about the Albanian Riviera. Albanian Riviera

The mountains behind the beaches were stunning, ranging from tall, pointy peaks that promised katabatic winds, to some shorter, green-and-white, rounded mountains that sported parallel lines of what looked to be layers of sedimentation that had been morphed and molded during the formation of the mountains. They were a really interesting geological feature that I hadn't seen before. I didn't take any photos, but I made this sketch which looks exactly like them. Haha



The town of Himarë (known in ancient times as Chimaera) occupies a pretty cove, lined with white sand beaches. In the hills overlooking the modern town is the Old Town, featuring Himarë Castle. The water was very clear, and I could see areas of sand scattered among the grass, even in the late afternoon, when we arrived. We dropped Obama in a big sand patch just off the town, enjoyed an arrival beer, and relaxed.


Himarë looking northwest


Himarë looking southwest

Shortly after we arrived, a small motorboat ferried Himarë's port captain over to us. He asked to see our paperwork, and then, convinced that we were legit, went on his way.

The next day, we took our dinghy to the very nice concrete dock and walked into town, intent on finding a taxi to take us up the hill to explore the old castle. No Foreign Land, one of the cruising apps we use, indicated a taxi stand in the middle of town, which we found easily. But there were no taxis anywhere in evidence. We waited around for awhile, and then walked to a nearby hotel - the ritzy-looking Hotel Chimaera - to see if the desk clerk would call us a taxi. She was happy to do so, but even she had to call four different drivers before one agreed to pick us up.


Hotel Chimaera's fancy sculpture

We rode up the steep, winding road to the castle (very glad that we'd decided to hire a taxi rather than walk!), and walked over to the entry kiosk. The attendant asked us if we were "pensioni" = retired = old people. I'm not sure why he thought that we were old. Anyway, since we are retired, we said yes, whereupon he proceeded to sell us geezer tickets for 90 lekë instead of the usual 100 lekë (about 1 euro). Such a bargain!

The castle, whose walls and buildings comprise the Old Town, stands on the cliff known as Barbaka, rising 240 meters above the sparkling sea.



Though much of the Old Town's structures, whose construction began in the 8th Century BC, are ruined,





some buildings have been renovated, and people are still living in them.

https://www.sailblogs.com/sbgallery/pics/svscoots_gmail_com/sbde6bh6b/w/PXL_20230506_102728843.jpg



https://www.sailblogs.com/sbgallery/pics/svscoots_gmail_com/sbde6bh6b/w/20230506_123404.jpg



You could probably identify the people who live in the Old Town if you saw them, because they must have huge leg muscles, from walking up the hill to their home, from the closest carpark. Carrying groceries must be quite an athletic feat.






Sharing the picturesque Old Town with the humans were some big, shaggy goats, who stared at us suspiciously whenever we encountered each other.

We enjoyed wandering along the stone paths of the town,





peering through windows at the sea or wildflower-covered hillsides,







and exploring an old Byzantine church.






Not much of a view anymore

It was a really cool, really old place, and a warm, sunny day as well.




An Albanian castle cat

Afterwards, we walked the 2.5km back downhill, past this petrol station with an interesting name,



and some buildings either slowly being built or slowly decaying,



to modern Himarë's beachfront,



where we enjoyed lunch while gazing at the beautiful turquoise cove, where Awildian was floating placidly on the calm sea.



While we were eating, we noticed that a lot of people were walking past the restaurant, gathering at a place just down the beach from us. Every so often, someone would say, "Check, check" (in English, oddly enough) over a sound system. Hundreds of folding chairs had been set up, each one with a small Albanian flag in it.

Then we noticed a police boat out in the cove, hanging out near Awildian. Humph, we thought, don't the police talk to the port captain? When we finished our lunch, we dinghied back to Awildian. The police boat came right over to us. We figured the policeman was going to want to see our paperwork, too, but he didn't. Instead of the usual queries, he asked,

"Were you on land?"

"Yes," we replied honestly. Surely, he'd noticed us leaving the dinghy dock.

"Are you staying on the boat now?" he asked.

"Yes."

"Good," he said. "Please stay on your boat for the rest of the day. We have something on land."

"All right," we said. "No problem."

Only then did he motor away from Awildian, but he continued to hang out in the cove, not far offshore from the place where people were gathering. We wondered what this "something" was.

A little while later, all the chairs were full, and many more people were standing nearby. Some music started to play, and over the PA a man made an announcement that sounded like an introduction. People cheered and clapped and waved their miniature Albanian flags exuberantly. Clearly, the "something" was about to happen. Soon, a man came to the podium and, when the audience had finished clapping and cheering, he began to speak. Though he was speaking in Albanian, his presentation sounded a lot like a political speech. Curious, I Googled "Albanian elections 2023," and learned that Albanian's national election was the following weekend. Yep, a campaign speech. We never did figure out who the man was, but his audience loved him.

It was no wonder then, that the police were cruising in the cove. We're not sure whether they wanted to make sure that we stayed on Awildian because they were concerned for the candidate's safety, or for ours. When the speech was over, and the people began to disperse, the police boat left the cove.

With everything quiet again, we enjoyed drinks while sitting on Awildian's front porch, watching the sunset. The next morning we would leave for Sarandë, about 20 miles to the south, where we would meet up with the immigration agent we'd contacted, and clear out of Albania.




















Comments
Vessel Name: Awildian, previously SCOOTS (2012-2021)
Vessel Make/Model: Leopard 48
Hailing Port: San Francisco, CA
Crew: Eric and Vandy Shrader
About: We've been living aboard full time since September 2014. We sailed our Able Apogee 50, SCOOTS, from 2012-2021, and are now aboard our Leopard 48, Awildian, since March 2022.
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