Well what an interesting month July turned out to be.
On Friday 13th while we were still in Corfu I flew out and left my
cousin Simon and his wife Kay with Alec while I went off to Dubai to help
Brigitte pack up her apartment and get everything into storage. Dan had
already left for the States where he was doing a flight rating ( Dash 8 )
followed by a job to get his flying hours up. The plan at this stage is
for Dan to return to Abu Dhabi by the end of the year and for Brigitte to
follow when the twins are old enough to travel. Alec and I plan to fly
out to the States and help her take them back to Abu Dhabi. Plan A !!!!
Dubai was having a lovely HOT summer with temperatures
reaching into the early 50’s. Yes that was getting a little too warm for
all of us. We have wonderful friends there whom we were able to call on to
help us. Ramadan also started in the middle of all of this so with no
eating and drinking during daylight hours, and no coffee shops open for me to
run into to get my ‘fix’, that was not helpful. Meanwhile Alec Simon and
Kay were having temperatures in the mid 30’s. They moved the boat around
to a lovely bay where they swam and dinned ashore at a local tavern.
Simon and Kay flew out of Corfu for the UK the following Monday as they have
family there, including grandchildren, to catch up with. Alec then spent
the time till I returned anchored in a nice bay doing ‘boat’ jobs, and lots of
I was back in Corfu on 26th July and the great
thing was the same day I left Dubai, Brigitte was also on a flight to the
States. We were able to travel to Abu Dhabi airport together in her limo
as she was travelling Business Class. She arrived safely and has settled
in a slower pace of life where she can rest up and await the arrival of the
I arrived back with the a new water pump and clutch for the
water maker which Alec had arranged to have shipped out to Dubai from New
Zealand, which saved time and money rather than having it sent out to
Corfu. This saved import duty, and VAT, which is 23% in Greece. We
took SHAMAL into the Gouvia Marina where Alec had an electrician do some
rewiring and then Alec fitted the new pump. It is all back and working
and we make a good 150 lts per hour.
Wednesday 1st August we upped anchor and took
SHAMAL over to the customs wharf in the main harbour to check out of
Greece. It is really a commercial area with ferries and cruise ships
coming and going and not suitable for yachts, so Alec drops me off to go and do
the clearance. He also had a motive in sending me. He was now an
‘over stayer’ in Greece, and there can be quite hefty fines for this.
Even though I had also overstayed, I had stamps in and out of Dubai now in my
passport. There was a bit of a discussion among the customs and police
boys about this, but one of the young guys could see it could get a bit complex
and in the long run decided to let this lady go, so in under an hour I was back
on-board, Alec having gone around in circles in the harbour, and we were
sailing up the bay towards the channel between Corfu and Albania. All
done. GREAT. We decided to drop anchor for the last night back in
the bay Alec had taken Simon and Kay to. That meant with an early start
the following morning we would cover the 60nm comfortably to reach our port in
Albania by the following afternoon.
Yes we were going to Albania, the country most cruises steer
well away from, by heading well out towards the coast with Italy and then
heading north into the Adriatic. They get these unfounded reports of
pirates, unfriendly people and mined waters. Well lets go check this one
out for ourselves!!
Once clear of the coast of Corfu we drop the Greek flag and
hoist the Albanian one and sail on up the coast about two miles
off-shore. We are heading for the city of Vlore. This part of the
coastline is characterised by steep mountains, rising to heights of over 1000mt
within a few miles from the sea. We read in out Cruising Guide that
Second World War mine fields extend up to 20nm off the coast. They are
now not considered a danger to surface navigation, but anchoring and fishing in
the defined areas is still ‘potentially’ dangerous. Ok, no anchoring on
the trip up!! As we rounded the headland to enter the Vlores Bay we saw
dozens of small concrete domed shaped bunkers all over the headland, built
between 1950 to 1985 to repel invasion. In fact they are apparently all
over the country as tens of thousands of them were built. This was during
the time of Communist Rule.
Inside the Bay we still had eight miles to go across the Bay
to reach the Port to check in. Alec followed the so called ‘cleared of
mines’ channel into the Port. Once there we tied up and were met by the
agent who had just checked in a French yacht. We did not have to leave
SHAMAL. This is quite unusual as one usually goes with the agents or
finds customs ones-self. He did not even want our passports as their
numbers were on other paperwork. All so easy, very friendly and completed
in under an hour. We then headed another 6nm on to the bottom end of the
Bay where the marina di Orikum is situated. Remember no anchoring out due
to mines. It was just on dusk as the marina boys took our lines and tied
us on. Temperatures were still in the mid 30’s as the Bay is surrounded
by very high mountains and there was no breeze.
When reading the guide book to find out what Albania is well
known for, it says concrete bunkers, and a cool flag, and the displacement of
peoples!!! Well the flag is quite cool – a red background with a black
double headed eagle on it.
The following morning we took a taxi back into Vlore to explore.
Every inch of beach, and for a matter any rock where one could swim from, were
jammed pack of people. Many tourists who come from inland or even now
from Italy. We passed countless new developments of bars, restaurants,
hotels and apartments. After a terrible coffee we visited the National
Museum of Independence and were given a very passionate pro-independence guided
tour by a very pretty young lady. Sorry but now you will get a
short history/geography lesson – Population approx. 4 million. 70% nominally
Muslim – thank goodness Ramadan was not enforced and all coffee shops and
eateries were open, 20% Christian Orthodox and 10% Catholic. Like many areas in
this part of the world it passed from Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman rule, but it
was the rise and then fall of Communism which have shaped the country over the
last 60-70 years. Up until 1939 Albania tried to become a ‘modern’ western
state, but after World War Two it became a Communist Country, first aligned
with the Soviet Union, and then China. Albanian citizens were not allowed to
leave the country and tourism was actively discouraged. In 1991 and again
in 1992 elections were held which saw the Democratic Party loose to the
Socialist Party. But in the 2005 elections the Democratic Party got
sufficient seats to gain leadership. Today foreign companies are starting
to invest and aid is also being received. It still has a long way to go,
but we found the people we met trying hard to portray a positive image to
outsiders and were very warm and welcoming.
So that was the Albania we saw. One such small part
but it was time to move north again. We had a 110nm run up the coast to
Bar where we would check into Montenegro. We decided to do an overnight
run for this leg so left Vlore at 1730 in the evening with plenty of light left
to cross the Bay then follow the coast up. Again warnings appear on the
charts that mines were present but Alec is convinced they would have all sunk
since they were laid during the Second World War, and we had no intention of
dropping the anchor.
Bar is an industrial town and the main port for
Montenegro. We tied up in a Navy berth to check in with customs as no
others were available. Later the Navy told us to move so had to raft up to
another two yachts at the Customs Berth. Again it was very hot and sunny
in the harbour. Also rather a strong smell of sewerage. Off we set
to do our clearing in. Not fully completed that afternoon so we had to
finish that off the following morning , and that gave us a permit to cruise the
countries waters for a week. With a rather short coastline a week should
Our next stop was the very picturesque Sveti Stefan.
On this Island, which is joined to the mainland by a narrow isthmus, was
a small fishing village which dated from the 15th century until
1950, when it was then nationalised and turned into a luxury Hotel. The
stone buildings with their terracotta roofs still look like a village rather
than the Hotel it has become, and is on all the cover of any tourist information
one can find. What was wonderful was the waters here are crystal clear
and great for swimming.
Next stop was only 15nm up the coast and into the Gulf of
Kotor. It consists of three large basins connected by narrow channels,
and surrounded by mountains which become higher the further up into this fjord
system you go. The mountains reaching over 1000m in places. Around
the shore line are numerous towns and villages some dating back to the BC
period. So again another place full of history. We spent four
nights anchored off different towns here, going ashore to explore. The
first not far from Herceg Novi (Meljine). Then on up to Risan with some
old Roman mosaics to visit.
Kotor was is the most impressive, with the old walled
town, restored and now a World Heritage Site. It is a wonderful place to
wander. The old town is not big but full of old churches and palaces
along narrow marbled lanes being only wide enough in places for one way foot
traffic. The Maritime Museum, which we visited, displayed an incredible
history where officers from as far away as Russia were sent to train during the
reign of Peter the Great. (Graham you would love this museum with all the
model ships covering all the different periods in history. There are
three floors to browse through.) The city walls climb well up the mountainside
behind and are lit up at night making for quite a spectacular sight.
During the two nights we spent here four cruise liners visited the town.
Our week in Montenegro had now come to an end and we had to
move on. Don’t want to pay any fines for overstaying!!
So good-bye Montenegro and hello Croatia – our check in port
is only 30nm up the coast.