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November 2017: Shamal is on the hard in Guatemala.Mum and Dad are home in New Zealand till Jan. 2018. *ATTENTION PLEASE* if you are still interested in receiving the posts, could you please subscribe to the Blog following the two step process in the right hand column, so that new posts are emailed to your inbox. As of next year the reminder emails that are being sent out will cease. Thanks to all of you for following our Adventures.

19 August 2012

Corfu - Albania - Montenegro

Hello to You All Again

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 reading.

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 little ones.

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 be fine. 

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.

Will finish off for this letter

Lots of love

From The Admiral and The Commander


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