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ADDITIONS TO THE BLOG as of April 2017: Shamal and her Crew being Mum and Dad are in the Cayman Islands * Should you want to contact us, you can do so by clicking on the Contact Us tab below. * PLEASE subscribe to the Blog, so that new posts are emailed to your inbox.



15 September 2012

Croatia No.1


Hello Again

 
Croatia, what a night to remember !!!   We arrived at  6 PM at a small town called Cavtat.  Cavtat is just 8 miles south of the old walled city of Dubrovnik. Dropped anchor in 6 meters of water amongst a dozen or so yachts in a nice big bay.  Jumped into our tender and off to check in. Very efficient but rather expensive.  Navigation fees, light dues, Govt. admin fee, chart and cruising permit for 3 months, a total of  NZ $ 400.  Back to Shamal on dusk at 8.30 pm.  The dreaded Bora  wind starts to increase.   The Bora ( Katabatic mountain wind ) is a “ speciality “ of the eastern Adriatic coast and can be very dangerous. It can blow with sudden NE gusts.  The wind by 10 pm is now increasing to 25 Kts  so the skipper decides to put more anchor chain out.  Another 10 meters so now we will have 45 in total. As the chain was going out we started dragging  and got rather too close to a yacht moored behind us.  An Italian yacht next to us also was dragging. Several yachts were also trying to re anchor which made for a very busy bay.  So up anchor and out of here !!!  But we also lifted the anchor of the yacht behind us.  Now the wind is 35 kts.  If that wasn’t bad enough we were towing him to our new anchorage !!!  Alec wondered why at 2600 rpm Shamal was only making 1 kt into the headwind. I took the helm while Alec managed to drop the other yachts  anchor.  Really surprising nobody came on deck of the yacht that we were towing being  totally oblivious to the drama that was unfolding.   Now at midnight, after being at our new anchorage for two hours, we again started dragging - bugger !!!  We wanted to go to bed.  Finally we re anchored again in deeper water,  15 meters, amongst  the Super Yachts. 

 
More drama, a thunder storm is now very active overhead. More drama now on shore. Lightning  struck two high voltage power pylons and two scrub fires started. With wind gusting up to 45 kts the fires spread rapidly. Violent squalls but no more dragging the anchor.  But now more yachts, and even super yachts, are leaving the small Cavtat harbour and anchoring out in the bay due to serious surging. Med mooring against a concrete quay and surging is not good for plastic boats.  When we finally raise the anchor a couple of days later to leave, the anchor comes up and brings “ half the sea floor “.  Long blades of coarse sea grass, roots a meter long and a ton of soft mud.  Alec now has a theory that sea grass needs light to grow, so anchoring in deeper water should solve that problem in future.

 
Just after dawn, up to 4  twin engine amphibian water bombing aircraft arrive to fight the fires.  They land in the bay, scoop up water and drop it on the fires. A great air show for two days. Murray our son said the fires made the TV news back home.  So, lightning, thunder, rain, strong wind, fire and ash. What a welcome to midsummer cruising in Croatia - some say the jewel of the Mediterranean!!

 
We took the tender ashore a number of times into Cavtat. It is a pretty town built on the ruins of the ancient Greek settlement of Epidaurus. It was once walled, some of the wall remains today, and also it was cut off from the mainland by a channel, which has now been filled in.

 
During our stay at Cavtat, and once the weather had settled, we took the local bus into the medieval walled city of Dubrovnik.  We drove around a headland, and there we were looking down on the terracotta roof tiles of a compact but marvellous walled city. Over half the houses and monuments were shelled  by the Serbs during the 1991 – 1992 war and the place was badly damaged, but with an incredible amount of dedication from locals and help from the international community, Dubrovnik had been restored to its former glory.  It truly is a beautiful city with marble streets leading you into quaint narrow lanes. Plenty of churches and museums to poke your head into or take a tour around.  Then there are those all inspiring walls that surround the entire city.  For a small sum, you pay to climb the steep narrow steps up to 25m, then take the just over two km walk around the walls.  The views over the sea and town are beautiful.

 
Then it was time to move on and explore the Dalmatian coastline with its hundreds of islands, quaint old fishing ports, old ruins for Alec to yet again scramble around and explore (think he has nearly seen enough to last a life time!!!) incredible medieval architecture still standing, and National Parks.  So we upped anchor on a beautiful sunny morning with a sea like glass and motored past the old city of Dubrovnik for me to take yet another photo, then around a headland and up the Dubrovacka river for three miles to check out a marina there.  We decided not to go in and motored back out to sea and on to our first Island – Lopud.           It was then swim time in the beautiful clean clear waters.  This was to become the norm at nearly every anchorage we came to.  There are some when you do question the cleanness of the water though.

 
From Lopud it was on to Mljet Island.  This is an Island the Apostle Paul is said to have visited on his voyage through the Adriatic on his way to Rome.  The top end of the Island is National Park and this is where we stayed.  Here we were able to pick up a mooring buoy in a totally sheltered wooded bay from which you cannot see the sea.  The buoy was owned by a local restaurant which one is obliged to eat at, which we did.  The meal was nothing to write home about but the ambiance of the place was lovely. There were the ruins of a castle in one corner of the cove which were interesting.   The following day we took our bikes ashore to ride over a hill – which I had to walk up – and  into the Park, and then caught a small boat out to an Island on a salt water lake to visit a 12th century Benedictine monastery.  I then needed a coffee and ice cream to get the energy to get back over the hill and down to the boat!!

 
From Mljet it was on to the Island of Korcula.  Here we anchored in a channel between the main Island and the small Island of Badija.  Again beautiful clean clear waters.  We had only gone 15nm and after lunch I was going for my swim, but the winds picked up so we sat watching other boats come into the bay to take shelter, and watching the world go by, drinking first coffee and tea, then our evening beer and wine as another beautiful sun set behind the Island. 

 
The following morning we upped anchor and moved  to a bay on Korcula and closer to the town.  The Island is covered in forest of pine – but only a small shrubby variety -  cypress and oak.  The historic town is one of the prettiest we have seen.  It is a miniature Dubrovnik.  Built on a small headland with a wall now only part way around it. It has been inhabited since Neolithic times – in other words ‘moons’ ago – then it was home to different races and nationalities, then the Roman Empire moved in.  Later the Venetians came along  and did much of the incredible building one sees today.  Then the Turks as they expanded the Byzantine Empire, seemed to have raided the town.  That seems to be the history of all these beautiful ancient towns and cities we come to. To enter the town of Korcula you climb stairs and enter through the Land Gate and are faced with old buildings and narrow streets  leading back to the water.  It has been designed to lessen the impact of the bora wind which can blow at any time of the year.  During the summer you will always find a cool area in the town, and during the winter months there is always an area that is sheltered.  We visited what’s left of the house Marko Polo is said to have left from on his adventures to China.

 
It was also in Korcula we met again Wendy from the boat ‘Selinaris’ whom we had done the run down the coast of Yemen and into the Red Sea  with last year.  She was sitting in a street café with her crew having lunch when Alec and I came past.  It was a lovely reunion and we have been keeping in touch and meeting up at different ports and bays as we move up the coastline of Croatia.

 
After the town of Korcula we moved up to the western end of the Island and dropped anchor in yet again a lovely sheltered bay where we spent a couple of days.  No shops to visit which was lovely.  We swam and Alec had the power snorkel out so we could go down and give the hull a clean.  Alec also did other ‘boat’ jobs which was good.  We were at the top end of the Peljeski Channel which is well known as a great wind and kite surfing area.  As we sailed up the cannel we had them skimming across only metres in front and behind us.  They were doing this with all the boats.  It really was a game of ‘chicken’ they seemed to be playing.  It is an area full of wind and kite surfing schools so one really did have to be very vigilant as we passed through the area.

 
Next stop was on the Island of Scedro which lies just to the south of the Island of Hvar.  The bay we anchored in is more of a stopover as there is not much here.  A few holiday homes are around the coves and you usually find someone has set up a restaurant to cater  for the summer traffic passing through.  The following morning we had a visit from the ‘Bread Boat’ with lovely fresh breads, croissants, and berry and apple strudel.  I was able to stock up for Alec so that was a couple of items I could take off my shopping list. 

 
Then it was on to the town of Hvar on the Island of Hvar.  Now the books all tell you about the beautiful beaches, but those we have come across are shingle.  In fact we have read of late that there are only two sand Islands in the whole of the Adriatic.  The little tourist shops here to a roaring  trade here in selling foam padded squabs for lying out in the sun on.  Not only do you need one for the shingle beaches, but so many areas where there are no beaches, people sunbathe and swim off the rocks. We saw plenty of this around Hvar.  Alec calls the rock sunbathers ‘rock seals’!!!!  Hvar was one of the worst places we have had for anchoring.  There is only a thin layer of sand over rock, or sea grass which can grow to over a meter long and is really thick so getting your anchor to dig in is nearly impossible.  It nearly drove us crazy trying to grab and hold.  Thank goodness we were not having strong winds while there and did manage to go ashore to explore.   Again another pretty town where the Venetians have left their mark as far as the architecture goes.  Talking about the Venetians, the conclusion one comes to is there must have been millions of them.  They seem to have invaded most places in the Mediterranean building grand towns and cities with huge walls and gates, harbours, palaces, cathedrals, government buildings, arsenals, etc. We know they used the locals of the area to do most of the labour, but still to be all over the Med around the same time is quite something.  In Hvar we climbed  the hill behind the town to the citadel where you get a sweeping panoramic view of the town below and out over the islands beyond.

 
Moving on we spend a night on the northern side of Hvar and then sailed on to the Island of Brac.  Approaching the Island we saw thick columns of smoke coming from another scrub fire, then two helicopters with fire buckets, then a plane all working to put it out.  Again we dropped anchor in an uninhabited cove had lunch and a swim.  We were just thinking it would be a nice place to overnight in when the wind started picking up. Unfortunately for us it blew straight into the bay.  The ‘B’ Bora had started again.  Within a very short time winds were gusting 30kts with short sharp seas of 1.5-2mts.  The other boats in the cove up and left so we decided it was time to do the same.  There was a sheltered bay less than a mile away which we headed for and dropped anchor out of the winds.  We sat for the rest of the afternoon with the radio on listening to CH 16.  We heard a mayday call go out, Alec saw a red distress flare go up, and boats were running for shelter everywhere.  The Coast Guard were kept busy all afternoon.  Alec saw one small local boat that came into our bay towing an even smaller local boat, and the lady on it was crossing herself as they entered calmer waters.  Later that evening once the winds had died down one of the local boats left with so many fenders tied all around it Alec said it would not have a hope of sinking!!!  The following day we heard that a wind-surfer was missing and so were three people in a tender.

 
So our bay of Stipanska on Brac was a delightful stopover and we ended up spending a couple of nights here.  We took the kayak around the bay/cove and went ashore.  Several hundred meters up a track we discovered a German Lesbian commune . Two vans with German number plates were parked nearby. On the way back we sampled some figs and black grapes. The figs were growing wild on the side of the track, but the grapes were in a now uninhabited cottage.  During the day the girls came down to the cove for some naked sun bathing and swimming.

 
Again as we left the Island of Brac we could see smoke on the mainland to the west of Split with the water bomb plane working to put it out.  Split was to be our next stop.  Here we went into the Marina as there is not meant to be anchoring within the harbour, and there were no other bays or coves we could go into. The next day we did see yachts tucked into a corner, but with the coming and going of big ferries and tripper boats the surge could rock you around.  Not sure if they stayed the night or not.  As the cost in the marina for us being a catamaran, was $ NZ195 per night, we felt one night was plenty.  The facilities were not that wonderful and the WiFi did not even work. On the plus side the boat got a through freshwater wash down and the batteries all charged up to 100% again.  We took a bus to the local City Centre Shopping Mall about 10 km out of town to stock up, as the Marina shop was far too expensive.  The following morning went off to explore the old town as we did not have to leave the marina until 2.00pm

 
Split is the second largest city in Croatia.  Again with a wonderful ‘Old City’ where you find the Diocletian Palace, a fortified Roman palace which was built around AD300.  Much of it still stands today and is an unique example of Roman architecture  – another Unesco World Heritage site. That was really well worth the visit.  Again tiny streets only arms width wide with little cafes and eateries on nearly every corner.  Also like all tourist towns there are your souvenir shops and stalls.  The theme here in Croatia is very nautical due to their long sea history.  Tops, shorts, hats etc all navy blue and white striped.

 
We have covered lower and middle Croatia and are moving on into upper Croatia.  Still plenty to see, but will sign out for this log.

 
Love to you all

 
The Admiral and The Commander.

1 comment:

  1. Happy for both of you guys! Luckily you have that privilege to see those beautiful places in the world. Happy adventures!

    ReplyDelete