Eleanda in the Adriatic, May – July 2009
Eleanda, our new Hallberg Rassy HR62, was launched and handed over to us at the HR yard and marina at Ellos, on the west coast of Sweden, in June 2007. From there, Heleen and I, with friends, sailed her to Plymouth via Norway, Scotland and the west coast of Ireland. Last year we took her to the Mediterranean. She over-wintered in Port Grimaud and this year we started sailing as early as 1st April, as we were heading for Turkey for a cruise-in-company with the Royal Yacht Squadron out of Bodrum in the autumn. In two trips, each of about 12 days, we sailed through the islands off the west coast of Italy – Corsica, Elba, Ponza, Ischia and inevitably Capri, then on through the Aeolian Islands and the Straights of Messina to Taomini, close to Mount Etna on Sicily. Five days later, Saturday 9th May, we left her in an isolated marina in a corner of the huge harbour of Brindisi, 60 miles north of the heel of Italy. We had already covered 1,000 miles from Port Grimaud. Our ultimate destination by early November was to be Göcek, where we were to leave her for the winter of 2009-10. This log covers our two cruises in the Adriatic, the first, crossing to Montenegro and north to Split in Croatia, and the second from Split southwards to Levkas in Greece. John Dove had joined us as crew in mid April, when we left her in Salerno. So we had a baby sitter for Brindisi and Split.
On Wednesday 27th May Heleen and I flew by Alitalia from Heathrow via Milan to Brindisi. As we stood in the lost luggage queue on arrival, an Italian remarked that the Milan-Brindisi flight was renowned for lost luggage. Heleen had packed a huge cool bag of frozen meat as part of our luggage and was more than concerned. At 16:00 the following day Alitalia finally phoned to say that our luggage had arrived. But we had to take a taxi to collect it. In fact it had arrived later the previous evening!
In the meantime we had not wasted the day. We motored Eleanda the 1.5 miles to the town quay to stay the extra night and enjoyed diner at the very respectable Penny’s Restaurant. Earlier I had taken a taxi to Les Due Palme, the renowned local Puglia wine estate, and bought enough Primitivo and Fiano wine to ballast Eleanda for the summer. After all, we were heading for Greece and Turkey and have had our fill of Turkish Yakut in years gone by.
Italy has more ice cream parlours, usually with a bar attached, than Ireland has pubs. I took a plastic food box to one such parlour on the waterfront next to our mooring and purchased €15 worth, about two litres, of perfect vanilla ice cream for our deep freeze. Nowhere else in the Mediterranean can you buy ice cream of this quality.
Due to the lost luggage, we had lost a day, and despite a forecast of 20 knots from the NW on the nose, we motored out at 06.30 on Friday 29th May into a lumpy sea and an overcast sky. It was about 102 miles to Bar, our official Port of Entry into Montenegro. Within an hour the sun came out and the wind backed to 2900 at 20 knots. The sea felt calmer and we reached in 15-20 knot winds at well over 8 knots. By late morning we began to observe a dark bank of clouds stretching across the horizon dead ahead. As we sailed under it, the wind died and veered to the North. It was the end of our sailing. We motored the rest of the way arriving at Bar at 19:00, 101.7 miles from Brindisi and an average speed of 8.3 knots. But it was an hour before we were tied up in a rather scruffy marina.
The Adriatic Pilot tells you to go to the customs quay for clearance, which we did. This is quite wrong. You must moor to the north in the marina and then visit the port police. They glance at our passports and send me to the harbour master, not in the port, but in an incognito office in a block of flats. I take 30 minutes to find his office. I am given a one month transit log which needs to be stamped by the port police and the customs, and costs €205, which can only be paid by banker’s draft, not cash. I must bring it back to him tomorrow morning complete with the police and customs stamps and the draft obtainable when the bank opens. By now its 21:00 and I return to Eleanda for Heleen’s dinner on board. At 08:30 the following morning I start again. I get the police and customs stamps, find the bank and return to the harbour master. At last it is finished and it is nearly 10:00.
Bar is very much a working port and not a tourist destination. Most of the buildings look relatively new although maintenance is not a word they know. Everything is very shabby. But the locals were all friendly and polite. On the wide sea front promenade, surrounded by cafes, I watched children and young adults renting toy ride-on electric cars and tractors. We also saw this strange entertainment later in Albania.
We left at 11:30 in a flat calm with an overcast sky to motor northwards 13 miles to Sveti Stefan, a tiny fishing village on a rocky outcrop joined to the mainland by a short causeway. It was converted to a hotel in the late ‘60s and in 1971 Heleen and I had spent part of our honeymoon there. To our great disappointment we found it closed off behind locked gates, awaiting redevelopment, no chance for a romantic drink on the terrace or a search for our bedroom! We returned to Eleanda for lunch and later headed north a further 19 miles up the coast to the entrance of the gulfs of Kotor.
We intended to anchor off the town of Kotor itself at the south-eastern head of the third and inner-most gulf, marked on our chart as Kotorski. The two outer gulfs are Hercegnovski and Tivatski, which are like saltwater lagoons with a narrow passage through to the innermost gulf. During the second world war and under Tito, the outer gulfs were lined with submarine pens and naval bases. There are still plenty of rusting hulks and concrete structures to remind you of those days. But tourism is gradually spreading and, despite the property crash, a new super-yacht marina is under spasmodic construction at Tivat. We motored through the outer gulfs and on into the great gulf of Kotorski. Nothing can prepare you for the dramatic mountain scenery that awaits. It is totally breathtaking. 1,000m steep cliffs descend almost to the water’s edge where small villages with ancient churches cling to the few 100 metres of flat shore-land. It was totally calm and we motored the length of the gulf to Kotor. At 7.15 pm we anchored half a mile west of the town where we had spotted a restaurant, simple, almost no English spoken, but at a perfect temperature as the sun set and with Eleanda in view, just 100m from our table, calm and at rest. We had travelled 47.8 miles.
We awoke to church bells on Sunday 31st May. We took the dinghy to the town and strolled through its ancient streets and fortifications. The main centre is well restored and, by mid-morning, was teaming with tourists. Yet mercifully there were no cruise liners that day. But the outer streets, away from the bars and restaurants, were still awaiting the developer’s cash. Behind the town the mountains rise steeply – we declined to pay for a gravity defying climb a couple of 100m to a shrine and simply enjoyed soaking up the glorious atmosphere. Kotor and its gulfs are a must on any mid-Adriatic cruise.
Leaving the town we went through the departure procedure before proceeding to Croatia – Harbour Master, Customs and Police. After the beaurocracy of Bar it was surprisingly easy. Back on board, we left soon after midday and motored gently down the gulf for 5.5 miles to the glorious tiny island church of Gospa od Skrpjela, dedicated to mariners, opposite the small town of Perast. The island took over 100 years to be created by the Perast fishermen and seamen dropping stones onto the reef below. On the adjoining island is the Benedictine Monastery of Sveti Djordje. It was simply beautiful and we were to return to go ashore there in July.
But now we motored on through the outer gulfs and once more headed north for 35 miles to the mainland town of Cavtat, our official port of entry into Croatia. Once again the Adriatic Pilot let us down and told us to anchor in Uval Tiha, the bay north east of the town. By the time I had gone ashore and found the harbour master it was 16:30. Being Sunday he closed at 5 o’clock and we were trying to sail a further 11.6 miles to Donge Cello, a north facing bay on the small island of Kolocep for that night’s anchorage. I was instructed that Eleanda had to be moored to the customs quay on the west side of the town for clearance. I rushed back, anchor up and a frantic motor to the west side. The customs quay was occupied so in despair I left Heleen and Jon drifting in the bay while I rushed to the harbour master’s office. At 16:59 he said ‘Relax! I am waiting for you and will see you are cleared in tonight.’ It still took an hour but we were now legal and, passing Dubrovnik, motored on to the large open bay of Donge Cello, where we arrived still in good day light at 19:35. It was not our favourite, but we enjoyed a quiet gentle evening with dinner on board. Our day’s distance was 48.6 miles.
The next morning, Monday 1st June, was overcast. A neighbouring American yacht warned us that gales were coming. Our US Grib forecast said only 20-25 knots from the south west – good sailing, and so it turned out. We reached on about 3100 up the east side of the island of Lupod and then turned west onto 2820, eventually sailing up the northern coast of Mljet. We were heading 29 miles for a lunch anchorage in the deep inlet of Polace, in the north west corner of the island. The entrance is exciting and we motored with caution along the narrow channel between Mljet and its offshore island, Kobrava, for 2.5 miles to the enclosed anchorage, which is surrounded by thickly wooded slopes and with a small village in the west. By now it was misty and raining but nevertheless the setting was particularly beautiful. After lunch on board, an hour later we motored out through an even narrower channel, once again turning back onto 2820, heading for Brna, a small town at the head of the bay on the south coast of Korčula. More rain but less wind. We motor-sailed in relatively calm seas across to Korčula and rounded the headland into the bay of Brna, where we anchored off the town at 18:10 and were charged 189 crowns for the pleasure – most unusual among the islands. We had covered 56.3 miles. Later we found a simple restaurant but with an excellent mixed fish platter. Two years previously Heleen had cycled through the islands and now recognised her hotel on the edge of the town!
It rained during the night, turning into a thunder storm the following morning. But by 10:00 it had cleared. So we set off for the town of Hvar, 27 miles away. We motor sailed west along the south cost of Korčula passing between several small islands before rounding the western headland of Velo Dance and turning NW for Hvar. Eventually we passed through the straits to the east of Jerolim and at first anchored off the eastern bay of Krizna, not good holding and crowded. But within 30 minutes the harbour authorities wanted us to move and anchor in the equally crowded northern bay, south of the town. It was full of flotilla yachts whose anchoring skills were not to be trusted. As Heleen prepared lunch, the inverter failed. Subsequent investigation proved the near impossible, that the 300 Amp isolating switch had simply gone open circuit. It took an hour to bypass the switch. So we never got ashore! But we were to return to Hvar on our next cruise. It is a beautifully restored old town and despite its popularity well worth an overnight stop and visit.
This cruise included a rendez-vous at Milna on the island of Brač, near where friends of ours have a holiday home. So we now left Hvar at 16:00 and having rounded the western headland, Pelegrin, headed north. We passed through the channel between Solta in the west and Brač and turned east into the bay with Milna at the eastern end. There is a marina in the town but the anchorage marked on the chart is in the south of the bay, at least a mile west of the town. Our friend, Mark Tremlett, whose late father designed and built the Tremlett power boats in Topsham, Devon, told us to come on right into the centre of the town and anchor – yes it would be deep enough even though the Adriatic Pilot only gives depths of 2.0m. Much to our surprise there was nearly 6m and just room for our 62’ in a tiny pool shared with numerous small fishing boats moored to the water’s edge and surrounded by houses, shops and cafes. After a day of 44.4 miles we anchored right there at 17:40. A few charter boats stared at us as they passed heading inevitably for the marina. Good luck to them. Milna was delightful. After drinks on board, Mark and his wife, Alice, and their young family took us to their local restaurant, La Palma, where they were obviously well known, much to our advantage and well worth a visit.
At last the weather was improving and it was another town where Heleen had cycled and stayed. The following morning, she found that our crew, Jon, had not closed his deck hatch fully and his cabin was soaked – much tut tutting and time wasted sorting it all out, after which we shopped and strolled around the town. It felt far from the madding crowd, gentle and peaceful.
We now had four days until we needed to leave Eleanda in Split just 11 miles away. At last the sun was shining and the wind was in the south east. So we decided to head west to Vis and its south west facing bay of Komiža. We departed at 11:30 and motored out to find a brisk 25 knot breeze. With all sails out, half way across we decided to switch to the deep bay of Viška Luka, in the centre of the north coast as being better sheltered with so much wind about. The main town of Vis is on the west side of the bay and the little village of Kut on the east. We covered the 21.2 miles in two and a half hours and had anchored in the south east corner by 14:00, well away from the town and its quay full of flotilla yachts. We felt we had struck gold. The little village had a lot of charm. We later walked along the front a mile or so to Vis and even managed to find a eccentric museum hidden behind the old fortified bastion. The island population had been evacuated to Egypt during the 2nd World War and the museum told that story as well as having a collection of ancient artefacts raised from the seabed near-by. We followed the advice of Bernard Corbally’s Croatia log published in the Irish Cruising Club’s annual and dined at Kaliope, just above Kut, a really excellent dinner in a walled garden but we had the restaurant all to ourselves!
On Thursday we spent a leisurely morning on cleaning and maintenance before setting off at 10:50 to return to Hvar for lunch just 13 miles away. Once again the wind was kind, 20 knots from 1200, and we enjoyed a fast comfortable reach for 13.3 miles, arriving at 12:55 for lunch on board. Once again we spent a couple of hours watching the antics of several flotilla boats, most of which could not work out how or where to anchor in the crowded bay. Later, when it was cooler, we went ashore and wandered through the alleyways. It is a most attractive town, even if all the restored old buildings are either bars, restaurants or jewellery shops. We enjoyed a drink under a parasol on the central piazza before heading back to Eleanda. We weighed anchor at 17:00 and motored SSE into the wind 13.1 miles to the small cove of Lovišće on the much smaller island of Šćedro, just 2 miles off the central southern coast of Hvar, where at 18:30 we anchored with a line ashore in the undeveloped eastern inlet. We were all alone, peaceful and calm. But there was heavy rain for most of the night.
By 09:00 the next morning, Friday, 5th June, the wind was gusting to 18 knots from 1050. Nevertheless we decided to motor ESE to Korčula to enjoy the town and so that we could sail northwards in the afternoon. We left at 09:30 and after 22.3 miles arrived in the deep bay Uvala Luka, just east of the old town at 12:45, to anchor with a line ashore in 15m. We enjoyed a leisurely lunch on board and then took the dinghy into the small marina. We strolled through the old walled town, surrounded on three sides by the sea. The principal streets are well restored. But stray to one side and you see much is still needed. It was empty of tourists and most enjoyable. Finally we left at 16:00 heading west to round the western end of Pelješac before turning to the NE for the eastern point of Hvar. The wind had veered to the SW so after a peaceful run to Hvar in 20 knots of wind and sailing at over 9 knots, we rounded its eastern point and motor sailed west along its north coast the 14 miles to the deep inlet of Porkrivenic.
There is a hotel on the eastern point with a small inlet behind it. Despite offers from the hotel boatman, we decided there was not enough room to swing there and motored further in until we could anchor completely alone with lots of room in 7m between dramatic tall rock cliffs. We had covered 56.7 miles. The boatman from the Hotel Timon followed us and was nothing if not persistent that we should dine in his restaurant, particularly as he offered to collect us 30 minutes later. We weakened and accepted. On arrival he led us to our table, perched on a rock at the water’s edge, just us and the lapping water. It was very romantic and the dinner, inevitably fresh fish, if slow to arrive, was really excellent despite the local wine. Although we were the only diners, he assured us they would be full the next day, Saturday!
Saturday 6th June and it is our last day. We are due in Split where we will leave Eleanda for three weeks. We will head north to the eastern end of Brač and turn NW along the north coast of the Island to Pučišća for lunch. We leave at 10:15 to find that the wind is friendly from the SE, initially 12-15 knots but strengthening. So we sail, no engine. As we rounded Brač the wind was gusting above 30 knots. We turned into a broad reach to the NW, later jibing through 600 back towards the coast so as not risk a dead run. After 20.6 miles we turned south into the bay and anchored at 12:35 in the middle of the harbour in 7m. Once again Heleen realised she had cycled here and we went ashore to find her Hotel Palace Deskovic, which had been the home of the Deskovic family until 1934. The town was devoid of tourists, but quietly attractive and friendly with a very well sheltered anchorage.
After lunch we left for Split. As we put our nose outside we were hit by a wind of well over 30 knots but from the SE. So we raced along at approaching 11 knots with nearly everything out. But the wind continued to freshen and was soon gusting well over 40 knots. We needed to gybe to port to avoid some shoals and then continued under a reefed main alone, the wind now around 45 knots but of course behind us! Not surprisingly no one else was out as we covered the final 17.7 miles to Split.
Then our dramas began. Despite our reservation made weeks ago, the Split Marina could only accommodate us on the outside mole. We would have to reverse onto our stern-to berth with a cross wind still blowing at over 30 knots. We waited until after 18:00 and made two attempts. Each time the wind caught our bows and even with the 20hp bow thruster we could not hold her straight. We gave up and anchored in the harbour for the night, resolving to try again at 06:30 the following morning or else we would miss our flight. This time success. We were safely moored by 07:00. We had cover 442.6 miles in 11 days and other than at Bar, our official port of entry into Montenegro, had spent every night at anchorage, not in a marina. Thank goodness for the generator and watermaker, they allow us to be so independent. A friendly taxi driver, who spoke good English, drove us the 30 minutes to the airport. He told us that with the recession his trade was down 30% on 2008. He gave us his phone number for our return on 7th July.
A few days after we had returned to England, Jon, the crew, phoned to say there had been a huge electrical storm over Split. At least six boats were damaged and most of Eleanda’s electronics had failed. There followed three weeks of hectic organisation with insurers, loss adjusters, engineers and buying replacement aerials, components and PCBs mostly in England. Amazingly by the time we returned on the 7th July, we needed but one day to fit the new composite aerial to the top of the mast, and set up the gyro compass and autopilot.
We arrived mid evening and met up with our Swiss friends Urs and Jeanine Biasi who had arrived a few hours ahead of us. We had met Urs skiing in Turkey in January 2008 and he had joined us for part our delivery cruise from the Solent to St Tropez in September 2008. We walked to the restaurant at the entrance to the marina which was more than acceptable for the first night and willing to serve us well after nine o’clock.
The following day Eleanda was crawling with engineers. The aerial to be replaced was a DSC Pacific, a single aerial to serve VHF marine, Navtex, GPRS/3G and normal VHF/MW/LW radios, and favoured by Hallberg Rassy. It contains a lot of electronics, all of which had been diagnosed faulty. The engineer had to be hoisted in the bosun’s chair to the top of the mast to replace the damaged one. In the meantime Heleen and Jeanine set off for a large shop at a decent Split supermarket, probably our last for more than a week as we were not planning to visit marinas. At 17:00, with two engineers still on board, we went to sea to swing the Raymarine compass and set up the Autopilot. Not everything was perfect but it was good enough to sail. So at 17:50 we finally dropped the engineers and departed.
On our previous cruise we had sailed north, crossing the Adriatic from Brindisi and up the coasts of Montenegro and Croatia. We were now turning south and heading for the marina at Levkas about 100 miles south of Corfu.
With less than three hours until dark we headed for Marinkovac, one of the tiny islands forming part of the Pakleni group off the western tip of Hvar. Our course was almost due south, passing through the straits between Solta and Brač. We motored in flat calm for 26.1 miles, arriving at 20:30 to anchor in 7m in a small cove on the west side well sheltered by the neighbouring small island of Borovac to the north west. Several super-yachts were anchored further out, but far enough away not disturb our total peace and tranquillity. It was beautiful, with the water temperature around 77°F and we swam before a leisurely dinner on board.
Despite the trials and tribulations of the previous day, we awoke early on Thursday 9th, to be met by a mirror like sea. We noticed a small restaurant with a buoyed swimming area in our cove, which could be reached only by boat or water taxi. After a swim and breakfast we weighed anchor at 9.45, with the thought that it was going to be a very hot day. We were heading south east for an afternoon stop at Korčula, 35 miles away. There was no wind and we motored having lunch underway, before passing the town and anchoring with a line ashore at 13:55 once more in Uvala Luka, the deep bay just to the east. We took the dinghy to the town quay and walked through the old town built on the promontory. Although much smaller, we far prefer the town to Dubrovnik, which is now ruined by the many cruise ships and far too many shops selling their passengers cheap gold jewellery. It has a fine cathedral and other churches in the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles, and magnificent views north across the straits to the mountains on the mainland peninsular of Peljesac. It is claimed that Marco Polo was born here. We had time for beers and shopping for the very reasonable Korčula wine before returning to Eleanda.
We were under way at 16:40 and motored to the fuel pontoon just round the headland of Rt Kriz behind the off lying island of Badija where we filled the petrol can for the outboard. Still no wind, so 15 minutes later we were motoring the 27 miles south east to the enclosed bay of Prozura on the north coast of the island of Mljet. On the previous cruise, on our way north, we had stopped for lunch also on Miljet at Polace. We arrived in the dusk at 20:00 to find the bay, otherwise in attractive and unspoilt surroundings, full of mooring buoys belonging to the restaurant, Barba, one of which we picked up. We had covered exactly 61 miles. Sadly the water did not look entirely clear, so no evening swim. We needed little excuse to pay our mooring fee which was a pleasant if slow dinner at the single beach side restaurant!
Heleen was awake and up early on Friday 10th July. She watched the sun rise over the calm mirror like water and discovered it was now completely clear and inviting for a swim. The rest of us followed later. Our next night needed to be at Cavtat, the southern most port where we could clear out of Croatia on our way to Montenegro. It being only 26 miles away, we decided on a small diversion to the long mainland gulf of the Stonski Canal, where we could anchor at Broce and take the dinghy the last mile and a quarter to the medieval town of Ston. It was yet another windless day. We left at 10:05 and motored ENE 5.7 miles to round the small island of Olipa turning north into the Stonski Canal and a further 5.5 miles to the little hamlet of Broce, where it shallows to less than 5m. At 11:35 we anchored in 6m and took the dinghy up the shallow canal.
There were a few signs of development and we wondered what would induce anyone to build a holiday home in such an out of the way place. Ston, itself, was devastated by an earthquake in 1996 and despite massive restoration works, we only needed to stroll a few yards from the rebuilt and quite attractive centre to see the damage wrecked on most of the houses lining the steep narrow streets. It was depressing and the cafes deserted. With some disappointment we returned to Eleanda for a well deserved swim and lunch.
We left just before 16:00 with signs of a gentle breeze from 300. We motored with the mainsail for the 27 miles south to Cavtat, passing between the islands of Šipan, Lopud and Koločep to starboard, and the mainland to port, and on passing intentionally close Dubrovnik. There was much development both on the mainland and the islands but it did not seem excessive and was mostly in traditional styles. We slowed to admire the fortified walls and clay roof tiles of Dubrovnik. Heleen could even point out her cycle tour hotel, just outside the town. We shuddered at the cruise ships and continued to Cavtat where we anchored in the bay to the east at 19:00 in 9m. We had covered 38.4 miles.
We are ambivalent about Cavtat but on this second visit grew to like it more. Both our east bay and the town quay to the west are full of mega motor yachts, all employing agents for customs clearance and provisioning. The water-front restaurants are no better or worse than any other Croatian tourist resort and we enjoyed an anonymous but pleasant dinner ashore that evening. We did not keep the restaurant card. Cavtat is like that, but has been made different as it is just minutes from Dubrovnik airport, where the flight path only just missed our anchorage. Long after the charter flights had finished for the night, the rain hammered down soon followed by a spectacular thunder storm, but no harm done.
The following morning, Saturday 11th, we left our anchorage at 09:50 and motored round the headland to the Custom’s quay to the west. We had to wait for another boat to complete its clearance and then ward off a large British motor yacht which tried to jump the queue! This time the beaurocracy was far less and the whole procedure was completed by the several polite and attentive officials in 30 minutes. We motored off at 11:35 heading once again for the gulfs of Kotor in Montenegro. But with an overcast sky, again there was no wind. In the second gulf of Tivaski we diverted to look at the new super-yacht marina under construction. No doubt due to the recession, only a small part has yet been built but it was almost empty. It has a newish airport within ten minutes and one day may be a good marina for the winter.
Once again we passed through the narrow channel to the third gulf, Kotorski, and its breathtaking lake and mountain scenery. Sadly it was still overcast so not as photogenic as on our previous visit in May. After 39.6 miles, at 16.25 we anchored off the town of Kotor in 15m with as much as 60m of chain. Despite this a few hours later we had clearly dragged and at 21:45 I decided to re-anchor, this time with excellent holding for the night. In the meantime we went ashore, cleared through the entry formalities, and strolled round the town. By now it was windy and it was quite hard to find a protected outside café bar for an early evening drink watching the crowds pass by. Excellent dinner on board.
On Sunday morning, with the church bells ringing incessantly, we weighed anchor at 09:30, put Jon, the crew, ashore in the dinghy and headed for about the trickiest fuel pontoon we have encountered. It was only 5m long, with 3m depth and there was a cross wind of 15-20 knots. We made it and were rewarded with 944 litres of diesel at the bargain price of £0.75 per litre. The fill was so slow that we only finally departed at 10:50 to motor into the wind for 35 minutes to return to the church on the tiny island of Gospa off Perast. It is too deep to anchor, so we left Jon on board gently drifting and took the dinghy ashore. We were disappointed that a tourist boat arrived at the same time disgorging an inevitable crowd. But we discovered that they only unlocked the church and its hidden museum for such a group, to which we rapidly attached ourselves. The whole history of the 100 years of constructing the island from stones and rocks, and the building of the church and neighbouring monastery was unfolded. For centuries the Perast fishing fleet prayed at the church before sailing and again on their safe return. Kotor and this tiny island will remain the high point of our Adriatic cruising.
We left Gospa at 12:40 and motored through the channel into Tivatski, the middle gulf, where we anchored off the local tourist resort of Denovici, on the north west shore for a couple of hours for a swim and lunch. We left at 15:00 and once out of the gulfs were at last able to sail on a broad reach in at least 15 knots of wind from the north east until we arrived at Bar marina at 19:50. We were about the only visiting yacht and moored side to on a long stretch of empty pontoon. We had electricity but no water to wash the decks. Dinner on board.
The next day, Monday, Urs and I left before 09:00 to start the clearance procedures. Heleen and Jeannine went in search of a supermarket. We all met in a café on the promenade while waiting for the harbourmaster. But clearing out was so much easier than the entry from Italy in May. No-one wanted to inspect Eleanda. We just collected a multitude of stamps and were ready to leave for the south by 10:30. With 5 knots of wind, we were back to motoring. But our Albanian adventure was to begin.
We had considered crossing from Kotor or Bar to Italy, down to Santa Lucia di Leuca, and then south east across the Adriatic to Corfu. But Roland Notley, who was organising the Squadron’s cruise from Bodrum and lives near us in Devon, had sailed his boat, Man O War, along the Albanian coast in 2007 and assured us it was safe, no gun boats and no beaurocracy. He even gave us the phone number for an agent in the main port of entry from the north, Durres, just 56 miles from Bar, who would organise everything. The coast of Albania is roughly 160 miles long so we were planning two stops.
We motored south until 12:30 when we stopped the engine, drifted and swam. By the end of lunch we had 15 knots of wind from the north west and could enjoy a gentle reach. By 17:00 it was dying and we were approaching the long buoyed channel into Durres, which is not to guide you through shallows but has been swept clear of Second World War mines! You are still advised not to anchor off the coast as you might catch a mine wire or chain. At 17:45 we motored into the huge commercial harbour and were waved into the north west corner where, with assistance of our agent, Captain Llambi Papa, we moored side-to to a magnificent new concrete quay with container ships and bulk carriers loading or unloading on both sides. He came aboard to collect passports and ship’s papers which he promised to return early the following morning. He recommended a Durres restaurant within walking distance and arranged an air-conditioned minibus for the following morning. For all of this we paid him €30! The harbour facilities were new, magnificent and immaculate, a far cry from the shabbiness of Bar. The fork lift drivers shifting containers onto lorries appeared expert. The nearest bulk carrier was being unloaded into silos. At 20.30 we set off for the guarded harbour entrance just 200 yards away. Everywhere there was new tarmac or concrete. The modern entrance barrier and turnstile was manned 24 hours a day.
The seafront promenade, just outside the harbour was the next surprise. We found his restaurant, the Piazza, on the second floor of a modern building. We sat on its outside terrace and watched the nightlife of Durres below. The crawling stream of cars, many expensive Mercedes, Porsches and tinted windowed Range Rovers, would have been at home in St Tropez. Young couples and families with children thronged the pavements full of stalls, cafes and bars and even a fun fair. Despite a total lack of English we enjoyed the dinner of local fresh fish and meat served with Italian and Albanian wines. Later we climbed steep stone steps in a Martello type tower to a roof top terrace bar for a nightcap. But by then everyone seemed to have gone home and Durres was asleep.
Our VW people carrier picked us up at 9 o’clock on Tuesday with Captain Llambi present to ensure everything was organised and to return our papers. As tourists we were aiming for Gruja, the ancient and former capital on Mount Dajti. The famous castle towers over its surroundings giving superb views to the sea. It has been partly restored as a cultural museum to the national hero, Skanderbeg, who threw out the occupation by the Ottoman Turks in 1457. Later, after a mid morning beer, we walked down the inevitable souvenir alley, a steep narrow cobbled lane lined with small shops selling handicrafts, doubtful antiques, carpets, communist era photographs and even old 78rpm gramophone records. From there it was 30 minutes to the capital, Tirana, the modern seat of government and parliament, full of 1950s buildings and heroic communist statues. It is the principal university city with embassies, the main hospital, an opera house and cultural centres. It was clean and well laid out with wide avenues. We stopped for lunch with our taxi driver, who could translate into English just a little, at the Fish Place restaurant with a pleasant outside terrace. Later we walked through the main square, with more toy ride-on cars, and on to the park surrounding the Parliament, which was protected by coils of barbed wire. On trying to take pictures we were threatened by a guard with a machine gun. But he later relented, waved us over and was entirely friendly. By then it was time to return to Durres, a good hour away. Every mile or two we drove through speed traps, but saw no one stopped. Most buildings appeared half built but occupied. We guessed there must be a tax on completed buildings to be avoided!
Having said good bye to Captain Llambi, who had telephoned ahead to another agent, Vladimir, we left early at 07:45 for Marina di Orikum, 62 miles away, near the official port of Vlore. With no wind we motored all day but stopped and drifted for an hour and half for a cooling off swim and lunch. Normally we would have been required to check in at Vlore before proceeding to Orikum. But Vladimir managed to arrange for us to go straight to the marina, where we arrived at 16:30. The entrance and approach to the marina is very shallow, we registered 2.9m, and draw 2.55m but had been warned. There is a single flimsy pontoon to which we went stern-to on the inside. There was meant to be water, but the pressure was so low we could hardly wash the deck, and electricity, but the capacity was so low that we kept blowing the fuse. The marina has been developed with Italian investment. It is totally isolated and includes a half empty development of flats and town houses. Later, in the dusk we walked half a mile to a family run restaurant, Ibiza. Under bright fluorescent lights we enjoyed a simple and inexpensive dinner all alone and served by all the relatives. We concluded that eating out in Albania is inexpensive, but port and marina charges are outrageous. Our night at Orikum cost €70 Euros for the agent’s fees and tax plus a further €70 for the marina. As we returned from the restaurant we met the night watchman who was hiding near the gate and proudly brandishing his Russian Kalashnikov.
On Thursday 16th July we departed at 08:15, motoring in a hot windless sea. We had left early as we were now heading for Corfu, some 70 miles away. We intended to stop for lunch at Palermos, a broad west facing bay where we could anchor with a line ashore on the north side of a promontory on which there was a small ruined castle. We had formally cleared out of Albania at Orikum, but the Vlore harbour police had authorised us to anchor at Palermos on the way. We arrived at 13:40 and were soon swimming and snorkelling. It was a wild, deserted place, not unattractive, but scarred by a few scruffy dilapidated buildings. Unusually we had the air conditioning running off the generator to keep the saloon cool for lunch. Fortunately, while snorkelling, Heleen noticed that a plastic bag had been sucked into the generator water inlet. It was rapidly retrieved by Urs!
We left at 16:45 heading for Kalami or Agni, two bays on the north east coast of Corfu. There was still no wind and we motored along the Albanian coast with Corfu gradually coming into view. We avoided Sarende, the last Albanian port, keeping well out, now in Greek waters. We passed the point of Akra Varvaro and into the Kerkera Northern Straits, in places no more 1 ¼ miles wide. The bay of Kalami was somewhat developed so we continued the last mile to Agni Bay, where we anchored at 19:30 in 16m, having motored 69.3 miles since leaving Orikum. The surroundings were attractive, with the steep hills dotted with a few expensive looking villas and a couple of tavernas on the shore. We swam in the dusk in gloriously warm water before a pleasant dinner on board.
On Friday we made the mistake of trying to clear into Greece at Gouvia Marina just 7 miles down the coast from Agni, as advised by Heikel. The police were there, but we would have had to take a taxi to Corfu Town to visit the harbour authorities, who alone could issue our Greek transit Log. We wasted an hour at Gouvia before continuing to Corfu Town where we anchored south of the Venetian Citadel. There is no marina worth a mention and no anchorage off the main town. It is too deep. It took over two hours of total beaurocracy to clear in and get our official papers including the 12 month transit log. This involves visiting the tax office to pay all of €30 and then walking nearly two miles to the harbour office and a further half a mile to the port police. The word Albania threw them into a total panic.
In the end it was all done, by when Urs and I were very thirsty, hot and bothered. Indeed it was unbelievably hot. So we took a taxi back to Eleanda, and were rewarded with a much needed dirnk and a very late and rapid lunch. At 17:00 we set off for Mongonis, a deep bay in the south east of Paxos, hoping it would be cooler. Soon a whisper of an evening breeze arrived from the north east and we motor sailed. By 19:20 we cut the engine and reached at about 7 knots with frequent visits from dolphins playing all round us. We arrived at 20:23 in the gathering dusk to anchor just outside the crowded inner bay in 9m with a line ashore. We had covered 42.8 miles. We took the dinghy to the noisy taverna on the east shore where a Dutch flotilla group was well ensconced, whooping it up with their flotilla leader with the disco blasting out pop songs from the 1960s! For Heleen and me, it was our first Greek taverna since the 1990s and we lingered over Greek salad, tzatsiki and grilled cheese among the usual mezes.
Saturday 18th July was our last day of sailing. We were due in the marina at Levkas that evening, where we were leaving Eleanda with Jon on board for five weeks. There is a lifting road bridge just north of the marina and canal. Its last opening time was 20:00. We had time for a small diversion for lunch and decided we would anchor in or near Vonista Bay, on the south shore of the Gulf of Amvrikos, a large inland salt water lake, about 39 miles distant, and a further 15 miles to the lifting bridge.
At sunrise you could not see the shore just 20m away. We were totally shrouded in mist. But it had cleared by the time we left at 10:00. Outside the bay the sea was an oily calm but once again we were soon enveloped in dense mist with so little visibility that we turned on the fog horn and radar. For the next couple of hours we listened on channel 16 to flotilla mother hen leaders calling to their lost flocks as we motored south cocooned in this strange world. Within a couple of hours it had cleared. By 13:30 after 28 miles, we were off Preveza, and the entrance to the Gulf. We turned into the long buoyed entrance channel and motored past the town with its quays and marinas on both shores. Turning east after the point of Akri and closely watching the depths, we got a gentle breeze and motor-sailed across the gulf. Much of the shore is flat and uninteresting. But Vonista bay to the south was more hilly. We rounded the point of Panagia and headed south into the bay. With attractive wooded slopes around us, we anchored in Markos Cove to the west in 15m. By now there was a 15 – 20 knot wind from the west, from which we had adequate shelter. After a lazy lunch and a final swim we motored into the wind back to Preveza. Once out of the channel we turned south for Levkas and reached for the last hour until we approached the low flat coast.
The entrance to Levkas is quite narrow but there is more than 4m in the channel. We arrived too early for the bridge at 19:45 and drifted in the approaches until finally the bridge opened on time, southward traffic went first. 20 minutes later we turned into the marina and, after a short wait, a marinero led us to our berth where Eleanda would remain until our return on 27th August.
On our trip from Brindisi to Split we had covered 442.6 miles, and from Split to Levkas 506.0, a total of 948.6 in 24 days sailing, a gentle average of 39.5 miles a day. There was so little wind for most of the time that we used 114.1 engine hours, 4 ¾ hours per day! Despite this we had a few days of excellent sailing, particularly in early June. We had anchored every night, never mooring to a town quay or marina pontoon. This independence helped us avoid the crowds.
I have no doubt we will return to the Adriatic before Eleanda leaves the Mediterranean. But it is probably at its best in May and June, when the wind is more reliable, the temperature comfortable and harbours and restaurants are not overwhelmed by flotillas.
We returned to Eleanda on 27th August and, with Miranda and Charles, our daughter and son, and a couple of their friends, sailed across the Aegean to Yalikovak on the west coast of Turkey. Later we joined the Squadron cruise-in-company out of Bodrum and even added a final cruise, ending in Gocek on 4th November. In total in 2009 Eleanda covered just over 3,000 miles and since her launch in June 2007 we have now sailed her 9,300 miles.
Extract from Eleanda’s Log
- Brindisi to Split
- Split to Levkas
Index of Charts
- 1st Adriatic cruise – Brindisi, Italy, to Kotor, Montenegro, 28th – 30th May
- Bar to Kotor, detail, 30th May
- Kotor to Split, Croatia, 31st May – 6th June
- 2nd Adriatic Cruise – Split to Kotor, 8th – 11th July
- Kotor to Durres, Albania, 12th – 13th July
- Durres to Levkas, Greece, 15th – 18th July
Index of Photographs
- The Island of Sveti Stephan, converted to a hotel in the late 1960s, now closed. We had
part of our honeymoon there in May 1971
- The island church of Gospa od Skrpjela, near Perast in the Gulf of Kortorsk
- The church of Gospa od Skrpjela
- The Village of Stoliv in the Gulf of Kortorski
- One of the many churches in Kotor
- The harbour at Hvar
- Eleanda anchored in the tiny pool in the centre of Milna on the island of Brač
- The sea front on the west side of the town of Hvar
- An 18th Century town house, now the museum, at Korčula
- Eleanda anchored in the harbour at Pučišća on the island of Brač
- Eleanda’s navigation screen at 16:47 on Saturday 6th June about 4 miles from Split, showing true wind speed 45.5 knots, and boat speed over ground of 11 knots. Eleanda’s position is bottom right of the chart. She was on a broad reach and we were about to gybe leaving the shallows to port
- The sea state within a minute of the previous picture
- The water front of Split
- Evening light in the bay of Prozura, north coast of Mljet island
- Urse and Jeanine Biasi and Nigel on Gospa od Skrpjela, on our second visit to the Gulf of Kotorski
- Eleanda moored in the large commercial harbour of Durres, Albania
- The view across Mount Dajti, Albania
- A tourist shop at Mount Dajti
- The central square of Tirana, the statue is of the national hero, Skanderbeg
- A communist era mural on the Library, centre of Tirana
- The local craze of driving electric toy cars and tractors, in the central square, Tirana. We also saw this in Bar, Montenegro
- The rather scruffy anchorage north of the promontory in the bay of Palermos, Albania
- Jon, the crew with Jeanine Biasi, Heleen and Urs Biasi having arrived in Levkas where we left Eleanda for five weeks