Our Mission: To boldly go until we are no more!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Medieval Metropoli

We weren't attracted to the night life and glitz of new medieval Hvar Town so instead of mooring in the harbor we took the dinghy from our quiet anchorage in the Pakleni Islands. Anchoring off the town does not provide much shelter, the quay is very busy and the discos would have been unbearable (we could just make out the noise about a mile away in our anchorage). A hike up to the Venetian fortress above town for a panoramic view, a visit to the Franciscan monastery & museum, lunch at one of the many bistro/pizzerias, window shopping (even North Sails had a clothing boutique) and we were done. Dinghying back to Interlude thru the islands we spotted some more naturists sunning on the rocky shores. As we were weighing anchor three large motor yacht were coming in to what had been our secluded cove.
Sunday we sailed to the World Heritage site of Trogir on the mainland and anchored off the west side just out of the busy channel (25 ft, 43d30.84'N, 16d14.42'E). The old town of Trogir with its 15th century walls is built on a small island (as you did back in the day). Leaving the dinghy in the small canal on the north side we entered thru the 'Land Gate' and found ourselves in a vehicle free labyrinth of alleyways with a mixture of Romanesque and Renaissance architecture housing tourist shops, apartments and restaurants. Walking thru to the other side we came across the Cathedral of St. Lawrence and climbed the 15th century Venetian bell tower for a great view. The 13th century carvings of Adam & Eve with lions around the front door are also worth seeing. A visit to a travel/tour agency revealed that we could take a one hour ferry ride to Split($US 4 pp one way). The bus trip is also about an hour but the ferry takes you right where you want to go. We caught the ferry at the little wharf just across the south bridge and to the east.

Once at Split we could see that taking the ferry there was much easier than taking Interlude. There are a couple of marinas but all the big yachts are on the outside exposed to the numerous ferry wakes and surge. The town quay is even worse but there were a couple of yachts anchored between the marina and the quay avoiding the turning basin for the cruise ships and large ferries.

After a hearty lunch at hotel Tifany's restaurant we took a private walking tour (KN 90 pp) of what now remains of Diocletan's Palace. The Palace complex, built around AD 300 as this Roman emperor's retirement villa, now encompasses a good portion of old town Split. Our guide pointed out the many architectural styles that were built through the ages existing side by side and intersecting. Roman temples converted to churches; palace kitchens, servants quarters and basements now tourist shops, apartments, museums and banks. It was fascinating trying to find the old Roman Palace works amongst the later constructs. There was also continuity however, with one Italian family living in the same building since the 15th century.
Overdosed on medieval metropoli we will find a new anchorage this afternoon and just relax.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Mljet, Moreska & Modesty

The National Park on Otok Mljet was very nice with a bus and boat ride included in the 90 Kuna ($18) pp entrance fee. Thinking the overcast weather would make for cooler exploring ashore, we tied the dinghy up to the wharf near the old Roman ruins and where the Park ranger boat is moored. A short walk to the Park kiosk to buy the entrance tickets and within a few minutes we were on a bus to the 'Big Lake' which is actually an inlet from the sea. A short bus ride later we boarded a launch in the rain to take us to a 12th century Benedictine monastery built on a small island in the 'Lake'. In our group were a small wedding party touring Croatia by charter yacht after their ceremony in Dubrovnik, a location chosen partly because it was mid-way between the UK groom and Russian bride's families. The buses and boats ran about every hour so we took our time exploring the island and the lakeshore. It was very scenic with pine trees overhanging the water, just a few old mansions, vineyards and the occasional tourist on a rental bike. The park officials came by Interlude every day in their boat to check if we had purchased our entrance tickets. We could stay as long as we liked (there was no anchoring fee) but the weather was clearing and it was time to catch the Thursday night performance of the Moreska in Korcula.

The Stari Grad (Old Town) Korkula on Otok Korkula was about a mile dinghy ride from our new anchorage in the Canal Zezenica off a 14th century Franciscan monastery on the small island of Badija (40 ft, 42d56.95'N, 17d09.71'E). We went into Korcula at 1700 to have time to sightsee the medieval towers, walls, alleys, cathedral, chapels, etc. and have time for a nice seafood dinner at the restaurant just as you enter the main gate before the show started at 2100. The Moreska is a folk dance that was popular throughout the Med but is now only preserved in Korkula. The dancers are one woman and two groups of young men wielding swords to commemorate a fight between Christians and Moors over a young girl. We sat in the front row of an open air theater trying not to get trampled or hit with sparks flying from the clashing swords. Live music was provided by a community brass band who sounded much better playing the traditional dance tune than the pop music intro. The dinghy ride back in the dark was easy in the sheltered waters of the channel but we did have to avoid a ferry departing for Dubrovnik or Split.

Today we sailed to the Pakleni islands off Otok Hvar. After some snooping around we settled in a cove on Otok Marinkovac called Uvala Stipanska (40 ft, 43d09.57'N, 16d25.36'E). These small islands with their many secluded coves are frequented by naturists and we have already spotted some wandering along the shore.

Tomorrow we plan to dinghy to historic Hvar Town, one of the most popular destinations along the Dalmatian Coast.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Elaphite Eli

After a failed attempt to anchor at Uvala Lopud, Otok Lopud (too much weed on the bottom), we found a nice spot off the quaint village of Luka in Sipanska Luka on Otok Sipan (22 ft, 42d43.73'N, 17d51.49'E). If you haven't figured out the Croatian by now, Uvala is Bay, Otok is Island and Luka is Harbor or Port. Luka was a sleepy little town of about a couple hundred people (the biggest town on the biggest island in the Elaphite Group), two mini-markets, a nice old hotel and about four restaurants. Ferries arrived frequently at the jetty and we were glad to be anchored out of their way and also glad not to have taken a mooring as one yacht found out after almost hitting the sea wall when it dragged. We took a walk up to the Campanile overlooking town and then down another way to walk the shoreline to the isthmus where a wedding party was being held at a small facility. On the way we meet Elijah the artist who after showing us his gallery, invited us to make some music and have some drinks that night at his home. We then meet his companion Lila who sang and played guitar and piano. With great food, drink, music and a spectacular lightning show getting ever closer at about midnight we decided it was time to get back aboard before the weather got too crazy. A low pressure area had been forming all day and night (1000 mB) with huge thunderheads. We never got any rain or wind but the forecast cast showed a change in wind direction to the NW later in the week so in the morning there was a mass exodus of boats from the north facing bay.

Our next bay, Luka Polace on Otok Mljet (45 ft, 42d47.47'N, 17d22.59'E), was an all weather anchorage in a national park. We had a nice sail beam reaching there in 10-15 kn SW wind. The scenery here is pristine: Lush green temperate climate vegetation clinging to grey twisted rocky ground on high hills and cliffs. We hope we are here early enough in the season to avoid playing bumper boats in this enclosed anchorage. Already there are four Gulets and five yachts anchored with some of them tying to shore and what looks like regular ferry service.
Tomorrow we will explore the Park ashore.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Cavtat Clearance Croatia

Montenegro (ex Serbia-Montenegro, ex Yugoslavia) and the Gulf of Kotor was a special place with natural beauty and historic sights. An easy check out (other than having to tie to the wharf) and we were on our way 20 miles up the coast to Cavtat, Croatia.

Cavtat, five miles south of Dubrovnik, was an easy (other than having to tie to the wharf) check in: Police, Harbor Master, Police. A new 'tourist tax' just 10 days old and based on vessel length made our total fees for Croatia about $US 680 for three months, people, one year yacht. Returning yachts get a discount and there is slightly lower 30 day fee for crew and passengers. We plan to cruise Croatia for six weeks.

With the afternoon breeze pinning Interlude to the quarantine wharf (42d34.98'N, 18d12.94'E) we rigged a bow spring line and fender on the stem to use the prop to push her stern off. Even the charter yachts with bow thrusters were having a hard time leaving. One skipper who helped us tie up was with a flotilla of ten boats heading for Kotor. They were all Czechs and Katie gave them a big bag of ice cubes for their gin and tonics. Katie, half Czech, found out that her family name means 'twilight' or the red glow at sunrise or sunset.

Port captain Antonio informed us of a 35 Euro anchoring fee for Cavtat so we moved to the other side of the isthmus to Uvala Tiha (21 ft, 42d35.10'N, 18d13.21'E) where anchoring was free. Several other yachts had the same plan that day but Antonio warned us to leave immediately if a north wind picks up. Dozens of yachts are blown ashore in this bay each year. The winds all have names with the Bora or NE wind being the most feared here in Croatia. You also have the Maestral (NW) and the Sirocco or Jugo (S-SE). The car company execs must be sailors.

Two wharfs and two country clearances in one day and planned big day of touring Dubrovnik the next day had us in bed early. With calm weather forecasted for the day, we decided to anchor Interlude off the island of Lokrum (42d37.86'N, 18do7.25E) and take the dinghy about a half mile right into Dubrovnik's old harbor. Entering thru the medieval fortifications was grand as we imagined the harbor entrance chain being lowered for us. This ancient city with its many monuments, museums, monasteries, churches and palaces is fully recovered from the 1991 shelling by the Yugoslav army. Significant international aid has rapidly put this famous tourist destination back on the map and even without any cruise ships on Thursday, we still had healthy crowds from the numerous resorts in the area and even a wedding. Entering the city walls at the north gate near where we left our dinghy we took about six hours to see all the main sights: Dominican Monastery, Sponza Palace, Onofrio Fountain, Rectors Palace, Cathedral & Treasury (with a supposed fragment of the Holy Cross and dozens of relics such as the arm of Doubting Thomas), Maritime Museum and City Wall Walk (about an hour to circumambulate with great views). Lunch at Mea Culpa Pizzaria was very nice in a shady cool narrow alley near the Onofrio Fountain.

Finishing up with the wall walk got us pretty hot so a dip in Med was called for before moving the boat to the more secure anchorage of Luka Zaton . As we approached the head of the bay a local fisherman advised us that at 2000 hrs there would be nets set in that part of the bay so we obliged and came back down to the cove named Soline (65 ft, 42d41.76'N, 18d02.51'E).


Monday, June 14, 2010

Magnificent Medieval Montenegro

We are really enjoying the Gulf of Kotor, Montenegro. After catching up on sleep following our overnight passage from Corfu, we set off early in the morning to climb up to the Castle of St. John, a one hour walk up 1,350 stairs to ascend 1,200 feet (entrance 2 euro/pp). With a beautiful view of the harbor, Old Town and Venetian fortifications it was stunning. After working up an appetite we scored some amazing cheeses, olives, nuts and fresh produce (raspberries 2 euro/basket or $2.50 US). Checking out the fuel station we should have refueled in Kotor as diesel is listed at 1.10 Euro/liter vs. the 1.45 we paid in Greece.

Back on the boat we cooled off in the fjord's fresh water halocline - a nice change from the salty Med. Hearing a live band starting up at the 'Malibu Beach Bar' nearby we swam ashore and were greeted to free drinks on its opening day of the season. We closed the place down with the locals and insisted on giving the cocktail waitress who keep bringing us rounds and rounds of free drinks a nice tip for her services. Kotor, Montenegro is reasonably priced, amazingly clean (they have someone rake the beaches twice a day) and filled with Medeval architecture.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Goodbye Greece

We had an easy less than one hour check out in Corfu, Greece. No fees. Our planned next port of call is Kotor, Montenegro for one week then on to Croatia until mid July. We have a one month berth reserved at Grand Marina in Malta for the month of August if anyone is interested in visiting and joining us for some touring in between our boat projects. Check out our recently posted report on Turkey.