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

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Malta Marina

After a three day 550 nm passage from Croatia we arrived at Valletta, Malta and are moored stern-to Maltese Falcon's winter berth in Grand Harbour Marina for the month of August. Inward clearance was painless and organized by the Marina staff.

The surroundings are surreal with buildings piled on top of each other right down to the waters edge oozing history from all eras. Stay tuned for more exciting virtual touring adventures as we explore this fascinating island nation.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Chao Croatia

We had four relaxing days anchored in the submarine pen bay in Otok Lastovo. Activities ashore included renting a quad bike for a nice drive to Lastovo town and back. Checkout was painless with no fees and no requirement to moor at the customs dock. All officials are on duty in Ubli from 0800 to 2000. The harbormaster's office is next to the ferry office, police is next to customs across the harbor at the clearance wharf. We completed paperwork at 1900 and left the next morning at 0600. This may have been stretching the rules as the customs officer would have preferred to be able to see the yacht even if only at anchor (Interlude was hidden around a point).

We are now on passage to Malta where we have a reservation at the Grand Harbour Marina. Our position at 0630 UTC is 42d29.3'N, 16d58.7'E A NW wind is starting to fill in and is forecast to give a nice ride to the heel of Italy.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Lastovo Last

We had a nice five day second stay in Rogoznica with walks around the island, around the bay to the marina to view the mega-yachts, past dragons eye lake up to the to the top of a hill overlooking the town and marina, across the isthmus to a beach, and to the produce and fish markets near the Konzum (safe shopping) supermarket. Uvala Saline offered all around protection and we even tried the anchorage at the head of the bay that would be good in a NE blow (55 ft, 43d31.81'N, 15d58.32'E).

We decided it was time to begin extracting ourselves from Croatia so on Monday we headed for the island of Vis some 30 miles south. Vis is a summer clearance port and we could clear out for Malta from there. Sailing there we pulled out our 180% 'Code Zero' headsail which had not seen the light of day for over a year. On arrival at Otok Vis we anchored at 1700 in Uvala Stonka, Viska Luka. We avoided Komiza on the west side because they reportedly charged for anchoring. However, at 1920 we were hit up for a 200 KN ($US 40) anchoring fee. Sticking with our anchoring fee boycott we promptly refused, hoisted anchor and moved around a point to a marginal anchorage out of sight from the port concession boat (100 - 130 ft, 43d04.20'N, 16d11.82'E) just clear of a no anchoring sign marking an underwater cable. This has been the second time we have been asked to pay to anchor the first being the Otok Murter. As on Murter we did not go ashore at Vis and left the next morning for Otok Lastovo. It may be a bit silly but we believe in supporting only the businesses in anchorages that do not charge. We might feel different about this matter if the $20 or $40 or more dollars a night (depending on the size of your vessel) were going toward the local government for public works, but the fees are collected by government licensed private concessions that offer no added value and are just capitalizing on the shape of the coastline.

The Lastovo Archipelago is a Nature Park, has a clearance port at Ubli and got us 30 miles further on towards Malta. As on Mljet, Dugi and in Skradin we had no issues with paying a reasonable per person fee for being in a Nature Park. Hopefully any money left after maintaining modest park infrastructure goes toward the general fund and benefits the country's population. As predicted, we had to pay a 20 KN ($US4) per person (per day) entrance fee to some friendly park rangers who welcomed us to Lastovo in their big inflatable. We anchored in Uvala Kremena, Velji Lago (80 ft, 42d45.43'N, 16d48.73'E) next to an old submarine pen. Lastovo as a military outpost is strategically important and was off limits to visitors for many years. Some of the military infrastructure is being re-used as witnessed by the two boats moored last night inside the submarine pen.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Dug in at Dugi

We spent three nights on Dugi Otok in the Telascica Nature Park anchored at the head of Luka Telescica in Uvala Pasjak (30 ft, 43d55.19'N, 15d07.95'E). Motoring thru the desolate Kornati Islands we were glad we opted for the less expensive (for us) Telascica Park. Our tickets were actually good for day anchoring in Kornati National Park and included rubbish pickup. The Rangers came by every afternoon to collect and the produce boat came morning and afternoon. We took two hikes, one half way to the town of Sali on the east coast and the other to a lookout station/cell tower on the west coast. We could only manage this in the mornings due to the heat and have taken to sleeping in the afternoons or running the air conditioning while charging systems. We have been playing guitar in the late afternoons for about three hours until it gets dark at 2130.

Today we waited until 1100 to catch a light afternoon breeze most of the way back to Rogoznica on the mainland and anchored on the east side of the causeway again (55 ft, 43d31.81'N, 15d58.32'E). This time instead of 2 sailing yachts and 2 motor yachts we had 24 & 8. Tourist season has arrived and August must be a zoo around here. We also passed dozens of charter yachts on our sail down the coast today. The west coasts of the Kornatis were very scenic with dramatic uplifted cliffs.

We may stay here at Rogoznica a couple of days again especially if meet up with some friends.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Costly Croatia

Somehow running the river back down thru the bridges and power lines was not as exciting as going up - probably because we knew all the clearances were OK. A few miles up the coast we anchored off the town and marina at Tribunj (26 ft, 43d45.07'N, 15d44.63'E). The old city walls now gone Tribunj is a charming seaside fishing village that recently received a face lift with an upscale marina, encircling quay and pleasant walking trail up the nearby hill to the Chapel of St. Nik affording a great view of Interlude at anchor. There was another Konzum (we call it safe shopping) supermarket that was well stocked and we picked up some white Croatian wine (Laguna) at $6.00 US a bottle that was the best we have tasted since New Zealand. At the marina office we inquired about the fees to visit the islands in Kornati National Park and Telascica Park on Dugi Otok. The National Park officials in Krka were unable to answer this simple question (not my park man). Evidently tickets can be purchased at some marinas in advance at a discount or in the Park on arrival. For those following in our wake here are the per day fees:

LOA                       Advance Purchase             On Site
up to 11 m              150 KN                              250 KN
11 - 18 m               250 KN                              400 KN
over 18 m              450 KN                              750 KN

60 KN per person (no charge for boat)

For Interlude the discount Kornati fee translates to about $US 90 per day so we have decided to give those islands a miss. Their claim to fame is very clear water which we have seen plenty of in our travels. They are also completely barren as the landscape increasingly is as we head north.

While at the marina office we inquired about berth rates for Interlude. Our 23.5 m daily rate for this time of year would be $US 255 and a yearly contract would be about $US 21,000. These are by far the highest rates we have seen.

Making our way to visit the less expensive park at Luka Telascica, we anchored at Uvala Potkucina, Otok Kakan. This bay had dozens of moorings and one taverna. The cruising guide said there is no fee for anchoring but at 1600 we were approached by a uniformed man wielding a receipt book in a very nice inflatable and asked to pay about $US 50 per night. Refusing to pay, we were given five minutes to leave and had a nice sail to anchor with no fee at Uvala Kosirina on Otok Murter (40 ft, 43d47.69'N, 15d36.60'E). The island of Murter is connected to the mainland by a bridge allowing dozens of campers access to the beach and bay at Kosirina. Trailers and tents line the shore and there are also a dozen yachts anchored here. The water here is clear and just warm enough for swimming.

We will be boycotting the Kornati National Park and bays that charge for anchoring. After paying nearly $US 700 to enter and cruise Croatia for 90 days we feel all areas should be included. If they are trying to limit environmental impact in the Parks (a resource which should benefit the nation) with high fees then Croats should get a discount but this is not the case. By avoiding those areas we all will hopefully have an impact on the additional fee policy.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Independence Day Interlude

Independence Day we hoisted our oversized ensign and otherwise dressed ship with streams of burgees and other flags from our travels. We moved to the popular town of Primosten (70 ft, 43d34.99N, 15d55.61E) in search of other Americans to celebrate with but there were none in an anchored fleet of 40 yachts. So we entertained the anchorage with an eight hour Americana playlist and ate chicken with corn salad wearing red, white & blue (also Interlude's livery).

On Monday we ran a gauntlet of narrow channels, low bridges and powerlines up a river to Skradin and the Krka National Park (near Sibenik). Carefully interpreting the chart and its warnings, we anchored past all the other yachts, the marina and a no anchor sign in our own cove just past the town across from a swimming beach (20 ft, 43d48.91N, 15d55.74E). Most yachts anchor across from the town/marina (somewhat blocking the channel) and not realizing the no anchor sign marks an underwater pipeline.

Skraden is a small old town repaired after the 1990's homeland war to service tourists visiting the Park. The modern metal and glass Park office building though nicely done seemed an extravagant expense for what appears to house administrative offices and a ticket counter. We walked the docks in the marina finding yachts following our route since Greece including 'Big City' a mega motor palace with its tender 'Small Town'. Drinks at a bar overlooking the marina and dinner at the Skradinski Buc Hotel (set menu KN 80) finished off this fun day.

Private boats are not allowed to go any further upriver so Tuesday morning at 0900 we took a day tripper boat to the the Park entrance (KN 95 pp) to see the waterfalls. They were impressive but we hiked on up past them to a second reception desk to secure tickets (KN 130 pp) for another boat trip on the higher lake to the island Monastery of Visovac and the falls at Roski Slap. We had a couple hours before the departure to Visovac to meander thru the trees along a scenic boardwalk built over the tributaries feeding the falls. Leaving some tardy tourists standing on the wharf, at 1200 sharp two full boats left for the half hour ride to the Franciscan Monastery. A half hour tour reveled some interesting history and a rich library of historical manuscripts and books. After another half hour scenic cruise to the smaller falls at Roski Slap, we docked at the park center there occupying an old working water mill grinding grain and washing clothes. With only an hour of free time we took a quick walk walk up to the travertine terraces leading to the falls across the car bridge and back on the pedestrian bridge.

The upper lake tour took three and a half hours and we were back down in Skradin by 1700. Many European tourists took time to swim in the designated areas at the falls but we had our cooling dip with all the kids jumping off the town quay in Skradin. Another nice meal at the Skradin Falls Hotel, some shopping and we needed another dip back at the boat.

There is wifi here in the anchorage (E11 per day) so we may try get our Greece Report out tomorrow.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Flagrante to Frapa

We spent a couple days just relaxing at Otok Drvenik Veli in a bay called Uvala Krknjas (45 ft, 43d26.33N, 16d10.37E). Many yachts came and went with about half staying the night making a little more room and giving us some distance from all the nude European boaters. Swimming, sunning or just lounging in the cockpit, male, female, kids it didn't matter they were everywhere.

On Thursday we moved up the coast to the mainland village of Rogoznica and anchored twice on the east side of the island. The first time was cut short when a thunderstorm with its wind shift had us too close to the beach so we re anchored off the causeway making sure to avoid the area marking an underwater power line (60 ft, 43d31.86N, 15d58.33E). We walked around the harbor to investigate Marina Frapa, one of Croatia's newest and found several mega-yachts as well as a couple from Jersey (old not New) we meet on Otok Mljet. They keep their yacht based here in Marina Frapa and have been cruising Croatia for the past two summers.

Friday we inspected and cleaned Interlude's bottom using some new plastic trowels purchased at the local hardware store. We rented some tanks from Diving Center Pongo just around the point from where we are anchored and kept them in the dinghy for connecting our hooka hoses. Our compressor needs a new safety valve and although there is a good shop in Split at the ACI marina we are are trying to wait until August in Malta to do any repairs when Interlude will be in a marina. We considered doing some dives with Pongo (they will pick up from our yacht) but the water is cold (7mm w/hood) and the touted small fish, gorgonian sea fans and wrecked freighters just did not excite us that much.

Tomorrow is Independence Day and Katie has a patriotic program planned.