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2007 Cruise

2007 June - September

During the summer of 2006 we cruised the southern half of the Adriatic and in 2007 we planned to complete our exploration of this branch of the Mediterranean Sea.  Up at almost the top of the Adriatic is Venice and our plan was to cover the 650M from Preveza to Venice in minimum time and then to slowly wander south down the Croatian coast. We had cruised the southern Croatian coast in 2006 and we were keen to explore Istria, the northern islands and central Dalmatia which includes the Kornati Islands.

The Adriatic is roughly 500M long and 100M wide and lies NW/SE In summer the prevailing wind is from the NW and we were expecting to have to work hard to claw our way up to the NW. However, when occasional troughs cross the Adriatic there are periods of wind from SE/SW which make it much easier to progress NW up the Italian east coast.  During this last summer it seemed as if there was a passing trough every week. The passage of a trough produces a period of winds with S in them, then a variable patch, often with thunderstorms, and finally a swing back to NW. Sometimes, for meteorological reasons that we do not know, the wind can  become NE (the Bora). We were to run into this beast several times. In the Mediterranean winds tend to have names, which are from ancient times before the introduction of the compass. In the Adriatic, the N or NE Bora, which is marked with big gusts, is hard to forecast and can arrive with little warning. Its opposite number, the SE Scirocco, brings hot air and sometimes dust from Africa.

We left Preveza in Ionian Greece at 0930 on 13 June bound for Brindisi which we reached at 1730 on 14 June having covered 206M in 32 hours. The wind was light and in the W/NW quadrant, so we had to motor for a total of 22 hours. Brindisi is a major commercial harbour and not exactly picturesque but it is easy to enter in all conditions and one can anchor in a sheltered arm of the harbour close to the new marina.

We were on our way again at 1100 the following morning with the wind now ESE. Although it gradually backed, we had good sailing for the next 12 hours before the passage of a trough took the wind back to NW. Once again we noticed that the sea state changed very quickly with increases in the wind and what had been pleasantly smooth became a nasty chop very quickly. We arrived in Vieste at 0930 on the 16 June having covered 137M in 22.5 hours, mostly under sail. During the night there were numerous fishing boats about and at one point we had to use a hand held searchlight to alert one fast moving FV to our presence

At 0900 on 19 June we set out for the Tremiti islands and with the wind SE we broad reached the 39 M to the uninhabited Isla Caprara arriving at 1500. We anchored in Cala dei Turci, so named because it used to be used by Turkish pirates raiding the monastery on nearby Isla S. Nicola. We went ashore and walked amongst closely packed seagull nests. Whilst we did not get attacked by the birds, there were a fair number of low passes. We have never before seen so many seagulls together in one place in the Mediterranean. As we turned in for the night I used the searchlight to check that we were still securely anchored in the same place. This provoked a storm of squawks and shrieks from the gulls who took some time to settle down again. As the bottom is partly rocky and the holding uncertain we put down 2 anchors. The wind that night was however very light and we stayed put, although we did several pirouettes around the chain.

We set out on our next leg northwards at 0900 on 20 June and were able to maximise the benefit of a period of winds from E and ESE. For some hours we had a spinnaker run and although the winds were never more than F3 we made steady progress arriving at the marina of Fano at 1500 on the 21 June having covered 175M. Whilst in Fano we made a trip by local bus up to the ancient hill town of Urbino which is both a tourist attraction and still a thriving town, the administrative centre of the region. It has old houses on steep cobbled streets, massive town walls and a magnificent, restored ducal palace from the renaissance.

On 23 June we left Fano and sailed 27M to Rimini but just for an overnight stop. This was almost all a kite run with the engine on only to get in/out of the marinas.  The next day we close reached / fetched 34M to Porto Cassini, which is the nearest yacht harbour to Ravenna, our next tourist stop. Once again we only needed the engine for marina entry / departure. We marvelled at the Late Roman / Byzantine churches and their stunning mosaics. These are from the 6/7th centuries, and contemporary with the ‘Dark Ages’ in British history.

Our next leg was to complete the ‘northing’, up to La Serenissima, otherwise known as Venice. We set out at 1515 on 27 June with a light SE wind and made steady progress until around 1900 when we were approaching the River Po delta. We could see thunder clouds ahead and soon we had a strong and gusty NE wind, up to 30kts at times, heavy showers and a rapidly increasing sea. We slogged into wind and sea under engine until 2300 when we were round the shallows of the delta and we could head 350° and tack into a fitful wind and lumpy sea. These waters can be busy and we had to navigate to avoid oil/gas installations, traffic separation lanes and what, on the chart, looked like a roundabout. We entered the Laguna Veneta through the Porto di Lido soon after 0600 on 28 June and anchored up to wait for the Marina di Lio Grando to open up. Our last stage north had covered 74M and we were about a week ahead of our plan.

From the Tremiti islands northwards we had been sailing in relatively shallow waters and on some days no more than 20m. These shallows are a big contrast to the 2000m plus off Greece and also are very well trawled. We were constantly watching for and trying to avoid fishing boats.

I had heard that berthing at Venice was very expensive but Kathleen was more confident that we would find somewhere affordable. She was right as we found that a berth at Marina di Lio Grando cost only €50 per night. It is at Punta Sabbioni, some 5M as a gull flies from Venice, but not far from a stop for the vaporetti (water buses). We stayed for 5 nights and enjoyed exploring the quieter back streets of Venice and visits to the islands of Burano and Murano, the latter famous for its glassware. In Venice itself, the streets linking the station, the Rialto and St Marks were a horror story, stuffed full of tourists, but only a few metres away were peaceful back streets and empty squares. The Marina di Lio Grando is more of a boatyard than marina but has 2 small docks with moorings and adequate, if not grand-luxe, showers etc. Our stay in the Laguna Veneta was one of the high-spots of our summer cruise.

We left the Laguna Veneta on 3 July at 0915 and headed due east towards the Istrian coast of Croatia. We had a light E wind but with a forecast of a shift to SW. This however did not arrive until the afternoon and we only had the last 2-1/2hours under sail. We arrived in the harbour at Umag,  which is the most northerly port in Croatia, at 1740 having covered 57M and took one of the laid moorings.  These are fairly common in Croatian harbours and anchorages and cost about £10 per night, but the harbour officials collecting the fees will take your rubbish away. We had already hoisted our ‘Q’ flag and decided to go ashore and deal with all the paperwork and officials the following morning, when we were more likely to find the various offices open. At around 0200 in the morning the SW wind got up to F6 and although we were securely attached, sleep was somewhat disturbed.

We went first to the Port Police office where we were heavily ‘ticked off’ for not going to them the evening before. We were even required to move the boat from the buoy to the customs quay and back again to a buoy for no apparent reason, except perhaps to give us a slap on the wrist. The officer involved did however later become friendlier and less officious and even helped us to find the Kapetania where we had to pay for our cruising permit (£120). During the 4 July the wind continued to veer and stayed strong. By 1800 we had a Croatian speciality, an ‘isolated sudden storm’ with very heavy rain, large hailstones and 40kt NE gusts. Our first real taste of the Bora. Welcome to Croatia!

From Umag, we went south first to Porec, then Uvala Soline where we stopped for lunch but stayed overnight and then on to Rovinj, a total of 33M, almost all under sail. Both of the towns are picturesque and wholly given over to tourism, they are probably pretty dead out of season. We arrived on 9 July in Rovinj,(a town that I had last visited in 1962!!), with a forecast of strong winds overnight for the 9/10 July . Berthed in the marina we expected to be sheltered but when the SW and later W wind really got going, at about 0230, we were made all too well aware that the marina only had a floating wave-breaker on its W side and we had a very restless night with all the boats surging and jerking at their moorings.

Our daughter Katie and her partner Derek were joining us at Pula for a week from 17 July, so not being keen to wait in a marina, on 11 July we sailed the 23M past Pula to another bay called Luka Soline, (which seems to be a fairly common name), where we could anchor for free in an attractive and sheltered inlet. We stayed there until 15 July when we sailed back 15M to Pula Marina and it’s welcoming cash register. Pula is an interesting old town with what is claimed to be the world’s best preserved roman amphitheatre close to the marina.

The four of us were away south on 18 July and sailed 30M in W and NW winds round the SW tip of Istria to an anchorage in Luka Krnica for an overnight stop. The following day we sailed 19M to the marina at Cres town. Katie and Derek were keen to visit the sanctuary for griffon vultures, which is at the northern tip of Cres island. To get there we needed wheels so we hired a 1200cc Beetle Cabriolet for a day. This was fun to drive but slow on hills! We saw vultures soaring over the cliffs before we reached the sanctuary. These birds, which have a 1.5m wingspan, have suffered greatly from the reduction in sheep rearing on the islands as sheep carcasses were their main food source.

From Cres on 21/22 July we went to Rab, with an overnight anchorage at Otok Unije and then through the canal at Mali Losinj which cut off a lot of sea miles. The latter part of this 68M was a spinnaker run.  Rab is justifiably something of a tourist hot-spot, a beautiful old town with several medieval towers and located on a rocky peninsula with a dramatic backdrop of the Velebitski mountains. At this point in our cruise I had a swollen and painful right foot and was literally hopping around the boat, so Kate and Derek explored the town whilst we stayed on board.

Kate and Derek were flying home from Rijeka airport on 25 July, so on the day before we sailed 24M north to Krk town, the airport for Rijeka being on Krk island. At Krk we found a berth on the town quay. Soon after our arrival we noticed that the water level had dropped some 60cm very quickly and then rose again equally quickly. This ‘seiche’ effect continued for about an hour and caused standing waves in the harbour entrance and swirling currents in the harbour, which caused big problems for a large Austrian ketch trying to berth alongside us.  For the mornings of 25th and 26th the wind was strong and gusty from the NE. On the 26th the harbour attendant asked Kathleen where we were going next. When told that we were going back to Rab he told us “you cannot go to Rab, this is not wind, this is Bora”. However we had to wait in any case for the quayside water supply to come on again and by lunchtime the wind had eased considerably, so the regular crew sailed the 24M back to Rab. My foot being much better, we wanted to see the town and, coincidentally, be in Rab for the 27th, the last day of the summer festival. (It was also the saint’s day for Sveti Kristoforo!) All good tourist fun with actors in medieval costume all over the town, a medieval crafts fair, a crossbow shooting competition and all rounded off with a firework display.

On 28 July we left Rab and motored down part of the Velebitski Kanal. The entry in the pilot book for this narrow strip of sea between the mainland and the islands of Krk, Rab and Pag is subtitled “O Place of Ill Repute” This is because of the sudden onset and violence of the ‘Bora’, plus the lack of many places of shelter. This wind in the winter months can be very severe and the NE side of Pag is just naked rock with no vegetation to be seen. On the other side the steep slopes of the Velebitski mountains drop straight into the sea. However we had almost no wind at all and very high temperatures, for us it was the hottest day of the summer. During that afternoon it was 47°C in the shade on deck, and we recorded 39.4°C below deck. After 30M we tied up to the town quay at Pag town. However a local boatman told us that a strong NW was forecast and that the quay would become very uncomfortable at best. We were not entirely sure whether this was really friendly advice or whether he wanted our space on the quay for his ‘mate’. However, not fancying even a chance of having to move at 2 or 3am, we motored 10M to the N end of the Paski Zaliev and anchored very carefully. By 0230 the following morning we had a strong north-easterly, not NW, with big gusts, ie., a classic Bora. We had plenty of space and a lot of chain down in only 5m of water so we happily stayed put.

On 29/30 July, from Paski Zaliev we went on down the Velebitski Kanal and round the S end of the island of Pag, under the bridge that links Pag to the mainland. To begin with we sailed with the staysail and a reefed main because the wind was still very gusty and this combination enabled us to keep going close hauled without being regularly laid flat by the gusts. With an overnight stop at Uvala Jasenevo we went on to the city of Zadar covering a total of 60M. The forecast for pm on the 30th was warning of a strong NE with 60kt gusts!, perhaps the Bora again?  Either this was a false alarm or we were so cocooned at the back of Zadar Marina that we didn‘t notice.

Over 1/2 August we sailed from Zadar to Zaliev Pantera on the island of Dugi Otok with an overnight stop at Uvala Vrulje, covering 29M.We stayed put for the 3rd as the forecast was once again rather poor, again the harbour collector called it the Bora. The 4th was better and we had a 35M spinnaker run down the length of Dugi Otok to Telascica Bay, which is a very long, indented and very beautiful inlet and the northern gateway to the Kornati Islands. These last 3 anchorages were all managed, in the sense that they have laid moorings for which a fee is charged.

We left Telascica on the 6 August and sailed down though the Kornati islands. These are a National Park and visiting yachts must buy a permit which for us cost £20 for 24hrs. There are 86 islands in the park, plus another 60 or so in the region, which are starkly beautiful, rugged, and mostly uninhabited limestone islands set in clear blue water. The pilot book quotes George Bernard Shaw as once saying:- “On the last day of the Creation, God desired to crown His work, and thus created the Kornati Islands out of tears, stars and breath“. We agreed that the area is unique and a wonderful cruising area but now almost too popular, It would be more dramatic early and late in the season.

With an overnight stop in the park at Uvala Lopatica, we went on to an anchorage at the island of Kakan, covering a total of 30M. Here we decided to eat at a basic bar/eatery. This proved to be memorable because it took about 1½ hours between ordering and food arriving at the table. This was not because they were very busy, besides us the only other diners were an Italian family, but because we had to wait for the barbecue to get going, and for most of the food to be brought across from the next island by RIB.

From Kakan we went a short 8M to a marina at Vodice, mainly to do the laundry, shop and fill the water tank. Whilst in this package holiday town we went by local bus to the old city of Sibenik. On the outside of Sibenik Cathedral there some 80 carved heads, it is said, of those citizens too mean to contribute to its construction!

The chores accomplished we left Vodice on 10 August for Otok Vis, an island that we visited twice in 2006. The weather was threatening and for much of the day we had thunderstorms in sight but fortunately never actually over us. Also as the trough passed away to the south, the wind veered about 270°, from SE to NE. We arrived in Luka Vis at 1800 having covered 56M. We had escaped the thunderstorms whilst out at sea but at 1930 an evil mass of purple and black cloud came pouring over the spine of the island and within minutes we had torrential rain, large hailstones, (painful!), and a lot of wind. The anchor dragged and very soon we had moved from 11m to over 20m. In poor visibility we had to motor to try to stand still, and in the midst all of the chaos we snagged another yacht’s anchor chain. Fortunately we were quickly able to get a trip line onto our anchor and free ourselves and leave the other yacht secure. By the time we were re-anchored and the storm was passing we were both thoroughly cold and wet.

On the 11th in very light winds we mostly motored the 43M to Skrivena Luka, on the island of Lastovo, an anchorage that we thought would be sufficiently light pollution free to enable us to see the Perseid Shower of meteorites on the 12th and 13th.  We saw a few but nothing like the display that we had seen some years ago off the Portuguese coast. More shore lights than we had expected, plus all the anchor lights did not help. We had marked our anchor with an anchor buoy which can be useful in discouraging other yachts from trying to anchor too close. However, in the small hours of the 12th, we were woken by a feeling that all was not well. We were lying broadside on to the light wind and at 90° to all the other boats. The towing bridle for the dinghy had caught the anchor buoy so at 0300 I was in the dinghy freeing the buoy. The following night, at about the same unpleasant time, we were woken by a loud bang. We were both up and on deck faster than ever before, fearing that we had dragged and hit another boat or a rock. In fact, a Croatian yacht had backed into us whilst trying to anchor in the dark. We were showing an anchor light but they were trying to pick their way between the many anchored boats with only a small torch!. However, the following morning they motored across to apologise and to see if there was any damage. We had sustained very minor abrasion of the gel coat and we settled amicably on a small amount of compensation.

Over the 14-16 August we visited Trstenik,a small holiday village and harbour on the Peljesac peninsula, Uvala Saplunara at the southern tip of Miljet island, and on to Broce which is a delightful spot in the Stonski Kasnal; a total of 69M. On the first two of these days we were sailing in light conditions but with the kite up. The small medieval fortified town of Ston at the head of the long inlet is now beginning to recover from the double misfortune of being heavily shelled during the 1992/3 civil war and then hit by an earthquake in 1996. The town has impressive fortifications that stretch across the neck of the Peljesac peninsula to its twin Mali Ston. The anchorage at Broce has wooded slopes into peaceful water, excellent holding, easy depths for anchoring and few other boats. When I went swimming early in the morning I felt almost ashamed to disturb the mirror-like surface of the water. Broce used to be a small port for the loading of the sea salt still made at Ston, but is now becoming a ghost village with about 50° of the houses now derelict.

From the peace of Broce we headed for the relative bustle of Dubrovnik marina to meet up with son Richard and his partner Ben. We were in no hurry and made an overnight stop at Slano, a once attractive small town that was almost completely destroyed in the civil war. We arrived at Dubrovnik on 19 August having sailed 30M.

With the crew now four, and all the paperwork and procedures respected, we left Dubrovnik marina on 22 August and headed 38M NW to an old favourite - Polace , a wonderful anchorage in the national park at the northern end of the island of Miljet. With a brisk SE we had a swift downwind sail, but the moderate and rather confused sea and the resulting motion of the boat was not fun for some members of the crew. Whilst anchored at Polace we were visited by the harbour authorities and the port police who seemed to be doing spot checks on paperwork. They checked the registration, insurance, cruising permit, skipper’s licence and crew list, and wrote copious notes before moving on to the next yacht.

After a day in the national park, on the 25th we headed for Korcula, and with the wind now in the west we enjoyed a fetch towards the Korcula Channel, the narrow gap between Korcula island and the Pelesjac peninsula. When we reached the gap, we found that the funnelling of the wind was giving us a F6 NW, ie. headwind! We first tried the anchorage by the monastery at Badjia island but this became increasingly uncomfortable and another yacht nearby was dragging, so we moved to Uvala Luka which is close to Korcula town and is much more sheltered. The total distance run was 22M.

The following day, with the wind still a brisk NW we motored up the Korcula Channel trying to avoid the windsurfers who were flashing to and fro across the narrow waters and revelling in the strong wind. After a lunch-time stop at anchor we turned about and rushed SE with various sail combinations. This season we have made more use of the staysail set on the inner forestay, either with a reefed main, or with the full main and the genoa. After  an overnight stop at Trstenik we went back to Broce on the Stonski Kanal on the 26 August, having sailed quickly a total of 51M.

On 27 August we mostly motored the 23M back to Dubrovnik marina for Richard and Ben’s flight home.

It was time for us to be heading for our home base in Greece, so on 28 August we went to Gruz, the main port for Dubrovnik, to jump through the official hoops before our departure from Croatia. First the Port Police, then the Harbour-master, Port Police again and finally the Customs. Each time the officials were formal to begin with but it was soon handshakes and “please come back next year”. We had an easy crossing of 144M to Brindisi but mostly under engine as the wind was light and generally on the nose. We were at sea for just over 24hrs but with 21 of these under engine.

The last stage of our run SE to Preveza would be some 200M, but on 30 August we had a moderate SE wind. The weather outlook from both the Italian and American forecasters, (the latter via GRIB), was for a these south-easterlies to continue for about another day, then become variable and finally to go NW. A classic pattern for the passage of a trough . So we stayed in Brindisi for the 30th and monitored the forecasts. The problem was that the forecasts were predicting that after a day of NW4 the wind could increase to NW5/6 with a moderate, and in places rough, sea. We had to pass SE diagonally across the Strait of Otranto, probably the windiest and roughest bit of the Adriatic. We decided to leave Brindisi on 31 August, to put up with the headwind and variables for a while and then catch the beginning of the north-westerlies to push us back to Preveza.

So at 0845 on 31 Aug we left Brindisi and motored SE. However the wind stayed firmly in the SE and the sea was choppy, making for uncomfortable and slow going. By soon after lunch-time we had decided to divert to Otranto for the night. We had only covered 49M.

The night of 31/1st was calm, (the variable patch?), and rather foggy, by late evening we could not see the harbour mole light which was only some 100m away. By the morning we had a NE wind, and the swell rolling into the harbour. We set sail at 0800 and soon we had NE5 and a moderate sea. We made a good speed for hour after hour on a broad reach with only the genoa set. At times the sea was rougher and the waves coming up behind us were impressive. None broke into the cockpit although several were very close to doing so. The wind gradually backed to N but kept going until the small hours of the 2 September when we were inside the shelter of Corfu and Paxos islands. We then motored the remaining miles to our home base of Preveza and anchored up at 0800 on the 2 September having sailed 150M from Otranto in 24hrs. We stayed on the anchorage until 6 September when Kabardar was lifted out for the winter.

Over our 3 month’s cruising we covered 1830M and over 2 seasons we have seen a lot of the east coast of Italy and of the Croatian coast and islands. Venice was a particular highlight as were the northern and central Dalmatian coast and islands.

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