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2017 Cruise

Saturday 3rd June  Finally Leaving Preveza!

It seems a long time since we flew out from the UK on 7th May but at last we are on our way.

We were 3 weeks in the yard, with the major task being to fit new instruments.  Then various jobs to keep Kabardar and us happy.  The new sprayhood  (ordered last October) was finally fitted.  Similarly the new spray dodgers but despite many efforts the people making it never seemed to get a handle on what exactly we wanted and so they are not yet quite right but that is something to sort out later.

Launch date was last Monday, all went well and we headed into the Amvrakikos Gulf for a couple of days to check that all was well.  A few minor issues were quickly sorted and then the real problems emerged!  Firstly, the outboard turned out to be as good as dead, It has had a few life prolonging treatments in recent years but now it was the end of the line.  The other problem was a leak in the cooling system of Kabardar’s engine.  So, back to Preveza to source a new outboard. Fortunately exactly what we wanted was in stock and we now have a shiny new outboard fully compliant with EU emission regulations, even if the price was probably a little high.  We then anchored off Preveza town and Chris set about sorting out the cooling system leak, and succeeded.

So, finally, we left Preveza yesterday morning and in calm, windless conditions motored up to Ormos Ayiou Ioannou - a very scenic bay with little beach development and passed a peaceful night with only 3 other yachts anchored with us.

This morning, a grey windless day, we set off an again motored the entire distance across to Petriti on the southern end of Crete.  There hasn’t even been a hint of the usual breeze from the NW this afternoon.

Saturday 10th June  Next stop Italy

The forecasts were consistently showing that Thursday and Friday would be very windy in the Southern Adriatic and Northern Ionian so we decided to stay on Corfu for a few days and jump across to Italy on Saturday and Sunday.

We stayed a couple of days in Petriti which is a pleasant, fairly low key resort on the southern end of Corfu.  The anchorage was peaceful except for Sunday night when the week’s batch of charterers was released from Gouvia Marina raising the commotion level somewhat.  All peaceful again the next night.  Then it was on to Gouvia Marina for a washing/shopping/tank topping up stop.  Not wishing to stay in a Marina any longer that necessary we left and spent the next couple of days anchored in the bay at Kalami, towards the north end of Corfu.  Kalami is another pleasant place and a relatively up market resort, although not very Greek.  It was once the home of Lawrence Durrell, a fact which prompted Chris to download Gerald Durrell’s A Corfu Triology.

There had been a yacht race from Brindisi down to Corfu last week and a few of the entrants came into Kalami for a lunch stop on Thursday and provided much entertainment with their anchoring techniques and for 1 yacht, an anchoring drama they really wouldn’t have wanted.  During the afternoon the wind changed direction and strengthened and while the crew of a particular yacht were all ashore in the taverna, their yacht badly dragged it’s anchor colliding into another anchored yacht, anchor chains got twisted together and they drifted together!  Thankfully away from us!  A yacht near us sounded a siren to try and alert the crew who then had to swim (they had been racing, so no dinghy) back to their yacht which was by this time rapidly drifting away from them.  Eventually, they did get control and manage to separate the 2 chains and no damage seemed to have been done.

The forecasts proved accurate and so this morning we came to the island of Erikoussa, north of Corfu.  There was very little wind and so we sailed slowly for a while before resorting to the engine.  Erikoussa is a strange place, but a useful stopover point en route to Italy where we plan to head tomorrow.

Friday 16th June  Brindisi to Trani

Plan A was to leave Erikoussa on Sunday morning and head for Otranto, but 5 miles out from the island it was apparent that the sea which had been kicked up by the previous days of wind was going to make it rather less comfortable than we would like, so we turned round and anchored again at Erikoussa to formulate Plan B.  Looking at the forecasts of the wind and sea state we decided that the best plan would be to set out late in the evening aiming to do the 90 miles to Brindisi.  Consequently, we left Erikoussa just before midnight.  There was still a lumpy, left over sea which persisted through the night and then, thankfully, calmed down.  Unfortunately there was very little wind, but overall an uneventful passage.

We’ve stopped at Brindisi before on passage either north or south and usually anchored outside the marina but have never seen the town, so we decided to stay 2 nights in the marina and have a look at the town.  That proved to be a day of mixed fortunes.  Brindisi itself is a fairly unexceptional  town, although the waterfront is quite pleasant.  One of our objectives had been to reinvigorate our TIM USB internet stick.  This failed. To return to the marina (which is quite a way out of the town) we waited almost an hour for the bus, having failed to spot that there was a gap in the usual half hourly timetable.  Then on the way back, the bus limped to a halt and as the driver said , ‘autobus kaput’, but another bus would be sent and he suggested we go and wait in the shade.  We anticipated another long wait, but no, within 5 minutes, a replacement vehicle arrived and we were again on our way.  The good part of the day was having an excellent late lunch at the restaurant at the marina where we had the best bottle of wine since leaving the UK!

Leaving Brindisi on Wednesday we made the 50 mile trip northwest to Moli di Bari.  The sea was calm but again there was no wind!  We anchored for the night inside the fishing harbour at Mola di Bari which considering it was a fishing harbour turned out to be a calm night.  On again on Thursday for the 30 miles up to Trani.  We had quite bizarre winds for the trip. Initially we had a good sailing breeze from the NE, then just before Bari it strengthened to the point where we reefed the genoa, then it gradually subsided to the point where we were once more back to the engine.  We are now tied up in the Darsena Communale in Trani.  The town seems to be a quite delightful place.  And a visit to the TIM shop has got our USB stick going again!

Thursday 22nd June  On to Croatia

The planned 2 nights turned into 5 when 2 days of strong NE winds blew across the Adriatic and kept us in Trani until they and the sea had calmed down.  It wasn’t too much of a hardship though, as Trani is an interesting old town with many old churches and grand palazzi, not to mention an impressive cathedral and a castle. Unfortunately the cathedral tower was clad with scaffolding and so wasn’t looking it’s best!  The harbour is right in the old part of the town so we had easy access to it and got to know our way round quite well.

The Castle Looking across the harbour

Watching the forecasts, particularly for when the sea state would be calming, we decided to leave Trani around midday on Tuesday and head overnight to Croatia and check into the country on Lastovo Island, the southernmost of the Croatian islands.  Early on in the trip we managed to have a good sail up wind against the remaining NE, not quite making the 11° course we would have liked, but not too far off.  Unfortunately, this only lasted for about 1 ½ hours.  The night that followed was a good one for stargazing, a good one for getting some sleep when off watch but a bad one for sailing!  The forecasts were for light winds so we allowed plenty of time for the 90 mile trip with time to sail slowly rather then motor.  With never more than a few knots of wind, sailing was impossible so it was a slow motor instead, aiming to arrive at Ubli after sunrise.

We had heard rumours of new requirements for entering Croatia, but managed to find out nothing about them.  We now suspect this may have been a case of Chinese Whispers spreading through the boat world as we had a speedy, efficient check in yesterday morning  and weren’t asked for any documents we didn’t have.

Now we are spending a couple of days at anchor in Scrivena Luka on Lastovo.

Scrivena Luka, Lastovo

Monday 26th June   A perfectly timed thunderstorm

On Saturday, after 3 days on the island of Lastovo, we sailed slowly north west to anchor for the night on the western end of the island of Korcula. Conditions had been settled and calm which meant very light winds and very peaceful nights at anchor.  The sort of nights when you wake up in the morning and wonder if you are actually on a boat!  Sunday was a good day on the water.  With a good breeze on the beam we had an excellent sail NW to the island of Vis and managed the whole 22 miles without using the engine which has been a bit unusual this trip.  We anchored for the night in a bay just a bit north of Vis town.

A common feature of the Adriatic weather forecasts in the summer is the promise of isolated sudden thunderstorms.  This had not figured so far during our visit, but on Sunday it was there.  By their very nature isolated thunderstorms will not happen everywhere and the last time we were in this part of the world we often found ourselves sailing along watching the lightning, seemingly all around us but nothing where we were.  Sunday evening we settled down in the cockpit with a glass of red to watch an episode of Line of Duty.  Within a minute of the end we became aware of lightning around us and then the rush of wind causing Kabardar to turn through 180°.  Fortunately, just before it got really wild and wet we had finished watching the episode and put the laptop and cushions away.  As a precautionary measure we had the engine running for a while, but our anchor reset after the turn and held.  Others weren’t so lucky.  Once the storm passed everything calmed down and we had another peaceful night.

This morning we came round the corner to Vis town and tied up to one of the dozens of mooring buoys now provided for visiting yachts.  It is quite staggering how many boats are in here this evening and amazing just how many charter boats there are.  Not exactly our cup of tea.

Saturday 1st July  There are good days and bad days

We left Vis last Tuesday and with 10 - 14 knots (apparent) from the SE had a good sail for the 20 miles up to the SW corner of the island of Brac.  Winds were forecast to stay in the SE for a couple of days so we picked what we thought was a good little corner off the main bay on the approach to Milna and tucked ourselves in.  All seemed OK until at around 11pm when the wind picked up and the rocks we had our back to seemed a little too close for comfort and we decided we were a bit too tucked in!  So we moved a little further out to give ourselves a bit more swinging room.  Apart from a bit of grumbling from the anchor chain it was a reasonably comfortable night.  The winds for Wednesday night were forecast to peak at approx. 30 knots at around midnight so in the interests of a good night’s sleep we moved into the marina at Milna for 24 hours.  It was really good to stir at whatever time it was, hear the wind and go back to sleep not needing to worry about the anchor.  We also took advantage of the convenient, if a bit expensive, laundry services.  We stayed just one night in the marina and then moved out to anchor in the bay.

Milna has a very sheltered harbour with a long disused sardine processing plant and it is easy to imagine what it was like as a fishing port many years ago. Then a marina was built.  Now there are 3 marinas and it is often hard to see the town for masts!

The biggest change since we were last in this area is the huge growth in the number of charter boats.  The ones which seem particularly numerous are big catamarans, not especially long, but tall and wide.  Why?  It would appear from a conversation with the skipper of one and the marina staff that they are used as little more than mobile swimming platforms and spend more time stopped than moving!  Sailing performance doesn’t seem to come into it.

The disorderley queue for the fuel berth, Milna

The last time we set off to go eastwards along the north cost of Brac was in 2006 and we were defeated by increasing head winds, seas and the threat of a thunderstorm which caused us to retreat to the shelter of Milna.  On Friday we set out on the same passage.  We hadn’t got far when it became apparent that we would spend the rest of the day motoring against the wind and sea, nothing particularly wild but did we really want to do this?  No!  So about turn, sails up and go the other way.  It wasn’t to be.  Before long the wind was coming from ahead and we found ourselves motoring into it yet again!  Then, a much bigger problem occurred.  The alarm indicating an unhappy engine was bleeping and something was leaking into the bilge.  So, about turn again, wind behind us, sails up and engine off.  We sailed the couple of miles back towards Milna, dropped the anchor just outside the channel leading to the town for Chris to spend a happy afternoon investigating.  Fortunately It turned out to be a fairly simple thing to fix - a hose on the raw cooling water intake had come unclipped.

The wind was forecast to change round during the night to NW but not a lot of it.  We decided we would be OK where we were for the night.  Bad decision!  The change happened much earlier than forecast and we started bobbing very nicely so decided to move.  We then found ourselves back in the same corner that we had left that morning having spent the entire day moving about but getting nowhere!  The shelter was not perfect but a lot better than where we had been.  Then the wind piped up even more and it got quite bouncy.  We thought about moving but decided that the bouncing wasn’t too bad and we would stay put and take turns to anchor watch.  By around 3.30am things were much calmer in our little corner and the biggest hazard to us was another yacht looking to anchor in the same patch we were in.  Fortunately, they went further out.

Saturday was attempt 2 at leaving Milna but we decided not to make attempt 3 at going north about Brac.  It was a grey, overcast day and with disappointingly light winds from the NW and a lumpy sea we motored the 10 miles south towards the western tip of Hvar.  Once past Hvar, the wind increased and we were able to sail very nicely, with the wind behind and just the genoa up, towards Korcula.  By mid afternoon we still had a good wind and so decided to go 10 miles further than planned and anchor for the night in a large bay at the northern end of the Peljesac Peninsula.  It is completely sheltered in here and the water is flat.

Saturday 8th July  And now Montenegro

When we left our nice sheltered anchorage at Loviste last Sunday morning we were faced with a very choppy sea and a brisk wind from the NW.  We were only planning to go a very short distance (around 8nm) to Korcula town so we bashed against this for about a mile to get round the headland until we were able to turn SE.  Then we had a roly poly sail with the genoa reefed, down to the town.  Wanting to visit the town we went into the marina which is right next to the old town. That evening turned out to be quite exciting when another of the Adriatic’s thunderstorms came.  We didn’t get any rain but did get the wind and dramatic skies. We were bows to on the inside of the outermost pontoon (also the breakwater) and had spray coming right over the boat into the cockpit.  That, however, was nothing compared too the fate of two boats who had been put on the outside as there was no more space inside the marina proper.  One of them was being tossed about so much that they decided to try and leave but then couldn’t make any progress against the sea and were tossed back onto the bows of another yacht.  A very expensive sounding crash was heard!

Stormy skies at Korcula

After a day looking round the town we left Korcula to sail the 33 miles SE to the Stonski Kanal.  The wind was still in the NW and the sea was still choppy so we rolled SE at great speed and then anchored for the night near Broce in the Stonski Kanal.  It took us 3 attempts to get the anchor dug in but once in it was a very peaceful night.

When we left Broce on Wednesday to go to Cavtat, high pressure had established itself which meant that winds were down, the temperature was up and the sea was flatter, so it was a day of motoring.  We went to Cavtat because it the most southerly place that we could checkout of Croatia.  In order to check out (or in) the boat must be berthed on the Customs Quay, which is usually fenced off with access only to the Customs, Port Police etc..  Cavtat is a summer only port of entry and so they have devised a kind of pop-up Customs Quay which is nowhere near any of the officials one needs to see and does not in any way control access ashore.  We did ask the Harbour Master if it was absolutely necessary to move Kabardar and he said yes, it was - the Customs Quay is the border.  We played the game but it all seemed a bit bizarre.

Mist forming at sunset, Cavtat

Wednesday 12th July  A boat trip and a very long road trip

We spent a day on Kabardar pottering round the Bay of Kotor.  It is a quite dramatic area with high land rising steeply all around.  There is a lot of development around the shores which in the longer term will not improve it.  Being basically inland the temperature was very high at 35-40°C with virtually no wind.

The Bay of Kotor

On Tuesday we went on a trip inland in a mini bus in the company of 6 Russians.  Only 1 of them had any significant English and we speak no Russian. Fortunately, our guide spoke both English and Russian although he claimed not to speak Russian very well, but even so, he seemed to manage.

It was a very long day.  We started early and got back very late having been as far north as the Durmitor National Park near the border with Bosnia and having covered around 450 kms during the day!  We saw mountains, rivers, canyons churches, a monastery and a beautiful lake, far more than we would have managed in 3 days with a hire car!  Looking at the suggested itineraries in Lonely Planet we have almost done them all!  Overall impression of the country is that it is mountainous and very green and would be well worth a longer visit.  The roads were windy and busy.  5000 Chinese workers are currently employed in the construction of a new road to take traffic from the port at Bar up to the border with Serbia.  The ‘village’ of huts built to house them is a very similar block pattern to that of some of the coal mining villages in China.

A good day out.

Friday 14th July  From the sublime to Marina Bar and the Bora!

When we first arrived in Montenegro we went into Porto Montenegro at Tivat to check in.  Porto Montenegro is a smart Marina Village development with very upmarket shops and restaurants.  The facilities are excellent and the marina side of things has clearly been set up to cater for a large number of super yachts.  We now find ourselves in Bar Marina where we will checkout of Montenegro. The shambolic Bar Marina is the complete opposite of Porto Montenegro, it is functional but has a very down at heel feel to it - almost as far away from the super yacht world as it’s possible to be.

On the way south from the Bay of Kotor we stopped for 1 night at anchor at Sveti Stefan, the once glamorous almost island hotel development from the days of Yugoslav era.

Looking down on the coast towards Sveti Stefan Sveti Stefan

This proved a big disappointment for Chris who way back in 1962 was on a camping holiday with friends and intended to get down to Sveti Stefan but didn’t quite make it.  The 1962 image in Chris’s mind did not quite match the 2017 reality, mainly because of all the holiday development which has taken place ashore and the jet skis manically charging about and disturbing the peace.

And now the Bora!  This is a wind from the NE which starts quite suddenly and can blow quite strongly, sometimes for days on end.  Late yesterday evening it started and blew all night.  It’s stopped now and we had hoped to leave Montenegro today and head for Greece but the weather forecasts are showing strong northwesterlies with roughish seas both over towards Italy and south near Corfu.  Whichever way we went, across to Italy or direct to Corfu, we would meet it.  So we have decided to stay in Bar and play the tourist.  Unfortunately, according to one of the staff here, last night’s Bora was not a big one but there will be a big one blowing on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.  This is confirmed by the forecasts we have been looking at so we may be here a few days yet!

Dealing with officials is always interesting.  Because we are not leaving today, we needed to extend the time on our vignette.  The Harbour Master here apparently can’t take card payments and the fee of €28 he said should be paid at a bank, but the banks are closed today as it is a holiday.  But never mind, for an extra €4 he would take it in cash to bank later!

Sunday 23rd July  Heading back South

We didn’t manage to leave Bar until last Tuesday!  It was an OK place to be stuck though - the marina is rather scruffy but the staff are friendly and always seem to have a cheery word, although very little English.  Unfortunately, there is very little of interest to see in or near Bar.  The promised Bora arrived during the Saturday evening and blew quite vigorously throughout the night, all through Sunday and then much stronger again in the small hours of Monday morning.  Strange how it was at it’s wildest during the night when we were trying to sleep!  During Monday it all calmed down and consequently there was a mass exodus from the Marina on Tuesday morning.

Having dealt with the officials we were away soon after 9am to head 150 miles south to Erikousa island.  With a nice, steady breeze from the NW we had a good sail all day until sunset.  Then the wind died as well as the sun so it was motoring again.   At first during the night there was a nasty lumpy sea left over from the previous days winds but this gradually calmed.  There were some other vessels about but not a large number and we came upon no fishing boats whose movements are sometimes quite unfathomable.  So it was an uneventful trip and we anchored off Erikousa at around 10am.

Thursday morning we moved on south again to anchor off Petriti on the southern end of Corfu.  No wind so a 40 mile motor.

Friday we debated whether to make Preveza (55 miles) in 1 trip or break it into 2.  We decided on the former.  It was, again, very calm so we played Scrabble as we went until eventually the wind did come and so we managed to sail for the last couple of hours  finally anchoring off Preveza town at around 7pm.

After a day of reprovisioning and relaxing we left this morning, first stop being the fuel berth.  That proved an interesting time.  There was a very strong current pushing us off and it was difficult to get close enough to throw a line ashore  Eventually we did mange to get 3 lines ashore but even with 3 people pulling it took some time to get properly tied up.  No problem getting off though!  We have come down through the Lefkas Canal to Lefkas town.  We were quite surprised to see that, at last, the northern end of the canal is now properly buoyed - I guess that’ll be an end to ex fishermen trying to make a bit of money freeing boats who had gone aground!

We are in crowded waters now and have anchored off Lefkas town in a place where anchoring is apparently forbidden but there are at least a dozen boats here! It’s also very warm - water temperature here is 27°C

Friday 4th August  Greek Ionian

Since the last update we’ve been pottering around the Greek Ionian Islands.  Although we have passed through them a few times going to/from Preveza, it was in 2008 that we last spent time amongst them.  The Lefkas canal is now fully buoyed along it’s whole length and has been dredged and widened.  Gone are the sticks marking the canal edge which were often indistinguishable from dead tree bits, gone is much of the detritus left from small fishing boat activity.  Somehow it’s all got a bit clinical.

The islands provide a beautiful sailing area and it’s easy to see why it’s so popular.  Unfortunately, the number of boats on the water provides for rather crowded anchorages but it is still possible to find some less busy places.  And then there’s the mystery of the wind.  It doesn’t often get particularly wild amongst the islands and it’s nearly always calm in the morning with wind in the afternoon.  The exact strength and direction will depend on what is happening out in the Ionion Sea proper, and of course in the gaps between islands and round the ends of islands there may well be more wind.  The Greek sailing forecast gives a good picture of where the very local higher winds are to be found and so one can avoid them or seek them out according to what one wants.  We spent a day at anchor off Vassiliki where it’s always windy, it is a major sail boarding centre and we were entertained by dozens of sail boarders.  Even on a ‘light wind’ day gusts down the bay were up to F5/6 by late afternoon.  By contrast, in the morning calm, the less experienced people were out - a very sedate spectacle compared to the more extreme antics of the afternoon before.

We came back up to Preveza on Wednesday and first stop was the boat yard quay to fill up the water tank.  While there we took the opportunity to get a couple of loads of washing through the machines.  By 2pm the afternoon wind had really got going and we were being pushed sideways with an increasingly choppy sea coming at us.  Knowing that the water was very shallow and that we would have little room for manoeuvre if it got much worse we decided to leave and head across the water and anchor off the town.  It took a bit of time to get the anchor out but once out off we set,  until we came to an abrupt halt with the sounder showing 1.1m.  Fortunately it is all very soft and muddy and driving astern slowly got us off.

So now we are spending the weekend getting shopping done and sorting out the inside of the boat to get ready for Nathalie, Sam and Bea who arrive on Monday for a week.

Tuesday 15th August  Finally

Nathalie, Sam and Bea arrived as planned last Monday and we spent a pleasant week doing some more pottering around the Ionian Islands.  The only things really spoiling the week being the lack of wind which meant too much motoring, and last Tuesday when we were actually managing to sail (slowly!) We were hit from behind by a yacht motoring and not watching what was going on.

It has also been very hot, too hot and not helped by the high humidity.

Our visitors left for an early flight on Monday morning and Kabardar was then lifted out having covered a total of 1190 nm this season.  It’s still much too hot but we look forward to the cooler UK weather tomorrow!

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