Fresh Water Sailing

Krka is one of the highlights of our sailing trip to Croatia. I always thought it was on an island as you always see it in Croatian cruising guides but in fact its quite a way inland.

13344809_10205842984386696_5271675735809263024_n After a motor sail up from Split, we turned right into a interesting channel that takes you into a large inland bay, with the major town of Sibernik in front of you. We then turned left into the impressive Krka river. We passed mussel farms on each side, as we slid under a very high traffic bridge, before entering a stunning river gorge with steep cliffs either side. We burst out into a large lake that was half fresh and half salt. We motored across the lake for 1.5nm before re-entering the fresh water river. Another 5nm later we passed under a tall bridge, before anchoring off Skradin, a cute little town where all the boats leave to go up to the Krka falls. 13325501_10205840403602178_9186686154278776428_nIt was a delightful anchorage in about 7m of water, in amongst the reed banks, with a steady current of fresh water flowing through. Great to have a fresh water flush – toilets as well as the boat, dingy and genset motors. We also took the opportunity to clean our dirty bottom, hoping that whatever was growing down there wouldn’t like the change in salinity.

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We sat back and enjoyed watching the white swans, with their cygnets in tow, come up to the boat looking for a feed. The scenery was stunning and the sunset to die for.

We put the dingy in and explored the pretty little riverside town, with its combination of stone and brightly painted houses. There’s a reasonable marina there, but we liked our free anchorage. Lots of cutesy restaurants and touristy shops. We walked up to the old castle ruins to get some great views down to the town and the surrounding forest.

Next day it was off to the famous Krka Falls. You can’t take your dingy up there, you have to take a tourist boat, the price of which is all wrapped up into the National Park entrance fee. So off we went in someone else’s boat for a change.

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13330895_10205842986186741_843779775203261118_nWe disembarked and walked up to the main falls, which are called Skradinski Buk, considered to be one of the most beautiful calcium carbonate waterfalls in Europe. And who am I to disagree. At the bottom of the falls is a massive clear natural pool where you can swim. Behind this pool is 17 different waterfalls stretching for 800m, falling over 50m. We wandered around a series of pleasant paths winding their way around these waterfalls and fish filled pools. We came across remnants of Tesla’s hydro-electric power plant, the second in the world to dish out AC power to Sibernick (Tesla is Croatian).

13342973_10205842986106739_1099408022636451063_nThen we hopped on another boat and headed further up the river to Visovac island with an old Franciscan monastery on it. It was founded way back in the 14th Century and in 1445 harboured Franciscan monks from Bosnia fleeing the Ottoman Empire. We spent a very pleasant 30 minutes wandering around the small museum, the church and the grounds.

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National Park done (not really as there’s a whole other set of falls that we didn’t visit) we headed back on the Park boat to get back to La Mischief. The rest of the afternoon was spent swimming and relaxing, watching the wildlife and the scenery. Cruising at its best.

Next morning it was up early and off to Zadar, stopping along the way to buy some fresh mussels (5KG) of course.

Hvar is a very pleasant spot

Hvar is a very pleasant spot.

It seems to attract more than its fair share of celebrities…..

Along with us of course.

13268598_10205840469123816_390956440944016902_o 13260035_10205829260043596_5639279868960662801_n  We pulled up a mooring next to the wall and then took a couple of long lines back to the wall at the back of the boat. A nice little arrangement that allowed us to swim off the back of the boat. Cost us 160 kunas ($80AUD) for the privilege.

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We took the dingy to shore and wandered around the boardwalk and into the old town. Lots of intriguing narrow laneways with bars and restaurants spilling into the harbour surroundings. 13316952_10205829262963669_6936745552338655209_o

Next morning we followed the boardwalk around the other way, past more bars and restaurants with some hotels thrown in for good measure, before heading up to the castle, with its spectacular views overlooking the harbour.

13305212_10205837593211920_5058992416945157295_oThe castle was in pretty good nick and was good to wander through but the highlight was the views looking down on the harbor and the town. Photos taken, it was back to the boat for swim and then off to Split.

Split is a bit problematic when it comes to getting a berth. Cant really anchor there and the town wall is as expensive as the marina as we found out. The town itself is pretty nice with some a great Roman palace, impressive wall and some nice churches and Roman ruins but I wouldn’t stress if you missed it.

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We spent an afternoon and evening there before leaving early for Krka.

Lunch Date at the Uncanin Residence

With Dubrovnick done, it was time to head to Korkula to see Rade and Marinka and their new addition (baby, not house). We had a great time with Rade 3 years ago and unfortunately this time he was up to his ears with work, house and new baby so he couldn’t come sailing with us this time.

13239432_10205821348885822_6955233961731489531_nWe stopped off in Mljet National Park on the way to Korkula, a nice anchorage off a small village.

Next morning, we set off early to Zavalatica, Rade’s Village on Korcula, as we needed to get there by lunchtime.

Talk about good timing, it was a National Holiday in Croatia and Rade had the day off. Perfect planning – of course.

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Once again the wind was on our nose so we motored over in light winds. We pulled up at the dock in…. and went for a quick swim off the back of the boat in beautiful clear water.

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Lunch was brilliant. Marinko (Marinka’s Dad) had been slow cooking the meat all morning and it was particularly delicious. Especially when washed down with Rade’s Posip wine, 12 litres of which found its way onto La Mischief , along with some Olive Oil. Thanks Rade.

After lunch, Marinko drove us to Korkula Town, where we had a walk around the city walls, stopping for a drink overlooking the Adriatic Sea.

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We finished off a brilliant day with a few (more) drinks on La Mischief.

13254928_10205821854818470_4346011200471595833_oNext day, we were off to Hvar.

Those Mad Austrian Charterers Strike Again

Don’t get me wrong – I like Austrians. And I even like Austrians on charter boats. But it appears only when safely at anchor – away from La Mischief. We had a great night 3 years ago in Vis, with a whole group of them, drinking long into the night on the deck of La Mischief. But not so much fun this time in a confined harbour in 40kts. But I’m getting ahead of myself….  13227666_10205821333405435_7217026054497723030_o We left Kortor at 8am after successfully checking out of Montenegro, heading for Cavtat in Croatia. The winds did their usual in the fjordland of Kotor, going from 0 to lots. We make it out into the open sea to find a beautiful following breeze. Now that makes a change. We flew up the coast and nearly got to Cavtat before we needed a reef. We decided to take the sails down instead of reefing as we were close enough.

We had been to Cavtat before so we knew the procedure. Cavtat is where you must check in to Croatia, you can’t go past or you will get fined. No loitering either, as soon as you get to Croatia you must check in. No anchoring in a nice bay on the way in.

Many cruisers get fined in Croatia – me included 3 years ago, and this time I was determined to stay on the right side of the law this time.

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By the time we got to the customs dock it was blowing 40kts. We waited for a couple of boats to get sorted then dropped our anchor and backed in. We tied up to the dock, stern to, and I went off to get cleared in at the Harbour Master’s office and the Police office.

Meanwhile back at the boat……

Dee watched in amazement as a group of Austrian Charterers tried to come into the dock by dropping their anchor across everyone else’s chain and backing in all over the place. Dee felt our chain loosen as a result and put the motors on the keep us off the wall.

Then she watched in even more amazement (as did the harbour guy who helps people tie up) as the Austrians nearly rammed us. I got back to the boat to find Dee’s jaw on the ground, and we preceded to get off the wall as quickly as we could.

That wasn’t the problem. Our anchor winch stalled in the middle of the harbour (not where we left our anchor) as the mad Austrians yelled across to say they had our chain on their anchor. As they continued to motor around the harbour in 40kts of breeze, I suggested that perhaps they should think about getting it off. NOW!

Instead they grabbed their camera and started to take photos. Somehow they thought we needed to get our chain off their anchor. We talked then through the procedure. Put a rope round our chain you d#@ckh@#ds was sort of how the conversation went.

They finally stopped their photoshoot and one of them jumped in the water. It was a major exercise working out how to get a rope under a chain. Meanwhile they were all looking out the front and whoever was on the helm wasn’t looking at the looming rocks out the back. Somehow they managed to both get their anchor dislodged from our chain and keep off the rocks. Miracles do happen as they went off to terrorize someone else.

Not so easy for us. Our anchor winch was on strike due to having a whole heap of harbour junk dragging off our anchor. We managed to get it up little by little until we only had 6m out – the depth of the harbour.

We were then able to drag our anchor and its accompanying entourage back across the harbour to the wall where we were able to side tie (for 80 euros a night). I was rueing the fact that we don’t have a dive tank on board as it cost us a 100 euros for a diver to free all the sh@t off our anchor using a lift bag.

And there we stayed, having a quick drink with the Harbour Guy, reminiscing about the mad Austrians, before catching a cab out to get Stevo from the airport. The good thing about Cavtat is that its 10 minutes from Dubrovnick airport. After feeding Stevo a Beer or two, we had a quick look at the anchor, before deciding it could wait until tomorrow and off we went to dinner.

13240729_10205821338645566_8085762711738091062_nThe next day we caught a bus into Dubrovnick, which scared the sh@t out of Stevo, as he peered over the side of the bus down the cliffs far below. Dubvovnick never fails to disappoint. Except for the weather! We did all the obligatories. The walk around the top of the wall, the gondola ride to the top of the hill/mountain for the views down to Dubrovnick, wandering the streets and Mexican for lunch. Whilst there, we handed over 165 kuna for a cruising permit for our dingy as you need this if you want to use the dingy for a bit of sightseeing as we often do. Part of my Don’t Get Fined in Croatia this time strategy.

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Back at the boat, Stevo managed to get our anchor winch working from the helm station but the handheld refused to play ball. But that was enough to see us leave and head for Mjet.

Monks on a High

Lefkas is a Greek Island that never used to be an island. Way back in 800 BC, the Corinthians managed to dig a canal through some marshlands to create the island. Later on the more modern-day Greeks had installed a swing bridge so you can drive from Lefkas to the mainland.

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And that’s what we did at 6am, heading for the Meteoras. Ever since I got to Greece with Dee, she’s been raving on about the Meteoras. So now it was time to see what all the fuss was about.

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The drive up there was pretty cool. It took us 3 hours to wind our way up through the mountains with numerous tunnels and viaducts, all built with lots of EU money. At one stage we hit fog as we drove through the clouds. The drive itself was worth the price of admission.

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We arrived at the town of Kalambaka, just after 9am and found the tourist office who gave us a really good map. Then we were off. There’s six monasteries you can visit and we did them all. Theres quite a few others dotted around that airen’t open to the public and those that are open are closed on different days so we jagged it arriving on a Sunday when all 6 were open.

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The monasteries sit perched on top of rock columns and in the olden days the only way the monks could get in and out was by a series of ladders and rope baskets. Begs the questions as to how exactly did they manage to build the impressive building perched on top of sheer rock cliffs in the first place.

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Nowadays they have carved steps into the rock face and put in a modern road that goes round the back of each of the six monasteries. There are also flying foxes that winch across supplies.

DSC_0843Each of the monasteries are a bit different, all retaining their air of myth and mystery. For starters, one is a nunnery – evoking images of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The most famous is the one that was in James Bond’s “For Your Eyes Only”. Must watch that movie again. This is the most photogenic but the least interesting inside. Megalo Meteoro is the most extensive, housing several museums, including the blacksmith’s shop and the extensive kitchen. As you wander around, you catch a glimpse of monks and nuns going about the stuff that monks and nuns do.

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We managed to knock off all the 6 monasteries by 1pm and we then headed off to find a nice restaurant in the cute little village of Kastraki for lunch. Kastraki sits spectacularly right at the foot of the Meteoras and it was filled with rock climbers, one of which only had one arm. Now there’s guts. The adrenalin junkies are well catered for here as there is also an annual mountain bike race down through the Meteoras.

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We still had some time up our sleeve so we headed for Parga, which is a charming little resort town on the neck of a promontory flanking two bays, with an impressive Venetian Fortress perched high on an adjacent headland guarding the whole town. We spend a couple of hours there checking out the old town, the nice beach and the views from the fortress.
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Then it was off back to Lefkas.

Spending Some Boat Dollars

Whilst in Ithaca I’d rung up the marina in Lefkas and ordered my replacement water pump from the Chandlery recommended by the Marina. I hadn’t been to Lefkas before so I thought this was my best course of action.

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Going Up the Lefkas Canal

The guy from the Chanderly told me it would be there Friday definitely –  Thursday maybe. The Greeks only go back to work on Wednesday after their Easter break so the chances of Thursday were pretty bleak; but we thought we would go in Thursday anyway so we would be there to pick it up Friday morning.

Lefkas is a big boating centre in Greece with lots of charter boats based there, and has lots of chandlerys, sailmakers etc. So we took the opportunity to run down our boat shopping/ chores list.

We had the choice of booking into the Lefkas Marina at 57 euro a night; or going stern to on the town wall for free. I always have trouble knocking back “free”. The water depth next to the wall is a bit shallow in places so we had to pick our spot, but otherwise it was great.

Contract Yacht Services (CYS) was the nearest  chandlery, right opposite where we pulled up, so we started our shopping expedition there. It’s run by a couple of British expats, who are great to deal with – highly recommended if you are in that neck of the woods and like me wondering who to contact.

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Unfortunately the guy I bought my pump off was a nice guy, but disorganised in a typically Greek sort of way. The pump didn’t arrive on Friday but he assured me it would arrive on Saturday. Come Saturday, no pump. He (supposedly) chased it up and told me it would definitely be there Monday. Bugger. We were planning to leave ASAP. So a quick rearrange of our plans and  we hired a car to drive around Lefkas Island on Saturday afternoon before heading to the Meteoras on Sunday. But the Meteoras are a whole blog entry in itself so you will just have to wait for that part.

Returning from the Meteoras on Monday, I got the phonecall to say that my pump model number is not available in Greece. The Greeks never fail to surprise me. It’s a 40psi Jabsco and the advice he got back was that you need to buy the 25psi pump and then buy a 50 euro pressure switch that converts it to 40psi. So we rushed back to CYS and got the same story – this time in 10 minutes rather than 5 days. Another marine store that had lots of Jabsco pumps said the same thing. Onto Google for a bit more research and then back to my original guy to do a deal given he’d screwed us around. Needless to say I got my new 40psi pressure switch for 14 euros more. 13071972_10205728819772652_2908687019931347638_o

But enough of my boring pump story, as we ended up having a really great time in Lefkas. The town itself is quite lively, with good bars and restaurants. These got a bit of a flogging as we kept running into yachties that we didn’t know, but soon got to know over a wine or five.

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The first of these was Barry, who was a Kiwi who owns Sailing Holidays in Greece (and Croatia) and has run flotillas for the last 40 years around these here parts. One of those larger than life characters who had stories to tell and knowledge to impart. At the other end of the sailing experience scale was Johnny and Julia, who had just bought a boat and were embarking on their first great sailing adventure. Barry and I helped them perform their very first Med moor and we had a great night with them. Johnny is Johnny Morant, a young successful painter whose paintings are in a couple of London Galleries (check him out at http://www.johnnymorant.com). Johnny describes himself as a “Youtube sailor”, but has good common sense and wiliness to get out there and learn so they will be right.

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After a hard nights drinking we were looking forward to an AFD, but that was never going to happen when 3 Perth sailors rolled up at the back of La Mischief.

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Stunning Beaches on the West Coast

Lefkas has some great beaches and it was good to get a car and go off exploring. Once again, we were stuck by just how green and lush the islands of the Ionian are. Maybe it’s the time of the year we are here. All the really good beaches of the Ionians seem to be on the Western Coasts and this was the case in Lefkas. We called into a few before we drove down to the south coast to Vasiliki, famous as a windsurfing destination. Then up along the East coast to Nidri, which looks across Vilko Bay, which is a large lagoon with boats anchored everywhere. In the corner of this large bay is another bay called Tranquil Bay. This place is super protected, with some yachts having wintered afloat here.

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An afternoon of driving over, it was time to head back to La Mischief and prepare for an early morning start to the Meteoras.

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Early morning start to the drive to the Meteoras

Passing the Rorschach Test

We left Frikes in the morning and enjoyed a beam reach across to the straits that separates Lefkas and Meganisi, before the wind completely died. As Rod said, the channel is one of the loveliest straits in the Ionians and it was great motoring through it a second time.

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It’s quite amazing to pop through the other side into this wonderful protected bay with yachts everywhere. There was some sort of race going on as well as all the cruising boats. We headed for the private Skorpio Island, which was owned by Aristotle Onassis for a sticky beak.

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You can’t land on the island, it’s still privately owned but it was still interesting circumnavigating it.   Then it was on to Inkblot Island…Meganisi.

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On the charts it looked fascinating with bays and inlets littered along its northern coast. We picked out Port Atheni from Rod and headed there. It wasn’t a port in any sense of the word…just a nice indented bay.   I must admit that I was a little disappointed in Meganisi. It looked really cool on the 2 dimensional chart, but I like Ithaca a lot better.

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Mind you, the water was lovely and clear and the little bays interesting. It’s just that I was expecting a bit more.   We anchored in the head of the bay amongst 4 other boats in about 7m of water. Still too cold for a swim. So we dingied in and had a half litre of wine at the one and only open restaurant. Then back to the boat for a movie and a morning get away.

Montenegro – The Definition of Stunning

Lord Byron once called Montenegro’s coastline the planet’s most beautiful encounter between land and sea and I reckon he might have been onto something.

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Bar is the first port of entry when approaching from the South and that’s where we headed. It was a 107nm run up to Bar from Vlore – too far for a day sail so we planned a slow overnighter.

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Which was just as well as the wind was on our nose the whole way. We burned quite a bit of fuel getting there and by the time we got there at 9am the next morning our diesel tanks were almost empty. Perfect as fuel in Montenegro is quite cheap, and I’d assumed we could get duty free fuel like last time. Two problems with this, you can only get duty free fuel when leaving Montenegro and we needed some on entry and the fuel jetties weren’t interested in providing a small amount (ie 600litres) for the hassle it involved. So no duty free fuel this time. At 92c a liter its still the cheapest I’ve paid for a while.

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The marina cost us 90 euros for the night we were there, a lot cheaper than Budva and Porto Montenegro. The cost of a 7-day cruising permit for Montenegro was also 90 euros, courtesy of being a catamaran.

We took a quick walk around the pleasant waterfront, before hopping in a taxi for the 5km ride to Stari Grad (Old Town). Stari Grad was up on a hill overlooking the new town with an imposing Venetian Castle overlooking some nice cobbled streets. We finished off our day with some of the best octopus we have had so far.

Next day we had a great sail along the coast with a southerly blowing up our behind. We turned into the Bay of Kotor past the twin forts that guarded its entrance where the wind dropped off to nothing. As we turned the corner and headed South into the second bay the wind picked up to 40 knots as it funneled through the narrow opening between the 2 bays. We motor sailed past all the bunkers and submarine bays left over from the war. Then the wind dropped off to nothing again as we motored over to the channel that separated the 2nd Bay from the 3rd Bay. This is the Balkans impersonation of the Norwegian Fjords.

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As we popped out into the 3rd and innermost bay, we had a great view of the 2 islands, each with its own church. We did a sail past with lots of photos in the overcast conditions and then headed up to the North end of the bay for a look see.

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Then we pointed south and headed back 6nm to Kotor. The wind was on the nose and at one stage, managed to hit 40kts yet again. We decided against anchoring and instead pulled into the small marina that borders the old medieval town. We could literally step off the back of the boat and cross the road to the market outside the city walls. Perfect at 69 euro a night.

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Next morning we were off in a hire car to see this beautiful country. First stop was the capital where Dee had to visit the embassy to sign some papers. Getting there involved driving along a very scenic coastal highway before cutting inland through some awesome mountains before dropping down into a plateau with a large lake. Podgorica, the capital wasn’t much to write home about as it was pretty well flattened during the war. We briefly called into the Hard Rock Café to get some decent internet and then we were off.

Our first stop was the Ostrog Monastary, perched 900m above the Zeta Valley on the side of a cliff. We were two of the million people that visit here annually. It was built in 1665, God knows how (but then He would), its white building backs onto 2 large caves and is very impressive.

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We continued on our way along the narrow twisting and steep road back toward the Bay of Kotor. Driving down to the bay, we stopped and admired a huge waterfall that tumbled into the bay.

We checked out the beautiful seaside towns of Risan, with its Roman mosaics, and Perast, with its fine Captains’ Houses and waterfront restaurants. Perast has a great sea-faring past, evidenced by Peter the Great having sent some of his Russian naval officers there to study maritime science in his days as Russian Tsar.

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On the way back to the boat we passed numerous mussel farms and managed to find one that sold us 3kgs of very tasty mussels that we boiled up and consumed for dinner.

13240719_10205798353070941_3957962937690577915_nNext morning it was up and then up – to the top of the Castle of San Giovanni that overlooked the medieval town of Kotor. 1350 steps later (give or take), we were 1200m up overlooking the Bay of Kotor for some views to die for. The weather was starting to behave itself so we got some really good photos.

Then it was down to the car again for a drive out to Budva. We took the coast road out of Kotor, a narrow winding road along the side of the waters edge, until we got to Tivat and then the highway to Budva.

Budva was a really cool town. We parked and then walked along the boardwalk to the marina to check it out. Then we walked through the old city walls into the old town. Lots of cool shops and restaurants in the narrow walking streets. There was a castle on the point, which we went through and got some really good views from the top. Then down to the cool beach bars for the obligatory mojito or two.

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We finished the day off with a return visit to Porto Montenegro, the marina/glamor hub that La Mischief called into 3 years ago. We wandered the boardwalks through the trendy shops and restaurants and checked out some of the boats. Got told off for taking a picture of the THREE boats owned by His Royal Highness Prince Khaled bin Sultan bin Abdul Azziz al Saud (there’s a mouthful) called Golden Odyssey, Golden Odyssey 2 and the support yacht Golden Shadow.image

Then it was back to Kotor to check out the celebrations for Montenegro’s “10 years of independence – 1000 years of culture” anniversary – pretty cool. Next morning we tried to check out but couldn’t find the harbour master. The guy from the Marina tried to call him without luck. Eventually we found him but it was getting too late to leave. What the heck, there’s worse things than another day in Kotor.

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So off we went on a long walk along the foreshore, stopping for a nice lunch of mussels and fish. It also provided us with a bit of shopping time (Dee) and a bit of blogging time (Steve).

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Next morning, we located the harbour master, checked out of Montenegro and we were off to Cavtat in Croatia.

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Where’s My Mandolin? – Off to Cephalonia

The sail up from Shipwreck Bay to Cephalonia was actually a sail at times, as the wind was on the beam for a change. Still had to motor at times as the wind varied from 30kts down to zero.
DSC_0702 We were aiming for Sami but changed our minds halfway across and decided to go into Agios Eufimia as it looked prettier and was closer to the underground cave, according to Rod.

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Boat trip on Lake Melissani

It was a good choice as the harbour had just received a facelift with a nice new wall and power and water facilities – plus a welcome sailors life-ring. Nice touch. We were happy about the water as our water pump had developed a leak; still useable but you needed to turn it off and on at the panel every time we wanted to use water. At the dock, we could simply plug in the shore water and use its pressure to supply the boat, completely bypassing our faulty water pump.

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Winery

It was Easter Sunday and Roast Lamb is the traditional meal for the Greeks. We decided the restaurant straight over the road was as good as any, with the added advantage we could pinch their Wifi password for our Badboy wifi extender on board. And it was raining so no need to get wet walking far in the rain.

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We’d spied an Australian Flag on a Canadian cat up the wall so we said hello and decided we could all rent a car the next day to see the island. Just as well as Rental Cars were expensive on Cephalonia – 71 euros it cost us. So off we went, next morning, Rita, Sten, Chris, Dee and I, heading for Lake Melissani. Using Google Maps, we sort of found where the underground lake should be – that was if the one and only road that goes to it hadn’t had a great trench dug through it. We got out and found we were in the mist of a bit of a neighborhood tiff. The police arrived and told us there was a hole in the road – really. Anyway we pressed on on foot, clambering down and up the hole and made it to the grotto, which remarkably was open in all this kerfuffle. You get to the Lake through a tunnel that someone has carved out and then a boatman picks you up and takes you on a short tour underground. The lake is quite beautiful and the interesting thing about it is that it’s fed by the sea that gets forced through some fissures across the mountains on the other side of the island, travelling the whole width of the island, through the cave and into the sea on the other side. Quite remarkable. Never heard of anything like it.

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Next stop was the Cave of Drogarati, which was worth a stop, before we headed inland to the wine growing district, for a bit of wine tasting and stocking up. Then it was onto Argostoli for lunch and then a drive along the Western coast to check out some nice beaches there. We end up at Assos (jokes aside), which is on this amazing headland with a really cool Venetian Fort at the top. And when I say top, I’m talking “26 switch backs walking up to it” up. Having got our quotient of exercise for the day, we headed down the 26 switchbacks and then drove back to La Mischief, where a few glasses of wine were consumed over a few charts as we explained some of our highlights and where we had been.

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Assos in the distance

Next morning, we headed off for Fiskardho, a cutesy little harbour, that somehow managed to escape being flattened by the 1953 earthquake that completely flattened the rest of the island. Unfortunately it was a really cutesy little harbour that everyone else had heard about, and with the flotilla season just starting, it had its Sorry We Are Full” sign out.

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Assos looking down from the Venetian Fort

The good thing about the Greek Islands is that there is ALWAYS somewhere else good to go. In this case it was on Ithaca, the neighboring island. I’d stopped in their briefly on my way across to the Corinth Canal in 2013 so now I’d effectively completed my circumnavigation of Greek. Back in familiar waters. This time, we headed for Frikes, a cute little port with 5 other boats. It was a tiny town with beautiful, beautiful water and a free dock.

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Inland Cephalonia

It had been stormy and overcast as we came across but the skies cleared leaving a beautiful day. We took a walk up the hill to a town called Stavros and called into a Homer’s Ulysses museum, Ithaca is supposedly the island of Ulysses from 800BC, but it’s evidently still open to debate.

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We just stayed a night and in the morning we headed off to Meganisi – the Rorschach Inkblot Island.

Off to Zakinthos – Eventually!!!

I can’t remember how many times I have looked at a Greek weather forecast and then been unpleasantly surprised. But then again, these days I’m not really that surprised – more like p@ssed off than surprised.

So there we were, bashing away into 35kts of norwesterly, with Zakinthos looking hours away. We tried tacking out to sea a bit hoping for a wind angle change, but instead the wind kept building along with the swell. So I tacked back into the bay and this seemed to work better as the swell dropped and the wind angle improved – a bit. But there was no way we would make it to Zakinthos in daylight. So back to the Peloponnisos we went. Consulting Rod, we picked out Katakolon as the likely suspect and got in at 6pm with still a couple of hours of sunlight left.
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It wasn’t all bad as Katakolon is the main cruise ship port for passengers visiting Olympia; Dee having called in there on a much larger version of La Mischief with her Mom and Niece in earlier times. Unfortunately, it was Greek Easter Friday so all the car rental places along with just about everything else was shut (barring the restaurants of course). We eventually got hold of Georgio’s mobile and organized a car for 30 euros. Georgio also helped us organize diesel to be delivered by truck for the next morning – we’d used a bit motoring up against headwinds a lot of the way.

In the meantime we took up the offer of yet another George to come to his house and buy some wine, olive oil, olives and eggs from his family farm. We followed him up a steep set of stairs to his house perched overlooking the harbour. Here we met his mother and father; his father having travelled the world as a Greek seaman. We sampled the wine and chatted in broken English for a while. Their second son was in Athens, an IT guy (I think) and was returning home for Easter.

Returning back down the hill, we found the car park was filling fast; and Georgio explained later, when he dropped off the car at 9pm, that a lot of Greeks were returning to the village for Easter as this is when they gathered their families together in their home villages. We could see something brewing at the church from our boat, so  we wandered over and saw a lot of well dressed people gathering around – from Athens I guess. Then the procession started, lead by a whole heap of boys with staffs, followed by the local priest and then 6 pall bearers holding an effigy. There must have been 1000 people in the procession as we joined in, taking photos as it went by.

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Next morning the fuel truck duly came at 8.30am and we got what we think is enough diesel to get us to the duty-free fuel at Montenegro. Then it was off to Olympia, 38kms away. Olympia has a very pretty setting, amongst olive tree groves with a stream flowing through. I couldn’t resist a dash on the athletics track – but I’m pretty sure Usain Bolt is fairly safe. The ruins are pretty ruined, but its pleasant walking through them. What is really, really good however is the museum, one of the best for Greek antiquities we’ve been through. Some of the marble statues in particular were exquisite. Whole frescos of statues – stunning. Our last stop at Olympia was the “other” museum – the museum of the ancient Olympics, which was interesting but a bit of a come down from the main museum.

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Olympia done, it was off cross country to Tornese Castle built by the Franks in 1220 and improved upon by the Venetians. The restoration work is going well and it looks great, with commanding views across to Zakinthos and Cephalonia Islands. Well worth a visit.

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Greek ruins and Castles ticked off, it was back to the boat and straight off to Zakinthos. We had originally intended to get to the top of the island as the weather forecast had said the winds were dying off in the afternoon; but the only thing dying off was the Poseidon Weather Forecaster – just as soon as I find him.

Hence we bashed our way to the somewhat closer Zakinthos Town, the Island’s capital.  We pulled up on the wall with the help of George. I’m beginning to think every harbour guy in Greece is called George. George (the forty third) suggested we visit the supermarket ASAP as it was closing for Easter in a few minutes and we took him up on the suggestion. Then we had a wander around the town, thinking it may be a good place to see a bit of Easter action, being Easter Saturday –  but it was dissappointly quiet.

Next morning, Easter Sunday (believe it or not), we left in very little wind to head around to Shipwreck Bay, the famously iconic beach that inevitably appears on all those Greek Travel Brochures. The weather was overcast but otherwise perfect for visiting the West Coast – no nasty Nor Westerlies.

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As we neared the bay the water turned a wonderfully beautiful blue. It’s a spectacular setting, the white beach set amongst towering chalk coloured cliffs, with a wreck plonked neatly up the beach. We dropped anchor in 10m of water but couldn’t see the bottom. The cloudy chalk in the water was what made it so blue. We dropped the dingy and took 10 million photos of La Mischief in front of the beach, before setting foot on the iconic beach itself. There was a steady stream of day boats coming and going but it wasn’t too bad. Unfortunately it was a bit cold (for us) to go swimming so no pictures of me (or Dee) in our bikinis – so sorry!

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We returned to the boat and just got our anchor up before 10 flotilla boats appeared from around the corner for a bit of anchoring mayhem in the bay.

Then it was off to Captain Corelli Country – Cephalonia.