Blog 2: Balkans chapter (2nd May-2nd June 2009)

Blog upload #2: The Balkan Chapter (2/5 – 2/6/09)

Engine troubles finally sorted out (following removal and road transportation to Zadar for testing in case the parts didn’t solve the problem). It’s nice to have engine back in its rightful place and not in the saloon.

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Off sailing once more – both Cooks coping with multi-tasking and each other. The team working well and (so far) relationship intact with no yelling.

Learning rapidly that the Med weather can be quite unpredictable. The only predictable thing about it is that one either has too much or too little wind. (Note the katabatic wind of 35 kts+ that comes off-shore in flat water; without warning).

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Katabatic wind (too much!)

Katabatic wind (too much!)

Life aboard Xela – surprisingly comfortable and spacious although it will be interesting to see how we’re thinking about the space issue in 5 months. There are relatively few places for middle-aged brains to misplace items (eg reading glasses) in a 42 ft boat! Backdrops in the evening are generally not too dusty and the fresh market fish and local wine goes down a treat.

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The cultural and scenic sights of Croatia are pleasingly lacking in crowds at this time of the year. The town wall of the old town of Trogir (pictured) is rafted 3-4 boats deep in the season. One exception is Hvar harbour where the peak hour “dancing”, shuffling and jostling of boats at 6pm seems to go on throughout the year.

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Trying hard to keep out of marinas, but sometimes the convenience and basic needs (or wind and weather) dictates a night in a marina – often in spectacular places such as Korcula Town (picture) or Dubrovnik (see below).

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Much of the time we can escape the crowds virtually entirely and at this time of the year it’s possible to find some tranquil and beautiful spots to sit and think (or …sometimes, ….just sit).

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Blue Grotto Bisevo Island

Blue Grotto Bisevo Island

Dusk on Korcula

Dusk on Korcula

Mooring Med style (stern too) the town wall is a great experience also. Gets you close to the action and the passers-by generally don’t peer into the boat too much. Often close to the markets for quick top up with fresh produce. .

Parking stern-to, Vis harbour

Parking stern-to, Vis harbour

view from Xela, Vis harbour

view from Xela, Vis harbour

Kotor, Montenegro

Kotor, Montenegro

Cathy generally insists on a meal on the town when we can simply step off the boat – have had some excellent food, local wine and the backdrop varies from turquoise waters lapping on the shore of Palmizana Is to the shrapnel pock-marks on the garden wall in Dubrovnik.

Palmizana Is (near Hvar)

Palmizana Is (near Hvar)

Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik

Jewels of the Adriatic?? Dubrovnik has to make the list of course. Montenegro is also superb – spectacular fjord-like black mountains and the walled town of Kotor (look at wall carefully in photo) with its Venetian influence, is a must-see before one dies.

Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik

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Island monastery - Montenegro

Island monastery - Montenegro

Kotor, Montenegro (note the walls)

Kotor, Montenegro (note the walls)

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Until next time; ….Xray_Echo_Lima_Alpha…Out.

Epilogue:
While all this sounds idyllic (and it is) live aboard life isn’t all “beer and skittles”: For example, some nights one can lie awake listening to strange anchor chain noises wondering whether it’s dragging; or to the 45kt winds whistling through what we thought was a “bullet-proof” anchorage; or tapping the barometer and wondering about the weather while trying to understand the weather report delivered in a heavy Montenegrin accent through radio static. Jumping over the side with mask and snorkel to sort out a prop fouled by a piece of stray fishing net while blowing sideways into a new harbour. Learning, that in a Sea without tides, the water level can change overnight by as much as a metre (driven by wind, barometric pressure changes); that published timetables and schedules don’t really exist – making alternative transport planning difficult; no matter how hard one tries, one cannot eliminate all “bangs and squeaks” in a boat overnight; checking out of Croatia with boat berthed alongside between enormous cruise ships while customs officials tell you that you must remain at least 20 Nm offshore while covering a measly 20 Nm from Dubrovnik to Montenegro; pulling on woollen tights and vests on the first official day of summer thinking that hot weather last week was so long ago. Last but not least, wondering why in the Adriatic in which the prevailing wind should be northerly that we are travelling south and seem to have wind on the nose 90% of the time.

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