After more than 4 weeks in Corfu we had to get out of Schengen, so Albania, Greece’s closest neighbor was the obvious choice. We had been intrigued by the sound of this country which had been pretty well shut off to the world until the last 20 years. We had heard mixed reports and our memories from sailing by in 2009 were of reports of unexploded mines in the waters off the coast.

We are pleased to report that our current impression of Albania is very positive. We have thoroughly enjoyed the country, its friendly and extremely helpful people, the food and the spectacular scenery. At no time did we experience any feelings of insecurity.

Check in to Albania was in the large holiday town/port of Vlores, assisted by the agent Freddi. Fortunately there was no wind as Sea Cloud lay next to concrete and black tyres in the commercial harbour.

Vlore check in

Vlores, like all Albanian towns we visited is a massive construction site – new apartment buildings, new roads, and surprisingly, a very cosmopolitan feel. It has a string of beaches between the town and Orikum, the location of the only marina in Alabania 7 Nm further south in  the Vlores gulf.


Orikum marina, set up in 1994 by an enterprising Italian, Luigi, only has about 6 visitor berths. The marina is very safe with laid lines, but has a horrifyingly shallow entrance – only just deep enough to cope with our 2.34m draft. (Shallowest sounding was 2.6m). The grand plan is for an 800 berth marina, but there are no signs of expansion at present although the barriers to such enterprises seem to be decreasing in Albania.

marina orikumorikum entrance

We rented a car to explore the Ancient sites and UNESCO listed towns scattered throughout Albania. The first at Apollonia, a Greek then Roman city, just north of Vlores.Aplollonia 2Left over from communist era (ended in 1992) are an estimated 700,000 concrete bunkers, scattered throughout the country including among the well tended, fertile farmed land, very typical of Albania.


Driving is a challenge. It is no exaggeration to say that virtually every road in the country seems to be under construction or repair and potholes can be huge! There are main highways along the coast and to the capital, Tirana. We have never seen more Mercedes cars in one country – yet they share roundabouts with donkeys, horse and carts…

transport 3 transport1 transport 2Two donkey roundabout

Berati is an attractive village, set on the river, with well preserved white Ottoman houses nestled on the hill (of “a thousand windows”) to the citadel on the peak. The citadel, which encircles the top is still inhabited and has wonderful views of the nearby mountains and the village below.

BeratBerati view

During the communist era, religion was banned and most places of worship in Albania were demolished. Fortunately, the mediaeval churches and two mosques in Berati were classified as being of historical significance so were preserved. One of the churches has a very impressive collection of icons by the 16th century Albania painter Onufri.

mosque Berati

The town has a very Ottoman feel – as can be seen in the Ethnographic Museum (C 1810).

museum BeratiThe pedestrian mall along the river is lined with cafes; full but remarkable for the lack of women in them. It is the focal centre of the town, with all the locals promenading here each evening.

Berati promenade

Hotel Osumi, was typical of our accommodation in Albania – friendly people, good simple clean and comfortable accommodation and great breakfasts. All for about half the price of anywhere else.

Hotel Osumi BeratiTirana, Albania’s capital is a bustling, mainly modern city with an interesting mix of old and new architecture.

Tirana modern

Hotel Opera, where we stayed had only been open since January this year. Its location next to the National Museum and within walking distance of all the sites, was in a great location. The view from our room is very typical of Albania – old buildings being surrounded by construction.

National museum

Tirana old and new

= For Sale

= For Sale

Korca, in the east of Albania was our next stop. The town, which has been recently modernized has some lovely old restored buildings in its very cosmopolitan feeling main street.

Korce mall

Its pedestrian mall ends in a rather strange tower, which provides a great view of the town.


We lucked out here. A highlight of Korca for us was the opportunity to attend an intimate concert in the local arts centre. This was sponsored by the Italian ministry of culture who funded 2 highly accomplished Italian musicians to give a master class for the local kids followed by a concert performance comprising Concerti for guitar and viola including works by Schubert and Paganini. It was quite surreal, being surrounded by teenage men with mohican hair cuts riveted to this lovely music.

Korce concert

Parking, as in all these towns is a challenge in incredibly narrow (yes – two way) streets. You can see why rental cars check for scratches on return! This small guest house had the BEST breakfast.


Korca has a great local produce market in the original Ottoman market area.

Korca markets

The roads between Korca and Permet were a not to be repeated experience! They were very challenging with the 160km through the mountains taking about 8 hours – rarely getting into 3rd gear. The good news is they are rebuilding a lot of the roads, and the views were fantastic.

roadsroads2 mountain roadsmountain passWe had made a very last minute booking to join a 3 day hiking trek through the Zagoria mountains staying with local farmers, organized by Zbulo, or Discover Albania (  We would highly recommend this company which has established great travel adventures for tourists in conjunction with local Albanians.

Unfortunately, a wrong choice at a roadside restaurant the day before meant we missed the first day of the hike.  The bowl of what was billed as “chicken soup with meat balls”, comprised tripe and pieces of liver floating in a lukewarm milky broth. Although this sent alarm bells, but we were stupidly polite and suffered the consequences. This was our only bad food experience. The food overall is simple, fresh and delicious – definitely Albanian, but with Greek, Turkish and Italian influences. As we were tied to a hotel bathroom for the first 12 hrs, Endrit from Zbulo tours arranged for our host for the first night, Mani, to pick us up in his 4 WD and drive us to the village late that day. Seemed fairly easy, until we realized the isolation of the village and the roads these people have to negotiate to get to town. The amazing views were well worth the bone rattling drive up to and over the 1200m pass to the valley behind.

mountain top

valley viewMani and his uncle

Mani and his family live in Limar, a small village of 5 or 6 sheep farming families high in the hills.


Manis houseAs well as teaching the 5 local children in the village, Mani and his father milk their flock of 200 sheep twice daily. They grow their own fruit and veg and honey.  During spring and autumn, Mani and Marguerite host small groups of walkers to supplement their income. We were treated to wonderful food and Albanian hospitality, but did decline the traditional Raki to kick start the day.

Mani's mother bee hives

Cimi, our local guide and Robyn a co-hiker from Canada, were great company. Cimi spoke enough English to communicate his love and knowledge of the mountains and the way of life here as well as the wealth of herbs and edible vegetation along the route.

Cimi and Robyn

The trek from Limar to Hoshteve took us 10km, through villages and mountain meadows. The paths have recently been signposted with the assistance of Cimi. trail signs

Day 1 orchidsRobynBridgeAfter a rainy walk we arrived in the small bar in Hoshteve for Raki and a local beer in front of the fire. We were transferred by 4wd to the Duli Guest house in Sheper, where we spent the night hosted by Anetta and Edmond. Mani had transported our bags to Sheper by donkey – he was heading back on the 3 hour journey in the rain after meeting us for a drink.

Dinner was in the cosy lounge room in front of the fire. It was strange to be sitting there watching Spiderman on TV with Albanian subtitles!

BreakfastSheper Anetta andCimi’s brother arrived with his horse accompanied by its 4 week old foal to transport our luggage. It was incredible how the foal coped with this trek, which it had first done in its first week of life. Both mum and foal remarkably sure footed on some very steep scree slopes.

preparing luggagehorse transfer

We trekked up to the Dhembeli pass along ancient caravan trails which are still used by shepherds to move their stock from southern Albania (over 10 days walk) to these lush alpine pastures.

climbing climbing 2

resting huts

A lunch break overlooking the town of valley was much appreciated before the 1250m descent back over rocky scree slopes into Permet.Albania 288 Albania 287 Albania 290

We passed through a small village of Leuse, which has an Orthodox church with the most lovely frescoes.

frescoesThe walk was the most wonderful experience – an absolute highlight of our Albanian visit.

Leaving Permet, we had a leisurely drive back to Sea Cloud over decent roads.
Permet town

post trekWe stopped in Gjirokaster, another UNESCO town with a castle (used as a prison until recently), cobbled streets and attractive houses.
Gjior best castle gjiro


The following winds en route from Orikum to Saranda, the southern most port in Albania, gave us the opportunity to continue to refine our poled out headsail and boom preventer so necessary for the weeks of continuous downwind sailing we will be experiencing later in the year.


Saranda is a bustling touristy town only 7Nm from Corfu.

Saranda Saranda veiw

It has a small, very secure yacht harbour adjacent to the ferry dock. Including Sea Cloud, 3 out of the 8 boats had Aussie flags. In recent weeks, not a day has passed that we haven’t been anchored near Australians. Our agent (compulsory) in Saranda was the lovely Jelja Serani (Saranda summer holidays; info@sarandasummer She and her husband were extremely efficient and friendly, made the check in/out process very painless; renting us a car and providing us with information about the local area.

Saranda yacht harbour

We visited the Roman ruins of Butrint much of which have been excavated in the past 10yrs.Byzantine church mosaic Butrint lake Butrint amphitheatre Butrint 2

The Blue Eye about half an hour north of Saranda where the pure spring water gushes up to the surface from a cave hundred of meters deep, is the most beautiful colour. The dark centre and blue “iris” give its name.

Blue Eye

A very rainy few days ended our time in Saranda, doing jobs on Sea Cloud before our next adventure, heading north to Croatia.

Back in San Stefano, the season has definitely started – we were the only boat here 2 weeks ago, last night there were 8! Summer also seems to have finally arrived… has been very slow coming this year.

San stefano


With just one day in Athens, we made sure we had enough time to visit the Archeological Museum which houses treasures from the many islands we have visited over the past few years.
Archeological museumOf course we made time to have our first Mythos of the season in one of the very smart cafes close to our hotel.

first mythos athensBack in Preveza, we were please to see Sea Cloud had been very well looked after at Ionian Marine. Within 2 days she was cleaned, launched and we were on our way to  Gouvia Marina in Corfu where we planned to spend a few weeks getting her ready for the season. We couldn’t complain about our view in Gouvia- what a lovely spot.

Marina view 2We shared our pontoon in the marina with the Sailing Holidays flotilla, so there was lots of action during the day, with all the crews busily preparing boats for the season. We spent some time with Barrie (a Kiwi) and Heidi, the owners of the business which has 160 boats in the Ionian.

full marinaHaving seen these flotillas of in previous seasons, we had been always been very impressed how their young and cheery skippers and crew managed a fleet 10 or so boats of keen sailors, who were often complete novices.  Allan Berwick, a mate of theirs down to help for the season is the author of the RYA rigging book, a well thumbed book in our library.  Allan was very generous with his time going over Sea Cloud’s rigging and providing many helpful suggestions for setting her up for long distance cruising.

Roly poly rigger

While in Gouvia, we’ve had a few very hectic, sometimes frustrating weeks. Luckily, there have been other cruisers to meet – sharing meals, usually at our local favourite, the very good (and cheap) Zorbas. The only issue is the meal size, in one word, huge! We have met up with 2 lovely couples from Melbourne, living the dream as we are, Jan and Terry (below) on La Qunita who also plan an Atlantic crossing this year, and Jane and Stuart on Epicurius, who are heading east towards Turkey.

Terry Jan

Spending time with Andy, Nina Too’s skipper has been fun. Andy, a rambunctious Scot, about the same age as our Andrew, regaled us with stories on his voyages to the Antarctic and through the Pacific on Infinity (check out Infinity’s blog, they visit some incredible places!).  During dinner he was trying to talk Ian and I into taking Sea Cloud to Antarctica…


Greek Orthodox Easter is the time to be in Corfu. The island is well known for its music and Easter celebrations, which attract thousands of Greek (and other) tourists to the island’s capital. Local people of all ages are involved in the local bands and processions through the town on Good Friday, from early in the afternoon, until late in the evening.

processions parade viewyacht club

Each church has a procession through the town, with singing, a band and groups of small children carrying Easter baskets, high school children and unexpectedly large groups of boy scouts and girl guides.

paradeGood Friday is a very somber occasion, with hauntingly beautiful music played by these wonderful local bands. We were thrilled to see our electronics whiz Spiros who was part of his church procession.

SpirosWe retreated to an Italian restaurant for dinner. Our corner table was a great spot for viewing one of the parades.

Copy of Corfu dinner parade 2038dinner paradeparade and dinner

Processions continued, in front of very large and well behaved crowds, all enjoying the spectacle, well almost all. This teenager sitting on a box in front of us looked pretty unimpressed.

Corfu 2016 033

The finale of the evening was the 360 strong Corfu band marching through the streets of this beautiful town.friday night procession

Easter Saturday is another really big day in Corfu, where thousands of people come out to see the smashing of pots in the main square and streets of Corfu town.

pots for saleRed flags are hung down from the buildings showing where pots will be thrown..

Red flagsCrowds move in closer to the middle of the square to miss the water being thrown to indicate the landing place for the pots. Throwers ready themselves, then at 11am, it begins.

readygoThe finale of really big pots is preceded by a countdown, then everyone stands back…

pot smashingthen scramble to souvenir the pieces when it is all over

souvenirsAustralian OHS would have a fit, one mis-thrown pot could be a bit of a disaster!

Easter CorfuA great time to be in Corfu, most memorable was the wonderful music and atmosphere on the evening of Good Friday.

Ian’s birthday (Easter Sunday) was celebrated with the traditional dish of the day, lamb, in Taverna Elizabeth in the small rural village of Doukades.

Easter birthday

Followed by a drive to the Sunset Bar at Longos beach at the top of the island. Spectacular spot, but full of 20 somethings and very loud music, so we didn’t linger.Longos Beach sunset barAfter 4 long weeks in the marina, we finally dropped our mooring lines and left Gouvia, having our first night at anchor in San Stefano on the north east of Corfu. We’ve just left there after a coffee in the local taverna where we planned our next adventure, Albania!