Kurukulla at Anegada, BVI

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

The final days.

My next guests were to be Guido and Jane Cervone and their four year old son Alberto; all of whom duly arrived in Kolocep, on the passenger ferry from Gruz harbour, on the Thursday morning. After a swift coffee ashore, the purchase of some essential items from the only local store and a swim, we set off northwards for my second visit to Ston. The sail up the inland sea was gentle, flat calm and just what was needed to settle Alberto in onboard; Guido and Jane own a small yacht in Chesapeake Bay in the US and so he is used to life in a boat.

We arrived in Ston an hour before sunset and having paid our dues to the harbour authority (you pay £20 just to tie up, there are no facilities!) we went ashore for a brief stroll, a quick drink and to buy some other minor foodstuffs. That completed we returned onboard for supper and an early night; Guido and Jane had not slept well onboard the ferry from Bari to Dubrovnik the night before, the comforts of Jadrolinja ferries are not that great!

Next day we wandered ashore for a better look at Ston, in full daylight, and then set sail down the canal again to revisit Sobra in Miljet. En route we stopped for a swim in the bay at Uvala Prijezba (suitable for short stops only).

In Sobra we took the holding off line in front of the Konoba Lanterna again and moored up for the night. As the evening progressed, after our return from supper in the restaurant, the weather started to deteriorate with the onset of a stronger than forecast NE wind. The result was that we spent a rather uncomfortable night rolling about on the sea that was reflecting off the steep sides of the bay.

The following morning the wind had dropped to zero; thus we departed Sobra under engine and motored the majority of the way to the island of Lopud for a swim. Unfortunately Lopud was also suffering from the swell; hence, after a brief swim, we continued to Kolocep for the night. Next morning, after another refreshing dip, we went for a walking tour of Kolocep and followed our exertions with a pizza lunch in the waterfront restaurant.

In the early afternoon we set off for Dubrovnik marina where we intended to make the preparations for the crossing back to Italy and to spend our last night in Croatia. Guido and Jane had been intending to pay a visit to the old town of Dubrovnik but given the inclement weather they finally decided against it. Thus it was that at 1300 on Monday we set off to check out of Croatia and return to Brindisi. To check out we either had to go to Gruz or Cavtat. To save time and against my better judgement I decided to break my self imposed rule of never returning to Gruz to complete formalities; the officials there are always completely unhelpful and you end up berthed on a totally unsuitable quarantine jetty which is designed for cruise liners. I was not to be disappointed!

On arrival we chose the very small berth at the end of the jetty which was the one most suited to yachts and well away from the big ships. Result, we were immediately and unceremoniously thrown off that one with no courtesy, not even advice on where we could berth! Finally we berthed at the opposite end of the quarantine quay, 150m from the offices and I braved the pouring rain to go and do the paperwork. Next problem; Guido and Jane had entered Croatia on a ferry and had their passports stamped by immigration on arrival, this however was not enough in the eyes of Croatian bureaucracy to prove that they were legally in Croatia. A very pretty, but none the less officious, blonde policewoman explained to me that it was my responsibility as skipper to register their residence when in Croatia and that having failed to do so I would be fined €80. My response was polite but firm, “over my dead body! Show me where this requirement is published!”. She reached for the appropriate book from the shelf full of Immigration Police Regulations and opened it at the appropriate page; all of course in Croatian! “And for someone who does not speak Croatian, does not live in the country, does not have access to the books of Police Regulations and was not informed of the requirement on arrival?” Silence! … I then enquired where I was supposed to have registered their presence in Croatia to which the reply was “at the tourist office” and so, keen to show my willingness to comply I asked “is there a tourist office in Sobra?” answer “no”, in Kolocep?” answer “no” “So where am I supposed to have registered them if this is the first place we have visited where it would be possible to do so?” No answer other than “you must pay!”.

I now made what I thought was a quite reasonable suggestion. “Why don't you register them into Croatia now, I will then go next door and have a coffee and return in five minutes and then we can check them out”; answer “No you must pay or you can argue your case in front of a magistrate”, accordingly I enquired when this might be possible. “Sometime next week”. By now my patience was wearing thin but I again, as politely as possible, firmly declined their offer to pay. Finally she got the hint that I was not going to be a pushover and decided to consult her superiors, By this time her colleagues were already giving me knowing grins of sympathy! It was obvious I was not the first victim to undergo this process. Fifteen minutes later and after a long lecture, to which of course I paid rapt attention and with all forms stamped I was free to go ... onwards to the next hurdle, Capitanija. They, fortunately, were much less enthusiastic (aka officious) and stamped the forms without question after I had waited the mandatory 10 minutes whilst they finished their conversations between themselves, a delay imposed just to prove their importance of course! Next came the customs. Fortunately the elderly, rather portly, official was totally disinterested and objected to the interruption to the watching of his TV programme, he filled out the form, in longhand, in triplicate and passed me my copy without looking in my direction once! From here it was back to the immigration Police, collect the passports and go … never again to return to Gruz!

We sailed out of Gruz, set course for Brindisi and enjoyed a brisk reach at 6 – 7 knots with the easterly wind on the beam, just as forecast for the crossing; however, unfortunately it only lasted the first six hours; from then on the wind died leaving a foul sea and us motoring at 6 knots rolling our hearts out all night. Poor Guido felt awful but managed an hour here and there, on deck, to give me a break; Alberto was fine and kept me company for much of the evening, trying to spot the occasional star that peeped through the gloom, before retiring to bed. We finally motored into Brindisi at 1300 the next day all feeling tired after a very un-enjoyable crossing.

From here on my task was to prepare Kurukulla for her winter sojourn in Brindisi. The next day I dropped Guido at the airport to pick up a hire car that was to take them to Naples; we then returned to the boatyard from where they were to set off and I wave them good bye 30 minutes later. The next task was to get the boat lifted out, stripped of all running rigging etc. and winterised; after which I too departed for the drive back to UK. At present; having stopped overnight in Fano, on the east coast of Italy; Munich for a pair of nights and finally Dieppe for the pause before catching the 0500 ferry to Newhaven this morning; I am now back in UK for the winter and starting to plan next years itinerary!

Next BLOG next year!

Monday, 4 October 2010

Back, back to normal (or almost).

I departed Necujam the day after the last blog entry and started heading south-eastwards towards my rendezvous with my next guest, Steph, at Makarska, thirty miles from Split. The first night I anchored at Uvala Luca, (the one in Brac, there are several!) with the usual anchor laid off the shore and a line swum ashore, tied to a rock. Uvala Luca offer several options for anchoring but I chose the quietest, furthest from the one and only restaurant. Next morning dawned bright and clear and so after a brief swim and breakfast I decided to depart. The line ashore was looped over the rock and looked easy to dislodge by flicking it off rather than take another swim. Mistake! The process of flicking it off aggravated my back to the extent that it has taken a week to recover fully. Moral of the story, “Lazy men suffer the most pain!” I should have just accepted the need for a second swim!

An hour and a half later I dropped anchor in Makarska and checked my e-mails and texts only to find a text from Steph to say that she too had put her back out the W/E before and had had to cancel her trip out to join me. Just my luck, I thought she would assist me through my back problem!

I had already arranged for my friend, Velko, to pick her up from the airport at Split and transport her to Mkarska, this was obviously not now necessary and I telephoned Velko to offer my apologies. Not to be defeated he said, without hesitation, that he was leaving immediately and coming to Makarska, this afternoon, to wish me farewell; true to his word he arrived two and a half hours later and we shared several (I lost count how many) G&Ts' in the following three hours before he set off to drive back to Kastella, near Split. I was sad to see him go, he has been such a help in so many ways, not least in fixing the new engine and negotiating a “local” not tourist price.

The next joiner was to be Simon, my nephew, joining at Sobra on Mljet in two days time so the next morning it was a refuel and then onwards ever southwards towards Mljet. That night I anchored at the eastern end of Korculla, near the ex Convent that is now being converted into a sports academy. A beautiful anchorage but only suitable in settled weather. The following morning I set off again, this time for Polace, in Mljet, a very secure anchorage and suitable for that night's forecast of strong NE winds. The only problem is that it falls within the Mljet National Park and as a consequence the unfortunate (i.e. me, they don't get round everyone) get hit for 90Kn for a park entry ticket which includes a mandatory return bus fare to the inland lake and a boat trip round the lake, none of which is of the slightest use to someone anchored for one night in Polace! Another Croatian, government sponsored, rip off!

From Polace it was an easy, early afternoon, potter to Sobra. Sobra is a very deep inlet with almost no options on anchoring. As a consequence I was forced to take a berth in front of the only restaurant with such facilities and enjoy a plate of calamari frites as my late lunch! The catamaran bringing Simon from Dubrovnik was due to berth on the other half of the jetty so it all seemed ideal. That was until I received a call from Simon saying he had disembarked the catamaran at Sobra, it was a pitch black night and where was I? Answer in Sobra where the catamaran should have berthed! Unbeknown to myself, or the locals, as this was the last day of the catamaran service for this year they had decided to berth it at the car ferry terminal, two kilometres away and in the middle of nowhere! Fortunately the restaurateur came to the rescue and after a terrifying 5 minute drive along the coast road, no speed limits, no lights and no obvious brakes, we arrived to pick up Simon from his remote outpost, from where we returned to the restaurant for supper. I can recommend the Konoba (restaurant) Lanterna, not just for their food but also their all encompassing customer service!

Next morning we sailed from Sobra across to the mainland, anchored in a bay for a swim and lunch, and then worked our way up to Ston for the night. Ston is at the head of the Stonsky Kanal and depths in the final approach are somewhat shallow, we recorded 2.2m before realising the channel had moved towards the north since the chart we were using was surveyed. Ston is an outpost of the Dubrovnik republic and boasts the oldest working salt pans in Europe and also the longest defensive wall in Europe (or so they say, Hadrian's wall gets my vote!). A very quaint town almost totally contained within the original walls. We wandered ashore after supper to sample the local brew and again the next morning for a decent cappuccino before departure.

From Ston we sailed south to an anchorage on the NE tip of Otok Sipan for a lunchtime swim and then drifted slowly south to Otok Sunj on Lopud where we anchored for the night. We revelled in the fact that we were the only yacht there as the sun dropped towards the horizon and then …......... the charter flotilla arrived! All of whom seemed to compete to anchor closest to us. Fortunately none too close and they were reasonably quiet and considerate.

Next morning, after a lazy start, we headed off for Cavtat from where Simon was to head off to the airport and UK the next day. At Cavtat we dined ashore for Simon's final night and enjoyed an excellent meal on the waterfront of the western harbour. This morning I dropped Simon ashore to meet his taxi, did some minor victualling, and then sailed for Kolocep, a well protected anchorage in the SE winds that are forecast for the next three days.

More when I sail from here!

Friday, 24 September 2010

OPDEF RECTIFIED – Sea trials successful!

By Friday evening the new engine was in place, set to work and all the paperwork for its export from Croatia was complete. What a bureaucratic nightmare, but that is another story! That done a short sea trial was conducted whilst moving from one section of the marina to another to make way for the returning charter hoards. If you need engineering support in this part of Croatia I can recommend Petar Vrvilo, at Kastella Auto, agents for Volvo Penta, Sole and Steyr but not limited to those marques. +385(0)21 238467, excellent service and ever willing.

Friday night was yet another end of charter dinner with the other boat crews, this time at a restaurant called “The Ballet School”! Nothing to do with the diners but a reference to the previous use of the building. Then on Saturday all went their separate ways including David Ashby in Camilla, who set off on a rapid transit to Brindisi to lay up and then travel onwards to UK by air.

In the meantime I set off for the western anchorage at Trogir for a single night; I had to remain near the airhead as I had inherited two of Davids' crew who were not departing until the Saturday night and Sunday morning. Once they were landed I headed off for the anchorage at Uvala Razetinovac, one of the best sheltered anchorages in the area. Just as well; after arriving I decided to install the replacement inverter under the chart table, awkward but do-able; that is until I put my back out for a second time! This time I felt it going and although painful I was able to shift position quickly and persuade whatever it was trying to make a bid for freedom to go back into place. Two days rest and it was on the mend.

On Tuesday afternoon I was joined in the anchorage by Michael Forest, and his crew Pablo, in his new boat Mitigator, (AKA Contessa Maria II) a Contessa 32. We dined onboard Kurukulla, breakfasted onboard Mitigator, (during which time we serviced Mitigator's primary winches which had been giving trouble) and then set off for an early afternoon cruise in company to Necujam in Solta. I arrived first, anchored Kurukulla with stern line ashore, and then welcomed Mitigator alongside. This morning, with a forecast of gale force southerly winds, I decided to stay put and not put my back to the test. Michael and Pablo needed to renew Mitigator's cruising permit and therefore had no choice but to set off to cruise southwards. Before departing we agreed to meet up in Mljet where my nephew is joining and has agreed to bring out some spares for Michael.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

What is history?

The BBQ was a great success despite the need to try to find all the gear we had taken ashore in the pitch black of a moonless night. Next day we Sailed off the anchor and headed into the eastern anchorage at Trogir to pick up three of the following week's crew, Melvin, Mike and Tim, and four of David Ashby's joiners, Mike, Steve, Kelsey and Julian. With this crowd onboard (excluding Tim who was scheduled to arrive later in the afternoon) we waited for David and Francesco to arrive. David was returning to Croatia from the UK via Brindisi where he had left Camilla.

Camilla duly arrived at about 1500 and Tim by 1630. From here we all (14 of us) set off for Necujam, in Solta for a departure/arrival celebration supper in the restaurant there. With the large number of people to land and only two 4/5 man dinghies it was always going to be a logistical challenge; when David's outboard decided to refuse to participate, the challenge turned into a nightmare. Suffice to say we made very few friends in the anchorage with the number times we passed to and fro with Kurukulla's dinghy towing Camilla's. With all back on board, by midnight'ish, the late night revellers decided that the night was still young. Next morning however we all felt our age! A swim in the cool waters of the anchorage was the only cure.

From here we had to be in Rogac, only one mile away, for the 1530 ferry departure; to dispatch Chris, Martin, Dom and Pete back via Split to UK. We arrived at 1200, refuelled, watered and the enjoyed a final goodbye lunch at the local restaurant before seeing them off on the ferry. The remainder of us set off for Luka Tiha where we planned to meet up with a large group of sailing friends who had chartered several boats from Kastela Marina near Split. Kastela was a place I was to get to know very well before many days had passed! Another late night party ensued and another early morning swim to clear the head!

Next morning we set off for Viz via a lunchtime swim stop in the St Klement Islands. Jerolim is slowly recovering from last year's fire. Amazingly, whilst at anchor, who should turn up but Michael Forest, a sailing friend from UK, in his newly acquired Contessa 32; this summer has been full of such co-incidences. Following lunch onboard Kurukulla, with Michael and his crew Pablo as guests, we were forced to leave them and set off for our overnight venue of Viz; they were destined for Split.

Viz has never been a favourite with David and Camilla and after this visit I doubt he will ever set foot on the island again. Having squeezed himself into a tight anchorage, requiring a line ashore to arrest the swing, a local fisherman took exception to the arrangement and cut David's shore line. Not surprisingly an altercation ensued between David, who is of not insignificant proportions, and the one armed local fisherman. Following interventions by harbour authorities and local police peace was restored but due to the low value of a mooring line (and one suspects the fact the fisherman was local) no further action was taken despite the potential for extensive damage to be caused by such recklessness!

By our arrival in Viz I was becoming increasingly concerned by the volume of oil appearing in Kurukulla's wake. Not unburned fuel but lub oil! Up until this season her engine has never consumed excessive oil. We were pinned down in Viz for two days by the Scirocco (strong south-easterly wind) but eventually left in a boisterous east wind and very lumpy sea to head for the eastern end of Brac. Departure was accompanied by the usual oily wake and I decided that over the next two days I would have to make my way back to Split and find the cause. After a brief look in Bobovisce, searching for a potable water supply for Camilla, we sailed down to Milna where I anchored in the roads to avoid having to run the engine whilst Camilla again went in in search of water. After an unsuccessful half hour they to anchored in the roads for the night, near us.

Next morning we sailed off the anchor and headed north. After talking to the various agents ashore, drawing heavily on the local knowledge of Velko, (a local friend who taxi drives in his spare time and has helped me considerably, last year and this, with getting crews to/from the airport to the right place), I decided to head for Kastella Marina. On arrival we were met by Velko and the local Volvo Agent, Petar; from there the saga started! There were only two possibilities to explain the oil loss, turbocharger or oil cooler (which for some strange reason is not on the fresh water cooling circuit!). An hour later the offending oil cooler departed in the hands of Petar and I breathed a deep sigh of relief; the much cheaper of the two potential repairs! That night 40 of us (the charter team had returned) set off for a meal in the ancient water mill at Trogir, the Mlinice Pantan, +385 21895095, to celebrate, amongst other things, Steve's 30th birthday and the prospect of a reasonably priced repair to Kurukulla. A great night was had by all with the, by now, habitual sore heads in the morning!

After a day in port avoiding the Bura (Strong north-easterly winds) and with the offending oil cooler repaired and reinstalled we set off again in the company of Camilla. No oil in the wake, not a care in the world and then …........ the engine seized! A short dying burst of black smoke, a puff of soot in the water for old time's sake and silence! No warnings, no alarms. Camilla towed us ignominiously back to the harbour entrance from where we were escorted in by the marina RIB; back to the same berth from which we had departed an hour earlier! Camilla wished us well and went on their way, there was no more they could do. Petar immediately came back onboard to discover what had gone wrong. The oil pump had lost suction and the whole oil gallery of the engine was dry. Try as I might I could not link this to the work he had done previously, this despite hours of poring over the books and diagrams. We re-primed the pump, installed an oil pressure gauge, barred over and then re-started the engine (which by now had cooled and freed up somewhat), all done with our fingers crossed. Eureka, good oil pressure, good engine response and no smoke. Breathe a second, heartfelt, sigh of relief! Next day (Sunday) Petar came down to the boat we again started the engine, all normal, idled it for half an hour and then prepared to sail for an hour long engine trial. This time our continuous monitoring of the oil pressure allowed us to stop the engine just before it seized, again. The oil pressure collapsed after exactly the same period of running and ironically in exactly the same place! The engine would turn, just, but not start! It was “un-roll the genoa”, sail back to the marina in the light southerly breeze and make another phone call to Petar, who by now was getting to know us quite well! With no Camilla, and a very slow response from the marina to our request for a tow, we sailed into the marina (maintenance area this time!) and made a gentle alongside. Out came the books and there commenced a lot of head scratching. All to no avail! By the end of the day we had arranged to dispatch the remaining crew members to join other boats who had spare places and I had “gritted my teeth” and agreed to purchase €6100 worth of new engine. In the midst of all this Melvin had also managed to blow up the inverter by plugging the vacuum cleaner into it; he was not to know we had not yet shut down the inverter and shifted to shore supply!

That night we all re-grouped at Trogir for a dinner to mark Mike and Steve's departure. Our return journey to Kastella was nothing if not by good fortune. In the absence of any taxis we had walked to the bus station in order to attempt to catch a bus along the coast and we were rewarded for our efforts when a bus arrived very shortly after us; our elation however was to be short lived. It was the last bus to arrive at Trogir that night and the driver informed us in a mixture of broken English and Croatian that it was not going anywhere until 0400! With a beaming smile, he then announced that he lived in Kastela and would give us a lift. Amazing kindness and a sense of humour to boot; not commonly found in Croatia, they are a very serious people!

Yesterday morning the others departed Kurukulla to join other boats. By mid-day the new engine (a Sola diesel, Mitsubishi made) had been sourced and Petar and I set about removing the old engine; by evening it was ready to sling out. This morning I received a reply to my cry for help and advice to “Marine Engineering Looe”, Plymouth Branch; they offered a diagnosis of the problem, a failed “O” seal in the oil pump suction line; deep in the engine. One of their engineers had seen this problem before! Petar was “off the hook”, nothing to do with his earlier repair, pure coincidence. I was reminded of that great line in the film “The History Boys” …......... “ Do you know what history is? It's just one f....ing thing after another!” In the past few days the history of Kurukulla has been exactly that! To save my sanity the MEL engineer also said that repairing the old engine was not a sensible option. It is verging on obsolete, no longer supported by Volvo spares, and would cost 80% of the cost of installing the new engine. Phew, at least I got that decision right! Anyone with a Volvo Penta engine with problems, go to Marine Engineering Looe. +44 1752 226143. I certainly can't thank them enough for their helpful support. The situation now is that we are having the best sailing weather seen in the past fortnight, the old engine is sitting on the jetty and a shiny new one is residing in the engine bay waiting to be bolted down and connected up. Where do I remember doing this sort of thing before? Could it be in the RN? Further OPDEF Sitreps to follow. (For the non RN amongst the readers OPDEF is an OPerational DEFect signal.)

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Pag to Primosten

Our first stop in Pag was Uvala Jurjevica, a swimming bay on the west coast of the northern end of the island. Two hours sunning and swimming, whilst waiting for the wind to return, was pleasantly passed away but to no avail. At 1700 we ghosted out of the bay under Main and No 1 Genoa but less than 30 minutes later we were forced to hoist the “iron foresail” and motor south to our chosen overnight anchorage at Strasko; a somewhat open anchorage, off a camp-site, but in the prevailing settled conditions perfectly tenable.

Next morning dawned equally windless so we contented ourselves with a visit to the camp-site ablutions (free hot water showers!) and a purchase of essentials from the shop. We then set off for Molat and the Kornati Islands. En route we anchored for lunch and a swim in Uvala Juzna Slatina; it is listed in the pilot as one of the nicest beaches in Croatia but really nothing to rave about. After an hour and a half we set off again, in a now brisk wind, for the island of Skarda where, on the southern coast, there is the most delightful inlet, Uvala Griparika; very quiet, despite the laid moorings with lines ashore, with a sole fortified house at the head of the inlet. We tacked up the inlet, sailed on to the mooring and were enjoying afternoon tea by the time the adjacent yacht, who had motored in ahead of us, had managed to sort out his lines, very satisfying. The moorings cost 11Kn per night per metre, very reasonable for high season.

At the start of the following day we motored to the head of the inlet to satisfy Dom's photographic yearnings and then headed out to beat southwards in a fresh breeze to Molat where we planned to take a lunch break and find water. Two and a half hours later and we were sitting at the restaurant on the quay at Molat eating Calamari Fritti and supping a beer, after which we had to wait until 1700 for the water man to reappear (he does not work the afternoons); we occupied our time with a walking tour of the village. After watering we set off, again on the wind, for the anchorage at Planatak. This we reached at 1930 just as the wind was dying and the light fading. There were two other British yachts in the anchorage and one small German but plenty of space for all of us inside the protecting islands. Supper of Pasta Carbonara, served on deck, followed by a film night brought the day to a close.

Nearby was one of the fortified submarine bunkers, excavated directly into the cliffs, so to start the new day with a piece of history we weighted anchor and ghosted over to it for a closer look before setting off south again. Slowly what wind there was died and we were forced to intermittently resorted to the the “iron foresail” during the next three hours. Finally we entered Sali, a very attractive port, despite the fish packing facility on the foreshore, where we were able to water again, victual and enjoy a lunchtime beer. A Med. moor, under engine, on arrival but departure under sail was the order of the day. From here it was a spinnaker sail down through the Katina passage (very short,tight gap; only 10m wide) and then onwards to the restaurant Beban in the bay at Koritnica on Otok Kornat. The bay, as an anchorage, I would heartily recommend for reasons I will explain later. The restaurant not so. Last year the food served was good and the service average; this year the food was very expensive, only average and the service poor. I will not be returning! We were there in the calm before the storm! Towards the end of the meal the wind and rain started; Granny (a restaurant family member) made a hasty grab to rescue her plant pots arranged along the window sill, Dom and I made a hasty departure for Kurukulla, fitted the engine to the dinghy, then he went back to retrieve the others whilst I prepared Kurukulla for the coming storm. They got back just in time, seconds before the heavens opened. Throughout that night we had winds gusting up to 70 knots from both South and North, repeatedly turning us through 180 degrees; of the five boats in the anchorage only two survived the night, three others dragged off into the middle distance, including one “super yacht”. Our anchor held firm, in fact so firm that it was one heck of a job to extract it from the mud and sand next morning. It was buried without trace!

The following day it was as if nothing had happened, sunshine and a moderate breeze! We sailed off southwards on a close reach in the 15 knot NE breeze and headed for the anchorage at Kosirina, Murter, a brisk sail and completed in less than three hours. A dinghy ride ashore for a beer or two in the local camp-site bar and then in was back to the boat for a roast chicken supper.

Dawn was not welcoming, grey and miserable with a forecast of much worse to come. I decided therefore to head for Sibenik and the Krka River and go upriver to see the falls; thus sheltering from the worst of the winds. Having entered the Kanal Sv Ante, and reached Sibenik, the heavens opened. Hence the first part of the passage up river saw me break out the foul weather gear for the first time this year. The others sheltered below! The scenery was spectacular but as we had to return downstream via the same route it was not worth getting soaked for! We anchored overnight at Rasline, two thirds of the way up river, watched a film and then enjoyed a relatively early night. Next day we set off moderately early, having avoided worst of the Bora (strong north wind) overnight, to motor up to Skradin. Once there we anchored opposite the town and set off in the dinghy to view the falls. Half a mile upstream there is a relatively low bridge and an out-post of the park police. This was as far as we got! We were informed that not even an inflatable dinghy was allowed up river beyond this point! (Despite the fact that the pilot says it is possible). The only way to see the falls is to board one of the tourist boats and, of course, pay..... 90Kn (£11) for the first leg which is not so bad until you realise that the best falls are further upstream and for those you pay a further 110Kn..... We decided to put the 200Kn per head it would have cost us towards our lunch! A much better idea and we found a restaurant to be highly recommended, the “Bonaca”, excellent food, friendly service, and enormous fillet steaks cooked to perfection. After lunch and a quick swim we sailed off the anchor and set off downstream sailing all the way back to the entrance to the Kanal St Ante but here the wind deserted us and so forced into an hours motoring to reach the overnight anchorage in Magarna on Otok Zlarin. A fabulous cove with deep water right to the edges. We anchored with a line ashore for the night. A quiet night passed without incident and we were well into the morning routine of breakfast with a swim when the wind shifted and, despite having dug the anchor in well, as we thought, the anchor tripped out resulting in a rather more hasty departure than we had planned! Martin swam ashore to recover the two shore lines that we had been forced to jettison.

From here we sailed the 7 miles to Primosten, on the wind again, in light winds and there we anchored and went ashore for a stroll around the town. So impressed were the others with Primosten, plus the prospect of a band playing in the town square that night, that we decided to stay overnight and had a pizza ashore followed by a glass of wine or two at the local ethnic wine bar and finished off with an ice cream served by a fellow who was a natural entertainer, juggling with the ice cream and joking with every customer, so good was he that Dom attempted to sign him up to come to work in England!

Another quiet night was followed by a quick watering stop on the Primosten jetty and then we set sail for Solta. After 5 hours on the wind, as seems usual, we anchored in Uvala Livka on the southern end of Solta and set up for a BBQ ashore.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

The best laid plans.

After an enjoyable lunch anchored off Uvala Konobe I decided that a final swim before setting off for Krk town and the fuelling jetty would be in order. I reached over the wheel to pick up my flippers and mask from the rear of the cockpit and that was the last movement I made for half an hour. Somehow I had managed to put my back out and the pain took half an hour to subside sufficiently to allow me to get myself down below and lie down. Fortunately the weather was stable and calm, therefore there was no requirement to reposition for the night or indeed any of the following three nights. Two days of very gingerly moving around the boat combined with regular applications of full strength Ibuprofen Gel (which had fortunately been procured and left onboard by Malvena Stuart-Taylor MD last year) got me to the stage where, with caution, I could go back to sea but I restricted myself to a direct passage to Rijeka; somewhere that I knew would be an easy berth to get alongside. Nothing adventurous and motor all the way was the order of the day!

A gentle stroll around Rijeka in the afternoon combined with a haircut (the first since I left England!) passed away a pleasant afternoon whilst waiting for the four friends who were due to join via a flight to Trieste and a taxi to Rijeka. Martin, Chris, Dom and Pete duly arrived at 1700 and by 1800 we were returning from the supermarket with victuals for a week. A rapid departure to avoid the joys of the Rijeka “Hyper-volume” Discotheque for a second Saturday night running, was followed, two and a half hours of brisk, excellent sailing later, by a night entry into Uvala Mala Jana. For the first time in my experience it was relatively crowded. As we ghosted in, carefully choosing a place to drop the anchor to avoid the other eight anchored boats or crossing their anchor cables, a helpful motorboat owner switched on every light he had, including his underwater floodlights, floodlighting us, just to make sure that everybodys' night vision was destroyed. Amazing how little some people know about seafaring! He obviously heard my freely offered advice to “switch the bloody lights off!!!” and complied. Two hours later, at midnight, he proceeded to wake the whole anchorage by starting his engines, leaving them idling for 15 minutes, then weighing anchor and leaving in another blaze of floodlights! I think I might have offended him!

Next day we sailed off the anchor and round to Krk town where we needed to take fuel and water. Fuelling in the tight corner where the fuelling jetty is situated was achieved without difficulty. After that we decided to berth on the town quay and have lunch ashore. Our first attempt at a Med moor, berthing stern to, with a wind blowing us onto the jetty, was not a great success. Initially all went well, that is until we hauled in the holding off line which we had successfully hooked from the stern and run forward. The outer end soon appeared on the bow of Kurukulla, attached to absolutely nothing! When you are committed you are committed! Some minutes later we had sorted out the problem, by swinging broadside to the jetty (fortunately causing no damage), finding the only other holding off line available and hauling ourselves laboriously off the jetty again into a perfect Med. moor. An excellent lunch in a restaurant on the quay was followed by a short walk around the town and then a brief sail over to Uvala Konobe for the night.

Next day we motored 10 miles, in a flat calm, to Rab for an afternoon of swimming and an evening BBQ on the beach, again! The last visit to Sahara beach for this year.

The following morning we sailed off the anchor in a brisk SE breeze and headed for Rab town where we anchored for a pair of hours in one of the rocky coves at the entrance to Rab before going to my now habitual anchorage to the NW of the town. That evening we went for a tour of the town followed by an excellent meal at the Arbiana Hotel restaurant in the gardens of the hotel.

This morning we made a victualling run to the Cash and Carry followed by a quick watering stop in Rab inner harbour and then to the same anchorage as the day before, for a brunch stop, before heading south. We are currently under-way to an anchorage off Pag, the next major island south.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Rocking and rolling in Rijeka..

The thunder storm and ensuing rain lasted most of the day so we satisfied ourselves with a short hop to Uvala Mala Jana where the shelter was good and the anchorage secure in the prevailing NW wind. Two other boats, who were already there, departed at the first sign of sunshine but this was short lived. As a result we had the anchorage to ourselves for the rest of the day. By 1800 when the rain finally seemed to have abated it was too late to contemplate going anywhere else. Net result, a very lazy day.
Next day dawned bright and clear so we chose to start early and make our way towards Rijeka, with a stop on the way at a suitable beach. After the first hour and a half motoring, in no wind, we decided that we had had enough and headed for the shoreline, anchoring in a small bay north of Njivice. The shoreline here is steep to but there is just enough room in the bays to drop anchor in 10m with 30m of chain out and swing clear of the rocks. We passed a very pleasant four hours there until the clouds started to build and the rain started again. The only problem, there was still no wind!
Two, very damp, hours of motoring later we were alongside in the port of Rijeka. A city of contrasts. If only they had stopped building in the 1880's it would be a beautiful, Venetian influenced, city but the coming of the railway and the resulting massive extension of the wharves and docks has given it the worst waterfront of any city I have ever seen. This has been followed by massive expansion of low cost, high rise, housing in the 1960's which has just made a bad situation much worse. There are still numerous architectural gems but very many are hidden in amongst the horrors.
We had chosen a berth right in the very far end of the port thinking that it would be a secure, quiet spot; we were after all the only private pleasure craft in the whole harbour! Later that night we found out why yachtsmen don't go there. The retired ferry, now converted to a floating restaurant; berthed nearby; also doubled as a late night, open air, discotheque! From 2300 until 0430 the noise was amazing; with all doors, hatches, windows and openings closed we were still having to shout inside Kurukulla to make ourselves heard! If that was not enough at 0430 the gods took over; they closed down the discotheque by providing a two hour thunder and lightening show, with torrential rain and a variety of gale force gusts from all directions, in the middle of which we had to leave the boat to get GianLuca to his 0600 departure bus for Trieste! Even the street lights fused twice! I returned to the boat very tired, thoroughly soaked, stripped off and went back to bed. The next I knew I woke to sunshine at 1100. A brief shopping run and then it was off down the east coast of Krk; a beautiful passage through under the bridge that connects Krk to the mainland and then onwards 15 miles to a tranquil, deserted bay at Petrina; absolutely no discotheques tonight!
There followed a very tranquil night and a slow start to the following day. A couple of minor repairs to the boarding ladder and a lazy lunch were followed by a very pleasant sail down the east coast of Krk to Uvala Mala Luka; a deserted inlet on the SE corner. A truly beautiful anchorage rather reminiscent of the Scottish Highlands; perhaps rather more sun scorched! Definitely one to return to later.
In fact so taken was I with the inlet that I spent the next day there as well and got on with some running maintenance whilst I whiled away a windless, grey day. The net result is that the stitching on the leech of the genoa, holding the UV strip has now been restitched over a two foot length (the original stitches having given way) and the elastic in the spinnaker pole has now been renewed (having parted a month ago!), a job requiring removing the end of the pole and then re-riveting it back on.
Today it was an early departure from Uvala Mala Luka and a very gentle passage (again under engine for lack of any wind), round to the south of Krk for lunch in a bay and then on to Krk town for fuel and water, late in the day. Overnight may well be in Krk if these flat calm conditions continue.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Back to the islands.

At 0700 on Saturday Simon transferred to Kurukulla permanently and we waved goodbye to David and Filip in Camilla as they set off from the Limski canal to head for Brindisi and onwards to the UK. Simon and I then set about doing some shopping in the local camp-site supermarket, victualling ourselves for the next few days. This completed we set off southwards for Uvala Soline, stopping for a pair of hours to anchor and swim off one of the local beaches. We finally reached the overnight anchorage at 1900 and following a final swim, settled down to a pork steak supper.

Next day, after a lazy morning, we moved the four miles into Pula harbour proper and Simon went ashore for a few hours sightseeing, I stayed onboard having seen enough of Pula in the last two years; there is a limit to the number of times you can do the amphitheatre, castle, Roman theatre and old city without having a sense of “deja vu”! At 1930 I set off ashore to collect GianLuca (an Italian friend who was joining for the week) from the bus station where he was due to arrive on the last leg of his journey from Rome. By 2100 we were all back onboard and, rather than stay in the polluted waters of Pula harbour, we set off at dusk for the anchorage at Soline. A night entry with no moon successfully executed we settled down to a spaghetti bolognese supper and then all retired. Next morning we made a trip to the head of Veruda Marina, situated in the next creek, to recharge the gas bottles and a refuelling stop in the marina which resulted in us spending almost an hour holding position and fighting off queue bargers before it was our turn to be called in to refuel. The time some people can take to refuel their boat is incredible! Thereafter we set off for a very pleasant sail round the southern tip of Istria to return to Medulin where we were to anchor overnight. There followed a supper ashore to mark Simon's departure and we landed him, next day for his return flight to the UK. That achieved GianLuca and I then set off for another passage south through the Osor canal, this was even more chaotic than the last transit as there was a five knot current running against the boats transiting southwards! It was achieved without incident for us but there were some very near misses for others! We anchored overnight in the same anchorage as before, Uvala Martinscica, and then set off the following morning to Rab. The anchorage at Sahara on the north eastern coast of Rab is one of the finest beaches that I know in Croatia and acts as a magnet each time I am in the area! Especially when the weather is flat calm as it is at the moment.

Next day we motored across, in the continuing flat calm, to Krk where we anchored in the bay at Konobe for lunch, an afternoon swim and a stroll ashore. Later we moved on to Krk harbour where we anchored, with a line ashore. That achieved it was a quick victualling run to the supermarket, a walking tour of the historic town, a plateful of Calamari Fritte, plus a beer, in a local restaurant, thus finished a very tranquil day. Next morning, however, was not quite the same! I woke to the sound of thunder at 0800, by 0830 the wind was getting up and the rain had started. Time to recover the shore line and move out of the restricted area in which we were moored. A quick 150 yard dash saw us anchored just outside the port but in open water with no hazards. It is from there that I am writing with, at this moment, torrential rain, thunder and lightning all around!

Friday, 6 August 2010

To Italy and back!

The departure from Sahara coincided with a steady rise in the wind and a change to a northerly direction. We had agreed to go north about on the small island of Otoc Grgur for a change of scenery and to go past the prison island of Otok Goli where opponents of the communist regime were interned. By the time we had made our way the mile to windward needed to pass north of the island the wind was up to 35 kts and what should have been a pleasant beam reach turned into a two reefs in the mainsail and a well rolled jib session. Our aim was to head for the town of Krk and refuel and re-provision there. Kurukulla and I arrived in Krk an hour before Camilla having made a tactical decision to motor-sail to windward before the wind became too strong. Anchored outside Krk harbour I was able to set to and strip the echo sounder to discover why it was not working; the answer was soon evident, a copious quantity of fresh water ingested into the instrument during the heavy rains of the day before. Even when dried out it still refused to give any sensible reading; time to replace it but where?
Krk is a beautiful town and proved suitable for a refuel and victualling but could offer no berths for the night so after doing all that was necessary we set off along the coast the six miles to Uvala Mala Jana, a small but perfect inlet found during last years travels. On arrival there was only one small power boat tucked in the corner and we were able to anchor both boats close together with lines ashore. A perfect setting for a swim and a late supper for all aboard Kurukulla.
Next day dawned bright but slightly overcast. A sail off the anchor and ghosting out into the channel provided a slow start to the passage but from there on the wind developed a mind of its own resulting in a frustrating morning of sailing interspersed with motoring whenever the wind dropped and all in an uncomfortable lumpy sea. Once we rounded the northern tip of Cres however life took on a completely different hue. A splendid downwind sail in brilliant sunshine with 10 knots over the deck and the Genoa poled out, fantastic! Our aim was to get as near to Pula as possible; in the event, by motoring the last hour or so as the wind dropped we were able to make the anchorage at Uvala Soline, just south of Pula.
Uvala Soline was absolutely crowded with Italian yachts signalling the start of the Italian summer holidays! Next day, whilst we had a beat northwards and to windward in 20 – 25 kts, there were vast numbers of yachts piling downwind under spinnaker all heading south. It was just like Cowes Week!
By Rovinj, 20 miles, to windward, we had had enough and decided to take our leave of Croatia from the authorities there. After a late lunch in a bay to the south of the town we motored into the harbour and berthed on the quarantine pier. Here started an hour long process, firstly persuading the Capitanija (Coast Guard) that they were not going to close half an hour before the published time on their door, thereby making us wait until the next day; followed by the police office where the very unhelpful individual on duty was determined to make everyone wait at least half an hour in order to prove his importance! (Some Croatian Police have yet to realise that things have changed since the communist days, they are now supposed to be servants of the people!) The formalities completed we returned to the bay where we had taken lunch and anchored for the night.
Next morning we set sail at 0500 for Santa Margherita, just east of Venice, arriving at about 1400. As Kurukulla was still without a working echo sounder Camilla led the way in, negotiating the shallow and tortuous entrance of Marina 4, where a very cheerful and helpful marinaio directed us to available berths. Purely by chance, adjacent to our berth was a Raymarine agent who was enlisted to resolve the echo sounder problem. Eventually, as they were unable to get any spares in a reasonable time-scale, I decided to cannibalize the internal unit and reduce to one working depth display on deck as opposed to having two non functional ones as was. To some degree I breathed a sigh of relief as the spares they were initially offering were priced at €500 and my plan is to renew the whole system next year, hence this would have been nugatory expense.
On day two David Ashby's daughter and family came for a days outing in Camilla, I stayed in the marina to complete various tasks onboard Kurukulla and ashore.
Day three dawned hot, breathless and with a deteriorating weather forecast so we decided to forego our intended brief sojourn into the lagoon at Venice and head straight for Slovenia. Camilla having executed another crew change, Jerry and Rob leaving, Filip joining, we finally departed Sta Margherita at 1600 and sailed / motored over to Piran (Slovenia) arriving at 2300, anchoring just outside the port. Unfortunately, whilst on passage David received some very bad news from UK, as a consequence he has been forced to curtail his visit to Slovenia / Croatia and head back to Brindisi, Italy as fast as possible to leave Camilla there and return home for an unspecified period. I decided that Kurukulla and I would accompany him as far as Pula.
We re-entered Croatia formally at Umag, where a moderately more helpful group of officials processed our papers, then continued southwards to find a suitable overnight anchorage. Our choice was to enter the Limski Canal; however, to get there we had to weather a bloodstained, four hour, sail southwards in a westerly force 8 gale, heavy rain, very unpleasant seas, cold temperatures and some severe thunderstorms. All in a mid-summer day's sailing in the Med!
Fortunately, after a relatively quiet night at anchor, things are starting to revert to normal and the weather is improving. Onwards tomorrow after a 24 hour pause at anchor to dry out and warm up!