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!