Update on batteries

It seems that our batteries will take a while to get here (Weds at the latest) so we have hired a car to see more sights of Puglia. We took out full insurance, even though it pretty much doubles the cost of the hire, and are glad we did. Within 8 hours of having the car, someone scratched the side of it whilst we were looking around Trani!

More on our tour of the region shortly.

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Still here and will be for a while

The storms on Friday (June 15th) continued until lunchtime and so with Bari’s poor drainage systems and much of the town below sea level, it meant that all the roads were pretty much flooded. Consequently, the fridge repairman couldn’t get to us on Friday and he doesn’t work Saturdays! So, another few days until it could be fixed. An engineer came to check the electrics and confirmed that the solar panels were fine but that the batteries were knackered. We have AGM batteries that are more expensive than the usual lead acid ones but you can discharge them more deeply and they last longer. We have had them since 2011 so they have done well. They looked fine when we checked them at the end of last season but they are now overheating and one has actually blown. Unfortunately, it was, by now, Friday afternoon so although the boatyard was on the case to find replacements, we wouldn’t know much until Monday.

There have been plenty of boat jobs to be done in the meantime including cleaning Nimmie within an inch of her life and, my, was she dirty. There was an orange glow to her from months of sand and dirt in the air. Liz put a knife block in the galley. She was going to do it whilst we were on the hard then realised that we weren’t on the level. Could have ended up at a lovely, jaunty angle!

Knife block

We had brought out a new dinghy that had been replaced by the manufacturer. Some of you will remember that our ‘brand new’ dinghy last year developed a faulty seam so didn’t keep losing pressure. The new Baby Nimmie IV needed her name tags and signage put on her. We have also bought a reel of webbing that you can use when needing lines ashore. This is lightweight but strong so much easier for Liz to swim with and it rolls off the reel as you need it.

New Webbing Reel

Monday morning the fridge repairman arrived and found the root cause of the problem – the probe that sends signals to the compressor as to the desired temperature. Luckily, we had a spare on board so he was able to fix it. Cost us €300 for his and his brother’s time (on Thursday) but it is working now and frankly, the thought of not having a working fridge all summer was too much to bear.

It’s always amazing how much time things take when you are on a boat and also what can go wrong on an almost daily basis. The latest is that the water pump wouldn’t switch off. We thought it was a drop of pressure in the accumulator so wasn’t hard to fix but it meant emptying the entire cockpit locker to get to it. We took the opportunity to have a look at the heating system as well given we had problems in March. I’m not sure it was the best time to do it given it was 31 degrees today!

The locker really is deeper than Liz is tall!

At least with being here we were able to watch the England game in the Football World Cup. Even Liz got into it.

The update on the batteries is that the ones we want are hard to source here so we have ordered them from the U.K. but they will take 5 or 6 days to get to us once dispatched. I reckon that means that we won’t be leaving Bari for another week at least. It seems that we are destined to spend this time of year waiting for repairs. In 2012 it was the engine, last year the gear box and now the batteries. Still, at least it’s warm, sunny and we aren’t at work!

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Not as heavy as we thought

Due to various family crises, we flew out to Bari a week later than planned on June 12th, a year on from when we were first there sussing out the boatyard. Nimmie has been on the hard standing since Oct 2017 and has fared well although she is completely covered in sand. All the work we authorised has been completed apart from the replacement of the main halyard (that keeps the main sail up) as Cesare wanted to check the shackle fitting with us.

We had brought out a replacement dinghy with us but waited until she was launched to bring it on board – no point lugging that up 10m!

Having been up early to close the house up, we were pretty tired once we had unpacked so we went to a restaurant close by called Antica Santa Lucia, which did very good pizza, pasta and seafood. We had pizza, beer, wine and a dessert for less than €20 each. Given we could hardly keep our eyes open past 9.30pm it was some anniversary celebration! It was still very warm, in the high 20s even at 10pm so it was difficult to get to sleep as the boat had been closed up for so long. Luckily, we do have a small AC unit which helped although Liz decamped to the saloon to try and get some breeze.

You can see where they tightened the keel bolts on the far left

Wednesday was another lovely day but we needed to stay on board so we could check all the work that had been done and ensure no snags. We also found out that the fridge had stopped working. Although it’s cooled by sea water, it was clear that the compressor wasn’t coming on. We hoped it wasn’t a faulty compressor as we only had it replaced two years ago and they are very expensive. We also realised that our batteries had been drained flat, which is very unusual as we have 200 watts of solar panels and they normally ensure that the batteries are topped up. So, not sure whether it’s the batteries or the panels (although they appear to be charging and sending current from the regulator to the batteries). It needs an electrical engineer to test the charging and batteries and he can’t come until Monday so we know we won’t be leaving before Tuesday at the earliest.

We did manage to repair the winch and polish the transom before calling it a day, having a shower (god did that feel good) and then off back to Antica’s for a proper meal this time.

We were due to be launched on Thursday around 11am so we wanted to ensure we had all the jobs done that required the boat out of the water. We needed to be a bit careful when we did these as it is often forbidden in Italy to do any work on your own boat that requires the use of power tools so we had polished the transom after the boatyard had shut for the day on Wednesday.

Nimmie on the move!

Nimmie was carefully launched into the water and a mechanic came on board to check there was no water ingress from the new propeller shaft or sea cock. He was then followed by the mechanical engineer to check the engine as they had replaced the water pump gasket and completed an engine service so it needed priming. All good. We found out that the travel lift has a weighing mechanism that showed Nimmie’s weight as 12.5 tonnes, some 2.5 tonnes less than we thought.

Launched!

We then moved her round to a berth. I was a bit nervous as, not having parked a boat Med style in 7 months, you’re never quite sure how she will behave. However, despite the wind picking up (not forecast) it all went very smoothly and we were soon in our berth. We then had the new dinghy, valeted sails and a repaired outboard motor delivered.

Liz had work to finish off (I know, she’s supposed to be NOT working since end of May) so I started cleaning the inside of the boat. We had decided that with the amount of dust and grime in the boatyard, it wasn’t worth cleaning her until she was in the water. Then the fridge men arrived. It was like a Laurel and Hardy act. Michael was the older, English speaking half with his boss, younger and the one who did all the work. They identified that it was the control unit that was at fault and proved it by bypassing it and the fridge started to work. They are fashioning a mechanical switch like you have in your fridge at home to override the unit but we also found a replacement unit we had shipped out last year and forgot about so we will see which one works when they come back today.

We decided to eat on board last night so popped to the local shops once they had reopened after the statutory siesta and had a lovely simple meal of baked chicken and salad sitting in the cockpit before the thunderstorms arrived. I’m glad we were launched yesterday as there has been the most amazing thunder and lightning much of the night and all morning. We are safely tucked up in board and Nimmie is getting a very good wash!

You couldn’t see across the harbour this morning

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All going to plan…

Brand new Coppercoat on the hull

On Thursday March 22, we flew out to Bari to check on the work that the boatyard, Nautica Ranieri, has been doing on Nimmie. We had given them a long list in October but didn’t expect them to have completed all of it by now! Not only that but they had also done all of the extra items that were added along the way. The largest job was to re-apply the Coppercoat on the hull to keep barnacles and other horrid things from growing. This was first put on some 8 years ago but we felt that it hasn’t been working that well over the last two years. On some sailing forums, they say that Coppercoat only works for around 6 years in the Med rather than the 10 years plus in cooler climes. We decided to reapply it and see how it goes. If it doesn’t work that well, we will probably revert back to good old antifoul.

We had decided to stay in an apartment for the four days we were there rather than on the boat. I’m glad we did as it was very wet and cold for most of our stay. We even started up the heating whilst we were on board but the smell and smoke in the saloon was horrible. It may just have needed to be burnt off or there may have been a split in the exhaust hose, either way it would have meant taking everything out of the cockpit locker to get to where the heating is housed. A job for another day when it’s warm and dry! The apartment itself was midway between the old historical centre and the marina so, apart from the first day when we had a stand up paddle board (don’t ask) with us, we were able to walk there.

On the Friday evening, we went back to one of our favourite restaurants, Pappa. It is in the historical centre and we had assumed we wouldn’t get in without a reservation. However, when we arrived, we were the only ones there. The waiter said it was because of ‘il tempo’ – the weather. It was true that there weren’t many people out and about and I suspect that southern Italy doesn’t normally have such cold weather even in mid winter. They had changed the menu from full meals to tapas with a twist. The calamari, squid and bread croquettes were just heavenly. Washed down with a bottle of house wine at €15, the whole experience was a culinary delight for around €20 per head. Let’s hope they get more custom in the summer otherwise I suspect they will have to close.

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Before and after!

Saturday was dry and relatively warm whilst the sun was out so we were able to undertake some minor jobs including trying to remove the effects of oxidation (whitening) on the stern by using a rubbing compound. It’s like an industrial version of T-Cut on cars (although T-Cut is oil based and rubbing compound is like liquid sandpaper). It did seem to make a big difference so we will try and finish the rest of the hull when we are back out in June if we can. One of the joys of having a blue hulled boat in very sunny climate. It’s difficult in Italy doing jobs on your own boat as the boatyards tend to forbid it so you have to be a bit creative! The boatyard shut at 1pm but we stayed until around 4pm to do the stern and then made our way back to the apartment for a hot shower. This time we went to eat at a renowned local pizzeria. It is very popular takeaway with locals (always a good sign) and has a small side room with four tables in it if you want to eat in. The pizzas were delicious although we weren’t too sure of the house specialty of broccoli and salami. However, beer and pizza for two came to €20 so we weren’t complaining.

Sunday was forecast to be another damp day so instead of wandering around Bari, we decided to take the train to Monopoli, 30 minutes south of Bari. It is an old fortified town with an exhibition of Joan Miró paintings in its castle. We went to the house of Joan Miró in Mallorca

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Monopoli street after one of the many deluges

back in 2012, so we were keen to have another look at his work. The train fare was €3.40 each way and the entrance fee to the exhibition was €4. I know, last of the big spenders. We even found a lovely little café that was run by a local Italian woman who had spent many years in Middlesborough and had a strong NE accent! Monopoli is small but quite lovely with marbled streets and alleyways. By 3pm we had seen pretty much all there was to see and the weather didn’t improve so we made our way back to Bari and onto the airport. It was lovely to be back in Italy again and also to see that Nimmie was faring well.

 

We can’t wait to be back on her for real in June to start another adventure.

 

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New year, more jobs

The yard in Bari, Italy has been very busy since we left Nimmie in October 2017. We had given them a pretty comprehensive list of winter “jobs”, including re-applying Coppercoat to the hull as it’s now been 8 years since it was first applied. It hasn’t been working as well as it should over the last couple of seasons so two years ago we had Peter re-apply Coppercoat to the keel and the rudder in Malta. However, we have decided that it needs to be completely redone. It has kept the hull clean from barnacles and growth for a good few years but lately we have had to scrap the hull several times a season. We had thought that with being on her for six months in 2017 and moving from place to place, it would be okay but we still had to scrap her several times by hand. Hence, the decision to re-apply the copper based anti foul.

The list of jobs we gave the yard had 16 items on it but not long after Antonio and his team started to do the work it started to grow. It’s a bit like an old car that you try and fix up. As soon as you look at one thing, another problem pops up. Whilst servicing the engine, they noticed the raw water pump had a small leak. We had noticed the same thing earlier in the season but it wasn’t obvious where it was coming from and was also quite small. It’s simpler and cheaper to do as they were already working on the engine. The other problem they spotted with Nimmie out of the water was that the shaft (that connects the propellors to the engine) was worn and needed to be replaced. Next, the bow thruster propellors were broken. We knew there was a problem with the connections as it kept cutting out at the most inopportune moments so we had asked them to fix that but hadn’t realised that there was a problem with the actually propellors! Ah well, at least she’ll be all set for the new season even though our bank account will be taking a hammering!

One piece of good news is that 3D Tenders have finally replaced our tender. We only bought it last winter and didn’t start using it until May but very early on, it developed a leak where the seam hadn’t been sown properly in production, which meant that one side slowly deflated. Not great when you depend on it to get you ashore whilst at anchor!

We now need to decide on when to go out and check on all the work that is being done on her. It’s always exciting to go back out and see Nimmie. Makes the start of the season seem that bit closer even if it will be June this year…..

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Time to say goodbye – for a while at least

The crossing from Montenegro to Bari, Italy was completely uneventful. 21 hours of very little wind and calm seas meant we had to motor the entire way. There wasn’t even much traffic until we got closer to the Italian coast so it was a very easy passage. We arrived on Tuesday, October 3rd around 0830, refuelled and reversed into our berth. Although both of us were tired from our crossing, having only had a few hours sleep each, we needed to make the most of the weather and get the jobs done that were easier to do whilst she was in the water and before the afternoon sea breeze arrived. This entailed washing the boat, dinghy and kayak so we could deflate and pack them away – obviously not the boat! We also needed to take the genoa down before lifting as sails can get unfurled and damaged in high winds, as we saw a few days later with another yacht. We then washed all the lines we could as they had been covered in salt over the last 5 months and 2,100nm.

We were like anxious parents watching her being lifted out!

The next morning saw Nimmie being lifted out. The yard took great care of her as she was being lifted, washed and then put into her cradle. It probably took the best part of 3 hours. Luckily, the boatyard has a ‘lounge’ area with good wifi so we could keep an eye on her whilst catching up with admin.

Once she was safely on her stand, we decided to explore the shoreline near the marina. It is quite pretty with a number of restaurants, one of which we decided to have a late lunch in. This is where Liz had sea urchins for the first, and probably last, time.  They tasted a bit like oysters but not quite! We also came across Eataly, a sort of Harvey Nicholls Food Hall, that showcased food from Puglia. Lovely stuff on show but very expensive.

Sea urchins and chilled rosé

Beautifully displayed fish counter at Eataly

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over the next couple of days, we continued to get Nimrod ready for the winter as we have done these past 5 years, including removing anything that may be damaged over the coming months. It’s amazing how long it all takes. We were able to stay on board as the yard had lent us a ladder so we could get up and down. On Thursday, the chief technician came to discuss the jobs we wanted doing. Most of them fairly minor but we had noticed that one of the propeller blades was loose and he also noticed that the cutlass bearings had gone, which means that the propeller shaft itself could move from side to side – neither a good thing!

The menu at Pappa’s

We had hoped for a day off to just chill but the most we managed was a few hours in the old part of Bari. We did find an amazing restaurant called Pappas for lunch, tucked down a side street. It has only been open for a few months and wasn’t very busy but the food melted in your mouth.

We reluctantly left Nimmie on Saturday morning, 7th October to fly back to the UK. Hopefully, she will be well looked after in Nautic Ranieri. We’ve had a marvellous time over the last 5 months and it’s funny how quickly you get back into a live aboard routine. Nimmie has looked after us in some pretty nasty weather, bits have stopped working (windlass) and started again (fridge). It never seems to matter what is thrown at her, she just shrugs her metaphorical shoulders and gets on with it. We’ve had many compliments about her as we toured the Adriatic as she is seen as a ‘proper’ boat with a number of harbourmasters nodding sagely when they see her. We are going to miss her but are looking forward to the next adventure in 2018!

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Montenegro 🇲🇪 

We left Cavtat in Croatia last Monday, September 25 after pulling up the anchor and motoring round to the customs quay. There were a number of charter boats already there but they seemed to be taking an inordinate amount of time. We asked if we could raft off the two catamarans that were moored alongside as checking out should only take a few minutes. Also, it meant we didn’t have to deploy our anchor (and Liz pulling it up by hand!). However,  the harbourmaster was ‘busy’ so we had  to go back to the boat to let the others leave. We hovered in the harbour waiting for them to go but finally gave up when the last one was still there 20 mins later. We dropped the anchor and motored back to the quay. They decided to leave at this point and it soon became clear that we had crossed over their anchor chain as they had deployed theirs at 45 degrees away from the front of the boat rather than in front. The Port Authority guy shrugged his shoulders and said ‘Polish’ as if that explained it all. It all got sorted but the wind had got up so we ended up at a jaunty angle thanks to our new friends, now called the numpties. The Port Authority mooring guy was impressed that two women could handle a boat – a first for him. Bless. The checking out only took ten minutes so by 1130 we were on our way to Montenegro.

The wind was on the nose – as usual –  so we had to motorsail to Tivat, some 25 miles away. We decided to check in at Porto Montenegro marina as they handle all the paperwork. Montenegro seemed to be even more bureaucratic than Croatia with visits to the police, harbourmaster, customs and back to the police. Amazingly, it only took 20  minutes and we then went round to the marina as an indulgence (€82 per night to moor). It is an upmarket marina with superyachts galore but very welcoming to us mere sailors.

Porto Montenegro – full of super yachts and Nimmie!

The next morning we popped round to the Maritime Museum by the marina and it included a really interesting visit around a Yugoslav submarine. (Liz has an obsession with submarine pens and submarines.)

Given how large it looked outside, it was amazingly cramped inside for the 28 sailors


We decided to stay in the Bay of Kotor for the first few days as we had heard that the bay was spectacular. It does have a feel of a Norwegian fjord with small villages dotted around the waterline dwarfed by the mountains. We went to Risan and moored up on a town quay, although it was very shallow and not exactly pristine.  Still, it was free even if the locals use the quay as a meeting place until 2am! The only bright moment was the local Roman mosaics.

Roman Mosaics at Risan

The following morning (Weds) we caught a bus to nearby Perast, which sits on the shores of the bay.  A lovely little town but, like most of Montenegro, clearly showing signs of being at the end of the summer season.

Perast on the shores of the Bay of Kotor

The yacht charter companies are still operating in October so we decided to go to Kotor mid week when it shouldn’t be too busy. Kotor is a medieval town with a city wall that reaches up to the mountain behind. As we approached, we saw that the cruise liner, Queen Victoria, was moored on the quay.

Top of Kotor City walls looking down on Nimmie and Queen Victoria

Kotor itself dates back to the Greeks but the current town was built by the Venetians and you can tell. Both of us preferred Split or Dubrovnik as the old town was full of tacky souvenir shops, which was a shame. However, the climb up the city walls gave fantastic views down into the harbour and across the bay. The weather by now had turned so it has been decently chilly in the evening and the wind has definitely cooled during the day. Still around 21/22 degrees in the shade and a lot more cloud cover but that could be as a result of the majestic mountains that surround you in the bay. We decided to eat out that evening and had a lovely meal at Galion restaurant overlooking the bay (and Nimmie).

The weather forecast wasn’t great for Thursday so instead of exploring the beaches (and beach bars!), we sailed to Herceg Novi as it has been recommended by friends and is close to the mouth of the bay. We thought it would be an industrial harbour. How wrong could we be. It is a delightful town with nice shops, lovely bars and cafes around the promontory and an old town that was a joy to walk round and gave fantastic views down the bay. The only downside was that mooring the boat was challenging as we had a strong breeze pushing us sideways so we gently ferry glided in slowly and carefully. It seems that both harbourmaster and the other yachts were impressed! We ended up between two Irish charter boats – as you can imagine, they were great fun. Then the Polish mini flotilla (aka numpties) arrived. Luckily, they were not next to us otherwise words might have been exchanged!

We went into the old town (Starigrad), which involved a long climb but well worth it for the views and also the tasteful shops. On the way back we also walked around the promontory which reminded us of the one at Bol on Brač with its kiosks and cafes. We found a mobile phone shop that sold a 200GB data SIM card for €5 as Montenegro isn’t part of the EU and therefore the roaming changes don’t apply here. Bargain!

The old town of Herceg Novi looking down the Bay of Kotor

By Friday, Liz was getting itchy feet and keen to explore the numerous beaches along the coast so we headed out of the bay and went exploring. We ended up at Sveti Stefan which is a hamlet on another promontory although now it is an exclusive hotel complex where they charge €1000 a night for a room. We anchored underneath the complex with the much better view! The wind was double what had been forecast so we had a pretty disturbed night checking all was well. The next day we went ashore and found a lovely walk.

Sveti Stefan

 

Sveti Stefan with Nimmie

Back at the boat we headed north towards the Bay of Kotor as we needed to check out on Monday. Our vignette (cruising tax) was only valid for 7 days. The various beaches didn’t look terribly sheltered or inviting in the overcast sky so we continued to Bigova, half way between Sveti Stefan and the Kotor Bay. It is a lovely inlet that is very sheltered and there are mooring buoys available if you eat at the Grispolis restaurant. We had already decided that we would eat out so we had a free mooring for the night.

View of Bigova from our mooring buoy

Given that we had reserved a slot at the duty free fuel berth at Tivat on Monday morning, we wanted to be relatively close by. We found another lovely bay just before the Bay of Kotor called Zanjica that also had mooring buoys. We told the lad that came to help us that we didn’t want to eat out that night so, once he confirmed with his boss, we got a free mooring for the night. We just said we would go and have a drink at the bar. The restaurant was really a beach lounge/bar/restaurant so we had gin and tonics watching the sunset set with chill out music playing. What a lovely way to spend our last night in Montenegro.

Uvala Zanjica

Sunset from Ribarsko Selo in Zanjica

Next morning we were up bright and early to go round to duty free fuel berth. We filled up with 170 litres for €92, which is the same amount we paid in Italy for 60 litres!! They also dealt with checking out so by 1130  we were on our way over to Bari, Italy – some 113nm and 21 hours later.

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Dalmatia

On Saturday morning (16 September), we dinghied over to Slano town to reprovision before our next guests arrived that evening. We moored the dinghy at the marina in Slano and bumped into Tom and Susie from Sirena. We hadn’t actually met up with them since Brindisi but we had been following each other through emails and blogs. This was a lovely surprise. We also met Dave and Anne Lovejoy from the Cruising Association walking into town – it is a small world, indeed! The wind had got up during the morning so we had a very wet dinghy back to the boat – luckily the food survived although the figs took a beating. The boys on Limoni had sensibly taken their yacht over to the town quay to shop and take on water.

As we were meeting our next guests, Helen and Nicky, off the ferry at Sipanska Luka, Šipan that evening we decided to moor up on the town quay to make things easier. Easy is not how I would describe the mooring, though, given the strong winds that were blowing through! We also found out that the windlass (that pulls the anchor chain up) has decided not to work so poor Liz has to pull it up by hand now.

Šipan is one of the Elephites Islands that lie close to the Dalmatian coast and means deer – not that there are any left on these islands now. The port of Sipanska Luka is a lovely little place but can’t really be called a port. It’s a small harbour that the ferry calls into, there’s nothing commercial about it.

Sipanska Luka on a very grey day

The wind and sea continued to build during the night but we only had a short passage back to the south east corner of Mljet in a bay called Saplunara so we set off after a leisurely breakfast. Whilst the bay at Saplunara is deep, there are mooring buoys belonging to the restaurants there that you can use for free if you eat at one of them. With five boats and 23 people, one restaurant, Kod Ante, was very happy to accommodate us and even helped us moor. A splendid evening was had once we had all dried off following the drenching we got on the way over.

Saplunara Luka with restaurant behind

We were keen to get to the island of Lastovo the following day as it has a reputation for being unspoilt as well as part of a national park. As it is one of the most westerly of the islands, we knew that this may be our last chance to go there given the weather forecast. The weather on the Monday was perfect for sailing so we had full sails up under clear blue skies and reaching speeds of 7.4 knots. Our first stop was the bay of Skrivena Luka that was pretty but fairly ordinary when you’ve seen so many pretty bays!

The next day was a short hop around the corner to Jurjeva Luka to a lovely anchorage. Not long after we arrived, the heavens opened and an idyllic anchorage became a scene out of Noah’s Ark.

However, the skies cleared for a while so you could see what all the fuss was about.

Taken from Todd’s drone in Lastovo

Our crew joined others for a walk around the island to a submarine pen, similar to the one on Vis. This didn’t seem as deep but was in fact just as big. This island wasn’t opened to the public until 1989 due to its military operations. On our way out of Lastovo we saw another pen so I suspect that there were more hidden secrets within the island.

Yet another submarine pen, complete with yacht moored alongside!

We then had a long motor sail back towards Mljet and anchored in the charming bay of Polače. It is part of a national park and I could have happily spent a couple of days there but we needed to ensure the fleet were back in Dubrovnik by Friday evening so it was only an overnight stay. However, Nicky and Helen treated us to breakfast the next morning. This was probably the first day in a while that actually felt warm. It seems that the temperature has really dropped in the last two weeks. We shouldn’t complain as we know that the UK is much cooler.

Liz, Helen and Nicky at breakfast

Another 5 hour motor sail for us this time to  Sudarad on the opposite side of Šipan to Stipanska Luka. Again, there were mooring buoys here free of charge as the restaurant didn’t mind if we ate with them or not. In the end, we did as this would be the last meal we would have together as a charter (and we were down to three boats by now). However, only after movie night which involved each boat dressing up as a movie. Our film was Thelma and Louise.

Baby Nimmie transformed into a movie set!

A leisurely morning  followed as we only had a three hour journey to the south of Dubrovnik. We walked up to a hilltop church that had amazing views.

Looking south towards Lopud and the mainland.

The other boats needed to be back at base by the evening and we had decided to find an anchorage near the airport so that Nicky and Helen didn’t need to travel far on the Saturday. On the way down we passed by Dubrovnik, still looking impressive. We were here 13 years ago and it seemed like yesterday. The bay we had in mind wasn’t suitable so we continued to Cavtat, which is very close to the airport. It’s a cute little town dating back to the Greeks. We’ve been anchored here for two days now and taken the opportunity to spend a day in Dubrovnik, including watching the sunset from Fort Imperial, high up the hillside overlooking the town. Since we were here last they have installed a cable car up to Fort Imperial so you get amazing views of the city and the surrounding islands. We also went round the Homeland War exhibition in the fort, which gave you some insight into how the Croatians feel about the 1991-2 war and especially the bombardment of Dubrovnik.

Dubrovnik from the city walls

A magical sunset from the top of the cable car

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Korčula and Mljet

We did indeed spent another day in Vela Luka on Korčula island during which the heavens opened several times. Truly torrential rain but it did mean that the sea had a chance to calm down a bit. So, on Tuesday morning, we topped up with fuel before setting off for Korčula Town, some 35nm away where the rest of our club charter were. As always, the wind wasn’t quite coming from the direction they forecast so it was bang on the nose and the sea state started to build again. However, once we were in the channel between the Pelješac peninsula and Korčula island, it was a lot flatter and easier. We sailed past the old town into an anchorage just two miles south to meet the other boats only two days late!

Korčula Town

The old town that stands today dates back to 15th century and was the birthplace of Marco Polo. When we last visited here in 2004, it wasn’t as touristy and certainly didn’t make much of the fact that Marco Polo was its most famous son. That has all changed with Marco Polo museum, the house he lives in, memorabilia and tours. The front overlooking the harbour is now full of restaurants and cafes, showcasing a wonderful vista. The bell tower is a short but very steep climb to give you amazing views.

We spent the night in a quiet anchorage and walked round to Lumbarda village to eat in one of the many restaurants. It was an okay meal but lovely to be with everyone. We spent the next day wandering around Korčula as it was only a couple of miles in the dinghy and yacht Limoni gave us a lift one way! After Korčula we had a fabulous sail up the channel to Loviste on the Pelješac peninsular. It was a huge but quiet anchorage (at least until we turned up!). We had fabulous drinks and canapés on board Artmedia, a Hanse 575, with loads of toys including its own wine fridge, electric height adjustable tables and the necessary generator to power all these luxuries!

Artmedia in Loviste

Next day was a long motor sail down to Okuklje on Mljet. Liz and I were here in 2004 but have absolutely no recollection! Most of the moorings are for the restaurants but there is a very small town quay so we  snuck on there free of charge. Our fridge decided to pack up again so we ate on board whilst the rest of the club ate at one of the restaurants in this bay.

Okuklje on Mljet

Today we sailed all of 6nm across from Mljet to Luka Slano on the mainland via a lunchtime stop on Jakljan. There is a cove just inside the Slano bay called Banja and whilst fairly deep at 12m (this means that we have to put out 45m of chain), it’s a beautiful anchorage with its own chapel. Eating on board again and watching the stars after pre dinner drinks on Limoni. Magical.

Banja

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Carpe Diem

So, the plan for Friday was to get as far as Korčula island as that’s half way to Dubrovnik. However, the wind and sea were directly on the nose and as any sailor will tell you, waves can stop you dead in your tracks. After 3 hours of going precisely nowhere, we gave up and changed direction to the Pakleni Islands. We covered more distance in the next hour than we had all morning! Mother Nature was telling us something. We picked up a mooring buoy in between two islands in a perfectly calm bay. The buoys belonged to a restaurant and you can stay free of charge if you eat there. We thought it would be rude not to so we had a very nice lunch, washed down with the homemade wine.

View from the restaurant in U. Zdrica

This island also happens to be the same island that the beach club Carpe Diem is on so we wandered round to have a look. There was a path of sorts but it wasn’t obvious even in daylight. It was pretty quiet at 5pm but then it doesn’t really get going until 12.30am!


Back to the boat and Liz went for a 4 hour nap in preparation for a visit back to the bar. I hadn’t managed to get any sleep during the evening so Liz waited for me until 2am so I had had a few hours sleep at least. We then dinghied over to the restaurant dock and then walked for about 20 mins, in the dark, to the club. It wasn’t really busy but enough customers to create a bit of a buzz. The music varied in quality so we stayed until around 4am before heading back to the boat.

Eye candy for some

Can’t believe we looked so wide awake!

In the morning, we decided to see whether we could continue on southwards, hoping that the sea state had calmed down. Seizing the day, we managed to get across to the western tip of Korčula island before the next storm would hit us and tied up to a mooring buoy in the harbour and close to shore. The nightly cost is 150 kuna, which is the cheapest we have paid to date (not counting the free ones!). The mooring is very secure and even in the high winds we can dinghy to shore. Given we have seen 30 knots of wind in the harbour, we can only imagine what it must be like out at sea.

Today (Sunday) has continued to be stormy and windy but we have managed to get various jobs done on the boat as well as a bit of sightseeing. Vela Luka is the 2nd largest town on Korčula although having at least 8 supermarkets seems a little over the top! It is also home to Vela Spila (meaning big cave). This is a cave that dates back 17,000 years to the ice age when Korčula and Vis were part of the Croatia mainland. It took us 30 mins to walk up to it high above the town and 10 mins to look round it! Still, all quite interesting.

Vela Spila cave

Then we walked part round the bay (its three miles long!) and had to divert into a bar when the thunderstorm started. We may end up being stuck here another day until this Sirocco blows through and the sea calms down.

Kissing Point was on our walk – I leave it up to you as to whether we obliged!

Vela Luka

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