Yacht Retreat - Passage Reports 2002

 

 

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Passage Report Number 1

 

Marina Hramina, Croatia

 

Sunday 24th March, 2002

 

ABOARD, BUT NOT YET AFLOAT

 

As I write we are sitting aboard Retreat as she sits in her substantial steel cradle in the boat yard at Marina Hramina.  Outside a powerful bora, the wind most feared in the Adriatic, is buffeting us with ice-cold air from the central European mountains.  The conditions make it unpleasant to work outside, but at least we don’t have to worry about our moorings parting!

 

Our winter sojourn came to an end on Thursday 14th March with a flight from Heathrow to Rome.  We spent four nights in the Eternal City making up for our disappointment in 2000 when weather conditions prevented us from entering the nearby port of Fiumicino from where we had planned to make our visit.  This year the weather was kind to us and we enjoyed three days of pleasant spring sunshine.  We bought one-week Travel Cards giving us unlimited use of buses, trams and tubes though we avoided the latter whenever possible.  Crowded?  The word doesn’t even come close – they were horrendous!

 

We visited all the well-known sites and one or two off the beaten track.  It is difficult to list a favourite as there really is something of interest around every corner.  However, we do have particularly fond memories of the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon at night, the Palatine Hill and the Colosseum by day and the view from the dome of St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City.  We also enjoyed a trip outside the city walls to the San Callisto Catacombs, used as a Christian burial site from the second to the fourth century.  By contrast, we were less impressed with our visit to the Vatican Museum.  Whilst we could appreciate Michelangelo’s artistry in the Sistine Chapel it left us feeling cold.  To us, nearby St Peter’s was clearly built to the glory of God; the Sistine Chapel spoke more of the wealth and power of Popes gone by.

 

On Monday 18th March we caught a train from Rome to Ancona on the Italian Adriatic coast.  The 200-mile journey cost us Ł8.00 each, the seats were comfortable and the train ran on time.  British Train Companies please note!  From Ancona we took the over-night ferry to Split on which a change to the timetable gave as an unexpected bonus.  The ferry called first at Zadar giving us a delightful cruise on Tuesday morning through the myriad of islands off the Dalmatian coast.

 

We arrived in Split at 1230 to be greeted by cheerful waves from friends Jimmy and Claire.  With less than 20 minutes before our bus departed their preliminary reconnaissance sped us to the ticket hall and onto the bus just in time.  Once again, the friendship and camaraderie of cruising folk left us wondering why the rest of the world cannot behave in the same way.  We hope to meet up with them again in a few weeks time to exchange stories at a more leisurely pace.

 

Retreat currently has eight holes below her water-line as we have embarked upon a much-postponed task of replacing old seacocks and anode studs.  The bora has slowed progress today (at least, that’s our excuse!) but we hope to complete the work by tomorrow and then move on to the annual ritual of antifouling.  If all goes well we could be back in the water by Easter but, if not, we are content enough where we are.  Either way, we shall remain in Marina Hramina until the middle of April and then set sail once more.  To find out how we get on, look out for our next Passage Report in about four week’s time.

 

 

 

 

Passage Report Number 2

 

Moored in Skradin Marina, Croatia

 

Saturday 27th April, 2002

 

CRUISING AGAIN, BUT STILL WEARING SOCKS

 

As I write we are moored in Skradin Marina, 10 miles from the sea and close to Krka National Park.  Yesterday we enjoyed a superb trip to the Krka Falls in warm sunshine but today we are huddled below with the fan heater on, watching the patterns made by the relentless rain as it splashes into the water around us.  Spring advances but slowly in these parts and we are still wearing socks and long trousers, despite the close approach of May.

 

The bora continued for longer than expected whilst we were on the hard in Murter so we were not launched until two days after Easter.  To our great relief our new under-water fittings all proved to be watertight enabling us to move without delay to the berth next to Yaniska that we occupied in the autumn.  Roger and Angela had arrived a few days earlier bringing with them our new outboard motor from the UK.  Such kindness is typical of their approach to life afloat and demonstrates why they are so highly regarded in cruising circles.

 

We spent the next two weeks making Retreat ready for sea including a number of electrical repairs and improvements and two trips to the top of the mast.  I also donned my diving gear to clean off Yaniska’s propeller; a small favour to two very good friends.  Finally, on Wednesday 17th April, we said our goodbyes and motored out of Marina Hramina vowing to return one day.  Its quiet village life, superb scenery and interesting walks make it, for us, one of the best places that we have found to over-winter so far.

 

Our first passage of 2002 saw us motoring into the teeth of a force 5 wind, though fortunately, not for long.  We crossed the Murtersko More to the lee of Otok Kornat and then continued north-west to one of our favourite anchorages from last year at the head of Luka Telašćica.  There we anchored in splendid isolation and enjoyed three nights of peaceful seclusion.  On our final day there the sun came out and we enjoyed our first walks of the season, one across the isthmus to Sali and the other inland up a semi-cultivated valley.  On the latter, to our surprise and delight, we encountered a large grass snake in exactly the same spot that we came across it last year.  No doubt it lives there!

 

On Saturday we turned our bows to the south and made a 35-mile passage to Luka Tijašćica on Otok Tijat.  The following morning we enjoyed our first passage of the year under sail, 11 miles to Jadrtovac where we had arranged to meet Jimmy and Claire.  We anchored close to Phćacian, launched our dinghy and rowed over to say hello.  After our all-too-brief meeting on the dockside in Split it was great to have the time to chat and catch up on each other’s news.

 

We spent two night’s off Jadrtovac enjoying the company of Jimmy and Claire and the beauty of the setting.  Finally, on Tuesday, we once again found ourselves saying farewell with no knowledge of where or when we might meet again.  Such is the nature of cruising.  However, there was no time for melancholy as the demands of the sea soon grabbed our attention as we emerged from Jadrtovac into a NNW force 6.  Well reefed down we enjoyed an exhilarating beat up the Šibenski Kanal to the entrance to Kanal Sveti Ante, the narrow channel that runs from the sea to Šibenik.  From here we motored through the channel and then up the River Krka to another of our favourite anchorages from last year, Uvala Beretuša   This time the sun came out for our trip up the river giving us an enriched view of the spectacular limestone gorges through which it passes.

 

Yesterday, after three nights in Uvala Beretuša, we motored the short distance to the ACI marina at Skradin where we now lie and caught the 1100 ferry to the Krka National Park.  Blessed with a glorious sunny day we enjoyed our return trip immensely, especially the profusion of wildlife.  We saw several very large birds of prey, two snakes and countless frogs, the latter setting up a chorus that could be heard from half a mile away above the roar of the waterfalls.  Everywhere was a rich, lush green from the winter rains though the cold wind still flowing down from the mountains with the water meant that few spring flowers had yet shown their heads.

 

With another trough passing through today we have decided to stay an extra night in the marina so that we can enjoy the comfort and convenience of un-metered electrical power.  With luck the rain will have passed by tomorrow and we shall be able to set off once more.  To find out how we get on, look out for our next Passage Report in about two weeks time.

 

 

 

 

Passage Report Number 3

 

Anchored in Uvala Luka, Pelješac Peninsula, Croatia

 

Monday 13th May, 2002

 

EXTENSIVE AREA OF LOW PRESSURE OVER THE MEDITERRANEAN

 

In the two weeks since writing our last Passage Report we have spent only one night in harbour and have travelled 177 miles without once unfurling our sails.  For most of that time the thrice-daily weather forecasts that we receive, in English, on our Navtex printer have delivered us much the same message:  ‘Synopsis: An extensive area of Low Pressure covers the Western and Central Mediterranean.  Forecast:  S/SE 4 to 10 knots.  Cloudy with rain in places.’  However, today the sun has shone and the Navtex tells us that the low is finally filling.  Hallelujah!

 

We left Skradin on Sunday 28th April and motored back to the secure anchorage off Jadrtovac where we stayed for two nights.  We spent much of Monday devising a system to clear the condensation from inside the double-glazed unit in one of our large windows.  We drilled two holes through the frame and pumped dry (well, drier!) air through the unit using a selection of pipes and tubes and our dinghy pump.  To our delight it worked and Pat could once more see the view whilst cooking.  ‘Pumping the window’ has joined our list of routine pumping jobs along with the waste tank, the bilge and the dinghy!

 

On Tuesday we motored 19 miles south to Rogoznica encountering dolphins en route, our first sighting this year.   Whilst walking around the island later in the day we saw them again, this time deep inside the bay.  Dolphins are always a stirring sight and guaranteed to bring joy, whatever the weather.

 

Our departure the following morning was delayed for 10 to 15 minutes whilst we removed the tentacles of an octopus that had become entangled in our anchor chain.  Free once more, we continued around the coast to Uvala Razetinovac, a well-sheltered bay close to Trogir.  The following morning we went into the ACI marina at Trogir and began the hectic round of tasks that can only be carried out from such a base.  Using our ‘Load Lugger’ (a sort of heavy-duty, off-road, 4 x 4 shopping trolley) we stocked up on a month’s supply of all the heavy goods like milk, mineral water, orange juice, wine and Coca Cola.  We also filled our water tanks, refuelled with diesel, had two empty Camping Gaz bottles refilled and made two visits to an Internet Café.

 

With so much to do we would have preferred to stay in the harbour for a second night but Friday is when the charter yachts return for their crew change the following morning.  We were politely told that the marina was full and we had to leave, despite the forecast of gusty conditions overnight.  We returned to the anchorage in Uvala Razetinovac, laid out two anchors and stayed in comfort for two nights.  If our anchors had dragged the whole episode would have ended in tears but, as it was, it caused us no problems and saved us Ł40 in mooring fees.  On such matters of chance the wheels of fortune turn.

 

Sunday 5th May saw us venture into unknown waters for the first time this year.  We motored east along the south coast of Otok Čiovo, past Split to an anchorage off the small town of Stobreč.  To our surprise we found ourselves less than 100 metres from one of the largest supermarkets we have yet found in Croatia and, what is more, we didn’t even need the Load Lugger!

 

From Stobreč we motored SE along the Brački Kanal, the stretch of water between Otok Brač and the mainland.  The passage was breathtaking and must surely rank as one of the most dramatic in the Mediterranean.  Towering mountains cut by a deep ravine rise almost vertically from the sea painting a picture like a grossly exaggerated stage cloth.  Not for the first time on our travels we were reminded that for all the monuments and cathedrals created by man, when it comes to splendour, God is in a class of His own.

 

We spent the night moored to a buoy at the head of one of many bays in Croatia called Uvala Luka (Uvala means Bay and Luka means Port), this one near the NE corner of Otok Brač.  The following day we made a 24-mile passage around the eastern end of Otok Brač and west once more to Uvala Žukova on Otok Hvar.  En route we had lunch in a delightful bay called Uvala Rasotica, described in our pilot as one of the most beautiful in Croatia.  We did not disagree with the description but felt that it was too open to the forecast winds from the SE to be safe overnight.

 

Continuous rain for 24 hours and warnings of gusty winds conspired to keep us in Uvala Žukova for three nights.  However, we were well secured with our stern tied back to the shore and, with trees all around the bay, we felt nothing of the strong winds.  On Friday 10th May we finally emerged and motored around the headland into the Starogradski Zaljev and on to the Town Quay at Stari Grad, one of the largest settlements on Otok Hvar.  We replenished our stores, watered ship and then motored the short distance to Otok Zavala where we anchored for the night.

 

On Saturday morning we made a 15-mile passage around the western end of Otok Hvar to Uvala Ždrilca, a well-protected anchorage in the Pakleni Islands.  Yesterday we covered a further 32 miles along the south coast of Otok Hvar to another Uvala Luka, this one on the western tip of the Pelješac Peninsula where we now lie.  We had intended to move on this morning but a perusal of the charts suggested that we were already in the best anchorage in the area for the prevailing winds so we decided to stay.  Such are the joys of cruising with an infinitely flexible time scale.

 

 

 

 

Passage Report Number 4

 

Anchored in Skrivena Luka, Otok Lastovo, Croatia

 

Tuesday 28th May, 2002

 

SKINNING THE SHIP’S CAT

 

As I write we are lying to our anchor in Skrivena Luka, a large land-locked bay towards the south-eastern corner of Otok Lastovo.  Storm clouds are chasing across the sky, thunder is rumbling in the distance and, despite it being mid-morning, it is almost too dark to read.  When Aeoleus lays on a storm in these parts he does so in style!

 

It is sometimes said that the whole of life is a compromise but there can be few places where it is more so than the confines of a small boat.  One of the joys of cruising is learning how fellow  sailors solve the problems of living in a small plastic, wooden or steel box for protracted periods of time.  Though we face the same difficulties our solutions are as numerous as the boats we sail.

 

A typical dilemma arises from the choice of ground tackle - the anchor and chain that we rely upon to keep us in one place when the wind is doing its best to do otherwise.  For anchoring, the heavier the better, but extra weight slows a boat down, a problem especially noticeable in light airs.  Placing high value on security at anchor we carry a 20kg Bruce anchor and 60 metres of 10mm (3/8") chain, both well above and beyond the traditional recommendations for a boat of Retreat’s size and weight.  In doing so we accept the fact that we often have to motor when more lightly-equipped boats can sail.

 

One such occasion was the morning of Tuesday 14th May.  We left Uvala Luka at 1000 in a light breeze that saw most of the charter boats coming out of Korčula under sail.  For our over-weight floating home this was not an option so we made the short passage to the anchorage behind Kneža Mali under power.  However, we enjoyed our day in this very pretty anchorage and, the following morning, motored the short distance to Korčula marina where we spent what has proved to be our only night in harbour since 2nd May.

 

On Thursday morning we enjoyed the rare treat of an 18-mile passage to Luka Polače on Otok Mljet almost entirely under sail.  Rarer still, as we hoisted our spinnaker for the first time this year, we found ourselves pulling ahead of two Bavaria 42’s, both struggling to goose-wing their heavy genoas without the benefit of a pole.  Needless to say, when the wind strengthened and veered as we drew south of Otok Korčula the Bavarias scorched over the horizon on a broad reach and we were left struggling to hand our spinnaker before it was blown to shreds.  Some say that a spinnaker has no place on a cruising boat.  As we left the Bavarias floundering we would have strongly disagreed but today, as I continue to suffer from the tendon that I tore as I fought the spinnaker down, I am not so sure!

 

We spent 6 nights in Luka Polače, the longest we have ever spent at anchor in one place.  The limiting factor when anchored is invariably electrical power but almost continuous sunshine enabled our solar panels and batteries to provide all we needed without having to run our engine.  The sunshine also appeared to have the property of attracting British boats, which outnumbered all others throughout our stay.  As a result we spent every evening in the company of other yachties comparing notes and exchanging information.  We were particularly interested to see on board a Warrior 35, a boat that has the same hull as Retreat but a different arrangement of cabins.  Unlike us, the owner has no fridge, no windlass no electric autopilot and, consequently, no need of solar power.  Yet another way to skin the ship’s cat!

 

Luka Polače has some of the best walks in Croatia and we enjoyed several excursions on foot to the ‘inland seas’ south of the anchorage.  On one of these journeys, entranced by their beauty, we decided to stay in Croatia until at least the middle of June rather than head south straight away.  On another we encountered a brown snake, far larger than any we have seen before.  Fortunately, it was far more frightened of us than we of it and it disappeared rapidly into the Maquis.

 

Declining stocks eventually forced us to leave Luka Polače.  We motored across the Mljetski Kanal to the small village of Žuljana where we moored long enough to visit the local shop.  We then continued through the Pelješki Kanal nosing into several possible anchorages.  None seemed suitable in the prevailing conditions and, eventually, we ended up back at Uvala Luka at the western end of the Pelješac peninsular, the same anchorage that we had left eight days earlier.  We arrived during the dying breaths of a north-westerly sea breeze and anchored in 10 metres of water lying to 35 metres of chain.  By the time the kettle had boiled we had swung to the light south-easterly gradient wind, which provided us with just enough movement of air to prevent Retreat feeling stuffy overnight.  A perfect night at anchor.

 

The 0840 forecast on Thursday morning warned of a trough and weakened frontal system approaching from the north-west giving us south to south-east winds of 8 to 16 knots.  Although 16 knots is quite moderate we decided to stay in Uvala Luka for a further night as it is much better protected than our intended destination.  With less than 10 knots blowing through the anchorage we went ashore in our dinghy to top up our food supplies from the small local store.  Pleasantly surprised by the choice and quality of the food available we made our way back to our dinghy for the short trip back to Retreat.  In contrast to the smooth ride we had enjoyed when we went ashore, our return resulted in two very wet bottoms as by then, 1130, the south-easterly wind had increased to 15 knots and kicked up quite a chop in the bay.

 

As we sat eating our lunch enjoying our first fresh bread for a week a charter boat sailed into the harbour and started looking around for a spot to anchor.  As so often seems to happen, despite the fact that Uvala Luka is large enough to anchor the entire British Fleet, she circled around us and let go less than two boat-lengths off our starboard beam.  Fortunately for us, though not for her crew, her anchor failed to catch hold and the 20 knot breeze, which was by then firmly established, dragged her swiftly astern towards the rocky lee shore.  By the time the increasingly-fraught crew had recovered their tackle a further nine charter yachts had joined the męlée accompanied by a lead boat manned by professional crew.

 

Our afternoon was entirely taken up by watching the drama unfold as the ever-calm, ultra-cool flotilla leader ushered his fleet into a tiny inlet on the north-eastern corner of the bay that we had dismissed as too small to safely anchor our one boat.  Many dragged, some repeatedly, leading eventually to a plaintive call on VHF radio to the lead boat from the yacht that had first tried to anchor close to us:  “Could you please come on board and show us how to make this hooky thing stay where I put it?”

 

There can be many reasons for an anchor failing to hold, not the least being pure bad luck.  In calm conditions one can avoid patches of weed and seek out what appears to be good holding, but even then much depends upon the lottery of just where and how one’s anchor falls.   As previously mentioned, heavy ground tackle can help but it brings no guarantees.  What the charter fleet carried we do not know but one might hazard a guess that they had resolved the dilemma over ground tackle in favour of speed and light-airs performance.

 

By 1900 the flotilla was anchored and the entire ships’ complement went ashore for their evening meal.  At 2040 our Navtex receiver delivered the latest weather forecast, this time warning of south to south-east 15 to 25 knots with local gusts of up to 40 knots.  No sooner had we comforted ourselves by reasoning that ‘local’ could mean absolutely anywhere in the Adriatic when a huge blast of air slewed us across the anchorage delivering the clear message that it meant the precise spot on the chart where we were now lying.

 

A quick check of our transits showed that we had not dragged but, never-the-less, I let out a further 5 metres of chain giving us 40 metres in total.  The charter fleet did not appear to have a similar option.  Constrained by the small size of the inlet, the density with which they had been packed and, perhaps, the inadequacy of their ground tackle, all hell broke loose.  Three boats dragged in the first gust as frantic crew were rushed back to their boats by the fleet RIB.  Husbands yelled, wives shrieked and the wind howled but through it all, the calm voice of the flotilla leader floated over the VHF as he responded to request after request for help.  It took until 2330 before the fleet was once again anchored for the night.

 

With the wind ranging from 20 to 25 knots, a rocky lee shore some 100 metres astern and the unpredictability of the flotilla fleet 100 metres to port we considered moving closer to the windward side of the bay.  However, knowing just how difficult such an operation could be in the prevailing conditions and that our anchor seemed to be well dug in we decided instead to set an anchor watch.  Pat stood the first watch from 0000 to 0200 during which two of the charter yachts dragged and re-anchored.  By comparison, my watch from 0200 to 0400 was peaceful with the pattern made by the fleet’s anchor lights and the few lights ashore remaining constant throughout.  However, 20 minutes after my head hit the pillow Pat called me back: the pattern was breaking up.

 

By the time I was back on my feet our instruments showed the wind as SE 8 - a full gale. Spray lashed against our windows and rapidly-increasing waves ran along the length of our hull and burst onto the shore behind us in noisy explosions of foam.  The prognosis appeared grim but our transits held firm.  I let out a further 5 metres of chain increasing our scope to 45 metres and then turned my attention to the charter fleet.  At least four had dragged and were now showing navigation lights as they clawed their way off the lee shore.  Lights appeared on several others showing the indistinct outline of crew members, heads bowed to the wind, making their way to their foredecks.

 

As we watched the VHF came to life once more and a still-calm voice gave out the message:  “Flotilla Yachts this is Flotilla Leader.  Half the fleet have dragged their anchors, including me.  Please weigh anchor, make ready for sea and circle around in the bay until I call again.”  He then took to his RIB and visited every yacht in turn making sure that all had received his message, stopping to help one yacht stow a recalcitrant dinghy and outboard that were threatening to take flight.  Shortly after dawn the fleet were on their way to their final destination, 24 miles away but mercifully, largely downwind.  With help and advice from their leader and his crew well beyond the call of duty they appeared to have survived their experience with no collisions and no-one running aground.  We wished them bon voyage as they left and the very best of luck for the difficult task of berthing in gale force winds when they reached their home port.

 

Alone in the bay once more we took stock.  The wind was still consistently above 30 knots and the spray was still flying but our transits were firm and we were not in any discomfort.  We decided once more to stay put and reverted to our ‘one on, one off’ anchor watch for the rest of the day.  The 0840 forecast promised reducing wind and, by evening, our wind-speed instrument finally dipped below 10 knots as a watery sun made a valiant attempt to disperse the cloud.  A third night at anchor in Uvala Luka lay in prospect, but this one mercifully proved to be as peaceful as the first.

 

We left Uvala Luka on Saturday morning and motored back through the Pelješki Kanal to a beautiful anchorage off a former monastery on the southern side of Otočić Badija.  En route we made a four-hour stop at Korčula marina giving us time to go shopping, have showers, wash down Retreat’s decks and water ship.  We considered the 103 Kuna charge to be money well spent.

 

Sunday saw us make a 22-mile passage to Zaklopatica on the northern coast of Otok Lastovo.  This delightful bay is not mentioned in our pilot book but it never-the -less provided us with a well-protected, peaceful night at anchor.  Yesterday we motored around the western end of Otok Lastovo to Skrivena Luka where we now lie and where we hope to spend a few days.

 

Postscript:  The writing of this report was interrupted when a violent gust caused our anchor to drag.  It took three attempts to successfully re-anchor, the first two resulting only in pulling up huge quantities of weed.  As I had written only minutes earlier: “heavy ground tackle can help but it brings no guarantees.”

 

 

 

 

Passage Report Number 5

 

Anchored off Nisos Kerkira (Corfu), Greece

 

Sunday 16th June, 2002

 

A RAPID DECREASE IN LATITUDE

 

As I write we are lying to our anchor off the tiny island of Gouvinon between the town of Kerkira and Gouvia Marina on Nisos Kerkira, better known to we Brits as the island of Corfu.  We arrived in Greece on Friday evening after a 192-mile passage from Dubrovnik.  Having planned, thought, dreamed and worried about the passage for over a month, all of a sudden, we are here.  It is funny how so many of the things in life that we think will be a problem turn out not to be after all!

 

We spent a further four days anchored in Skrivena Luka after writing our last Passage Report during which time the weather gradually improved.  We spent our time carrying out various repairs and socialising with the crews from two other British yachts that came in to seek shelter.  By Friday, the last day of May, it was calm enough for us to feel happy to leave Retreat unattended and we enjoyed a splendid walk across the island to the village of Lastovo.  A check through our log when we returned confirmed the fact that we had spent only two nights in harbour during the month of May, every other night being spent at anchor.  No wonder we enjoy cruising in Croatia so much!

 

On Sunday 2nd June we made a 24-mile passage back to the anchorage on the southern side of Otočić Badija and, the following morning, we made fast in Korčula marina for long enough to take on water and stores.  Here we met Max and Sue on board ‘Two Smiles’, the boat that was next to us on the hard in Manoel Island Yacht Yard for the winter of 2000/01.  We arranged to meet them in Luka Polače the next day and then set sail for Otok Mljet.  The passage gave us our best sail of the year so far: 18 miles across a slight sea in a Westerly force 4/5 under a clear blue sky.  Perfect!

 

‘Two Smiles’ arrived on Tuesday afternoon as planned and, as they had just arrived in Croatia from Corfu, we spent an interesting evening swapping notes.  We remained at anchor for a second night but, the following morning, the forecast warned of winds of 35 knots from the south-east with gusts of up to 50 knots.  In company with ‘Two Smiles’ we weighed anchor and picked up tailed moorings provided by one of the nearby restaurants.  Use of the moorings was free but there was an expectation that we would eat in the restaurant in the evening.  The arrangement proved to be most satisfactory as the moorings were in a particularly sheltered corner of the bay and we were able to enjoy our meals for less than the cost of being in a marina for the night.

 

By Friday the gale had passed and we moved back out to anchor in the bay once more.  The following morning we made a 24-mile passage to Ston.  Access to this ancient town is along a narrow fjord that reduces in depth to 3 metres for its final section.  We moored alongside the quay and walked ashore to explore the town.  We particularly enjoyed our walk around the walls which climb steeply up the hillside to give a superb view over the saltpans that have provided Ston with an income for centuries.  The following morning we walked across the narrow isthmus to Mali Ston on the northern side of the Pelješac peninsular accompanied by a dog that seemed to have adopted us for the day.  He caused us little problem until he caught a wild tortoise in the woods and insisted on depositing it on Pat’s feet.  For those of you who have not experienced the phenomenon, Pat will attest that having a tortoise thrown at you by a dog can be quite un-nerving!

 

Monday turned out to be one of the wettest days of the year so we remained alongside in Ston.  However, the front cleared overnight and we enjoyed a pleasant sail downwind to Uvala Šunj on Otok Lopud.  The following morning we weighed anchor and made the 10-mile passage to Dubrovnik marina where we moored next to ‘Two Smiles’.  Here we spent a frenetic afternoon and evening shopping and making ready for our passage to Greece.

 

At 0900 on the morning of Thursday 13th June we waved goodbye to Max and Sue and set off on our passage south making a brief call at nearby Gruž to clear out with the authorities.  The passage turned out to be both fast and enjoyable.  We spent all but 4 of our first 24 hours under power but by 1000 on our second day the wind filled in to give us a fast run under main and poled-out genoa.  We arrived off Nisos Erikoussa, a small island six miles off the north-west corner of Corfu, at 1900 on Friday evening and anchored for the night.  We had covered the 192 miles in 33 hours, an average speed of 5.7 knots with 38% of the passage under sail.

 

Yesterday we completed our journey with a 29-mile passage to Kerkira town in order to complete the necessary formalities as we were arriving from a non-EC country.  When I eventually recover from the process I may write to give you more details but, for the moment, suffice it to say that it was over-whelmingly our worst experience since leaving England.  From reports we have read it may not have been as bad as the abuse of power by officials in some third-world countries but, for a country that purports to be a grown-up member of the EC, it came pretty close.

 

We hope to remain at anchor tonight and then move to Gouvia marina tomorrow morning to investigate the possibility of making it our base for the winter.  We shall then head south towards Prevesa so beginning our exploration of the Ionian.  To find out how we get on, look out for our nest Passage Report in two to three weeks time.

 

 

 

 

Passage Report Number 6

 

Anchored in Ormos Ay Markou near Preveza, Greece

 

Wednesday 3rd July, 2002

 

IONIAN BLISS

 

We made our planned visit to Gouvia Marina and were delighted with what we found.  We left the next morning feeling that it would make an eminently suitable place for us to over-winter and with a provisional booking in the manager’s diary.  A most satisfactory state of affairs!

 

We spent the night of Tuesday 18th June anchored just outside Gouvia Marina and, on the following morning, made an 18-mile passage to Igoumenitsa Creek on the Greek mainland.  This is a superb anchorage, fully protected from the sea with excellent holding and wonderful views.  We stayed for three nights enjoying the scenery and swimming in water that was warmer than any we have experienced since leaving Mallorca in 1999.  The only objector to this rise in temperature has been our ’fridge which, being water-cooled, now consumes far more electricity than it did in more temperate Croatia.

 

On Saturday 22nd we made an 18-mile passage to ‘End Bay’ just south of Mourtos.  We anchored off and tied back to the shore close to friends we had made in Igoumenitsa Creek, Mike and Janet on board a bright red steel ketch called Istar.  After two nights we continued on our way south fetching up in yet another delightful anchorage, this one in a small creek towards the northern end of Ormos Ay Ioannou.  It was a particular bonus to find this anchorage as the pilot said that it was blocked off by a mussel farm, but of that there was no sign.

 

The following day we made a 28-mile passage to Preveza and tied up, bows to our anchor and stern to the town quay.  After seven consecutive nights in idyllic anchorages, we found Preveza hot, noisy and uncomfortable.  However, our stay did enable us to stock up with food and water as well as visit the three yards on the opposite side of the entrance channel.  We felt that one of them, Cleopatra Yard, looked an ideal spot to leave Retreat for our mid-summer trip to the UK.

 

On the afternoon of Wednesday 26th we left Preveza and motored 8 miles into the Gulf of Amvrakia, a huge inland sea little visited by the charter yachts that crowd many of the anchorages in the Ionian.  There we spent four nights, three of them in Ormos Ay Markou where we are lying once more this evening.  By any standards our stay in the Gulf was cruising at its very best.  We enjoyed calm nights and mornings each day with a good sailing breeze getting up just after lunch and dying down again each evening in time for supper.  Furthermore, as if the ideal conditions were not enough, on one evening excursion we saw turtles and pelicans for the first time.

 

On Sunday 30th we made a 17-mile passage to Levkas passing through the Levkas Canal en route.  We explored the town and the new marina with over-wintering in mind, but did not feel that it matched up to Gouvia.  The following day we continued south for 10 miles and anchored for two nights in Ormos Vlikho, a particularly beautiful anchorage on the eastern side of Nisos Levkas.  Earlier today we retraced our wake to Ormos Ay Markou to enable us to visit Preveza tomorrow and, hopefully, book our flights home.  If all goes to plan Retreat will be lifted out at Cleopatra Yard early next week and we shall be back on home soil a few days later.  We hope to stay for 5 or 6 weeks and return to Retreat around the middle of August so look out for our next Passage Report in early September.

 

 

 

 

Passage Report Number 7

 

Moored in Ay Eufimia, Nisos Cephalonia, Greece

 

Monday 2nd September, 2002

 

IONIAN STORM

 

As I write we are huddled below sheltering from the rain and peering through our windows at the heavy clouds sitting low on the softly rounded hills that surround the picturesque harbour of Ay Eufimia.  For the holiday makers sheltering under the awnings of nearby Tavernas the weather over the last three to four days has been a disaster but we are actually enjoying a respite from the fierce heat of a week ago.  It’s an ill wind that blows no one any good!

 

We flew back to Preveza on Wednesday 21st August to find Retreat still sitting safely on the hard in Cleopatra Marina where we had left her six weeks earlier.  The yard had put a ladder out and came round to Retreat to welcome us back - personal touches that we very much appreciated.  After she was launched the following morning we crossed the narrow channel that separates Cleopatra Marina from Preveza and made fast to the Town Quay.  Here, as well as taking on stores, we made use of what is a rare commodity in Greece,  unlimited fresh water, to wash away the grime that had accumulated on deck during our absence.  Clean and restored, we motored into the Gulf of Amvrakia and anchored for the night in what we know as ‘Goat Bay’ but the chart calls ‘Ormos Ay Markou’.  As we sat and relaxed with glasses in our hands and heard the tinkle of the bells as the goats were brought home for the night our toast was: "its good to be back!"

 

We spent the following day putting Retreat back into cruising trim.  The sails were hoisted, control lines and pulleys put back into place, the dinghy inflated and homes found for the myriad of spares that we had somehow managed to bring back in our luggage.  We had fully expected the tin of treacle or the new bilge pump or perhaps the replacement spanner to trigger a security alert, but none had caused a problem.  Perhaps the authorities are used to the peculiar luggage carried by yachties!

 

On Saturday we made a 25-mile passage out of the Gulf of Amvrakia, through the Levkas Canal and south to Ormos Vlikho near Nidri on the east coast of Nisos Levkas.  The following day we made our first venture into new waters and explored the much-indented northern coast of Nisos Meganisi where we anchored for the night in Ormos Kapali

 

After a peaceful night we weighed anchor and set off to complete our circumnavigation of Meganisi.  We anchored in a spectacular cove on the south coast for lunch and then continued around the island and back to Ormos Vlikho for the night.  On Tuesday morning we moved to the Town Quay in Nidri so that we could make use of the many supermarkets there to complete our stocking up.  We even managed to find some fizzy water, a commodity unheard of in nearby Preveza.

 

We wished John a Happy Birthday on Wednesday morning before weighing anchor and making a nine-mile passage to Sivota on the south coast of Levkas.  Sivota is a very pretty, fully-enclosed bay so we felt secure enough to leave Retreat swinging to her anchor whilst we enjoyed a walk ashore.  Secure is not the first word that comes to mind when recalling the following day.  After a peaceful night the wind built slowly during the morning to a steady 25 knots by noon.  As the wind built we let out more chain and we appeared to be holding well.  However, around 1400 the cold front arrived with a vengeance and the wind increased from 25 to 35 knots in an instant.  Our anchor let go of its hold on the seabed as did the anchors of all but one of the boats around us.  Chaos reigned as we all fought against driving hail and screaming wind to recover our ground tackle without being blown ashore or into a neighbouring boat.  Somehow we all made it and spent the next 90 minutes circling in the bay waiting for the squall to pass.  By 1515 it was all over: the rain stopped, the wind died to nothing and the sun came out.  We re-anchored in deeper water outside everyone else and enjoyed a pleasant evening and night.  If truth be known we both felt quite elated as we had been severely tested yet come through.  Life would be dull if it ran smoothly all the time.

 

On Friday morning we made a 16-mile passage to Vathi on Ithaca which, according to Homer, is the island home of Odysseus.  We spent a safe though noisy night moored in one of several unfinished ‘marinas’ to be found in these parts.  The infrastructure has been put in with grants from the EU but no one can be found to take it over to run commercially.  A failure, perhaps, for Brussels, but a blessing for us after the excitement of Sivota.

 

From Vathi we briefly headed north again to round Ithaca and cross the narrow channel to Cephalonia.  We stayed for a night in the crowded harbour of Fiskardho and, yesterday morning, made a 12-mile passage south to Ay Eufimia where we now lie.  The harbour is well protected and quiet, except on Monday evenings, changeover night for the Sunsail fleet based here.  However, their Flotilla Leader did sell us some diesel at a reasonable price from their mini-tanker and we were able to take on water for the first time since leaving Preveza.  Whoever would have thought we would be pleased to see a Charter Fleet come in?

 

From here we hope to continue south to Zakinthos and then turn around and head slowly back towards Corfu, this time exploring the mainland coast and some of the smaller islands.  To find out how we get on, look out for our next Passage Report in two to three weeks time.

 

 

 

 

Passage Report Number 8

 

Moored in Ormos Vlikho, Nisos Levkas, Greece

 

Sunday 22nd September, 2002

 

OLYMPIC SPIRIT

 

As I write we are anchored in Ormos Vlikho awaiting gale-force winds that, according to the forecast, should have arrived last night.  Ormos Vlikho is one of only a  few fully-protected anchorages in the Ionian that also boasts relatively shallow water and good holding.  Not surprisingly it has been filling up all day as cruising boats, mainly British, head here to sit out the storm.

 

We left Ay Eufimia on Tuesday 3rd September and made a 14-mile passage south-east along the coast of Cephalonia to Poros.  We moored bows to our anchor, stern to the quay and, in the afternoon, enjoyed a walk through the dramatic gorge that joins the town of Poros to the interior of the island.  Out of sight of the sea we entered a world of olive groves and vineyards that can have changed little since the time of the Ancient Greek Empire.

 

The following day we made a 17-mile passage to Zakinthos, the most southerly of the principal Ionian Islands.  Our first night was spent in Ormos Ay Nikolaos, described in our Pilot Book as an anchorage in an almost deserted bay.  When we arrived we discovered yet another ‘marina under construction’ with signs proclaiming the expenditure of yet more Euros on seemingly unwanted infrastructure.  The planners have provided huge areas of concrete on shore but only a partial protective wall leaving the ‘marina’ wide open to the ENE.  However, with light NW winds forecast we moored alongside with the help of a self-appointed ‘marinero’ who tied up our lines and proclaimed the merits of the local supermarket, garage, restaurant and tripper boats, all apparently run by members of his family.  At least they must approve of the spending decisions made by our Lords and Masters in Brussels.

 

On Thursday morning we continued around Zakinthos to Ormos Keri, 29 miles away on the south coast.  The bay is home to the rare and protected Loggerhead Turtle though, disappointingly, in our two days there, we saw not one.  However, it is a beautiful bay and we were glad to be at anchor once again after a succession of harbours.

 

Over the next three days we motored to Katakolo on the mainland and sailed back, our best sail since returning to Retreat in July.  In Katakolo we moored alongside in another new marina, this one at least being fully-protected from the sea. On the intervening day, happy that Retreat was safely secured, we travelled by bus from Katakolo to Olympia, site of the original games.  We much enjoyed our visit to this quiet and evocative site based upon a unique blend of religious worship and athletic prowess.  Many visitors, some well old enough to know better, chose to run the full length of the 212 metre stadium.  We felt it more in keeping with our family traditions to amble slowly from one end to the other giving ourselves time to appreciate the beauty of our surroundings!

 

Katakolo was the most southerly port of our Autumn Cruise and, since our visit there, we have been slowly working our way back north.  From Ormos Keri we made our way to Zakinthos Town, one of the largest ports in the Ionian.  Despite the size of the town, shopping for food was difficult and it was noisy throughout the night.  We were pleased to get away  and enjoyed our return trip to Poros far more.  Here we went aboard Jalingo III’ and met Chris and Patsy, round-the-world sailors now ‘relaxing’ in the Med.  We had seen them briefly in Katakolo, Ormos Keri and Zakinthos so it was good to have the time for a proper chat.

 

On Thursday 12th September we made a 21-mile passage from Poros to Limin Petala, a deserted anchorage on the mainland just north of the entrance to the Gulf of Patras.  The anchorage, tucked behind the aptly-named ‘Akra Aspro’ has undoubtedly solved many a headache for yachtsmen as, like Ormos Vlikho, it is a well-protected, shallow bay with excellent holding.  En route we encountered a shoal of very large fish, perhaps Tuna, some leaping high into the air.  They looked like small dolphins from a distance but, close up, their tails showed clearly they were fish.

 

Nisos Petalas is one of a group of small islands known as the Echinades.  Made of the same limestone they are very similar to the islands in Croatia making us feel very nostalgic for what, to us, is still the cruising area to beat.  We spent four nights amongst the islands, two at Limin Petala and two at Port Pandeleimon.  The latter was smaller and more tightly enclosed so we tied back to the shore to avoid swinging into Jalingo moored similarly nearby.  Our second day there was one of the wettest we can remember: we scooped eight bowls-full out of our dinghy to replenish our supplies.  We spent the evening aboard Jalingo watching a video of ‘Notting Hill’ - a somewhat surreal experience whilst anchored in torrential rain in a remote anchorage in Greece.

 

Monday 16th started smoothly enough but ended with us both utterly exhausted and too tired to even eat.  Having motored out of Pandeleimon we first visited nearby Astakos to stock up on food.  This successfully accomplished we motored a short distance to a delightful lunch-time anchorage and then another 12 miles to Nisos Kastos.  Here we attempted to anchor in a deserted, narrow bay on the SE corner of the island only to find that strong downdrafts from the hills above blew us far too close to the shore.  We weighed anchor and motored to the nearby harbour but it was full to bursting point with two charter fleets.  We attempted to anchor outside the harbour but could not get our anchor to hold.  With few options left we returned to the narrow bay and, 2Ľ hours later, finally moored there to our satisfaction.  We may have spared our energy in the Olympic Stadium but we certainly used every ounce as we battled against the wind on Nisos Kastos.  To keep us off the rocks we had our anchor on 60 metres of chain running to seaward, 50 metres of heavy rope tying our bow to one side of the bay and 20 metres of lighter rope tying our stern to the other.  With 8 fenders attached at intervals along our ropes to warn others of their position we turned in for an anxious but safe night. 

 

By way of compensation for our exertions we awoke on Tuesday morning to the sight of a brilliantly-coloured Kingfisher sitting on our guardrails.  With the wind now gone, we removed our ropes, weighed anchor and made a 6-mile passage to Port Leone on Nisos Kalamos.  A well kept chapel surrounded by ruined houses stands sentinel over this beautiful natural harbour.  The village was flattened by an earthquake in 1953 and the water supply was destroyed.  The chapel was rebuilt and former inhabitants return each Sunday to say prayers but the village is otherwise deserted.  It was one of the highlights of our cruise.

 

From Port Leone we headed north-about around Nisos Kalamos and then across to Nisos Meganisi.  Here we spent two nights anchored in a tiny bay within a large inlet called Port Atheni.  We made the most of the warm settled weather and enjoyed several walks on this small, unspoilt island.

 

Yesterday we motored from Port Atheni to Ormos Vlikho where we now lie, making a lunchtime stop on Nisos Skorpios, the privately-owned island once the home of Aristotle and Jackie Onassis.  Property law in Greece only extends to the High Water mark so visiting yachtsmen can freely enjoy the crystal clear water and the views for which the Onassis family paid millions.  Just one of the many delights of the cruising life.

 

From here we shall make our way back to Gouvia on Corfu in time for Mum’s visit on 11th October.  Look out for our final Passage Report of 2002 shortly thereafter.

 

 

 

 

Passage Report Number 9

 

Ashore in Baldham, Germany

 

27th November, 2002

 

A TIME TO REMEMBER

 

As I write, we are ‘House Sitting’ for Chrissy in Germany to enable her to make a trip to Japan and Retreat is on the hard at Gouvia Marina in Corfu.  Much has happened since our last Passage Report; some of which was planned and expected but much of which was not.

 

The forecast gale did eventually arrive, but not until the evening of Monday 23rd September, two days later than predicted.  However, our anchorage in Ormos Vlikho proved to be well protected and we recorded no more than 30 knots.  By the following morning the front had passed and we moved temporarily to the Town Quay at Nidri in order to replenish our stocks.  Nidri is very much a tourist resort with little to commend it, but it does have a number of useful shops close to the quay.

 

On Wednesday we made a 26-mile passage from Ormos Vlikho to the Gulf of Amvrakia.  Our route took us through the Levkas Canal and, to our delight, much of the passage was completed under sail.  We called briefly at Preveza to take on water and anchored in the now-familiar Goat Bay (Ormos Ay Markou).  We spent the next two days in this delightful spot during which time we were entranced by turtles swimming around Retreat and enjoyed socialising with Barry and Susan from the yacht Iolanthe.  By way of further entertainment, early one morning I set off in our Tinker Tramp to rescue a dinghy that had broken lose from its parent craft anchored close by.  They left a few hours later with their dinghy in tow quite unaware of its earlier, unaccompanied journey.

 

The forecast on Friday evening predicted a moderate south-easterly wind on the following day, a rare direction in this area but particularly useful for our intended passage north.  So it was that at 0820 on Saturday we made a 40-mile passage to Mongonissi on Paxos.  During the 7 ˝ hours it took we experienced some superb sailing in a quartering breeze under genoa alone, some motoring in a flat calm and torrential rain and hail in a violent thunder storm that reduced visibility to less than 50 metres.  We moored in the quiet, sheltered bay at Mongonissi bows to our anchor, stern to the quay and enjoyed the peace and quiet that is the bonus of cruising outside the high season to which many less fortunate than us are confined.

 

We awoke to torrential rain on Sunday morning but it cleared up by lunch enabling us to enjoy a long walk to Gaios, the principal town on Paxos.  The following morning we motored 6 miles to the northern tip of the island and moored to the quay in the popular bay of Lakka.  To our delight, two boats away, were friends Chris and Lisa whom we last saw in Mahon on Menorca in 1999.  Now living on a large catamaran called Ocean Breezes they had also had an addition to their family since our last meeting, 2 ˝ year old Finley, brother to 5 year old Conner.  We went aboard Ocean Breezes in the evening to reminisce and swap stories and later went out for a meal to celebrate Pat’s birthday.

 

We would have loved to stayed in Lakka for longer but another favourable forecast saw us motoring out of the bay on Tuesday morning and making a 19-mile passage to Igoumenitsa Creek.  We spent three nights in this delightful bay and enjoyed two long walks, one to the east to the end of the spit that protects the ferry port of Igoumenitsa and the other to the west.

 

On Friday 4th October we made our final passage of the year to Gouvia Marina, our chosen resting place for the coming winter.  After completing the necessary formalities we sought out friends Max and Sue on Two Smiles and spent an enjoyable few hours swapping stories about the places we had each visited since they waved us off from Dubrovnik 3 ˝ months earlier.  The following Friday we were joined by Mum for what turned out to be a warm and sunny week.  She was able to swim in the sea every day at the nearby Kontokali Hotel and we were able to make some progress with the process of laying up Retreat including washing, drying, repairing and putting away the sails.

 

As we sat down to toast a successful week after we had taken Mum to the airport we received an SMS message telling us that Katy had suffered a setback to her pregnancy.  An anxious 10 days followed during which we were in constant communication with Katy and Nick.  With much help and support from the Marina Manager we brought forward our lift-out date and completed the essential tasks to lay up Retreat for the winter.  On Tuesday 29th October we flew from Corfu to Gatwick via Athens arriving in the early hours of Wednesday morning.  After a few hours sleep we were at Katy’s bedside in the hospital and we were able to give her the cuddle we had been promising her.

 

Over the next six days we spent most of our time looking after Ollie so that Nick could spend time with Katy.  At 1948 on Sunday 4th November Katy gave birth to a daughter, Abbey Lesley.  Born at only 25 weeks by Caesarean section and weighing only 740 grams she made a valiant fight for survival but it was not to be:  Abbey died at 0350 the following morning.

 

The days that followed were long and hard but Katy and Nick showed an inner strength that impressed us all.  Together with Nick’s parents we accompanied them to Abbey’s cremation on Monday 18th November.  The short and moving service was conducted by the Hospital Chaplain, a most gifted lady whose grace and humanity gave us much comfort.

 

We left the chapel stronger than we had arrived, but with time only to bid Katy and Nick farewell before driving 200 miles north to Lea near Gainsborough for the funeral of Pat’s Aunt Margery who had died the week before from lung cancer at the age of 79.  In the two months between the diagnosis of her condition and her death Margery, ever efficient, had organised all those things that most of us leave to others.  She had moved into Redcote (a Residential Home) with her brother Leslie, put her bungalow on the market, sold all her furniture, sorted out her possessions and visited the undertakers and the parish priest to arrange the details of her ‘Service of Thanksgiving’.  Margery was an indomitable character in life and no less so in death.

 

We shall remain here in Germany for another two weeks before returning to England for Christmas.  Please join us in prayers of thanksgiving for all that we have learned from the lives of those whom we have lost and in our hopes and aspirations for the future.