Sunday, 27 December 2009

We haven't disappeared!!!

***Playtime at anchor off Tiri Tiri Matangi, an excellent Native Bird Sanctuary in the Hauraki Gulf***
Just a little note to wish everyone a Happy New Year. The blog is running a little behind as I am sure you will have noticed. We are now in Auckland, New Zealand - you get here much quicker by a Qantas 747 than a Townson 47!!!!

I will get everything up to date in the New Year, meanwhile we hope to get out on the Waitemata Harbour cruising for a few days with friends Tony and Sally onboard our old yacht Playtime, a Stewart 34, now owned by Tony.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Exploring the Mafia's Homeland - Sicily ..... Sept 2009

15 - 25 September 2009

***It's rather chilly up here on Mt Etna, you can just see the steam coming out in front of the clouds***This used to be a refuge, as you can see it's been buried nearly to the top of the windows*** Back down to warmer weather, self timer shot in Noto***This seems to be the symbol of Sicily, Marks interpretation is that this is what you end up looking like - many broken arms and legs - if you mess with the Mafia!!*** Checking out all the goodies at Siracusa's excellent morning market***

After such an action packed trip getting to Sicily we were keen just to take it easy for a few days and explore. It was also good to get off the boat, there was still quite a swell coming into the anchorage so it was rolly most of the time, a good reason to get out and go sightseeing.

But first things first. After having had our 'dongle' for 2 weeks and still not being able to use it, it was time to find a WIND shop and sort it out. Now for those of you as unfamiliar with a dongle as we were, it is a USB stick that plugs into our laptop, you buy a Data Sim Card for it, put money on it like a prepay cellphone sim card, and presto - uninterrupted Internet access onboard. The cruisers dream!!! Well that is how it is supposed to work. However doing this in Italy and therefore in Italian was not as straightforward as it all sounds above. Now you could certainly blame that on our total lack of Italian language skills but in fairness to us it wasn't all our fault and we think the chap in the 'dongle' shop in Brindisi made several easy euros out of us. So we tracked down the simcard provider WIND's shop in Siracusa and again with no common language handed over yet more euros and after waiting 24hours for it to be processed we are at last in working order, yippee. Communications while cruising, now that's another blog subject I'll work on over winter!!!

So back to touring. We shared a car for the weekend (to get a cheaper off-peak rate) withDestiny and were up early on Saturday morning, we had a big day planned - heading to Mt Etna. Mt Etna is famous for many things - yes I had been reading the Lonely Planet in preparation for our outing - it is visible from the moon, it's Europe's largest volcano and one of the worlds most active. While we wanted to see it in action, we sincerely hoped that this wouldnt be the day to put it back in the news with a big blast!

We headed north out of Siracusa, the coastline was very built up, quite industrial and not particularly attractive. No wonder we had seen such a sea of lights on our nightmare (I'm sure I typed in nighttime!!!) journey sailing down the coast, it was wall to wall buildings. We started climbing, our little Fiat Panda managing well . Etna sits proudly alone, big, bold and black rising to its steamy peak, 3350m above sea level. There is little vegetation, each eruption finds a new path down the side, wiping out all in its way and leaving a highway of black lava to remind us of its powers. We drove as far as Refugio Sapienza (1923m) this is the end of the road, from here you can either hike up or catch the chair lift. The noticeable drop in temperature at this altitude saw us quickly adding layers of warm clothing. Having limited time (that is our excuse) we took the easy but expensive option of the chair lift and snowmobile. The chair lift deposited us in no time at 2500m, more layers of clothing were added then it was aboard the snowmobile buses to the crater zone at 2920m, starting to wish I'd brought more layers, boy it was cold. Once off the bus our volcanologist guide (we thought Dr Spock was a volcanologist but our guide didn't look anything like him, mind you he kept his woolly hat on so we couldn't check his ears!) took us on a walk for about an hour, around some of the smaller crater rims and bubbling mud pools, showing us the radial fault lines, finding hot steamy vents and warm rocks to keep the chill from our bones. He was interesting, enthusiastic and informative, clearly enjoying his job up there in the freezing cold!!! The clouds gathered but we could still see the summit letting off steam, and the vista over Sicily and out to sea was spectacular.
As we descended, warming up all the time, we headed inland. We planned to head to Villa Romana del Casale a 3rd century Roman villa with an outstanding mosaic floor that lay undiscovered until the 1950's. What we didn't quite plan for were the Sicilians roads and the somewhat challenging road signs or in many cases the lack of road signs. It all made for rather an interesting afternoon, 1 driver, 3 rather poor maps in the hands of 3 conflicting navigators plus "Mrs G" Destinys plugin electronic GPS. None of the small towns had bypasses, neither did they have signposts out of them again. Our maps were of no use at all and "Mrs G' tried her best but she didn't know which roads were oneway, it was quite a testing time for all concerned, and in several instances we just went round and round in circles, until Mark decided to adopt the 'when in Rome' attitude and totally ignored several oneway street signs - things speed up after that.
We even tried our hand at some off-roading when suddenly our road disappeared, washed away by recent rains we assume, we carried on hoping it might reappear soon, we were miles from anywhere and didn't fancy being stranded. The surroundings were beautiful, no space was wasted, there were vineyards, olive groves and many miles of fields that had recently had crops harvested all very well cared for. Most was gently rolling countryside, the landscape a wonderful blend of colours. We finally arrived at the Villa at 5.30pm - it had just closed, the LP said it closed at 6.30pm but maybe we were out of season now, oh well the drive had been worth it. Now "Mrs G" and helpers just had to get us back to Siracusa again. Lets just say after several more small roads, detours, one way streets in closed up little towns and road signs that didn't lead to roads we finally arrived back at 9.30pm, collapsed into the first pizzeria we found for much needed food and drink then wearily headed back to the boats totally exhausted but happy in the knowledge that we had explored parts of southeast Sicily that very few other tourists are ever likely to!!!
Sunday got off to a much slower start and a less ambitious plan was hatched -a leisurely 11am departure and a 35km drive to nearby Noto. The original ancient town was reduced to rubble in 1693 by an earthquake and the 'new' town is billed as the finest baroque town in Sicily. It did not disappoint, the honey coloured sandstone buildings are beautiful, the wide streets ideal for allowing plenty of space to stand back and admire. Recently added to UNESCO's ever growing list of World Heritage sites there are some major renovations underway and some buildings already completely restored. A timely thunderstorm gave us a good excuse for a long leisurely enjoyable lunch before returning to Siracusa. Never wanting to pass an opportunity of having a car to transport provisions, we detoured to the huge Carrefour supermarket and possibly broke our previous record of how many groceries we can fit into a Fiat Panda with 4 people!!!
The days passed by, we enjoyed wandering Siracusa's rabbit warren of lanes, we visited the daily morning market never quite brave enough to sample some of the unidentifiable produce on offer, and we just couldn't quite bring ourselves to partake in the mountains of snails that appeared for sale each time it rained! A few settled days came and went, as did boats. We farewelled Destiny as they headed for Malta during a lull in the winds. We had finally met Peter and Sandra off Bondi Tram from Sydney who had been on our cruisers radio net for the past two years and had been in front of us all the way up the Red Sea last year and through Croatia this year, it was a brief but enjoyable catch up with them before they too departed for Malta. But as boats left, more were arriving, Blue Banana from the USA arrived enroute to Tunisia, with Sam and Bill onboard, another boat we had never met but spoken to often on 'the net' and we enjoyed their company for a few days.
The storms continued to pass through, thunder and lightening like never before - just days and days of it - we made quick trips ashore between the showers to maintain our sanity, stretch our legs, get provisions, grab an excellent gelato and the occassional mouthwatering pizza. Had there been a safe and secure marina here I don't think we would have left, it's a laidback kind of place, small, interesting and enjoyable. But the marina doesn't have a breakwater, the boats in there were rolling more than some of us at anchor, eventually the time had come to move on.
Cruising info for Siracusa, Sicily:
Anchorages - 
We ended up anchoring in 4 different spots, 2 in the southern bay and 2 in the north. The 2nd spot in the north was closer to town to get out of the swell but when the winds eased the coastguard asked us all to move back out so I have only given the one they were happy with. The one given in the south is good for night arrival if a southerly is blowing. 
Siracusa South ..
. 37 02.427N 15 17.509E dropped 8m settled 13m, totally sheltered in southerly
Siracusa North ... 37 03.556N 15 17.316E 9m mud good holding. We took our dinghy into the marina and locked it right by the Marina office, they didn't mind
Internet - Dongle now working, We bought it in Brindisi, it is an unlocked one (should be able to use any country with any providers sim card) Dongle cost 89E, 100hours access 15E using WIND, (can get smaller amount but I had paid for 100hours when arriving in Brindisi thinking I would be using it for all the time in Italy) Vodafone offer one month or 3GB's for 25E we thought the 100hours was better for us. Then paid another 15E for connection or something that we couldn't understand THEN another 2 lots of 5E in Brindisi trying to get it to go, then another 5E in Siracusa when I was told to wait 24hours before using it, and now it goes!!! Not sure how long unused credit will last.
Money - Several ATM's in town
Provisions - The morning market is excellent, fresh produce, fish and seafood (snails if it rains!!) also olives, cheeses, breads and butcher. Head straight ahead from the marina exit towards sea on the other side. Go past big ruins on your right, turn right and then left.Supermarket, small but adequate - turn right before/at ruins (same ruins as in previous directions!) and go up the main street. Think it's first lane (maybe 2nd) on left, about 2nd shop in on left, no sign outside. You can see the Carrefour sign lit up at night from the anchorage but its hard to get to without a car.
Formalities - Coastguard came around every couple of days. The first time they asked where we had come from and where our next port would be. No paperwork needed . Still not completed any in Italy.
Sightseeing - Rented our car from Hollywood Rentals, cheap and cheerful. Turn left out of marina entrance, then 1st right and they are on the first corner on the right. The Fiat Panda was 70E for 2days weekend rate including only 200kms (all companys same limited mileage and yes, this was the cheapest around by far) Our so extra miles cost 52E and fuel 22E, not so bad between 2 couples. Certainly not a cheap way to see Mt Etna but cheaper than staying in the marina in Riposte. Visiting Mt Etna - the cable car and bus combo was 51E per person (eek!) Only cable car 30E. It's a huge walk from the carpark - you would want all day, and it's still a big walk from the top of the cable car. Charge for a halfday in the carpark was a couple of euros.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Stormy Siracusa - Getting to Sicily ... Sept 2009

15 - 16 September 2009


***A clear sunny moment over Siracusas old town with the stunning cathedral centre stage, shame about the dreadful concrete wall left unfinished and without any purpose along the waterfront*** Mt Etna letting off some steam, one of the rare occasions we could see it from the anchorage in Siracusa*** Looks like more thunder storms on Sicily's horizon overSiracusas old town***


Do you remember the lovely photo at the end of the last blog update of Balvenie in glassy waters leaving Roccella Ionica with a stunning red sky at sunrise? The day started well enough, we followed Destiny out of the marina, and over the shallow sand bar - them at the ready to tow us off if we ran aground!!, there was no wind and only the slightest of a swell, thankfully we escaped without even a nudge.
It was time to do the overnight 100 mile jump to Sicily, destination Siracusa on the southeast coast. We had looked at options of going further north, but a combination of poor anchorages, full marinas in Catania (close by to Mt Etna), a ridiculously expensive marina in Riposte of 130Euro per night plus power and water (closest town to Mt Etna) and strong southerlies forecast in 36 hours determined the all round anchorage in Siracusa to be the best option. The weather forecasts, from 3 different sources all concurred that we would have less than 10 knots all the way to Sicily with flat seas, heaven. After the recent beatings we have had the idea of burning some diesel and motoring the whole way just didn't seem a bad option really. So off we set, a slight breeze came in, sails were raised and we jogged along happily enjoying the morning. Destiny moved off ahead as they are a trawler/cruiser with a compact sail area so are designed to motor everywhere. We made the most of the light morning breeze, it would be an overnighter anyway so if we were slower it didn't really matter.
But the breeze built and came from the southwest, I imagine straight out of the entrance toSiracusa harbour! As the day progressed the sea state worsened, the winds settled at a steady 20knots, right on the nose, making us sail further and further north so we weren't bashing right into them. There is only one other anchorage on the southern Italy coast that we may have been able to divert to , the cruising guide advises of several "aggravatedrobberies" reported by yachts stopping here - it didn't sound like a great option either. We put 2 reefs in the main and sailed as comfortably as we could, carrying on way off course, but in the hope that as we neared land the seas would flattened and we could turn and motor down the coast without falling off the crests of the waves.

At 7pm we spoke to Destiny on the radio, they were finally into flatter water and due in around 9pm, we were looking at an eta of 1.30am - and things were about to get worse. While I was still talking, Mark called down that there was large boat approaching us very quickly flashing several lights at us, we thought initially it was a Coastguard boat, then realized it was a large fishing boat. Mark tired contacting them on VHF 16 and eventually got a response, all in Italian of course, but we picked up the words fishing net and pronto, pronto, pronto with a great sense of urgency in their voice. I had taken the wheel and finally spotted a lit buoy ahead, then desperately tried to spot another to see which way it was running. Finally I saw another in the distance, so starting turning away from it. Just as Skipper came up back up from the radio we both noticed hundreds of little floats, Mark grabbed the wheel and turned us as hard as he could, the fishing net floats nudgingBalvenie's hull as we flew off downwind. That was close.

It was just on dark and we were now heading north west towards land, all the lights onshore added to the confusion of trying to pick up more fishing net buoys. All we could see were lights everywhere, we were having a very comfortable sail now but going in entirely the wrong direction. I eventually made contact with an English speaking person on the radio at Augusta Port Control who contacted the fishing boat for us, they advised the net was over 3 miles long and had surface floats the whole way, just not something you can risk going over. 3 miles doesn't sound that far but when you are doing 5 to 6 knots, that's an extra hour just to get back to where we were in the beginning! We were having a long enough trip and didn't appreciate the detour at all, eventually we felt it was safe to turn back to windward and spent the rest of the night clawing our way down the Sicily coast. The sea did flatten some but the wind never died off, we safely entered Siracusa at 4am under electronic chart, radar and following the leading lights into the harbour. We dropped anchor in the south of the large bay in flat water and collapsed. It had been a hard 22 hours.
We had just fallen asleep when I was awaken by what I thought was our anchor coming up, and then silence, can't be, I'm hallucinating. Back to sleep again and awoken again, I'm sure that's the anchor - is someone stealing the boat with us on it - well we are in Mafia country??? I wake up Skipper, that is definitely the electric anchor windlass but no one is stealing the boat, it has simply short circuited and it's coming up all by itself!!! With no sleep for 24 hours the brain does not work too well and it took a while to stop it, sort it and tuck down again. Surely that is enough entertainment for one day. But no - there was more to come.

Siracusa lies in a large bay, the town on the north east shores. We had anchored in the southern bite out of the southerly wind and chop but most of the boats were up on the northern shores so they could access town. After a few hours sleep we were feeling a little more lively and very pleased to have made it to Sicily. We decided to re-anchor as we had stayed a fair distance off shore as there are fish farms there that we could not see very well when we arrived in the dark. We motored up to the town anchorage where our friends were to see if it was a better option, there was quite a fetch across the bay and with strong southerlies forecast for another 24 hours we decided the southern bay was much more comfortable. We returned down there, tucked in as far as we could and settled in.

Of course we should have learnt by now that the weather forecast has no relevance to the weather we actually receive. Around 4pm the skies turned black, the wind starting building and within 10 minutes we had 35knots from the east. The southern part of the bay is totally exposed to the east, we were now on a lee shore in shallow water, close to the fish farms, with building seas, driving rain and a disconnected bow control for the electric anchor windlass. After sorting out hand signals so I could steer the boat, control the revs to drive towards the anchor in the strong winds and use the cockpit controls to lift the anchor (thats 3 things but I only have 2 hands) things went well for no more than a minute then guess what - it got worse!!! To add more confusion up came a crab pot with about 20 metres of line all very tightly twisted around the anchor chain. Lets just say it took us an hour to cut all the line off and retrieve our anchor, pitching all the time in the sharp seas coming in.

We finally joined the other yachts in the northern anchorage, the chop was less as the wind had backed but it was now bringing a swell in so we were all rolling. Confident that wasdefinitely the end of a bad 36 hours the bar was opened. Skipper poured a beer (the lastonboard) turned to give me my drink and we rolled, his glass flew across the bench top, hit the fiddle and catapulted across the salon. We did actually have some good luck as amazingly it didn't break, but we smelt like a brewery for a few days!!!

Maybe, just maybe, it's time to surrender to the elements and start thinking about tying up for winter!!
Cruising Info on next Siracusa update:

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Stormy Siracusa - Getting to Sicily ... Sept 2009


15 - 16 September 2009


***A clear sunny moment over Siracusas old town with the stunning cathedral centre stage, shame about the dreadful concrete wall left unfinished and without any purpose along the waterfront*** Mt Etna letting off some steam, one of the rare occasions we could see it from the anchorage in Siracusa*** Looks like more thunder storms on Sicily's horizon overSiracusas old town***


Do you remember the lovely photo at the end of the last blog update of Balvenie in glassy waters leaving Roccella Ionica with a stunning red sky at sunrise? The day started well enough, we followed Destiny out of the marina, and over the shallow sand bar - them at the ready to tow us off if we ran aground!!, there was no wind and only the slightest of a swell, thankfully we escaped without even a nudge.
It was time to do the overnight 100 mile jump to Sicily, destination Siracusa on the southeast coast. We had looked at options of going further north, but a combination of poor anchorages, full marinas in Catania (close by to Mt Etna), a ridiculously expensive marina in Riposte of 130Euro per night plus power and water (closest town to Mt Etna) and strong southerlies forecast in 36 hours determined the all round anchorage in Siracusa to be the best option. The weather forecasts, from 3 different sources all concurred that we would have less than 10 knots all the way to Sicily with flat seas, heaven. After the recent beatings we have had the idea of burning some diesel and motoring the whole way just didn't seem a bad option really. So off we set, a slight breeze came in, sails were raised and we jogged along happily enjoying the morning. Destiny moved off ahead as they are a trawler/cruiser with a compact sail area so are designed to motor everywhere. We made the most of the light morning breeze, it would be an overnighter anyway so if we were slower it didn't really matter.
But the breeze built and came from the southwest, I imagine straight out of the entrance toSiracusa harbour! As the day progressed the sea state worsened, the winds settled at a steady 20knots, right on the nose, making us sail further and further north so we weren't bashing right into them. There is only one other anchorage on the southern Italy coast that we may have been able to divert to , the cruising guide advises of several "aggravatedrobberies" reported by yachts stopping here - it didn't sound like a great option either. We put 2 reefs in the main and sailed as comfortably as we could, carrying on way off course, but in the hope that as we neared land the seas would flattened and we could turn and motor down the coast without falling off the crests of the waves.

At 7pm we spoke to Destiny on the radio, they were finally into flatter water and due in around 9pm, we were looking at an eta of 1.30am - and things were about to get worse. While I was still talking, Mark called down that there was large boat approaching us very quickly flashing several lights at us, we thought initially it was a Coastguard boat, then realized it was a large fishing boat. Mark tired contacting them on VHF 16 and eventually got a response, all in Italian of course, but we picked up the words fishing net and pronto, pronto, pronto with a great sense of urgency in their voice. I had taken the wheel and finally spotted a lit buoy ahead, then desperately tried to spot another to see which way it was running. Finally I saw another in the distance, so starting turning away from it. Just as Skipper came up back up from the radio we both noticed hundreds of little floats, Mark grabbed the wheel and turned us as hard as he could, the fishing net floats nudgingBalvenie's hull as we flew off downwind. That was close.

It was just on dark and we were now heading north west towards land, all the lights onshore added to the confusion of trying to pick up more fishing net buoys. All we could see were lights everywhere, we were having a very comfortable sail now but going in entirely the wrong direction. I eventually made contact with an English speaking person on the radio at Augusta Port Control who contacted the fishing boat for us, they advised the net was over 3 miles long and had surface floats the whole way, just not something you can risk going over. 3 miles doesn't sound that far but when you are doing 5 to 6 knots, that's an extra hour just to get back to where we were in the beginning! We were having a long enough trip and didn't appreciate the detour at all, eventually we felt it was safe to turn back to windward and spent the rest of the night clawing our way down the Sicily coast. The sea did flatten some but the wind never died off, we safely entered Siracusa at 4am under electronic chart, radar and following the leading lights into the harbour. We dropped anchor in the south of the large bay in flat water and collapsed. It had been a hard 22 hours.
We had just fallen asleep when I was awaken by what I thought was our anchor coming up, and then silence, can't be, I'm hallucinating. Back to sleep again and awoken again, I'm sure that's the anchor - is someone stealing the boat with us on it - well we are in Mafia country??? I wake up Skipper, that is definitely the electric anchor windlass but no one is stealing the boat, it has simply short circuited and it's coming up all by itself!!! With no sleep for 24 hours the brain does not work too well and it took a while to stop it, sort it and tuck down again. Surely that is enough entertainment for one day. But no - there was more to come.

Siracusa lies in a large bay, the town on the north east shores. We had anchored in the southern bite out of the southerly wind and chop but most of the boats were up on the northern shores so they could access town. After a few hours sleep we were feeling a little more lively and very pleased to have made it to Sicily. We decided to re-anchor as we had stayed a fair distance off shore as there are fish farms there that we could not see very well when we arrived in the dark. We motored up to the town anchorage where our friends were to see if it was a better option, there was quite a fetch across the bay and with strong southerlies forecast for another 24 hours we decided the southern bay was much more comfortable. We returned down there, tucked in as far as we could and settled in.

Of course we should have learnt by now that the weather forecast has no relevance to the weather we actually receive. Around 4pm the skies turned black, the wind starting building and within 10 minutes we had 35knots from the east. The southern part of the bay is totally exposed to the east, we were now on a lee shore in shallow water, close to the fish farms, with building seas, driving rain and a disconnected bow control for the electric anchor windlass. After sorting out hand signals so I could steer the boat, control the revs to drive towards the anchor in the strong winds and use the cockpit controls to lift the anchor (thats 3 things but I only have 2 hands) things went well for no more than a minute then guess what - it got worse!!! To add more confusion up came a crab pot with about 20 metres of line all very tightly twisted around the anchor chain. Lets just say it took us an hour to cut all the line off and retrieve our anchor, pitching all the time in the sharp seas coming in.

We finally joined the other yachts in the northern anchorage, the chop was less as the wind had backed but it was now bringing a swell in so we were all rolling. Confident that wasdefinitely the end of a bad 36 hours the bar was opened. Skipper poured a beer (the lastonboard) turned to give me my drink and we rolled, his glass flew across the bench top, hit the fiddle and catapulted across the salon. We did actually have some good luck as amazingly it didn't break, but we smelt like a brewery for a few days!!!

Maybe, just maybe, it's time to surrender to the elements and start thinking about tying up for winter!!
Cruising Info on next Siracusa update:Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Getting Kicked By Italy's Boot ..... Sep 2009

Looking out to sea from Santa Maria di Leuca, 
still looking very lumpy - think we will wait another day!!!!
 09 - 15 September 2009

Eventually the high winds eased in Brindisi and we couldn't think of any more excuses to stay. We had enjoyed our stay there, but there always somewhere else over the horizon. The winds and seas were still a little lively for our trip south 40miles to Otranto, but once we cleared the first cape the seas flattened some, the angle was better, the wind was on the port quarter we were zipping along.

As we neared Otranto the wind dropped out so we pulled into the small harbour behind the breakwater looking for a spot for the night. The harbour was packed full, yachts rafted 6 deep, many boats on moorings and not much room for anchoring but we nestled into a small spot happy in the knowledge we would be fine unless the wind came in from the north east. Nothing was showing in the forecast - we'd be fine! Just on dark and with dinner about to be served the wind came in, of course from the north east, leaving us totally unprotected on a lee shore and in 4 metres of water, time for a change of scenery!

With few options we lifted anchored and nudged our way into the dock, just around the corner from the wind and swell, rafted up to a large dive boat who was already 3 deep alongside a couple of fishing boats and hoped no one would be wanting an early departure. Otranto had come highly recommended, the walled town and cathedral "must sees", unfortunately we missed them. We don't like to leave Balvenie when she is rafted in case the other boats want to move so we enjoyed Otranto from the harbour instead.

One of the fairy castle homes in Santa Maria
We had an undisturbed night and left after breakfast heading further south down the 'heel'. The wind had been up all night and the seas again were rather lumpy. At least we were going downwind and felt very sorry for the handful of yachts we passed motoring sail north, wind right on the nose and bashing into it. Our turn would come again, it always does! We rounded the Cape at Santa Maria di Leuca, its the bottom of the stiletto heel, oh the difference to be in the lee of land, flat water at last. It looked possible to anchor outside the marina but just within the outer breakwater, and in very settled conditions outside the big outer breakwater, but neither were very protected from the south or west. We had heard of yachts that tied to the large empty fishing dock but we saw a couple come in and get moved on so we took the easy but very expensive option and headed for the marina - staff on the pontoon waving with open arms and mooring lines, sometimes you just need to forget about the money! Later in the day John and Eva on Destiny arrived, they had come right through from Brindisi in their motor trawler and had had a rather rolly time of it too, these Italian waters were not being very kind to any of us.

We checked all the weather sites and they all showed strong winds the following day for the Gulf of Taranto, that's the 'instep' which is about 50 miles across and renowned for its confused seas, not such a good place to be with high winds as well. So we had the day at leisure, exploring the amazing villas built here back in the 1920's, it seems all the architects had a competition for the craziest design, there were houses covered in flowery tiles, fairycastles, chateaus, chinese palaces - all very strange. Most were still in good repair and used as holiday homes, however some were in desperate need of a do-up, all very interesting. We climbed the many stairs up to Mussolini's monument on top of the cape, built as the ceremonial gateway to Italy. From there we watched some braver sailors out at sea, pleased we were on land.

Why didn't we take notice of' 'Red sky in the morning
 - sailors warning' ??? - leaving Roccella Ioanica
The winds for the following day were forecast to be 20knots from the north dropping through the day with less than 10knots the following day. As with most of the med it is either get beaten up or motor, time for another beating! We were up in the dark and let our lines go just as it was light enough to see. With 2 reefs in the main and a reefed head sail we headed out, comfortable enough to start with as we were still in the lee of the heel, unfortunately that didn't last. The wind and seas built, we couldn't point high enough for our first or second choice destination so Mark just settled Balvenie into a rhythm and she ploughed through with 3 metre waves on the beam, the biggest seas we have had since we entered the Straits of Bab el Mandeb at the bottom of the Red Sea. I was feeling seasick, a first in a very long time, so I had permission to go and hide below, clutching my pillow and wondering, as I do at times like this, just why I am doing this. As the hours and miles ticked by things did start to settle a little, we headed for La Castella the first stop on the "sole" and although not showing as an anchorage the whole bay looked shallow enough and sheltered from all but the south. We hoped there would not be a wind shift and dropped anchor just after dark, 13 1/2 hours later, the 2nd longest day sail we have done at 83 1/2 miles with a top speed of 9.2knots, well at least we knocked some miles off!!

We moved on the next morning, this coastline has few safe havens and is totally exposed to the south so we wanted to get to Sicily before any southerly winds came through. We spent the day crossing the Bay of Squillance, the sea conditions were much better and we sailed most of the way, tracking thunder storms on the radar and trying to avoid them. I gave some thought to the name Squillance while watching the squalls all around us, and after checking in the cruising guide about the area, yes - we were sailing through the Bay of Squalls!!!

We approached our overnight stop of Roccella Ioanica with much apprehension, there is no natural harbour, just a huge man-made marina built behind an enormous breakwater. The pilot book warns of continual silting at the entrance, the dogleg sandbar with no markers you must navigate around, the unpredicable shallow waters, the whirlpools inside the marina AND there is an account of a yacht being rolled trying to enter. Why are we going here? - because there is simply nowhere else. Huey and the other weather gods must have thought we needed a break, as we neared the winds dropped out and we had completely flat seas with no swell at all. We had been told on our cruisers radio net that the entrance had been dreadged to 4metres in August so we slowly navigated our way in. The dredged 4 metres was nowhere to be found, 3, 2.5 then 2, we should be stationary by now, down to 1.8metres on our depth metre, but it must have been soft sand and we just ploughed through it and happily tied to a big concrete jetty in the cheap unfinished marina. We were in, but would we ever get out again!!! Needless to add that their were extra tots of the hard stuff, yet again.

Destiny were a day behind us, they hadn't been having an easy time either. The winds were forecast very light for the next few days so we decided to stay a day so they would catch up, and we could motor to Sicily together in the light winds. There's not much to do there, but a day of rest was much needed, after catch up drinks with Destiny we went to the marina pizzeria for 'pizza by the metre'!!!, just excellent - including the young helpful Australian waiter who has moved here to visit all his Italian family.

Things are looking up - or are they???

Cruising Info for Otranto, Santa Maria di Leuca and Roccella Ioanica in Italy:
Anchorages - 
Otranto at anchor ..... 40 08.917N 18 29.509E 4.8m mud Exposed Northeast to East
Otranto wall ..... 40 08 917N 18 29 699E 6.8m Rafted 4 deep, there is a bend in the wall and this was much more sheltered than it looks. We didn't get charged but arrived late and left at 8am
Santa Maria di Leuca Marina ..... 39 47.743N 18 21.640E 2.6m Went bow in - 2 mooring lines supplied. 54 Euro per night!! (Sept still classed as high season) No facilities.
Le Castella at anchor ..... 38 54.560N 17 02.039E 10m held well. Could get further in but arrived just on dark. Open to south - southeast. Can anchor over eastern side of bay, depending on wind direction. Had 20knots come up for a few hours overnight off the land, no problem.
Roccella Ionica Marina ..... 38 19.642N 16 26.006E 3m on big wall, finger berths looked rather flimsy but all new. No longer free, Police come around a few times early evening and collect 20 Euro per night. (after 54E in Santa Maria this seems cheap!) No marina staff
Internet - Nothing unlocked anywhere. New Dongle still not working,no dongle shops to be found. Got weather updates from Destiny whose Dongle was working!
Money and Provisions - Only went ashore at Santa Maria and Roccella Ionica. SM had adequate supermarket in town and ATM at Marina. RI had a good supermarket quite a walk (think there was one closer that we missed) no ATM at Marina but would be in town. Great pizza at marina
Formalities - haven't done any in Italy

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Ciao - We've made it to Brindisi - Italy ..... Sept 2009

THURSDAY, 10 SEPTEMBER 2009


01 - 09 September 2009
One of the many stone buildings at Lecce

After our very easy and straightforward check out from Croatia, we left Cavtatwith calm winds, flat seas and a weather forecast indicating no more than 10knots from the north, sounds just perfect for an overnight passage southwest to Italy. After an hour or so we had enough breeze to sail at 5 knots, it was a lovely day so all was good with the world. But we have learnt that good things never last and although the winds didn't exceed 20knots the sea state increased and we must have been getting the leftover slop from the strong winds that had been blasting the Northern Adriatic for several days. Bumpier and bumpier it got but while we were still able to sail it wasn't too bad. Around 10pm the wind dropped out completely, the boom was banging backwards and forwards so we did a nighttime sail drop - never a favourite in sloppy seas but necessary. We reefed down to the 3rd reefing line, hoping that some sail sheeted hard in would give us more stability than none at all. The motor went on and we wobbled about in the direction of Brindisi. We had a full moon, normally such a delight on an overnighter as you lie back and watch it glistening above, not this time though, it kept moving so much that just looking at it was making me feel seasick! The wind picked up again at dawn but we kept with the 3rd reef and motorsailed the rest of the way, as we neared the 1 1/2 mile breakwater at Brindisi the seas were very confused but we eventually turned the corner of the breakwater into flat water at last, oh how nice! We dropped sail and motored the last miles up into the inner harbour and dropped anchor in a space really not quite big enough and went to sleep.
Fireworks in Brindisi

We were awoken a couple of hours later by a local fisherman who was trying to explain to us that the navy would move us on and we should move closer to the moored fishing boats. There really wasn't enough room for us so we decided to tie up to the town quay, we had been told it was free as long as you weren't tied up next to the potted plants! So with all our fenders and mooring lines at the ready, we successfully nudged ourselves into a "no charge - plant free" area, home for a few nights,Welcome to Italy.Brindisi doesn't have the best of reputations, it's a main port town for those entering and exiting Italy on the many ferries that ply the waters between here, Greece and Albania. Few tourists seem to stay and explore but we really enjoyed it. By day the quay area is a little shabby - well we didn't have potted plants - we were worried about security so emptied the cockpit and stowed most things below. By night it is completey different, it's a pedestrian area, alive with hundreds of locals out for their evening promenade and catchup with family and neighbours, just lovely. Local men sit all hours of the day and night on the quay fishing between the boats, never catching anything, but seemingly content with their lot. After our initial concerns we felt as safe and secure as anywhere else we have tied up to on a town wall.

The Trulli houses of Puglia at UNESCO site Alberobello
There were strong winds forecast in a couple of day plus it was carnival time, Brindisi's Patron Saints Day over the weekend and we wanted to stay for the festivities. We went for an excursion by train to the nearby town of Lecce. It boasts more than 40 churches and palazzi, most in 16th and 17th century baroque architecture, built out of a local cream and gold stone. There is also the 12th century catherdral in the Piazza del Duoma, and an unearthed 2nd century AD amphitheatre, discovered in the early 1900's when underground vaults were being dug for a nearby bank. The whole town all glimmers in the sunlight and when the thunderstorms pass overhead and the heavens open there are some very cute trattorias to while away a couple of hours over a tasty lunch!

We were joined next day by friends Phil and Margaret off Argos from Sydney, along withJohn and Eva off Destiny of London, as they are both motor trawlers with very little sail area they do the opposite to us sailors and sit waiting for forecasts of calms, they had motored across from Montenegro in glassy seas, oh what a difference a day or two makes! We squeezed them both on the wall, careful not to impede on the plant boxes at one end and the small ferry dock at the other. Unfortunately our time on the wall was coming to an end, we had been asked to move off while the festivities were on over the weekend, and we thought we would have great spots for seeing everything. With 35knots forecast for the next couple of days the 3 of us moved over to the Brindisi Marina, fortunately it was now shoulder season so it was almost affordable, unfortunately it is quite a distance by bus from town.

More cute little stone houses
We shared the hire a small car for a day with Phil and Margaret and headed inland into the heart of Puglia. I had read about the Trulli stone houses unique to this area, so we headed northwest through scenic country lanes towards Alberobello. Enroute we discovered Locorotondo and what a find it was, set high on a hill top it's a tiny town built from ivory coloured sandstone, it houses a maze of alleys with cute tidy houses, hanging vines and flowers complete the postcard picture and it made a great stopover for an excellent pasta lunch. This town is rated as a borghi piu belli d'Italia, one of the most beautiful towns in Italy and it was just lovely, strangely there was hardly anyone else there. We moved on after lunch toAlberobello, much more touristy but a great spot, the little round white stone houses look like they were built for goblins and pixies, all straight out of a fairytale. There are over 1500 of these pointy shaped old houses in the area and they were well worth the visit.

Saturday evening was the climax of carnival weeked, the small inner harbour and dockside where we had been tied was jampacked with local craft all taking part in the festivities. There were thousands of people out on the streets, the rains and winds abated for a few hours and the city certainly came alive. An excellent fireworks display had many oohhs and aahhs from the onlookers and a large procession formed to follow the statue of the patron saint to her resting place. As we headed back to the marina and Balvenie the winds increased again and howled for the next 36 hours.

Cruising Info for Brindisi - Italy:
Anchorages -
Upper Harbour Anchorage... 40 38.571N 17.56.564E 8m mud, only stayed a couple of hours, there is not really enough room. Might be better off up past the small marina on the right and naval yard on the left
Town Quay ... 40 38.513N 17 56.698E 5.1m sidetied for free. As you approach the wall the free spots are towards the right hand end but behind the area cordened off for the small ferry. Very little wash from the ferry. In a strong north easterly you get pinned on the wall and quite a chop, so if there is room go past the ferry area, past the fuel dock and there is room for a couple of boats it has more shelter in NE winds. There is also a big long quay on the northern shore, not many cleats but we heard of boats having tied there in northerlies. No power and water unless you go to the "potted plants" end where you have to pay.
Brindisi Marina ... 40 39.618N 17 57.827E Bow or stern to, mooring lines provided, call first and dinghy will assist. Quite exposed to the wind but safe enough. €32 a night shoulder season (september).
Other options ... The Lega Nevale Marina is much closer to town and very protected, however it is tiny and had no space available. A couple of yachts anchored outside the Brindisi Marina close to the breakwater while we had the strong NE winds. In the cruising guide this area is marked as proposed berths but is currently empty.
Internet - no unlocked internet in Italy, could find no wifi cafes despite Lonely Planet saying there are plenty on the main street. Ended up buying a USB Sim and have spent 10 days trying to get it to work, more on that later!
Money - ATM's in town and one at the marina
Provisions - Small supermarket close to port on Corso Garibaldi, morning fruit and veg stalls and a couple of bakeries in behind the post office on Via Ferrante Fornari. Marina very remote with only a restaurant there.
Sightseeing -
Helpful Tourist Office right on the Town Quay

Day trip to Lecce €4.60 return per person 2nd class train, very regular about every 1/2hour. Takes about 30 minutes
Day trip to Alberobello €50 for a Fiat Panda plus €15 petrol. We walked to the airport from the marina (quite a long way!!) and got the car from Auto Europa
Formalities -
Leaving Croatia, no charges very quick in Cavtat but must tie to Customs Dock. Arriving Italy, haven't done any

Monday, 31 August 2009

Sights of Dubrovnik then Goodbye to Croatia ..... August 2009

28 - 31 August 2009

***Anchored for a few hours outside the old city walls of Dubrovnik***Cruise boats, ferries and sightseeing boats - Dubrovnik is a busy place in the high season***Feeling like the King of the Castle, high above the city in the fortress atop the city wall, and yes that little dot down there somewhere is Balvenie*** Street musicians, this one is playing a xylophone made out of beer bottles***

The anchorage at the head of Zaton Bay just north of Dubrovnik is large, shallow and protected from all but westerly winds. However the very steep sided hills that encompass the bay seem to draw the wind at night, so just after you tuck yourself in and turn off the lights get ready for the 25knot blasts out of the northeast, they carry on all night long and die away at dawn. The water stays flat, the holding is good but sleep is disturbed, oh well. We had enjoyed another excellent bar-b-que dinner onboard Gone with the Wind, the last of the season and bade them farewell in the morning - they are heading back to Turkey for winter. We took the day off, had a long walk around the waterfront, topped up on groceries from a nearby excellent small supermarket and did some more never ending boat jobs.

Next morning, instead of taking the bus into Dubrovnik, we decided to take Balvenie around and anchor off the old town for the day and if conditions permitted even stay the night there. The weather looked calm and settled so we motored the few miles around and anchored amongst the cruise ships outside the old harbour and city walls. This is a great spot in settled weather and we dinghied into the ancient harbour, the breakwater the oldest in Croatia and first constructed in the 7th century - with several additions and repairs since! Dubrovnik old town is an absolute gem and we decided to do the city walls walk which takes a couple of hours and is a complete circuit high above the town walking on the top of the solid thick walls. The views both out to sea and down into the heart of the town are excellent and we could even keep an eye on Balvenie most of the time. We were also watching the weather as large thunder clouds were building, and although no wind was forecast you never can be sure. The walk was great, if somewhat busy as there were 4 large cruise ships in port. Back down in the town square there was live theatre, musicians and a real carnival atmosphere. Dubrovnik has bounced back so well after the pounding they received in the early 1990 war, two out of three properties needed repairs from shelling, and they have carried these out to blend in with the original materials and architecture as well as possible. It's a lovely place and we would have liked to spend longer wandering through all the alleys but the weather was closing in so we headed back to Balvenie.

Although there still was no wind a large swell had come in which made the dinghy ride back and then getting back onboard a real challenge, both drenched in salt water we finally got on, just tied the dinghy on as lifting it onto the davits was not a possibility in the seas, and we pulled up anchor immediately - motored a short distance into the lee of a small nearby island where the water was flatter, raised the dinghy then headed south in the very wobbly seas the few miles to Cavtat. We were concerned the anchorage there would be exposed to this swell but with no other option but to head back to Zaton Bay we continued on, we could see only 3 others masts in the anchorage but they looked steady, the outlying islands and headland providing enough cover for a reasonably comfortable stay. We were surprised at the lack of boats there but found out later that while we were in Dubrovnik one of the thunderstorms had hit here and they had 40knots through the anchorage and most boats had to leave. The weather this year has been far more unsettled than last, possibly because we are in higher latitudes than we were in Turkey but it has made for a more stressful time, always watching the skies and the wind.

We went ashore for our last night in Croatia, Cavtat is a lovely little place, first settled by the Greeks around 300BC, it's just tiny and is a great option for checking in and out of Croatia. With clear skies, calm seas and a good forecast the next morning we motored around to the customs dock, completed our check out in a matter of minutes, got a couple of loaves of the best bread I have found in Croatia, changed the rest of our kuna into euro, let the lines go and pointed the bow southwest towards Brindisi, Italy here we come!

Cruising Info for Zaton Bay, Dubrovnik Old Town and Cavtat - Croatia:
Anchorages -
Zaton Bay ... 42 41.958N 18 02.555E 14m mud
Dubrovnik Old Town ... 42 38.391N 18 07.024E 10m sand and weed, can see the bottom to find sand patch. We stayed day only but know of boats that overnighted here in calm conditions, possibly pay anchorage if overnight if you are onboard at the wrong time!
Cavtat - Tiha Bay ... 42 35.138N 18 13.175E 10m. We found holding hold both times here but others had problems and boats dragged. In the main bay we have been told that it is an expensive pay anchorage but I have also been emailed by a cruiser who anchored twice over summer and weren't charged. ??!!
Internet - unlocked good signals at both Zaton and Tiha, didn't try Dubrovnik
Money - no ATM at Zaton, plenty at others, also bank in Cavtat to change those last Kuna
Provisions - Great small supermarket in Zaton on road at head of bay, adequate supermarket, good veg stalls and great bakery in Cavtat
Sightseeing - You can visit Dubrovnik by bus from either Zaton or Cavtat. Dubrovnik Wall Walk 50k pp and we also got the audio commentary at 40k pp which gave us more than enough history!

Formalities - Checking out in Cavtat took less than 10 minutes and there are no charges. As with checking in you MUST tie up to the customs dock, it was empty so we side tied.
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Friday, 28 August 2009

Busy Korcula then returning to Nature - Croatia ..... August 2009

24 - 27 August 2009

***Entry into Korcula walled town***Korcula from the sea***The anchorage at the Monastery on Badija***

We arrived mid afternoon in the anchorage just outside the wonderful walled town of Korcula. We had had a great sail in around 10 knots just aft of the beam along the bottom of Korcula island, then turned and went up the east coast a couple of miles harder on the wind before dropping sails and turning west for the last 1/2 mile into the channel between Korcula Island and mainland Croatia. What a difference on this side, the wind was whipping through around 25 knots, the kitesurfers were out in force having an amazing time in the brisk breeze and flat water. We decided to anchor in the town anchorage even though it is a pay one as we wanted to enjoy Korcula by day and night and be close enough to enable this. It's another small anchorage and like all the other town anchorages so far it ended up way too full. The one redeeming fact this time however was that everyone was anchoring in over 20knots so at least their anchors were setting by default!

We went ashore around 5.30pm, stopping enroute to meet Doug and Shanna off American yacht Hob Nob we had heard them on our morning radio net a few times so always great to finally put faces to the voices and say hi. While we were talking with them they spotted the dreaded 'anchor charges collector' doing his rounds, so we did the obvious and all skedaddled ashore to avoid paying, shame on us. Korcula is yet another outstanding example of a well preserved walled town, it's just tiny - set on a compact peninsular with only a handful of alleys running at right angles to each other so they can't have been too worried about the pirates gaining access, and it certainly did appear very well fortified. We settled down at a waterfront cafe and enjoyed a sundowner, reaching a new high for a small beer and a sprite at 40kuna, about 6Euro, oh well rather spend it on this than paying to anchor! Then we people watched a little longer, explored the streets again after dark, stopped for an excellent pizza and just lapped up the atmosphere oozing from this lovely town, priceless.

After a settled night the anchorage emptied out early so we decided to go ashore once again, have coffee and get a few provisions. We spotted Hob Nob whilst partaking in our morning coffee and people watching ritual and whiled a few hours away chatting with them in the town square. Then it was time for a quick top up with fruit and veg before the market closed, however one stall holder must have thought I'd just arrived on a cruise ship wanting 30kuna (4.50Euro) for 3 bananas!!! We found a small supermarket on the way back to Balvenie and got 5 bananas for 7kuna instead. Maybe she was the anchor charges mans wife trying to recuperate our unpaid fee!!!! Still it was the first time I have knowingly had someone try to overcharge me since we have been in Croatia so that's not too bad at all.

Mid afternoon we left the anchorage and motored a couple of miles east around the corner and nestled between some outlying islands by the Monastery on Badija, a delightful spot with the monastery surrounded by pine trees, the massive hills on the mainland as a backdrop and turquoise waters not unlike those in tropical islands lapping at the hull. 15 minutes but a million miles away from the hectic Korcula Town anchorage. We only stayed one night as time is marching on, but this is a place you could bury the anchor for days and just relax.

We continued on further southeast and returned to the sheltered anchorage at Polace in the Mljet National Park on Mljet Island. We still had our park tickets from when we stayed coming up and showed them again with no problems. We have heard they are valid for a year. Last time we were here there were around 60 yachts squeezed in, now on our first night we had 12, the 2nd night down to 7, the end of August is fast approaching. This is a favorite spot, the scent of pine in the air and the clicking of thousands of cicadas is overwhelming, give me the smells and sounds of nature any day over the city smells and traffic noises. We met up again with Maurice and Heather off New Zealand yacht Baracca who we first met last year in Turkey, great to catch up again with them then the next night Hob Nob joined in as well, happy hours whilst cruising are really one of the highlights.

Our good friends on Gone with the Wind were in Dubrovnik getting ready to leave Croatia for Greece and continuing on back to Turkey for winter. We wanted to catch up one more time with them this season so left this tranquil setting and motored in glassy seas back down to Zaton Bay just north of Dubrovnik to rendezvous with them for the last time in 2009.

Cruising Info for Korcula Town on Korcula, Badija Monastery and Polace on Mljet - Croatia:
Anchorages -
Korcula Town (Uvala Luka) - Korcula ... 42 57.222N 17 08.49E 15m sand/mud 10 minutes walk into town. Anchorage is bigger than it looks on chart. PAY ANCHORAGE - Collects around 5-6pm but don't know how much it is
Monastery - Badija .... 42 56.942N 17 09.640E 14m sand, plenty of room and possibilities in this area.
Polace - Mljet ... 42 47.367N 17 27.050E 12m mud, excellent all round cover. NATIONAL PARK PAY ANCHORGE 90K per person tickets valid one year (we think)
Internet - Unlocked signals onboard at all. Signal at Korcula on and off, other two both good.
Money - ATM machine in Korcula and Polace
Provisions - All shops and adequate supermarket (one by bus terminal, another small store on road in from anchorage) in Korcula. Good bakery and butcher, they share a shop! in Korcula outside walled town. butchery closes for siesta though. Polace has 2 small supermarkets and a bakery all quite expensive here. Didn't go ashore at monastery but don't think anything there.
Fuel - There is a fuel dock between Korcula town anchorage and Badija Monastery. We didn't go to it so not sure of depths or prices.
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Monday, 24 August 2009

More Ancient Cities and time for Maintenance ..... August 2009

19 - 23 August 2009

***The busy town anchorage at Hvar Town looking up to the Fort***And now the busy town anchorage looking down from the fort!!*** An evening at the Opera in Hvar***Time to do some sewing, attaching new slugs to the mainsail***

Having secured our parking spot in Hvar Town harbour we sat back and watched with amusement as the afternoons armada arrived. There really was just too much going on around us to go ashore so we just cracked the bar open, sat back and got ready to fend off the odd boat that really did get that close!!! Describing it as busy and overcrowded is totally inadequate, it was manic but by about 7.30pm there were only a couple more late runners on the horizon so we decided it was safe enough to leave Balvenie alone and head ashore for a look around. Every one of these old towns is different and all have been amazing, Hvar certainly was no exception. With one of the largest town squares in Croatia there is a huge arena overflowing with outdoor cafes and stalls selling anything from local artwork to the dried lavender the island is famous for. It is a beautiful place with a horseshoe shaped harbour, tiny local fishing craft crammed into one side and some seriously large super yachts fender to fender on the other, the display of wealth is overwhelming.

We returned to Balvenie just before a light evening breeze off the land filled in. It was time for some of the charter boats to go walkabout again, luckily for all concerned there were no unmanned boats involved. Boats were re anchoring and dragging again, lifting other boats anchors and getting in a tangle, all in no more than 12knots of wind - much entertainment. Once everyone was settled, and when the super yacht tenders stopped ferrying the rich and famous backwards and forwards the anchorage calmed down and we managed a good sleep. Next morning most of the boats had left by 9am, leaving just a handful so we decided it was safe enough to leave Balvenie without fear of someone pulling her anchor out while we weren't onboard. We went ashore and picked our way up through the maze of tiny streets to the Fortress Spanjol perched high above the town with a stunning vista out over the surrounding islands and the sparkling seas of the Adriatic. The present day structure was built to defend the town from Turkish invasion, since then the Austrians and the Venetians have had turns occupying it, along with several others. It was worth the 20kuna entry fee to stroll around and enjoy the vista. Back down in the town square while enjoying a coffee and people watching we noticed a sign for an "Evening of Opera" that evening at 9pm in the Franciscan Citadel, we checked the weather forecast and things looked calm and settled so we decided to chance it and stay another night.

By 7pm it was full on chaos again, by 8pm more boats were dragging - mmmmm only 10 knots this time, we are not sure if some of the charterers know that the anchor needs to not only touch the bottom but that you then should put more chain out, make sure it is dug in, then more chain, then just to be sure put some more out!!! Oh well, more details will come in my special "Anchoring Antics" blog to be done at some stage. By 8.30pm everyone was settled and it looked safe enough to leave, so we did the med thing and put all our fenders out and went ashore - if you can't beat them - join them.

The opera was fabulous, we are not opera buffs but appreciate most live music especially seated in an enclosed stone courtyard setting, vines clawing down the weathered stone walls, just perfect. There was1 Croatian, 2 Slovenians and 1 Canadian performer, they were all excellent and for 50kuna each it was an excellent evening out. We always love to go ashore at night, especially into these old towns, but it is not always practical or safe especially if it is a long dinghy ride back so it is always a treat when we do. We have been lucky with some of the harbours here as they are fairly enclosed and we can anchor reasonably close to shore. As with Split Harbour we expected to have to pay to anchor here but on both evenings we were on the boat until dark and we were not charged - no complaints from us, we are just baffled at how it all works!!

Time to find some peace, quiet and flat water. We sailed south and of course the wind was from the south - always on the nose. Still it was light, the seas flattened once we got away from the powerboats wash and we sailed slowly all day to the southwest corner of Korcula and anchored for 2 nights in the beautiful quiet bay of Tri Luce, amazingly with only 2 other boats, ah peace at last. We were behind on our maintenance so took the day catching up. The mainsail came down and I sat and replaced 3 slugs that had been broken for a couple of weeks, never an easy job getting the main off, repaired and back on again but we managed to get it all done before too much wind came up. Skipper was servicing the outboard engine, it has been chugging away sounding somewhat unhealthy for a while and we blamed it on our 14 month old Egyptian fuel, but we had recently drained it and put new fuel in which it liked even less, so apart it all came, all cleaned out and after a few attempts now runs like a new one and goes faster!!! Next on the list was an oil change but on further investigation Mark checked the log and we have only motored 130 hours so far this season so that has been put back on the 'to do' list for a later date. Only one more job to do, the foot control button for raising the anchor on the electric windlass had been playing up, jamming on then not working at all so all apart it came, everything cleaned up, wires sanded and put back together again, hopefully it will behave itself for the rest of the season. Jobs completed - rest of the day at leisure!

We loved this anchorage, after all the busy ones it felt so remote and peaceful, we didn't even go ashore but there looked to be just a few houses and nothing much else. We kept moving on though as we wanted to meet up again with friends before we all parted ways to head for our winter homes. We had a very gentle sail in light winds along the southern coast of Korcula to the little harbour town of Brna. We anchored in the bay and went ashore for a walk around the very small town, topped up on a few supplies and had a sundowner, not much else to do there. Just on dark the dreaded 'anchor charges collector' paid us a visit wanting 10 kuna a metre to park. We just refused, yet again, and after about 20 minutes he gave up on us in disgust. I expect we are getting a reputation as being tight-fisted, quite frankly I don't mind, we were the only boat in there, it was a nondescript town with no redeeming features, no ATM, 1 average restaurant, an expensive supermarket and the anchorage wasn't great. We left early the next morning before we were run out of town, best really, and had a great sail in about 15 knots on the beam for a change around to Korcula Town.

Cruising Info for Hvar Town on Hvar, Tri Luce and Brne on Korcula - Croatia:
Anchorages -
Hvar Town - Hvar ... 43 10.153N 16 26.312E 18m Very very busy at night. Must anchor to port as looking ashore as ferrys come in on starboard (shame as much shallower over there)
Tri Luce - Korcula ... 42 55.505N 16 40.036E 11m sand with weed patches but could see anchor on bottom.
Brna - Korcula ... 42 54.251N 16 51.533E 15m sand and weed. PAY ANCHORAGE. Fjord like anchorage just behind Brna looked ok, would need to stern tie, supposed to be free
Internet - No signals at any onboard. Found a Internet cafe ashore in Hvar (just off main square - well signposted), free access for 20 minutes with coffee - use their laptops or take your own
Money - ATM machine in Hvar
Provisions - All shops and good supermarket in Hvar town, small supermarket in Brna (no meat or bread and vegetables looked dead)

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Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Romans invade Split, Croatia ..... August 2009

12 -19 August 2009

***The promenade at Split with everyone out for their evening stroll***Roman centurions during the reenactment of the Roman invasion of Split*** We had seen this contraption earlier in the day and had tried to work out what it was - ancient merry go round with the children in baskets having great fun***Contemplating life at the Split fruit and veg daily market***

As we started our journey south back down the coast we were still experiencing a period of very settled weather, clear sunny days with temperatures in the high 20's with low 20's at night, light winds and flat seas and only sometimes an afternoon seabreeze. Mark works very hard at trimming the sails and we manage to sail nearly all the time if at all possible. This really is my kind of sailing, with the apparent wind rarely going over 15 knots, and except for the wakes we generally have flat water. We headed back to Rogoznica, and as there were no strong winds forecast we anchored much closer to the town. We stayed 2 nights, the first night we were joined by 3 other yachts, the second around 20. Plenty of room for all and a good stopover point.

Nibbling away at the miles we kept moving every couple of days. We had a great sail in a rare seabreeze from behind and changed our intended anchorage for the night as the westerly was coming right into it and turned and headed up into a large shallow bay (in Croatia if its under 20 metres we call it shallow!) called Marina. It was a beautiful spot, only one other yacht, calm and peaceful.

The following morning we were joined by Gone with the Wind again, they have been having ongoing problems with their anchor windlass jamming and it was in need of urgent repairs. Only problem was in order to do this they had to remove the anchor from the chain and bring all the chain in, not such an easy feat if you are not in a Marina. So they came up alongside us and rafted to us for the day while Liam, Mark and friend Pete set about doing what blokes to best, pondering for hours on the best way to fix it and after much deliberation actually fix it. Task complete they put it all back together and anchored for the night, testing the new improvements.

Next day we both moved on to Split. You are permitted to anchor within Split harbour as long as you keep clear of all the ferry docks and marina entrance. This is somewhere you wouldn't actually mind paying as you are right downtown with great access, but they don't charge, go figure!!! We spent two nights there and very much enjoyed it. It was Roman festival week, with street theatre, ancient stalls - a cobbler showing the making of original roman leather sandals, a potter busy at work on his wheel, basket weaving and a variety of others, all the people dressed in toga's looking the part. There was an evening of Roman theatre set inside the ancient palace walls, with everyone dressed looking the part, while on the promenade there were stages set with opera concerts. Split was buzzing.

The walled towns in Croatia just continue to amaze us, no two are the same. What I liked most about Split was its state of disrepair. During the day it really did look dilapidated, some buildings tumbling down, it was like a big outdoor movie set of ancient ruins, but it is a working and living town. At night it takes on a whole new image, with well thought out and placed lighting that gives it a mystical glow, it really is lovely. The harbour is pretty smelly though, but if you can cope with that then its an excellent stopover with a secure, free anchorage on the doorstep. Add to that the excellent daily market, closeby supermarket, pizzerias and gelatos stalls - it shouldn't be missed.

As much as we were enjoying Split it was time to move on, we headed south east to the southern side of Brac and the little anchorage of Lucice. It was crowded already with yachts on moorings but both Balvenie and GWTW managed to squeeze into a shallow patch we found and had a comfortable enough night.

A couple of adjustments were needed to the recent improvement on GWTW's anchor windlass so they rafted back up in the morning for a couple of hours for more work to be completed. Then we had a good sail again with light winds to the next island of Hvar. We planned to anchor a couple of miles away from the main town and try to bus in to visit. This was the place on our way north that looked to be totally crazy with bumper to bumper boats so we thought best to give the main anchorage a miss. As we closed in on it though, it didn't look too bad so we took a little detour in, had a snoop around, found reasonable depths to anchor in a good spot so dropped anchor and settled in.

The early evenings entertainment was supplied by an entourage of charter boats coming in to anchor, there is so much to say about their anchoring antics that I shall dedicate a separate blog update to it when I have everything else up to date!!

More on Hvar in the next update

Cruising info for Rogoznica, Marina, Split, Lucice on Brac and Hvar Town - Croatia:
Anchorages -
Rogoznica ... 43 31.850N 15 58.322E 16.5m sand with patches of weed
Marina ... 43 30.897N 16 07.221E 14m sand
Split ... 43 30.324N 16 26.031E 6m sand
Lucice ... 43 18.352N 16 27.142E 9.5m sand and rock. Not ideal but ok
Hvar Town ... 43 10.153N 16 26.312E 18m maybe sand? Lots of wash from passing craft but calm down after midnight for a few hours!
Internet - Rogoznica, Marina both unlocked. Split have a drink ashore and get a code, Lucice has none, Hvar take laptop ashore to wifi cafe
Money and Provisions - Lucice nothing ashore, all the others have everything. Fuel dock in Split with easy access (we didn't tie up, just jerry jugged) - Diesel 6.67kuna per litre, Petrol 7.44kuna per litre Posted by Picasa