Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Croatia and Venice

We left Vieste as planned and had great conditions to sail across to Croatia, nearly flat seas and around 12-15knts of wind on the beam meant we covered the 60nm in about 9hrs and nearly all under sail. We tied up to the Customs Quay at Ubli on Lastovo to find the place like a ghost town, Harbourmaster and Police Post all deserted, apparently they might open at around 5pm!!

By 6pm still no sign of any officials so we spoke to the Park Ranger who rang the Harbourmaster, he appeared about 15mins later and could not have been more friendly and helpful. Completed the check-in and relieved us of about €250 for our Cruising Permit and Navigation Taxes, this covers us for the rest of the year. The Policeman arrived 1/2 hr later to check our passports and crew list, again very friendly and efficient.

Now all legal it was back to the boat for dinner and welcome to Croatia drinks. We stayed on the Town Quay for the night, apparently they can’t charge you here even though the whole Island is a Nature Park that you have to pay to enter.

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Approaching Ubli, Lastovo

Vela Luka, Korcula

So the plan now was to head North through the Islands of Croatia and up to the Istrian Peninsula before crossing to Venice. Although we did not have too much time to explore and the hiking has been abandoned for a while, we only had to travel fairly short distances between lovely anchorages and Islands. We headed into Split for supplies and found Lidl only 10mins walk away from the anchorage so stocks were properly replenished with our shopping trolley, rucksacks and bags well loaded. Prices overall seemed a bit cheaper than Greece, especially booze.

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Marinkovac, Pakleni Islands

Sunset at Banovi

We headed towards Murter with more quiet, calm anchorages on the way. Murter is joined to the mainland by a lifting bridge that opens twice a day and saves a good few miles compared to going around the West side of the Island. However the approach is quite shallow with only 2m of water meaning we had around 0.5m of clearance underneath us, the bridge is only about 10-12m wide so we had a couple of metres each side as we squeezed through, fortunately it was a lovely calm morning so it was not too scary.

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Approach to Murter Bridge

We Just Squeezed Through!

In Murter Harbour or Hramina we met up with Nick and Dave on Imagine, old friends from Holyhead that we have not seen for a good few years. BBQ and Beers to catch up with all the gossip from back home, great fun.

Northwards again with a few more stops before getting to Porec about half way up the Istrian peninsula, our jump-off point for Venice. Along the way we had a bit of an argument with a mooring buoy fee collector in Susak harbour, he insisted we could not anchor in the Bay even though we were over 150m from his buoys. His reason was that it was now illegal to anchor because the mussels in the Bay were protected, after pointing out that Google Earth showed at least 20 boats anchored last summer and refusing to move he got a bit upset and said he would bring the Police. We told him if the Police asked us to move we would do so, otherwise we were staying. When Police or Harbourmaster showed no interest in the problem it was clear he was just making up rules to try and force us to pay around 360 kuna (€45) to use his buoys!! Have to say that everyone we have met in Croatia has been friendly and helpful but these fee collectors have a bit of a reputation for “trying it on”.

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Burano Square and Leaning Tower

Main Street, Burano!

We checked out of Porec and crossed to Venice, didn’t attempt fishing as there was so much rubbish floating around. A pretty good trip over, we had about 15knts of wind and managed to sail over half the way over before the wind died away. Anchored off Burano which is a really beautiful and quirky place. All the houses are painted different colours and apparantly you have to obtain permission to change their colour. They still ring the bells everday in the leaning tower, It looks as if it is going to topple over soon!!

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Sue’s New Friend

Lovely Gardens on Burano

So our first day we spent exploring Burano, first along the canals in the dinghy then on foot. In the park there were a lot of sculptures on display, really unusual and so nice to see them displayed out in the open. I could just see this happening in the UK, NOT!! Everyone here seems to be really into looking after their gardens, some stunning arrays of flowers.

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Rialto Bridge

Nearly Empty St Mark’s Square

We then caught the 7am Vapareto into Venice to try and do some exploring before all the crowds arrived. It was worth the early start to stand on the Rialto bridge on our own and see St Marks Square deserted!! By mid morning it was heaving with people.

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St Mark’s Cathedral

Grand Canal Monument

The Cathedral didn’t open until 9.45 but the queue started at 8.30!! Their were lots of armed guards patrolling up and down. No photos were allowed in the Cathedral which is a shame but totally understandable.Very beautiful and ornate, i always wonder how many people it took to create those amazing mosaics. We wandered around Venice for the day criss crossing over its many canals. Watchng the Vaparetos zooming up and down made us think they are like the tube trains in London only on water!! So many people hopping on and off. Then in amongst them are the many Gondolas and delivery boats, even the odd ambulance.

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Venice Rowing Regatta

Venice Rowing Regatta

Trust us to pick one of the busiest times to visit Venice and Burano, turns out it was a huge Rowing Regata weekend with Sunday being the big day. Hundreds of boats and people turned out for it, from big Gondolas to Paddle Boards!! It was just like watching the London Marathon only on water with a paddle!! They had to paddle 12 miles from Venice out around the islands and back to Venice.

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Thunderstorm Heading Our Way

An Hour Later

The return trip from Venice to Porec was a bit windy and rough, we left Venice in calm conditions with the wind forecast to increase to 15-20knts. We ended up with 25-30knts and horrible mixed up lumpy sea state so it was a bumpy trip, at times we had two reefs in the main and only a scrap of headsail out. The only good thing was that it meant we sailed over 2/3rds of the trip so didn’t use much diesel. Needed a couple of attempts to get secured alongside the Customs Quay in Porec because of the wind but then had a very friendly Policeman check us back into Croatia.

Then the next day we went down to a lovely anchorage near Vrsar where we experienced our first Croatian thunderstorm. Luckily we only caught the tail end of it and the rain washed the boat off nicely. The pictures above show individual lightning strikes with the white being very recent and the red being older, as it shows it was a pretty intense storm but we were lucky enough to be in the narrow gap between the two systems so we missed the worst of it. You can also see that the storm moved over 30 miles South in less than an hour!!

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Moonrise, Uvala Soline, Pula

Calm Evening, Soline, Pula

We are now anchored in Soline having a few relaxing days before going into Pula to top up on internet and of course the mandatory stock up in Lidls!!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

From Greece to Italy

The weather conspired to keep us in Serifos for a few more days after we said goodbye to friends Kenny, Liz and Lucy on Princess Lucy so we had to fit in a couple more hikes around the Island.

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Ambeli Beach, Serifos

Cute Kids !!

First we walked to Ambeli Beach to the South of the Island, a fairly easy 10km hike on decent paths and tracks with some great views of the interior of the Island as well as some local wildlife. This time of year is great for hiking with pleasant temperatures and the stunning sights and smells of the Spring flowers and herbs everywhere you go.

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Livadhi Bay, Serifos

In Need of Repair

A couple of days later we had another easy walk around Livadhi Bay to Tsilipaka Beach, a sedate 6km stroll on easy tracks with only about 150m height difference. Not as pretty as some of our other hikes but interesting nontheless.

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Downwind to Milos

Kleftiko Rocks, Milos

So after nearly two weeks in Serifos we finally got a favourable weather forecast to head round the bottom of the Peloponese. First was a 34 mile trip to the SW corner of Milos, we managed to sail almost all the way, mainly with our two headsails set wing and wing. This is nice easy sailing for us if we are going dead down wind or very close to it, at around 8knts we are travelling at about the same speed as the waves so it is very comfortable. We anchored under the cliffs at Kleftiko for the night before heading off again next day.

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Monastery, Cape Maleas

Elafanisos Beach

Next day was a long 70nm passage to the Island of Elafanisos on the South East of the Peloponese, just past Cape Maleas that is the south eastern tip of mainland Greece.

It Turned out to be an Eventful Day!!! 0620 Departure to spend the first 3 hrs trying to sail but mainly motorsailing as the wind simply would not behave, forecast was for about 12-15knts NE but we had 2-8 from SE and E with occasional gusts to 20 just to keep you interested. Eventually the wind settled down to 15-20 from E to SE and we managed to sail for the next 4 1/2 hrs at good speeds. Approaching Cape Maleas the wind dropped and we motorsailed for an hour with just the main while keeping an eye on all the traffic passing around us. Then the sky went black, lightning flashed and thunder roared, wind up to 25-30 so main was quickly dropped and we motored into building seas and 20+ knts of wind. Earlier the turning block for the jib furling line had failed so I needed to jury rig a replacement so we could use the jib to motorsail into the wind and seas. Next there is a clattering noise at the back of the cockpit - a check round showed the screw shackle between the main halyard and the head of the sail had come undone and bounced down the boat, luckily it landed in the dinghy but now the main halyard was swirling around in 25 knts of wind - no chance of doing anything in those conditions so it eventually got wrapped around the topping lift and lazy jacks where it was easy to recover it from when we stopped.  2 hrs later we are approaching the anchorage at Elafanisos as the winds calmed and the sun came out, next the oil pressure alarm goes off on the port engine!!! Quickly stop the engine and change to the stbd engine, a quick look in the engine bay revealed lots of oil on the outside of the engine instead of the inside - not good. Anchored in a lovely sandy bay  in bright sunshine and 6knts of breeze, 70nm and 11 hrs after we left. The engine oil leak was found to be a faulty sealing ring on the oil filter so a new filter and 6ltrs of oil solved the problem apart from 6ltrs of oil in the engine bay to be pumped out and cleaned up.

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Porto Kayio Anchorage

Cemetry Above Porto Kayio

The anchorage in Elafanisos was a bit rolly so we were away early for a short 25nm trip to Porto Kayio. This time the wind was a bit more favourable than the forecast and we sailed about 2/3 of the way. We hooked our first fish of the season but it managed to get away about 30m from the boat – shame!!

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Stunning Spring Flowers

Found on the Trail

A couple of days break in Porto Kayio gave us time for another hike down to the S of the peninsula. We found a trail from a website but both the tracks out of Porto Kayio were completely overgrown so we had to use the road and a bit of improvisation. Once again the spring flowers were everywhere and the countryside around the area was lovely.

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Vathy Beach, Near Porto Kayio

Porto Kayio Waterfront

We walked down a well cleared path to get to Vathy Beach but the track out on the other end of the beach had not had any tender loving care at all and it was barely visible in the undergrowth with an occasional blue paint mark to give us a clue. We did eventually find our way back to the road to continue on our merry way (although Sue was not too merry after scrambling through the undergrowth)

Sue here, just got to add that my version of a path is totally different from Chris!! Every hike we go on we seem to end up at some stage fighting our way through the undergrowth and all I can here is Chris up in front shouting keep going I’m sure we are still on the right track!!! Its like where’s Wally, he is a little figure in the distance!!

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Entrance to Navarino Bay and Pilos

Fairy Castle, near Agrilos

Now the weather decided we would not have any wind for about a week and since the normal wind direction for this area is from the N and that is where we were going, we decided we had better do some motoring to make some miles in the right direction. From Porto Kayio we headed West and North to Pilos where we tied up in the unfinished marina for the night, we did manage some sailing on this passage but it was to be the last for a while. Next day was further North to Kipparissia, followed by a trip up to the ferry port of Kyllini. No time for any hiking or shore side visits as we still had little or no wind forecast so we carried on to One House Bay on the small Island of Atokos and then onward to Vlikho Bay on Levkas. So from Pylos to Vlikho Bay we motored about 130nm, but at least the sea was flat and calm.

A few days stopover gave us a chance to meet up with some old friends, Ian & Bobby on Carlina and Frank & Agetha on La Bassine. This meant a visit to Vlikho Bay Yacht club for Sunday Dinner and a few little drinkies!!

Sue here, normality at last!! So nice to stop for a few days and socialise. It was really lovely to catch up with these friends again and share some happy memories.

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Trail to Nydri Waterfalls

Some Nice Views to be Found!!

Now this is my kind of hike, proper paths and a impressive waterfall at the end, for once I thought we had done an easy hike but oh no there was more to come!!

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We Made It!!!

Place to Ourselves

Lets go back a different route he says as it would be boring to go back the same way. We set off in search of some elusive springs but sadly we did not find them. We did see a lot of the countryside though and picked a lot of lemons, which my freezer is now full of. Ready for all the summer sundowners!!

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Interior of Levkada

Oranges and Lemons Going to Waste

In Lakka we met up with friends Vic & Chrissy and spent a couple of evenings with them eating and drinking Aperol Spritzers and of course the obligatory hike around the island.

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Lakka Bay Anchorage

Lakka Lighthouse

This is a really beautiful island with a lot of really plush properties. We also came across an abandoned Monastery which must have been very grand in its day. So of course we picked a few more lemons

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Rugged South Coast of Paxos

Old and New

After 2 days here it was time to move on to Corfu Town but only for one night as we had to keep going. We then sailed to the island of Othoni where we stayed for one night. Onwards

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Beautiful Hiking Trail

Wild Flowers in Greece!!

Italy was our next stop. So we headed off bright and early for Bridissi. On the way Chris decided maybe we should take advantage of the southerly winds and keep going overnight to Vieste. It had been a bit of a roly sail so far but I wasnt feeling too bad so I agreed. Then it all changed!! I will say no more as I’m sure Chris will explain it better but I didn’t like it!!! In my defence I will point out that I hadn’t been well for a couple of days with a urine infection so wasnt feeling 100%!!!.

As Sue says we had an “interesting” trip from Orthoni!! The wind was forecast to be from the SE, great as we were heading NW, wind speed was predicted as 10-12knts early morning building to 20-25knts through the day. For once the forecast was pretty good and the wind was good with occasional gusts into the low 30knts, all very nice and comfortable with boat speed around 8knts so making good progress, sea state was not too bad as the wind had not really had time to build up any waves. So as we got nearer to Brindisi late afternoon further studies of the weather forecast showed that our 20-25knts wind should continue overnight and from mainly the same direction. Since we need to make some miles N when we can we decided to keep going overnight another 120nm to Vieste. Seemed like a good plan until we were about 2hrs past Brindisi when the wind chaged direction more to the SW (still OK) progress with just the headsail was now a bit slow so we had to raise the mainsail with two reefs, everything now OK with a bit more speed for another hour or so, as it was going dark the wind decided it had not listened to the same forecast and so it increased to 30-35knts with gusts up to 45knts. It was now impossible to turn back to Brindisi because the winds and seas would have been on the nose and it would have taken about 4hrs in horrible conditions to get there. No option but to keep going, so the mainsail was reefed down to the third reef and the headsail rolled away to a fraction of normal size and we kept going, we have never sailed Nimrod in conditions that need 3 reefs in the sails but she handled it all very easily and we carried on in the right direction at 7.5 knts. After 2 or 3 hrs (it felt longer) the wind eased, the sea flattened out a bit and more sail was needed to keep the speed up so once again it seemed like the right decision to keep going!!. Overnight and next morning was all fairly pleasant with much lighter winds and slower speeds, we arrived in Vieste around midday after 195nm and 30hrs at sea for an average speed of just under 6.5knts.

So sitting at anchor outside the harbour at Vieste we study the weather forecast again to see when we can head North up the coast towards Venice that is still around 290nm away. The Italian Adriatic coast is not blessed with many yacht friendly harbours, with long distances between the ones there are and even less decent anchorages – nearly none in fact – and the weather forecast was for mainly NW winds for the next 5 or 6 days, not looking good!! All of a sudden sailing to Croatia and going NW up there with a multitude of safe anchorages and short distances between the Islands seemed a much better idea than the inhospitable Italian coast. Strangely from Vieste to Venice via Croatia is only about 30nm further than going up the Italian coast and we can make progress much more easily. Chances are by going to Croatia will be about 100nm nearer to Venice by the end of the week than if we stay in Vieste.

So tomorrow (Monday) we head to Ubli on the Island of Lastovo to check-in to Croatia. The plan now is to head up the Croatian coast as weather permits then cross to Venice for a week or so before heading back to Croatia for the rest of the summer. We hope to visit Montenegro later in the year before heading back to Greece and then on to Sicily for our winter stop. However you should remember that cruising plans are written in the sand at low tide so our next blog could have a completely different cunning plan!!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Out of the Marina and On Our Way Again

After a very short 3 1/2 month long winter in Agios Nikolaos it was time for us to head out for the summer, so after the usual last minute rush to get all the winter jobs finished we managed to escape from the marina on 30th March for the daunting 12nm passage around to Spinalonga Lagoon. We survived the trip unscathed and spent a few days anchored at Elounda before the weather kindly offered us some southerly winds to let us make our way North.

With an 85nm trip ahead of us we left Spinalonga at dark o’clock, or 0500hrs, with the forecast southerly winds a bit stronger than expected but still in the right direction. The wind continued pretty much as forecast for the whole day meaning the second half of the trip was a bit bumpy as the wind and waves moved around to the SE and then nearly E so we had the waves on the side of the boat and that is not the most comfortable for us.

We did manage to sail the whole way and arrived in the remote anchorage of Panormos on the NW corner of Astypalia after 12 1/2 hrs. Sue was not too impressed with the bumpy ride for her first trip of the year but the anchorage was calm and spectacular.

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Panormos Anchorage, Astypalia

Schinousa Beach

Next day was a bit easier with only 42nm to cover to get to the little Island of Schinoussa, hardly any wind so it was mainly motoring with a few hours of motorsailing. Another deserted anchorage at Schinoussa and no wind forecast so we decided to stay for a couple of days.

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Ancient Combine Harvester

Immaculate Honda C50

After all the parties and excess of the winter we had to try and get into a bit of a healthier regime for a while so we set off for a hike around the northern part of Schinoussa. With all the spring flowers and a surprising amount of agriculture for such a small Island it was a really beautiful walk and not too much climbing so a nice gentle start to the yeear. We manged to cover about 10km and saw almost all of the Northern half of the Island.

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Attractions Around Schinousa

Interior of Schinoussa

Lots of animals, flowers and machinery to enjoy on our way and no one else around at all so it felt like we had the place all to ourselves.

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Schinoussa Anchorage

Early Morning in Iraklia Harbour

The second day we had a bit of a change in the wind direction so we headed across the channel to the neighbouring Island of Iraklia to make sure we had a nice calm night.

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Sailing Companions

Panagia Church, Paros

From Iraklia we had a 27nm trip to the main port of Paros called Paroika with a nice sheltered anchorage just off the town for a couple of days.

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Hiking on Paros

Nature at her Best

On Paros we hiked up into the interior of the Island to a monastery at 400m above sea level and a distance of nearly 14km in total so a good bit more strenuous than Schinoussa. Again the flowers and scenery were stunning making it another wonderful hike.

Soon the weather forecast was looking favourable so we set off for Livahdi on Serifos with 16 - 20knts of wind meaning we sailed the whole 32nm in a little over 4 hrs. We arrived in the harbour to find we were the only boat in the place so we could choose the best spot. We were expecting some friends to join us in a few days so it was really nice to be safely in the harbour, over the next few days we only ever had 4 or 5 boats in the harbour with us so it is still very quiet around the Aegean.

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Hiking in Serifos

Kallistos Village, Serifos

Serifos is a good Island for hiking with a good number of marked trails to follow, we decided to head into the N of the Island to the village of Kallistos and then back around the E coast beaches to arrive back in the harbour. Another lovely hike but a bit longer this time with nearly 15km covered and 400m high at the top of the trail.

Kenny, Liz and Lucy arrived on Princess Lucy so we had a lovely few days with them before they had to leave to start heading N back towards Athens. We need to head SW around the Peloponnese and the weather is not in our favour so we are sitting in Serifos waiting for the wind to change direction.

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Interior of Serifos

Locals Preparing for Easter Dinner

Another hike into the centre of Serifos to Glyftiki took us along one of the best preserved donkey tracks (kalderimi) in the Cylclades Islands, only about 10km but nearly 500m up at the end so another good workout.

Easter is very important to the Greeks and we saw a few places getting their whole lambs prepared on the BBQ and spit ready for the tradditional dinner to celebrate the end of lent.

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Lovely Pathway Across Serifos

View Over the Chora and Harbour

The weather looks like it will keep us here until the end of the week so at least it means we have time to catch up with our blog and also get a few of the ongoing boat jobs completed.

Our plan for this year is to go around the Peloponnese into the Ionian, head N up to Venice and then cruise slowly down through Croatia and Montenegro before heading to Sicilly for the winter. We will try and keep the blog a bit more up to date but there are always more important things to do!!!