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Saturday, July 27, 2013

SOUTHERN CROATIAN ISLANDS

Envoy is currently in Zuljana on the Croatian mainland north of Dubrovnik.

SOUTHERN CROATIAN ISLANDS
While the SeaPower alternator was being repaired we left Dubrovnik to visit some of Croatia’s southern islands.
A general impression is that the islands are fertile and lush with vegetation, have some great beaches, are not over-crowded (at this stage in mid-June anyway), and have picturesque small villages with plenty of interesting older buildings from Venetian times, although the later buildings have more of a European style about them than the postcard-friendly Greek buildings. The islands have been occupied since ancient times with successive inhabitants building fortifications against invaders and pirates.
First stop was Lopud with an excellent anchorage off a beautiful sandy beach.
This is one of the Elaphite group of islands, named after Greek elafos, meaning deer, although there are none to be found these days.

Envoy with other boats anchored in Lopud


We walked 2km across the island to the main town of Uvala Lopud to find a quaint village where there used to be a thriving community of several thousand (the island boasted 30 churches in the 16th century) based on fishing and coral harvesting.

By late afternoon the tourists had left our beach to walk back to their hotela at Uvala Lopud, and we had a swim in solitude in the crystal clear water, followed by a refreshing ale from a taverna.
Next day found us moored stern-to the old stone jetty in the small village of Okulje on Mljet island. This is a very small bay almost perfectly protected, and mooring is free if you eat at the nearby taverna.
Envoy stern-to quay in very-protected Okulje
This photo shows how small and sheltered Okulje is
 
 
This would have been idyllic but unfortunately spoiled by large amounts of floating litter. Today was our wedding anniversary so a perfect occasion to eat ashore, and we found the food basic but adequate and very reasonable at Kuna 155 (about NZ$34) for a full meal including some vin ordinaire.

Hand made wooden lobster pots

Here we met some Australians, Col and Pam Darling, cruising aboard their Lagoon 440 catamaran named “Finally My Darling” – the only boat we’ve come across so far carrying its own aircraft. Col is a pilot and has an Airborne XT582 Microlite powered with a 65hp engine and equipped with floats so it takes off and lands in the water.

Powered Microlite carried aboard Lagoon 440

Moving on to another bay on Mljet, Luka Polace, we found another perfect anchorage surrounded by forest and with a small village built around the ruins of a 2nd century Roman fortified palace (hence the name “Polace”).

Ruins of 2nd century Roman palace

Homer visited Mljet and wrote about this island, as did Apostle Paul, so we were in good company.

This fur-lined motor scooter with rabbit ears was for hire in Polace

We met up with some Australians, Kevin and Mae, who we’d met in Marmaris about three seasons ago, and had evening drinks aboard their yacht, Whisper.
Then to cap it off we again met New Zealanders Alistair and Viv from Largo Star, and had a great dinner ashore at a taverna where the specialty was various fish and meats baked under a large metal bell – delicious and tender.
Luka Polace is one of the entry points to the National Park Mljet, and we spent most of a day exploring it. The park is beautiful with unspoiled lush forests of Aleppo pine, some lakes and an island monastery accessed by ferry. Most people were hugely impressed, but it was a bit different for us, coming from New Zealand where this type of scenery is common place.

Typical scene in Mljet National Park

TECHNICAL – nothing to report
ENVOY LOG – up to 16/6/13 we had spent 80 days aboard and cruised 543 miles for 105 engine hours.



Monday, July 15, 2013

SMALL FIRE IN ENVOY’S ENGINE ROOM GIVES US A FRIGHT

Envoy is currently in Dubrovnik Marina.

This unusual cruise ship was anchored off Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik from the sea as Envoy cruises past

This reproduced galleon takes tourists sightseeing


We left our mooring in Uvala Tiha in perfect conditions to cruise around the nearby Elaphite Islands, but we were only about 15 minutes into our trip when we both heard an unusual rattling noise from the engine room. I say “both” because sometimes it’s easy to imagine you hear some different sound, but there was no doubting this one. I stopped the engine to look for a cause but could find nothing, and when I re-started the engine the noise seemed to have gone – all good! A few minutes later I heard the urgent beep of the engine room smoke detector, and on poking my head into the engine room could definitely smell something different – just a hot smell. I grabbed our infra-red pyrometer to check temperatures in different areas of the engine room and found the Seapower alternator’s case reading about 105dC whereas it normally reads about 65dC. I came up to the pilothouse and shut the Seapower down – that means I stopped it producing power, although since the unit is engine-driven by vee belts it was still turning over. Then the smoke alarm sounded again and I rushed back to the engine room to see flames in the entrance way. I quickly determined that what was on fire was a hat that I leave in the engine room and wear to protect my head from bumps in the restricted engine room space. I grabbed the hat and snuffed the flames out, then peered into the engine room to see if there were more flames – fortunately there weren’t. What had happened was the Seapower alternator was emitting hot sparks (actually pieces of red-hot metal) and one of them landed on the hat, setting it alight.

We quickly shut down the main engine to stop the Seapower alternator from turning, started the Yanmar wing engine to get us moving again and headed for a sheltered bay on nearby Kolocep Island. There I was able to remove the vee belts and isolate the alternator. After that I checked the alternator, finding that the drive pulley would hardly turn at all – indicating failed bearings. I have to say the incident was a bit scary, and later a couple of strong rums and coke were called for.

What the Seapower alternator does is enable the main engine to deliver 115 volts AC current through a special in-line inverter, so that we can run the refrigerator / freezer while under-way. Without it, we have to run our generator to produce 115 volts AC.

The next day we returned to Dubrovnik Marina to remove the alternator and get it checked, and it has since been repaired at a cost of 600 Euros (about NZ$1,000) and awaits re-installation. In analyzing this problem, it’s at least nine years since the alternator was serviced, and this is too long – in future we’ll disassemble and check it every four or five years.

TECHNICAL – see above

Sunday, July 07, 2013

CRUISING NORTH TO CROATIA

Envoy is still in Dubrovnik Marina, Croatia.

I forgot to mention that in this area you see quite a few structures with bullet holes left over from what the locals call the "Homelands War".

Laurie points out what we believe are bullet holes in stone walls of an old shed

As we left the Gulf of Kotor we saw another Kiwi boat, Largo Star. Our friend Brooke Archbold knows these people well, and before we started our first cruise he suggested keeping a lookout for them. I remember thinking at that time the Med’s a very big place so that’s a long shot, but so far we’ve seen Largo Star once each year for the last three – in Turkey, Greece and now Montenegro, and I’m sure we’ll meet up with them in Croatia as they’re following us in a few days.
Croatia’s southern entry port of Cavtat is only about 25 miles north of Montenegro, and we were surprised to see several bird “work-ups” along the route, signifying fish activity – bait fish on the surface and larger fish cruising below. Although these work-ups are common home in New Zealand waters they’re rare in the Med.

Seabird "work-up" in Adriatic Sea

In Cavtat we used an agency, BWA Yachting, to organise our clearing-in, taking only about 30 minutes. The formalities seem less onerous here and when moving around there is no requirement to report to authorities. Only when visitors join or leave the vessel is there a requirement to submit a new crew list to the nearest harbourmaster.

Laurie on waterfront at Croatia port-of-entry Cavtat

We bought our Vignette (cruising permit) for Envoy and one for the tender, and these together with Sojourn Tax cost 2,885 Kuna (about NZ$640) for three months.

Adjacent to Cavtat is a great sheltered bay nearby called Uvala Tiha, from where we could see Dubrovnik just five miles away. Here we had our first experience of paying for a mooring. A small boat came out to us and the occupants told us very politely that we could either anchor or use one of their moorings, but in either case the cost was 140 Kuna (about NZ$31) for the night, or the same total cost for as long as we wanted to stay. This seemed reasonable enough and I checked out the mooring and found it to be OK.

While it took us a while to warm to Montenegro we liked Croatia immediately, and Cavtat is a very atmospheric village with mostly friendly and helpful people.
Communications are important to us, so the first day in Croatia we took a 45 minute bus trip to Dubrovnik to get a Croatian SIM card for the phone and a Mobile Broadband for internet access. The Broadband worked fine on my laptop and on the iPad, but not on Di’s computer. We were given the name of a computer service specialist, and he spent a free half hour trying to sort out the issue, concluding it’s the Microsoft Vista program in Di’s computer, and we ended up buying a separate USB which works fine.
We were able to leave Envoy on the mooring and visit Dubrovnik by bus. By now we’ve see more than our share of medieval walled-towns, but Dubrovnik is absolutely stunning – one of those must-see places, despite the crowds. The fortifications look formidable and the streets open up into beautiful courtyards. Narrow lanes with interesting tavernas and restaurants run off the main streets, and the place has a real “buzz’ about it.

Entrance to Dubrovnik's walled Old-Town

Dubrovnik has several squares ringed with stunning architecture

Dubrovnik's cobbled lanes drool with atmosphere

The next photo is here in error, and should be on the next posting. On the nearby island of Kolocep this is a defensive tower used in the Middle Ages as a refuge from marauding pirates. Pirates were a constant problem in those times throughout the Med

 We stayed four nights in Cavtat and then headed off to the Elaphite Islands – but we didn’t get far – read about it in the next post!

TECHNICAL – nothing to report