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Saturday, August 31, 2013

THE HISTORIC ANCIENT CITY OF SPLIT

Envoy is now at Cavtat, where we will clear-out of Croatia, and make the 175 mile cruise to Corfu expected to take about 32 hours.
To meet our friends Frank and Marie we moored Envoy in the Marina Kastela, just out of Split, and named after the nearby small 16th century Gomilica Castle on the water’s edge, one of the few castles to have been continuously inhabited since it was built.

Gomilica Castle adjacent to Marina Kastela

The marina is well sheltered, well-organised, has helpful staff, has supermarkets nearby and a regular bus service to Split taking about 40 minutes. The cost was a reasonable Kn 527 (about NZ$117) per night including power and water.
We met Frank and Marie in Split’s main piazza in a scorching 39d, and even that evening the temperature stayed above 30. We were impressed with the Split, Croatia’s second largest city, and spent several enjoyable hours exploring and getting lost in the Old Town built around the remains of a Unesco World Heritage fortified palace built by Roman Emperor Diocletian, dating from the year 300. Split’s narrow cobbled lanes and charming waterfront are full of historic buildings dating back hundreds of years, including the spectacular 15th century Cathedral of St Domnius.
Split's Iron Gate and typical street scene

Split's waterfront buildings are part of the former fortifications

I tried to see the Harbourmaster to add Frank and Marie to our Crew List, but found out that since 1 August there is no longer any requirement to change these lists when friends come and go, and this saves quite a hassle.

Marie and Frank enjoying a taverna dinner on their first night with us

Cruising 31 miles to Lucice on the south west side of Brac Island we found a nice group of three bays with clean sparkling water and only one other boat anchored there. One of the bays has moorings but the other two are free for anchoring. An entrepreneurial taverna owner came over in his dinghy to tell us about his fare, although we had already decided to BBQ aboard.
All over Brac are huge piles of rocks put there over hundreds of years by women clearing the land for cultivation of olives and grapes. What did the men do?

Brac is covered with huge piles of rocks

Next day we cruised over to Zavala on Hvar Island’s Zavala, where although there were many mooring buoys, no fees were being collected. We started to notice many wasps around, and Marie got stung on her hand with some nasty swelling that lasted a few days. A few days later Do got stung on her leg. Annoying wasps continued to be a feature of the area around Split and to the north, although there were very few flies or mosquitoes. Other cruisers commented on this also, and many had been stung.
In the morning we launched our big RHIB and went into the village of Stari Grad to have a look around and get three lpg bottles refilled. Getting lpg bottles from one country filled in another can be problematic, so it was a relief to find the right contact who came and took them away balanced on his motor scooter, returning an hour later and charging us a reasonable 450 Kn (about NZ$100).
This man balanced our three lpg bottles away on his motor scooter and filled them

Laurie and Di in Envoy's RHIB in Stari Grad

Stari Grad is a very atmospheric village and had a large supermarket at a nearby ferry terminal where we got our supplies for the first part of our journey together.

Di bought this fluffy toy for our new grandaughter, Lily
View of Stari Grad harbour

TECHNICAL - nothing to report

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

TOGETHER IN CROATIA AGAIN

After her Mum’s funeral Diane returned to Croatia on 24 July and next day we left Cavtat to start cruising northwards towards Split, where we would meet our friends Frank and Marie.
Our first stop was the stunning anchorage of Sipanska Luka on Sipan Island, where the picturesque village has many old and rustic buildings from Venetian times.

Envoy in Sipanska Luka

 A fine old mansion at Sipanske Luka
Rustic old buildings still in use in Sipanske Luka
 
Locals enjoying BBQ'd fish at Sipanske Luka

Next day we cruised to a quiet bay called Prapratna, on the mainland, where there are a few beach houses and a large camping ground with tents and caravans – in fact almost identical to New Zealand style. Here the beach was pristine as every morning it was raked over and any litter removed.
We used the water maker to top up our supplies from the crystal clear water – with two of us aboard we find that using it for about 5 hours once a week keeps us supplied. Envoy uses more water than most boats with our fresh water flushing of toilets and washing machine (most boats get their laundry done ashore, which is very expensive.)
Prapatna beach


Prapatna camping ground

After four days we arrived back at Lumbarda on Korcula Island – where we were before heading back to New Zealand. Lumbarda is a very ancient settlement dating to the 4th century BC, but sadly there’s no sign of its history nowadays, although it’s a laid-back and nice enough place with free sheltered anchoring all around, and easy access to Korcula town.

Fisherman cleaning fish at Lumbarda

We cruised along the north coats of Korcula directly into a 20 knot north-westerly with 1.5 to 2 metre waves. Once again we were surprised at the ferocity of these relatively small waves, and at 1,570 rpm we were only able to make 4.5 to 5 knots. When we reached the western end of the island and turned to go around the other side, with the wind and seas on Envoy’s stern our speed immediately increased to 6.5 to 7 knots, and we were able to reduce revs to a more normal 1400 and maintain over 6 knots.
That night found Envoy anchored at Tri Luke (meaning three bays) – a great anchorage on Korcula’s SW coast.
As we moved further north we found more yachts, and some of the anchorages more crowded. Just a mile off the SW coast of Hvar Island is the Pakleni Island group consisting of about seven very indented islands, providing many sheltered anchorages. We anchored for one night in Tarsce, which wasn’t over-crowded. I got up about 0500 to check all was OK in the light breeze and found that every boat in the bay was lying correctly to the wind except Envoy which for some reason had drifted upwind and was about to touch a yacht stern-to-stern. I gently prodded the yacht away with the blunt end of a boathook, and waited for a while until Envoy behaved herself and lay correctly with the wind.
We spent two nights anchored off Bobovisce on Brac Island. The village is stunning here but there’s a lot of wasps around – both ashore and on the boat at anchor. So far we’ve found wasps quite prolific around Croatia – much more so than anywhere else, and the Adriatic Pilot mentions that too. On 3 August we went into the Marina Kastela, just out of Split, and named after the nearby small 16th century Gomilica Castle on the water’s edge, which has been continuously inhabited since it was built.
TECHNICAL – nothing to report and apart from general cosmetic maintenance I’ve only changed the generator’s oil after 150 hours running.
ENVOY LOG (to 3/8/13) – Nights aboard and cruised 807 miles for 155 engine hours.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

LAURIE RETURNS TO ENVOY IN CROATIA

Sorry for delay between Blog postings - have been out out internet contact - now will revert to posting every approx 5 days.
Envoy is now at Murter Island, north of Split.
After nearly three weeks back in New Zealand we decided that I should return to Croatia with Diane to follow. The main reasons were the huge marina costs mounting up at Euro 110 (about NZ$185) per day, and the water maker needed to be run - this is hugely important for our cruising, and supposed to be run at least once per week to avoid damage to the membrane (although we’ve heard cases of people leaving them for months without using the special storage chemicals and not having any problems). This is not a job you can get someone else to do without a lot of prior explanation.
This three week period was the longest we’d left Envoy unattended in the water, and when I stepped aboard after the long flight from Auckland, everything was exactly how we’d left it.
By now it was mid-July and very much high season, so the marina was full and a hive of activity. Diane and I had got a bit of a shock arriving back to Auckland’s winter weather, not having experienced it for four years, and it was great to get back into the Croatian summer.
First priority was to install the reconditioned alternator for the SeaPower 115V power supply driven by the Lugger engine. This worked fine so we again have AC power anytime the engine is running, dramatically reducing generator use.
I arranged a mooring in Cavtat, our original Croatian port of entry, where the cost is Euro 28 (about NZ$47) per day, and the marina supplied one of their staff, Harry, as crew for the three hour trip there. I asked Harry about payment and he asked that we send him a New Zealand All Blacks shirt, and although he doesn’t follow rugby he loves to watch the team perform their haka.
Cavtat is a stunning, atmosphere-loaded village with beautiful clear water, and lots of activity as all boats entering Croatia from the south clear-in here. It’s not perfectly sheltered as exposed to the north-west, and the locals said if a NW blow comes it may be a bit uncomfortable, but safe on the mooring. In fact I never had wind much above 10 knots and couldn’t have found a better place to be alone on Envoy for nine days. I wasn’t totally lazy though and re-varnished Envoy’s foredeck bright work with five coats.

Views of Cavtat from Envoy’s mooring


During this time two Kiwi yachts came in and I met both of their crews.
I took the bus into Dubrovnik and rode the spectacular cable car up to the War Museum located in a fortress built by Napoleon, strategically located on top of Mt Srd overlooking Dubrovnik. The Homeland War is very fresh in people’s minds here, and the exhibits don’t mince words when describing the aggression of the Serbs and Montenegrins. The Croatians were vastly outnumbered and poorly equipped but doggedly held this fortress against shelling, bombing and infantry attacks. There is sobering video footage of the bombing and shelling of Dubrovnik, leaving you wondering what the purpose was of attacking such an historic UNESCO-listed city that contained only residents and refugees and no military targets. Over 2,000 shells were fired at Dubrovnik damaging 70% of its 824 buildings, gutting nine historic palaces and together with sniper fire killing 250 people.

TECHNICAL – SeaPower alternator – see above.
The water maker worked fine after three weeks non-use, and without pickling.
Chris – I fitted the new back plate for the guest head switch, and the gasket for the cockpit storage box – thanks.







Saturday, August 03, 2013

AN UNPLANNED RETURN TO NEW ZEALAND

Envoy is now at Split.
Our next stop heading north from Dubrovnik was Nature Park Lastovo Archipeligo, consisting of one island about five miles long, and numerous smaller islands.

This unusual lighthouse marks the eastern-most point of the Lastovo Archipeligo

First we anchored in a bay on the southern coast called Skrivena Luka, which is almost perfectly sheltered, but doesn’t have anything special to offer. In the early evening a boat came alongside with park rangers collecting anchoring fees of 25 Kuna (about NZ$6) each. Next day we moved to the northern side and anchored in another very sheltered, small, and more interesting bay called Zaklopatica.

Envoy anchored in Zaklopatica

From here we walked about 3km uphill to the medieval village of Lastovo - this was delightful with a relaxed atmosphere, more residents going about their daily business than tourists and some very interesting ancient buildings, including a small church dating from the 16th century.

View of Lastovo with obligatory hill-top fortress ruins

Houses in Lastovo are noted for their unusual chimneys as shown in this picture (centre), designed to dissipate smoke in very windy conditions

That evening some park rangers came alongside, and I explained that we’d already paid yesterday and showed them the tickets. They told us the charge is daily, not one-off, but nevertheless let us off, saying if we’re still here tomorrow we’d have to pay the grand sum of 25 kuna again. We wished we had stayed … read on.
Next port of call was a village with the unpronounceable name of Brna on Korcula island. Korcula is one of the most popular, picturesque and historic areas of the Dalmatian Adriatic. Although it is not certain, the legendary 13th century explorer, Marco Polo, is reputed to have been born here. There is also a link with another legend, James Bond. A Scottish adventurer, soldier, writer and politician, Fitzroy Maclean, owned a house in Korcula before WW2, and during the war carried out several daring missions with the SAS in this area, as well as handling negotiations between the British Government and partisan leader Tito. Some of his exploits are said to have inspired Ian Fleming’s stories of James Bond.
Like many parts of Croatia olives are grown on Korcula. I thought there were only a few varieties of olives – mostly just black or green, but there are over 40 varieties grown here, of which the most common is the oblica.
But today was not going to be a good introduction to Korcula. Unlike other bays we had anchored in Brna is a proper harbour with jetties for fishing boats and ferries. In the early evening a small boat came alongside and a harbourmaster told us the cost to anchor here was 336 kuna (about NZ$75). He must have seen the shocked look on my face because he pulled out some English language documentation and a price list to explain the charge of 24 kuna per metre, so we either had to pay or move. He did offer us the chance to anchor in a nearby bay for half price, but it was getting late and our anchor was well set so we elected to stay. Now we knew why we were the only boat anchored there!
Other cruisers had warned us about Croatian anchoring fees, but this was the first (and we hope the last) experience of feeling the charge was totally outrageous.

Envoy expensively anchored in Brna

Laurie in RHIB coming in to meet Di and pick up groceries at Brna

The next day we were determined to find a free anchorage again and headed to the eastern end of the island to anchor near the village of Lumbarda, well-sheltered by surrounding islands. Here was a great free anchorage, which also has reasonable access to Korcula town where we planned to visit the next day.
Late the next morning however we got a call from New Zealand advising Diane’s 90 year-old Mum was rapidly fading, and we decided to head back to New Zealand. We were surprised how quickly we were able to organise our return, making a seven hour cruise back to Dubrovnik marina while Diane booked our flights on-line. This marina is one of Croatia’s most popular and heavily booked in what was now high season. Our agent, BWA Yachting, went to see the marina management to explain our circumstances and half way back to Dubrovnik we received confirmation of our berth, albeit at a horrible cost of 110 Euro (about NZ$185) per night.
Entering the marina we saw a silver fern flag flying from a yacht, which turned out to be owned by Simon Penlington, someone we know from Auckland.
We decided to turn off our refrigeration while away, and gave the contents of our fridge to Simon. Then we went to a nearby restaurant, explained our circumstances to the manager and asked if they could store our frozen food in their freezer. Although he declined, one of the waiters offered to store it in his freezer at home, earning himself a huge hug and kiss from Di.
We also had to find someone to be responsible for Envoy during our absence, and the marina’s head marinara, a qualified captain, agreed to do this for a fee of Euro 100 (about NZ$167).
Next morning we shut down everything aboard Envoy and left the marina by 10am for the long trip back.

TECHNICAL - nothing to report
ENVOY LOG – up to 22/6/13 we had spent 87 days aboard and cruised 656 miles for 126 engine hours.