18 August 2018

Bora #2

The Bora approaching on a cool wind, fast and furious.
The Bora, rooted in the Greek mythological figure, Boreas, the north wind, is the "most feared" wind by sailors on the Adriatic coast, particularly in Dalmatia.  It is a katabatic wind that comes from the northeast, funnelling through the valleys and down the steep mountain slopes of the coast.

We were motor-sailing, as we most commonly do in the Med to Komiza, Otok Vis.  I was keeping a slightly nervous eye on a band of grey cloud in the distance with occasional comments to Peter who quietly received the info but, I thought, discounted it as my bora trepidation.
We had left this anchorage only a few miles away in the brilliant sunshine.  Within two hours, all was grey - sky and water.


The grey band became a larger hunk with a defined leading edge just as we were going through a narrow and relatively shallow cut between two rocky headlands.  I insisted on speeding up to at least get through the cut before we were hit.  We did.  The wind mounted, the blue seas became dark grey as the cloud came barreling along.  Boats that had been anchored in lovely secluded cliff-surrounded bays, had quickly weighed anchor.  We rounded the large headland where the mooring field we were headed towards was, all racing to get the balls in the most protected part of the field, Peter at the helm while I cleared our decks and secured lines.

The wind was quieter behind the headland.  We entertained a watching boat of German cruisers while very adeptly - I must say, because mooring is not my favourite thing - mooring Milly, adjusting the lines.  We were then free to watch while crews prepared, checked mooring lines etc.

We were behind a very high and steep mountain and could not see the approaching cloud base.  Suddenly, a great grey monster arrived as did the roaring wind, rain, lightning and thunder.  We were fine on our ball although doing 360's not always in sync with the neighbouring boats as the wind swirled in eddies around the base of the cliff.  Peter remained at the helm ready to turn on a motor if needed.  Otherwise, we could watch as boats arrived through the curtain of rain and spindrift from the short waves to tie up, the hired port authority guys zipping around in their RIBs trying to help where they could until the lightning and thunder struck simultaneously.  Even the port authority opted for safety.  The mooring field completely filled, boats were now attempting to anchor - on a grassy bottom - and sliding repeatedly.  While spinning safely on our ball, it was all quite exciting although we felt for those who were struggling! The mainsail of one boat was flogging viciously, the crew unable to furl it into the mast - another point against in-mast furling!
The mainsail still flogging in the wind between storm cells.

Second front on it's way.  This one was short and relatively minor.  Ho hum!
The post bora fallout was quite something.  Several dinghies tied off the sterns of their mother ships had capsized.  One was a hard shell with motor, the prop standing proudly out of the sea.  A boat limped into harbour with a shredded headsail, the remains blowing like banners in the wind.  Finally, another boat was towed in by the coastguard both sails completely shredded.  We had had the protection of the harbour and a good mooring ball.  These poor boats and their crews had been out in the furor and had felt the full wrath of Boreas, the north wind god!

8 August 2018

Service Fails When We Need It Most - Tom in the World's!

Tom Ramshaw, our son, qualifies Canada for the 2020 Olympics!!

We have become spoiled with internet access since arriving in Europe.  A SIM card with a rich amount of data and some prudence allows us access to all the needed sites to stay in touch with friends, family, business and world news.  So it came as a shock after anchoring and tying lines ashore yesterday to find that we didn’t have service.  Okay, we can do without it for a day or days at a time but this was no ordinary day.

Our son, Tom Ramshaw, was sailing in the Finn World Championships in Aarhus, Denmark. And this was not an ordinary regatta.  For the first time, countries were able to qualify for the 2020 olympics.  In Tom’s fleet the top eight countries would get a position for their nation in Japan.  All the top sailors in the world were competing.  And Tom was doing incredibly well.  Last we saw he was fourth!!! So exciting.  The fleet had raced six of ten races over three days.  Then there was a day off and then a day when they all sat out on the water and waited for wind that never arrived.  We were hoping that wind would cooperate and two of the last four remaining races would be run.  The suspense was giving us butterflies.

So when we couldn’t get service we debated how best to get the results - we could use our tracking system to text our daughter for updates limited to 160 characters, we could move anchorages - I could go into why this was not a welcome thought but it is another story - or we could find a path and walk to a bar on the other side of the island.  We wanted to see the full results so we decided to tramp.  

We got ashore, and the phone dinged.  Em had texted, “Did you know that Tom is in first????”.  Holy shit!  We didn’t have enough service to text back.  Off we went at high speed, 1 km to the closest bar, albeit along a very lovely forest path that we didn’t have eyes for until the way back.


Satisfaction - a beer and the full results but after only one race of the two scheduled.  We let Em know that we needed updates for the second race.  She let us know at about 11 p.m. that Tom was second overall after the 2nd race of the day!!  Wow!

We have moved today to an anchorage with full service.  So far no results! I’m checking every hour. We’re sitting, waiting while Tom battles it out too far away.  Soooo exciting!!!

Update:  Tom now sits in 5th (in the world) going into the medal race tomorrow and has qualified Canada for the Tokyo Olymplics!  So proud of him!!  

We need to find a bar with good internet to watch the medal race.  Can’t wait!!  Sail fast, my boy!! xo

Final Update:  We found a great restaurant in Hvar, Croatia, and watched the medal race with anxious excitement.  Tom came 6th in the race which put him 5th in the overall in the World Championships. Amazing!  Fantastic! Awesome!!  We are so proud of him!

Serendipity

We were anchored off the Franciscan Monastery on Badija.  The building started as a monastery in 14th C.  In 1949 it was expropriated by the communist government and has since been a prison, boarding school, sports centre, and hotel.  It is currently being renovated and has been returned to it's religious roots.
If you're following along with us, you know that one of my favourite things about travelling slowly are the events that we come across serendipitously.  The National Day parade in Barbados, a church sing along in Martinique, the tall ship parade in Bermuda, viewing the America's Cup from a Bermudian Antares owner who happened to see us and invited us onto his motorboat, an evening concert in the Azores...to name a few.

While checking the anchor at Otocic Badija, I noticed a number of nuns, priests and even monks gathered outside the monastery.  This was exciting enough as we often saw monasteries but never a soul moving inside or outside.  As we watched a boat arrived with more religious folk, then several boats with people in their Sunday best, all joining in a big line of a couple of hundred while one of the priests with microphone talked and others sang in baritone.  Eventually the procession moved very slowly, silently and seriously into the church which was out of our view.  During this hour or so the bells clanged ecstatically.  We could see the bell ringer in the tower right under the bells pulling the rope - for an hour.
The welcoming committee

The initial boat was wreathed in garlands and carried dignitaries, the most important of whom sat on a throne high on the bow.

An icon/painting of some sort which was carried by four priests was probably the raison d'ĂȘtre of the event  





For the next three hours we could here the sermon and singing with the occasional bell punctuation.  This was all in 35 degree heat with many standing outside.  Finally, they exited, now chattering and laughing either from relief that it was over or from religious fulfillment or maybe both.

Memorable!

5 August 2018

Croatian Anchorages, Hiking and Cicadas

From Milly at Uvala Lopud on Otok/Island Sipan.  Croatian skies have meant gorgeous sunsets with magnificent backdrops.  The cicadas still "singing".
Whether hiking in pine forests, floating in anchorage, or even motoring along a coast the air seems to vibrate with a constant chorus of a single note cicada song.  It is not the lone and occasional loud buzz, I am used to in Ontario/Quebec that notes a hot day.  This cicada chorus, obviously from countless numbers, is one long note from just prior to sunrise to after sunset.  The single creature, smaller than it's big North American cousin, is tough to spot blending in perfectly with the bark of a tree.  It doesn't stick around long after seeing a camera trying to capture it's image with it's enormous bulbous eyes so we have only been able to hear the solo buzz over the chorus once - a short blast that ends pianissimo.  Hence, the seeming vibration sometimes throb of the whole chorus which is an appropriate accompaniment to the shimmering heat of the day.  The song is so loud while hiking through some popular mating grounds that even walking side-by-side we can hardly hear each other.

Looking for a mate



The cicadas are in olive groves, pine forests, deciduous woods, shrubs - everywhere.  Only on one walk have they been pelting us as we walk.  There fat bodies do not make for delicate flyers.  Rather they fumble through the air, with a whir of wings and bump into all in their way including human heads, and trunks, sometimes making an unwelcome rest stop.

If you're still with me, you have to imagine the constant background noise.

My mum always gave a hello pat to a magnificent pine at the family summer cottage in Quebec.   This one needed the same or maybe vice versa.

The west coast of Otok Lopud

Milly in Uvala Lopud.  The anchorage and town were overrun with day-trippers until about 5:00 when the place quieted right down except for the cicadas

The hills are covered in pine.  Unlike Canadian White Pine these have thick dome, even flat. tops with long soft needles.


We are always grateful for a trail tunnel.  It is hot here wherever you are but in the sun it is brutal.  We have attempted to make our excursions in the a.m. and completely understand the civilized siesta although we haven't made it a habit yet.

There are small ancient chapels all over the place in Croatia, in complete seclusion, often at the top of hills and sometimes with  small cemeteries.  

A view down to Milly and across to our next island, Otok Sipan in the distance with Otok Mljet in the distance.  There are over a thousand islands alongs the Croatian coast.  


Along with cicadas, wild boars are supposed to be keeping us company.  Haven't seen any but we did see a lot of earth routed up and lots of scat on one hike.  Luckily, they are shy.  We have seen two brown snakes who seemed as frightened of us as I was of the - not a lover of snakes.

View of the mountainous mainland.

From the top of Otok Sipan.


Milly in the peaceful Sipanska Luka on Otok Sipan.  We loved it here and stayed three night.

One valley on the island where some crops, mainly grapes are grown.  The slopes are dotted by abandoned villas to which the wealthy from Dubrovnik used to summer.

Hard to believe this is the sea.  Luka Polace on Otok Mljet is completely protected with no view of the open sea.  It's in a national park and a fee to anchor is applied - about $120 CDN.  And then there is the fee for the park about $50 CDN each.    When you're used to anchoring without charge, this is a bit of a shocker.  But the park is beautifully maintained and the anchorage is amazing.  We happily pay to protect the natural setting.  

The national park is best known for two salt water "lakes".  The sea actually flows through a narrow channel into one which in turn feeds another.  This Benedictine monastery, turned hotel during Tito's rule, is being restored on it's small island within the lake where the monks built probably to avoid the poisonous snakes which infested Mljet. In 1910, Austrians brought seven males and four female mongoose/mongeese? to eat the snakes - a successful strategy.  But, of course, they ate all the small mammals and birds as well. 

The monastery.

The lakes reminded us of Quebec with lovely water and tree clad hills.  The water was a sensational colour of various blues and greens.



Another island, another monastery.  They are also all over the place.  This one had it's own island, with the incredible backdrop of a mainland mountain.  It became one of our favourite anchorages even though the bells tolled at dawn each morning.





We have grown to hardly notice the constant background noise at the pitch of a squeaky wheel but how long does this mating season last?  So far it's been about two months.  We've seen empty exoskeletons on tree trunks so some at least have done their thing.

31 July 2018

Dubrovnik


Dubrovnik was hot and crowded with zillions of tourists - but also stunning.  A walk around it's walls had us envisioning hundreds of years of history over red tiled roofs newly re-roofed after the 1991-92 shelling of the city by the Yugoslav military.  Although the city's history is long and touched by lots of invaders the modern history is chilling and vivid.  The new tiles tell the tale as do the remains of several demolished buildings.  The Croatians have done a exemplary job of restoration.  It is definitely thriving again as a tourist mecca!
We did a sail-by as we went to a nearby anchorage.  The walls were austere and the city seemed impregnable.

Difficult to get a perspective here but the hill/cliff behind the city rises very steeply and looks down on the roofs of the old city making it's population an easy target for snipers from the top.  Chilling!  I found it hard to get out of my head as we toured about.

We have been to many walled towns in the past few months but none is are so forbiddingly spectacular, at their highest 25 m and at their widest 12 m thick.  The highlight of our day trip was a stroll around the entire city atop the wall in just under 2 km through five fortresses and about 20 towers.  It took around 8 centuries to build beginning in the 8th.

The old city is built with the centre of the city in a valley and the edges rising steeply to the wall.  All streets and lanes are pedestrian - no cars.  The picturesque narrow lanes rise in series of staircases.

The acres of new tiles were only part of the rebuilding of the city.  Easy to see the extent of the damage when compared to the lovely old lichen covered tiles of yore.



The view from the highest point of the wall at a corner fortress shows a new sporting touch with the garden and cloister and herb garden of the monastery just behind.


The walk around the wall was one-way only which managed the masses quite well with only a few bottlenecks at tower stairs.

Herb garden for what is touted as the oldest pharmacy in the world and still operating today in the Franciscan Monastery.  Delightful green place in a garden of red roofs.

Although the fancy ornamental work on Onofrio's Great Fountain was lost in the Earthquake of 1667, the 15th century plumbing is still working and provided us with a hand wash after a melting ice cream.  The siege lasted from October 1991 to August 1992.  For three months there was no water except that provided by the fountain.

The 300 m main drag of the old town, the Stradum, is paved in marble and lined with shops.  The street was originally a marshy channel separating the Roman settlement of Ragusa from the Slavic settlement of Dubrovnik on the other.


The Game of Thrones was largely shot in Dubrovnik and there are tours completely dedicated to show-and-tell.  This was apparently one of the towers in the show.  Not being fans, it was completely lost on us.

Some of the bombed out buildings are still and most likely will remain in ruins.



Restoration is still going on or perhaps a stairway to heaven.

A telltale sign of daily life by people actually living in the old city.  


Venetian influence in The Sponza Palace, once cistern, custom's house and state mint.



A lovely day spent exploring the old city.  But that was enough.  We were looking forward to getting to the islands.