27 September 2018

"Zorbas" - The Medicane Part 2

Fenders, tires and passerelle to keep Milly off the wall, proved unsatisfactory once the swell and waves mounted.
Typically in the Med, winds are next to nil in the morning and build from northwest to minimal speeds over the afternoon.  But we are in a special circumstance over the next several days.  As I noted in yesterday’s blog, Milly was docked in the marina opening in a great situation for the upcoming s**t storm but not so good for yesterdays prevailing winds sending swells into the marina and Milly against the wall.

As the waves grew the system that Peter and fellow cruisers had devised, fells apart.  The fenders rose above the dock, the fender board scratched poor Milly’s gelcoat and the black tires left big skid marks.  We had to move in a hurry.

Being of pretty sound mind but unsound ankle, two men leapt aboard to handle the lines while Peter tried to control the boat which, with it’s high freeboard acting like a sail, was fighting the ever increasing wind.  

With the aid of at least seven cruisers on land, two on the boat and one with a broken arm filming, Milly wrestled the wind and chop to another safer spot on the marina wall.  All day the wind was consistently in the high 20’s, gusting to 33.  The sea was breaking on the wall beside us to cover Milly with a fine salt mist but we and she were in a much better place.  Thanks to the amazing community we are part of, we feel safe.
All looks quite lovely from our new location.  From the photo, you'd never suspect that the wind and waves were ever increasing.

Today the wind has veered to northeast hitting Milly on the bow which is much more comfortable. 

Unfortunately, we have just read that the storm has been upgraded to a hurricane 2, even give a name “Zorbas”.  We will be in the north east side of it’s outer rim at the closest point.  Too close for me!  This no longer looks like an adventure http://www.severe-weather.eu/mcd/update-increasing-potential-for-a-strong-cat1-medicane-zorbas-to-hit-sw-greece-on-saturday-sept-29th/ 
A web of lines is holding us to dock.

Poor TomTom has to stay in the water, sheltered by his sister ship.  The dinghy is the only way I can get to shore with my injured ankle.  Makes me feel a little vulnerable if an emergency arises.  A leap onto the dock will have to be made.  Ouch!

We have multiple fenders, two tires, and fourteen lines protecting Milly.  Screecher sail has been stowed.  Deck is cleared of all things that can fly.  I think Milly is ready.  

25 September 2018

Escape from a "Medicane"

Friday's forecast on Windy.com yesterday.  We are the first orangey-pink streak north of the ruby red/magenta line which is itself north of Crete.  The cyclonic wind plays around in the vicinity before shrinking in circumference and heading east into the Aegean on Saturday/Sunday, as far as the forecast will take us.  We are headed through the Corinth Canal when prevailing NW wind finally comes back.
We have found refuge in an abandoned marina in Argostoli, Kefalonia, Greece from a “medicane”, a hurricane-like cyclonic event in the Mediterranean.  They aren’t too common - a few per year - but some have done a whopping amount of damage.  And sailors know that they are not to be trifled with.  This one is forming as a powerful northeast Bora in the Adriatic combines with an equally powerful Meltemi in the Aegean just south west of us.  It then glides east heading south of the Peloponnese, turns and comes a bit northeast towards us and then turns again and heads west.  (Check out windy.com)  All this over about five days.  
Milly looking safe and sound at the end of the dock.  But note the opening to the marina just behind her.  If the prevailing wind comes in with any strength Milly will be squeezing her fenders against the rough cement.
We are safely tied to rusty bollards on a stable cement dock surrounded by rotting abandoned ships and sinking sailboats and cruisers looking for safe harbour.  Of the few spots left, we chose our dock based on the strong east wind expected over the next many days.  Milly will be blown off the dock, always better then depending on fenders keeping her off very hard and rough cement.

Our neighbour.  Not too pretty.

And just down the dock....

A sailboat has seen much better days.  She is now a mussel farm

However, contrary to forecast, the wind has picked up early and from the worst angle for us.  Waves are building and coming into the marina entrance right beside us, trying to pound us onto that darn cement dock.  A few fellow cruisers came over to help Peter create a system of foraged tires, our wooden plank passerelle and a row of fenders to ensure Milly’s safety as much as possible until the wind veers.

The early wind means that we cannot provision in preparation of my childhood friends’ arrival in two days in the thick of the storm.  They will arrive to half empty cupboards, cool temperatures, wind, rain and water shortage.  They say they’re excited to experience what real life is like on board!  They are sweet!
We left this supremely peaceful anchorage yesterday morning.  Seems like light years away.

13 September 2018

Closing Our Adriatic Circle

Resting mid-day after a single night passage.  One night is much more tiring than an eleven day passage.
We planned on sailing from the island of Vis, Croatia across the Adriatic on an overnight sail to Viesta, Italy on the tip of the spur followed by hopping and skipping down the coast of Italy to recross the sea finally arriving in Corfu.
We planned to follow the Trans-Adriatic Diomedes' Route from Komiza on the island of Vis, Croatia to Vieste in southern Italy

But as with all things sailing, our plans are flexible and often do not last the day.  We arrived in Viesta after a night sail which we haven’t done in sometime.  The ships seemed more numerous, bigger and closer than they ever had before!  Same with the stars. 

The first view of Vieste.  White fortress, white cathedral, white old town all perched on white cliffs under puffy white clouds in blue sea and sky.  A little green thrown in for accent.

Postcardesque.  The white phallus at the left side was also amazing.

This precarious looking wooden structure is a "tracbucchi".  We saw several - some on stilts like this one sitting on the rocks and others hanging suspended over the sea from a rocky cliff.  Nets are hung off the wooden platform, made of local pine, to catch fish in the deep water but close to shore.  The souvenir shops in Vieste sold small models, of course.
Vieste sits on a perched above the sea.  The spur of Italy is a beautiful hilly wooded landscape with cliffs bounding the clear waters of the sea.  On going ashore, Viesta itself seemed to be suffering from unemployment and poverty that is typical of southern Italy.  It’s touristy old town was bounded by gritty and neglected newer buildings.  But the coast was magnificent and we enjoyed a daysail southwest to Manfredonia - named after King Manfred - strange!  
On this passage, back at sea after too long a time, we saw many, many ships.  This one looked close to submersion.

The white cliffs along the spur were dotted with caves and capped with pine forest.

Some of the caves open to holes above in the cliffs or hillside. Amazing!

Had to imagine that harvested olives in these groves would just roll down the steep hillside into the sea and a natural brine!

Here the coast became suddenly flat.  The escarpment to the hilly spur was plainly visible but the hills ended abruptly.  And our plans changed.
Manfredonia.  We didn't go ashore or swim - the sea was full of jellyfish.

We were picking up our daughter and BF in Corfu after their week-long trip with his family around the Ionian.  On calling our daughter, we were invited to dinner with BF’s family at the beginning of their week - how could we resist.  To add substance to our decision, we discovered that there are very few anchorages on the exposed Italian shore.  We could go into the larger ports to marinas but at the height of the season this did not appeal.  Our itinerary sped up by a week.  Our skip along the coast became a 36 hours sail to Corfu.
Greece!  Erikoussa, a small island north of Corfu. 

Our arrival in Corfu was like coming home.  Two months earlier and had been on the go since after visitng Albania, Montenegro, Croatia and Italy- kind of.  We’d seen beautiful coastlines, met lovely people and so much more.  But it was good to settle in familiar Corfu for a couple of weeks - to clean the boat!
Ahhhh!  Cleaning and relaxing while waiting for Emily and Gid in Corfu Town's anchorage.  Settling for a week or so was wonderful!

4 September 2018

Croatia Wrap-Up

The walled town of Korcula peeking around the point with the mainland mountains in the distance.
We were just shy of a month in Croatia which boasts 4,058 km on 1,185 islands, islets and reefs.  In our cruising guide the coast is divided into four large sections.  We skimmed through the single southernmost section, anchoring at ten islands and a tiny bit of mainland, and cruising by miles of beautiful, mountainous, largely undeveloped coastline.  
Churches were usually the most dominant of the any development on the mainland.  

One of the many wonderful aspects of these many walled towns we have visited is exploring their narrow lanes where the only traffic is on foot with the occasional hand-pushed cart.  Not an easy way to do business but superb for tourism.  Water is a hot commodity in these sun scorched, arid islands.  Note the collection system for air conditioning condensation.  

Flanking the main door of St. Mark's Cathedral, a primitive, squatting Eve - Adam is on the other side - holds up the proud Venetian lion.  

Croatian town planners seem to have got their waterfront development right.  The island towns all have a promenade that runs along the shore, often lined with cafes. Korcula's was ancient enough to have tall, broad aleppo pines offering great shade umbrellas.

Always wanting to get to the highest point, we had to climb the cathedral bell tower.

St. Peter - need I say more?

Ascending the tower with the bell-ringers platform below.

Although it is controversial, Korcula claims to be the birthplace of Marco Polo and this rebuilt towered building his home at birth.  The town honours him with bars, restaurants, shops, hairdressers, all named after the famous son.

The views from the top are always worth the climb.

These are steps meant for skinny people with very small feet.  And the railing is a modern addition.  Those who serviced the bell were brave!

Beautiful Korcula.

Being in Croatia in July and August, high season, meant we shared it with a huge number of boats dominated by sailboats, at least 90% charters.  This gives a completely different flavour to our own cruising.  Instead of liveaboards who are often looking for company and are guaranteed to share a common interest with conversation to cover at least where have you been and where you are going, the crew of charter boats, of which we have often been in pre-Milly life, are on holiday.  The boats are most often packed with crew, move anchorages daily and keep to themselves with their own built in social life.  Unlike an anchorage full of cruisers, there is very little waving from boat to boat.  We did miss our community.  High season in Croatia means the anchorages near tourist centres are packed.  Like the BVI’s during high season, we had to make sure we were looking for a spot to anchor by noon.  

As we went north toward Split - but never actually making it there, sadly - the boats on the water with us became grander and more numerous.

Way to hot for yoga, now exercise in the incredibly clear water became a pleasure.
Our guidebook introduced Hvar town as Croatia's St. Tropez and the crowds had read the same book.  The harbour was packed with day-trip boats and ferries, boats like us looking for a spot to anchor, boats lining the town wall, boats on mooring balls tied together 10 to 15 deep.  Crazy!  We gave up and looked elsewhere.  Unfortunately, many others did the same.

Valet parking for the rental boat lot was packed early in the morning but empty by noon when the harbour and surrounding islands became a motorway.

About 9:30 a.m. and almost empty in Hvar main piazza and reportedly the largest in Dalmatia.  Local life in Croatia is on a definite rhythm, gradually beginning around 11:00, peaking for a big lunch at around 1or 2, prolonged siesta with gradual restart around 5 p.m. often marked by ice cream.   Dinner at 8 or 9 p.m.  We often worked in opposition, to escape the crowds.  The bell tower of the cathedral was quite beautiful with an increasing number of windows ascending toward the bells.

From the  13th century fortress overlooking the town of Hvar which housed the entire population during the years of threats of attack by Turkish fleets, overlooked a chain of small islands.  The closer islands were lined with boats of all sizes tied to trees and rocks all in a row.  We parked here to explore the town, crossing the busy channel by dinghy.  Harbour was a wild scene of boats best avoided.

A gardener with some lateral thinking had balanced inukshuks in the nook of all reachable branches of his small pine grove and put tiny snail shells over the ends of the leaves of his sentry plants.  A must-remember for future landlubbing days, whenever and wherever that might be.

Pondering the sea

The sailing club at Starigrad on Hvar island.  Simple and lovely.  The harbour was on an elongated narrow bay, making it feel more like a river.  

Starigrad.  A very sweet old town without the crowds, we loved it here.  

We tied up to the wall with a view from the cockpit of these row houses.  A promenade lined the harbour which became alive in the evening hours.  We were greatly entertained watching the strolling, sometimes strutting, humanity.
However, it is for good reason that land and sea tourists flock to Croatia for holiday.  The nature is stunning with miles and miles of hills and mountains overlapping in lighter and light shades of grey or mauve.  The sea is clear and blue and warm, and the villages are quaint and full of interesting history.  The people although slow to warm to yet another tourist, are evenutally friendly and kind.
The island of Vis, our last before heading across the Adriatic to Italy, was another favourite.  This large bay was bordered by two towns, Vis and Kut.  The outdoor theatre where we saw Mission Impossible was in the middle.  The mooring field was packed to overflowing.

We hiked up and over the mountains in a failed attempt to get to the other side of the island.  Gorgeous views.

A great bench at the peak of our hike.  We lost the trail shortly after and had to bushwhack through scrub guided by GPS to reconnect. 

Kut.  Croatian coastal towns were charming.

A submarine garage was one of the military leftovers from the Yugoslav era.  Lots of bunkers and a cave used by Tito post WWII were also featured on a highly advertised "military tour" which we didn't go on.

Highlights of our last two weeks in Croatia:

  • Watching the latest Mission Impossible at an outdoor theatre under a blanket of stars with the waves lapping at the wall that separated us from the sea, 
  • Exploring the walled town of Korcula (we have been in at least 20 walled towns this season but Korcula had a low-key feel and charm that was unique),
  • Learning how and becoming competent at tying ashore with anchor,
  • Hiking the island of Vis and stopping at a church in the shade where an American Croatian played the church bells by hand in the tower complete with crescendos, pianissimos and changing rhythms.  On expressing how impressed we were, he regaled us for an hour with his family and island history and drove us back to the town where Milly was waiting.  Experiences like that make the day extra special!
  • Exploring the increasingly deserted coves and channels of the small islands off the frenetically busy harbour of Hvar.
  • Tying up to the wall in Starigrad on the island of Hvar.  Enjoying dinner out and then watching the parade of locals and tourists walk by the boat from the cockpit.  Our entertainment was live that night!

Milly tied to shore, a topic for an upcoming blog.

The gaping hole in the far shore is the submarine hideout.

Final anchorage where Bora #2 hit us was Komiza, Vis.  Again charming.

The Monastery of St. Nicholas sits on a hill behind the village.

The run-down 16th and 17th century fisher-family's houses are picturesque.

Yet another chapel in the middle of nowhere at the peak of a mountain  where I could actually ring that bell.

Our Lady of the Pirates - story goes that pirates stole an image of Mary from the church. But their escape was foiled - the boat wouldn't move until they returned the image.

Did we love it?  The crowds and expense took a little bit of the shine off but on a shoulder season, yes, we would love to complete the coast.  So much to offer and explore.