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|Yacht Retreat - Passage Reports 2002|
Passage Report Number 1
Marina Hramina, Croatia
Sunday 24th March, 2002
ABOARD, BUT NOT YET AFLOAT
As I write we are sitting aboard Retreat as she sits in her substantial steel cradle in the boat yard at Marina Hramina. Outside a powerful bora, the wind most feared in the Adriatic, is buffeting us with ice-cold air from the central European mountains. The conditions make it unpleasant to work outside, but at least we don’t have to worry about our moorings parting!
Our winter sojourn came to an end on Thursday 14th March with a flight from Heathrow to Rome. We spent four nights in the Eternal City making up for our disappointment in 2000 when weather conditions prevented us from entering the nearby port of Fiumicino from where we had planned to make our visit. This year the weather was kind to us and we enjoyed three days of pleasant spring sunshine. We bought one-week Travel Cards giving us unlimited use of buses, trams and tubes though we avoided the latter whenever possible. Crowded? The word doesn’t even come close – they were horrendous!
We visited all the well-known sites and one or two off the beaten track. It is difficult to list a favourite as there really is something of interest around every corner. However, we do have particularly fond memories of the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon at night, the Palatine Hill and the Colosseum by day and the view from the dome of St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City. We also enjoyed a trip outside the city walls to the San Callisto Catacombs, used as a Christian burial site from the second to the fourth century. By contrast, we were less impressed with our visit to the Vatican Museum. Whilst we could appreciate Michelangelo’s artistry in the Sistine Chapel it left us feeling cold. To us, nearby St Peter’s was clearly built to the glory of God; the Sistine Chapel spoke more of the wealth and power of Popes gone by.
On Monday 18th March we caught a train from Rome to Ancona on the Italian Adriatic coast. The 200-mile journey cost us £8.00 each, the seats were comfortable and the train ran on time. British Train Companies please note! From Ancona we took the over-night ferry to Split on which a change to the timetable gave as an unexpected bonus. The ferry called first at Zadar giving us a delightful cruise on Tuesday morning through the myriad of islands off the Dalmatian coast.
We arrived in Split at 1230 to be greeted by cheerful waves from friends Jimmy and Claire. With less than 20 minutes before our bus departed their preliminary reconnaissance sped us to the ticket hall and onto the bus just in time. Once again, the friendship and camaraderie of cruising folk left us wondering why the rest of the world cannot behave in the same way. We hope to meet up with them again in a few weeks time to exchange stories at a more leisurely pace.
Retreat currently has eight holes below her water-line as we have embarked upon a much-postponed task of replacing old seacocks and anode studs. The bora has slowed progress today (at least, that’s our excuse!) but we hope to complete the work by tomorrow and then move on to the annual ritual of antifouling. If all goes well we could be back in the water by Easter but, if not, we are content enough where we are. Either way, we shall remain in Marina Hramina until the middle of April and then set sail once more. To find out how we get on, look out for our next Passage Report in about four week’s time.
Passage Report Number 2
Moored in Skradin Marina, Croatia
Saturday 27th April, 2002
CRUISING AGAIN, BUT STILL WEARING SOCKS
As I write we are moored in Skradin Marina, 10 miles from the sea and close to Krka National Park. Yesterday we enjoyed a superb trip to the Krka Falls in warm sunshine but today we are huddled below with the fan heater on, watching the patterns made by the relentless rain as it splashes into the water around us. Spring advances but slowly in these parts and we are still wearing socks and long trousers, despite the close approach of May.
The bora continued for longer than expected whilst we were on the hard in Murter so we were not launched until two days after Easter. To our great relief our new under-water fittings all proved to be watertight enabling us to move without delay to the berth next to Yaniska that we occupied in the autumn. Roger and Angela had arrived a few days earlier bringing with them our new outboard motor from the UK. Such kindness is typical of their approach to life afloat and demonstrates why they are so highly regarded in cruising circles.
We spent the next two weeks making Retreat ready for sea including a number of electrical repairs and improvements and two trips to the top of the mast. I also donned my diving gear to clean off Yaniska’s propeller; a small favour to two very good friends. Finally, on Wednesday 17th April, we said our goodbyes and motored out of Marina Hramina vowing to return one day. Its quiet village life, superb scenery and interesting walks make it, for us, one of the best places that we have found to over-winter so far.
Our first passage of 2002 saw us motoring into the teeth of a force 5 wind, though fortunately, not for long. We crossed the Murtersko More to the lee of Otok Kornat and then continued north-west to one of our favourite anchorages from last year at the head of Luka Telašćica. There we anchored in splendid isolation and enjoyed three nights of peaceful seclusion. On our final day there the sun came out and we enjoyed our first walks of the season, one across the isthmus to Sali and the other inland up a semi-cultivated valley. On the latter, to our surprise and delight, we encountered a large grass snake in exactly the same spot that we came across it last year. No doubt it lives there!
On Saturday we turned our bows to the south and made a 35-mile passage to Luka Tijašćica on Otok Tijat. The following morning we enjoyed our first passage of the year under sail, 11 miles to Jadrtovac where we had arranged to meet Jimmy and Claire. We anchored close to Phæacian, launched our dinghy and rowed over to say hello. After our all-too-brief meeting on the dockside in Split it was great to have the time to chat and catch up on each other’s news.
We spent two night’s off Jadrtovac enjoying the company of Jimmy and Claire and the beauty of the setting. Finally, on Tuesday, we once again found ourselves saying farewell with no knowledge of where or when we might meet again. Such is the nature of cruising. However, there was no time for melancholy as the demands of the sea soon grabbed our attention as we emerged from Jadrtovac into a NNW force 6. Well reefed down we enjoyed an exhilarating beat up the Šibenski Kanal to the entrance to Kanal Sveti Ante, the narrow channel that runs from the sea to Šibenik. From here we motored through the channel and then up the River Krka to another of our favourite anchorages from last year, Uvala Beretuša This time the sun came out for our trip up the river giving us an enriched view of the spectacular limestone gorges through which it passes.
Yesterday, after three nights in Uvala Beretuša, we motored the short distance to the ACI marina at Skradin where we now lie and caught the 1100 ferry to the Krka National Park. Blessed with a glorious sunny day we enjoyed our return trip immensely, especially the profusion of wildlife. We saw several very large birds of prey, two snakes and countless frogs, the latter setting up a chorus that could be heard from half a mile away above the roar of the waterfalls. Everywhere was a rich, lush green from the winter rains though the cold wind still flowing down from the mountains with the water meant that few spring flowers had yet shown their heads.
With another trough passing through today we have decided to stay an extra night in the marina so that we can enjoy the comfort and convenience of un-metered electrical power. With luck the rain will have passed by tomorrow and we shall be able to set off once more. To find out how we get on, look out for our next Passage Report in about two weeks time.
Passage Report Number 3
Anchored in Uvala Luka, Pelješac Peninsula, Croatia
Monday 13th May, 2002
EXTENSIVE AREA OF LOW PRESSURE OVER THE MEDITERRANEAN
In the two weeks since writing our last Passage Report we have spent only one night in harbour and have travelled 177 miles without once unfurling our sails. For most of that time the thrice-daily weather forecasts that we receive, in English, on our Navtex printer have delivered us much the same message: ‘Synopsis: An extensive area of Low Pressure covers the Western and Central Mediterranean. Forecast: S/SE 4 to 10 knots. Cloudy with rain in places.’ However, today the sun has shone and the Navtex tells us that the low is finally filling. Hallelujah!
We left Skradin on Sunday 28th April and motored back to the secure anchorage off Jadrtovac where we stayed for two nights. We spent much of Monday devising a system to clear the condensation from inside the double-glazed unit in one of our large windows. We drilled two holes through the frame and pumped dry (well, drier!) air through the unit using a selection of pipes and tubes and our dinghy pump. To our delight it worked and Pat could once more see the view whilst cooking. ‘Pumping the window’ has joined our list of routine pumping jobs along with the waste tank, the bilge and the dinghy!
On Tuesday we motored 19 miles south to Rogoznica encountering dolphins en route, our first sighting this year. Whilst walking around the island later in the day we saw them again, this time deep inside the bay. Dolphins are always a stirring sight and guaranteed to bring joy, whatever the weather.
Our departure the following morning was delayed for 10 to 15 minutes whilst we removed the tentacles of an octopus that had become entangled in our anchor chain. Free once more, we continued around the coast to Uvala Razetinovac, a well-sheltered bay close to Trogir. The following morning we went into the ACI marina at Trogir and began the hectic round of tasks that can only be carried out from such a base. Using our ‘Load Lugger’ (a sort of heavy-duty, off-road, 4 x 4 shopping trolley) we stocked up on a month’s supply of all the heavy goods like milk, mineral water, orange juice, wine and Coca Cola. We also filled our water tanks, refuelled with diesel, had two empty Camping Gaz bottles refilled and made two visits to an Internet Café.
With so much to do we would have preferred to stay in the harbour for a second night but Friday is when the charter yachts return for their crew change the following morning. We were politely told that the marina was full and we had to leave, despite the forecast of gusty conditions overnight. We returned to the anchorage in Uvala Razetinovac, laid out two anchors and stayed in comfort for two nights. If our anchors had dragged the whole episode would have ended in tears but, as it was, it caused us no problems and saved us £40 in mooring fees. On such matters of chance the wheels of fortune turn.
Sunday 5th May saw us venture into unknown waters for the first time this year. We motored east along the south coast of Otok Čiovo, past Split to an anchorage off the small town of Stobreč. To our surprise we found ourselves less than 100 metres from one of the largest supermarkets we have yet found in Croatia and, what is more, we didn’t even need the Load Lugger!
From Stobreč we motored SE along the Brački Kanal, the stretch of water between Otok Brač and the mainland. The passage was breathtaking and must surely rank as one of the most dramatic in the Mediterranean. Towering mountains cut by a deep ravine rise almost vertically from the sea painting a picture like a grossly exaggerated stage cloth. Not for the first time on our travels we were reminded that for all the monuments and cathedrals created by man, when it comes to splendour, God is in a class of His own.
We spent the night moored to a buoy at the head of one of many bays in Croatia called Uvala Luka (Uvala means Bay and Luka means Port), this one near the NE corner of Otok Brač. The following day we made a 24-mile passage around the eastern end of Otok Brač and west once more to Uvala Žukova on Otok Hvar. En route we had lunch in a delightful bay called Uvala Rasotica, described in our pilot as one of the most beautiful in Croatia. We did not disagree with the description but felt that it was too open to the forecast winds from the SE to be safe overnight.
Continuous rain for 24 hours and warnings of gusty winds conspired to keep us in Uvala Žukova for three nights. However, we were well secured with our stern tied back to the shore and, with trees all around the bay, we felt nothing of the strong winds. On Friday 10th May we finally emerged and motored around the headland into the Starogradski Zaljev and on to the Town Quay at Stari Grad, one of the largest settlements on Otok Hvar. We replenished our stores, watered ship and then motored the short distance to Otok Zavala where we anchored for the night.
On Saturday morning we made a 15-mile passage around the western end of Otok Hvar to Uvala Ždrilca, a well-protected anchorage in the Pakleni Islands. Yesterday we covered a further 32 miles along the south coast of Otok Hvar to another Uvala Luka, this one on the western tip of the Pelješac Peninsula where we now lie. We had intended to move on this morning but a perusal of the charts suggested that we were already in the best anchorage in the area for the prevailing winds so we decided to stay. Such are the joys of cruising with an infinitely flexible time scale.
Passage Report Number 4
Anchored in Skrivena Luka, Otok Lastovo, Croatia
Tuesday 28th May, 2002
SKINNING THE SHIP’S CAT
As I write we are lying to our anchor in Skrivena Luka, a large land-locked bay towards the south-eastern corner of Otok Lastovo. Storm clouds are chasing across the sky, thunder is rumbling in the distance and, despite it being mid-morning, it is almost too dark to read. When Aeoleus lays on a storm in these parts he does so in style!
It is sometimes said that the whole of life is a compromise but there can be few places where it is more so than the confines of a small boat. One of the joys of cruising is learning how fellow sailors solve the problems of living in a small plastic, wooden or steel box for protracted periods of time. Though we face the same difficulties our solutions are as numerous as the boats we sail.
A typical dilemma arises from the choice of ground tackle - the anchor and chain that we rely upon to keep us in one place when the wind is doing its best to do otherwise. For anchoring, the heavier the better, but extra weight slows a boat down, a problem especially noticeable in light airs. Placing high value on security at anchor we carry a 20kg Bruce anchor and 60 metres of 10mm (3/8") chain, both well above and beyond the traditional recommendations for a boat of Retreat’s size and weight. In doing so we accept the fact that we often have to motor when more lightly-equipped boats can sail.
One such occasion was the morning of Tuesday 14th May. We left Uvala Luka at 1000 in a light breeze that saw most of the charter boats coming out of Korčula under sail. For our over-weight floating home this was not an option so we made the short passage to the anchorage behind Kneža Mali under power. However, we enjoyed our day in this very pretty anchorage and, the following morning, motored the short distance to Korčula marina where we spent what has proved to be our only night in harbour since 2nd May.
On Thursday morning we enjoyed the rare treat of an 18-mile passage to Luka Polače on Otok Mljet almost entirely under sail. Rarer still, as we hoisted our spinnaker for the first time this year, we found ourselves pulling ahead of two Bavaria 42’s, both struggling to goose-wing their heavy genoas without the benefit of a pole. Needless to say, when the wind strengthened and veered as we drew south of Otok Korčula the Bavarias scorched over the horizon on a broad reach and we were left struggling to hand our spinnaker before it was blown to shreds. Some say that a spinnaker has no place on a cruising boat. As we left the Bavarias floundering we would have strongly disagreed but today, as I continue to suffer from the tendon that I tore as I fought the spinnaker down, I am not so sure!
We spent 6 nights in Luka Polače, the longest we have ever spent at anchor in one place. The limiting factor when anchored is invariably electrical power but almost continuous sunshine enabled our solar panels and batteries to provide all we needed without having to run our engine. The sunshine also appeared to have the property of attracting British boats, which outnumbered all others throughout our stay. As a result we spent every evening in the company of other yachties comparing notes and exchanging information. We were particularly interested to see on board a Warrior 35, a boat that has the same hull as