As we left Montenegro there was only one thing between us and the Greek Ionian Islands – Albania. Mind you, if you had asked me a year ago where Albania was, I would probably have pointed to somewhere in the Black Sea! With it is 362km of Adriatic coastline it is not a small country, and its southern-most part is only 1nm from the Greek island of Corfu. With its recent history of communism and isolationism, Albania seemed somewhat mysterious, exotic and a little bit scary so we had a lot of discussion about whether to stop there or just bypass it as many sailors do. At the last minute, we decided to recoup our investment in the Albanian courtesy flag, delay our arrival in Corfu and head in to Saranda for a few days to see for ourselves.
We finally said farewell to Croatia after just on 5 weeks of excellent cruising. Checked out at Cavtat in the morning of a public holiday (25th June, Independence day!) so no line boys on duty. I also had to go looking for the Port Police in a nearby café. The Harbourmaster was closed too we got to skip that step! It is only a short hop down the coast to Montenegro, well 33nm by the time we reach our anchorage, and it is mostly motoring as the forecasted 10kts NE fails to materialise until we area about to anchor.
From our favourite anchorage in Zaton, just north of Dubrovnik, we did a day trip into Bosnia & Herzegovina to the old city of Mostar. It was an early start for us, not least because it is broad daylight at 5am (yes seriously) so we are wide awake anyway. The bus picks us up from a nearby hotel just before 8am and we drive north along the spectacular coastal road in Croatia, overlooking some of the islands and anchorages we have visited in ITIKI, including Mali Ston. Our first stop is a border crossing into B&H (45mins for formalities) and once in the country we stop for a quick drink. The next border crossing is out of B&H and back into Croatia where the road continues. We track inland to our next border crossing back into B&H again (30 mins this time) and we are finally on our way to the waterfalls of Kravica. The falls surround a picturesque lagoon and are very popular with locals for swimming and kayaking. It’s a quaint and relatively undeveloped tourist spot compared to Krka in Croatia, but blissfully cool on what is shaping up to be a very hot day.
As every well-educated Australian knows, The Great Wall of China was built by emperor Nasi Goreng to keep the rabbits out. We recently visited the Walls of Ston as well as the famous walled city of Dubrovinik in an attempt to check whether this strategy was working in Croatia as well.
Our first 2 weeks in Croatia we didn’t have the best weather but the sun has finally broken through, fortunately right on cue for the arrival of our first guests of the season. Everyone is saying it has been unseasonably cold and a late start to the summer. Although the overnight boat shower has been nice and clean and the Skradin falls were fantastic, we really were praying for sun. Dare I say that now, 2 weeks on, we are (almost) complaining of the 35C heat!
We recently visited this beautiful part of Croatia in ITIKI and it was the highlight of our trip so far. With the recent rain the falls at Skradinski Buk were in full force. From the river mouth to Skradin it is an 11nM journey and this is as far as you can go in your own boat, but the journey was as special as the destination.
When you think of Venice the images of the Piazza San Marco and the Rialto bridge come to mind, however there is so much more to Venice beyond this. Venice (lets call it Venezia) is an island that sits in a large lagoon, connected to the mainland by a long causeway which the cars and trains can cross. The lagoon is separated from the Adriatic sea by a thin strip of land with a couple of entrances, including Lido island where we entered. There are numerous different neighbourhoods in Venezia as well as a number of separate islands of varying sizes, each with their own character, dotted around the lagoon. The shallow waters within the lagoon are laced with deeper channels (some up to 5m!) which snake their way around these low-lying islands and wetlands. The major ones are marked with posts but some of the minor ones, well you need to trust your depth sounder. Not surprisingly boats are the prime mode of transport with a number of vaporettos (small, public ferries), gondolas (mainly for tourists these days), water taxis and private boats plying the waters in and around the islands. There really are no cars at all, with all deliveries, garbage collection and commuting done by water. Otherwise it is Shanks’ pony if you want to get anywhere.
Yes that was the opening line from our walking-tour guide, Peter, in Ljubljana. Tuck that one away for the next trivia night! With only 47km of coastline we were never going to be doing alot of cruising in Slovenia but really wanted to visit. We left Venice early in the morning in the rain for the daytime crossing of 50nM to Piran hoping to arrive before the breeze kicked in from the NE, ie the direction we were heading. 8.5 hours in total and we managed to sail with Genoa and Gennaker as well as almost filling the tanks with desal. The last 1.5hrs was pounding into aforementioned NE'er with casualties including 2 wine glasses and my beloved CREW mug! Zero interest in our arrival from the local officialdom, so we decided to stay at the Town Quay for a few days and hire a car to see some country. Piran is a lovely town and we also went up to Lake Bled in the North as well as spending the day in the capital, Ljubljana. The countryside seemed really green, people were lovely and that cake...!!! Slovenia is a real hidden gem.
When I heard that you could “do Venice” in your own boat, this was immediately added to my bucket list. I imagined nonchalantly sailing down the grand canal with the kite up (forgetting the Rialto Bridge...) dropping the kite and tying up outside the Piazza San Marco, next to the Gondolas… Although I have been to Venice a couple of times before, and once to The Venetian hotel in Vegas, Keith has never been to “the real thing”. I really do think everyone should see Venice before they die as it is a magical place which outshines every expectation you could possibly have about it. One of the problems with doing Venice in your own yacht though is that the Italians have been inconsiderate in placing it so far north and with not enough interesting stuff on the way! Just as we pushed ourselves to get the Balearics last season, so to we have raced up the coast to get to Venice this season, promising to go slowly down the Croatian coast ….
As you know we have been racing up the east coast of Italy to get to Venice. A few people had mentioned to us that Ravenna is a “must do” stop along the way so here we are. As it happens, we managed to time our arrival just ahead of some really nasty weather. Across in northern Croatia the Bora is honking and there have been 45-50kts winds with the accompanying swell so it is great to be tucked up in the very well sheltered Marina Marinara here in the town of Marina di Ravenna. The town of Ravenna itself is a short bus ride inland and sits at the end of a very long canal which divides Marina di Ravenna in two. Although the morning was fairly quite weather-wise, rain and strong winds are predicted here as well so mooring lines have been doubled. We are in for a creaky night!