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.
The entrance to the Bay of Tivat, Montenegro, is guarded by a fort and along the southern shore we can also see some submarine caves. We check-in at the sleepy port of Zelenika on the northern shore of the bay, which is quite efficient. After a quick lunch and grabbing a local SIM card we motor around to Herceg Novi to take a look but it is too hot to go ashore so we head for our anchorage beside the island of Stradioti, closer to Tivat. We can see the long-forgotten remnants of a Club Med on the island in the shape of a few straw huts on the shore.
We spend the morning in our anchorage. There are already two Australian boats anchored nearby so we go for a paddle check and say hi before doing a circumnavigation of a nearby island, Ostrvo Gospa od Milosrđa. The island houses a small monastery and church whose bell rings at seemingly random times. We are also not too far from the airport either, but still a fairly peaceful anchorage.
Just after noon we up anchor to go into the Bay of Kotor. This involves traversing a narrow channel which then opens out into a spectacular fjord. We dodge a couple of car ferries which cross the channel frequently, and emerge on the other side to the most incredible view. The hills are steep and high all around us and small villages cling to the waters’ edge. We head down to the southern end of the bay and anchor off the town of Kotor. We managed to find a tideline of “flotsam” which is a mixture of the algae from a nearby creek and some random inorganic matter. Not the most inviting for swimming but it eventually floats away. There are a couple of Kiwi boats here and we have a chat to them before heading into the town for a late and fairly ordinary dinner. Even at 9pm the town is still hot from the day’s sun beating down on the stone of the streets and buildings. The weather has been so hot and stifling and this bay seems to trap the heat, leaving us with little energy to do much tourism. We had planned to rent a car but that falls by the wayside as the idea of going inland and traipsing around monasteries and cobbled towns in the blazing sun holds less appeal than sitting on ITIKI and jumping in for a swim 16 times a day to cool down.
The next day we are up relatively early as we plan to climb the town walls to the fortress overlooking the town. It’s still in the shade and the heat from the previous day has dissipated from the stones so it is much more pleasant. We also manage to get there before the ticket seller and the day trippers! The walk to the top is not too strenuous but the path is narrow and there are already a few people on their way down. The view from the top is really spectacular and well worth the effort. We watch as a large cruise ship anchors in the bay and starts spewing punters ashore. A second smaller one docks at the quay and they are a little quicker to get off. By the time we are halfway down the vanguard of “cruisers” are on their way up and as we get down to the city the place is crawling with them. We make our escape back to ITIKI.
Rather than rest on our laurels after the walk we decide to explore the Bay of Kotor a little more. We up anchor and head directly north to a little corner and anchor off small beach club. The beaches here are all pebbles so deck chairs and umbrellas are always deployed, presumably at a cost to the punters. We have lunch here and a couple of swims, the water is a bit cleaner here. Then it is off again to the town of Perast, described as a little slice of Venice on the Adriatic. There are two picturesque islands sitting in the bay nearby. One is Gospa od Skrpjela which was artificially created on 22 July 1452 around a rock where the image of the Madonna was found. The second, Sveti Djordje arises from a natural reef and houses a Benedictine monastery.
We sail past these and into the northernmost corner of the bay, across to the west and then back past the islands to return to our anchorage at Kotor. This time we move over to the western side, as it gets the shade first. Hopefully the algae-berg will stay clear of us on this side. We are invited over for sundowners by our Kiwi neighbours and finish the day with a very late dinner on ITIKI.
Next morning we were woken just before 5am to the sound of very strong gusts and the feeling of a big pull back on the anchor. It’s already light so we get up and secure loose objects and retrieve the towels before they head off to Albania. A couple of boats are clearly dragging anchors and a number decide to leave anyway to find some shelter to finish sleeping. ITIKI is holding well but we stay up and monitor the situation. It is a good test for the anchor as we see 38kts gusts on the instruments. These are katabatic winds – dense winds that come over the hills and straight down under the force of gravity. The difference in the readings from the instruments at the top of the mast vs our perception on the deck is significant - they look and feel much stronger at water level – an interesting experience. The breeze settles but it is still quite strong and not particularly pleasant, the remaining boats leave the anchorage and we decide to do the same. Keith completes a successful mission to get our gas bottle (butane) refilled at a local service station and then we motor out of Kotor, back to our lovely anchorage from our first night.
We spend the rest of the day swimming and paddling and generally relaxing. Again it is pretty hot especially as that lovely breeze has died out. The next morning is much the same but we decide to take the RIB into Tivat to check it out and pick up a few items from the supermarket. Another Aussie anchored nearby comes over apologetically asking if we have any spare engine oil. Seems he had been checking his oil levels when the engine was still warm and either needs more oil, or a longer dipstick, and is afraid to even start his engines for fear of seizure. We offer to pick some up in town for him when we go in as his dinghy is not quite up to the journey. We have invited our anchorage neighbours aboard for sundowners, but we have to go and get them as their dinghy is out of action. We have a lovely last evening in Montenegro, our time here is over so quickly.
The following morning we are booked in to refuel at the very flash Porto Montenegro marina and will check out of Montenegro at the same time. This is the one place that small boats can easily purchase duty free fuel, which works out at half the price of elsewhere. The only catch is that you have to leave Montenegran waters so we won’t be able to explore further down the coast on this trip. We arrive at our appointed time and the dock assistants welcome us in. They check with the customs if they are ready and we complete the necessary paperwork, stamping it with our official “boat stamp” purchased in Australia on our last return trip for this very purpose! We also fill our Jerry cans which is our emergency fuel supply, but this has to be at normal prices. Still cheaper than what we paid in Croatia though. Oh and while we are here we get some petrol for the dinghy. The fuel dock manager takes the skipper to customs in a golf buggy while I wait on board – bit of a role reversal this time! The whole exercise takes about 40 minutes and we are on our way to Albania!
That full feeling!
We motor out of the bay and into the Adriatic at around 10am for the 180nm journey to Saranda, Albania, which is very close to Corfu in Greece. To our surprise the breeze is coming from the Northwest! The main goes up and the gennaker comes out and we are making good speeds. Its great to be sailing! The fuel tanks are full, the emergency fuel supplies are full (570L in total), we have two full 17kg gas cylinders, the black-water holding tanks are pretty full (!), but the water tank is half empty - well these last two are readily sorted and once the water tanks are full we have 750L of desal on board. Hmmm ITIKI is feeling a little sluggish now and probably not surprising with all of that extra weight! The breeze clocks further north and we switch from the gennaker to the Parasailor and keep it up until around 1:30 am, after which we have to motor the rest of the way to Sarande, Albania and burn up some of that duty free fuel. Still we have sailed for more than half of the journey which is always such a bonus! We arrived at our anchorage at around 4pm.