They say better late than never, and I am definitely late with this one. It’s hard to believe that another sailing season has come and gone, but here we are. In a normal year, our sailing season will go 6-7 months. Unfortunately, between Covid restrictions, a home purchase, and parental health issues, our season has been a brief 3 1/2 months. So, here is how we wrapped things up.
When we left you last, we were hanging out near the city of Split in Croatia, and awaiting the arrival of my daughter and her fiancé. We anchored our boat in a bay very close to the airport, and walked to the terminal to meet them. It was exciting to watch their plane approach the airport, flying right over top of us. We soon had them gathered up, loaded into the dinghy, and on our way back to the boat. Since it was late in the evening, we stayed the night on anchor.
The next morning, we headed across to the other side of the bay and anchored closer to the city of Split. We headed into shore and straight into the old city. Our main point of interest here was Diocletian’s Palace. This was built for the Roman emperor, Diocletian, around the 4th century A.D. and makes up about half of the old city of Split. On a side note, the palace was used in filming Game of Thrones, season 4. See if you recognize any of the sites!
After spending a few hours in the old city, we headed back on board and set sail for the island of Šolta. This is home to one of our all time favorite bays with an amazing restaurant set high on the hilltop. We made sure we had a reservation and ordered the lamb peka (slow cooked lamb and vegetables under a metal dome, covered in coals). The marinero greeted us when we arrived and got us tied up on the mooring lines. Shawn and Mark took the kayak out to explore the beauty of the bay before heading into dinner. We had an amazing 3 course dinner overlooking the bay and the 2 other boats there with us (gotta love getting into late season).
We left early the next morning for Stari Grad on the island of Hvar. We tied up to the town quay and rented a car for the next two days of exploration. First stop, the town of Jelsa which is a fun little seaside village. We wandered around here until it was time for our visit to one of Dan’s favorite wineries on the island of Hvar (this island is very well known for producing excellent wines). The winery was in the midst of harvesting and production, so there was lots of activity. They took us into the cellar which was kept very dark and only lit by candles. We had a great time tasting their custom infused olive oils and a variety of wines. From there we headed back to the boat and spent some time exploring the town of Stari Grad (old city) Hvar. We found an interesting monastery which we explored and then hiked to the top of a hill with an outdoor area for church and great views of the island. They are in the process of gathering donations to create a stations of the cross that lines the hike up to the top of the hill.
The next day we explored the city of Hvar. We drove up to the Venetian fortress that overlooked the old city. Construction of the fortress began in 1282 and was completed in 1551. This multi-level fortification has been really well restored and easily takes you back in time. The entire population took shelter in the fortress in 1571 when the Turks attacked, plundered the town, and set it on fire. The fortress was composed of four circular bastions, a tower and walls with battlements, pieces of which are still present. There are cannons pointed out to the sea, and you can descend into the “prison” to check out the cells and their torture devices as well as visit the collection of amphorae collected from the surrounding sea.
Since it was Dan’s birthday, we had a reservation in the old town of Hvar at an amazing restaurant overlooking the waterfront. We enjoyed a 7 course tasting menu paired with wines, and it was out of this world. It was definitely a great way to celebrate Dan’s birthday.
Once again, we left bright and early to cover the most amount of miles. We made a quick overnight stop on the island of Scedro to help break up the very long journey. Here, we did some swimming and hanging out. Later in the evening a local boat came cruising by offering up homemade wines and brandies as well as assorted other items to purchase. After tasting a couple of the brandies, we settled on some fig brandy and ordered some fresh made bread and pastries to be delivered in the morning! How fun was that?!
We set off in the morning bound for the island of Korčula. We anchored off the island of Badija just like last time and were shocked at how few boats were here compared to our summer time visit. We headed into the island to walk around the grounds of the monastery and find the deer. This time we brought a bag full of carrots. It wasn’t long before my daughter had several deer following her around. I think this might’ve been her favorite part of the trip…..well, that and all the stray kitties. That evening we took the high speed water taxi to old town Korčula where we had dinner along the fortress wall overlooking the sea.
From Korčula, we headed to the island of Mlijet and the town of Polace. This time we tied to a restaurant’s dock that sat right under some Roman ruins. Talk about some great backyard scenery. We scurried off and jumped on some e-bikes for another exploration of the salt lake and monastery on the island in the middle. This was our second time doing this excursion this year, and we highly recommend it. We had such a good time yet again.
At this point, we were reaching the end of Shawn and Mark’s trip, so we were headed to their final stop and the holy grail of their visit. They are both huge Game of Thrones fans (as is Dan), so we were headed to Dubrovnik. Here we pulled into a really awesome marina to spend the next couple of days. The first day, we headed into the old city of Dubrovnik to walk around and explore the castle walls. We then took a tram straight up the face of the mountain to a fortress on the top of the hill. Here, you had amazing views of the entire city and the surrounding sea. In the evening, we went back to the boat and walked to Sunset Beach which is the largest beach in Dubrovnik. There is a beautiful boardwalk the runs along the coast, and you can find many restaurants, beach bars, and even a bar set into a cave.
Our second day was the highlight. Dan had booked a private Game of Thrones tour. We spent 3 hours wandering the grounds while our guide pointed out the various sites that were used in the show. While he pointed out the sites, he held up a photo book with the actual scenes as they were portrayed in the show. This allowed us to see where CGI was used to enhance the backdrop for the scene. It was a great tour, and we really enjoyed our guide and his humor.
We had reached the end of Shawn and Mark’s visit and were approaching our window to make our way back to Greece before some really nasty weather was due to arrive. We decided it would be fun to tick off one more country for them, while getting us a little further south. Off we went to Montenegro!
The next morning, Dan and I pulled out of the Marina before the sun was even up. We went across the channel to the customs dock and took care of the formalities of checking all of us and Zoe out of Croatia. Before long, we were underway and headed south. Dan and I were somewhat on edge since we checked out a little further north than Croatia wants you to, but we hate trying to check out in the town of Cavtat. We had asked the officials of both locations and were told it was okay provided we stayed to the outside of the islands and did not meander through the islands on our departure. We had heard numerous stories about people getting fined for doing what we just did (but we don’t know if they may have broken the rules and cruised around the islands and walls on their way out).
The seas were up a bit, so the ride was bumpy. We were a little worried about Shawn and Mark since they were fast asleep in their cabin which is one of the worst places to be when it comes to feeling the movement of the boat. If you are prone to seasickness (they were not), this is NOT the place you want to be. As we passed the last town on the Croatian coast, we saw a large police boat cruising down the coastline. In the end, they left us alone, and we left Croatia without any issues.
We arrived at a marina in Montenegro by early afternoon and took care of formalities before picking up a rental car and driving the coast of Montenegro to the Bay of Kotor. This area has been inhabited since the times of antiquity. The bay is surrounded by towering mountains and surrounded by some of the most well preserved medieval towns.
Before we knew it, Shawn and Mark’s visit had come to an end. We hopped in the car and drove them from Montenegro back to Dubrovnik, Croatia to catch their flight home (it’s only a 40 minute drive). Once we were back to the boat, we cast lines to fill up with duty free fuel and then make our way back to Greece. This would involve our longest passage yet…..44 hours non-stop. Our weather window was now, and it was only 2 days long before things got really dicey. We NEEDED to go! We were on our way at 3:00 p.m.
By the time darkness surrounded us, the seas had picked up and we were pounding into the swell. Dan and I took 4 hour shifts, so while one is at the helm on watch, the other is sleeping….well, in theory. I seem to struggle with being able to sleep when I am off shift. This first night was even tougher as the seas slammed into the bridge deck making a great deal of noise. As I came running up the steps from below deck, I slammed my bare foot into the stool which was then followed by 3 distinct cracks. Three toes went in a direction that was different from the others. Yep, pretty sure we’re looking at 3 broken toes. Ahhhh boat life! It is definitely not for the fragile.
We cruised down the coast of Montenegro and Albania without incident. By the second night, we had entered Greek waters and were coming in to the northern part of Corfu. Here the island is widest and creates a rather narrow channel between itself and mainland Greece. Between the lights on land, the lights on boats, and the known hazards in the water, I felt very uneasy navigating this in the pitch black. I called Dan up to take over this more visually challenging area. I then took the 1 a.m to 5 a.m. shift down the coast of the island. The first big ferry I spotted was over 600 feet long. I adjusted course a little more to the starboard side (right side). Soon came another big ferry…..eesh. He was over 800 feet long. I slid a little more to the right. Distances are deceiving in the dark (even when your radar shows that you have plenty of room!). Then came the behemoth…..a 1000 foot cruise ship in a blaze of lights. Yes, I moved further right yet again!
As the sun peeked over the horizon, the seas and wind began to build. Once again, none of the weather forecasts had called for this. By the time we got to Preveza boats were circling outside of the marinas. Well, this was interesting. We radioed the Preveza marina where we had planned to tie up for a few days while getting Zoe ready to be hauled out. They were full! Everyone was ducking for cover for the impending storm that would arrive later this evening. We asked if we could come in for fuel. There was an hour wait! All those boats out circling in the bay were waiting for their turn to come in. We headed across the bay to Cleopatra marina where Zoe is stored for the winter. After a long, stressful wait, they radioed back that they could make room for us. Whew! We had a safe home until haul out.
The storm came in, as predicted. We had one good day of weather which we used to get the sails down and stored and filled up the fuel tanks. The last couple of days we worked in the pouring rain and howling wind. Wouldn’t you know, the day we hauled out was the day the weather was at it’s worst. According to the marineros, the current in the marina was the worst they had ever seen it. Between that and the wind, getting off the dock and into the haul out bay was extremely stressful. At one point, the marinero in the large rib, rammed us super hard (harder than necessary) which just about sent me overboard (I was at the front of the boat waiting to toss the line). The current swiftly carried us to the entrance of the haul out bay and we were in. Oh, and soaking wet from the pouring rain. Not fun!
So, that marked the end our 2021 sailing season. We had the opportunity to have one last dinner with our Swiss and Kiwi friends before saying good-bye until next season. Other than the brutal 36 hour trip home, sleeping in the airport and having to wear a mask the entire time, we are now home safe and sound. This will be our last blog post for a little while as we reconnect with family and friends. However, when December rolls around, we will be on the move again, and you are welcome to join our travels! As always, thanks for being a part of our adventures!
Some stats for the season:
Total miles sailed: 1585 Nautical miles
Total nights onboard: 107
Nights at anchor: 49
Nights on mooring ball: 30
Nights in a marina: 25
Nights at sea: 3
Countries visited: 3 (Greece, Montenegro, Croatia)
Ports, marinas and anchorages visited: 51
Total guests: 8
Zoomable map of our wanderings this season: