Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Fridge Replaced, Beer and Wine are Cooling

3013 07 30
Brindisi, Italy

It was all such a nonevent in the end.

Replacing the fridge had, by the time we arrived in Brindisi, taken on Augean proportions.  What kind of moron installed his own fridge?  Yeah, I know, you are looking at him. In this situation what else do you do?   Come to a marina and wait for some fridge guy to come and do it for you?  As he does the marina fees mount up and the boredom kicks in and in the end the fridge guy does a crap job that you know you have done better yourself. 

My son Jake noticed at the tender age of age of fourteen the propensity of wealth to render people incompetent. Ability  to pay others to do your work for them leaves people unable to do for themselves.  Poor people have to do for themselves or do without. 

Doing for yourself is not all that calming. Even ordering materials I'm a foreign country is sort of a tapdance through a minefield.  You try to order everything at one time knowing that you cannot get even simple hardware in most local towns.

We had to have our fridge delivered to a marina and that meant arranging with the marina to accept parcels on your behal. At Marina do Brindisi this part was easy.  But then you must give an address to the vendor to ship to.  Europeans do addressing I'm the reverse of Canadians.  Here the street number goes last.  But which of those Italian words is the street name and which just Italian for "St"?

Today we were at a place located at 50 Via Appia.  My tortured Italian told me the address in Canadian was 50 Street Street.  See what I mean?

Marina Di. Brindisi got off on a good footing.  It was inexpensive, even in high season. 

After the Armageddon of €80 a night marinas in Croatia this Italian outpost, on the heel of
 the Italian boot, was charging only €28 a night.  Free WiFi, electric and water included.

Leaving the Tri Likes anchorage on Korcula at 0600 we motored in flat seas for 28 hours arriving Brindisi about 1000 on the 29th.

It was to Marina di Brindisi that our new fridge was being shipped by SVB.  That delivery was completed at 1230 on the 29th but, this being Italy, the marina office closed for the afternoon.  Nothing could be done about that, it is local custom.  Our package was picked up at 1630.

At 1700 we began installing the condensor.  Then we removed the old compressor. We discovered our fridge was a Nova Cool.  We always believed we had a Waeco Cold Machine because the former owner had the Cold Machine manual in the boat papers. Once removed so we could see the dataplate our error was undeniable. Makes you wonder what else we "think" we have on our boat.  The compressor out we quit for the night.

 Next morning we installed the new compressor, connected the control cable for the energy controller.  Final step was to connect the coolant lines and then...
 we powered it up.

Now we are burning it in for 24 hours to give the system a chance to cool down before we fill it with food.  This will also give the microcontroller achance to sort out its electronics and take proper control.

It was nerve wracking but unerringly straightforward process.  Connie knows a lot more about refrigeration than she ever wanted to. Me too.

Many thanks to Christian at SVB for his hard work getting our system to us in good order.

Many thanks to to Mark at Great Water for his fast and informative answers to my installation questions.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

So Long and Thanks for All the Rocks

 42 41.4N
016 47.4E

Three hours out of Tri Lukes bay on West end of Korcula island.  Heading for Brindisi on the heel of the boot of Italy.  No wind of course.  No wind all day from the forecast.  This will be an expensive trip.  

Our anchorage last night was the usual rock table.  Nine out of ten anchorages in Croatia have provided no holding whatsoever.  You get your anchor fouled in some weeds growing on a flat rock table and hope it holds.  Usually it does.  Sailors do not sleep soundly in Croatia.

Brindisi has our new fridge waiting for us and I am anxious to get it installed. We are weary of warm white wine, hot beer and cheese shaped like the bowl we have to keep the cheese in because otherwise it melts and runs all over what used to be our fridge but now, of course, is just a hotbox.

Finally some meat will be on the menu.  Frozen meat and canned meat does not exist in Europe, not at least in the Mediterranean.  If you have no fridge you have no fresh meat.  Just salted and smoked and Sulfited stuff.  Better than nothing let me tell you.

This trip is an overnighter, 146 nautical miles, and we hope to be in before noon tomorrow.  

Our main is up but there is no wind.  Had we waited until Tuesday there is forecast to be 35 and 40 knots of wind.  Having sailed in that on our way from Italy to Albania we will give it a pass this time around.

Nothing bittersweet about our departure from Croatia.  Just goodbye, won't see you around.

Vegetable Wars and Kikiriki. Grocery Buying in a Foreign Land.

July 27, 2013
West End of Korcula, Croatia

 42 55 N
016 40 E

Shopping for food in a foreign country is always extra fun.  Here is a sample of our grocery receipt from the Tommy's store in Zadar.  A few items are easy: eg. Nescafe, Lowenbrau and penne.  How about Rajcica Domaca.  And how is THAT different from Rajcica Grappo?

We found ourselves stumped trying to figure out why we had purchased 250 grams of Kikiriki.  Our dilemma was not helped by our lack of understanding of the nature of a kiki or a riki or whatever.

Too often in a foreign country you find yourself buying cans of something you hope is corn, or tomatoes.  Sometimes the labels contain pictures of the canned items which defy understanding.  

One night we ate stewed vile things on noodles having completely misunderstood what we thought was a can of crushed tomatoes for our spaghetti.  

It is part of the fun of cruising.  

So too is adapting to local customs.  At the same Tommy's in Zadar where we acquired the kikiriki it is the custom for the deli counterperson to weigh a customer's produce for checkout.  The produce stand is right beside the deli counter.  

The afternoon we were shopping the deli woman was a bit twitchy.  At least I hope she was.  For her sake.  Connie was selecting potatoes from the meager offerings of the produce counter when the deli woman yelled, and I mean yelled "VEGETABLES!".  It was surreal.

Neither Connie nor I, who was at the time trying to buy some smoked ham from the same woman, understood.  Nothing happening on our end the slightly frustrated deli lady again yelled "VEGETABLES" and as if it were a battle cry launched herself around the deli counter and at my wife.  

The deli woman grabbed the bag of potatoes held by my wife.  Connie, the wife, did not let go.  The deli woman pulled.  Connie resisted.  No one was going to steal her hard won potatoes, hand picked from the pitiful offerings of the store. 

Stalemate.  Two women each holding and pulling on a poor straining plastic sack of potatoes.  Forgive me but the bag of potatoes looked a bit like a scrotum and the potatoes were at risk.  That may explain my tortured response.  I was paralyzed.

Standing at the deli counter not four feet away I was incredulous and dumfounded.  Fortunately I did not act.  Thank God for being stunned.

Slowly the two women withdrew, each in turn reducing the ferocity of their grip and force of pull.  Eventually they separated, uncomfortably.

Finally we figured out that the practice in the store was for the deli staff to weigh the produce.  The woman, I suppose, thought Connie was going to put the potatoes in her cart and try to check out, a correct assumption in fact.  The response was a bit over the top or would have been in Canada.

It was bizarre.  I still don't really have a clue about what happened.  

Thinking the events over last night while munching a handful of salted peanuts with my glass of warm Lowenbrau (we not having a fridge yet) I looked at the bag holding the nuts. "Kikiriki" it exclaimed.  

I guess I am lucky it didn't suckerpunch me.

Underway from Split to Kurcula

2013 07 27
Underway from Split to Korcula

View from the Starboard Bow This Instant
44 14.7N 016 15.2E
We are making our way to the island of Korcula, just south of the tourist trap city and island of Hvar.  From Korcula we will stage to Brindisi some 160 nm to the south.

For reasons I will explain in future blog we are not really sad to leave Croatia.  It was ok but certainly not great.  Beautiful but not stunning scenery littered with rude, grasping, thieving, brutish people. Our disappointment with Croatia is primarily with its people.

It has been good to experience Croatia but even if we were closer geographically we would never return.  Certainly we do not recommend it, not that that should or will prevent anyone from tasting it for themselves.  Our good friends Yoshi & Fumi on the Japanese boat Foxglove, isolated from interaction with Croatians by a wide language barrier love the place.

Credit card captains on two week charter vacation love it.

We did not.

Twenty Eight Days Later

2013 07 27
Somewhere's off the coast of Croatia, bound for Kurcula

No picture with this one.  Our fridge died twenty eight days ago, or maybe a bit longer.  Our new fridge is ordered and hopefully will be waiting for us at Marina di Brindisi, in Brindisi of course, Italy.  We cross the Adriatic for the final time tomorrow to pick it up and start cooling our food. 

All I can say is thank God.  We have had a month of 35 to 40 degree windless days (85 to 100 for you fahrenheiters) since the icebox went south on us.  Even buying food one or two days at a time has resulted in our meat being greasy as the fat melts and our cheese having only one shape: puddle.  Puddled cheese and greasy meat does wonders for a guy's appetite control.

Since the old compressor was a thirty year old Danfoss unit filled, or once filled, with the ozone depleting R12 coolant we did not wish to attempt repair or refill of the coolant.  So a new fridge was required.  Replacing the cooler has been an interesting process in trying to do business in Europe.

If it had not been for Germany we would never have been able to buy our Italian made fridge.  

At first it seemed to be our good fortune that two of the three major marine fridge manufacturers, Isotherm and Frigoboat, were headquartered in Italy, very nearby to the Croatian waters in which we were sailing.  The third company, Waeco, was HQ'd in Germany.

We originally pursued the option of replacing the fridge with a Croatian supplier whose quoted price seemed competitive.  Unfortunately at time to pay there appeared an unheretofore mentioned  twenty five percent sales tax, calculated on top of a five percent VAT.  Scratch Croatia.

We thought a Frigoboat unit with a keel cooler might be a good idea.  This product is well reviewed and we know boats that use it and like it.  This proved as unworkable as buying in Croatia due to the innate Italian dislike of work and service.  Frigoboat does not sell through mail order houses and you must buy from a dealer.  This increases the price because the dealer charges full price.  Not our thing especially since we do all our own installation on Meredith. 

Not that pricing was the only issue.  Our attempts to find a Frigoboat dealer in Italy did not produce results.  Our initial contact with the company resulted in polite but serious letter cautioning us that the company closed for three weeks beginning the first week of August and so we had to hurry and get my business done before that.  This is the Italian business model.  

The email referred us to a dealer who was not in town where our marina would be.  That dealer email or a website.  He also did not speak English.  This is par for the Italian course.  
 Two weeks after I contacted the Frigoboat national sales office, I received an email with a referral to a local dealer.  Too late.

What did work was the German mail order business SVB out of Bremen Germany.  Their website is at www.SVB24.com.  

SVB had aggressive pricing on Waeco compressors and evaporators but we did not want a Waeco.  Waeco use single use connectors on their coolant lines so if you wish to make a system change after initial installation you are screwed.  Also Waeco received a questionable quality review in an old Practical Sailor article.  The fatal blow to Waeco wasthat it no longer sold the large O evaporator/freezer my wife loved from her old fridge.

In the end we ordered an aircooled Isotherm fridge with a BD50 compressor and large O evaporator that is almost an exact replacement for our old Waeco Cold Machine.  My wife uses the evaporator as her "freezer" and it also cools the fridge.  Very effective.

Before  you start yelling about water cooling and better efficiency hear this: Air cooling is as effective as water cooling up to about 45 degrees C or 95 F.  We used our thirty year old air cooled Waeco in Tunisia for a month in temperature which were never below 40 degrees C (105 F) and on a couple of days reached a sustained (ten hours at a go) 45 degrees Celsius (110 F or so).  The locker where we keep the compressor is below the water line and stays below the magic 35 C temperature.  Water cooling was not such a big deal for us.

The new compressor, a Danfoss BD50, is much larger than the unit it replaces.  Being larger capacity means it has a lower efficiency. It compensates for this by using a variable speed compressor motor and we are adding the smart energy controller to further improve its efficiency.  Hopefully the result will be a more effective fridge that uses less power than the original.

New evaporators, regardless of make, come with shorter tubes than the ones that came with our original fridge.  SVB had to special order extension tubes and took care of this in two days.  Exceptional service.

So now we are rushing to Brindisi where we hope to pick up our new Isotherm fridge and do a quick one day install.  Sure.  That is how it always works.

However long it takes soon our meat will be cool and our cheese will have some shape.  And the beer and wine will be cold.  

Plug for SVB

SVB did everything they could to make the deal happen.  They provided English speaking telephone assistance from people who got things done and followed up.  It was a satisfying experience.  When in the Med I will never again attempt to "buy locally" even if the darn products are made locally.  I will go through Germany.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Be Not Concerned with the Crowded Waters of Croatia - The Anchorages are Empty

2013 07 12
Zadar, Croatia

Anchored in a Cove on MurvenJik Island

When I tell you we had this unbelievable anchorage all to ourselves night before last you might be inclined to scoff.  

Croatian waters are crowded.  In the last two days we have not sailed a single tack without being interfered with by some  halfwit on vacation cutting across our bow in an ill calculated effort to establish his superiority.  On one tack yesterday we were forced to divert three times to let the feeble minded watertwits pass by.  

So in this septic pond how can the splendour pictured be allotted to a single boat?

Well not only can the vacationers not sail but they hate to anchor.  They will go to any lengths to get their scrawny little butts to a marina every night.  To these guys the crowded trailer park atmosphere of a €80 a night marina (the going rate around here) is superior to the protected waters of Murvenjik.  It does not compute with us but there it is.

Every night we anchor alone or with one or two boats from Australia or Sweden, most often alone.  All the other boats are parked at marinas or on mooring balls.  

The anchorage at Murvenjik had 7 boats in it when we arrived late in the day.  We dropped anchor, set and snubbed the anchor and went below to get out of the blistering sun.  Two hours later, after a nice nap, I emerged to find every boat gone and we sole owners of what you see above. 

Our Anchorage South of Skradin offered emenities
not found at the ACI Marina Skradin

It was a lovely night.

The night before we had sailed up the Krka River as far as bridges would allow.  There we sought to anchor but when we arrived we found a refugee camp filled with desperate boaters anchored in wild disarray all waiting for admission at the ACI Marina there.  The river was littered with people, some of whom had been waiting all day trying to get a slip.  The anchoring was dangerous with fifty odd boats bobbing around, badly aligned and with bizarrely short scope on their chains.  We were concerned while manoeuvering through their midst that we might come to harm on people's anchoring.  

Quickly we vamoosed the area, a visual and aural disaster, and headed a scant mile and a half downstream.  There, in a thousand acre widening of the river we anchored with total protection.  All alone.

Next day we weighted anchor, motored half a mile to a little town, reanchored, dropped the dinghy in the water, rowed to shore and purchased groceries at a nice little store in a park, rowed back, hoisted the dinghy, hauled anchor and headed for Murvenjak where we anchored alone again.  

A guy can get used to this.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Scaling the Wall in Croatia

2013 07 09
 under sail somewhere north of Split and South of Sibenik

Somewhere on the Coast North of Split
Looking West (Into the Adriatic)
Finally we are finding tranquility in the HR (Hrvaskat Republic or Croatia as we know it).  It has been slow to arrive.  A difficult entry with Port Police at Cavtat, serial encounters with locals where the only point was theft by them from us and intense crowds of tourists built a wall of negativity between the HR and us.

After two weeks we have scaled the wall.  We avoid heavily touristic areas preferring quiet anchorages; we do not do business with Croatians unless necessary and then with our eyes open and our mouths at the ready to object and our feet ready to walk away. 

The scenery here still works magic.

Evenings have generated good times with boaters from all over Europe - Slovenia, Germany, Italy, UK.  But contact with Croatians is limited.   We figure this is a bit of a reaction to the tourism economy.  Bahamians too hold their economically important guests in contempt.  The tendency is to view foreigner visitors as just a source of money to be squeezed and discarded.

The sailing is nice, very North Channel Great Lakes except there is 300miles of it.  And the water is salt.  And everybody speaks Croatian.  And all the flags are foreign.

You know, it is nothing like the Great Lakes but the views remind us of home.

Our plan was to use Croatia as an Anchorage as we made our way north to Venice.  So far this has worked in spades and our accommodations each night have been grand.  We hope to see more on our return from Venice.

Monday, July 8, 2013

In the Land of the Hrvaskats - Unburdened by Worries of Refrigeration

2013 07 08
Lumbarda, Korcula, Hrvatska Republic

While in Montenegro our refrigerator quit.  It was a slow death preceded by days of the compressor running longer and longer during each cooling cycle until finally it just ran nonstop.

There was a leak of refrigerant somewhere in its copper tubing but this could not be found 
nor the refrigerant replaced.  Our much loved fridge was created in the era of R12 refrigerant, now widely reviled as a major cause of ozone layer thinning, cancer in rats and paedophilia.  

Short of it is that we cannot, despite herculean effort, lay our hands on any R12.  The new  refrigerant, R134, which does not thin the ozone layer or threaten the immune system of our increasingly fragile test rats, does not mix with R12 or so I read.  R134 may however still be guilty of inducing paedophilia; the jury is not yet in on that.

So for now we travel with no fridge.  This has not proved fatal.  When death of the old 
system was imminent we just cooked what was in the freezer and ate the cooked food on a slightly different schedule than originally planned.  This amounted to maybe four days of meals.  Had we lost everything in the freezer it would just not have mattered that much, except of course for the smelly cleanup that would have ensued.

Contrast our "small fridge" problem with a "large fridge" problem.  A boat we travelled with until a few days ago also had trouble with cooling.  Their ice maker broke.  Days later their generator failed.  This boat was stricken.  

A lovely catamaran sailed by two generous and exuberant Californians this boat had a large  
fridge with freezer, a large separate freezer and an icemaker.  To keep all of this volume cold the generator ran several times a day.  When the genset quit the only charging was the main diesel which needed hours and hours to kp the batteries supplied.  This couple had months of food on board.  Loss of the freezer would have been very expensive.  

To keep the batteries up to acceptable charge levels the skipper was rising at 0430 to start his diesel for the first of four charging sessions.  It was grim.  Fortunately this boat was able to obtain repairs to the genset at Porto Montenegro.

Thinking on it we are happy we did not succumb to the lure of such "amenities" as big 

freezers and multiple fridges.  Our friends were held captive by their generator and now 
travel with a unit that has been repaired but not properly.  Such worry to have to deal 
with and all that food at risk.

Sometimes travelling "poor" has distinct advantages.

We can replace the  fridge efficiently with a new compressor and evaporator from Germany.  Made by Waeco, a German company, the parts are readily available from our trusted German mailorder house found at www.SVB.de.  Amazingly the parts are much less expensive than in North America.

Croatia, despite being in the EU,  has not rationalized its customs laws and procedures yet 
although the various departments have all issued stacks of announcements of the new efficiencies.  In consequence our Croatian supplier of fridge stuff, the very efficient Frigomarine D.O.O. of Zagreb must regretfully charge me almost 50% more than if I purchased the same products in Italy or Slovenia.  We really like the guys at Frigomarine and recommend them if you need parts while in Croatia.  However they must live with the regulations imposed by their government and so it looks unlikely that we will do business.

For the next six to eight weeks we travel with no refrigeration, not the horror story you 
might imagine.  Bread, cheese, sausage, cured ham, eggs do not require refrigeration if consumed in a reasonable period after purchase and so we shop more often and make less use of bargains than we once did.  

Before we leave Croatia to return to Syracusa or Almerimar in Spain we will arrange for 
purchase of the new fridge parts from Germany and they will be in Sicily to greet us.

Purchasing Note:

When purchasing items in Europe you are usually best served out of Germany.  Their prices  
are less than any EU country including the UK.  Shipping costs from Germany are reasonable and the Germans deliver on time.  This is one of the good ways in which Germany emulates America.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

What Do You Do on a Sailboat on a Sunny Croatia Day? The Laundry of Course.

2013 07 07 
Lumbarda Marina, Lumbarda, Korcula, Croatia

It has been about three weeks since we have had access to water and electricity.  This means  no laundry done in that period.  It also means we were down to just about the last of the hundred gallons in our forward tank so it was time to replenish.  We like to keep the fifty gallon midship tank in reserve.

This wondermachine cost only €35 in Morocco and
does 5 lbs of laundry at one go
All the sailing women are fascinated with
and envious of Connie's washing machine
Getting water and doing laundry around here means taking a slip in a marina.  In Croatia this is a very expensive proposition usually costing in the range of €100 per night.  Not something we invest in lightly.  

We were overjoyed to find a marina in our neighbourhood, the island of Korcula, which cost only €50.  Immediately we sought a slip and here we are.  

Tactics were the usual: anchor off the marina the night before and then go in early so you gain benefit of the entire day of marina living: in this case 220 volt electric and fresh water.
The Machine Washes but not Dries -
Wringing Out and Hanging is Manual Labour

Connie got out her trusty washing machine, a delightful hardworking machine purchased in Morocco last year for only €35.  Here is my wife hard at the laundry.

While she does this I complete boat maintenance and if I finish early I trudge into town with the grocery list and make sure we have enough stuff to sustain us for the next week or two.

Croatia groceries are quite expensive compared to any country we have visited in the Med.  Quality is good however.  We hope the pricing issue is because we are in a touristic area and that when we get somewhere less so that prices will come down.  Problem with that is: we cannot find anywhere on the coast that is less touristic.

With labour done we would normally spend what was left of the afternoon in a cafe.  Due to the high cost in Croatia even cafe living is off the schedule.  If the fridge were working we could enjoy a cold beer.  Oh, well.  

Gotta love that easy cruising life.

Montenegro - Why You Should Go There for at Least a Week

2013 07 07
Lumbarda, Kucola, Croatia
This only costs €40 a week.

Nothing but mountains, protected bays and fjords and inexpensive but good quality cafes will greet the sailor who approaches the daunting coastline of Montenegro. The hardy of spirit will be rewarded.

People are friendly, officials courteous and efficient and the scenery spectacular in a way that is really second to none in the Mediterranean.

How to Enter

Sailing into Montenegran waters a sailboat will call on channel VHF 14 to “Bar Radio” and
The Entrance to Bar Harbour (that cracks me up)
announce that it has entered the country. No one will answer. You will then call on VHF 16 and be told to switch to channel 14 where someone will answer.

The monitors of Bar Radio will assign the sailboat a port at which the boat must conduct its entry procedures. Bar Radio, manned by friendly competent personnel, will ssigns the next port or entry which is enroute to the sailboat's announced destination, in our case Bar.

Bar is a port on the southern portion of the Montenegran shoreline and, if you are lucky, you will be assigned to it for clearance.

Wealthy visitors might be assigned to clear in at Porto Montenegro, a superyacht facility built by Canadian Peter Munk. Services at PM are a cut above the common weal but since we cannot afford them we have no idea about them.

Needless to say, if you have the money you want to clear in and then stay at Porto Montenegro.

At the other facilities: Bar, Zelenika, Kotor you tie up at the customs dock and approach the well identified customs facility. Colours are Blue and White. You check with the port police who are on station in the port and then, in order you attend the following:

Bank (to pay fees and taxes)
Harbourmaster to obtain your vignette
Port Police

It is a lot easier than it sounds and at both Bar and, on our way out, Zelenika, everyone was friendly and helpful. There is even a sign posted advising visitors that if they are treated rudely by police or officials they are to report the matter to a government website.

Fees, Prices, Currency

Our boat, which is under 12 metres in length, was charged €40 for a one week permit to ply Montenegran waters and we were assessed a standard €5 entry tax.

Montenegro pegs its currency to the Euro and Euros are used and accepted freely. Bank machines in Montenegro dispense Euros which is cool to know.

Prices here are well below Italian and Greek prices for food and drink. The local cheese and sausage is very very good.

Diesel fuel is €1.22 a litre, less if you can arrange duty free.  It can be a hassle to arrange but even at €1.22 you can't beat the price.

Cafe prices in Risan were €3.30 for a good sized glass of decent white wine and a 500 ml beer. In Kotor, a tourist trap, the same beverages cost about €5.

Stock Up in Montenegro Before Heading Off to Croatia

Having only been in Croatia for a week now there is no question that you should fill your boat to the gunnels with fuel, meat and cheese in Montenegro. Everything in Croatia is hideously more expensive than in Montenegro or Albania or Greece or Italy.

Anchoring and Sailing

Jaz: After clearing in at Bar we continued under sail to a little bay at Jaz, near to Budva, a tourist trap. Too near as it turned out. A good anchorage but full of holidayers and jetskis and people having fun, many of them hard bodied topless models. It was so unnerving we could only stay two days. Good holding for your anchor, good scenery both mountain and hard body. No services.

I think this is a shot of Jax but maybe not.  If so then
Budva on right and Trsteno on left
Trsteno: Just west of Jaz is a second bay with the little village of Trsteno at its head. None of those holidayers having fun are to be found in Trstena. Water is a bit deeper here but holding is good and it is very private.

Gulf Of Kotor: This is why you go to Montenegro. The Gulf of Kotor is an immense
Somewhere in the Gulf of Kotor
Just nestle up to a mountain and drop the hook
mountain walled gulf containing several cities and offering great scenery, good services, good provisioning and more. Just go there. It is not to be believed.

Risan: We were particularly taken with the tiny Port of Risan in the North East lobe of the Gulf. Here there are good cafes, old Greco Roman ruins to walk about if you have not already seen enough old useless broken stuff and a good grocery and post office. Good holding on a shelf at the head of the bay, anchor in 30 to 40 feet, protection from all prevailing winds.

Kotor: This town which anchors the Gulf is one of those famous walled cities. It is a fascinating walk around and you can anchor off the marina in soft mud. Kotor is crowded with tourists or so we thought until we broached the walls of Dubrovnik old town. Pretty much a rip off but not as bad as Dubrovnik so if you want to see a good walled city pick Kotor.

We also anchored one night at Port of Kotor across from the municipal marina. This had adequate protection with good holding but the anchorage is across from the large cruise ship dock and the next morning the habourmaster chased us off because he had two big ships coming in. No fault to the harbourmaster who was gracious and professional but it is a risk. Besides who wants to spend more than one night in a tourist trap?

Porto Montenegro

If you have lots of loose cash about your person you can treat yourself to a night or two at Porto Montenegro, a luxury marina for superyachts. To give you an idea of the company you will be keeping the marina offers duty free fuel and advertises “additional discounts for purchases in excess of 50,000 litres”.

This very well run marina seems to offer repair and refit services not otherwise found in Montenegro and I am sure nothing they do is underdone.

Why Only a Week?

When purchasing an entry permit from the Harbour master the basic unit of stay is the week. You buy a fixed number of weeks of stay starting at 1.

One week was enough for Connie and me who are touring full time.  Had we come here on vacation to relax from our busy jobs a month would not have been amiss.

Boarded by Thieves in Albania - This Time We Did Not Lose Our Dinghy

2013 07 07
Korcula, Croatia

Faithful readers will recall that we have trouble keeping dinghies on board our sailing yacht. For whatever reason the average lifespan of a tender runs to no more than two years for us. We have over the years tended to buy cheaper and cheaper dinghies, the last such purchase made last month to replace a dinghy lost to unfortunate waves.

The new dinghy is a winner. Being cheap it is also small and light which means we haul it on board every night with no effort. This consequence of being inexpensive saved us the loss of our new dinghy only a fortnight after we acquire it. Here is what happened.

Anchored just off the northern border of Albania, protected by the river delta formed by the river dividing Albania and Montenegro we took our beds early after a full day of sailing and motorsailing. Night fell gently and before retiring we looked for a while at the lights of nearby Velipoje, a resort town for apparatchiks in the old stalinist dictatorship that used to keep an iron grip on things around here.

Sleep came easily but did not last.

At 2345 (quarter to twelve), Connie and I were rudely awakened by a loud noise coming from the boat. Since we were asleep it would be silly to describe the noise but we both understood clearly something had struck our boat and struck it hard.

Sleep does not linger in such situations and we were fully alert and on deck in seconds. Nothing to be seen immediately. No foreign object near our boat, no sign of motion.  A wispish mist did not help our search.

Then, the gentle splash of a swimmer. And then, in the far mist, a small guarded light held by someone standing in a boat, being shone intermittently as a guide to ... well we figure to a lone swimmer who had launched from the very boat shining the light.

Some stupid ass swam to our boat and tried to climb aboard using the anchor chain. Not much of a waterman he was unaware that we keep our anchor chain generously snubbed, ie. We always secure the chain to a deck cleat using nylon line leaving the chain loose where it leaves the windlass.

The swimmer grabbed the chain and tried to climb. This brought four to six feet of chain raining down on his head. Poor baby. Suffering a hard knock to the head and having made a very loud noise and hard knock on the heat Knowing we had been alerted he took off trying to swim quietly to avoid detection. He almost made it.

With the aid of the binoculars we now knew there were three intruders and we knew where they were.  I stood quitely on deck pointing directly at their boat. Using binoculars they were quite clear to see. I wanted them to know they were blown.

I maintained this stance for probably half an hour my arm moving with them as they tried to surreptitously move out of sight. It wore at them. Being thieves they sought the protection of darkness; confrontation was not their thing. These were sneak thieves not bandits prepared to take what they wanted.

The intruders returned to shore and built a fire. Connie and I took up a watch in the cockpit, nothing defiant, just steadfast, or so we hoped.  We watched and we made sure they knew we were watching.

Finally the wearing broke.  They began yelling to each other and, unmistakably, yelling insults at us.  About 0200 the three of them moved off back towards Velipoje. We maintained our watch in the dark of the cockpit.  

At 0230 the inept young men returned, easily spotted by the small flashlight they continued to shine to light their way.  These were not high class thieves.  

When they had returned to their initial landing spot Connie brought up the 3 million candle power spot and I hit them with the beam of the spot and kept it on them for a good two minutes. It would have been longer but the battery was dieing on our lantern and I did not want to give any sign we were less than fully prepared.

Of course we were fully prepared: to run away. Had the little testosterones made any move towards our boat we were off.  Our plan to haul anchor and run away was settled early on.  Before that however we were prepared to do what we could to keep them off.  Having raised children we were well armed psychologically.

Finally about 0400 the trio departed for good. We returned to our beds our sleep interrupted and our stores of adrenaline squeezed dry.


We figure the thieves were not watermen of Albania, just disaffected youth seeking a thrill. They were used to easy prey and likely they did not fear consequences of an Albanian system which their parents controlled. Consequences of boarding a boat that was waiting for them exceeded their courage.

As Connie says “It could have happened anywhere”.

We still have our dinghy.    

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Sailing Albania

2013 07 07
Anchored on the Island of Korcula, Croatia

Really, You Don't Want to Sail This?  Are You Suuure?

Albania is a much maligned sailing destination. We spent a week here and enjoyed it immensely.  Our recommendation is to sail Albania. 

Officials are welcoming, prices are low, the coast is interesting and, if you keep an eye on forecast wind conditions the anchoring is safe. If you travel a bit about the interior by car or bus you will enjoy thrills and scenery never before enjoyed.

Here are our impressions from a week spent along the coast of Albania.

Our Only Caution: Watch Your Depth Sounder Not Your Charts

The charts are not terribly accurate.  In many cases they are not even guidelines.  In the south this does not matter as the coast is mountainous and bottoms drop off precipiously.  In the north however the coastline becomes marshlike and the bottom shelves, in some cases for miles offshore.  If you have sailed the Bahamas Banks then you will be familiar with sailing full speed in ten feet of water.  In Velipoje our chart indicated we were anchored a half mile offshore in 50 feet of water. Actual depth was 8 feet and had been for 500 metres.

Officials and Clearing In/Clearing Out Procedures

In Albania a yachtsman does not clear in in person.  Rather he hands his documents, passport, Certificate of Registry, insurance documents to a port agent. The port agent returns in half an hour with clearances and stamped passports.

Clearing Out: You must clear out of every port in Albania into which you have cleared. Contact the agent an hour before departure and he takes care of it for no additional chartge.

For this service (clearing in and out) the agent charges €50 in most cases although I have heard of one fellow in Vlore who is asking €60.
Sarande At Night

You should contact the agent before reaching port so he can meet you on the dock and guide you to your docking slip where he or she will help with lines. After clearing in the agent will assist with directions, travel arrangements and suggestions for things to see and do. In all a reasonable service even if it is forced upon you.

The fly in the agent ointment is that you must clear in and out of every port. If you wish to visit Sarande and Vlore and Shenguin you will pay three agents three separate fees.  This limits your number of city stays and if you have to choose we strongly recommend Sarande which is interesting and safe and offers good provisioning and transportation hub.

Boating Supplies and Hardware: None to speak of.

Restaurant Meals: Crew on Meredith dined out every evening. A full meal with two drinks each generally cost $20 to $25 for two people. These were full meals with appetizer but no dessert purchased at waterfront hotel restaurants.

Fuel: €1.35 a litre well below the Italian price of €1.82. These were honest litres not Greek minitank litres.

Fresh fruit and vegetables: in abundance at the fresh market and from street vendors located about every 100 metres along every street.

Grocery: The large grocery in Sarande was fully stocked. Prices were below Italian and Greek prices. Selection was good in all areas.

Hardware: There is a lot of construction going on in Albania so most hardware is available in good quality and quantities at prices below Italy and Greece. We used a hardware store in Grijokaster which was as well stocked as any Big Box store in North America.

Haircut: My haircut cost $3. Connie had a cut, style and wash for $10.


The only anchorage offering all round protection is likely on the island of Palermos. If conditions give you traditional north winds you have many more anchoring possibilities.

Grama: Unique and visually striking this anchorage is well worth a night or two.

Himare: Nothing too dramatic but pleasant anchorage off a beach. Decent protection from the north and east though south south east. No protection South through NW.. We chose Himare over Palermos as it seemed to us more attractive and it had no military helicopters buzzing us every twenty minutes.

Dirjake:This is a huge and striking pine forested salt marsh. Unexpected lowlands after two days of sailing along the striking mountain ranges of the Albanian coast. Good protection from north around to SSE. From here you launch a dinghy cruise of lagoon and forested coast.

Anchorages we tried and were less pleased with:

Palermos: This island anchorage offered good protection which we did not need the day we passed it by. Formerly a restricted military area the prohibition against anchoring has been removed and in fact no permission was needed at all. Someone should have told the military for as we approached the island a military helicopter took to the air and flew ever tightening low altitude circles around us. Since we did not need the protection of Palermos we just kept on going. It seems the military is less willing to tolerate reduction of Stalinist control than the government. What else is new.

Velipoje: This lovely anchorage is right on the northern border between Albania and Montenegro. A river acts as the natural delineator of the border and this river has formed a delta which provides good protection from waves from the north and north west through south south west.

Good holding but littered with rocks and maybe some construction waste.

Our only night in this anchorage we were boarded by thieves just about midnight. The thieves were thwarted but he experience was disconcerting. In the end it cost us a night's sleep and all of our adrenaline reserves but had our dinghy been in the water it would have been gone.

Docking:In Sarande the dock we used had electricity and water. It was free for two days and cost €10 per day after that.

Safety and Security

In Sarande we did not feel insecure anywhere at any time. We walked the backstreets, mingled with the people, did business on the streets.  We took minibuses around the countryside with no problems and nothing but good experiences.  

While sailing and anchoring we did not feel insecure and we were quite taken aback by the attempt of the youths in Velipoje to board our boat under cover of darkness. My wife, Connie says the event could have happened anywhere and I suspect she is right. This was not a concerted effort by practiced thieves rather it was more an expression of boredom and frustration common amongst youth in most modern economies.

This isolated event will not prevent us from returning to and enjoying Albania in future.

Some Port Agents we recommend:

Sarande: Agim Zholi, agimzholi@yahoo.com (port agent)


Orikum: contact Marina Orikum, marinaorikum@hotmail.it

Vlore: Roven Troqe, 00355(0)694785551
Festim Skenda 00355(0)692107927

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Albania and Montenegro Well Worth Visiting

2013 07 02
Zaton Veliki (Dubrovnik), Croatia

Whirlwind travels with no internet so here is a summary.  Details may follow.  Who knows?

Albania: loved it even though we were boarded by thieves in Velipoje. 

Montenegro: Loved it.