Dubrovnik and Favourite Islands

Mon 1 Jun 2015 08:54
Despite the immigration harridan and the daily cruise ship we adore Kotor.
Once the cruise ship of the day has left in the afternoon there are few
other tourists here at this time of year and we can enjoy this beautiful old
walled city with the locals, a handful of other yacht folk and a relatively
small number of tourists of the more expeditious kind. The lengthening
afternoon shadows accentuating the detail of the carved limestone decorated
buildings, the softer light heightening the sense of history and romance in
the narrow vehicle-less streets of this fortified city. The wooded
mountainside, almost vertical behind the city soars many hundreds of metres
skyward and perched atop this mountain are the remains of an ancient castle
accessed by two sets of roughhewn steps carved from the rock they wind
their way sinuously up the mountain. There are no safety rails or
balustrading just the occasional length of rope strung aside a flight of
steps to deter the climber from venturing too close to a crumbling edge with
a sheer drop of hundreds of feet. It was of course irresistible to this
scribbler of diaries, so late in the afternoon of our last day in Kotor I
set out to climb the one thousand nine hundred and forty two steps to the
summit. The climb started easily enough for the first couple of sections but
quickly steepened, my heart rate quickening as I counted off the first five
hundred crumbling treads. Small arched stone shrines started to appear, hewn
into the rock face presumably where the faithful prayed for the strength to
continue their climb. The nine hundredth step brought me onto a very large
ledge upon which a small church had been built in the 13th century. I am
not a believer but exploring it's cool and much decorated interior was a
good excuse to pause from my exertions. Only two other fools were attempting
the climb that afternoon and on reaching the summit and climbing the highest
remaining turret of the castle I was able to enjoy spectacular views up the
bay in solitude.

Next morning I checked us out of Montenegro at the Immigration office
(without being accused of making a BIG MISTAKE!) and we slipped our lines
and motored out into a light but cool northerly breeze through the Bay of
Kotor and out into the open Adriatic where we set our course for Croatia and
Dubrovnik. We arrived there in the early afternoon, had a look at Gruz
harbour but finding no suitable berth amongst the many cruise ships moored
there we sailed under the famous bridge and two miles up the Rijeka
Dubrovacka river to the ACI Marina where we were directed to a very tight
berth but coincidentally next but one to our friends Boyd and Debbie and
their Oyster Zebhday. Finally squeezed into this berth we then discovered
that there was no immigration here and they would not allow us to stay
without checking in and we could not leave the boat and taxi to the
immigration office, grrrr! So we squeezed out again back down the river to
Gruz, contacting the authorities by radio on the way who directed us to moor
side on between two vast cruise ships. Once in beneath the towering bows of
one of the leviathans the Harbour Master came to tell us that all telephone
and IT systems were down and we would have to stay on board. I managed to
wangle special dispensation for Boyd and Debbie who taxied over to have a
drink and a catch up, it was really good to see them again and show them
round Pamarzi. Then at 22.30 the Harbour Master told us that the systems
were now working and we could start the check in process, immigration,
police, port authority, vignette. On my late night return to the boat the
Harbour Master came over and stated in an uncompromising tone, " You go
NOW". "Where?" I replied. He shrugged his shoulders restating "You must go".
There was no anchoring allowed in Gruz and I certainly did not want to
negotiate the river and incredibly tight ACI Marina berth in the dark at
midnight. I pointed to a quay some way forward from the main dock only to
get another negative from my less than helpful 'friend' who said it was for
big ships only. We motored over to a small quay on the other side of the bay
but aborted the attempt to dock after a couple of goes. Now past the
midnight hour I was feeling tired and frustrated. "Bugger it we will moor on
that quay for 'big ships'," I told the crew. By 01.00 we were moored, I
slept fitfully waking around 05.30 and whilst having a cup of tea in the
cockpit I was accosted by the Harbour Master who was not happy! He at first
demanded 170 Euros for the few hours we had spent there but after
negotiation agreed no charge if we left right away. The crew were not happy
but they rose bleary eyed to cast off. We were all a bit fed up with
Dubrovnik at this point so decided to sail to one of our favourite islands
Miljet a few hours away and here we anchored in the peaceful lagoon at
Polace. Nine years since we were last here and little has changed. The
entrance from the south is rather fiord like and one sails through a narrow
channel between high sided tree clad islands to the lagoon, large enough to
take one hundred boats but today there were only three of us. This part of
the island is a nature reserve and the little settlement of Polace is named
after the remains of a Roman palace built in the 3rd century to be the home
of Agesilaus who was exiled here by the Emperor Septimus Severus. We lunched
at one of the three restaurants along the village quay on excellent fish
soup before returning to Pamarzi to catch up on some sleep. Back again to
the same shore side hostelry in the evening to dine al fresco on octopus and
goat cooked for four hours inside earthenware 'bells' that are covered with
hot charcoals. Very good it was to, the goat beating the octopus by a short
head. We returned to the boat gently gliding across the mill pond smooth
water in the tender, the crescent moon, Venus and Jupiter reflected on its
dark mercurial water.

A slow start next day for we had decided on making the short, trip three
hours or so southward, to Sipanska Luka on the island of Sipan. A small
shore side hamlet at the head of a deep bay. It had changed little from our
last visit nearly a decade ago, it was good to see that some of the charming
original stone buildings had been renovated and even the two or three modern
homes on the outskirts of the village had been successfully incorporated
into traditionally terraced and landscaped hill sides. A very shallow
fishing harbour this, too shallow for us to come to the quayside so we
anchored in eight meters in the centre of the harbour surrounded by
colourful local fishing boats tethered to the quay on three sides of us,
Pamarzi's eighty five foot mast towering over the scene. Supper was taken
ashore in a local kabana for, as my Dutch friend would say "two times
nothing", and very good it was to.

I had managed to book four nights berthing in Dubrovnik ACI Marina and it
was to there that we sailed next day arriving mid-afternoon and taking up
our berth side on on the riverside of the outer pontoon with the bigger
boats, much more comfortable than squeezing into the inner berths. Once
settled in we set off for the outrageously beautiful city of Old Dubrovnik.
Strolling through the gleaming limestone paved streets polished by the feet
of untold millions over the centuries was a delight and thankfully no cruise
ships were in so it wasn't too packed with bodies. We found a little
restaurant tucked away in a side street and dined on the famous Ston Oysters
followed by a traditional Croatian dish of beef which had been marinated for
two days and gently cooked for four hours, delicious we washed this lot down
with the restaurants wine tasting offer which was three different glasses of
wine each, a total of twelve wines from the Peljsac Peninsula. A lovely way
to spend our last night with Rob and Liliane. We were up at 06.00 next
morning to bid them farewell and safe journey before setting to with boat
and domestic chores in preparation for the arrival of Alec and June on the

They arrived as scheduled on Thursday afternoon and after settling them in
and taking them through some of the boats domestic systems we set of again
on the local bus to Dubrovnik old town which we knew they would enjoy and of
course with Alec being something of a wine buff we had to visit Renaissance
restaurant again. Branca made us very welcome, the food and wine excellent
and prices very reasonable and upon leaving she insisted on giving two
bottles of one of the wines we had enjoyed most. After settling with the
marina next day we set off northward visiting and overnighting in Sipan and
Miljet again and then sailing on to Korcula where we are berthed side on
inside the breakwater. Alec and June are entranced with this lovely old
walled town and have asked to spend another day here. The wind is forecast
to be very light today, little chance of sailing so I was happy to concur
with their wishes. Tomorrow a little more breeze is forecast so hopefully we
shall have a good sail to the Island and town of Hvar.