Back in early 2004, we had our boat in the Bahamas, we were doing volunteer work at the Exuma Cays Land and Sea park in the Bahamas. I was building furniture for the warden’s house and Bonnie was bending plastic pipe with a guy named Rick. Rick invited us and about 6 other couples to his boat for happy hour. Talk went around to what people were going to do, Rick and his wife Tsipy were going back to Ft Lauderdale and putting their boat on a ship going to Greece and then they were going on to Israel. And they said if any of us wanted to come, we were welcome to come along to help. Bonnie and I looked at each other (OH YEAH!) We arrived in Greece a month before the Olympics and made the trip to Israel.
The web site has a boat adventure called “The Odelia File” About our trip on Odelia from Greece to Israel, and the next year’s trip from Israel to Turkey. They brought the boat back to the US and the Bahamas A few years ago and we joined them for a month in the Bahamas.
We got another call from Rick. They’re going back to the med this summer.
“Montenegro to Turkey, wanna come?”
Like we would turn that down!!
The trip this time seems to be more stressful for Rick this time, At least it appears that way to us. Last time Rick told us that they were arriving at this hotel in Piraeus on this date meet up with us there. This time he has let me know more of the details and having me in on the details has probably caused him a lot more stress. The loading date of the vessel determines the unloading date of Odelia in the med. That has shifted several times, at one point it appeared fairly fixed and we were watching the flights and seeing the prices rise and fall on our flight tickets, We were talking to Rick and he put a hold on a couple of tickets for flights around the 16th of June. We started checking and flights that had been $1800 each the day before were now $3700 each! I started scrambling and by running what seemed like several hundred permutations of starting dates, ending dates, early flights, and late flights, we found a set of flights leaving Fredericton on the 17th of June arriving on the 18th in Tivat Montenegro. There was no way we could afford $8000 for tickets, $4000 was bad enough, but for a “once in a lifetime!” trip. We committed to the trip and bought the tickets for about $3750 for the two of us.
(Bonnie says I am going to have to be careful calling these “once in a lifetime” opportunities they are coming way along way too frequently! or I’m running out of my nine lives!)
Before Rick could commit to the tickets for the 16th the arrival got shoved back to the 14th! We were now 4 days out of sync and wouldn’t be there for the unloading, which I wanted to be.
Rick does not want to delay the ship by not being there (the charge is something like 18,000 euro a day!) Rick told us not to worry about it, they would anchor out and wait for us to arrive, which we dearly appreciated.
Since that shake up the schedule has been shaken up again. The ship is now scheduled for arrival on the 18th! The ship arrival or Odelia’s offloading on the 18th, which isn’t clear. But we will be arriving in Tivat in the early afternoon of the 18th. So we may get our wish and be there for the offloading.
From arrival we are going to be going to spend a day or two at Porto Montengro getting Odelia back alive from her run across the Atlantic. I was looking at the Porto Montenegro web site and they have a really incredible set of panoramas linked together (you will see a little icon with a helicopter, click on it and you will start a new panorama , as well as a beautiful movie
We’re OFF! (June 17th)
It was nice to be leaving late in the day. We had all day to get ready to check on things to double check the lists… It gave us a good night sleep, we had all day to worry about stuff so there was no sense loosing a night’s sleep. On the other hand we were ready to go so waiting around all day when we had everything all done was almost painful. We had everything done. The only thing that caused any hitch at all was getting our boarding passes. I tried to get our Air Berlin boarding passes and I didn’t seem to have any of the numbers they were looking for there were about 5 codes on the E-ticket that seemed to fit the window they wanted but after trying three of them none seemed to get me anywhere. After wasting a half hour to try to get tickets I realized the airport is about 5 minutes away so it was time to drive over and let them do the work.
Fredericton is NOT a busy airport. We walked directly up to the counter and gave the guy the eticket and asked if we could check-in. No problem we got all checked in and he gave us two boarding passes. None for the Air Berlin. When we asked about it Air Berlin was not in their system and he had no record of the flight and he couldn’t help us. Back to the house.
The fifth try at anything that looked like a flight ticket code cracked the case. We had our boarding passes on Air Berlin. Great! IT would have been nice if I had have tried all the codes before going to the airport but we have what we need.
We spent a few more hours waiting for the Paul to come get us. Paul our next door neighbour was going to take us to the airport.
We did a few more walks around the house looking for things to do, with little luck. Bonnie started weeding the garden. I caught up on a bit of reading.
Earlier in the day, the ship carrying Odelia had stopped dead in the water in the middle of a shipping lane and coasted south at less than 0.5 of a knot for 6 hours. NOT what I needed to be watching, I didn’t want to bother either Bonnie or Rick with this news. Fortunately they are underway again just 500 NM from Tivat at their cruising speed of 15 knots. They will not arrive in Tivat until after we arrive. So we will be able to help Rick and Tsipy unload Odelia.
It is full tourist season in Tivat and Rick and Tsipy were not able to extend their reservation at the current hotel (or get us a reservation). Fortunately the manager was able to get us a place at another hotel. We get to share a room until Odelia is afloat and ready for passengers. Great with us.
We are sitting at the Fredericton Airport watching the rain. Tivat’s weather http://www.wunderground.com/weather-forecast/M4/Tivat.html says the next week in Tivat is Low 30s sunny and clear for the next 7 days. Can’t wait!
We left Fredericton on time and that was a concern as both the Halifax and Toronto flights were delayed arriving. We only had an hour and eight minute connection in Montreal to catch the Lufthansa flight. We were really concerned when we landed and they dropped us at the little building out in the middle of the tarmac. We had to work our way through that building go underground to the moving sidewalks and then up into the main terminal. From there we had to go the full length of Montreal airport to get to gate 61 where the Lufthansa flight was boarding. It wasn’t really the full length of the Montreal airport there is a gate 62 that was on the other side of the glass wall.
We got to gate 61 and the seating area was pretty much full, and after sitting around all day and looking forward to sitting on a plane all night. Standing for a few minutes didn’t seem like a bad idea. We looked at our tickets and we were row 46 D and E. A plane that big, they board by row numbers and we had to be one of the first ones on, there can’t be many more than 46 rows. As a matter of fact there were 46 rows, “Back of the bus!” thanks Mr. Fredericton ticket agent. My fault I should have done the boarding passes at the house. Lesson learned, AGAIN.
Tivot has an interesting feature of having no street names (or at least no street signs). Rick’s directions were to get the taxi to call Drazen on his cell phone number and he will give you directions, fall back position is the restaurant called One at the Porto Montenegro Marina. No answer on the cell phone so the fall back left us waiting at the restaurant. It was 2:30 in the afternoon and we were tired but we had both slept a bit on the plane so we were not in really bad shape. Bonnie ordered a coffee, since it was so hot and sunny I ordered a beer, a local draft, pretty tasty. I turned on my laptop to see if the restaurant had WI-FI and it did, the waiter helped me get it going and when I looked at the clock on the desktop it was 9:30 am. It’s five o’clock somewhere! And it did feel closer to 2 pm than 9 am.
I was just going to order another beer when Rick showed up. This was a good sign. We had a beer together and I think Rick likes our packing as much as Paul is amazed by it. Bonnie is using her knapsack as a purse and we have one carry on each. I have some of my electronics stuffed in her knapsack, a GPS, a bunch of cables to connect it to the computer, and charger for the camera batteries. I have my laptop in the top of my bag so that it is easy for me to get it out for customs.
Other than that we have one carry-on each for six weeks of travel. Tsipy’s washing machine on the boat works, so we are fine. Rick and Tsipy are not dress up and go out people, so we don’t need fancy dress at all. Bonnie and I are both amateur crew on the boat. Rick and I will at one point cover every inch of the boat getting grease, oil and lots of other dirt on us.
We arrive at the apartment and it is comfortable and clean. Tsipy is there waiting for us. We get a chance to visit for a bit, go out for supper, have a fresh shower and crash.
The Seven Stars Yacht Transport people told us we were the first ones off the Spielgelgracht and we should be at the Marina office at 7am. We were picked up and taken across a ferry and down to the customs dock. The Customs people did not want us in their compound so we went across the street for a coffee while the broker figured out what was going on. After a while, the Load Masteress (the person in charge of the unloading of the ship), happened to be a woman, we teased that at least she wasn’t the load dominatrix and she smiled and said, “No, that’s my evening occupation!” She might have been teased about that before!
We were tucked between the superstructure of the ship and the large bunks supporting other ships. The bunks were about 12 feet up. We were able to board by ladder and check things out. Things appeared to be all in good shape. We got off and they started lifting the boat. Odelia had to be the trickiest boat to unload as it was in such tight quarters. They moved her out without a hitch and when she was level to the deck of the cargo ship ( about 30 feet above the water ) Rick and I boarded by stepping from the rail of the cargo ship onto the toe rail of Odelia and climbed up over the handrail and we were on board. Looking down was not a good option, as we were about 30 feet above the water with no net, and no harness.
Once we were down they continued to drop the straps and work them forward (pulling us back) once the straps were clear we started the engines and moved off slowly. The engines worked fine but the generator refused to start. Once we were tied to the customs wharf we had to wait for the customs officials. While we were waiting we tried to diagnose the generator problem, something was disconnected, once we had the DC breaker on, the generator started without an issue.
After we finally got the customs people to come on board. Normally the boats have a pretty easy passage today every boat was to go to the customs dock to be boarded and inspected. Five police and customs guys came on board. I think three of them did nothing but babysit me.
Once we were cleared by customs and we went to the Porto Montenagro marina. Beautiful place. The boat was pretty dirty from the trip so once we were tied up we started washing. We changed into T-shirts and swim suits and washed the boat. Every so often I would take the hose and stick it under my T-shirt and soak myself top and bottom including my hat. IT is VERY HOT here. Mid 30s at least.
So far the only problem is with the boarding ladder used off the stern to make it to the dock. The second extension isn’t extending. So it is about a foot short of the dock at the moment. Not a big problem. Rick and I will play tomorrow to see if we can diagnose the problem.
We went out to supper to the Hotel Montenegro Restaurant and had supper. Bonnie and I had the House Specialty, which was grilled vegetables with a variety of their meats, a small lamb chop, stuffed pork, grilled beef and a pan fried chicken. All of them were spectacular and at 18 euro for two it wasn’t a bad price either. From there it was a grocery run. We were practically the only people in the restaurant and the outside tables of almost all of the restaurants were empty when we went into the restaurant. When we came out, they were almost full. They eat after dark here, given the heat, I could see us doing that too if we lived here.
I’ve never denied and have fully admitted to the crime of being a heterosexual male. On the way back from the grocery store even Bonnie noticed that Rick and I were very outnumbered in the gender department. At one point I was waiting outside a deli waiting for Rick and Tsipy and I looked around There were NO other males on the street and there were LOTS of women, I counted 27 women and me. (Hog heaven!)
Before going to bed Rick pulled the Passurelle (the hydraulic boarding ladder) as close to vertical as he could and injected it with lots of WD 40
We were up at almost normal time. Rick put out the hydraulic ladder and it worked! There was define scaring on the bottom of extension and we are thinking that the guides that are inside the main part of the ladder are displaced and the unit will have to be serviced. Rick got it in Turkey and we are not far from the place where he had it manufactured, so we will just leave it at full extension as it will now only retract part way! Better to have it full out than all the way in.
Rick wanted to do a bit of a shake down cruise and anchor so we could test things out. We had a few possible anchorages so things looked good. We did a slow cruise into the fiord (it is called a fiord but it is actually a drowned river).
We passed the first narrow cut and circled two small islands one is a natural island and holds an ancient Benedictine Monastery, given the sunbather’s we saw on the island. I would say that it is no longer being used as a Monastery or the brother’s are much cuter and shapelier than they were in the old days.
The second island is a museum church, and is artificial. Folklore has it that the island was formed by the locals loading captured pirate ships with stone and sinking them. Every year on July 22, the residents of the town row out, and drop stones on the sunken ships. There was a ketch anchored near the Museum Church (Bonnie’s guide book says “Our Lady of the Rock” church), with people swimming and playing in the water.
We motored slowly around the islands to allow a cruise ship to pass through the small cut and get ahead of us on the way to Kotor. When we got to the turn to go down toward Kotor there was a cruise ship coming out so the first cruise ship, the Costa Classica stood by and we passed her. Rick and I saw a spot we liked as an anchorage so we thought we would anchor and then dinghy in. We tried anchoring and it had been a while since I’d done anchoring on Odelia so my first attempt was a bit wild. I put out way too much chain before I finally got it stopped, over 250 feet. My second attempt I did a better job but we still couldn’t get the hook to bite. We declared the mud on the bottom too soft so we picked up and headed closer to Kotor. We looked around and decided that with one cruise ship in port and the Costa Classica still anchoring and putting down it’s tenders the very small town would soon be filled with two helpings of cruise ship tourists. Not a pretty sight, so we took pictures of the walled city turned and headed back toward our anchorage near the Porto Montenegro
Kotor is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. An ancient walled city on the side of a mountain. Very beautiful.
On our way out the ketch was gone and we anchored beside “Our Lady of the Rock”, had a little drink. I had a Gin and tonic with Rick and it is actually a much better drink than I remember, very refreshing on a hot day. Rick, Tsipy and I went for a swim. Bonnie is not a great swimmer. I swam around the boat and the crawl was not a motion my shoulder was going to stand so I dog paddled my way around. Once I got around the front of the boat I just lay on my back and let the current take me to stern. Bonnie usually watches me as I swim to make sure I don’t drown. As I floated I noticed her and “stood up” to skull just to keep my head above water so I could talk to her as I went. The top of my body was lovely and warm. The knees were a little cool and the feet were COLD! Rick did a dive off the bow and it was COLD at the bottom of his dive.
After our swim it was time to test the systems and load up the generator. We cranked up the AC in the two state cabins, Tsipy and Bonnie did two loads of laundry, everything with a battery was being charged, and Rick flushed the watermaker and put it to work to fill the watertanks. Everything seemed to be going well.
We spent the night watching the sun change the mountains and churches, although I was surprised that the churches stayed as consistant a color as they did, I expected the light to soften and bring up different colors in the stone. The mountains turned a very pretty pinkish rose color as the sun set. Bonnie and Rick have been teasing me about the number of pictures that I have been taking. The Microsoft Image Composition Editor is a great tool (and FREE!) for stitching panorama’s together. Just drag a bunch of overlapping images together and it does ALL of the work. Unfortunately it is very easy to generate images in the 75-100 Megapixel range, putting one of those up on the website can ruin your WHOLE day.
I’ve taken probably a few hundred pictures so far, most are destined for playing with panoramas. Sometimes I will take a sequence of 14 or more pictures for stitching together. I did a 14 picture sequence around the mountains and the churches. When I did it the panorama didn’t turn out really well but when I just stitched the last four together it ended up being a nice picture. It is a bit of a disk space hog but just before I left my usual supplier of computer bits had a 3 Terabyte drive on sale for $189. One of my mistakes during our RV trip around North America was taking pictures at less than the maximum resolution to save on disk space. Disk space is cheap compared to what it costs to get to the place to take the picture again.
Going to bed, Bonnie asked if I could hear something in the bathroom. I did and it was a sucking sound coming from the shower drain! I showered coming out of the water on the back swim platform so no water had been down our drain yet. We called Rick and asked if there was a grey water pump running. He went forward and checked out the sump tank (which resides under the galley supply locker that is under the galley floor. Coming from the US, you can guess how full the supply locker was. It took a few minutes but indeed the pump was indeed running empty and it was VERY warm. Thank you to Bonnie’s ears.
We were anchored in about 40 feet of water with our stern in 80 to 90 feet. Most of the chain we had out was hanging vertically off the bow. We had almost no wind all night so Odelia didn’t even do much beyond rotate on the chain with the tide.
Today was a short cruise to get us a little way down the coast so we could jump to Greece. We were looking on the Lonely Planet and Albania is not really ready for the full court press of tourists. Rick had talked to a number of people who cruised in Albania. Some loved it, but some found it a little bribe ridden. Rick was looking in his cruising guide and there are still marine mine fields. They are supposed to be all disabled but no anchoring is allowed. Sounds like a pass to us. I’m really not ready to deal with mines and Rick has even less interest in them.
The Austrian’s had a naval base in the Kotor Bay at the end of the 1800s. Yugoslavia expanded them a lot during the Soviet era. Tivat has a couple of Russian submarines on display. They are in the process of cutting through the ballast tanks and pressure vessel so that you can tour them. On our way out we were a little more observant of the Soviet era infrastructure left behind. There were lots of interesting facilities. One of the most interesting to me was three huge holes cut into the side of the mountain. They are currently unguarded and look in disrepair, but I bet they were really cool at one time. I was guessing they were placed for subs to disappear inside the mountain.
From there we made our way out of the bay by running a route using the autopilot. Rick had made the route he wanted to travel and once we were clear of the narrow part of the harbor it was a matter of hitting start route and from then on the GPS would give us an alarm saying we arrived at the next corner and the Autopilot asked if we were sure we wanted to change course. Two buttons later we were on the new course. We did that all the way down to Budva. Odelia is running well.
Once we got to Budva, another serious tourist hotspot. This one has lots of resorts including row upon row of sun chairs, jet ski rentals, and para sail pullers. One of which seems to be enjoying going in circles around our anchor.
Rick and I took a run into town to get internet access and I did a quick update for the website and checked my email. All’s well other than the club is not going go be able to launch the docks or put the pumpout station in this weekend, given the height of the wharf, this is around a month later than last year.
Today was Shabbot so Rick and Tsipy were having a day of rest. I was up at my usual 5 a.m. And the internet which was spotty all afternoon was humming. I did a lot of website stuff including putting up a bunch of pictures etc. By 7 am people were starting to get up and check their email and the service was getting overloaded, and that ended the good internet service.
Bonnie and I took the dinghy into town and we walked around the walled city. The first layer of the walled city is all shops and museums. Mostly clothing and jewelry shops, I looked in a marine store but it was mostly fishing, a lot of scuba stuff, and the odd boat bit. There were a number of crew uniform places to fit out the luxury yacht crews in the area. We walked around the streets designed for walking and covered most of them. Then went up to the museum which gave us access to some beautiful views and the wall. We could walk all the way around the wall of the city and did. There had definitely been a party or two in a couple of the corners of the wall and the smell was strong.
We made our way back to the boat and Rick was very frustrated with the internet service on the boat and was unable to get a clear picture of the weather for the overnight (about a 22 hour run) trip we are planning. Rick and I are both of the same mind when it comes to the trip. If we go out with a good weather forecast and get our butt’s kicked because of a bad weather that’s life, if we go out into a bad weather forecast and get our butt’s kicked, that’s dumb.
We’ve had our butts kicked enough from bad forecasts, we don’t need to ask for a kicking.
While we were in at the Old Fisherman’s Pub having a beer (to pay for the internet service) I was people watching. It is so rare to see really overweight people here that it really brings home how bad our obesity problem is in North America. If I sit in a mall at home and watch people go by it doesn’t take long to see quite a few really obese people. I sat in the pub though a beer and we split a cheeseburger and fries while Rick worked on the computer and we talked about a variety of things. While I did I watched the people. I think I saw one maybe two obese people.
The weather looks good for tomorrow. There is a bit of wind south of us, but it is only 15 knots for a short time. The winds coming behind us are less. Sea state is less than 2 feet. So it looks like we are good to go. The forecast for tomorrow is even better so if things are bad we will pull out at Ulchen in southern Montenegro and then continue to Greece the next day.
People are getting up, time to go.
On Friday when we arrived we asked the Customs people if they were going to be open on Sunday so we could check out. “No Problem, open 8 O’clock”
When they found out that we were staying on anchor they customs guy said but you need 3 copies of this form and if you are not a the marina it’s a 60 euro exit tax. And the police weren’t there yet. “But I’ll tell the police you are at the marina and you give him a little gift! No tax.” Baksheesh is alive in well in Montenegro!
We were gone from Montenegro. Rick had been researching Albania and there are mixed reviews. Some cruisers say that it is very nice, people are friendly, others are less than happy, then there is the issue of MINE FIELDS! The mines are supposed to be disabled but you aren’t allowed to anchor in the country. So it would be marina’s only. If you can’t anchor maybe those mine fields aren’t quite so cleared. So we decide to do an overnighter and bypass Albania. During the night we came across a couple of places where there were areas marked on the charts that said “Dangerous area due to mines and not to cross except in designated areas. There were boats inside of us (we were skirting the outside of the mine field) that didn’t have any problems. We were chickens and stayed well outside the field. There was a fair amount of shipping and cruise ships in the area. Rick installed the new broadband radar which works really very well, I was quite impressed compared to my old technology radar. Very clear, very little clutter and you can see well close in to the boat. The other really nice toy was an AIS receiver so he gets continuous reports on his nav display of all the commercial shipping and larger pleasure craft, he also has a Class B transponder, which tells everyone with a receiver where he is, his speed and course. The nav software also automatically calculates the closest point of approach, and when. So last night when we saw a ship looking right at us 7 miles away we could check the AIS CPA calculated by the nav software we could see that we were safe and the ship would pass safely by 60 feet away. 60 Feet, Ok when he was 2.5 miles away I changed course 10 degrees and increased that 60 by quite a bit before turning back on course.
We were doing 4 hours on and four off with bonnie and I on one shift and Rick and Tsipy on another. It took us almost a full 24 hours to make the trip. Rick arrived a little early for his 8 am shift and told us to go to bed so I crashed in the main salon and awoke when the engine’s dropped in RPM when he slowed to come into the marina at Gouvia, just north of Corfu. We are allowed to enter here and then go to the New Port for customs and immigration. When it was all done Rick was pleasantly surprised the four of us, with the boat have a cruising permit for Greece for 6 months was about 45 euro. The service was friendly and the people were efficient. Compared to Montenegro where it cost over 380 euro for a ONE WEEK cruising permit, 45 euro for 6 months sounds pretty good, and I’m not sure that covered the baksheesh to get out.
We went from the customs dock to the old fortress at Corfu. Bonnie and I walked around while Rick and Tsipy got a Beer and internet service “Free wifi”. We walked up to the light house and it was a spectacular view. It was a very hot and very vertical walk to the light house but we made it and took a few (ok maybe not a few) pictures, before joining them for a beer and a bottle of water. The bill was 14 euro, maybe not so free wifi. We were thinking that Greece was going to be on the expensive side but on the way to the bus station we stopped for lunch at a local eatery and got lunch and two waters for 5.20 euro, and they had free wifi. The bus cost us 2 euro each and brought us back to the end of the road going to the marina. There is a AB grocery store across the street from the intersection to the marina so Rick left us to go to the port authority and Bonnie and I went to the grocery store with Tsipy. We got a lot of vegetables, 2 six packs of beer for a little over 32 euro, neither bonnie or I though that was a bad deal. Tsipy is a vegetarian and does all the cooking. She cooks meat for the rest of us.
We have a bad stretch of wind forecast until Saturday so it looks like we may be staying in Corfu for a while.