6 BTOSC members had a great week competing in the Beneteau Blue Cup Regatta, in Greece, in the first week of November. Some good results in the racing, sunny weather, food, wine, and the magic Greek scenery made for an unforgettable trip.
This was a two-yacht BTOSC cruise, with a crew change on one of the yachts after the first week.
The idea of sailing in Croatia had been discussed in the Club during 2007 and two Club Skippers were keen to do this trip. In the end we had two boats, for two weeks with three crews – one boat changing crew midway. With options of June or September, the latter was eventually chosen because it received the most support from club members
The yachts, a Sun Odessey 42.2 called “Wendy” and a Bavaria 34 called “Sebastian” (what an unusual couple!), were chartered out of Kastella Marina, near Split Airport.
The plan was to spend the first week sailing down through the islands to Dubrovnik, where “Sebastian” would change crew, and then sail back to Split during the second week, taking in the sights that were missed on the outward leg. In the event, it did go more-or-less like that.
Everyone arrived safely at Split and we took over the boats; there were a few things that the skippers had rectified before accepting them. Commercial coding in Croatia currently lags behind that of the EU and life rafts aren”t mandatory, nor are jackstays and the lifejackets were of the bulky foam variety. We had a very pleasant meal at the marina – the first of several for the crew of “Wendy”!
The next morning we got away in a reasonable breeze and pleasant sunshine; the smaller yacht getting away first (a general feature of the holiday!). We were heading for Milna on the Northern end of the island of Brac.
Halfway out to the Island, a weather front came through, delivering 35 knots plus of wind and “horizontal rain”. With little visibility and just a scrap of sail, it was time for the engine and navigation lights!
Meanwhile, “Wendy” was also in the channel and additionally experiencing the first of her engine/gearbox problems. She had to sail back to Kastella, where the wind died as she approached the marina; she eventually berthed with the aide of a RIB and the crew retired to the marina restaurant again (the usual seats?).
“Sebastian” arrived in Milna on the other side of the front but found it very busy – one marina was full and a space was eventually found in an out-of-the-way corner of the other marina – much to the suprise of the marina official when he found that we had berthed there without his help!
The next day both yachts set off for St Klement island off the Northern end of Hvar Island, opposite the tourist town of Hvar. We both berthed in the Palmizana Marina in the late afternoon and took the ferry to Hvar for a very pleasant evening – one of only three we would share (excluding the first and last nights).
The following day both yachts set off for Korcula on the Island of the same name. “Sebastian” was well on the way when a message arrived from “Wendy” to say that they had had a recurrence of their engine problems. “Wendy” then headed for Vela Luka on Korcula, where a rendevous with an engineer had been arranged (turned out to be a Croatian hunk by at least one account!).
“Sebastian” pushed on for Korkula, but as the wind faded it was back to the engine for the afternoon in a pattern that was to become familiar. On arrival Korcula was full so it was a quick trip across the channel to the Peljiasac Peninsular and an evening in Orebic.
In a renewed attempt to cruise more-or-less in-company, the yachts set off the next day for Polace on the Island of Mljet, which is a Croatian National Park. On arrival the restaurateurs, each with their own jetties, encourage yachts to tie up at their restaurants by holding up their “lazy lines” (a feature of Mediterranean mooring). Joseph was successful in getting our attention and whilst the food was of limited choice (we were lucky that it suited us), the service was excellent! Day five and we were heading for Luka on the Siapan, another of the Elephite Islands. As usual (by now), “Sebastian” had a head start and secured the last of the berths on the harbour wall at Luka. “Wendy” was obliged to sail on to Slano, on the mainland, where she ended up secured alongside a “lights and bouys support vessel” (which, the skipper noted, did not avoid them being charged for mooring!).
The next day was on to Cavtat, South of Dubrovnik and close to the airport. Everyone was able to get pictures of the historic, walled town (An UNESCO World Heritage site), before berthing Mediterranean-style at the town key in Cavtat – a location that would have been unavailable in June, owing to the number of “Super Yachts” that use it!
After a tour of Dubrovnik in the late afternoon, we had what was to be our last meal together as a combined crew, until the last night.
The next day “Wendy” started back for Split, but “Sebastian” had a lay day waiting to complete her crew change. Taking advantage of this “Wendy” headed for Luka on Saipan to see what she had missed.
The following day “Wendy” continued on to Pomena at the North of Mljet – the lobster looks nice! “Sebastian” took a short hop to Dubrovnik marina – probably the most mediocre meal of the holiday.
The next day began cold and wet for “Sebastian” , with a little wind at first but soon fading to leave us chugging along in the murk, trying to catch up to Wendy. “Wendy” had set off for Korcula, but not before booking a berth for “Sebastian” in Pomena at the same restaurant – where the steak was excellent too! “Wendy” was successful in getting a berth in Korcula, but the getting into it was less straightforward (in fact it involved forwards and backwards!)
Day 10 -11
The sailing on the tenth day was some of the best that we enjoyed – “Wendy” pushed on for the Island of Viz and “Sebastian” made a repeat visit to Orebic (the new crew having not previously been there and the skipper having been there many times).
“Wendy” spent two days on Viz, in different harbours, and “Sebastian” returned to St Klements, to give her new crew a look at Hvar (Above).
The penultimate day saw “Wendy” complete her tour with a visit to Milna on Brac and “Sebastian” headed off for another walled town – Trogir on the mainland; at one point “Wendy” had hoped to join her, but changing winds altered that plan.
The two weeks were rounded off by a very interesting berthing in a crosswind of 25 knots, gusting to 35 knots plus when we returned to Kastella!
It was a great holiday – a combination of sightseeing, challenging sailing, relaxing sailing and excellent food and company! The old walled towns of Dubrovnik, Korcula, Vis and Trogir were not to be missed. Then there were the small bays of Polace, Pomena and Luka where you could just step off the boat into a local restaurant with delicious fresh fish and tasty steaks. Highlights for “Wendy” included mooring alongside the ship that maintains the Croatian Light Ships in Slano and parking illegally on the Customs & Excise mooring in Vela Luka!
Both yachts covered over 300 miles in total with wind speeds from 0 to over 35 knots, though the weather and the forecasts were a bit hit and miss (another feature of the Mediterranean). We would set out with 30knots then within 2 hours we would be going nowhere, re-reading the daily forecast warning of winds of 35-50knots in the Adriatic!
So it was on the last day – returning from Milna to Split. The forecast of “Near Gale” was greeted with all round derision as we hung around waiting to get onto the fuel pontoon. As we came out of the bay the wind speed gathered pace and we spent the next 4 hours battling with wind speeds of over 35knots! On “Wendy” Colin was the hero of the day though, dodging through the fleet of returning yachts and reversing into the marina and onto our mooring in gusts of Force 8!
On “Sebastian” , we were amazed by the incredible scenery. The harbours and quays, where we spent the night, were all strikingly picturesque and different. The views made even the motor sailing tolerable! Finally, we will never forget that “horizontal rain” on the first day.
“We had a good holiday, which was well organised by Andy Shrimpton and supported by Colin Jarvis skippering the second boat. The engine failures on Colin’s boat were handled well and calmly by him and the crew, who on the first occasion got us safely back to the marina for repairs despite 20 Knot winds dropping to 0, and all boat movement was lost as we approached the marina. On the second occasion, we were setting off to leave in the morning, and after a few minutes of pandemonium and the help of a neighbouring boat we were able get lines back to the shore and re-moor. Thankfully the next engineering fix lasted the holiday.”
One of the BTOSC Skippers has been organising club cruises to Norway for a few years. With an upbringing in Norway, and his ability to speak Norwegian coupled with his love of the area has made him the ideal person to organise such events. Many members have been on these cruises and found out for themselves the beauty of the Norwegian coast and experienced the friendliness of its people. I have always meant to go on one of these cruises but have never quite made it but this year maybe that it could be the last year he would be able to organise such events so I thought I had better sign up while I still could.
The flights were arranged well in advance so we all got a good deal with Ryanair. More particularly a good charter rate had been negotiated, obtaining a bigger boat for less money! The crew first met at Standstead Airport and after a quick top up with duty free which hopefully would see us through the 10 day trip (Alcohol is a little expensive in Norway!) we boarded the plane for the mid-morning flight to Torp. There we were joined by the last member of the crew who had flown in from Manchester.
We then made the short minibus journey to Sandefjord, a delightful town that use to be a centre for the Whaling industry where our boat was waiting for us on the town jetty, tied up next to a restored Whale Catcher, complete with harpoon gun!
“Trans Ocean Express” was not in fact a Container ship, but a Benetau Oceanis ‘Clipper’ 473. She was well equipped with all mod cons plus a lot of extras that you only find on a private charter yacht. Her name sounds impressive on the VHF and harbour masters do tend to query the length and draft sometimes! John knows these waters well and had a full itinerary planned for our nine day cruise, so without delay our gear was stowed and it was off to explore the coast of Norway.
Our cruising area was the SE coast, which is in an area known as the Skagerack. It is made up of thousand of Islands, countless isolated rocks and many deep fiords and sounds. It is a popular area for sailing and holidays. I am sure there are more boats than people. Many charming small towns and villages complement the beauty of the seascape. The geography means that it is often easier to travel by boat than by car. It is boat heaven, during the summer anyway! The combination of rocks and pleasure boats may account for the 5375 shipwrecks recorded in Norway during 2005. Hopefully most of these were minor incidents.
Our cruise took us to Stavern, Kragerø, Lyngør, Tvedestrand, Arendal, Grimstad, Lillesand, and Risør. We did some interesting rock hopping navigation through some very narrow but very deep inshore channels. These passages gave some beautiful views of the Norwegian coast and countryside and access to small hamlets tucked away in virtually rock pools. On the chart some of these passages seemed impassable but local knowledge saw us through and took us to some amazing places.
A social highlight for some crewmembers was our stop at Arendal (Wasn’t this mentioned in Lord of the Rings?). Our visit coincided with a Harley Davidson convention. There were almost as many as Harleys as there were boats and that is saying something in this part of the World. The small town was awash with bikers and live music, all clustered around the small harbour; a great atmosphere and contrast to the normally quiet towns along this coast. Norwegians certainly know how to enjoy themselves.
For others the visit to Grimstad, home to the famous Norwegian playwright Ibsen, was a highlight. Whilst drinking in the Café Ibsen a striking resemblance between a crewmember and the great man was alleged?
For most of the cruise winds were generally light and S’Westerly and on the nose of course. Despite its Northern latitude this coast is normally pleasantly warm in the summer but like England temperatures were down a bit this year. Towards the end of our cruise as we headed back towards Sandjeford the winds picked up giving us a really good downwind sail in F5/6. We stormed into Stavern for an over night stop with wind still increasing and visibility decreasing. We were followed in by some yachts which were abandoning an off shore yacht race due to the high winds and huge seas which soon build up in this area. After doubling all the mooring lines we weathered the worst of the storm in a local restaurant and celebrated what was to become the last night of our cruise.
The next day sea conditions made it unwise to attempt even the short offshore passage back to Sandjeford, so it was agreed with the owner to leave “Trans Ocean Express” in Stavern which made for a slightly longer road journey back to Torp and our flight home.
The crew were also introduced us to the delights of Norwegian cuisine. It is true that some crewmembers did not fully develop a taste for fish balls. The reindeer balls were more to my taste but surprisingly small!