Dalmatian Coast 2007

CHAPTER B

Note: At the bottom of this webpage there is a map that shows in detail the route of “Faneromeni”.

June 6, 07 “Faneromeni” departed from Gouvia Marina in Corfu (Kerkyra - Kέρκυρα) heading for Albania at 08:40 with passengers Naxos, Mavrouka, and Pissa and crew Scott Mores. The weather was good and the morale of crew and passengers high in expectation for this trip to places unknown. After about 8 nM we entered the channel that separates Corfu and Albania. I called the Sarandë (Ayioi Saranta - Άγιοι Σαράντα) Harbor Master and advised him that we were on our way. He himself had given me his mobile telephone number when we talked from the Corfu branch office of the A1 Yacht Trade Consirtium S.A. The Harbor Master speaks Greek, being of Greek descent, so our communications were easy and friendly. He told me that he is expecting us and that I should call him again when we have reached the harbor’s entrance. And so we did. Finally we arrived at the Albanian port of Ayioi Saranta (Sarandë or Saranda in Albanian) at 10:40 Greek time (9:40 local), after a crossing of 15 nM from Gouvia Marina in Corfu. Ayioi Saranta is an Albanian coastal city in Northern Epirus.

The city’s current name derives from the Byzantine church of Ayioi Saranta (Forty Saints the ruins of the church are still on the hill overlooking the city. It was a church of the proto-byzantine period. It had two rows of columns in the interior and arches along the length of its sides. It is reported that there were 40 churches in its environs, one for each Sebastian martyr. A small Greek community is still there. Greek schools are still operating as well as Greek churches. Translated from the Greek Wikipedia.

“Faneromeni” moored-to in the Port of Ayioi Saranta.
Albania, June 2007                        (Archives of Nikos E. Riginos)


This harbor is unlike any other harbor that I have encountered. In the open gulf where the city is located they have built a breakwater on one side and this is the quay of the harbor. All the official buildings serving Ayioi Saranta (Sarandë) as a port of entry/exit to Albania are located there. The other boats in the harbor were two small ships that ply the Ayioi Saranta-Corfu route, one Albanian, the other Greek. In addition there was another small cargo ship that was unloading. There was no other craft, pleasure or fishing. Not even a rowboat. On approach we were directed to the section of the quay that was fenced off to keep people away. All the official buildings were within this fenced in section. We saw a fair number of officials, at least twenty, gathered in a group waiting for us. They were all wearing uniforms, with the exception of one person dressed in civilian clothes. We threw them a mooring line that was caught by the fellow in civilian clothes. We threw a second mooring line, from the other side. The same fellow ran and caught this, too. The official representatives, all in a tight group and all very serious, were waiting for the mooring to be completed. After we deployed the passarella and I had stepped ashore, an official approached me and introduced himself as the Harbor Master with whom I had been communicating. He was very friendly. He explained that the rest of the officials belonged to the Coast Guard, Police, Customs, and Security. They had to board the boat to check it in and to complete the formalities. There were about twenty of them. Add to this the fellow in civilian garb. He introduced himself as the Agent who would take care of all the bureaucratic paperwork. Then all these people started climbing aboard the “Faneromeni”.

And thus started a procedure whereby the Agent, and only the Agent, filled in endless forms. Naturally I told Scott to offer refreshments and beers. After a while all the glasses we had on board were used and all our beer and refreshment supplies were exhausted. And the supplies we started with were hardly meager! All the “guests” were very serious but polite. Upon completion of the procedures, which lasted no short while, the agent told me that the necessary documents would be ready this evening and I was to go by his office to pick them up. Fortunately his office was very close by. The Harbor Master presented me with a substantial bill and told me that I must go to his office for some additional formalities. Needless to say, the Agent also had to be paid for his services.

When the rest of the state representatives left I followed the Harbor Master to his office. He filled in more paperwork and he explained that when we want to depart we must must notify the authorities so that they can come inspect the boat again. Only then would they issue the departure permit. I immediately declared to him that I planned to sail away at 07:00 tomorrow morning and that I do not want to delay the departure. So I would like to complete all the formalities this evening in order to depart first thing tomorrow morning. Further, to convince him, I declared that I would not be returning to Greece, so I do not need an exit clearance, and would be going to another harbor within Albania. He answered that unfortunately this clearance procedure cannot be omitted, but I should not worry because all the officials will be at the boat tomorrow morning at 07:00 sharp. Before I had even digested what he was saying, he added this bomb shell: while we are in Albanian waters we are strictly forbidden to use the dinghy! It is, of course, self-evident that the dinghy is vital for many operations such as going ashore when the boat is anchored off, especially if you have quadrupeds. Also for recreational purposes––when the boat is in a harbor you normally use the dinghy to go outside the harbor to a nearby beach for swimming.

When I began planning the trip to the Dalmatian Coast via Albania, I was concerned about safety issues. This was due to two reasons. First, there was a widespread belief that piracy was rife in Albania and that armed groups attacked and robbed passing boats. Perhaps these conditions were prevalent in past years, but recent information, which I gathered and cross-checked, did not indicate that it was so in 2007. So I was convinced that this serious concern was not an issue. Second, there was very limited nautical information about Albania available. Charts for the area are few, very general, and of a small scale. The only Cruising Guide I found for the region was the Adriatic Pilot Croatia, Slovenia, Montenegro, east coast of Italy, Albania by Trevor and Dinah Thompson, fourth edition. The extent of information on Albania provided in this guide is a mere 7 pages. Compare this with the 506 pages of information on Greece in the Greek Waters Pilot by Rod Heikell, ninth edition, a guide that I recommend without any hesitation. Accurate nautical information was a major issue. Because of this I now asked the Harbor Master if he could find additional Albanian charts for me. He promised to do what he could. I also asked the Agent for the same thing. Unfortunately neither of them were able to find charts. As a result the cruise through Albania was made difficult by lack of nautical information, in addition to other problems.

Upon my return to my caïque form the Harbor Master’s office I saw that she was surrounded by a crowd of children who were swimming nearby to see this curious boat. Let me point out that we had moored, as directed by the authorities, in a fenced area of the quay which was strictly guarded by armed policemen, so it was impossible for anyone to approach “Faneromeni” from the shore. I spoke to the children in Greek, many of them understood, some were Albanian of Greek descent and others were Albanian who had lived with their parents in Greece. By talking to them I apparently gave them encouragement and more children joined them. Soon an unbelievable number of children were swimming around the caïque, and naturally every single one of them wanted to speak with her skipper. It was a mad house! But this did not last long. Uniformed guards soon arrived and very sternly ordered the children away. The poor kids had to comply to these “orders from above.” From that time on, an armed guard was positioned right next to the “Faneromeni” with orders to keep away any “invader” from the sea.

Almost right next to the quay where we were moored was a large beach. Many swimmers were there. Since it was very hot I went there myself for a swim. As soon as I got there I met a family who spoke Greek. I talked with them and they said that they were Greek-Albanian and live in Ayioi Saranta, where many people of Greek descent live. They explained that many more Greeks used to live here in the old times. They then asked if I was from the caïque with the large Greek flag and were very pleased when I confirmed this.

In the evening I went ashore to stroll along the waterfront. There were many strollers and many young people. Along the shoreline there is nice paved walkway, only for pedestrians, with many benches and islands of green. Everything well taken care of. Many vendors, in kiosks, selling sweets, pistachios, even shish kebab (σουβλάκια in Greek) and toys. Most people were well dressed and dignified and the youth were no different from the youth of any Greek provincial town. I sat in a well-kept shish-kebab, establishment. The service was good, the young waitress, who spoke Greek, served me a most tasty shish kebab, and the ambiance was very good. My general impression of the town was positive and very different from the one we have in Greece about Albania and Albanians. After eating I decided to return to the quay along the central street, and not by the walkway, in order to get a better feel for the place. Along the central street there was a church. I walked to it and realized that it was certainly an Orthodox church. In its courtyard there were several Greek-Albanians and we talked for a while. After lighting a candle I returned to the strictly-guarded “Faneromeni” and gave to Scott the shish kebabs which I had brought for him. He was very appreciative.

June 26, 07 We woke up at 06:00 to prepare (walk the dogs etc.) for the arrival of the authorities at 07:00 as was promised by the Harbor Master. 07:00 arrived but there was no sign of the authorities. 07:30 still no sign. Eventually at 08:00 five-six officials appeared, requested me to fill out several documents, and then told me that I was free to depart. They asked me what our destination was and after I replied that it was Vlorë they emphasized that upon arrival there I must contact the authorities and fill in the needed forms. By the time we finished with the formalities, took in the passarella, untied the stern line, raised the anchor and departed it was 08:35.

The weather was fine and we made good progress. I was impressed by the fact that during our passage we did not encounter a single vessel; not a ship, not a caïque, not a pleasure craft, not even a rowboat! This never ever happens in our seas. After traveling about twenty five miles with good weather, it started to slowly deteriorate. In the beginning a light breeze with wavelets, then the wind strengthened and the waves were appreciable. I was forced to reduce the RMP so as to ease the strain on the boat and thus we made headway with some difficulty. As we approached our destination conditions worsened. When we finally entered the large Gulf of Vlorë the waves were appreciably reduced but the wind strengthened. At the entrance of the gulf, to the left, there is an uninhabited large peninsula, and I observed a small fire there. I tried to raise the Coast Guard on the VHF to report the fire and ask for mooring instructions but there was no response. I wrote down the location of the fire, having in mind to report it to the authorities upon our arrival. I subsequently made several fruitless attempts with the VHF. Finally we arrived in Vlorë or Vlora (Aulon - Αυλών in Greek) at 16:10 after covering 54 nM from Ayioi Saranta.

Vlora is one of the oldest cities of Albania. It was founded by ancient Greeks in the 6th century BC and named Aulón. Its name, still used today in Greece, is Aulón (Greek: Αυλών), which means valley. It is the second largest port city of Albania, after Durrës, with a population of about 94,000 (2008 estimate). From Wikepaedia.

We saw two large breakwaters perpendicular to the shoreline and with quite a large distance between them. This construction is their harbor. The city of Aulon is at some distance from the port. There were a number of craft, all moored side-to, on the two breakwaters in such a way that there was no space between them. These craft were mostly mothballed old ships plus one or two cargo ships unloading and a few pilot boats. Not a single person was in sight. No harbor officer to instruct us where to moor. And to top it all the wind was blowing. Now “Faneromeni” is a boat difficult to maneuver and with a strong wind this difficulty increases. Observing very carefully, I noticed that in one of the breakwaters there was a relatively small gap between two pilot boats. I made up my mind to go for it. As we approached I noticed that very close to this gap there was a sunken craft. All of this made our maneuvering very difficult, if not dangerous! With a lot of apprehension I managed to come aside the breakwater. But now there was a new difficulty. Who could catch our mooring lines and tie them? Some children who were swimming nearby came to watch. We threw them a line but they were not able to tie it. We threw them the line again but to no avail. In the meantime, the wind was drifting us towards the sunken craft. Horrors! Without another thought I engaged the engine and moved the boat away from the breakwater. I told Scott: “You will hold the line and I will maneuver and make another approach. When we are near enough, and you are sure that you can jump ashore, do so! Jump like a cat, holding the line, and after you tie on the bollard throw the other end back to me so that I can tie it and secure the caïque.” And this is exactly how it happened. Relief…

After that I walked to the Harbor Master’s office. I had some trouble locating it because the children either did not know where it was or did not understand me, and there was no one else to ask. At the Harbor Master’s, I naturally had to fill in plenty of forms, but overall the procedure bore no relationship to the bureaucracy of Ayioi Saranta. I told the official about the fire and it appeared that they made a few phone calls about it. I also declared that I planned to depart the following morning and asked about the needed procedures. To my great surprise they answered that none were needed. This was an unexpected answer… I was impressed. But, of course, they did not give me any cause for complaints. They presented me with a stiff bill. I also asked for a weather forecast. They told me that it would be calm tomorrow but the day after the weather would perhaps deteriorate again.

By the time I returned to the boat the wind had gotten stronger and the waves were crashing where we were moored alongside. The caïque was bobbing up and down relative to the breakwater as if she was a two meter rowboat. We added more lines and fenders and we were on watch. Going for a stroll and for lunch ashore was not even an option. Later the wind got even stronger and so did the waves. Conditions inside the caïque were rather unpleasant and so we sat, most of the time, under an old crane. We were on stand-by all night, adding more lines and adjusting the fenders. It was a nightmare!

June 27, 07 At daybreak the wind started to subside and we were able to sleep for a while. Around nine I went on deck and to my surprise I saw that most of the pilot boats had left and that there was no wind and the sun was shining as you can see in the photograph.

“Faneromeni” moored side-to on the breakwater of the Aulon harbor. Behind “Faneromeni” are the buildings of the town.
Albania, June 2007                    (Archives of Nikos E. Riginos)


Without much further thinking I made up my mind that we should depart right away lest the weather change for the worse and we become trapped here. I woke up Scott and told him: “Get ready. We will be leaving as soon as possible, but first take the dogs for their walk.” At 10:00 we eventually cast off and departed. The sea was very calm and all was well! Our destination was Dyrrhachion (Δυρράχιον, Durrës in Albanian). After we left the Gulf of Vlorë and went five to six miles we had to follow an almost northern course along the coast of Albania. All the way to Dyrrhachion you could not get close to the shore because the water is shallow. I was keeping a distance of about five miles away from the shore, yet the depth was just 20 meters. This depth is not comfortable and my attention was riveted on the depth sounder. After we progressed under these conditions for about ten more miles, a swell started to slowly develop. But as we made headway the swell kept getting larger. It was coming on our side and this is something that “Faneromeni” does take well. She started to yaw a lot! The situation became unpleasant and tiresome. If there were some wind we could have raised a sail and that would have stabilized the boat. But there was no wind at all. There was no alternative because there was no other harbor ahead of us save for Dyrrhachion. Turning back to Aulon (Vlorë) was out of the question because we were by now halfway to Dyrrhachion. So patience and perseverance were the only options.

After several more difficult miles, a slight breeze came and we raised the main jib, more as a morale boost than for its effectiveness. Under these conditions the caïque needs to be stabilized in a good wind. As we were getting closer to our destination the swell began to show signs of subsiding. But our other concern about low depth increased as the depth kept decreasing. At last I asked Scott to stay by the depth sounder and call out any depth changes. For several miles we were at at a depth of about 10 meters, although we were not at all close to the shoreline (we were at least five miles away). Finally when we were three-four miles from the harbor the depth decreased to under 10 meters. Fortunately at this point there was a channel, marked with buoys, that led to the harbor. During our whole passage we did not encounter a single vessel. After we entered the channel, with left and right buoys, I breathed a sigh of relief although Scott kept calling out the depth that was ranging from 10 to 7 meters. At that point we saw a large ship to our west, obviously coming from Italy and heading for the harbor. I then hailed the Port Authority on the VHF advising of our approach and asking for instructions. They replied by asking me to hail them again when we reach the harbor’s entrance. Moving very carefully within the channel, we eventually arrived to the harbor of Dyrrhachion (Δυρράχιον in Greek, Durrës in Albanian, and Durazzo in Italian) at 17:50, after 54 nM from Aulon (Vlorë). This is exactly the same distance from Ayioi Saranta to Aulon. We were directed by VHF to the best berth within the harbor and were assisted to moor side-to. We tied a line to the bow of a Russian freighter from which wheat was being unloaded by a crane. It goes without saying that the people who helped us were not the officials but the crews from the nearby pilot boats. Of course they did not refuse a little tip.

“Faneromeni” moored side-to in the harbor of Dyrrhachion.
Albania, Dyrrhachion, June 2007                      (Archives of Nikos E. Riginos)


Dyrrachion is the ancient Greek colony Epidamnos which was later renamed by the Romans. Today it is one of the largest and most important cities in Albania. It is located in the Adriatic Sea, about 33 km west of Tirana. It has a population of about 114,000 inhabitants (2003 census). The city was founded with the name of Epidamnos in 627 BC by colonists, mostly from Corcyra (ancient name for Kerkyra or Corfu) and a few from Corinth. Translated from the Greek Wikipedia.

The harbor of Dyrrachion bares no relationship to the harbors of Ayioi Saranta and Aulon. It is a large, modern, and safe harbor. Of course, the harbor was constructed under specifications to serve large passenger, cargo, and cruise ships. Also in a section of the harbor there are large fishing boats, a kind of fish loading zone. The area surrounding the quay is fenced and is strictly guarded. Entrance to this area is restricted. Within this area are all the official buildings: Harbor Master, Customs, Police, Security, Fire Station, and others. It goes without saying that Dyrrachion (Durrës) is a port of entry/exit for Albania.

By the time the caïque was moored a fair number of officials had gathered to receive us. They were all wearing uniforms and were very serious and dignified. Naturally they all wanted to board “Faneromeni” for the needed check-in. But there was a problem. The quay was high in relation to the caïque because it is meant to service ships and not small craft. In addition there were large black rubber fenders to protect ships from being scraped on the quay’s concrete. You can see them in the photograph above. So the caïque was, on the one hand, much lower then the quay, and on the other hand, some distance from it. This caused great consternation for the authorities. Obviously they had not faced this problem before because small boats visit the harbor very rarely. After a lot of discussion between them it was decided that a single representative of the authorities, the most nimble, would jump and act as the agent for the rest of them. And so it was done.

A process of filling in endless forms by the one nimble official began. Of course, during this process that took forever, the rest of the officials gave him many instructions from ashore while patiently waiting, despite the heat. The nimble agent did not fail to repeat what I was told by the Harbor Master in Ayioi Saranta, that is: a) the use of the inflatable dinghy is strictly forbidden while we are in the Albanian territorial waters, and b) prior to departing from the harbor we must notify the authorities so that they can come, check us out, and give us the departure permission!

Finally, he presented a substantial bill. When we at last were finished with the formalities, we took the small motor bike ashore so that we could move independently on land. Due to the height of the quay and the distance from the boat it was rather difficult to get the motor bike to land. For the same reason we had some trouble with the dogs. While Naxos immediately jumped ashore, Mavrouka did so after a lot of hesitation and urging, but Pissa completely refused. At last we had to carry her.

June 28, 07 The day began with investigating how we could resupply the caique with water. There was a water outlet where we were moored, but it was for large ships and had a huge diameter of 3 to 4 inches while our hose is only ½ inch. This problem may sound an easy one to solve but it was not. Many of the harbor personnel––Harbor Master, Customs, skippers, sailors, etc.––spoke Greek. Some with difficulty and some very well. But all of them were very friendly to us, wanted to be of use, and admired our caïque. Everyone in the harbor had heard of our arrival and everyone who was allowed in the fenced-in section where we were moored came to see this remarkable caïque and talk to us. In this very friendly atmosphere many undertook to help us solve the water supply problem. But, alas, without any success. Eventually the Fire Department came, with a lot of adaptors and with great desire to solve our problem. But they, too, did not succeed. After this, I gave up on resupplying the boat with water.

After a while a TV crew arrived and asked my permission to film this unusual Greek craft. So “Faneromeni” was shown on the Albanian TV. Later a large Greek cruise ship arrived and moored near us. Her name was The Calypso and she is registered in Piraeus.

“Faneromeni” together with the Greek cruise ship The Calypso in the harbor of Dyrrhachion.
Albania, Dyrrhachion, June 2007                         (Archives of Nikos E. Riginos)


The next problem was that Naxos ran away. I started looking for him by motor bike, around the harbor and its surrounding streets. Now all the harbor people had learned about this and they too started searching. Among others, a Harbor Master patrol car and a car from the Fire Department joined the search! After a long time and after an intensive search, I spotted the “prodigal son” strolling, without a care in the world, in an alley near the harbor. I grabbed him, and, holding him in my arms, carried him with the small motor bike to the caïque. We had to bathe him because he was extremely dirty. To recover from this I went to a souvlaki (shish-kebab) joint that I had seen during the search, and sat down and relaxed.

On my return to the boat I noticed a pigeon that was under the concrete of the quay. I left the motor bike next to caïque and jumped aboard. I looked again at the pigeon, it was at the same spot. Now there were a lot of pigeons around because the cargo ship at our stern was unloading wheat by crane to a silo and the pigeons ate the seeds that spilled. After a while I looked again at the pigeon. It was at the same place and did not move despite the passing cars. I thought that it must be in trouble and so I walked there to investigate. I saw that the pigeon was stuck in the tar which is between the large concrete blocks of the quay. Due to the high temperature the tar was now soft. The poor bird was stuck in the soft tar and could not move! I carefully removed it from the tar and brought it to the boat. I called to Scott to first tie down the dogs and then to come and help me and see what we can do for the bird. All the pigeon’s feathers and legs had been embedded with tar and its breast had no more feathers but was an open wound. To begin with I cut part of its wing with scissors and then very very carefully I cleaned it with gasoline—gasoline is a solvent for tar. Afterwards I rinsed off the gasoline with fresh water and applied olive oil to the wound and the rest of the feathers to protect them from further burns from the tar and the gasoline. When this triage was completed the poor bird seemed better. It walked a little on deck using one foot because he could not use the other foot. We then placed it in a cardboard box so that it could rest and be protected from the quadrupeds. I named it Dyrrahios. So a new member was added to the menagerie. After a few days I bought him a cage where he was installed. In addition to the supply of wheat seed that I took from the silo’s base, I also bought different bird foods so that he could have a balanced diet. Slowly he became tame. He travelled with us all the way back to Marina 4 in Glyfada. I then took him to my home in Voula and after a few days I released him.

Dyrrahios after a few days. He was then active following his recovery. His breast wound is still visible. Croatia, July 2007                        (Archives of Nikos E. Riginos)


After Dyrrahios’ rescue I asked the crane operator who was unloading the Russian cargo ship if I could take some wheat because I wanted to have plenty of food for the bird. This is how I met the crane operator, and, after I showed an interest in how the wheat is unloaded from the ship and moved to the silo, he invited me to visit the crane and offered to show me around. I climbed many steps of the large, land based, crane to the cockpit where this imposing piece of machinery was being operated. The operator was a very simpatico and capable man. He gave the impression that he knew his job very well. The view from up there was revealing! “Faneromeni,” way under, looked like a small rowboat.

The view from the crane’s cockpit.
Albania, Dyrrhachion, June 2007                     (Archives of Nikos E. Riginos)


After this experience I went to the Harbor Master’s office to inform them that I would be departing early the next morning. I also requested to complete the clearance procedures, if possible, today so that I will not be delayed in the morning. As a convincing argument, I told then that in Ayioi Saranta, although the officials had promised to come and clear me at 07:00, they did not show up until 08:00. They answered: “This is Durrës, it is not Sarandë, and none of the services shut down, they are open for 24 hours!” They also informed me with finality that the officials would not come to my boat for the formalities but instead I would have to go to each separate service, that is, Harbor Master, Customs, Police, and Security. I was utterly “delighted” with this news, already perceiving the mess to be faced in the morning.

In the evening I went for a walk to the center of the town where there was a special walkway for pedestrians only and where all the stores were open until late at night. There were many people in the streets, especially young people. The impression that I got reinforced my earlier one in Ayioi Saranta . That is, that most people were well dressed and dignified and the youth were no different than the youth of any Greek provincial town. Again my general impression was positive and very different then the one we have in Greece about Albania and its people. For dinner I went to one of the best seafood restaurants in the region. The food was good but not terrific, and the bill was not very different from the bill of a similar Greek restaurant.

June 29, 07 By 07:00 I was at the Harbor Master’s office for the clearance, but alas it was shut! Instead of waiting for the office to open, I proceeded to the Police for the passport control, but the designated official was absent! Again, instead of waiting for him to return, I went back to the Harbor Master’s office; it was still shut. To make the long story short it took me at least two hours before I was through with the bureaucracy to exit from Albania.

We managed to depart from Dyrrachion at 09:25 with middling fair weather but with considerably less swell than what we had experienced the day before during our arrival. I had, of course, checked the forecast the night before. Good weather was predicted for our heading. As soon as we were outside the harbor I set course due west to reach the open sea and clear Cape Dyrrachion. After this we were to head almost directly north. Our destination was Albania’s northern neighbor, Montenegro.

This is not the course that is followed by large ships heading for Montenegro. Despite their heading being due north, they first head in the opposite direction, due south, in order to safely negotiate the shallows by following the buoys in the marked channel. Only after transiting the channel do they finally set their course due north (that is, at the beginning and up to a point, they follow the exact course we took when we were arriving here, but, of course, in the opposite direction).

As I do every time, I had carefully studied the course to be followed the night before. I had concluded that despite the shallow water in the area west of the harbor, if I were to stay fairly close to the coast, first going west and then north, I would be safe. Following this course I could save about about ten miles. But, just to make sure, I had asked the pilot boat skippers moored near our bow. They confirmed my conclusion and urged me to follow the proposed course. But, to be extra cautious, I asked Scott to monitor the depth sounder and call to my attention any change in depth. Suddenly I heard a hail from the Harbor Master for “Faneromeni” over the VHF which was turned on. After I responded, they said: “We have you on radar. Be careful, you are in a region of shallow waters.” I thanked them and explained that our draft is 2.5 meters and it looked like there was plenty of clearance to transit the region. They then gave me their OK and wished me a good journey! This incident gave me a very positive impression.

Once we transited very carefully through the difficult region and rounded Cape Dyrrachion, we finally set course for Montenegro. The weather was the same as before, with a swell. I began to weigh the possibility of not reaching Montenegro, owing to this swell, but of changing course and stopping at the Albanian harbor of Shënglin. Fortunately, though, the conditions gradually improved and we continued along our original course. Soon conditions improved to the extent that we had a nice calm sea and we were making good progress along our way. Finally we arrived at 17:33 in the harbor of Bar (Бар in Serbian and Cyrillic) of Montenegro after 54 nM from Dyrrachion, (precisely the same distance as between Ayioi Saranta - Aulon and Aulon - Dyrrachion).

Bar (Italian: Antivari / Antibari, Albanian: Tivari, Greek: Θηβάριον, Thivárion, Αντιβάριον, Antivàrion, Latin: Antibarium) is a port of entry/exit to/from Montenegro (Greek: Μαυροβούνιο - Mavrovounio). Adjacent to the main harbor there is a relatively small Marina that accommodates small boats. We had already notified them of our impending arrival via the VHF and we now headed there. They were expecting us and indicated the slip with laid mooring that we were to use and helped us with our lines. Right next to the boat was a water outlet and they connected us with 220 V AC. Everything just fine. A crowd from other boats gathered to see this curious boat from distant, from their perspective, Greece. After talking for a while with the local people, who showed great interest for our trip, I called the local office of A1 Yacht Trade Consortium S.A., with which I had already communicated. They were waiting for us to handle the necessary red tape to clear into the country. Soon a very attractive and eager young lady arrived. She took all of “Faneromeni’s” documents and our passports and promised to return them, duly stamped, by the late afternoon. We did not need to do anything further. After she left we took the motor bike ashore so that we had freedom of movement on land. Later the young lady returned with all the papers stamped and ready.

June 30, 07 In the morning we went shopping to replenish our provisions, which were running low. We went to the largest supermarket in the city and purchased many things. Fortunately they brought them to the caïque with their van. Later I went with the motor bike to Stari Bar, a well preserved traditional village just outside the city. The whole village is very picturesque with its stone houses.

July 1, 07 The day started with an overall cleaning, inside and out, of the caïque. She had not been cleaned since we left Corfu because nowhere in Albania could we get water.

“Faneromeni” moored in the Bar Marina.

In addition to the cleaning, we performed a number of maintenance tasks and shopped from a marine store within the marina. Later we lowered the outboard to the dinghy and I took the quadrupeds for a swim. They were very pleased because they, too, had not had a swim since Corfu.

In the afternoon I visited a very old olive tree that is called Mirovica. They believe that it is 2,000 years old and that it is one of the oldest olive trees in the world. It has been declared a national monument since 1975 and it is one of the “must see” sights in the area. After visiting the Mirovica I went to another historical and cultural monument of the 19th century, the palace of King Nicholas. Nicholas was the one and only king of Montenegro. The palace is near the shore, almost next to the marina where “Faneromeni” was berthed. Within the palace the County Country?Museum is located, which houses the most important archaeological items from the area. Its garden is planted with very rare trees and exotic plants. These create a unique historical and environmental ambiance.

The view behind the Bar Marina. The palace of King Nicholas is visible in the background.
Bar, Montenegro, July 2007                 (Archives of Nikos E. Riginos)


July 2, 07 We departed from Bar at 08:15. The weather was good and we had a pleasant passage along the Montenegran coast. We arrived in Sveti Stefan (Montenegrin: Свети Стефан; Greek: Άγιος Στέφανος - Ayios Stefanos) at 10:10 after 14 nM.

Sveti Stefan used to be a tidal island but is now permanently connected to the mainland by a narrow isthmus. In the 15th century the island was a fishermen's village. In the1950s the last residents of the village were evicted, and Sveti Stefan was transformed into a luxury town-hotel. The streets, walls, roofs and façades of the buildings were, for the most part, preserved, while the interior of the buildings were transformed to offer the most modern luxury hotel comfort. Sveti Stefan, in the 1970s, was popular among celebrities, and among its guests were Princess Margaret, Marilyn Monroe, Willy Brandt, Bobby Fischer, Boris Spassky, Sophia Loren and Carlo Ponti, Monica Vitti, Ingemar Stenmark, Kirk Douglas, Jon 'Becks' Miller and Claudia Schiffer. From Wikipedia.

“Faneromeni” approaching Sveti Stefan.
Montenegro, July 2007                   (Archives of Nikos E. Riginos)


We anchored offshore and I took the dogs with the dinghy to an uninhabited islet near Sveti Stefan. They were delighted to thoroughly explore the little island where there were no people. After the exploration they and their skipper had a nice swim.

We raised the anchor at 12:10 and departed for nearby Budva (Serbian, Montenegrin: Будва; Italian: Budua, Greek: Μπούτβα - Boutva), 4 nM away. The weather was very good.

Approaching the harbor of Butva.
Montenegro, July 2007                          (Archives of Nikos E. Riginos)


We arrived in the harbor of Butva at 12:38. They gave us a good slip and helped us moor.

The city’s name derives from the Ancient Greek Βοῦς - Vous (Bull). According to Greek mythology, the city was founded by Cadmus, Thebe’s first king. Butva is the most touristic city in Montenegro. Indeed during our stay a concert was given by the Rolling Stones.

For lunch I ate fish in one of the seaside restaurants by the harbor. In the evening I took a walk around the old town with its impressive Venetian walls. Lots of people, tourists from every corner of the world. Visitors from Russia were the majority. Also, a lot of young people. Loud music was heard widely along the seaside, but in the night, due to the intense nightlife, the music is deafening beyond endurance. I have never been subjected to this “phenomenon” in any other place in the world that I have visited. The music here never stops.

July 3, 07 We departed from Butva, with good weather, at 08:20. I had received a forecast that called for deteriorating weather by tomorrow. Because of this I wanted to go to as secure a harbor as possible. So, after some study, I concluded that the safest harbor in the wider area was Kotor, and that was where we headed. After about fourteen miles we arrived at the Bay of Kotor. There we encountered a lovely old classic sailboat as she was exiting the gulf.

MISSING PHOTO? We encountered this lovely old classic sailboat as she was exiting the Bay of Kotor.

The Bay of Kotor (Montenegrin, Serbian, Croatian: Boka Kotorska, Cyrillic script: Бока Которска) is the southernmost fjord in Europe. It is in fact the submerged river canyon of the Bokelj River which separates it into four smaller gulfs: the Herceg Novi, Tivat, Risan, and Kotor.

A Map of the region.
From Wikipedia.


After we entered the bay we saw the picturesque small harbor of Rose.

The small harbor of the picturesque town of Rose in the Gulf of Herceg Novi.
Bay of Kotor, Montenegro, July 2007              (Archives of Nikos E. Riginos)


Shortly after passing Rose we saw something strange––a large tunnel dug in the mountain and at the surface of the sea. Such a tunnel can accommodate a naval ship or a submarine, hidden from the enemy but ready to suddenly emerge and surprise and engage the enemy.

The impressive tunnel that can accommodate a naval ship or a submarine, in the Gulf of Herceg Novi. Due to the distance it is hard to perceive its actual size.
Bay of Kotor, Montenegro, July 2007                     (Archives of Nikos E. Riginos)


The bay has been inhabited since antiquity. Around the bay are scattered several well preserved and picturesque mediaeval towns and hamlets. The best known of these are: Herceg Novi, Tivat, Risan, Perast, and Kotor. The natural setting here is imposing: steep mountains come all the way to the sea. In the area there are many churches and monasteries, predominately Orthodox, although several are Catholic. Shortly before reaching the harbor of Kotor we passed by Dobrota, another picturesque town.

The town of Dobrota, in the Gulf of Kotor.
Bay of Kotor, Montenegro, July 2007                 (Archives of Nikos E. Riginos)


After this very pleasant passage we arrived at our final destination, the harbor of Kotor (Montenegrin: Котор / Kotor; Latin: Acruvium; Greek: Ασκρήβιον - Askrèvion; Italian: Càttaro) after which the whole bay has been named. The town was an ancient Greek colony called Ασκρήβιον - Askrèvion. Greek colonists were established in the region on the 3rd century BC. In the 7th century AD the Byzantines founded the old town of Kotor.

In 1979 the town was declared a World Heritage Site.

Approaching the harbor of Kotor.
Bay of Kotor, Montenegro, July 2007                   (Archives of Nikos E. Riginos)


We arrived in the harbor of Kotor at 12:38 after a passage of 31 nM from Butva. Again they assigned us a good and secure slip, right under the walls of the old town. There were laid moorings, water, and 220V AC electricity. We had hardly moored when the agent of A1 Yacht Trade Consortium S.A.—with whom we had already made arrangements—arrived and he undertook to handle all bureaucratic formalities without my lifting a finger. The agent was a polite Greek gentleman and he gave us a lot of information. Our first order of business was to take ashore the motor bike so that we could have land autonomy. I then took the quadrupeds with the dinghy to an isolated place so that they, too, could feel that they are on vacation without disturbing people. In the evening I went to the old town.

July 4, 07 The day began with washing—washing of the caïque since water was readily available. By motor bike I also took all the accumulated dirty clothes to a laundry about two-three kilometers away. Later, I went with the dinghy and the dogs for a swim. When we returned, the wind had risen. The harbor attendant gave us a second mooring for better security. After a while a fairly large sailboat arrived and moored two slips away from us. The crew looked tired and weather-beaten. After we spoke they told me that they had come from Butva and that they had encountered such large seas that they had trouble entering the Bay of Kotor.

In the afternoon I toured the surrounding area by motor bike. I had dinner that night in a nice restaurant in the old town. A Greek family from Thessaloniki (Salonica) was eating at the next table. The gentleman was a member of the staff of the EKO company which is very active in Montenegro. He was based here in Kotor and knows the area very well. He provided me with a lot of useful information and so I had a better picture of the town. They were very pleasant company.

July 5, 07 The wind was blowing hard but we were, especially with two moorings, quite secure. I connected my computer to the Internet and looked at the forecasts for the wide area from the Ionian to the Adriatic. The weather was very bad. However, in the Bay of Kotor conditions were definitely less dire. Next I went with the motor bike and picked up the laundry, and then we went provision shopping at the supermarket.

“Faneromeni” moored stern-to in the harbor/marina of Kotor. The mediaeval city walls are seen in the background.
Bay of Kotor, Montenegro, July 2007                 (Archives of Nikos E. Riginos)


After finishing with all the tasks I visited once more the old town of Kotor. In its center, at the Square of Saint Lukas, is the Orthodox church of Saint Nicholas, which I visited. After that I went to the small Orthodox church of Saint Lukas. My next visit was to the Nautical Museum, which is located in the picturesque Square of Boka Marine.

In the afternoon I connected again with the Internet and got a new forecast for tomorrow. This called for weakening of the winds in the Adriatic and for good weather in the Bay of Kotor. Despite this I went to the office of A1 Yacht Trade and cross-checked the forecast. They confirmed the forecast, and, after talking to them, I decided that if indeed the forecast proved true I would depart tomorrow for the nearby harbor of Herceg Novi, also within the Bay of Kotor and hence protected.

July 6, 07 Today’s weather was good so I decided to follow the plan that I had formulated yesterday. We cast off at 09:00 and went to the nearby fuel station. The station was on the banks of a small river that empties out next to the harbor. After topping the tanks with diesel fuel we departed at 10:30 from Kotor. After a few miles we came abreast of the picturesque town of Perast (Serbian cyrillic: Пераст, Italian: Perasto).

The picturesque mediaeval town of Perast.
Bay of Kotor, Montenegro, July 2007                 (Archives of Nikos E. Riginos)


Across from Perast is a lovely little island called Our Lady of the Rock (Montenegrin, Croatian, Serbian: Gospa od Škrpjela, Cyrillic: Госпа од Шкрпјела). It is an artificial islet created by the inhabitants of Perast. On July 22, 1452, two Venetian seamen found an icon of the Madona and Child on a rock in the sea. At that very spot the seaman and the local inhabitants made an artificial island and on top of it built a church. Since then, and to commemorate that day, the inhabitants of Perast add rocks to the island.

The picturesque islet of Our Lady of the Rocks.
Bay of Kotor, Montenegro, July 2007                    (Archives of Nikos E. Riginos)


We approached the town of Perast to see it better. It is indeed a fairy tale town where it seems that time stopped many years ago.

A closer view of the town of Perast.
Bay of Kotor, Montenegro, July 2007                    (Archives of Nikos E. Riginos)


After this pleasant sightseeing we continued towards our destination. Transiting the very narrow channel that separates the Gulf of Kotor from the Gulf of Tivat, we continued our course in the Gulf of Tivat. From that point on the wind freshened. Nevertheless, we continued without any problems, crossed the Gulf of Tivat and another narrow channel, and entered the Gulf of Herceg Novi. Here the wind freshened even more but without causing a problem save some spray.

Finally we arrived in the harbor of Herceg Novi (Montenegrin:Херцег Нови; Greek: Νεόκαστρον - Neòkastron; Italian: Castelnuovo) after which its gulf was named. The harbor lies right across from the entrance of the Bay of Kotor. The time of our arrival was 12:40 and we had come 14 nM. The harbor is small and the wind was blowing fitfully. Fortunately there was room and the attendant indicated that we should moor side-to at the quay. There were, of course, water and electricity outlets.

“Faneromeni” moored side-to the quay in the harbor of Herceg Novi.
Bay of Kotor, Montenegro, July 2007                 (Archives of Nikos E. Riginos)


The harbor attendant, who was polite and eager to please, briefed us about all we needed. Following this I went with the dinghy to swim accompanied by the dogs.

Later the wind became rather strong and a couple of boats, arriving late in the evening, had considerable difficulty mooring. One of these, after several unsuccessful attempts, gave up and left.

Several Greek companies operate in Montenegro, among these the fuel supply company EKO. Even in this small harbor of Herceg Novi this company had a filling station.

The EKO filling station in the small harbor of Herceg Novi.
Bay of Kotor, Montenegro, July 2007                     (Archives of Nikos E. Riginos)


Latter I connected my computer to the Internet and downloaded a forecast. It called for good weather over the whole area. I also went to the small kiosk housing the harbor’s office and cross-checked this forecast. I was assured that by tomorrow the weather would change and would be fair. Given this information I decided to depart tomorrow for Croatia. I had dinner at a typical local restaurant.

July 6, 07 We departed at 08:45 for the close-by harbor of Zelenika. The weather was very good. Zelenika is a port of entry/exit which unfortunately Herceg Novi is not. So we had to go to Zelenika for the exit formalities from Montenegro since we intended to go on to Croatia. Finally we arrived in Zelenika at 08:55, a distance of 2 nM.

Fortunately we cleared the bureaucratic formalities rather easily and departed at 09:25 heading for Croatia. When we reached the mouth of the Bay of Kantor we saw large fortifications belonging to an era past, all of them abandoned.

Typical fortification, belonging to times past, today abandoned.
North mouth of the Bay of Kotor, Montenegro, July 2007       (Archives of Nikos E. Riginos)

We continued with very fair weather and sunshine. Under these pleasant conditions we left behind the waters of Montenegro and entered those of Croatia.

We had travelled with “Faneromeni” a total of 265 nM from the Gouvia Marina in Corfu, Greece to Zelenika in Montenegro. Engine hours: 44. The trip lasted for 13 days.

END of CHAPTER B

(To continue go to CHAPTER C)

The route of “Faneromeni” from the Gouvia Marina in Corfu to Zelenika in Montenegro. For a larger view click on the picture, for a more detailed view click on Google.