GOOD VIS, BAD NEWS 2006
I spent half of May and much of July making reasonable progress with an extensive refit which Aqua Blue my Kelsall 39 trimaran has needed for some time. On arrival in May I had been shocked at the damp inside the boat and found seven leaks, so started by replacing some of the saloon windows with acrylic I had brought out with me, making new seals from bicycle inner tube which works well. A new Vetus saloon hatch replaced the unsatisfactory previous model and is a huge improvement. I was beginning to wonder if a waterproof hatch was actually made! The cockpit seats were also rebuilt. I also started the engine and was surprised to find the bilge slowly filling with oil!! Fortunately it was an easily replaceable external oil pipe on the Yanmar 2GM20.
In July the Yanmar's rusty engine mountings were also finally replaced after quite a struggle to undo the gearbox/propshaft flange bolts which had been well tightened seventeen years earlier. The engine was lifted out onto a cockpit seat, where it's further upgrade was quickly undertaken. The removal of the corroded coach bolts holding down the collapsing old mountings needed a day with a hacksaw in very high temperatures, but the freshly painted new mounts were eventually in place. The now blue engine looked quite smart held down on the Hammerited mountings with giant stainless washers. The dreaded shaft/gearbox alignment was accomplished without too much difficulty. I had also cleaned and lubricated the starter motor drive and freed a sticky throttle lever and fitted a new fuel pump.
Subsequently I completed the installation of a new Kiwi prop. This all took so long that some planned repainting has been postponed yet again, however function must come before beauty. I don't resent the time spent on maintenance and hopefully improvement, it's an essential part of the cruising lifestyle, so often described as "working on your boat in exotic locations". Nautec marine in Monfalcone where Aqua Blue winters has good facilities including a bar/restaurant and friendly staff. I was particularly grateful to Maurizzio the Italian engineer who procured the new engine mounts in two days.
My wife Stella, and daughter Louise then arrived along with one of her school friends Shanthi. I collected them by car from Venice airport and we stopped in Portogruaro on the way back to visit the ancient watermills. The girls enjoyed the pool in the heatwave for two days and Stella helped me fit the sails, inflate the dinghy and provision. I also completed the wiring for the new Lofrans windlass and was mildly surprised when it worked immediately! On motoring out of the long Timavo river the engine was noticeably quieter on it's new mounts and revving more freely, with significantly more power being delivered by the Kiwi prop, in fact reverse with it's coarser pitch was a revelation. Instead of heading straight for Croatia, we had decided to visit Venice lagoon, so our first day at sea was spent making good progress west along the very shallow coast in a strengthening sea breeze. Eventually crossing the very shallow banks to enter Lignano, anchoring just off the starboard side of the entrance channel into the large lagoon for a peaceful night. These banks are to be avoided in bad weather and in fact a fishing boat was unfortunately rolled here with loss of life later in September.
Lighter winds the next day meant we motorsailed much of the way to the Lido entrance to Venice lagoon, easily recognisable with it's chequerboard light structure. Initially we anchored in the Canale Treporti just past the Marina Lio Grande for a swim in the murky water after fitting the larger sunshade, as it was still very hot. Later we moved up channel to anchor north of Burano for the night and the ladies spent the morning in Burano admiring lace and colourful architecture while I failed to start the outboard. The local church has a leaning tower at a much more drunken angle than Pisa's. Later we attempted a clockwise circumnavigation of Torcello but couldn't manage it even in a multihull so retreated and tried anticlockwise which got us up a creek very close to the ancient Basilica whose campanile Stella and I climbed in the stupendous heat 97F. The mosaics are very impressive . Later we followed the marked channel down to anchor north of Murano. However the heat gave way to wind and rain, and at dusk it was uncomfortable enough in the northeasterly wind to make me motor round to the southwest side of Murano, to anchor just outside the channel much to the surprise of the passing high speed water taxis which sped to and fro from Marco Polo airport all night. We returned to the recognised northerly anchorage in the dawn calm. The rubbish dump has been landscaped and this spot offers the easiest access ashore down one of the small canals. Stella and the girls spent the morning admiring glasswork while I did more jobs onboard including another ventilation fan. The afternoon heat drove us down to anchor south of Erasmo island to swim off the sandbank the locals use as a beach, although frankly I don't recommend bathing in the lagoon!! We returned to the Murano anchorage for dinner ashore and slept through the northeasterly night breeze this time, the popply conditions ending at 4.00am. It may be possible to anchor in the lee of one of the small islands to the east of Murano for a quieter night and Venice is worth visiting by yacht if you have time to seek out the few anchorages.
Shanthi left us in the morning, conveniently getting a water bus from Murano
to Marco Polo airport. After further exploration of Murano we upped anchor and
headed south, spending much film on views of Venice, although I refrained from
attempting the Grande Canale. Following the long channel inside the barrier
islands of Lido and Malomocco eventually brought us to Chioggia where there was
no room in the town harbour, although there is a crowded marina to the northwest
and also another to the east inside the beach resort of Sottomarina, where I
just ran Aqua Blue on to a mudbank for two nights peace, again alarming passing
boats. Before the morning heat we had capuccinos and croissants in a fisherman's
cafe and then walked round to explore Chioggia which is a charming island port
with very few tourists. We spent the afternoon on the beach at Sottomarina
behind which is an impressive Roman sea wall, and later obtained water at the
small marina which does in fact have a few visitor's berths, although the
approach channels through the mudbanks are baffling to a visitor. A good fish
supper ashore too, although Prosecco is a better aperitif than an accompaniment
to a meal in my opinion.
An early start was prevented on the second morning due to it being low tide, but patience and winching eventually recovered the anchor. We left the lagoon via the Chioggia entrance and had a rather boring day motoring most of the way across to Porec in Croatia. However there was an available mooring buoy and ashore there's a Mac internet cafe where Louise and I spent some time, after a meal in the courtyard of the Basilica, whose wonderful mosaics are not to be missed. In the morning we were relieved of 1037Kuna for our annual cruising permit by the friendly harbourmaster. No mention of the theoretically required skippers certificate, perhaps it's asked of charterers, to nudge them towards hiring a skipper! The port police were more severe but still polite, they are basically a frontier post for marine travellers.
We headed south and anchored off Sturago island for a swimming lunch. However we were brought up short as the Delta terminally engaged under a rock ledge and no amount of motoring around would budge it. It was just too deep for me to attach a tripping line to the anchor so reluctantly I buoyed the chain and left the lot, probably for someone else!! Continuing south at good speed as though the boat was glad to lose all that weight at the bow we made Pula harbour by evening and dropped the alloy Fortress into the filthy water on the second chain and rope, off the boatyard which now seems to be a charter base. Louise and I went ashore to eyeball the local chandlery and use the internet cafe leaving Stella on board. As we rowed back in the dark we could see lightning to the northwest. The increasing wind had me up again at 11.00pm as a thunderstorm crossed the harbour. During the first blast I lashed down the dinghy and let out more scope. However before long we were virtually lying ahull in 36kts (I should have fitted a bridle), and the large harbour was filled with short breaking waves. For a while I ran the engine to keep the bows into the wind and was wiping sewage from my face. The Fortress passed it's test though in the glutinous mud and prevented us from involuntarily entering the marina behind us, and the deluge was over in half an hour. In the morning I bought another 25mtrs of 8mm chain and struggled back to the boat with it on an alloy trolley we usually use for fuel cans, despite the oaths being directed at me by the supervisor of the rowing pontoon I was using as a dinghy dock. I winched the chain from the dinghy to the foredeck with the spinny halliard and after attaching the CQR which had spent several years under the engine, we could use the new windlass again. Surprisingly the CQR was a good fit in the new nodding bow roller. We then waited an hour for a superyacht to leave the fuel dock before we could refuel ourselves. Finally we escaped Pula although it is worth visiting for the huge Roman amphitheatre and temple, and passed through the inside passage at Kamenjack rather late at 2.15pm.
We were able to slowly sail across the gulf of Kvaerner in a light southerly since the trough that had produced the thunderstorm was slow to clear. I was immediately aware that the Kiwi prop had reduced drag since we were doing six knots in ten knots apparent despite being full of fuel and water, whereas previously we'd been pleased to approach half wind speed at cruising weight, and now could more easily exceed it. The white painted Delrin blades trailed aft like rocket fins. Later we were overtaken by a roll cloud with a blast underneath it which sent us scurrying into Artaturi bay on Losinj island to anchor next to a large cat. In the morning I fitted a new shower head of the garden variety, a huge improvement over the nautical version. After transiting the many buoyed anchorage between Ilovik and Petar we drifted down to Zapuntel on Molat island. The mooring buoy's ground tackle was corroded, and small jellyfish deterred Louise from swimming, but it was a quiet night although rather open to the northeast for a popular anchorage. In fact it was popply enough to wake me at dawn and we motored round to the double headed bay just north of Molat town for the rest of the morning, a beautiful spot with brilliantly clear water for swimming.
I tried to tighten the slipping alternator belt yet again and had an unwelcome surprise when the threaded lug on the alternator snapped off!! Fortunately there was just enough to still hold the bolt but I added another one underneath the lug as well. A temporary repair which may well be there for some time. In retrospect I think a fatter belt is needed. When the northwesterly Maestro returned at lunch time we left and easily sailed down inside Dugi Otok to pick up a buoy in Uvala Lucina off the village of Brinj. We only moved 15mls that day, real lotus eating. Dinner on board followed by American Gigolo on the new 12v Sevic DVD player, which the batteries can just manage. The light southerlies returned on the 1st August and the three of us tacked slowly southeast for most of the day making Zut island by three pm to anchor north east of the marina for a siesta, and later a meal in the large restaurant. There's also a small but pricey shop and a water shortage, but we did manage a few jerry cans when the taps were switched back on at 8.00am
After our morning departure the 12yr old Lowrance GPS with it's valued large screen failed to find any satellites and could not be brought back to useful life even after re-initiallising. Sharing a battery with the windlass was too much for it. Fortunately the handheld Magellan which talks to the laptop wasn't so fussy. A SW wind had us closehauling SE to Tijat for an afternoon swim before motoring into Sibenik. We backed up to the town quay at the first attempt to pick up the laid mooring ropes, never easy especially short handed in a trimaran, since the ropes have to be passed round the floats. The old town has been noticeably cleaned up for tourism (which can't be said of the harbour) and we had a surprisingly good fish meal at a pavement cafe, and the internet was available in a couple of places, topped off by a free jazz concert in a small square. The Cathedral on the front is worth a visit and there's also a water hose .Humphrey our regular crew arrived in the morning by bus from Split airport and was added to the crew list by a friendly official in the harbourmaster's office. However the SW wind was increasing and the berth becoming uncomfortable, in fact a charter yacht alongside snapped it's bow rope and ended up broadside to the quay. As the crew winched it back out we made our escape and motored up the river Krka to to anchor almost under the trees outside the full marina at Skradin. Humphrey caught up on sleep, and we swam in the warm fresh water before I filmed a Dragonfly tri which tacked up through the crowded anchorage.
We were ashore for the ten am river boat up to the famous falls, whose nature trail we spent a couple of hours hiking round before returning to Skradin for a late lunch. It's a surprisingly fashionable little place with good restaurants. We retraced our steps down the river in the afternoon and exited Sibenik via the canal again, to run down the coast under sail and pass under the low road bridge into large Morinje bay for the night. There were only three other yachts there in early August and being shallow it's ideal for multis. Back out in the morning under the only 22mtr arch bridge we motor sailed SE to Drevenika Veli at the east end of Solta for tea and swimming. However before long a brisk westerly had us swinging too near Krknjas so we ran over to Brac where we rejected Maslinica as too open, and continued round to enter the fjord like inlet of Sesula. Unfortunately the CQR was ineffective on the thin sand over rock and we re-anchored no less than three times, before squeezing up to the head of the inlet and reversing up to the trees alongside a large Dutch yacht. We joined the skipper and his children in a "thatched hut restaurant" up the cliffs, run I suspect by students, but the meal was fine and the jazz appreciated. Of course once we were in our bunks it turned into disco inferno, but I managed to doze by telling myself that I actually liked the music. Mind over matter!!
Our Dutch neighbour was from the Frisian islands and chartering a yacht based near Split, as so many are in this area, producing the crowded summer anchorages. After extricating ourselves from the fjord we motorsailed south to Vis by early afternoon to anchor in Luka Rogacic past the naval bunker. As the others siesta'd I tackled the installation of a new CD player and associated wiring and before too long we had John Scofield playing in the cockpit. By the cocktail hour we had re-anchored off Kut at the east end of Vis harbour and had a good meal at the waterfront hotel. Later at the internet cafe I learned from my brother Paul (who was staying in our house in Brighton) that my poor Dad was seriously ill in hospital.
I had intended to spend a few days in Vis, which I'm rather fond of, although it's much busier than only a few years ago. But now the news was not so good, we had to immediately start retracing our steps. Stella and Louise flew home from Split three days later and I nearly joined them. However Humphrey and I day raced north through indifferent and even stormy weather, arranging flights on the mobile, anchoring for short nights only and not going ashore for five days, till reaching Umag to clear Croatia. Next day we were back in Monfalcone and within 24hrs via Ryanair I was at the Princess Royal Hospital, Haywards Heath. Much to the welcome surprise of my parents!