Trip on Sea Song starting 2011-10-02 in BSANov11

Dubrovnic, October 2-10 on Sea Song, Oceanis 423 - report by Sue Fowle.

Skipper – Malcom Price.

Crew – Naomi Gillingham, Anthea Stone, John Hartland, Graham Constable and Sue Fowle.

We arrived early at DubrovnicMap Marina but despite Naomi’s most persuasive manner we were unable to board our boat until the pre-arranged 16.30 as 35 boats had to be prepped that day. Despite the time of year the Sunsail base was very busy with flotillas and bareboat bookings – so much so they had had to bring in boats from their other Croatian marinas. Perhaps their offer of a free upgrade to a 50’ boat had been to avoid the cost of bringing a 42’ down for us (an offer we declined, as a 50’ boat is too big for tight berthing and visiting confined anchorages). Later that night in exchange for a G&T Keith, the South African manager, showed us around one of the big cats. There was some dissent amongst our crew as to the preference over a monohull which continued over supper in a well recommended local restaurant.

The briefing next day was very comprehensive, paying particular attention to the significance of the local winds. Despite an initially breezy start the first few mornings were mirror calm and it was often late in the day before the anticipated winds picked up. As they did so we enthusiastically and optimistically raised the sails at every opportunity much to the amusement of our first time crew member, Anthea who remarked how we would all suddenly spring to life from the afternoon torpor. The quiet weather gave us morning opportunities for sightseeing – on the lush National Park island, Mjlet and in Korcula town as well as exploring little bays and the obligatory anchoring for swims and lunches. On one occasion when the wind came up early we all had several shots at MOB under sail and decided it was better not to go overboard in the first place!

The frequent sail raising and winching took its toll on Sue’s back so Malcolm’s acupuncture needles were put to good use. Perhaps the sunshine in the cockpit and the soothing music had some influence too!

The South Dalmatian islands are fairly sparsely populated so most nights we moored or anchored in bays, star struck by the clarity of the skies, the hoot of the owls and the air warm enough for Naomi to sleep out, on the water, in the dinghy. We amused ourselves singing from Malcolm’s ‘Songs You Thought You Knew’ book, with healthy competition from nearby German crews. We thought the large gin and tonics gave us the edge but in fact they knew more words to English songs than we did.

By the middle of the week the winds had increased so we had some good days under sail. Sea Song had a small main but with one reef in we reached speeds of 8.2kts in 22kts of wind and 7.2knts with only the genoa, tacking through the channel between the islands and mainland. The winds had strengthened by Friday but we still managed a leisurely lunch and trip ashore, rowed by Naomi, but changed plans in late afternoon and headed for safe haven into SlanoMap on a bay sheltered from the dangerous NE wind. Ominously there was not another sail in sight.

With difficulty we located the town quay, supposedly reserved for yachts mooring stern-to, to find it completely filled by 3 small cruise ships rafted together. For 2 hours our skipper patiently and skilfully tried to moor in various small spaces while crew valiantly fended off, threw lines back and forth to Graham, stranded on shore and then, John slipped off the plank – was he really volunteering to photo the proximity of rocks to rudder?

Eventually the Harbour Master appeared and negotiated with Graham that we try an even more risky mooring under the prows of the cruise ships. Malcolm reversed with consummate precision, despite the wind and slid our mast past the bowsprits of the moored cruisers We were greatly relieved when one of the captains refused to accept any responsibility for us under his bowsprit so the harbour master finally capitulated, rang a friend and negotiated us rafting up against his local pleasure cruiser, also moored inappropriately. Tea and cake seemed more restorative than the gin before we headed off for food – to see TV reporting snow in the nearby Croatian mountains!! We headed back to the boat with rain lashing down and the storm breaking over the bay .As the wind increased and Sea Song pulled at her mooring lines we felt very smug to be snuggled up against the illegally moored but solid pleasure cruiser.

For several days we had seen Eos, apparently the largest sailing yacht in the world at 93m long but she left us that night for a more comfortable mooring. We also saw Queen K a luxurious motor yacht, owned by one of the founders of Apple and apparently worth $100m with a 250,000 litre tank. Bet she wasn’t as much fun as our Sea Song and the skipper needed a much larger kitty!

On Saturday morning we were being warned to get in early due to the arrival of the Bora, the katabatic wind from the NE, but we managed a good day’s sail with a porpoise family accompanying us, the obligatory anchorage and swim in a beautiful bay before being last in at 1700. By 2300 despite port and starboard lazy lines and 2 stern lines, Sea Song was straining at her moorings, eager to be off again!

She was a pleasant boat to sail and reasonably well equipped though with the usual end of season problems like heads ceasing to work, the worn mainsail with 2” tear and problems with the GPS. The charts were adequate tho sometimes missed off very obvious rocks – some even with buildings on them! The Sunsail staff were all extremely helpful and friendly speaking excellent English. There were other charter companies in the marina, mainly used by German and E European crews. The sailing area was interesting with plenty of bays for swimming, some stunning overnight anchorages and reasonable food and wine. The marinas had very modern facilities, charging about 2-3 Euros per metre -a cat pays twice that. Victualing was possible in most places though choice could be limited-particularly when searching for tonic water!

As return flights on Sundays were expensive we spent a night in a hostel in Dubrovnic which gave us a worthwhile day in the town and the opportunity for a delicious meal!

Thank you, Malcolm for skippering us safely, Naomi for initiating the trip and whipping us into shape and to us crew for hauling those sails up and down! We were a jolly ship.

Route -

Dubrovnic, Sapulunara,Okuklje – 31nm

Sobre, Polace – 23nm

Przina, Korcula – 20nm

Polace – 20nm

Sipan luka, Slano – 33nm

Lopud, Dubrovnic – 19nm.

Dubrovnic  42.6411,18.1124
Slano  42.7877,17.89