We are always being told that, when we get lemons, we should make lemonade and I have – figuratively – been making lemonade for the last few months.
With all our trips in the Med having been cancelled, we had plenty of time for other projects, like remodeling our new home in Punta Gorda, Florida, and replacing the teak slats of the seats in the cockpit of my sailboat with Flexiteak. Still, my mind wanders to where we would have been this week, if not for that bleeping virus.
We had planned our trip from Dubrovnik to Montenegro and the awe-inspiring Bay of Kotor. Last week Saturday, we would have left the ACI Marina of Dubrovnik and, after sailing around the fortified waterfront of the old city, we would have spent the night at anchor in the charming small city of Cavtat. The anchorage is absolutely stunning and, although you could dock the boats at the seawall, we prefer to anchor out and enjoy the view. We would then go ashore by dinghy for food in one of the local restaurants along the promenade.
The following morning, we would motor to the customs dock and, while the crew members would now not be allowed to cross the gate, the skippers would take care of all the paperwork with Croatian Customs and the Harbor Master to be cleared out of Croatia and head for Montenegro. Once all the formalities have been done, we are not allowed to set foot on Croatian soil and must go straight to neighboring Montenegro. Fines are very high for violators and the Croats keep track of us on their radar and with their patrol boats.
Our next stop is the small town of Zelenika in Montenegro where we clear customs. We must show all passports and boat papers to Customs and the Harbor Police and, again, in the meantime, the crew cannot leave the quarantine area. Once we have been cleared through customs, we can lower the yellow quarantine flag and raise the Montenegrin courtesy flag on the starboard flag halyard of our yachts. We now are officially in Montenegro and, after a short sail, we end up in the brand new Lazure Marina with its fabulous restaurant. We had the best meal and service there last year for half or what we would have paid in Croatia.
After a restful night digesting all that good food and wine, we leave the Bay of Kotor and anchor outside a blue cave for some swimming and snorkeling with lunch on board. Time to go to our next overnight anchorage in the small Bay of Bigova. The local restaurant, Grispolis, serves great Mediterranean seafood and they offer a free shuttle service from and to our anchored yachts.
Tuesday, after breakfast, we weigh anchor and sail back to the Bay of Kotor. After a lunch and swim stop in the bay of Zanjic with its beautiful Serbian Orthodox monastery on a minuscule island, we re-enter the majestic bay, the largest fjord in southern Europe, and go to our next destination, the super luxurious Porto Montenegro Marina. Our sailing yachts look puny compared to the super yachts of Russian oligarchs, Arab Sheikhs and other multi-billionaires. Still, the docking costs are reasonable and soon we go discover the port with its exclusive shops. If you are looking for Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Rolex, Balenciaga or other expensive items, this is the place. All that window shopping makes us hungry and we leave the marina for a delicious meal in nearby Tivat.
Wednesday’s destination is the walled medieval city of Kotor, the city of cats. It is located at the very end of the bay and towering mountains protect it from every angle. Before reaching Kotor, we make a short detour via the twin Perast islands with the Byzantine church of Our Lady of the Rocks.
The municipal marina of Kotor is quite small, and we have to cross the busy road to enter the main gate but soon we are wandering along in the narrow streets. Cat-themed stores are everywhere and there is even a cat museum. Of course, there are felines everywhere. Thank goodness there are no cats on the menus of the local restaurants but you will have plenty of good Mediterranean and Balkan food to choose from.
Overlooking the city is the imposing fortress of St. John. It is quite a climb to get there but the spectacular view is the reward for the intrepid hiker.
So, now we are Thursday and we have to make our way back to Dubrovnik. No time to waste but first a stop in Zelenika to clear out of Montenegro and then on our way back to Cavtat, under the watchful eye of the Croatian radar system to make sure we do not stop before we get through Croatian Customs.
If we arrive too late in Cavtat, we will have to stay at anchor with our yellow quarantine flag up and we will have to remain on board until we can clear in the morning. If the Customs office is still open, we will be allowed to clear and can then have dinner ashore. We love Cavtat and try to make sure that we can spend that night enjoying a good meal and gelato along the waterfront.
We will hang out most of Friday morning relaxing in Cavtat before our last sail back to the ACI Marina in Dubrovnik where total pandemonium reigns. Before docking, we must refuel the yachts and the only fuel dock is right on the river with many boats waiting in line. If you drift too much to port, you will end in the shallows. It is a zoo with impatient skippers barking orders to their frustrated crewmembers.
As soon as we have refueled, we must find our slip in the overcrowded marina and maneuver the yachts to the dock. ACI Marinas are all over Croatia and are excellent but the one in Dubrovnik is awful. We cannot wait to be at the dock and get out of there as soon as feasible but, that having been said, we leave with unforgettable memories of a fantastic sailing trip.
This is what we would have been doing this week on our last of four weeks of sailing in Croatia and Dubrovnik.
Let us hope that we can do it again next year. We do not need another stinking crisis and it is more fun than replacing the teak on my boat.
Fair winds! Stay healthy and safe.
Capt. Jean De Keyser