“Shall we go to Montenegro tomorrow?”, asked my husband. It’s those little statements that catch me. Life is different now.
To change a country involves no flight booking, days of packing, or serious contemplation; just a will to go and cooperation from the weather.
Yesterday, June 27th we left Croatia heading for Montenegro, the weather had been poor for quite a few days and we were still eager to work our way south towards Greece. We had seen some beautiful things in Croatia and met some truly wonderful people (you know who you are), yet everywhere we went we could not shake the feeling that it was a bit of a racket to take our money. From marinas that cost between $140 and $200 Can per night (some with disgusting showers and endless surcharges, such as a $100 Euro fee for simply having a professional step foot on the dock to advise on services… services not included, phft!); hundreds of dollars to visit national parks; and steep entry fees into most attractions. In short we were over it, and more importantly if our budget was to hold we needed to get away from it.
Checking out went smoothly, and soon we were on our way. It was rainy and overcast, but the predicted winds were fair and so off we headed. On our way out of Dubrovnik we passed by the city and enjoyed the view from the sea, then continued on our course south, hugging the coastline to maintain our protection from the weather. Being new to all of this, we will be the first to admit that we like to take the route that seems to be the most calm at all times. Despite our planning, hours later we learned a lesson. Leaving the first day after 3 days of strong winds may not be the best idea. After days of stormy and windy weather the sea can take time to settle down.
Just after lunch the sea state picked up to heavy following seas. The apparent wind blew between 11-13 knots from our hind quarter, so we kept our Genoa well reefed at ⅓ for stabilization, control and comfort; and we all clipped in. For the next few hours, we hand steered as the auto pilot could not contend with such swells.
With each wave our boat was picked up, and then surfed down, often teasing us with the possibility of water washing into the cockpit,
(which it never did) and in fact never even covered the swim ladder. Before leaving Canada, one of our biggest concerns had been seasickness. To our pleasure none of us fell prey to it except for our eldest who insisted, briefly, on reading below. I was probably the most surprised, as it was seas similar to this on Sea Dragon (Exxpedition Amazon 2015) that caused many weeks worth of discomfort. Finally, the point to round into the sheltered bay of Montenegro was 20 mins away and we were very much looking forward to taking a more relaxed stance behind the wheel.
It was then that I noticed a large power boat coming around the corner of an approaching bay. I commented that it seemed odd for someone to be heading out in this. As it came closer we recognized it as an official boat, police in fact, we waved cordially and stayed on course until it rounded our stern and made very clear that we were to follow them into the bay. Single handed, I reefed what was left of the Genoa, a first for me, and we held on tight as we crossed a shallower bar more broadside than we would have liked.
“Weebles wobble but the don’t fall down!” called my husband cheerfully from the helm followed by “hold on tight”.
My eldest’s eyes were huge as she imagined the wave swamping our boat. My youngest, who for the most part had been napping during transit, thought that now she would take a good look, to which I instructed her to close her eyes. That kid’s imagination was NOT what was needed at the moment! Safely in the bay, and out of the swell, the police boarded and informed us that we had done something wrong. Instead of taking the “shortest possible route” out of the country we had followed the coast and so a fine was required to be paid, 1000 HKR (or approx $200 Can). They had been tracking us on radar and camera since Dubrovnik, according to them. We paid the fine to the officer who came well prepared for payment, and who apologized more than a handful of times for having to fine us. Obviously, he was aware of how petty it was. We did no harm to anyone, had not made landfall and they chose to fleece us. It was completely premeditated and unnecessary.
We found Croatia to be beautiful, safe and the people wonderful. However, we are leaving with a bad taste in our mouth. At every step of the way somebody expected to be paid for practically nothing. It’s a shame really because it drives people away from visiting a country that otherwise has so much to offer.
After we parted ways with Mr. Officer, we completed the 20 mins around the point and entered Montenegro, were we were greeted by friendly, helpful and welcoming port staff.
We spent the quietest night at anchor to date, sleeping like the dead. Today the sun is out, and we are ready to go off find a data card to post this and beaches for the kids to play on. The adventure continues.