The best laid plans
Sep 20, 2014
|It had been our intention to board ex-president Tito of Yugoslavia's train on a rare trip from Bar in Montenegro to Belgrade in Serbia in September but sadly the track has been severely damaged in last winter's floods, so we have had to cancel that part of the trip. The train is taken out of mothballs only a few times a year as, like the rest of us, it is getting on in years and needs to be looked after in old age.
With the trip already emasculated with the train sector cancelled, worse was to come as we were forced to also drop the side-trip to Serbia too when Maggie was taken ill with food poisoning on the boat, but I am getting ahead of myself.
We had hoped to pick up our gulet, a two-masted wooden sailing vessel, in Kotor, Montenegro after a couple of days exploring Kotor Bay and surrounding area, including the old walled town of Budva Stari Grad with the largest concentration of jewelry shops per square yard I have ever seen. Not many corner shops or other useful outlets though.
But the previous week's storms had marooned our ship north of Dubrovnik in Croatia which dramatically altered our planned itinerary: instead of five days in Montenegro and two in Croatian waters, it would be only three stops in Montenegro and four in Croatia.
We reached our gulet in darkness about 9 pm, not moored alongside a convenient quay but a tender trip away in an isolated bay for a late chilly outside meal on board once we had been instructed to remove our footwear in case we scuffed the deck. Our first chance to meet our captor (not a typo) for the week, Admiralissimo Goran (or Captain Hook as we called him because of his pet parrot called Charlie), the tyrant of the Croatian seas (the captain, not the parrot). I am pretty sure, if my Serbo-croat vocab serves me well,that he muttered 'ah ha Jim lad' to a crew member more than once.
Our schedule was designed to meet the captain's every need: his afternoon naps after exhausting 1 or 2 hours sailing, his timetable for permission to go ashore, sometimes 7 or 8 of us in the ship's rubber dinghy in the pitch dark, (though at other times he seemed to whip off alone at high speed in the dinghy for mysterious landside assignations), minimal cruising, remote anchoring (to minimise mooring fees?), no daily briefings, no map displays, no conversation and certainly no dining at the captain's table. He ate in splendid isolation tended by the ship's staff meals bearing no similarity to his passengers' grub.
A request for access to wifi was met with 'what do you need that for?', not 'certainly', nor 'I'm sorry we don't have wifi'.
I think we'll head for north east Africa next year: I'm sure we'll get better treatment from Somali pirates.
What did we actually see from the list in the brochure? stunning walled towns? vibrant cultural villages, waterfront restaurants, hidden coves? Anchored out in remote coves for hours on end, yes, but not a lot more for three days till we reached Dubrovnik, but as we were obliged to eat dinner on board that night at least four miles from the city, there was no opportunity for perusing the city's wide choice of romantic evening restaurants and cafes as the sun set.
Two features however were excellent: the weather and the company, which for a few days included, would you believe, a honeymoon couple. Quite why two young things would think being cooped up with a load of old farts in fairly cramped quarters with limited soundproofing makes an ideal honeymoon venue, I have no idea.
It was all very disappointing after our two past cruises in Croatia on a larger vessel which moored every night in town, allowing easy access at times of our choosing, sightseeing, and a good balance between sailing, swimming and excursions.