Saturday, 3 July 2010

The reason for being

Oh my god, it's summer and I haven't written about spring yet. So, to follow on from the previous post, we didn't win the sailing race. In fact, we didn't finish. Poor, I know, but there was next to no wind (as usual) and I reckon less boats finished

than didn't. Monty B became a floating pub, the foredeck team reluctantly balancing their beers on deck when the spinnaker required gybing, saying something about the wind strength.

Sadly, our master sail tactician, Tony has bought himself a 30 footer which is a true contender for future races so Team Monty B has been temporarily disbanded. If we don't stand a chance, I don't wanna play!

As a pre-season shake-down, we "did" the Montenegrin coast all the way down to Ulcinj and back.We gave ourselves a week but the whole thing only took 4 days in total (there and back!) and as there was nowhere safe to anchor in the constant westerlies, we overnighted in Bar marina (€45 a night for the most basic of basic but stunning views as it nestles in a natural bowl of towering, steep mountains). The anchoring issue is a real problem for anyone cruising Montenegro in anything other than calm weather. Bigova and Valdanos are the only properly safe anchorages and even then, not from all angles. Bigova is rolly in anything from the west, and as the waves rarely come in the same way as the wind, it can be uncomfortable.

Getting out of the Boka was just what we needed though and just casting off our lines each morning and trundling off to see what the day was going to throw at us was superb. The desire to just keep on going was strong, but duty calls and we had to return to Porto for work reasons.

The most notable part of the trip was on the last leg down the coast, sailing downwind to Ulcinj with the wind rising to the point that despite the hot sun, I put on a jacket as I was getting chilly (this should have given us a clue to the wind strength). Anyway, to cut a long story short, when we turned round at Ulcinj it was roaring (god knows how we hadn't clocked it) and all hell was let loose on deck as we hadn't reefed before turning and were massively over-canvassed. We jumped to it, reefed, locked away the dogs, sorted the boat out and tore off back up the coast.

The conditions were just on the edge of our comfort zone with most waves washing the decks and several soaking the helm and a slight anxiety that we were going to struggle to get in before dark as the winds were right on the nose and we had to tack all the way up the coast. But it was sunny and the water looked superb - it makes such a difference (compared to it being foul or dark).

Anyway, everything just fell into place. We'd reefed just the right amount, plotted our course and tacked efficiently, the helminig was exciting, we put the dogs down and didn't worry about them (they hated it) - we did absolutely everything right. We surfed down the waves as we entered the small, tricky entrance to Bar Marina, tied up safely and were utterly elated.

Finally, the last few years make sense. There are lots of reasons why we are still in Montenegro but something had always gnawed away at me: "we should be out there on the high seas, adventuring". Now it has all become clear.

We have not been hiding away in the bay for the last two years, too traumatised by our ordeal back in Dec 07 to anything other than poke our noses out on fine days, hell no! Well, maybe a bit - but more importantly, we've been learning to sail and properly handle our boat, in a relatively safe environment with help only a phone call away if ever needed (only once!). And two years down the line, I do believe that we are now fully equipt, experience, confident and competent enough to deal with most situations in a seaman-like fashion. Which was certainly more than could be said when we first got on our boat three years ago.

The realisation that we have grown and learnt so much whilst in Monte was a revelation and has made our reason for being here clear.

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