Friday, 30 December 2011

Now for winter

It feels like we're running out of time already, yet winter has only just begun. And despite the mountain tops being prettily snow-encrusted, we've still been happily beavering away at stuff in nothing but a long sleeved top for most of the past month (and trousers, it hasn't been that warm).

The rains came ferociously but were short lived and then high pressure returned. We've seen record wind strengths from both southerly and northerly systems.  The southerly was totally manageable until it moved through to west, when all hell let loose in the marina due to the floating breakwater not providing sufficient shelter from that direction. The surging took our boat under the pontoon and it hit hard, twice, taking minor chunks out of our stern (easily repairable nowadays) but it was all a tad stressful.  Particularly as the engine was mid-service so not operational but a team effort of me stood precariously on the stern with the old faithful tyre, wedging it between us and the pontoon every time we slid underneath (fenders no use if they have nothing to press against on a floating pontoon) whilst Tim hurriedly reassembled the engine bits and got us up and running within 15 minutes (amazing effort).  Our experience from Fiskardo all those years ago (see Nov 2007) when our stern got mashed in a similar situation taught us that the easiest way of dealing with this issue is simply whacking the engine into forward, holding us off the pontoon. This worked enough for us to get another few feet in on the groundlines, which was no good for that wind strength (don't ask me what it was, I don't know) but it helped a bit.  We stayed in forward drive until the wind changed to NW, which it did within an hour.  Thankfully, it never blows from that direction for long.
Tramontana blows in Porto Montenegro

Less than a week later, the Tramontana (north) came through, with rumours of gusts of 80 knots recorded in the marina. It was an amazing spectacle, seeing these huge super-yachts heeling right over and the water being picked up in white mini-cyclones tearing across the bay then crashing into the marina. We were heeling so much that anything that could have fallen over in the galley, had done so, which is more than we usually get when sailing to windward (but then we do sail "gently":-)).  But we looked safe enough. It was pretty sickening to watch though and I hid in the car with the heebie jeebies, with that familiar "what do we do if this gets any worse?" feeling (and that's me on land, let alone at sea!  I'm just not cut out for this boating lark).

Timmy in his outfit, beavering away in the sunshine, late November
Our big job of the off-season is re-caulking our teak deck. It is laborious as hell with painstaking diligence required by both of us (yikes) but so far it is looking really good. The trouble is, we need 3 fair days at a time to get a section done and that is getting increasingly unlikely now.  We are probably nearly a third done. If the weather is as kind in 2012 as it was this year, then Feb and March are possibly enough for us to get the lion's share of it done. I really want the boat ready to roll by the end of March so we can head off to Greece for a month or so's cruising this year (deja vous, deja vous - we shall see, eh!).

We leave Montenegro for another Balkan adventure on 4th January. We are off to live in Sarajevo for a month. We have enrolled in a language school there so we can finally get to a less-embarrassing level of Montenegrin (or Bosnian, as will be the case but it is the same language). It is going to be very interesting and very cold.  We leave here on 4th January, overnighting in Mostar in a hotel that has agreed to take the pups, arriving at our rented apartment in Grbavica which is near the centre of Sarajevo on 5th Jan.  To be continued............

We finally got to walk along the track from Krstac, along part of the Coastal Transversal overlooking the Boka. Full version down to Dobrota to be tried in spring with more daylight.

Timmy, Jen and a rare picture of Nathan actually walking!

Gorgeous sunny days in November, this is why we foresake old friends, curry houses and a decent pint of bitter

Stuff and Nonsense - the Under 0.5 metre boat race, Timmy's offering "Total Rubbish" was built using only flotsam from Jaz Beach. And its performance was true to its namesake.

The smug winner (in cahoots with the manager of the Yacht Club) BEFORE the race has even started

Yet another stunning picture of my surrogate child (sorry T & L!)

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

I support today's strike action and so should you

And here are those who the media are choosing to demonise:

Let's hope the rest of members of British society see through the government bullshit and blame the true culprits.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Divide and rule: Public Sector Workers – The new demons of UK society

Yesterday's news mantra, repeated every 10 minutes on the BBC, told us that the “Unions are spoiling for a fight”.  So not the millions of ordinary working people who voted to strike in an attempt to make their tiny voices heard in our so-called democracy?  People who actually care enough about the future of our country to get off their arses, lose a day's pay (and find childcare – they do have children too, you know!) and stand in the rain outside their workplace.
So, who are these money-grabbing public sector workers? Well, generally they are people whose jobs involve contributing, in some way, to our society to make everyone's life that little bit easier and in some cases, actually massively improve people's lives.  I don't want to fall into the divide and rule trap being set by the media of public vs private sector workers and their rights, but you have to admit, not all but the majority of private sector jobs contribute to the production or sale of pointless crap that no-one actually needs (and some may argue actually contributes to mass debt, inequality and vain materialism – but that's another argument).  That's totally up them – but maybe, when they get all grumpy about their own pensions now being worth sweet FA, they should think about WHY that is and whose fault that is (I'll give you a clue – maybe, just maybe, something to do with the financial services sector?) and just because their own futures have been ruined, does that mean they should hate the remaining helpful citizens who are also struggling to make a living, for trying to stop their futures being destroyed too? And I'd bet my bottom dollar that most of those on strike tomorrow are not simply concerned about themselves and their families, they also care greatly about the effect of the cuts on society.

I'm not sure where the press get their stats from, but coming from a well-educated social group, in my experience my friends who work in the private sector get paid a fuck of a lot more than those who work in the public sector, WITHOUT EXCEPTION. With salaries of circa £50 - £80K being blithely banded around as though this is normal – for their contributions to the sale of wealthy people's real estate or fancy home furnishings (bought up cheap from poor countries by multinationals). If I hear one of THEM complaining about the rights of public sector workers, I smell the burning of Jags.

Admittedly, some call centre monkey might be on an equivalent wage or (shock) even lower wage than a data-inputter working for the local council, but hey, doesn't that make some sense? Contributions to society and all that. 

And the strike tomorrow isn't just about pensions. Pensions were the only thing that the diverse range of workers could realistically take a legal strike ballot on. This strike is about expressing the average person's disgust at the fact that the 99% are paying the price of the meltdown of the financial markets, public money being used to bail-out of the banks and the subsequent savage cuts across all public services.

It is easier, from a distance (I'm in Montenegro now, not the UK), to see through the media BULLSHIT as I am no longer exposed to the drip drip drip of propaganda that seeps into your brain all day, every day, back home.   Okay folks, guess what?  These “austerity measures” i.e. massive cuts in public services/people's pay have not been put in place because the government has been paying everyone too much.  Let's get this straight – let's see through the media fog that has been created. The cuts have been put in place because the country is (supposedly) skint* because the economy has almost collapsed because....da dah.....gambling on the financial markets sent the economy into meltdown....then the government used OUR money to bail out the banks (who are now doing very nicely, thank you very much)......then they tried to persuade us that this was all in our own interest so we should knuckle down and shut up.......and when millions of people decided they didn't want to shut up, they use the Murdoch-owned press and the BBC to persuade us that they are being GREEDY.

I would say “how very clever”, except it is not. It is extremely transparent.

Remember, blaming the strikers is EXACTLY what they want you to do.

The final straw yesterday was hearing the government's desperate line about “the public sector strike damaging the economy”.  Splutter, splutter – what????!!  Public workers could do quite a lot to make people's lives difficult if they chose to, however, a one-day strike is a protest designed to draw attention to the value of the public sector; it will not wreck the economy and bearing in mind what HAS been done to wreck the economy, this comment certainly is fighting talk.

* I would also propose that regardless of the country's financial woes, any Tory government would be implementing these policies as this is completely in line with their ideology. The current situation simply gives them a very convenient stick to beat us into submission.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Longest summer, best summer, ever ever ever

It is hard to believe that we only finished our summer less than a week ago and 5 days ago, I was diving off the boat into the sea.  In an attempt to do something completely different and get away from our boaty world, in less than 3 hours easy drive from Tivat, we arrived in Zabljak in Durmitor National Park in minus temperatures and snow!  Admittedly the town is at 1400m above sea level, though you wouldn’t think it to look at as it sits on a  vast rough grassland plateau with the jagged, fearsome peaks (20 of them above 2000m) jutting out dramatically above.

The weather had finally turned after a scorching summer and mild, dry winter – in fact, the whole of 2011 in Monte has been incredibly dry (is this true of the rest of the Balkans?).  So even on the coast, temperatures had dropped. But living with 30 degrees plus for 5 months to go to minus temps was an amazing feeling.  Thermals, snow boots, woolly hats, ski gloves and we were still a tad chilled.  Great to get winter clothes on though; much more my thing, it has to be said. More forgiving and right cosy.

This summer has been the happiest and most successful yet on the boat, I reckon. We worked hard, we played hard, we did three trips to Croatia AND most importantly, we had a laugh together and didn’t fall out (at all).

We spent valuable time with friends, old and new.  My Brummie (sorry, Walsall) compatriate, Max, came up to Croatia with us for a surprisingly sober week of sailing and chilling out which drew to a close with a slap bang wallop of 40 knot winds and anchor dragging hell in Cavtat, which would have been a bloody nightmare without her. 

Aussies, Ariana and Lachlan, from Tim’s old workplace had a whirlwind tour of Dubrovnik and Monte in 5 days, spending a night on anchor with us together with my mum, then a day’s sailing when Ariana got her hands burnt, literally, by the mizzen sheet as we gybed (skipper’s fault!) and nearly fainted. Yikes. Memories of Monty B for her must be rather strange.

My mum stayed for 5 nights, living in the forecabin and earning her keep as galley-slave and dog-kayaker. I was worried she’d hate living in a cabin but she reckoned she had the best night’s sleep in yonks, for many reasons I think.  It was her best visit so far I reckon.

Right in the midst of the season and a 40 degree heatwave, the Nurzes paid a 3 night visit and we managed to squeeze in an overnight at Bigova and a piss-up on anchor with sunset sail back to our anchorage. All fantastic and great to be able to show our mates what boaty living is all about (though this is their 4th visit to see us in Monte, but the only time they haven’t worn woolly hats).

We made some new friends, Stefan and Nina, who we almost knew by default (they were Den and Steve’s WWoofers and Nina is the sister of someone we know from home – weird eh?).

Plus we’ve managed to maintain a social life all summer for the first time since we’ve been doing all this and have spent some quality time with our mates here, which has been brilliant.

Spending 5 months on anchor was the most fulfilling way of  living I can imagine. The peace, the views, the water, the wind, the isolation (but still only a dinghy-ride away from friends).  Just brilliant. We managed our work loads better than last year too which meant we seemed to put even more in as we felt more enthusiastic about it, right until the end. Enjoying Monty B by living on anchor meant that I was happy to share her, rather than feeling like everyone was having fun on our boat except us!  If we can continue living like this,  6 months hard but enjoyable work, 6 months maintenance and going off doing other stuff, it is pretty much the dream.  However, our success hangs in the balance and the increasing bureaucracy may make it unworkable. 

Plus our island hideaway of Sv Marko (pretty much the only isolated and safe anchorage in the entire Boka) may not always be an uninhabited wilderness as yet more surveyors were spotted there at the end of the season.  All it needs is for building work to start on the island and we are done for.  There literally is nowhere else for us to go, and that will probably herald the end of our time here living aboard in Monte. 

However, one of the main appeals of “this life” is living in the present, taking it as it comes, enjoying life as it happens and at the moment it couldn’t be better.  For Brits living in the 21st century, the ability to so freely be able to live and think like this cannot have a value placed upon it. We are so lucky.

It could be the best summer we will ever have.

Katie and her "great example of a 60 something" mum (sorry mum!)
Ariana and Lachlan, Tim's ex colleague

Yam Yam Max, the 40 knot anchor dragging hero

The love of my life: Monty B on anchor in Croatia

Springtime in the Boka - I never tire of this view

A rare moody morning in the summer of hot hot hot

Our home: Sveti Marko Island

A day off for the dogs as well as us - Louis gives Mollie some ear chewing at sundown

They have the best life

The Nurzes loving a Bigova sunset

Racing to Bigova anchorage with the Nurzes

Captain Andy at the wheel - the man needs a boat

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Queen of the Quitters

Our significant decision to whittle down our businesses from two to one is a good one. We have all (us plus T & L) decided to wind up our yacht guardiennage business, despite its success, for some very solid reasons.

That naughty little thrill, which I've always loved so much, of quitting something and its resultant taste of freedom has been tinged with a gut nag that we've chosen a pathway at a crossroads in our life. The business had great potential, and if we'd been in a different position and of different mindset, it was a lucrative pathway that couldd have taken us, after many yeras of determined slog and empire building, to a financially comfortable and stable middle/later age.

But thankfully we've listened to our (my) own mantra of "life is too damned short".

Sometimes, especially when surrounded by the verve and money of Porto Montenegro, it is easy to be sucked back into the status-anxiety inducing world, where you can use terms like "MY business partners", "MY lawyer" or "MY accountant". It gives you a small thrill the first time you do it - it all sounds so.....grown up.

But then the reality of being tied to something which requires you to be available and in situ 24/7, 365 days a year starts to kick in and you remind yourself that these exciting new grown-up concepts in your life are no more desirable that the ones you, quite rightly, saw through and spurned all those years ago - salary, performance targets, promotion, pension, mortgage advisor, financial advisor blah blah blah.

We live on Monty B. We have a fantastic business which we love called A Day out on Monty B. It provides us with everything that we could want, particularly the fulfillment of working hard on something you enjoy.

And now we have the freedom of spending the other 6 months of the year (half our lives!) - that's 26 weeks a year - doing interesting and rewarding stuff, wherever or whatever that may be.

Anytime that the spectre of our own future financial security raises its troublesome head, remember that you never know what is around the corner and the enjoyment of living in the present is the most precious thing.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Feels like those first few weeks

What I can't quite get my head around is why we kept a marina berth last summer. Even though in midsummer, we often dropped guests in the marina at the end of each day then high-tailed it to Sveti Marko (our island anchorage), there were still plenty of nights spent tied up in Porto Montenegro, "making the most of our marina fees". Ha!

This summer has felt like I've been scrubbed clean.

At the end of April, we left behind the construction powerhouse that is Porto Montenegro and life instantly changed. Awaking to cicadas rather than pile drivers, swapping hammering and drilling for the gentle lapping of water made the start to each day an altogether more tranquil experience.