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