Motoring around Montenegro

4 to 12 August 2018

Bar to Sveti Stefan, N42° 15.3’ E18° 53.8’, 15nm, 2 hours 30

to Sveti Nikola, N42° 16.25’ E18° 51.05’, 2nm, 30 minutes

to Bigova, N42° 21.3’ E18° 42.6’, 13nm, 2 hours 30

to Dobra Luka, N42° 22.16’ E18° 38.04’, 3nm, 1 hour

to Marista, N42° 23.72’ E18° 34.45’, 3nm, 1 hour

August days were very hot and forecast winds exceptionally light so we planned to take things slowly and easily along Montenegro’s Adriatic coast and enjoy the many options for anchoring and taking mooring buoys along the way.

Leaving Anna and Michael of SV Red Rackham to (literally) sweat out a solution to their generator problem, we headed north from Bar along the stunning Montenegrin coast. The high mountains tumbled down to the coast, falling as great cliffs into the sea. A tiny chapel sat improbably on top of a rocky island.

Our destination for a couple of nights was Sveti Stefan, a former fisherman’s village joined to the mainland by a causeway. Its image graced many a postcard of the former Yugoslavia but it is now out of bounds to all but the rich. The island is now a very exclusive hotel. Anchored off it, out of interest we googled to find out how much it would be to stay there. The cheapest room was 1200Euros a night! We stayed just outside for nothing. Our first night was a bit rolly as we were exposed to the swell so for our second night we moved to behind the tiny rock island where we had more protection. We were delighted when Red Rackham turned up, generator fixed, and were able to get to know Anna and Michael better over cups of tea and gin and tonics (not at the same time!). We bonded over sailing experiences, all things Australia, politics, the environment, books and blocked toilets! After a couple of days of swimming and gazing at the mountains (sometimes both at the same time) we moved across the bay

to anchor off Sveti Nikola, known locally as Hawaii. Although most of the island is out of bounds, its thin strips of beach are a popular day trip from Budva opposite.

From our anchorage we could see the walled old town of Budva but we were separated from it by a shallow reef. Watching people wade along it told us that it was far too shallow for Pintail’s keel but we did take the dinghy across for a closer look.

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It was hard not to notice Budva after dark. The bright lights and thumping beats of its nightlife carried on until dawn.

To get away from the discos of Budva we headed further north to a narrow bay with the village of Bigova at its head and took a free mooring buoy. Bigova was once a small fishing village but is now a small but popular holiday place. The crystal clear water proved a real attraction to the many swimmers who came swimming passed the boat all day long. Just two restaurants, a surprisingly well stocked micro mini market and a man selling fruit and vegetables out of the boot of his car, it had everything we needed to happily pass three nights.

Determined not to be too lazy in the heat we decided to take a walk around the bay. Its wooded edges had deceived us into believing that we might be shaded but no such luck. We did, however, find enough berries, grapes, pomegranates and figs growing along our way to make us wish we had taken a bag to do some scrumping!

We finally dragged ourselves away from the security of the mooring buoys and with Red Rackham on our heels headed to a very isolated anchorage in a bay north of Bigova. There was no habitation ashore except a wild campsite built by a couple of families. We could watch their camp from our own boom tent, protecting us from the worst of the sun’s rays. It was clear that the vegetation around had not been spared from the intensity of the sun as large swathes of burnt plants and trees stretched across the hillside.

We fell happily into a pattern of popping over to visit the neighbours and vice versa, reading a lot and swimming to cool down. Our isolation meant no light pollution and a sky full of stars. Stefan even went for a starlit swim.

After another epic 3 mile voyage we followed Red Rackham onto another mooring buoy at a restaurant at Marista just inside the mouth of Bay of Kotor. From there we had a fantastic view of two castles and a monastery.

We took a dinghy trip around the bay with Anna and Michael. We were able to land on the island with the tiny monastery and found that the monks had an almost Australian like fondness for rules – no smoking, no swimwear, no swimming. They were however, very friendly and invited us inside their tiny, peaceful monastery.

We took a walk out to the fort on the end of the headland opposite the monastery. Having found no information about it in either guidebook or internet, the fort is of unknown origin but with good thick walls to repel invaders of whatever era. On the path from the fort we found an enterprising couple of young campers selling painted stones, shells and leaves to earn money for ice cream. Michael added a few cents to their fund.

The Austro-Hungarian Mamula Fortress on an island further out in the bay we did learn a little bit more about. Built in 1893, it was later used by Mussolini as a prison in which 2000 local Montenegrin men, women and children were tortured and starved. Controversially the island has been sold for an exclusive development in a similar vein to Sveti Stefan.

Behind the island the fortifications on the tip of the Croatian coast were clearly visible.

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After 9 lazy days and only 36 miles travelled we had arrived at the mouth of the Bay of Kotor where we knew the best of Montenegro’s spectacular scenery and historic towns were still to come…

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