Surrounded by mountains

15 to 23 August 2018

Herceg Novi to Sveti Marko, N42° 24.54’ E18° 41.49’, 9nm, 1 hour 30

to Donji Moranj, N42° 29.4’ E18° 39.4’, 7nm, 1 hour 30

to Kotor, N42° 25.5’ E18° 46.4’, 7nm, 1 hour 30

to Uvala Ljuta, N42° 29.33’ E18° 45.69’, 4nm, 1 hour

to Kotor, N42° 25.5’ E18° 46.4’, 4nm, 1 hour

We had been told, by the guide books and others who have visited, that the Bay of Kotor was beautiful. We’ve seen lots of beautiful places on these adventures and it’s getting harder to impress us.

But entering the bay we realised we were somewhere very special indeed. Byron (yep, him again – apparently no other poets are available!) described it as “the beautiful merging of land and sea” and he was right. We were literally surrounded by mountains, which when you live at sea level is a pretty unusual thing! And the deeper we went into the bay the higher the mountains got and the closer they were.

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The mountains gave the best of backdrops to the tiny islands dotted around, like the island of Otok with its church and monastery.

We spent two nights anchored off the very mysterious and uninhabited island of Sveti Marko. Approaching it we could make out lots of small but derelict huts amongst the trees as though its former population had abandoned it and nature had reclaimed it. We learnt that it had once been a holiday camp built in the 1960s but disused since the war of the 1990s.

Our anchorage was popular during the day but by night it was just us, Red Rackham and a boat that had rafted up to an abandoned landing craft closer to the shore.

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On our first afternoon we got a taste of the changeable weather the mountains can bring. Suddenly the skies darkened and the wind blew up. I noticed that our dinghy was floating away and quickly got in to retrieve it. All I’ll say is that whilst I am usually responsible for securing the dinghy, on this occasion another member of the crew had done it but I’m not naming names!

The wind brought by the storm reeked more havoc for Red Rackham. Finding themselves blown too close to the shore they had to reanchor in the growing dark and pouring rain. We were glad to wake up in the morning to find the sun out and them still there.

Before we left Sveti Marko we had time to explore the island. Or rather we tried to. We were able to land close to the crumbling restaurant, its former tables and benches looking more like a graveyard. A flight of steps took us up towards some of the huts but the undergrowth was just too thick to get anywhere.

So we had to make do with a short wander around the waters edge instead.

After a couple of days we moved deeper into the bay through a narrow channel crossed by constant car ferries to anchor off a village nestled under the mountains.

Donji Moranj is not much more than a cluster of stone houses built along the rivers and streams that bring still ice cold water off the mountains. When swimming we could feel the mixing of the ice cold fresh water with the warmer salt water. There were certainly some very bracing patches and we had to swim faster to keep warm.

Up one of the streams we found a wonderful old mill turned restaurant, Catovica Mlini, set in gorgeous surroundings and home to lots of ducks and geese. The food and company weren’t bad either.

Between Donji Moranj and Kotor, just off the town of Perast, are two tiny islands. The first is an entirely man made island built after a vision of Mary appeared on some rocks in the 15th century and called Our Lady of the Rocks. Over the years, by throwing stones and sinking old boats, the island and church grew into the Baroque building that stands today. The second island, a natural stone reef, is home to a small Benedictine abbey.

Perast itself looked a pretty old town dwarfed by the mountains surrounding it. We vowed to return to explore it more.

The pretty towns that skirt the bay continued as we turned down towards Kotor. Precanj boasted yet more churches including a pretty ostentatious Baroque affair.

The village of Muo just opposite Kotor was full of more agricultural but equally wonderful old stone buildings.

Whilst we explored the bay with Red Rackham by tender others went in the red submarine.

A few kilometres north of Kotor is the village of Ljuta where we were able to anchor for a night between the mussel farms.

Here the mountains were higher and closer than ever and we spent the night in awe at our surroundings.

Wherever we found ourselves in the bay the views were just stunning. We both agreed that this was probably the most special place we have been to yet. Which was a good thing because, as it turned out, we were going to spend another month in its splendour…

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