The blog still has some gaps – a great many in fact – most of which will be verbally recounted over the next few weeks as we catch up with friends and family again.
So this final entry will mainly be a pictorial record of some of the highlights of the trip.
It was always planned to celebrate the 5th September – one of those big birthdays ending in a 0 that warrant a little extra indulgence - in Paris. So we sailed across from Croatia to Venice, which was a massive, fantastic, unbelievable, count-your-lucky-stars, pinch yourself kind of event in itself, tying up between huge timber piles at the entrance to the Grand Canal at the Punta della Salute in the middle of Venice.
BB tied fore and aft in the superyacht piles at Venice.
Needless to say, being a city afloat, with gondolas and water-taxis and water-buses taking the place of the wheeled variety, we loved Venice.
We found a safe berth at San Helena yacht club to leave BB at not too enormous expense - after some fancy negotiating in Italian (no capish).
Optimists learning to sail in the San Elena marina.
Then we flew to Paris for 3 days - ooh, la la!
....where we did all the usual touristy things and went out for dinner and the Moulin Rouge stage show on the 5th..
From Paris, we took the train to Lauterbrunnen in Switzerland and stayed in a very comfortable hostel.
View from our hostel window in Lauterbrunnen.
Even though a shore-based excursion, this foray into the snowy Swiss alps certainly ranked right up there as one of the best parts of our whole trip - especially the train ride from Lauterbrunnen to the "Top of Europe", the highest train station in the world, on top of the Jungfrau mountain.
Height is 11,500 ft above sea level. It was -6 deg C at the top. Considering the temperature and our lack of appropriate clothing or footwear, it was not too bad outside.
Out in the snow on top of the world, in sandals and alpaca sox.
There is an extensive underground ice palace carved into the glacier which we walked/shivered through. The walls and floor and ceiling are carved out of solid ice, dry to the touch and not slippery to walk on at all. There are various alcoves with ice sculptures of various kitchy kinds.
..but very cold, so we scurried back inside to the warm areas.
The train line runs through tunnels that were dug through the mountains in 1890. It took 300 men 16 years to build! There are (warm) restaurants, shops, etc. inside the mountain, and a high speed lift to "The Sphinx", a domed lookout at the very top that has amazing views of the snow-covered peaks of the Eiger and Monch mountains. Totally amazing!
Luckily it was a beautiful sunny day with clear skies above the clouds, so the views were not hidden, as they had been for the previous two days by the rain and drizzle. There is a web cam at the hostel, showing the weather situation at the top, so you can judge if it's worthwhile spending the E90 each to go up or not.
All the power requirements of the restaurants, shops, lifts, etc. are provided by solar panels up on top of the mountain (must be quite a job keeping the snow off them). These are augmented by power generated by the trains braking as they descend back down the mountain.
The party animals arrive:
A few minutes after our train had returned to Lauterbrunnen, some familiar faces pulled into the station on the train from Basel: the Taylor clan (Andrew, Sarah and Tom) plus 3 extras (Dani, (Andrew's girlfriend), cousin Em from Adelaide and Tom's good friend, Mitch).
This lot had flown into Rome, then done some preliminary pub-crawling before briefly meeting up with us, just before our departure back to Venice (all rather confusing, especially to the hostel staff who wondered why we were leaving just as the kids were arriving -kind of like changing of the guard - or accidental itinerarizing perhaps?).
Either way, after spending a couple of days following our footsteps in Switzerland, the 6 extra crew-members joined us in Venice.
8 for the road:
Having 8 on board BB was an interesting test for the boat, (et al) but we somehow survived.
We celebrated cousin Em’s 25th birthday on board before sailing back over to Croatia.
Unfortunately the newcomers were unable to fully appreciate the sights (or the bars) as much as they might have, due to a nasty little flu virus that made its way around practically everyone on board. Andrew coined the name change of the boat to “Flu Bohemia”.
Rainy day on "Flu Bohemia" watching videos, after checking back into Croatia in Pula.
From Pula, we re-visited Zadar, then enjoyed the trip up the winding waterways to the fresh-water lakes beyond Skradin. Here we visited layers of cascading falls and a Franciscan Monastery on a small island in the middle of one of the lakes.
At the end of September, the 6 almost-recovered intrepid travellers left BB to continue their tour of Europe by land.
Then, for the first time, ensued a two-week period of only the two of us aboard BB and we had to see if we could sail this boat on our own. Not quite as easy to handle as Courageous but we managed it and enjoyed some wonderful sailing.
Sailing from Split to Dubrovnik:
We had two weeks to sail the 200 miles from Split to Dubrovnik, where we were meeting our next crew mates, Graeme and Sue from Melbourne, so we could take it slowly and rest up in quiet anchorages for a few days at a time – rather a novelty.
We spent a couple of nights in a bay on Brac Island where huge concrete bunkers had been carved into the hillside and used during the war to hide submarines. The openings were camouflaged by hinged metal cages with lumps of polystyrene in them, made to look like rocks and boulders. The overhead girders could be drawn together above the bunkers, appearing from above as if part of the hillside.
We paddled the "JacYak" inside, marvelling at how incredibly long the bunkers were and how difficult they must have been to build (how long did they think the war was going to last?)
We saw evidence of squatters who had set up camp within the vast caverns, tying their boats inside, lighting fires to cook fish, coming and going throughout the night.
Fresh crew arrive in Cavtat, near Dubrovnik airport....
After Graeme and Sue’s arrival, we spent a couple of days exploring Dubrovnik, another spectacular walled city, built to keep out the invading hordes.
Dubrovnik as seen from BB - said to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
The view from atop the walls.
Inside the walls of the old city of Dubrovnik.
The next most fascinating stop was Kotor, Montenegro. Nestled amongst rugged peaks, this is yet another example of medieval fortification.
The formidable walls of the Kotor fortress completely surround the old city. The walls are lit up at night, looking most impressive from the boat.
The total length of the walls is almost 5 kilometres; in places they reach 20 metres high and up to 16 metres wide. How many slaves were used to build this?
At first we thought the encircling walls were built to keep the enemy out of the city, but then we saw it was to the high fortresses above that the people retreated for refuge when under siege, leaving their homes and belongings behind.
A rocky path ascends to a series of battlements and fortresses, culminating in the Castle of St John, 260 metres above sea level. A drawbridge across a ravine to this final bastion makes it practically unassailable.
There are about 1,350 steps – which we climbed to the top – at a leisurely pace on a nice day. Picture the town’s people fleeing up these, carrying babies and children and whatever else they could as various invaders swooped upon them. Mind boggling stuff!
Sailing South to Greece:
Sailing from Montenegro, we decided to skip Albania, basically because time was running out. We did our one and only overnight sail in perfect conditions toward our final destination in Greece – wind behind us, flat water, clear skies, milder temperatures and a full moon. BB was in her element, sprinting along like the thoroughbred racer she is, clocking a maximum speed of 13.5 knots. Just magic!
Full wet-weather gear was needed now.
First stop in Greece was the island of Corfu, then Paxos, where we were able to officially clear into the country, after a couple of failed attempts (long story there).
From Paxos we sailed over to the mainland town of Preveza, where we had arranged to haul the boat out for the winter.
As we approached, it was quite a phenomenal sight to see such a vast ‘forest’ of masts; row upon row of hundreds of yachts, all stored in 3 huge adjacent hard-stand areas.
Thousands of masts in the distance at Preveza.
We spent a day assembling our own custom fitting cradle, which we had had transported in our trailer by road from Slovenia. On Friday, 29th October, we hauled Blue Bohemia out and prepared her for leaving.
The view of some of the sea of masts from BB's deck.
On Sunday we caught the bus for a 6 hour trip to Athens and we flew home on Monday 1st November. We probably stayed a little late in the season as by October the weather was already turning much cooler and wetter.
Bringing wet weather gear was a good idea. Pity some of us didn't!
Hope those of you who have been following it have enjoyed reading the blog, and apologies for taking so long in getting it together. Will try to do a bit better next year, when we return to sail the Greek Islands and possibly Turkey.