The first time we sailed to Montenegro was 2 years ago on our way up the Adriatic.
We crossed from the east coast of Italy’s boot heel with few preconceptions other than knowing it was a part of former Soviet Yugoslavia and was yet to be admitted to the EU so we could clear in and out of customs and reset Madame Geneva’s temporary import status for another 18 months. After a day of blue horizon the hazy peaks crept out of the sea….and kept moving skyward. We glided into the harbor at dark (here in summer approaching 10 pm) and prepared to tie up at the customs dock in Tivat (T-vot). 2 hours later it was sinking in that this was no typical harbor. We were tired and worn out when got to Montenegro last time. We had already sailed from Mallorca to Barcelona to Minorca to Sardinia to Sicily to Malta and then to Italy. Montenegro was a necessity but we had no expectations. after all the entire country is the size of New York City. We stayed for a week and were surprised because by all we saw and did. All of the former Soviet buildings, submarine tunnels, towering mountains, the Tara River Gorge, the list goes on.
The difference this time was that we weren’t worn out and knew a bit about the country. After a quick check in at Porto Montenegro for clearance and an orthodontics repair for Quinn we sailed inland to the ancient city of Kotor. A UNESCO culture heritage site, Kotor sits up a ria which is a flooded river valley surrounded by 3,000 foot peaks. It’s 13 miles from the sea and has walls with ramparts going straight up the mountain. The first inhabitants were from 500BC. Since then the Greeks, Romans, Illyrians,Saracens, Ottoman Turks, Austro-Hungarians, Napoleon, Venetians, English, Soviets and us have invaded and occupied. Kelly, of course, suggested we go to the top of the wall, a 1 hour hike up stone stairs. We did. It was amazing. Quinn has written an 11 year old’s recounting of that hike. It’s perfect. After the hike the kids were ready to rest and read so, since they are so salty these days, we gave them the dinghy and my phone and sent them to the boat…in a fjord, in Eastern Europe, in an empty anchorage. They were happy to do it and Kelly and I held hands watching our sea children race away knowing “they got this”. We looked around the ancient town a bit. I lost my wallet, then found it 2 hours later. The finder laughed herself hoarse at the American whose brand new wallet had only euros- no ID and credit cards except for 5 fake ones that come with a new wallet that say “credit card” on them because my old wallet is a few hundred meters below the surface of the sea somewhere near Brac, Croatia. A rain squall hit so Kelly and I were strong armed into having drinks and tuna carpaccio in an ancient square under a giant umbrella. The kids buttoned up the boat and kept reading at anchor (Read: we got this). We returned to the queue and called for our dinghy pick up. On the horizon we saw Quinn untie the dinghy, jump into the dinghy, pull the starter rope repeatedly and row back to the boat. After a conference call with Gherty I reminded them they had left the vent open on the fuel tank and likely got water in the fuel during the deluge. I talked them through it and big, strong Che got her running. What a pleasure to see them work together, figure it out, play to each other’s strengths and succeed. Once back aboard we had a nice home cooked meal and the boys had a knock down drag out name calling death match because, after all, they are brothers. It can’t be all wine and roses now can it?
Right now we are in Bar, Montenegro. This is the southernmost harbor in the country. We are a mere 10 miles from Albania. From here it’s 50 miles inland to Serbia and 65 miles to North Macedonia. Fortunately those countries are landlocked because we definitely don’t have their courtesy flags. We’ll overnight here, clear out of the country and fuel up midday tomorrow with a plan to leave around 5 pm for what should be a 22 hour overnight to Corfu, Greece.
As the days pass we find ourselves farther east than we have been before. Today we crossed 19 degrees East longitude. The geology is changing noticeably. It’s still mountainous but drier and with more iron in the strata. The town church from where we are berthed has a shining gold dome and looks more Greek than anything we’ve seen to date. Bar is not a bustling tourist attraction though it appears to be quite beautiful. There is a seaport and some large fuel tanks long the shore. There are a few smaller decommissioned cruise ships rusting in the corner of the bay. Our dock has English, German, Croatian and Montenegrin flags…oh, and one American flag hanging from the transom of Madame Geneva. (As I write this a small catamaran with the Stars and Stripes home port reading Kona, Hawaii just tied up. I love this!)
Tomorrow we’ll swap our Montenegro two headed golden eagle flag for our Albanian two headed black eagle flag, then, sometime in the night we’ll switch to the powder blue Greek cross and stripes. But tonight we’ll explore the town because as our friends will attest; Kelly and I rarely pass a bar.
Stay tuned. Much love.