Champagne Socialist on Board

Waking to the calm and warmth of Lake Telašćica, a swim before breakfast is definitely the thing.  After brek I read and Mike and Nick carry out some running repairs.  Before we leave I have a second dip and swim across to the edge of the lake where there are some rocky blocks acting as a small natural pontoon and just at the edge in very shallow water, where I can put my feet on the soft silty bottom, I look down through clear water and see a very large Fan Mussel projecting by about, I estimate, half its shell length and with the valves slightly gaping so I can see the mantle edge of the mollusc.  This turns out to be my champagne moment of the trip.   I persuade slightly sceptical fellow swimmers to come across and see my find.  Blog-FanMussel  With some hesitancy they agree and are suitably captivated to see this stunning bivalve mollusc and hear about its importance in terms of rarity and conservation value.  The species is protected under CITES.

Back on Verity we upped anchor and started our passage south, passing through a narrow and very shallow channel separating the head of the lake from a small richly vegetated island.  Rich vegetation is a rarity on the Croatian islands.  As the depth sounder showed a reading of 0 metres (but there is 0.5 metres buffer) Carolyn went apeshit and Nick and I kept our counsel until we had rounded the island and the water depths gradually increased and calm was restored.

Underway, and it being 11th September, was the moment to look at the BBC News website to find out the identity of the newly-elected leader of the Labour Party.  Jeremy Corbyn had won the election with a clear majority and I persuaded Mike to open a bottle of bubbles so that our Champagne Socialist on board could celebrate.  Blog-ChampagneSocialist  He had joined the Labour Party specifically so that he could vote.  What the Derricks felt about this they were courteous enough to keep to themselves!

We were heading for Levrnaka.  On the way I took a spell at the helm.  And during the passage we passed a yacht race.




Arriving at Levrnaka we took lazy lines from the pontoon and lunched in the cockpit.  Blog-Levrnaka1 I fell asleep over my book (I read 4 novels during the ten days that I was on board) and slept long in the afternoon waking at 5 for a swim off the boat.  After wine and nibbles on board we went ashore to eat at the Konoba.  The food there has gone considerably upmarket, as has the décor and the whole ambiance of the establishment.  The octopus salad I ordered was very special and we had pre-ordered Peka Lamb (‘Lamb under the bell’) which came in a monumental dish and consisted of lots of semi-roasted potatoes, onions, carrots and assorted bony cuts of succulent lamb in a rich clear gravy.  It was fabulous and we paid for it!

I ate myself to a standstill and perhaps that is why I woke at 1.30 parched, overheated (overeated!!!).  It was a disturbed night but I read a good chunk of Annie Dunne and eventually dropped off and slept until 8 o’clock.



Refinding Former Haunts.

A wakeful night prompted a bit of lamplight reading and I drifted back, to wake finally at 8 o’clock.  I swam off the boat, exercised and washed my hair off the stern with the hot water shower hose.  Such a treat.  After a breakfast we loosened the lazy lines and headed north towards the Kornatis.  We are sailing along the ocean-facing edge of the island archipelago.  The islands are at the southeastern end have sheer cliff faces and as we sail past Mana we can see stick figures along the precipitous top of the island waving down to us.


With a length of 35 kilometres (22 miles) comprising 140 islands, some large, some small, in a sea area of about 320 square kilometres (124 sq mi), the Kornati Islands form the densest archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea.  When we sail past Levrnaka we get a chance to motor into the small bay where there is a ‘beach’, of sorts, created by the importation of a substantial quantity of limestone rubble to create a shore.  This ‘beach’ is one of very few in the Croatian island archipelago.  As we idle, two park wardens arrive and attempt to fleece us for park dues, telling us (erroneously) that if we pay them, then our ticket will be good for the Telašćica Park too!  As if we would have any hope of tracking them down after to claim a refund!!Blog-Mana4

We press on looping between Sestrica and Abav and thus enter the southeastern end of Lake Telašćica (pronounced Telashchitza).  Arriving at the southern end of the western limb of Dugi Otok we anchor in an embayment, have a swim, eat our salad in the cockpit then have a snooze.  I sleep on through the lifting of the anchor and suddenly find we are at the end of the deeply incised bay which is called Lake Telašćica.  I read a little, then make the chicken curry for which I have brought the necessary spices.  I do this because the Taverna Govo where we hoped to eat Peka Lamb is closed that evening.

Let’s Split

We have an early flight from Gatwick to Split where we will be joining our sailing friends who keep their boat in Marina Frapa.  Allowing for the customary two hours in advance and the drive, it is at 01.45 that Nick and I pull out of our drive to head for the airport.  Nick finds the airport experience tolerable which is a relief and a Garfunkel’s smoked salmon and scrambled egg breakfast helps.  Arriving in Croatia we are met at the airport by the Derrick’s driver, Amadeus, who delivers us to the quay and Carolyn spots us as we stand dithering about where Verity might be moored.

It is lovely to be back on board and Verity has not aged one bit in the five years since we were on board.  To our delighted it is proposed to stow our bags and set sail promptly for an anchorage off the island of Zirje (“Jeeryay”) and where there is a friendly Konoba which essentially offers us fish or meat.

Blog-NickZirje2 Blog-NickZirje1

That night I sleep long and well and after a healthy muesli breakfast we all take a swim in the deliciously 25 degree sea.  It is a supreme treat to sit under the bimini in the cockpit and read as we head north for our next anchorage which will be Smokvica (“Smokvitza”).

It is, apparently, several years since the Derricks have managed to find an anchorage in the tiny sheltered harbour on the seaward face of the island.  It has always been full by the afternoon, but arriving late morning we are able to tie up to the pontoon below the Konoba Smokvica.  Cue for salad in the cockpit then a siesta.  In the meantime some fellow sailing friends had arrived at Smokvica and there was time for another swim and then donning some shore clothes to join Kantara for drinks.  We then went ashore to the shore to eat at Konoba Piccolo and I enjoyed octopus salad followed by the Peppered steak which is a renowned speciality of the establishment and was delicious.  You have to order it ahead of time and it comes in a steaming clay pot with oodles of creamy sauce………….. and it is rather expensive (300 kuna [£30] a head).

The following morning we went ashore and climbed to the top of the hill where we re-acquainted ourselves with the typical vista of Croatian islands, sparse of vegetation and many uninhabited, rising from the sea like so many dollops of pale limestone.  DSC00130There were some interesting plants, wild aromatic herbs to gather for a bouquet garni.  Nick found a nice fossil scallop, much admired by Fi Young, perhaps I should have parted with it, but objets trouves are something to hug to oneself.  On the way back to the little harbour I bought a terra cotta fish as a houseplant pot decoration then we drank a coffee together, before returning to Verity for salad in the cockpit and a siesta.  I took a swim, incorporating some crunch exercises hanging off the ladder at the stern of the boat.  The Youngs came over to us for pre-supper drinks then we ate for a second evening at the konoba, this time choosing something a bit less expensive but delicious nevertheless: shrimp spaghetti.  The evening became quite raucous, our table being surrounded by Austrian guests including one group of rowdy young men.  We made our way to the boat, gaining access via a neighbour’s passerelle.  I hit the hay, zonk!



Hike up Hambledon Hill

The month of October looms and we will shortly be required to lead our village walkers on a ramble.  We have left it very much to the last minute.  Time was when you walked the walk at least twice before you sallied forth with villagers in tow.  Things are a bit more laid back now and, for example, if we end up recapitulating a previous walk it does not matter.

Leafing through my copy of 50 walks in Dorset I find a walk of suitable length (~4 miles) centred upon the village Ibberton.  A good portion of this would be on country roads but it looks ok.  Unfortunately the Crown Inn in Ibberton is up for sale:(

I find another walk which we could start in the village of Shroton (Iwerne Courtney), to take us via Childe Okeford and carry us over Hambledon Hill with a gentle descent and back to our start point, the carpark of the Cricketers Inn.  Looks good on paper.

And so we park up at the pub in a village in which we looked at a property years and years ago when Nick was working at Verwood in the New Forest.  The house went to auction at the same time as Nick was hunted for the second time by Terry Maher of Pentos.  A near miss.

We left the village walking north turning onto farmland just after crossing the miniscule River Iwerne.  We followed the trickle, past some pens of porkers making our way towards Oyle’s  Mill, turning west to Park Farm and the Lynes.  We then joined the lowermost foothills of the magnificent Hambledon Hill.  We tracked round towards the village of Childe Okeford and just before we entered the village we turned up a track to skirt parkland which would eventually bring us to a distinctive stone stile, at which point the most energetic part of the walk begins.

We walked east up a wooded track to the Nature Reserve sign.  There we continued east crossing contours and this was the most puffy part of the walk.  At some point the ascent becomes more oblique – the worst is over.  When you reach the trig point the views are fabulous.

Blog-HambledonHillView2   Blog-HambledonHillView1

We did not take the optional track along to the Iron Age Fort but we saw many stick figures there, in the distance.  As it happened we had chosen a day to spec the walk when a National Trust open day was offering guided walks from a focal point in a field in Childe Okeford to the summit and to the fort site.

Descending from the trig point along a bridleway I felt a real high, whether from the knowledge that the steep climb was behind me, or from natural wellbeing chemicals buzzing around my system I do not know.  Perhaps a bit of both.

Arriving at the pub they found us a table for two which was fortunate as the place was full.  We ate the roast of the day which was beautifully cooked.  The owners and staff were very busy and I think the pub will do very nicely for a picky clientele 😉  I made a provisional booking for ten people and the pub obviously caters regularly for walkers.  No surprise with such spectacular walking on the doorstep.

Winding down the Summer

The evening before we leave St Vaast our good neighbours welcome us for dinner.  We won’t be seeing them until mid-October so it is a good chance to set the seal on the summer of ’15 and tell them about our Parisian interlude.  A mixed bag of activities awaits us in Dorset; on Friday I play bridge, on Saturday evening the McGoverns take us out for a thank-you curry, on Sunday we drive to Godalming for Perryman time.  During the following week there is more bridge, there are mushrooms to be gathered with Rollo and I have a paper to finalise before submission to Mike Allen.  We enjoy a lovely lunch at Wrackleford with friends of one of Nick’s first cousins.  At the weekend we drive to Oxfordshire to scrump some apples from Barns’ orchard, help him round up logs and visit the Bunkfest at Wallingford, where Nick is fascinated to see his two eldest grandsons operating cameras for on-stage live music.    The clock is ticking and I must make a visit to Chestnuts on Monday to see a very special person, before heading off at 2 a.m. on Tuesday, Gatwick-bound.