Sunday, June 26, 2016

Albania part 3 - Shenjin

June 26 - July 2 - Shenjin

We left Vlore for an all day sail to Shenjin. We noticed several thunderheads along the way so tried our best to avoid them.

We arrived late and decided to anchor in the bay outside of the docks. We could see many lights and many carnival ride lights (these are a huge form of entertainment in Albania). As we were anchoring there was a call on the radio to us (our AIS system shows our name) from the marina. We could not see them but were informed that they could see us. We headed over but decided that it wasn't safe to try and tie up in the dark. We notified the authorities that it wasn't safe and that we would anchor for the night and come in in the morning.

We got up the following morning and prepped for arrival into the marina/port. An agent arrived and was waiting for us. She came aboard and finished all of the paperwork required. She handled all of the docking fees and entrance fees. Later in our stay we would see her on a local bus going to Lecce the city next door.

Shenjin is a wonderful beach district with hundreds of umbrella chairs an the long beach front. The water is shallow for a fair distance out and was safe for Jordan to play in. Many Albanians, Croatians and Russians come to Shenjin to vacation as it is so reasonable. In fact at a small taverna we were able to buy a 0.5 litre of beer for 0.50 cents. Incredible!

sunset upon our arrival

Jordan and a new friend at the beach

Paige lounging
On one of our evening walks into town we encountered the most surprising of pedestrians..... Yes, a cow. This particular bovine was pilfering through garbage cans for a snack...... It was hilarious.

the cow walked surprisingly fast so I missed its head

and then there were two munching

After we saw the cows the girls decided that it was bumper car time. Jordan was out for blood, Paige's blood. Jordan was relentless. It was very funny to watch. I guess it was payback for the lack of playing Paige does with her on the boat.

On one of our daytime outings we were walking by and noticed a small flock of ducks. As we were taking a picture a man came out of a backyard and whistled. Low and behold the whole flock jumped up and waddled over towards him. I have never seen anything like it. They soon returned as there was no food being offered.

flock of ducks
responding to the call
returning after they didn't receive food
Later this evening Shaun took the girls for a walk and some more rides/trampolining.

blurry Jordan 
getting some help with the bounce

exiting the trampoline

The following day Shaun taught Paige how to change the oil in our small Honda generator. It was quite hot that day but it needed to be done. Later in the day we headed back to the beach.

generate oil changing lesson
chilling at the beach
Jordan with her new Albania flag towel - farewell Albania we enjoyed ourselves
AFC (Albania Fried Chicken) anyone?
On one of our last days we decided to take a local bus to Lecce the next city over. It just so happened that our agent was on the same bus. The bus cost us around 200 lekes total. It was super cheap and comfortable. It took us 15 minutes to get there. Once we arrived we took our time and walked around. It was nice to window shop and see another small city.

Albania was a pleasant surprise and would recommend visiting if ever you have a chance. We thoroughly enjoyed our time in this beautiful part of the world.

Follow our video adventures on our YouTube channel: Video adventures of s/v Element

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Albania part 2 - Vlorë

June 25 - 26 - Vlorë

We arrived into Volora and got ourselves tucked away at the commercial dock and headed off into town to grab a bite to eat.  Well it turns out that approximately and hour and a half after we arrived, the serene picture below was not to be. We were at dinner down the road, when we noticed the wind was kicking up, and Shaun realised it was not from the usual direction. The wind was directly entering the harbour from its non-protected side, so after we quickly finished up eating, we headed straight back to the boat to make sure things were ok. Several other boats had tied up behind us for the night and we had a steel fishing boat tied perpendicular to the end of the key just 4 ft in front of us. As we approached the boat I could see a tablecloth of cloud sliding down the face of mountains in the distance....the tell tale sign of the much feared "Bora" winds. All the boats were violently rocking from the wind, so we all added more lines....but as time went on, the swell started to build eventually reaching 4 to 5 ft waves with a 2s period and heavy breaking crests - I'm quite confident, they were good for surfing. The waves managed to quickly chafe through 3 of our lines in less than 30 minutes, while our starboard bow was becoming airborne down the backside of the waves, as they hit our boat bow on. It seemed like our stern cleat was going to be ripped off the deck because the line was originally tied too tight for the height of the swell, but the line chafed through on the concrete jetty before that occurred. We were fairing far better than the steel fishing boat that was getting bashed beam on, with the swells attempting to smash and lift the boat on top of the jetty. With the help of the other sailors, Shaun ended up cutting up one of our spooled stern tying lines into shorter lengths for more storm lines. We added these 5 lines to a strong ship's bollard in front of us, to hold the boat in place, so that it would not slide backward into the sailboats just behind us where the ferry was in the photo, as our "spring line" for this job had chafed through as well. Once all the storm lines were in place and not too tight, the boat was riding the large waves like a champ, and we just had to keep an eye out for more chafe. 4 hours later at approx. 2am, the ordeal was over and we could hit the sack and pass out. Oh yes, but then we were headed out the next morning early before the 7am ferry returned....

Word to the wise, do not tie up at the commercial dock. Go down to Oricum marina, you will fair much better in bad weather.

the calm before the storm

Follow our video adventures on our YouTube channel: Video adventures of s/v Element

Monday, June 20, 2016

Albania part 1 - Sarande

June 20 - 24 Saranda

We left Corfu and headed the short distance to the port of Saranda. On a cruising website called Noonsite there was a recommendation for an agent with Saranda Summer Tours (, Jelja Serani. We contacted her and had a very quick reply back letting us know that she would be waiting for us when we arrived. We highly recommend this company. She and her co-worker were very pleasant and extremely helpful.

She took the documents that were required and filled out all of the documentation and brought everything back once the check in was complete. The cost was 50 euros. Our berth was approximately 25 euro per night. We were safe and in a fairly quiet place.

We took a walk along the waterfront which offered many tavernas, play parks and beaches. There are older buildings interspersed with modern ones.As we were walking both Shaun and I agreed that Albania is where Turkey was 5-10 years ago. We both feel that it is an up and coming tourist destination. You can have a full meal with drinks for 4 people for between 20-30 euros. We ate out most of the time as it was so reasonable.

One one of our days we took a walk through the back streets to find the plethora of shops and to find the grocery store. They were well stocked with all of the items that we would need. We also came across some ruins in the middle of the town.

ruins in the middle of the town
On the second day that we were in Saranda we noticed our new Australian/New Zealand friends that we had met in Corfu were moored right next to where the ferries dock. We caught up with them over beverages and joined them for dinner at a traditional Albanian restaurant. They were leaving the following day as they had to make tracks to get to Gibraltar.

our Australian/New Zealand friends at dinner
We had noticed on a previous walk a restaurant just near the beach that offered bumper cars and of course Jordan wanted to go on them. We had promised her at some point that she could go so off Shaun went with her for some bumping around.

an action shot of Shaun and Jordan on the bumper cars
moon rising up over the hills
Our agent had recommended that we see several spots while we were in Saranda, the Blue Eye (a natural water spring -,_Albania), the old town of Girokastra and Butrint. We decided it would be best to rent a car to visit them. Saranda tours arranged a car for us and off we went.

Our first stop was to the Blue Eye (this was a highlight of our visit). We drove along a dirt road with a river running beside us. We came upon a small shack and paid the entrance fee. Further along we finally came across a parking area where we were able to walk the 30 m to the phenomena.We crossed a small bridge over a crystal clear river and along another path with a ton of vegetation, blue dragon flies and frogs. All of a sudden the river ended and there was a mountain. We looked down and saw a large spring bubbling with 750 cubic meters of water coming from under the ground. It was magnificent. I have never experienced anything quite like it until that moment. The water was ice cold and stunning. The girls were especially interested in the critters and spent time looking/finding them all.

the small bridge
blue dragon flies that have wings like the horses in the move Avatar
another dragonfly on a leaf
crystal clear water
the beautiful vegetation surrounding the river

the Blue Eye from the ground
the Blue Eye from up above
did I mention crystal clear?

looking down while Paige was searching for frogs
selfie looking down
one of many frogs near the waters edge
Jordan testing the icy waters
Once we had fininished at the Blue Eye we decided to make our way to the old city of Girokastra. Along the way we snapped some pictures of the countryside. We were surprised by the contrast of landscapes that we saw.

a valley that we drove by

a drier area that we drove by on our way to Gjirokastra
another shot of the drier area we drove through
looking down into the valley
farmlands nestled in the valley

We made our way into the old town and were pleasantly surprised. The town is located on top of the hill. We found a parking spot and started our walk up to the fort at the very top. The streets are stone along with all of the buildings. All the streets are narrow with very little walking space when cars drive by. It offers stunning views of the surrounding areas.

narrow stone streets

walk up to the fortress
largest stink bug ever
very cool table

peek-a-boo view

a stone carver hard at work
the entrance

interior arsenal

this gives you and idea the size of the walls

the ticket lady photo bombed

the view

yes that is a plane

a T33 (50's era fighter plane)

the clock tower

on our drive back to the boat

We arrived back at the boat and noticed another catamaran. We happened to notice a family walk by. The kids automatically flew together. I got to chatting with the parent (Zoe and Guy from Australia). It turns out that they are fellow live aboard cruisers and we hit it off. Once they returned from dinner we had them over for beverages and let the kids play. We also have another connection through another Australian family Karen and Toby. What a small world. It was a welcome opportunity for all of us.

from left to right - Paige, Max, Jordan and Cameron
from left to right - Shaun, Sherrie, Zoe and Guy
We had planned to only have the car for one day but decided to keep it for a second day as we wanted to visit Butrint an ancient city ( It is situated very close to a riverbank.

turtles in the ponds

writing in a wall

an amphitheater

ruins of heated floors
mosaic tile

large cricket - yes our girls love the critters

looking for turtles

ruins of the Baptistery

more writing in a wall

resting our weary feet in the heat

the river

this is a skeleton of an unknown insect

resting in the shade

arches and more arches

they don't make walls like this anymore
a spontaneous hug

of course Paige is the lion eating the poor ram (Jordan)

nearing the end
the famous triangle fort

For a job well done we stopped at a beach on the way back and let Jordan swim (oops we had no swim suit)....... She swam in her undies..... but didn't care one bit.

Jordan swimming European style - no top

the bunkers that kept the outside world out for so many years
another bunker

Follow our video adventures on our YouTube channel: Video adventures of s/v Element