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Saturday, December 21, 2019

High Crimes...

Within the impeachment debate, a Trump refrain has been “where was the crime?” After all, what damage was really done? Volodymyr Zelansky got his White House visit and Ukraine got its aid and javelin rockets. Clearly, this is a Hoax, a Sham, a Witch Hunt!
But what if the President and his agents were not so inept? I’m a fan of the alternate history genre (think “Fatherland,” by Robert Harris), so let me spin an alternate outcome here.

Suppose the plan to damage Biden was more clandestine; professionally planned and executed, the call was never made or successfully buried, and Trump had more loyal forces installed in the State Department and in the ambassadorial ranks. What if the whistle blower never materialized? What if Trump didn’t make the stupid decision to resurrect the debunked 2016 Ukrainian election interference plot and add it to the soup. Or what if the quid-pro-quo was delivered quietly and without a trail by a trusted confidant.

Could we have then seen a credible new Ukrainian president, who had run on an anti-corruption platform, hold a convincing news conference on CNN, strategically timed before the Iowa caucus. Zelansky soberly announces as part of his broad corruption investigation, a serious inquiry into Hunter Biden, Burisma Holdings, and by association, former Vice-President Joe Biden. No one ever discovers any fingerprints of the Trump administration’s shakedown of Ukraine.

Biden, already stumbling in Iowa, comes in a distant fifth place, with no clear winner. Leading up to Super Tuesday, Russia and fringe-right groups spin a brilliant digital campaign that keeps the Burisma issue alive. Warren and Sanders join in the questioning in order to bolster their chances; and the Trump administration’s blunders and missteps move to page two.
The Democratic Convention opens in Milwaukee on July 13th with no presumptive nominee, chaos ensues; however, Biden is finally confirmed on the third round of balloting. Very little time is spent on Republican policy failures in the first term.

On January 20, 2021 Donald Trump strides to the podium for his second inaugural address. In the campaign, Biden continued to be dogged by Ukraine and a proposed Senate investigation that never actually took place. He won the popular vote but lost in the electoral college.

It turns out that Trump was very much like Ray Winkler in Woody Allen’s hit “Small Time Crooks.” But what if he were a bit cleverer and more sinister? Trump could also have been the Keyser Soze character in Bryan Singer’s “The Usual Suspects.”

High crimes and misdemeanors are still high crimes and misdeneanors regardless of the outcome. They should not be judged by the success or failure of the illicit act. An alternate history in this recent incident with the Ukraine could have been quite grave to our democracy and our nation - and we might never have discovered it.

This is precisely why impeachment was the appropriate course of action.

Image result for trump impeachment founding fathers cartoon

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Sailing - July 2019

We had a wonderful five-weeks aboard our new yacht, S/Y “MISSI.” Judith and I saw some delightful new places and visited some spots from our previous two years in Croatia. Our base is in Šibenik and our home port is D-Marin Mandelina Marina, where we have an annual berth.

D-Resort & D-Marin Mandelina Marina

We had hired a very able skipper and captain for the year; Tilen is young but professional; and knows the Adriatic well. A hostess also joined us for the stay; Cornelia. She is a talented chef, creative at provisioning MISSI wherever it is that she stops and counted upon during our berthing, mooring or anchorage for her able hands on deck.

Rather than give a chronological, day-by-day account, I’ve decided to group the post into three parts: daytrips from Šibenik and life in the marina, an eight-day trip southwest and another multiday journey northeast. But first I’ll start with some lessons learned.

Lessons Learned:
 Several times each day it sank in that I’m seventy years old. Despite all the electric winches, self-tacking systems, roller furling, and out-of-this-world instrumentation and navigational aids boating remains a physical activity. You need flexibility in your neck to see the top of the mast and the wind vane, agility and balance to move about, leg strength to get out of the water onto the transom, coordination to ease out the sheets in a strong breeze without losing a finger, good stretch to reach for a bouy with the boathook, finesse in a tight stern-in docking in a brisk crosswind – you get the picture. I thought of myself as fit for my age, and I still think I am. But I’m seventy; no getting around this fact.
I also learned that sailing isn’t like riding a bike – it doesn’t automatically come back. I needed to relearn balance, the helm and the weather and the wind – which is a very local affair. I remember being able to sense the wind and see the weather, but I lost it. I had to remember the feeling of steering into the wind – the sensation of wind in your face, equal tingles on each ear. I easily lost sense of its direction under pressure. Being rusty doesn’t half explain what I’m trying to say.
Finally, MISSI is a big boat – 32 gross tons, 62.7 feet long, 17.6 feet at the beam and a mast 90 feet above the waterline. She carries a mainsail of 1,030 square feet, and a light-wind Code 0 headsail of 1,710 square feet. The irony is that to have the room, comfort and conveniences one wants you need a yacht of this size, but it almost assures that the dimensions, complexity and maintenance make it totally unrealistic to handle with just Judith and me.
I wrongly thought that this would eventually be a private, “Judith and me” experience – it will never be. We need a crew, but thankfully have found a surprisingly good pair in Tilen and Cornelia. It will be different than what was in my mind; however, the sensations of being at sea are more than I could have imagined. And Tilen has freed me from the ongoing maintenance and day-to-day headaches of managing MISSI. We’ll see how it goes.

Šibenik and Day Trips:
We arrived to Šibenik from an overnight in Split on the 4th of July – sort of my yachting Independence Day. Šibenik is well situated for us, and D-Marin Mandelina is regarded as the best marina in Croatia. The city has much history, dating back almost 1,000 years. Its inner bay drains the Krka River basin and is connected to the Adriatic by the narrow two mile St. Anthony’s Channel - well protected from most weather and wind.

The Channel Can Get Tight!

Our berth, #16 on “G” dock, wasn’t quite ready, so we temporarily tied up at the guest pier and Judith and I continued our stay at the adjacent D-Resort Hotel. There were two days of final provisioning and other chores to be done (like getting the wine fridge stocked).
On the 7th we moved onto MISSI and had our first day trip to nearby Otok (“island” in Croatian) Kakan, stopping for a great lunch prepared by Cornelia (one of many!) and a swim before motoring back to the marina. Dinner was aboard; we had a very restful night’s sleep in our wonderful master cabin.

To acquaint you geographically, as you leave St. Anthony’s Channel there are several pleasant islands one or two hours sail away: Prvić, Tijat, Kaprije and Kakan (our first outing) to the north; Zamajan and Žirje (the furthest out) dead ahead; and Zlarin, south. By the end of the month I was comfortable navigating this very busy section of the coast.

Šibenik and its Surrounding Islands
More Confusing on a Nautical Chart!

Other trips were to Tijat, Žirje and Zlarin; and further afield to the very charming town of Primošten. Each spot was unique and unforgettable. 


By way of example, I’ll relate one of our two stops in Tijat, in the lovely cove Luka Tijascica. At times the cove can get filled up with boats, but the atmosphere is never claustrophobic – the water is very clear. Onshore there is a great outdoor restaurant, Spirito’s Summer Place, with an almost Caribbean carefree feel, presided over by the amicable and bubbly Grega, it’s manager. Great fresh fish from the grille, nice wine list, hip music and cheeky décor define the experience. And the potatoes with truffles – ah.

Judith & Tilen at Spirito's

These close by islands accommodate the mood you wake up to; whether you want a buzzing place like Tijat or a chill out in a private secluded bay like Zlarin’s Magarna Cove – each within a two-hour sail. The sea is pure and clear, temperature averaging 25°C, or 77°F – excellent for just diving in.

What a Swimming Pool!

We had a few days where some scheduled maintenance was needed, so we took two daytrips to Krka National Park. We drove to nearby Skaradin and took a small ferry to the base of the lower waterfalls. These picturesque cascades are formed by limestone deposits combining with microorganisms – the structure is called travertine. The first outing had us climbing the path up through these streams and pools of the Krka River. Another day we went further north and visited the Manojlovac Falls, the ancient Roman settlement of Burnum and Krka Monastery and catacombs.

Krka National Park

Manojlovac Falls

Krka Monastery Altar


Judith and I had visited Šibenik before, so we were familiar with the old town; centred around the imposing Cathedral of St. James. Started in 1431, it is unique as it is constructed only of the dry assembly of custom carved stone slabs. While in port we availed ourselves of several meals in town. The most notable spot is Pelegini, a lovely one-star Michelin restaurant near the cathedral.

Terrace at Pelegrini

I mentioned earlier that the marina is well protected. Even so, we experienced two strong weather fronts moving through, the Bora from the north and northeast. For almost an hour each time, MISSI strained on her lines and heeled perhaps 10 degrees just from pressure on the mast. Winds gusted to over 100 kilometres in driving rain. One gains a certain respect for this unforgiving force of nature; the second storm damaged over 140 yachts along the Croatian coast.

Our Trip to Vis and Southwest:
We left Šibenik on July 16 and sailed south along the coast to a secluded bay off the town of Rogoznica, stopping here for lunch and a quick swim. Upping anchor, it was then off south to Vis Island, another 32 nm (nautical miles). We moored off Kut, a smaller enclave than Vis Town, and took our Williams tender and had a nice meal at Konoba Vatrica.

Approaching Vis - Town Hall & Riva

Konoba Vatrica in Kut
Cafe Life - Vis Town

After morning coffees in Vis Town, MISSI was underway to Dobri Island on the southern side of the Paklinski Chain – another sumptuous lunch and swim. That evening we took a berth in Palmizana ACI marina on Paklinski’s largest island of St. Klement. Tilen and Cornelia freshened up the yacht and Judith and I shared a nice bottle of a Provencal rosé, “Whispering Angel” as I remember, at Toto’s. Dinner was also at Toto’s, a hip spot 300 metres walk south across the island and facing Uvala Vinogradise, as usual, packed with boats.

Judith Found Her Spot

View from Toto's

Up again to another nice Cornelia prepared breakfast, we headed further southeast to Vela Luka on the western end of the big island of Korcula. Staying outside the busy port, we anchored in Uvala Plitvine for the night. It was a quiet and peaceful cove, more so because we had some strudel made by Tilen’s mom – habit forming!
Up early, breakfast and a morning swim, we motored with little wind to Lastovo Island and Zaklopatica Cove. It was a challenge to find a good spot for MISSI, but we finally secured buoys to our bow and stern to avoid too much swing. Dinner was ashore at Augusta Konoba, the owner picked us up so no need to pull out the Williams. It was another fun alfresco spot – a good meal interrupted by unexplained canon fire and screeching children. The final entertainment was an out of proportion Russian yacht trying to squeeze on to the very tiny dock. A phalanx of adults and children stormed the restaurant and we were displaced. But another glass of wine in our cockpit restored the peace.

Zaklopatica Cove - Lastovo

By now I hope you are getting the picture. Wonderful but healthy breakfast, perhaps a morning swim, motoring or sailing to a new spot, sometimes with a lunch and swim interlude, and finally anchoring, mooring or tying up in a marina toward sunset – not a bad life. Waking up to one view; falling asleep to a new one.

But back to the trip. We delayed leaving Lastovo hoping for a favourable wind but were disappointed. We motored most of the way to Mljet Island and the small town of Polaĉe, part of Croatia’s national park system. It is a spacious and picturesque bay. We dropped anchor and had dinner in town at Konoba Antika – a nice grilled seabass for four.

Mljet Island - Polaĉe Cove

The next morning, we were off to the far eastern end of Korcula and Korcula town; we put into the overcrowded ACI marina. I was anticipating dinner at Dimitri Lesic’s Michelin starred restaurant and it did not disappoint. Wonderful food, beautiful setting! The morning before we left, I met a charming Italian man from Padua; he had a stunning old wooden ketch, the “Bel Ami,” that I later learned was the boat used in “Mama Mia II.” This affable old man was 86 and still sailing, and his wife, 91. So Judith and I certainly have a chance!

Tilen, Cornelia, Judith and Dan - Demitri Lesic's Terrace

Mid-morning, we were off again, working our way back northwest to our home port of Šibenik. Our destination was Ŝĉedro Island, a small isolated spot south of the much larger Hvar Island. This was the most pristine spot of our entire trip – magnificent. We anchored but also ran two lines to shore. Swimming was perfect in wonderfully clear water. Tilen got some drone shots but they could not fully take in the majesty of the place. Cornelia made a great pasta carbonara.

Ŝĉedro Island

In the morning I swam out to retrieve the shorelines and we were off to Ŝolta Island and Maslinca Marina on its northeast corner. We had visited last year, its an upscale place in a protected horseshoe shaped bay. We saw Salma Hayek and Owen Wilson here, shooting scenes for their upcoming movie “Bliss.” Oddly, they declined my invitation for drinks on MISSI. In lieu of this, Judith, Tilen, Cornelia and I had a nice dinner at Restoran Sampjer, nestled on a hilltop overlooking the town.

Restoran Sampjer -  Ŝolta

In the morning we had a long leg ahead of us back to home port, about 32 nm. It was a good sail in a strengthening breeze until we reached the eastern tip of Zlarin Island. The wind became unsettled in direction and was gusting over 20 knots. I hacked bringing in the headsail and tripped the electrical breaker on the roller-furling system. This required a trip below to the panel, all the while MISSI a bit unstable. Things turned out alright, but Judith had a scare as I fought to keep MISSI into the wind while Tilen maintained his cool and dropped the main sail. Back in the marina we stayed on the guest pontoon until the wind settled. For me, a not so auspicious end to a lovely eight days. Judith and I stayed that evening at the D-Resort Hotel for a night off the yacht; Tilen and Cornelia worked hard cleaning up MISSI from her days out of port.

Our Trip to the Northeast:
On 29 July with left Šibenik with the intention of sailing to Pasman Island, but the weather on route changed so we decided to tuck into Marina Hramina on Murter Island. We had had a quick overnight trip to the island earlier in the month; staying on anchor. Today we also dropped anchor for lunch and a swim; but then retreated to the safety of the marina. We had a very tight berth and a difficult docking in a strong crosswind. We made it nonetheless and had dinner at Murter Fine Food Restoran in the old town.

MISSI off Murter Island

In the morning we continued to Pasman Island’s Landin Cove, on its southeast side. We arrived early and had a nice day of swimming, sun and relaxation. Meals were onboard and delicious. The wind remained strong from the west – gusting to 20 knots.

MISSI was finally in need of some fuel, despite her 1,000 litre diesel storage capacity. We rounded Pasman Island and headed northeast up the shallow channel between the island and mainland. We made a lunch stop at the “heart-shaped” Galesnjak Island, and also had a dip. Afterward, we continued up the channel to Sukošan and the D-Marina Dalmacija, filled MISSI’s tanks at the fuel station and tied up to a guest pontoon for the evening. Dinner was on the marina’s beach at the chic Portus Restaurant. Still, the marina was not as elegant as D-Marin Mandelina.

After breakfast and a walk, we were off back southeast down the channel, passing Biograd na Moru and anchoring in Crenva Luka for lunch, swimming and some sun. It was then south to the Kornati Island chain an Otočić Ravni Žakan – more swimming and sunbathing. Dinner was onshore at an upscale spot, Konoba Žakan. Some more wine in the cockpit and it was off to another dream filled sleep.

Konoba Žakan

Leaving Problems Behind

By ten we left, returning to Šibenik in a light drizzle; lunch was onboard. The following morning Judith stayed ashore and Tilen, Cornelia, Tilen’s step-father Robert and I went out for a day of practice: raising sails, tacking, jibing, reefing, lowering sails and more; only stopping for a quick lunch. It was a good day for me – repetition is the key.

Practice - Practice - Practice

It turned out to be all I had imagined and better. Regret is corrosive, especially as you get older, and not doing this would have gnawed away at me. It was a bit crazy to get this yacht, but I honestly believe it was one of the better decisions I have made. We left MISSI on August 5, heading back to Budapest. I missed her as soon as we reached the highway. Here’s to many more happy days…

To Judith - Thanks for Coming Along!

Introducing S/Y "MISSI"

As my earlier posts relate, we have sailed twice before in the Adriatic off Croatia, in 2017 and 2018. I enjoyed the experience; it brought back memories from my teenage years in Nassau, seemed to soothe my soul and provide a welcome tranquillity.
I looked at boats in 2017 and backed away, but after visiting the Cannes Boat Show in September 2018 I couldn’t resist Beneteau’s new Oceanis 62 Yacht. Judith had her misgivings, but graciously conceded to my wishes – a nice 70th birthday present to myself. In October I placed my order with the Croatian dealer, Ultra d.o.o. and met them and Tilen, my charter skipper, in Zagreb to finalize specifications. By year’s end, we had picked a name for the yacht, MISSI, a nickname of Judith.
Leaving the Beneteau factory

Start of Commissioning in Canet

With many twists and turns, I fast forward to May of this year when MISSI was loaded on a lorry at the Beneteau factory on France’s Atlantic coast. It was over a week’s travel to Canet-en-Roussillon on France’s Mediterranean western coast where she was commissioned. We flew in from London for a three-day orientation with Beneteau’s handover team, Tonĉi and Emil from Ultra, and Tilen. Tilen had accepted my offer to captain MISSI for us.

Christening S/Y MISSI

It was a wonderful but intense three days of learning about the many complex systems that make this modern yacht easier to sail and more comfortable to live aboard. On June 22, MISSI, captained by Tilen and crewed by staff of Ultra, left Canet-en-Roussillon for her maiden transit voyage to Croatia. It was an 1,100 nautical mile, ten day journey. Judith and I left for a quick stop in London, then left for Budapest and on to Šibenik, Croatia to wait for the yacht. MISSI arrived in Split, Croatia on July 1 and we travelled down on the 3rd, spending our first night onboard in the marina.

Thus, we start on another adventure; more posts to follow…

Here is a link to the brochure on Beneteau's Oceanis Yacht 62 if you want to see more about MISSI: 

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Poor President Trump

Since Donald Trump announced his candidacy and through becoming the 45th president of the United States I have had one overriding question. Is this a man “with a lot to lose” or one “with nothing to lose?” What follows is pure supposition, perhaps my intuition kicking in from being around characters like President Trump over my many years in real estate, and the automobile dealership business. Many of these folks were very much like Trump: loud, aggressive, sure of themselves, vain, narcissistic, misogynistic and tribal. And let us not forget egotistical!

To further explain I need to regress a bit, so bear with me. Financial wealth is defined as your net worth; your assets (what you have) minus your liabilities (what you owe). In life, we see only a person’s assets (what they have); liabilities are usually pretty invisible. By way of example, two persons might each have a net worth of $10 million. “Person One” might have a $10 million home with no mortgage; “Person Two” might have a $100 million home with a $90 million mortgage. “Person Two” will look much, much wealthier to the outside world than “Person One.”

My hunch is that President Trump is more like “Person Two.” If I’m right, it could explain lots of behavior – especially because President Trump’s outsized ego makes the average captain of industry’s ego look puny. I’m guessing that the Trump family is in the top one-tenth of one percent; but not close to inclusion in the top one-thousandth of one percent (in the US, roughly 1,600 households).

Trump has spent his life trying to be a member of this club, and has done a magnificent job of pretending he has succeeded. I’m sure his biggest fear is being found out. He probably has taken many outsized, dangerous gambles (with some failing disastrously) to secure a seat in this oh so exclusive cohort. And with each failure, his liabilities have increased. If this is true, it explains a lot:

·        Not releasing tax returns was not because he didn’t want people to see how rich he was; rather the opposite. It would expose his lessened status so he fought this to the bitter end.
·        His business interests are non-public and tribal; with governance and accounting managed by seemingly unqualified people and outside firms (think Madoff).
·       A string of bankruptcies ruining thousands of lives.
·      Aggressively litigious behavior with hyper reactions to threats on privacy or reputation; heavy use of non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements.
·        Associations with Russian and other opaque characters. He could not use traditional banking or public credit markets – these institutions would not lend to him. These shadowy types were willing to provide financing to Trump and his enterprises in return for laundering funds, industry access and since Trump’s political ascension, governmental contact and influence.
·        Naked use of government associations to further Trump family interests. This is truly a low point in peddling influence for personal enrichment in the highest office.
·        Support of controversial single-interest policies. These policy lobbies were a source of campaign funding and political cover during the election and then bled into the administration’s cabinet picks and policies. If Bloomberg, Buffet, Gates or one of the Koch brothers ran for the highest office, would they be going hat in hand this way?

Over the years, some Trump-like people turned out to be very, very wealthy – truly rich and truly lucky. Others seemed so for some period, but ultimately their penury came to light. Robert Maxwell’s story in the 1990’s is a good example.

Maxwell, a media magnate and British member of parliament, led a flamboyant lifestyle, buzzing around in his helicopter and sailing in his luxury yacht, the Lady Ghislaine. He was notably litigious and often embroiled in controversy. In 1989, he had to sell successful businesses, including Pergamon Press, to cover some debts; and in 1991 his body was discovered floating in the Atlantic Ocean, he supposedly had fallen overboard from his yacht. After his mysterious death, huge financial discrepancies were uncovered, including his fraudulent misappropriation of hundreds of millions of Pounds from the Mirror Group’s Pension Fund. All of Maxwell’s companies were later declared insolvent.

So, back to the answer to my query. I think President Trump, like Maxwell, is a person “with nothing to lose.” He has and still is betting it all to show the world he is a member in good standing in the club he so covets. Combine this overriding passion with his lack of moral compass and the rest of us “with a lot to lose” have much to worry about. I think this passion, this fear of losing, drives this man more than anything else. This makes him perhaps the most dangerous man on earth.

Our Emperor

Our emperor may have no clothes, or more aptly, no cash.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

La Reserve - 23 Years On

This is just a quick post to remember our 23rd September in South of France and at La Reserve de Beaulieu. Its hard to believe how fast time is speeding by!
Entrance to "La Reserve"
We had a wonderful two weeks here blessed by a string of near perfect weather. Our routine remained the same: our morning walks to breakfast at La Civette in St. Jean Cap Ferat, swimming and reading by the pool, good lunches; aperitifs in the garden followed by dinner. They were mostly at the hotel’s one-star Michellin «Resaurant des Rois,» chef Yannick Franques and maître de Guillaume dishing up food and service perfection.

We had some dinners out to the African Queen and a nice meal at Da Rossana in Eze Bord de Mer with Rossie and Adrian. We also had friends Eileen and Drew spend one night at La Reserve, capped by a very pleasant meal at «Resaurant des Rois» under the stars. And we had a good visit with Marylène and Gibert over drinks one late afternoon.
Me, Judith, Eileen & Drew
There was also a visit to the Cannes Boat Show to drool over Beneteau’s Oceanis Yacht 62. Afterward we had a nice lunch at Hotel Majestic’s «Le Fouquets,» and took the train back to Beaulieu-sur-Mer early enough for a late afternoon swim.

It was another magical September!
Judith's "Kids": Michael & Alex

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Finca Cortesin - August 2018

We left London via Gatwick on August 14 for Spain’s Costa del Sol and some sun. The British Airways flight was good until the end; on approach to Malaga the plane, about 100 meters above the runway, suddenly accelerated and climbed back to a holding pattern. The pilot eventually came on and informed passengers that the wind had shifted and he had to abort the landing. After a second attempt, we were safely at our gate. Upon exiting, I noticed that the plane’s windscreen was cracked, an almost shattered baseball sized creator in its center. The airline made no mention of this, but later I checked the outbound flight – it had been cancelled for the day. Perhaps it was a bird strike on the second landing.

In spite of this little excitement, we picked up our rental and drove 90 kilometers west along the coast, through Marbella, and on to Caseras and The Hotel Finca Cortesin.  We were meeting our Luxembourg friends Annie and Jöel – our sixth summer spending some time together.
Finca Cortesin is an enchanting property, located on the hillside about a mile from the sea and comprising 215 acres. The ten-year-old hotel has 67 suites ranging from 50 to 200 square meters (525 – 2,100 square feet). It is a whitewashed Andalusian architecture lovingly placed on the property, beautifully landscaped with a golf course, two very large pools and an assortment of restaurants. There is also a beach club at the sea, with a great 33-meter pool, generous lounging areas for sun and shade, and a casual restaurant as well.
Hotel Finca Cortesin

Beach Club Pool - 33 meters

We weren’t too adventuresome while here, staying at the pools most of the day. The weather was perfect throughout.  Breakfast was on the restaurant’s terrace, quite nice. At 11:00, we all took the shuttle to the beach club; reading, swimming and lounging around. The pool was right at the sea’s edge, the sound of the waves providing a calm rhythm. Occasionally children got out of hand; but there was always the possibility to escape to the 50-meter adult only pool back up on the main property. We availed ourselves of this option a few afternoons.
Adults Only Pool - 50 meteres

Lunches were at the beach club and excellent. Friends Philip and John were coincidentally visiting near Cádiz, so they drove over for one afternoon for lunch and a catch up – it was nice to see them. Of particular note on the menu, the restaurant had Ibérico secreto, a succulent cut from the shoulder of Spain’s acorn fed pig – marinated in a mustard vinaigrette – fantastic! All of the fish were also excellent and the staff; young, professional and friendly.
We had our first night’s dinner at the hotel’s Italian themed restaurant, Don Giovanni; in a word, awful. Another was at their Michelin-starred Kabuki Raw, which was a letdown from its rave reviews. Still, our other alfresco suppers at the hotel’s El Jardin de Lutz were very good, as were the local wines. If coming here, I suggest you stick with El Jardin and the beach club.
Our foursome had one night outside the hotel, driving to Marbella and Messina Restaurante. This one-starred Michelin deserves it’s ranking – excellent. Mauricio Giovanni’s kitchen is inspired by Spain, South America and Asia. My starter, boned spider crab served in American sauce, and it’s accompanying Thai coconut soup was a standout.
Messina Restaurante

Our eight days here were very pleasant and relaxing (except for the gecko slithering up our wall right before bed one night – harmless of course). Our flight back to London was uneventful and on time; we were in the flat by seven that evening. I highly recommend Finca Cortesin; we will be back.
Here's a link: 

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Sailing off Croatia | June 2018

We left Budapest on May 30 travelling to Zagreb to spend the evening at the iconic but dated Esplanade Hotel. The following morning, we were up early and drove another 390 kilometers south to Trogir and the Brown Beach House on the island of Čiovo. After settling in to suite 212, we revisited the quaint port town of Trogir, and the following day lazed about the pool; unfortunately, packed full with rowdy kids and inattentive parents. Our room was comfortable and the food good, but in the main the service was slow and inconsistent.
Brown Beach House - Trogir

Saturday, June 2, was the start of our second sailing adventure on the Adriatic’s Croatian coast. We drove the short distance to Baotič Marina in Seget Donji and met up with Tilen, our skipper, and Cornelia, our hostess – the same young people that so ably looked after us last August. In January I had reserved a spectacular 2018 Oceanis 62 for this trip, the “Thora Helen”. Unfortunately, her mast was cracked and boom broken the week before our sailing dates by some inexperienced and careless sailors; we needed to make a last-minute change with the charter company. I settled on a 2014 Hanse 575, with a nice owner’s cabin, the “Lady S” – an agreeable substitute but still a disappointment.
Hanse 575

Cornelia was off to the store to stock our basic provisions for the week, and Tilen finished our check out. By three, we cast off mooring lines and were on our way motoring to Primošten, 3 1/2-hours and 20 nautical miles northwest – it was wonderful to be out on the water again. The harbor was well maintained; we arrived early enough for a walk around the old town - watched over on the hillside by St. George’s Church, its construction began in 1681.
St. George's Church
Ceiling - St. George's Church

Primošten is a clean, picturesque location. We happened upon a road rally of old Zastavs, a déjà vu moment back to my days with Yugo in the mid-eighties – crazy coincidence. 
Zastava (a.k.a. "Yugo")

Dinner was at the seaside “Toni Konoba” (tavern); a nice seabass for four and a few bottles of the local Pošip. It was a noisy night on the dock; singing and guitar very late into the evening – keeping us all awake.

After breakfast we were off north-northeast for about three hours to the tiny island of Tijat, only about one square mile, and Tijascica cove. It was an idyllic lunch spot to moor, have a swim and enjoy another mouthwatering lunch by Cornelia. After a few hours we were underway east toward Šibenik, a wonderfully historic port city, and then up the channel and the Krka River to the ACI Marina in Skradin. This route meandered by beautiful gorges, rock face and caves; small mussel farms tended by a contented lot of locals doted the shoreline.
Krka River Channel

Mussel Farm

One of many caves

The marina was well maintained, and a nice dinner was on the terrace of Evala Café.  After a bit more wine, it was off to a very peaceful sleep.
Judith & Me - Skradin

Up early, we backtracked down the channel, stopping at one of the floating stands for a large bucket of mussels, fresh out of the water. 
Our mussel stop

It turns out we got about 5-kilos of these, and they were certainly not in “store-bought” condition. The cleaning that followed was a group affair, scraping white worm and seaweed off of what seemed a thousand shells – perfecting our technique with simple kitchen knives so we all got pretty good at it.
While we were at this, Tilen motored us past Šebenik into open water, eventually reaching Zlarin Island and a secluded cove, Uvala Magaran. Here we anchored and rewarded ourselves with a dip in the pristine Adriatic.  Cornelia prepared another perfect lunch.
Uvala Magaran


Up anchor, we motored north a bit more than an hour to Vodice. The ACI marina was full, so we had to settle for a place on the riva. Dinner was our hard-earned mussels, masterfully cooked by our hostess – some of the best I’ve had.
All cleaned up

 Unfortunately, about ten boats also tied up with us, and partied until 4:30 the next morning – not much sleep for us. I recall a “Viva Las Vegas” track blaring for about an hour! In all, a very inconsiderate group of young Germans.
Vodice at Night

We dragged ourselves out of our berths, had a quick breakfast and left our raucous Germans to sleep it off. The morning was cloudy with the weather unsettled. Our original plan was to sail west northwest to the Kornati chain, a group of 140 islands, once densely covered with Mediterranean pine but now a sparse landscape of greyish rock. Our intended destination was to one of the Kornati’s larger islands, Zut.
Being cautious, we opted instead to travel northwest, less than 20 nautical miles, to Murter Island and the protected Marina Harmina. With Tilen’s experience, we easily navigated the very shallow island cuts on the approach. The judgement payed off; rain and wind descended upon us about an hour after we tied up on our mooring; and we enjoyed a lunch of Cornelia’s smoked salmon quiche; we were dry, and safely tucked away in the salon.
After the storm passed, Judith and I explored the town, walking to a picturesque ridge and St. Michael’s Church, built in the mid-16th century and reconstructed in 1770. 
St. Michael's Church

Dinner was in town on one of the jetties at Bistro Tic-Tac. I was put in charge of picking the fish, got a bit carried away and selected what turned out to be a 4.2-kilogram dentex, a local catch. Needless to say, it was a bit too much but a perfectly grilled, tasty masterpiece! Some ice cream on the walk back, a glass of wine onboard and we were all off to a restful sleep.
My Dentex

After a good sleep we were up to sunny skies. Our itinerary took us south, 14 nautical miles to Kakan Island, with a lunch stop off the beautiful waters of the small islets Veli and Mali Borovnjak. 
Heading to Borovnjak

After a good sail, our anchor dropped into water so clear it could have been the Caribbean. Judith and I quickly jumped in, the sea a refreshing but not too cold 23°C (about 70°F). We floated about quite a while, also swimming ashore to the rocky beach. Lunch was a pleasing assortment: bruschetta, grilled avocado, prosciutto, local cheese and more.
Judith & Me

After this idyll, we motored a short way to the Island of Kaprije, and its namesake town, and tied up adjacent to the ferry pier. It was a pretty sad place, abandoned by the young and now populated mostly by those that cannot leave. Still, we made the best of it, having a very good dinner at Liberty Grille. They served a local fish, Romba, slow roasted “peka” style (under the bell) with potato and assorted vegetables – savory!
Romba Peka
Kaprije Bay at night

We were up early and had breakfast at Lola Café; cappuccino and a comically bad pain au chocolat. Another coffee at the Neptun Café allowed us to use their facilities; as the English say, “to spend a penny.” The “Lady S” was then quickly off on a magnificent 30 nautical mile sail in perfect winds to Šolta Island; a long leg on our way back to home port. It was my best day – totally hooked.
Totally Hooked

Late afternoon, we arrived at the town of Maslinica and Marina Martinis Marchi, in a protected cove on the northern tip of Šolta. It is a new and upscale property, with a very nice small hotel. 
Maslinica Bay
Marina Martinis Marchi

Dinner was on the quay at Konoba Sakajet; we had an excellent St. Pierre for four, preceded by a lovely stuffed pepper appetizer. Sleep came easily.

It was yet another nice morning and another nice sail in 15+ knot winds, a broad reach back to Trogir to fuel up before the afternoon rush. This accomplished, we motored back to a small cove on the northeast of Čiovo Island and dropped anchor for our last lunch. Judith took a final swim, I decided not.
About three, we returned to Marina Baotič and said farewell to Tilen and Cornelia; another wonderful week on the water had come to an end. Shortly thereafter, we were in the car heading back to Zagreb through some heavy downpours, staying the night, and then continuing the following day, Saturday, to Budapest.

This was a different trip than last August. Then we hit more of the major spots, mostly south of Split, all more built up and bustling than this year’s destinations. But this year we saw more of nature, pristine sights and open water – and had better wind and weather. The boat was an improvement too; the master cabin made life aboard much more pleasant.   I am sure we will return next year.

If you are looking to do this, Tilen now has his own company, and there is no one better. Here is a link to his site: 

Also, if you want to see our actual itinerary, follow the link to MyMaps: