Paradigme and Katherine cruising together south in Albania 

Our view from our cockpit was rather educational as we watched daily the coordinated dance of the forklifts loading the trucks by horn honking.

190903 1 The solution to our water issue was this forklift

It was a real pleasure to meet again Francois in Sarande and be introduced to Sophie his cruising companion. The harbour in Durres is a busy commercial port, but a small area has been set aside for cruising yachts to stay. This year for the first time the port had laid out mooring lines for ten yachts and established temporary power outlets. Sheer luxury we felt given we had not expected any services at all.

190902 3 One way to get water bring in the fire truck

In the harbour the Albanian way of "you just have to know a guy, who knows a guy, then that guy will get what every you need organised.” went into full swing.

Our water maker had completely failed by the time we reached Durres and so taking on water was fairly critical. After a general enquiry of the possibility of getting water a port worker turned up on his forklift with 100 litres of fresh water in 20 litre bottles. With our small hand pump we were able to transfer the water quickly so he returned later in the day with another 400 litres. Water sorted. 

A larger powerboat obviously also had water supply issues but the fork lift would have been insufficient for them so they simply organised a fire truck. 

The Orthodox Church of Saint Pavel and Saint Durres was passed each day as we walked to the town centre from the port 

190901 1 Day trip to Berat Albania View of the Ottoman suburb Gorica

The town of Berat known also as the “A City of a Thousand Windows” looking from the castle to the suburb of Gorica

190901 6 Day trip to Berat Albania castle Sophia Francois Alan and Denise of Antidote

In harbour on our first day in Durres 

Paradigme and Katherine were joined by another French boat Antidote. Alain and Denise are good friends of Francois and decided to take the opportunity to catch up in Durres before continuing to Montenegro. Prior to arriving we had organised a day trip to the Unesco World Heritage listed town of Berat. With the assistance of agent, Llambe Papa, a larger vehicle was organised and the six of us were off for the day in total comfort with a very helpful driver. 

190901 1 Day trip to Berat Albania Buildings within the castle190901 13 Day trip to Berat Albania Icongraphic Museum190901 19 Day trip to Berat Albania Ethnographic Museum

The city of Berat is located 100km south of Durres but the roads being in far better condition than those we experienced around Sarande made for a very quick trip.

The old city of Berat has three neighbourhoods or suburbs, Kala, Mangalem and Gorica. We chose the suburb of Kala as our starting point as it lies within the walls of the castle that began in the 6th to 5th century BC as an Illyrian settlement. We were most appreciative of our driver who insisted on delivering us to the gate of the castle entrance, which of course was perched at the top of a hill overlooking the suburbs of Mangalemi and Gorica below. 

Within the walls of the castle a contingent of people still live. There are several churches and mosques in and around the castle ruins including the Church of the Dormition of St Mary which was built in 1797 on the foundations of a chapel from the 10th century. The church houses in the surrounding rooms of the chapel religious paintings from the 16th century. 

A "Byzantine cistern" for water supply with walls up to 15m high could be appreciated precariously from some steps that were literally disappearing into the abyss below. 

A short walk down the hill was the National Ethnographic museum that was set up in 1979 in an 18th Century Ottoman House. Like the museum we had visited in Gjirokaster the museum had an excellent display of traditional clothing, furniture and household items to give an insight into the way in which daily life functioned in the Ottoman era. 

A delicious lunch was had across the river in Gorica on a patio that afforded a postcard view of the buildings of Magalemi before making our way back to the boats in Durres. 

190901 27 Day trip to Berat Albania Mangalem Suburb

The old city neighbourhood of Magalemi

Sailing south with Paradigme

The community ruins on Sazan 

190905 2 Sazan Islands Travel Lift long passed its use by date

After four nights in Durres and being very surprised by the calibre of food and service we received particularly in the restaurant Portiku Wine Bar we headed south to the Island of Sazan.

190905 13 Sazan Islands Italian Headquarters building 1929 Andrew

This island with a land mass of just 5.8 square kilometres is the largest island in Albania. The port in Sazan was originally established during the occupation of the Italians in WWI. In the 1960’s it was expanded by the Russians. During the communist era the entire island operated as a military zone with the establishment of a hospital, housing and schools for military personal families. In 1992, with the change of government, the island was abandoned, but it was not until recent years that non military personnel were allowed to wander the ruins of the community surrounding the port. 

We discovered when arriving in our dinghy that one side of the harbour is still military. With the help of “google translate” we were told we were in the “military base zone” but as long as we didn’t take photos until we were walking the “town area” we were welcome to leave our dinghy. Just another example of Albanian hospitality and practicality.

As we walked amongst the hospital, school, residential and power station it was evident it will only be a matter of time before nature takes the island back. 

190905 15 Sazan Islands The Power station

The Power Station Sazan Island

190907 5 Rock Formations Kakome Beach

Rock Formations Kakome Bay 

190907 3 Monastary Kakome 100's

Monastery Kakome caught our eye on our arrival into the bay

190907 7 Rock Formations Kakome Beach

From Sazan impending weather forced the decision to pass Grama Bay that we had intended to call into. Instead we sailed onto Porto Palermo where we stayed two nights in order to give Francois and Sophie time to explore the bay and Ali Pasha’s castle. 

Our final anchorage before returning to Sarande was Kakome Bay. A bay that had caught our interest on our way north and just a short distance from Sarande. We think perhaps it was our most picturesque place of anchorage in Albania. 

Within the grounds of the Monastery

The Church in the Monastery grounds

190907 15 Monastery Kakomes A glimpse inside the church

Our first challenge once the boats were settled in the bay was to climb to the monastery. We wove our way through the grounds of what was once intended to be a major hotel or holiday resort area with the remnants of unused building materials laying in the scrub waiting installation. A wire fence had to be negotiated after passing what looked like an old watch tower on the hillside most likely from the communist era. 

Unfortunately the church was closed but we were able to peer through one window and catch a glimpse of the frescos that had been painted in 1672. 

It is said that in 1967 during the communist period over 2100 churches, mosques monasteries and other places of worship were closed as the country was declared an Atheist State. It would appear that although the remainder of the monastary is in ruins the church is still used by community members. 

Holes in the surrounding hillsides

Back in the bay with torchlights in hand we checked out a few of the tunnels that were dotted around the hillside. They appeared to go a long way in and were connected. Obviously used as bunkers at one stage, we did not venture too far as the local bat population did not seem to appreciate the intrusion of our torchlights. 

Before departing Francois deployed his drone to get footage of the two boats on anchor in this beautiful bay. 

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Drone video by Francois

Back on anchor in Sarande with Paradigme

190909 4 We have a definite problem with the anchor windlass

So after nine great days in company it was time for Paradigme and Katherine to part ways. We were heading back to Corfu Greece, Sophie and Francois to Italy. But as with cruising things don’t always go to plan. As we went to pull up our anchor our anchor windlass broke. The anchor windlass is the winch that pulls up the anchor - a slight issue when you have 45 meters of chain still on the bottom of the seabed and a 40 kilo plus anchor attached. Thankfully with the help of Francois we tied a rope to the chain in the water, then proceeded with Andrew handling the chain and Lee on the mooring winch to haul up 3-4 meters of chain at a time. Far easier done with three people than two. 

So with no capability to anchor we were off to Gouvia Marina Corfu to wait for not only our water maker parts but a new windlass. Yes owning a boat is also about “Fixing boats in exotic locations.

(For more photos) 

© SV Katherine 2018      Cover Photo: Katherine on Anchor Isle Tabarca Spain