Montenegro – Winter break for Rivercafe
After three years, 16,096 nautical miles (nm) or 29,809 sailed kilometres in three continents, we moored our Rivercafe in a home port for the very first time.
The last sailing leg of our season took us 120 nm from Brindisi across the nocturnal Adriatic to Montenegro. Our mainsail had more of a decorative effect than a propulsive one, even on this stretch in calm conditions. The smooth sea gave us an uneventful ride through a particularly dark night. The narrow ring of the moon did not rise until around 4.00 am in the morning.
At first day light, the mountains of Montenegro lay before us and we entered the fjord of Tivat/Kotor at sunrise. The bay resembles a northern Italian lake and the swell of the Mediterranean has to make two turns before it reaches the marina of Porto Montenegro in Tivat.
On the approx. 8 nm long way into the fjord, we passed small estates on the shore and old submarine hangars hidden in the mountains. Perfect locations for super villain agent stories. They date back to old Yugoslav times, although Yugoslavia was never been part of the Warsaw Pact.
Finally: arriving in Montenegro
Bureaucracy in Montenegro
For the first time in what felt like forever, we had to go to a customs dock and clear in. The full package extra plus. Montenegro beats everything we have ever experienced in terms of bureaucracy and lack of foreign languages. Only with the help of the Marina Concierge Ivan, we managed to master the five stages. Serbian/Montenegrin was – not surprisingly – not in our repertoire. And as Ivan explained to us: the bureaucrats love stamps. The more stamps, the better. And for the first time in my offshore life, I had to present my sailing licence.
The first highlight of Montenegro was Pedro. Our British friend welcomed us at the dock. He and his wonderful wife Sarah are moored here and they are the reason we chose Tivat. Barely two hours later, we moored the Rivercafe at our winter berth in a great neighborhood.
A new rhythm for us
While for the last three years we have been getting ready to sail at this time of year to start the new season, the Mediterranean season is coming to an end. It feels very strange for us. And cold. Montenegro is on 42 deg latitude. At the same time last year we were on 13th deg. That makes 20 degrees celsius difference in temperature – day and night. Long trousers and jackets, instead of shorts and swimming trunks. For the first time ever, our aircon was running as a heater on the Rivercafe.
Porto Montenegro is quite posh and merges smoothly into the small town of Tivat – or vice versa. The marina is voted one of the three best in Europe. Everything is very well maintained, and many chic restaurants and shops are located right next to the docks. As a normal sailor, you are clearly underdressed and “under-boated” here. It’s nice to sip delicious cocktails in well-kept bars with discreet music and a view of the bay. This luxury has its price, the marina is expensive. Even water and electricity are charged according to consumption. Unfortunately, the advertised pool is not part of the marina and costs a fortune daily entrance fee at the nearby club. If it is open, it won’t be until the end of April. But the fitness club has fair prices.
The “Monte” in Montenegro well deserved
Just behind us is the “Black Pearl”, docked at 108 m the third largest sailing vessel in the world. A super windbreak for us, because the masthead of the Rivercafe disappears just above the Pearl’s second spreader – she has 6 of them. Even a 200 million vessel can be a worry. The owner, a Russian oligarch, died a natural death for once – of covid. And since then, his heirs are said to be fighting, mostly former wives, according to the storytelling. For so long, a crew of no more than 20 people has been making sure that the Pearl remains one.
Thats Porto Montenegro
Rescue for non-EU citizens
Montenegro is not an EU country, which makes it particularly attractive for overseas sailors. Brits included. Foreigners are allowed to stay in Montenegro for three months. But those who have a berth can become “residentials” and stay indefinitely. This possibility does not exist for non-EU citizens anywhere in the EU. They would have to leave EU countries after three months. So in the middle of winter and no matter what the weather is like. Montenegro benefits from this stupid regulation and enjoys above all Brits, Aussies and US-Americans. A good business that is lost to the EU Mediterranean countries.
The non-EU unfortunately also means that there is no phone roaming – making calls is very expensive. And it is also almost impossible to deliver parcels. This then again reminds us a bit of the smallest Caribbean islands.
Sailors Social Life
As some overseas sailors spend the winter here, there is a pleasant social life. The “Lifeaboards” all meet once a week in the evening and the ladies also have their own get together. We went shopping together or did some excursions with fellow sailors or friends. We enjoy very likable neighbours. Right next to us is Pookie, a Thai-British lady with her husband Heath. For the British, Pookie is a star because she came second on “Masterchef”, a highly popular cooking show in the UK that everyone seems to know – except us. Unaware, we enjoyed an invitation to a spectacular and delicious dinner. No wonder no one invites Pookie back. No one wants to embarrass themselves. To the right and left of us, we found many interesting and likable people.
Apero on a spoon made by Pookie
Black Pearl behind is, thats the way to watch Rugby on the worlds third biggest sailing yacht
After our first week in Montenegro, we could already see a bit. The bay of Kotor and the mountainous landscape are very beautiful. There is still a lot of room for improvement in the friendliness of the locals. The Montenegrins have not inherited much of the charm and humor of the Italians, who are only 200 km away. Hopefully, this first week is not representative.
It’s quite stormy everywhere this weekend. I read about storm surges on the Baltic and North Seas, the Bay of Biscay will be fierce and the Adriatic Sea may not be missing either. We have the first winter storm in Montenegro. Between 40-50 kn make things uncomfortable and live unpleasant on board. And also in the Caribbean a hurricane passes the Leeward Islands, it is already the 20th “named storm”. By the way: last year there were 14, which caused 118 billion USD in damage.
We will spend a few more days in Montenegro and see if we can discover some friendly locals. / Holger Binz