Winter is coming

As I mentioned in our last post, it was time for us to make our way back north to begin wrapping up our time in Croatia.  We wanted to have plenty of time to explore some new islands and coves….and maybe even revisiting some of our favorite haunts.  Our other goal was to try and find some quieter anchorages for me to hone my skills. Being September, the charter season/tourist season should’ve been winding down allowing us to find emptier anchorages.  We passed by several anchorages that were way to close for comfort (for me).  We eventually found a really nice one and dropped in behind the only other sailboat in there.  Anchor dug in…SUCCESS!  I would’ve loved to have spent a few days here, but we were pretty far south and racing both the calendar and the weather window.  We spent the next couple of days alternating between anchoring and mooring.  

Some of these island passages are so difficult..

We made our way to the island of Olib (an island we had not yet visited, and one we were on a special mission for a friend….to find his mother’s house).  We pulled into this awesome little bay where the depth quickly dropped to 8 feet…eeesh!  The mooring ball was a complete nightmare.  The hole on top was so tiny, our hook could not grab it!  Next thing I know, the hook is in the water and sunk.  I grab another hook for Dan and this one won’t grab either.  I have approached this ball repeatedly with no success, and we are both now frazzled and stressed.  I finally suggest we grab it from the back….SUCCESS!  Once we are tied up, Dan dives down to retrieve our other boat hook….he is getting good at retrieving our sunken items 😝  We dinghy to this isolated and decrepit fishing boat pier, tie up, and set off on foot.  It’s a beautiful walk, and we finally emerge in the town about 1/2 hour later.  We try to find our friend’s familial home, but it’s hopeless (there are no street signs to guide you!)  Of course we wander our way to the harbor quay (we always do), and after talking to the marinero about the cost to tie up, Dan tells him what we are looking for.  He asks us to wait and rides off on his bike.  Next thing we know, a guy shows up in a type of UTV.  He knew our friend’s family and knows the home.  Here comes the fun part….the vehicle only seats 2!  So, I am precariously perched on Dan’s lap….1/2 hanging out and praying our combined weight doesn’t tip us over on the turns!  He drove us all over the town, giving us our own private tour.  We were also able to take lots of pictures of our friend’s familial home to send to him and his mother (their joy made it all worthwhile).  After a little more touring, we hopped off and headed back to the boat.

Welcome to the island of Olib
Remarkably clear water with great swimming.
Our Olib local tour guide and his UTV for 2
Making our way to our friends’s ancestral home

Our plan (notice I said plan) was to leave Olib and head to the bay below Dan’s family house.  We figured we had a day or two before we needed to be out of there for weather.  Our plan (yep…still a plan) was to anchor in the bay, check on the house one last time, and say goodbye to some very special people who befriended us and looked after me.  When we got up that morning, our entire boat was covered in hundreds of little, dead flies.  They were EVERYWHERE!  It was so gross.  We started trying to wash them off with buckets of water, and then opted to hook up our deck hose to the salt water pump.  I know you’re waiting for the turn in this story….here it comes!  Me:  You’re sure you have that set to salt water? (Mind you, we’ve been out for at least a week on our water tanks).  Dan:  Yes, I tasted it when it came out of the hose.  So, Dan has the front half of the boat washed down and is about mid-deck when the water starts sputtering.  Dan:  It’s not working as well as I move to the back of the boat.  Me:  Are you SURE it’s using saltwater?  Dan tastes the water and expletives ensue.  The saltwater he had tasted at the start was apparently residue in the hose, and he drained our freshwater tanks dry!  There went “the plan.”  We had bottles of water on board for drinking, but it’s just too irresponsible to be out without water.  So, no Stivan…we headed straight for our marina 9 hours away.  We, of course, laugh about it now.

As the season transitioned from summer to fall, the weather turned on a dime (something we Arizonans are NOT use to).  While we were happy to be back to our home marina, it was time to start making plans to leave.  Our Croatian visas only allowed us to stay in Croatia until September 30th….the problem was that the island was several days sail through Croatia unless we wanted to do a very long, overnight passage to Venice.  This was not something I was prepared to undertake this early in our sailing “career.”  So, we needed to leave with enough time to be out of Croatian waters by the 30th and not risk being in a bad situation due to weather.

A farewell lamb peka dinner with some Bosnian friends

We carefully monitored 4 different weather sites, and while they differed from one another, they all agreed that something bad was blowing in on Saturday, and something really bad was coming Monday.  This meant that Sunday was our go time.   We spent Saturday getting everything ready to go despite the rain and wind (fortunately the heavy wind came later).  We turned in our marina keys, said goodbye to our Austrian neighbors and another Austrian couple we met, filled water tanks, finished laundry, and restocked groceries.  We settled down for the night with wine and movies while the wind danced us around in our slip.  Tomorrow, 8 a.m. departure!

Yeah, okay….that didn’t quite work out.  We were underway to Pula by 9:30.  We had a feeling things would be a little rough when we got out into the open water given the full day of heavy winds the day before.  We did manage to sail about 1/2 our day with winds that were not called for.  The swell was a pretty good size at times and coming from a variety of directions.  The further off shore we got, the whitecaps began…..and then came some breaking waves.  We had a wonderfully pleasant distraction when dolphins began leaping, twirling in the air, and surfing the swells…it was awesome.  Unfortunately, they are too damn fast to have much luck catching them in pictures 🙁  As we rounded the corner and began making our plans for where to stop, I suggested Dan call the marina to make sure they had room.  He didn’t really think it was necessary since high season was over.  I told him that the impending weather could cause an issue, so he reluctantly called.  Haha, he will tell you I always think I’m right….well, I was.  They told us they did not currently have room, but call back after 4.  We pulled into Soline and grabbed a mooring ball (we were here when we picked up Dan’s son and niece back in August).  The bay was shockingly empty compared to our last visit.  We took some time to discuss our weather plans.  The storm was not due in until 11 a.m. (so we would be awake) but gusts were showing 30+ knots (a little stressful on a mooring ball).  At 4, Dan called the marina in Pula, and they told us to come.  We dropped lines, and an hour and a half later, we were docked up.  All in all, it was a very good plan since the storm window not only got longer, but the bay we were in was now projected to get 50 knot gusts….no thank you!

An ancient roman amphitheater for company…not too shabby
Exploring Pula before the storm’s arrival
Ancient temple of Jupiter
A toast to this amazing city.

We awoke this morning to light rain and no real wind.  Hmmmm, not so bad.  Me:  It doesn’t seem that bad.  Dan:  I hope we weren’t overreacting and just running for cover.  Me:  How were we overreacting???  4 weather forecasts and our vhf radio were issuing warnings and telling mariners to seek shelter!  Dan:  True.  And don’t forget, we are in the shadow of the storm, so we are not likely to really see what is going on out there.  Less than 1/2 hour later, it came roaring in like a freight train.  Seriously scary stuff.  We clocked 36 knots of wind tucked deep in the marina!  The wind is howling, we are all surfing around in our spots, it’s pouring rain, and visibility has dropped significantly. So glad we decided not to stay on the mooring ball.  We had contemplated riding it out and using our engines to reduce strain if things got really bad.  The mooring field is further south than us, and would be getting hit harder than we are here.  Everybody has been scrambling to secure their boat and batten down loose items.  I have never been in anything like this (and honestly hope to never be in it again….but that’s not realistic now, is it?)  So, we are currently stuck inside waiting out this cold, wet mess.  Since the town is all ancient cobblestone roads, outdoor shops and cafes, we can’t really even escape off the boat.  Oh, did I forget to mention that you have to walk a plank from the boat to the quay which is moving wildly with the swing of the boat?  Sounds like a great way to end up in the drink (water).  I think I will pass on that too 🤣

Nasty weather blowing through. Red is bad!
The 60 knot (70 mph) gusts are even worse!
Safely docked in the most inside and protected part of the bay
Our wind meter showing the wind even though we were sheltered….much worse outside!

Our track from this part of our journey:

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The Wine Gods Smile On Us Once Again

Welcome to the ancient city of Primošten!  It was built on an island that was easily defended by land.  It is a beautiful city because of its spectacular setting.   We grabbed a mooring ball just outside the walls, and headed ashore with our friends for a little bit of exploring before they had to leave us.  It became readily obvious that none of us had eaten all day when the first thing that caught our eye was an Irish Pub….well, not so much the pub itself, but the giant poster of these amazing looking burgers.  We have struggled to find good beef in Croatia much less a true “American” looking burger.  We wiped the drool from our lips and made our way through the gate to the ancient city.  We headed to the top of the point to the old church and cemetery that overlooked the entire city and surrounding sea.  The views were glorious, and the headstones quite fascinating since they mark many members of the family, have their picture, and contain dates ranging over hundreds of years.  That is about as far as we got before our friend proposed burgers and beers before anymore exploring.  Heck ya!  We were all game (of course our burger addled brains never gave a second thought to our fourth partner who does not eat beef… our defense, we didn’t know that was all they served until we sat down).  She was an awesome trooper though and settled for French fries while we got our burger fix on.  You may be asking yourself, “so we’re the burgers as good as they looked on the billboard?”  Believe me, I wondered the same thing before we ever walked in.  They were fabulous!  I think it had been 4 or 5 months (at least) since the last time I had a burger….definitely worth the stop.  With full bellies, we wandered some more exploring the sights and shops before heading back to the boat.  At that point it was time to say a sad farewell to our friends, so Dan took them ashore where a cab waited for them.

Primosten sunset view from Zoe
Last day with our visitors!

Dan and I had opted to stay here for an additional night to wait out some weather that was forecasted to come through.  Since this was our second visit here, we decided some more land based excursions were in order.  We arranged for a rental car, and Dan set about planning our adventures.  Number 1 on his list was Bibich Winery.  This winery had received rave reviews, was over 500 years old, had been visited by Anthony Bourdain, and had bounced back from the destruction of the Civil War.  We crossed our fingers, and Dan made the call to see if they could fit us in for a tasting tour the next day.  He spoke to the wife of the owner at great lengths, and lucky for us, there had  been a cancellation.  She explained to Dan that this was a food and wine pairing of 9 different courses.  Each dish was hand crafted by her and not made in a commercial kitchen, so it was imperative that we arrive promptly at 1:00.   We also planned to visit a couple of cities on the mainland as well.  With our plans secured, we settled in for a quiet evening.  

We were set to meet the rental car at 10:30 but were told they would call when they left the city (1/2 hour away).  Needless to say, we were a bit anxious since the winery was an hour drive away.  If you’ve been with me through this blog journey, you’ve already accurately predicted where this is headed 😝 After phone calls back and forth, mishaps on their end with the police, they finally arrived at our meeting point….at 11:30!!  By the time we finished paperwork and were on our way, it was 11:45….talk about cutting it close.  Thanks to Dan’s speedy and efficient driving 🙄, we arrived at the winery at 12:45.  We were promptly greeted in the parking lot by a young man dressed very smartly in all black and white, complete with white gloves.  I’m still not sure how he knew we were there for this special tasting….but he did.  He escorted us through the beautiful grounds of their facility to a room at the end.  There were several tables elegantly set, and we were given our choice of a table for two.  We chose the one right by the window with a view of the grounds.  There was a table of 3 ladies, and a table set for a party o 8 that had not yet arrived.  We began with a taste of their sparkling wine.  We were told they are one of the few wineries in Croatia willing to tackle the nuances of making a sparkling wine.  

After our pre-taste, the party of 8 had still not arrived, so we were brought another taste of this sparkling wine, and it’s accompanying food pairing.  This consisted of a multigrain cracker blended with cuttlefish ink to give it the black color.  On top was a rich, creamy, garlic cheese adorned with a cuttlefish “lace.”  We were told that the theme of the winery is black and white (hence their formal attire), and therefore all our dishes would follow a black and white theme like this first one.  So, those of you that know me know that my adventurous spirit comes to a screeching halt when it come to things I am going to eat or drink (I am working on this though…as you will soon see).  I followed our host’s direction, and the taste was amazing!  Like nothing I have ever experienced…okay, this was going to be fun!  What follows is a blow by blow of our tasting experience, so if you find that boring, you may want to scroll quickly.

Black cracker with herbs and cuttlefish ink topped with garlic cream and cuttlefish lace. Paired with debit champagne

As I said, the big party was already quite late, so we were told we would be getting an extra course to our tasting.  Woo hoo….gotta love bonus features.  We were given a white wine paired with a smoked yogurt topped with garlic foam.  Hmmm, sounds like an odd taste.  By itself, I did not care for it but when paired with the wine, the flavors were incredible.  At this point, the big table arrived.  Bet you can’t guess where they were from!  Yep!  Americans….decked out like they were headed to the beach and very loud….loud through the whole experience.  While the rest of us enjoyed our bonus tasting, the late group caught up.  The really interesting part of this experience was that the hosts talked you through your pairing as an individual table rather than talking to the whole room…a very personal and intimate experience.  Back to the tasting….

Smoked yogurt with garlic foam Paired with 2015 fume Blanc aged two years in French oak barrels

For the third selection, we were told that this was an ancient method of preserving seafood back before refrigeration.  They took prawns which were fried and then stored in olive oil and balsamic with assorted chopped peppers and spices.  The name is Savur, and I really want to attempt this particular dish as it was one of my favorites.  Each dish paired exquisitely with the chosen wine beginning with lighter whites, moving to bolder whites, and moving into the similar pattern of reds. 

Fried prawns “savur “ preserved in olive oil balsamic vinegar, peppers, onion and garlic. Ancient Dalmatian technique to preserve fish. Paired with Debit white wine

Next up….sea bream (a type of bass) coated in carob and pan fried.  This was accompanied by black purée (potato colored black with cuttlefish ink) topped with a black caviar (not from the cuttlefish…they don’t have caviar so this was house made black caviar).  The potato delicacy was once again going to challenge my adventurous side, and once again, I was amazed and delighted.  Are you getting hungry yet?

Sea bream fried with carob flour and cuttlefish fish ink served with mashed potatoes with caviar. Paired with R5 White wine

The next dish was really interesting (I know….they all are!) This was Egg White Carbonara.  “Noodles” were made from pressed egg whites topped with pancetta and a creamy carbonara sauce.  Low carb as our host explained to us with a chuckle.  The taste was really good, but the texture was a little odd to me from the faux noodles.  It’s hard to describe how different each wine tasted alone versus tasting it with the food….all I can say is…wow!  By the way, this was the first round in the reds tasting. 

Egg white noodle with pancetta in cream sauce paired with “Babic Bibich” red wine

Our next dish was a piece of chicken breast accompanied by Pag cheese (considered the best in all of Croatia) purée topped with white caviar.  Also included in this white dish was blanched almonds and a powdered butter.  This was another dish at the top of my list.  By now the theme was really coming through.  The white wines were paired with “black” dishes and the red wines were paired with “white” dishes.  A little background….red wine is called crno vino in Croatian which literally translates to black wine. 

Free range chicken with Pag goat cheese puree topped with white caviar. Blanched almonds and powdered butter on the side. Paired with 100 percent Shiraz aged 12 months in French oak

From there, we were treated to a 24 carat gold flake coated Veal risotto ball (also known as arancini). 

Veal risotto deep fried Arancini style and coated in 24k gold. Paired with 100 percent Merlot 2013 vintage

Then we moved on to beef cheeks in a wine reduction over polenta.  This was paired with one of their best reds.  We were told that this wine should be put up for a few years, but they sell out of it before they can even begin to age it.  Another phenomenal pairing. 

Beef cheeks braised 6 hours in Bas de Bas wine over polenta. Paired with #1 rated wine in Croatia – “Bas de bas” 90 percent single vineyard merlot

We are now heading into dessert….ugh, so full!  A vase is placed on our table with a thorny arrangement sticking out of it and adorned with two hanging strings with a ball attached to the end of each.  The ball was made of four layers of Pag cheese over an olive then rolled in a crushed nut covering.   This was to cleanse the palate before dessert.  And now….the finale!  Dessert was a deconstructed tiramisu with a moscato dessert wine. 

Decomposed tiramisu (inside out) with Moscato Bianca dessert wine

All I can say is that this was the most amazing and memorable wine tasting I have ever done.  This is a must do if you are in Croatia.  After, we were given the opportunity to revisit (taste again) any of the wines we were considering.  In the end, we left with 6 bottles of white wine 🙂

Making our way back to the boat, we stopped in the ancient city of Šibenik.  They had a Renaissance Festival taking place while we were there which seemed so aptly appropriate in this setting.  It definitely gave you a feeling of the city back in ancient times.  As we came into the square, we were treated to music and dancing from the time period.  It was beautiful to watch.  Unfortunately there was a wedding reception taking place in a restaurant in the square at the same time, so they trumped the live, period music.  The band bowed out and said they would be back when the reception was over….not sure who made that scheduling error.  After a little more exploration of the ancient alleys and St. Jacob’s Cathedral, we made our way back to the car to head home.

Cathedral of St James. UNESCO listed world heritage site and most important Renaissance period architecture in Croatia.
There are 74 donors to the cathedral’s construction that are immortalized by sculptures around the periphery.
Ancient roman square in Sibenik

***(Turn the volume up on the video – we were pretty impressed by the talents of these musicians and folk dancers)***

We arrived back in Primošten in the early evening and hit up the farmers market for some fresh produce before heading back to the boat.  As we approached our dinghy, loaded down with wine and produce, we were shocked to find the front end almost fully deflated!  Things were going way to smoothly, right?!  We loaded up our goodies, climbed in, and limped our way back to the boat (praying that whatever was happening was only affecting the front pontoon and we didn’t end up swimming back to the boat!) We got back safely, hauled the dinghy up, and decided this mess could wait until tomorrow.  Now mind you, we have to go back to shore in the morning to return the rental car 😝

That morning, we pumped up the deflated portion of our dinghy and headed in to town once again.  We decided we probably better head out early to go to the marina shop in the next bay, before we had to return the car, in order to buy a patch kit.  Problem was we didn’t want to drive all the way there if they didn’t have what we needed.  Luckily we reached the shop (we had become regulars there when we were marina bound for the last storm), and he had the patch kit we needed.  With that done, we returned the rental car, returned to our dinghy (still well inflated), and headed to the boat to get underway.  Time to continue our journey north.  Our season was rapidly coming to an end.

Sometimes $hit Happens or The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly


One of our goals with this blog was not only to share some amazing sights and experiences with you, but to also share the trials and tribulations of life as a vagabond on a boat.  Today was one of those epically rough days for a variety of reasons.  We always warn visitors that weather and situations will always dictate and sometimes override our original plans.  Our plan today was to leave the Pakleni Islands and head to the island of Brač.  We had two specific stops in mind.  One would involve a 45 minute hike to a remote monastery, and the other was to a slender peninsula of a beach that juts out into the sea.  Bol, the beach, is known as one of the top 10 beaches in the world.  

Our morning began with a dense layer of dark clouds building overhead, so Dan and I start scanning the various weather sites we use.  Worst case, light rain is forecasted… big deal.  As we start to get ready for our day, one of our most dreaded catastrophes hits 🙁  Our head (toilet) stops working and backs up (threatening to overflow).  This disaster was compounded by the fact that we were in the islands….not near an appropriate marina with services and repair shops.  Dan starts scrambling to find a marina with a repair facility and someone who can come to the boat fairly quickly.  The guy says he can come do the work sometime tomorrow, so we make the decision to head to the marina which is a little over 2 hours away.  No….it was not that simple.  Without getting too graphic….here is where things get messy.  The toilet is now about an inch from the rim and needs to be emptied to avoid sloshing all over the bathroom when we are underway.  I’m sure you’re getting the picture… guess who got the fun of scooping the liquid mess into the bucket….yep, you got it….today I get to be first mate (how convenient)🤢 One disaster under control….pretty damn well I might add.  As we headed out of the bay, the rain started….fairly steady…..definitely not light!  We rounded the point, and all hell broke loose.  We found ourselves in blinding rain, thunder, lightning, and low visibility.  The seas were churned up, and we were pounding through the “washing machine” of wicked waves.  This was the first time where things, other than what we usually stow, were threatening to scatter to the floor.  It was also the first time we needed to turn on radar in order to better see oncoming boats.  At one point, we had to do our watch from inside the cabin as we were soaking wet and struggling to see due to the force of the wind and rain.  After about 45 minutes of this craziness, we came out of the chaos and weather and seas began to calm.  But as I mentioned before, these two problems derailed our original plans, and we headed for a marina in the town of Milna on the island of Brač.

Dan and I decided to try and troubleshoot the toilet and fix it.  Needless to say, that ended in all kinds of bad 🤢 Lucky for us, the guy we had talked to showed up about a half our later (never mind a day earlier than we expected).  What we learned:  The saltwater that runs through the system builds up salt residue and other minerals.  Over the years, this plugs up your lines.  The opening in the tubing, which is usually golf ball size, was now pea size.  Apparently running hydrochloric acid through the system from time to time, removes the build up.  We have learned some new lessons for the upkeep of boat head systems….and it only cost us 200 euro 🙄 (and me scrubbing down the bathroom 3 bloody times!)  So that was the bad and the ugly….

Let’s get back to the good.

We were tied up to the quay at the marina in Milna which was actually quite nice.  While our friends wandered the little village, Dan and I did some chores, and Dan took pains to learn as much as he could about the repairs of our marine head.  I baked a chocolate cake since we had all decided that grilling steak off the back of the boat sounded fabulous tonight.  We had a wonderful night of yummy, homemade food, lots of great wine, and a late night of learning a new (to us) card game.  We played Euchre late into the night, laughing and enjoying a relaxing evening after a stressful day.  Tomorrow we would get back to some of our original plans.

We headed out early for the anchorage we had originally planned with the hike to the monastery.  This is a very tight bay that often sees a lot of traffic, including very large day tripper excursion boats.  When we arrived, there were only 3-4 other boats anchored, so we quickly chose our spot and set our anchor.  Dan headed to shore to tie stern lines from the back of our boat to shore.  You have to back down close to shore, so there is really no room for your boat to swing freely around the anchor.  These lines keep you in one place.  By now the winds had picked up, and I was nervous about leaving the boat completely unattended for several hours.  If you recall, we have not had many anchoring experiences as of yet (and I am still fighting the battle with our new anchor).  The other problem was that more and more boats were streaming into the anchorage, and we were trying to make sure they didn’t  foul our anchor by laying over top of us.  In the end, Dan and I decided that we would both stay with the boat to ensure it was safe (we had already been to the monastery but have come here to share the experience with our friends).  Dan dropped them off on the beach at the trailhead, and they headed off on their own adventure.  Meanwhile, we were watching the waves build out in the channel and decided we would just stay put here for tonight.  Our friends returned, and we enjoyed the water and beautiful anchorage.  Pretty soon we heard some yelling and a great deal of pandemonium across the anchorage.  A large charter boat had come loose from their anchor and fouled their prop with their stern line (they now have no engine power).  One dinghy raced over to put himself between the boat and the rocks as the boat was quickly being thrown into the rock lined shore.  Soon, several other dinghies, including the guys on ours, were racing over to help.  Dan had a line tied to them midship to try and pull them away from the rocks.  Two dinghies were pushing against his hull to keep him off the rocks, and several people had gone into the water to help cut away the line from his prop.  Fortunately, the prop was freed and the boat was kept from being destroyed on the rocks.  We all watched in anticipation as the skipper attempted to reset his anchor (winds were even higher now).  He eventually called it quits and waved goodbye and thanked all of us for helping.  More boats came in making things very close quarters.  A few boats, stuck on the outer fringes of the bay, eventually gave up after pitching all around in the rollers coming in off the channel.  We had a comfortable but somewhat sleepless night (will our anchor drag?  Will someone else’s drag and send them crashing into us?)  In the end, all was well.  We were ready for our next destination.

Today we headed for that beach I had mentioned earlier.  Our plan was to spend a few hours swimming and hanging out on this world famous beach before taking our friends back to our favorite bay with the fabulous restaurant up on the cliffs.  We had already pre-ordered our dinner and reserved our mooring ball, so we were under no pressure to get there early….other than to have some time to play in this gorgeous, amphitheater of a bay.  We arrived in Bol a few hours later, and as you can imagine, there were boats everywhere.  This beach is one of the highlights of most tourists’ trips to southern Croatia.  We found a place to squeeze ourselves in and drop the anchor.  She seemed to have set pretty easily, but only time would really tell.  We sent our friends off on the SUP to the beach, and Dan and I hung out monitoring the boat’s movement.  We set an anchor alarm (warns you if your boat moves out of the set parameters).  After 45 minutes, we seemed solidly set, so Dan and I headed to the beach to join our friends. 

After enjoying the crowded chaos of this very popular beach, we decided that we were all ready to move to our next location to enjoy some more beautiful (yet more serene) surroundings.  Three hours later, our host was helping us moor up to the same spot as last time we were here (best spot in the mooring field in our opinion).  Needless to say, our dinner experience did not disappoint.  The family has now begun to treat us like regulars which is a very unusual occurrence in a place where your customers change daily all season long (we have now been here 3 times in less than 2 weeks!)  It was a somewhat sad farewell, but we promised that we would return next season.


The restaurant is high on a hill overlooking the beautiful bay
Typical Croatian grilled fish dinner. Orada fish and blitva (swiss chard with potatoes)

Sadly, our friends’ time with us has come to an end.  After running through a variety of possibilities, it is decided that we will head north to Primošten where we will have a few hours to enjoy the beauty here before our friends take a cab back to Split. The plan is for them to spend the evening in Split before flying out the next day on the second part of their travel adventures.  As for Dan and I, we will spend the night in Primošten (maybe even two) before continuing our journey north.  Believe it or not, our time in Croatia is quickly coming to an end 🙁  At this point, we plan a leisurely journey back to our home base in Cres, where we will do one final check on the house and say goodbye to all the friends who have made our time here so special.  Then, it’s on to Venice.  But I’m getting ahead of myself…..stay tuned for more Croatian adventures by both land and by sea 🙋🏼‍♀️😘

Here’s an interactive map showing these parts of the voyage.

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Mama Mia….Here we go again!

When we last parted ways with you, we were on our way to the ancient city of Trogir to pick up our next set of guests.  As we arrived in the marina, we were super excited to see that they had put us in the last slot on the quay which meant we had a front row, unobstructed view of the city and fortress.  A beautiful sight and even more amazing lit up at night.  We had a couple of hours before our friends arrived (and remember, we had been out in the islands for quite some time), so we quickly began our usual chores of cleaning the boat, getting all the laundry done, and filling the water tanks.  Once our friends arrived, we gave them a quick boat tour, and a few lessons on the various systems of the boat (showering, toilets, electrical “rules”, even making coffee are all very different experiences from life on land).  With that done, we headed off to provision the boat, so we would be ready to leave in the morning.  Our provisioning became a comical experience as the ratio of food to booze was highly skewed….no, not in favor of the food 😜  We even garnered some applause from the patrons behind us in line!  Next thing we know, the shopkeeper scurries off and adds a complimentary bottle of champagne to our cart!  Guess she thought we needed a little more libation 😂

Once everything was squared away, we headed into the ancient city of Trogir.  We wandered the old cobblestone streets, admired the ancient architecture, and climbed to the top of the old fortress to revel in the 360 degree views of the city and sea.  This city is known for its medieval and Renaissance buildings.  Trogir is a very popular tourist destination, so it was remarkably crowded, and one of the very few places we finally encountered Americans.  Next stop was dinner.  By now it was getting late, and our weary travelers were running out of gas.  We found a lovely seafood restaurant tucked in amongst the walkways of the ancient city, and enjoyed a very nice evening of Croatian seafood and wine.  As is his generous nature, our friend wanted to be sure to pick up the tab for dinner and promptly put his credit card down on the table.  Unbeknownst to him, dinner here is a ritual and paying/asking to pay right away is a signal to them that you were unhappy with your meal and want to get out of there.  We all repeatedly explained to our waiter that everything was great, we truly loved the experience, and this was nothing more than reverting to our American ways.  Our poor friend was left totally baffled at the reaction that ensued from his attempt to treat us to dinner (it was pretty funny after the fact, of course).  We wandered our way back to the boat, and everyone settled in for a good night’s sleep.

Zoe docked in the marina across from the Trogir fortress
Climbing the narrow stairs of the fortress tower
View of Trogir from top

Trogir Fortress

We were all up fairly early the next morning (well, Dan and I not so much)…..and ready to get underway.  Next stop…..the island of Vis!  It was about a 6 hour sail/motor straight south.  As is typical for this region, we got a little bit of sailing in when the wind cooperated with both speed and direction.  We pulled into the big bay where the town of Vis opened to our right and the town of Kut opened to our left.  We chose a nice, isolated mooring ball in front of the old church between the two towns.  By now, you know what came next….beers, swimming, and SUPing.  We were surrounded by beautiful views. A beautiful old church and cemetery sat on a wooded peninsula to one side of us; Fort George sat on the hill overlooking us (same King George of the Revolutionary War who conquered the island because of it’s strategic location in the Adriatic); the seafront of Vis; and the seafront of Kut.  Everybody was happy.  Early evening we headed ashore to explore the architecture, shops and konobas (restaurants) of the two towns.  After exploring from end to end, we decided it was time for some dinner.  Pizza!  And supposedly (according to research) at the best pizza place in Croatia!  Meh….not so much, in my humble opinion.  There was so much to see on this island, we opted to stay another night (this is the true beauty of being your own cruise boat….don’t want to leave just yet?  You don’t have to!).  Our resident researcher (Dan) began his work.  After talking through various options, we all agreed that the 4×4 historical military tour piqued our interest.  The next morning, we were picked up in a super old, camouflaged Land Rover Defender.  We all piled in and off we went away from the city.  

Church and cemetery overlooking Vis Bay
View of Zoe in Vis Bay
Wandering old Kut
Sunset over Vis Town
Big ferries came close to our moored boat!

Our first stop was the submarine bunker.  We climbed down the path and walked through the depths of this huge tunnel into the mountain.  We then walked through the tunnel built inside the bunker to allow for a hidden, exterior escape.  From there we climbed to the very top of the bunker (🤢 we are talking about dizzying heights with no protective barrier).  Our guide explained that they have had to put signs up that forbid jumping!  Seriously?!  We then learn that this can be jumped safely, in theory, if you drop a big rock first in order to break the surface tension of the water (otherwise you are basically hitting concrete from 60 feet).  You also need to keep your body perfectly straight, with legs squeezed together.  I’m getting queasy just standing at the top!  No way in hell you could tempt me to try and jump!  After the heart pounding excitement of contemplating that jump, we pile back into the car for our next stop.  Our second stop took us to tunnels deep in the face of the mountains where camouflaged bunkers for cannons were used to defend the island.  The structure of the exterior face of the bunker was not only designed to camouflage from planes and boats, but also to redirect the smoke and sound from the blast so the location could not be determined.

Land Rover Defender – our “luxury ride”
Heading into the submarine bunker
Felt a little Indiana Jones-ish
Now that’s a jump!
Tour guide explaining the guard house
Cannon tracks
Heading into the bunker
Fort George…now a restaurant
Fort George

We then moved on to a WWII landing strip for bombers in trouble.  Landing here was extremely risky, but so was running out of fuel 🙂  As a matter of fact, there are quite a few sunken wrecks of out of fuel bombers off the island that didn’t quite make it to land.  Many are American bombers at that.  There were a couple of memorials to honor those that had died.  Next up was Tito’s WWII headquarters for the partisan effort against the Nazis.  The island was frequently bombarded in an attempt to assassinate Tito, so he had a network of caves and safe houses in order to stay on the move.  The final part of our tour took us on a scenic drive to the highest point of Vis for a quick exterior view of the current military installation (no visitors allowed, of course), and then to a small church for a panoramic view around all of Vis.  From here, our guide pointed out some of the location shoots for the movie “Mama Mia, Here We Go Again.”  Also from this high point, on a clear day, you can see Italy.  We learned that many, many years ago, Vis was highly regarded for making top of the line wines.  Then the island was devastated by Phylloxera which wiped out all the vineyards.  Most of the islanders fled in order to rebuild their lives elsewhere.  Eventually some came back bringing olive trees.  The island is now covered in olive trees and wine vineyards once again.  Our guide told us they have a local saying….the olive trees are like your elderly mother, you visit her once a year, and she will give you everything she has.  The grapevines are like a mistress….you don’t visit one time, and she leaves you.  We thought that was pretty funny 😂  It was an awesome 3 hour tour, and we were all thankful we had chosen this adventure.  

WW2 memorial with a hand scratched Croatia (replacing the former Yugoslavia)

Komiza, and over the cliffs the setting for Mama Mia 2

While we all thoroughly enjoyed Vis and would’ve loved to stay and explore longer (so much left that we didn’t see), it was time to get moving to our next location.  Next stop….the island of Hvar….the best known island tourist destination in Croatia (geez, that was a mouthful).  This was a four hour journey making our way back north.  Since the waterfront of Hvar is a VERY popular nightlife scene (and a frequent stop of mega yachts loaded with people ready to be “seen,” we opted for a little less crazy mooring field, across the bay, in the Pakleni Islands (the cost to tie up to the quay in Hvar is also outrageously expensive….$250 per night….dollars, not kuna!)  We played in the mooring field the rest of the day, swimming and SUPing in the rain.  After, we set about making our plans for our visit to Hvar.  This time we decided to rent a car and tour the island on our own, as well as visiting a few wineries.  The next morning, a water taxi arrived to whisk us off at high speed to the town of Hvar.  We wandered around the quiet waterfront (I’m sure the all night revelers were still fast asleep) before making our way to the rental car.  Eventually, we were on our way.  We stopped at a scenic overlook to take in the views before arriving in the town of Stari Grad (translation = old city)  It was a quaint little village (I’m sure you are shocked by that at this point 😜) with a horseshoe shaped quay running through the middle.  While our friends set off to explore the charms, we of course bee lined to the harbor master to find out about the facilities and docking our boat here when we pass through again.  It will definitely be on our list.  

Stari Grad

We continued on our way to the town of Jelsa (pronounced Yelsa) where there was one particular winery Dan had been wanting to visit for the last 6 years.  Six years ago, we were visiting Hvar with another couple.  We had stopped for a sunset dinner on the upper terrace of a restaurant overlooking the waterfront of Hvar.  It was a magical evening, and we had shared a bottle of red wine that everyone was enamored with.  When we got back to the states, Dan searched for this wine everywhere….including calling wine distributors in places like NYC.  No luck!  He even followed articles on this up and coming young wine maker of the wine he loved so much.  Needless to say, he was hell bent on visiting this winery.  He had tried calling repeatedly over days and was never able to get through, so we just drove there.  It was a little difficult to find as it was hidden away and lacked any signage.  We wandered up, and Dan finally found someone to talk to.  The man asked if we had a reservation (uh oh) and explained that they are very small and take limited numbers of visitors.  If you know Dan, you know that he has some amazing powers of gentle persuasion.  The man told us to come back around 4 or 5, and he would see what he could do.  So, off we went to another winery.  This one was far better known and had more of a commercial quality to it.  We checked in to Tomić winery and were led down a beautiful marble staircase to a very elegant tasting room.  The room was a replica of the dining hall of Diocletian’s Palace in Split.  It was breathtaking!  We tasted 4-5 very nice wines and made a few purchases. 

150 year old grape vine
Tomic Winery tasting room

It’s harvest time!
Time to crush…

We had some time to kill, so we wandered around the town of Jelsa.  This was yet another quaint waterfront town, and we of course had to go get the scoop on bringing our boat here.  It was finally time to head to Duboković winery.  Dan was so excited.  When we arrived, the man we had spoken to was nowhere to be seen, and the others seemed completely confused by our presence (you knew it wasn’t going to be that simple, didn’t you?) After a bit of scrambling on their part, the owner/winemaker himself asked us to wait a little bit, and they would make room for us.  As we walked into the cellar, it was pitch black with a faint glow of candles.  There were the hushed whispers of the 3 small groups (11 people total) discussing the nuances of their tastings.  We were ushered to a table for standing only.  The owner repeatedly apologized, but we assured him just how grateful we were that he was willing to squeeze us in.  First we were brought bread, cheese, and four flavors of olive oil produced here as well.  Yep, super yummy.  From there, we tasted 9 different wines with repeated pours if we wanted to go back and visit a specific wine.  Since everyone else was nearing the end of their tasting, we ended up being the only 4 there and had the complete attention of the winemaker who spoke with us at great lengths.  It was definitely one of those unique experiences that won’t be forgotten.  We had a thoroughly enjoyable day exploring by car with our friends.  We arrived back to Hvar at sunset and the deluge of mega yachts and rafted pocket cruisers (small, intimate cruise ships….maybe 50 people).  The waterfront was packed, and people were dressed to the nines.  It was a far cry from the quiet of our morning arrival.  Tomorrow we would be underway to our next location.

Photo with the winemaker/owner Ivo Dubokovic
Ivo explaining why he uses only natural yeast in his winemaking
Hvar town

Storms and exploring

Sadly, our time in the Kornati came to a quick end, and it was time to get moving to the mainland and the safety of a marina. Our VHF was beginning to bark warnings about the impending weather (something it has rarely done since we got here). Dan and I are pretty diligent about tracking weather multiple times a day from 4 different sources. Why so many sources, you may be wondering. Here’s a shocker….they rarely match one another in their predictions. We take in all the information and will err on the side of caution.

As we rounded the islands into the open sea, the weather was already rearing it’s ugly head in the form of rough and choppy seas. The winds weren’t too bad yet (only about 15 knots), but we were definitely beating into it. Not only were we hobby horsing, rocking and rolling, we were both being doused in spray from the bow (that’s a new experience on this boat). We were both grateful to finally be pulling into the marina. Help arrived on the dock, and we got the boat snuggly tied into her berth. Knowing what was coming, we ended up with 6 points of the boat tied off. There are a number of charter bases here in this marina, and it was charter turnover Saturday. This means the majority of the boats here should be heading out of the marina for the first day of their charter…..but nobody left! I felt bad for them. You pay quite a bit of money to charter a boat, and the last thing you want to do is sit on it stuck in the marina.

Up to now, we’ve shared all the fun and crazy adventures of our new cruising life. But you know better than that 🙂 With the fun comes a fair amount of work, and sometimes it can be grueling work (like when you have to try and fix something that has broken out in a remote area). When you’re stuck in port, that is a great time to take care of chores. After pounding through the waves, our entire boat was coated in a thick layer of dried salt. Task number one was scrubbing her down. Zoe has an amazing amount of surface area to scrub down, and it takes quite a bit of time and effort. Then comes laundry. We are very fortunate to have a washing machine on board (most boats don’t). The down side is that it is teeny tiny, so one load at home turns into 4 loads on the boat. Then there is the fun of air drying your dainties on the lifelines (lines that run the length of each side of the boat). Welcome to the Beverly Hillbillies from America! Needless to say, I do my best to do laundry at dusk 😝 Lastly is cleaning the inside, putting clean sheets an the bed (a nightmare of a task in and of itself), filling the water tanks, and re-provisioning the groceries. See? It’s not all paradise 🙂

It’s getting windy!
Marina Kremik view

Unfortunately, I promised you land adventures but those didn’t really pan out. As the wind howled and the clouds built up, Dan and I headed for bed once our chores were complete. True to Croatian form, we were awoken by earth trembling thunder and blinding lightning at 4 a.m. Before I really understood what was happening, Dan had every floorboard in our hull pulled up because our bilge pump had gone off several times (this is what pumps any incoming water out of the hulls of your boat thereby keeping you from sinking)….no, it’s really not that bad. They are a lifesaver when things go bad, but most of the time they run on occasion, in the background, keeping the extra moisture and water out of your boat. I had not really heard the bilge, so I assumed Dan was “sleep working” (yes I mean working…not walking). I get up and ask some questions, assist where I can (although still not sure this isn’t some sleep induced haze that he is in). In the end, he ended up finding a small water pressure leak which was quickly dealt with. The remainder of our morning is pretty tough with the pouring rain, thunder and lightning. The next day is a shocking contrast to the extreme heat advisories we have been under for the last few weeks. It is a chilly 65 degrees. Despite being in the protected marina, the wind is howling, and we are all dancing around in our slips. Dan and I decide to walk the dirt road that runs from the marina all the way around to the next town, quite a ways away. Our primary goal was to get a view of the open sea and see what was happening out there. As soon as we rounded the bend, the sea was a turbulent mess of whitecaps and the wind threatened to blow you off your feet. We saw some beautiful little coves and a really cool lighthouse. Our best discovery, totally by accident, were these odd bunkers built into the hill and very well hidden by the surrounding forest. We explored a couple of them, and our best guess is that they were ammo bunkers used during WWII. This country has some amazing historical landform treasures from WWII. We eventually made our way back, watching as more and more boats raced into port.

Some kind of bunker?

As I said, we failed to deliver on our land ventures to share with you. We looked at taking a cab to the nearest town of Primošten, but it was pretty expensive (we had already been there once before and the weather was not great). We looked into getting a rental car to go exploring, but they were outrageously expensive. In the end, we opted to continue doing some work around the boat (like upgrading our American flag and pole) and working on various other tasks. OH! I finally made some salsa! I know that sounds dumb, but it is nearly impossible to find salsa here. I have also learned that Croatians do NOT do spicy. I was clever enough to pack a big bag of dried, spicy chile peppers from home. My biggest problem was the inability to find cilantro here! Apparently, Croatians do not like cilantro and everywhere I looked…no can do. I won’t even try to explain the looks I got when I asked for cilantro. What I did discover later is that it is called coriander! No, I still could not find it. The best I could manage was to find a seed pack and plant my own! If I’m lucky, I’ll have one batch for salsa before we head back to the states (but I doubt it). My next problem was scallions! Seriously?? I can’t begin to tell you how many places I have looked to no avail. By chance, we were walking back to the boat from our flag purchase, and the little pop up fruit/veggie stand had a small bunch. By the time we walked by, she was loading up her car. When we showed her what we wanted, she sweetly signaled to us to just take them. So, armed with everything I needed (except frickin cilantro) I made a big batch of salsa. It was fabulous, and Dan was a super, happy camper.

Roasting american hot peppers…
Baby cilantro
Homemade salsa!

Tuesday, we finally made it out of the marina (3 days later). We were quite surprised at the number of charter boats still staying put. Did they know something we didn’t? We knew the wind had died down considerably but had left behind some nice sized swells. Off we went and continued our journey south. We had some chop and swells in the beginning but nothing overwhelming. We attempted to sail at one point, but after cruising at a whopping 2-3 knots, we gave up and motored. We had several different anchorages in mind after our 4 hour journey. In and out of various coves we went. There are no mooring fields in the area we are currently sailing which means the anchor and I are going to have a battle of wits yet again. In and out we cruised….too many boats for us to fit, cove too narrow, cove too deep to set an anchor….you name it, we encountered it. It was getting later in the day, and we were both beginning to feel defeated. Were we going to be forced to anchor in some less than desirable place (for safety) and have to take turns doing an anchor watch all night? An anchor watch is when you take turns staying up for a specified period of time to make sure the boat is safe and the anchor doesn’t drag. If it is not your turn on watch, you are suppose to sleep….yeah right! We opted to try one more cove that supposedly had mooring lines if you were willing to eat at their restaurant. If this failed, we would be forced to head back to the last marina we saw, about an hour back from where we came, and where they wanted $170 euro to tie up. Let me get this straight, you want me to pay you $170 euro to tie my boat to your concrete wall??Oh hell no! This last shot HAD to work! We rounded the corner to our final shot at a cove and things did not look good 🙁 A boat had just come in ahead of us, and things already looked tight. One of the workers dinghies over and asked us to wait 15 minutes while he made sure everyone was in their right place. He worked with people to shank down their lines, moved a few boats around, and eventually told us to go over and pull up the line across the little bay. Whew! Stress test number two came as we watched two more boats stream in. We have heard countless horror stories of boats being kicked off their line to accommodate larger parties (more mouths to patronize the restaurant). Since we are only two, EVERY boat had more people than us! A boat like ours came in with 8 people on board! So far, as I write this, he has accommodated everyone and not asked us to leave. We will have to do the obligatory dinner at their restaurant, which we know nothing about, but I will keep you posted. We ask how much for the dinner, and he says 250 per person. I hope he means kuna! It is a prix fixe, several course, fish dinner for 1/2 the price we paid in the Kornati….so I guess that’s a good start.

Zoe in the restaurants cove

Okay, that was totally amazing! We dinghied into the small dock, climbed a bunch of stone steps, and arrived at a beautiful terrace overlooking the bay. Up first was a tasty shot of homemade grappa and a piece of dried fig with nut. We then sat down at our table for two on the edge of the terrace. We enjoyed a great conversation with a German couple who were at the table beside us, swapping stories and places to go. Next came a lovely appetizer that consisted of some sort of tuna pate, some salted anchovies, and assorted vegetables. We quickly noticed that the appetizer was directly tied to the entree you ordered (we had ordered the fresh grilled fish while our table neighbors ordered the meat….their appetizer was completely different). Next came a simple salad followed by a platter of two big Orada, blitva (a mix of Swiss chard, potato and garlic) and grilled veggies. It was fabulous! Afterwards, we had a choice of a type of crepe or something similar to a flan (we opted for that since we had never had it before). The dinner was incredible and the price was amazing (it included being tied up in their bay). You know it can’t be all sunshine and roses right? This had to be too good to be true. Haha! We ordered one bottle of wine with dinner and it cost more than the price for one multi-course dinner! Yikes! Guess we should learn to stick with water……bwahahaha….I don’t think so! We were so enthralled with this bay, and our desire to explore it (plus now we wanted to try the meat dish), we asked to stay another night. So tomorrow, we will swim and SUP and play in this beautiful bay. Tomorrow night, we will go back to the restaurant for their lamb peka. It’s funny, the German couple said they might stay another night, so they can try the fish dinner that we had 🤣 So for today, all’s well that ends well, and tomorrow we shall begin again. After that, it’s off the the ancient city of Togir to pick up our next set of visitors.

Wonderful seafood dinner overlooking the cove