We returned from a nice weekend in the Dolomites where we did some hiking and exploring, and jumped right back into boat work. After all, Zoe was set to go into the water in only two days. We worked tirelessly for the next couple of days trying to get as much done as possible….well, at least the stuff that could not be done on the water. When Wednesday finally arrived, the wind had picked up substantially. This was not looking good. Dan and I were both feeling extremely uncomfortable with the strong wind and the extreme narrowness of the channel in the marina that we would have to get ourselves through without being pushed into the other boats. Fortunately, the crane operator was feeling equally stressed about hoisting our big boat in such high winds. Lucky for us they had a cancellation for two days later, and we were able to delay lifting Zoe into the water until then. Heavy sigh of relief on my part :). On the down side, we no longer had our little apartment booked. We decided we would tough it out and live on the boat in the air for the next two nights. Keep in mind, our boat is 10 feet in the air and not level by any means. All part of the adventure, right?
We took the opportunity of extra time on land to tackle some of our bigger jobs. We bought some new lines in order to change some of our old and worn ones. Dan decided it was time to change our halyard. This bit of fun required him being hoisted to the top of the mast….some 70 feet off the ground! Needless to say, I was not happy about this. I had read far too many stories of people falling while trying to ascend their mast…and of course dying. We had even done some training classes before leaving. A good friend (and highly skilled climber/canyoneer) helped us create back up systems, as well as an emergency plan for getting Dan up and down if a problem developed. None of this gave me comfort. So, we started with a practice run, and I hoisted Dan about 10 feet off the deck and back down again. Now it was time for the big show. With my stomach churning, I slowly raised Dan to the top of the mast…watching and waiting anxiously until he was ready to be lowered. With the new halyard installed, I started bringing him down. Everything went off without a hitch! I was so relieved. We now have a beautiful new halyard to raise our mainsail.
The day finally arrived to put Zoe in the water. The morning was amazingly calm, and we were extremely excited and grateful for no wind. HA! You know nothing goes that smoothly. Without fail, as soon as the crane had us in the sling, the wind picked up…..awesome! Once Zoe was lowered into the loading bay, we were instructed to get on board. At this point, we checked to make sure there were no leaks anywhere in the hulls and fired up both motors. Sure that everything was working fine, I took position on deck to help guide Dan out and fend us off any boats that we might get too close to. This went extremely well, and we were feeling really good. We got out of the channel and waited just outside the entrance for the marineros to arrive and help us tie up. We waited…..and we waited. Dan finally had to call the marina and remind them that we needed help tying up to the wall (the wind was really blowing by this point). Finally two of the marina guys came down and grabbed the lines that I tossed to them. The wind was so strong that it took these two, strong men about 20 minutes to finally get us securely tied to the wall. Ahhhh, back on the water again. Life was finally starting to feel normal again.
Dan and I carefully monitored several different weather forecasts to find our weather window to head to Croatia. This time of year is very unpredictable in the Med. One day it is 70 degrees and sunny, and the next it’s in the 50’s with pouring rain and heavy winds. We decided that Monday (3 days later) would be our best bet. So, we figured the following day (Saturday) would be a good day to run any final errands before turning in our rental car.
We headed back to the big marina store in Trieste in order to buy some more boat parts and lines. We also took the opportunity to find the port authority where we would need to check out of the country before heading to Croatia. We found the location, determined that they would in fact be open on Sunday, and got all the necessary information we needed. We were armed with everything we needed and made our way back to the marina. Tomorrow we would make the hour drive to Trieste once again in order to check out with immigration (you have 24 hours once you check out, to get out of the country…and their waters). We would then go to the Trieste airport (nowhere near the city) and return our rental car. From there, we would have to figure out how to get ourselves back to our boat which was about 1/2 hour away.
Sunday was a very wet and cold day in Italy. As we drove down to the waterfront of Trieste, we were shocked to see a huge cruise ship in port. While this should not have been a big deal, it created a huge nightmare for us. Every bit of parking that was down near the water had been barricaded off! We had to figure out somewhere else to park the car (not an easy task anywhere in European cities!). On top of it all, we were now racing the clock since the port police was only open until 12:30 on Sunday. After much frustration and failure, we finally found a spot (although not sure if we were legally parked) and set off to the station. Now we had to navigate through the security that was in place for the cruise ship. We finally got an officer to escort us to where we needed to go and got our passports and boat papers taken care of….whew! I just wanted to get the hell out of there at this point. Well, that was a whole lot of fun in and of itself. Not only was there all this cruise ship chaos, but apparently they had a big street fair going on as well, so many of the streets were blocked off! Traffic was horrendous and lanes were often restricted down to one. I was so relieved by the time we escaped the city. On to the airport!
When we arrived at the airport, we found out that the rental car agent would not be there for a 1/2 hour, so we set about trying to find our way back to the boat. A taxi was looking like it would be around $100….eeesh. We could get a train to a few different cities closer but no guarantee of finding a cab once we were there. We finally found a train to the city where the marina was and the number of a cab who agreed to pick us up (this was all thanks to a wonderful woman who worked at the visitor center in the airport). We headed to the train station at the airport to buy our tickets. By now, it is pouring down rain with thunder and lightening. We repeatedly fail to purchase the tickets at the tracks, so Dan books it back to the airport to seek the assistance of our visitor angel. With tickets firmly in hand, we hustle back to the track (it’s an 8 minute walk each way from the airport to the tracks). Everything is looking good and going well. Haha! This wouldn’t be worth telling if there wasn’t an evil twist, right? It is one minute out, and our train’s arrival is announced. Next thing I know, Dan shouts out that his ticket just blew out of his hand and down to the field below! Are you kidding me???!!! He quickly searches for way to get down the next level and get it….there is no way down and no time left. He quickly decides to buy another ticket. The train is coming! As he rapidly types in the details and follows the prompts on this very slow machine, the train is arriving…..I am panicking! If we miss this train, we have to wait another hour in the pouring rain! The ticket spits out and we hustle to the train and jump on….wet, cold, and mentally exhausted.
The following day, we cut lines and said good-bye to Marina Planais. Croatia here we come! It was a quick 4 hour crossing in cold, rainy weather. As we came into the harbor of Umag, we were told someone would be at the town quay to help us with lines. As we circled and circled, no one came. After much frustration, we headed to the mooring field and tied up to a mooring ball. We quickly jumped in the dinghy and headed to town to check in with the port police and port captain (bringing our foreign selves and our foreign flagged boat into these various countries comes with a lot of paperwork and some stress). First stop, the customs dock for immigration. Here we were quickly chastised (and not nicely in any way, shape or form) for not tying up to the customs dock to check in. He refused to deal with us and told us to get our boat to the their dock and that we should know better! NOWHERE we have checked in, this year or last, has required us to tie up our boat outside their office! Needless to say, I’m pissed at this point. We race back to our boat, drop lines, and head to the customs dock where we have to figure out how to tie up with only 2 of us on board. As we slide in, I manage to lasso a giant bollard on the dock and get our back secure while Dan jumps off and ties our front end off. Not bad for a couple of newbies! We head back in to try this again. This time the officer was a little less surly and a little more helpful. After getting squared away legally, we headed to the port captain to take care of the rest of our paperwork and pay the visitor tax. Yep, we had to pay $355 to spend 3 months in Croatia on our boat 🙁 Unfortunately, the office closed at 3:00 (it was 2:50….and yes, it was already closed). So we would have to return the next day. We jumped back on our boat and headed back out to the mooring ball field. Once again, we got Zoe secured, and we settled in. For our first day back in Croatia, we both were feeling a little beaten down. But, we found a quaint little Croatian restaurant, with extremely friendly staff and super yummy food, so we quickly reset to our happy place.
On the down side, another big storm is predicted in the coming days, so we will want to be tied up somewhere a little more protected and secure. We figure we will spend a couple of nights here and then make our way to the historic town of Poreč where we will ride out the storm and do some more exploring.