Highlights of Central Croatia and the Adriatic

Once the weather cleared, Dan and I said a sad good-bye to ACI Cres Marina one final time.  We headed south down the island of Cres to the anchorage of Uvala Vela Slatina.  The bay was wide open with a great sand bottom and crystal clear water.  Unfortunately the weather system that had come through had dropped the temperatures enough that the thought of swimming was very unappealing.  We had the bay all to ourselves (except for all the naked sunbathers who liked to SUP and kayak past our boat….no, I am not kidding!).  We are always curious when we have an anchorage all to ourselves….why was no one else here?  The weather was settled and calm, but at 9:00 p.m. our tranquil bay became horrid as giant swell came rolling in from all directions.  We pitched around like we had just jumped on a bucking bronco.  We rocked wildly from side to side, front to back, this way and that.  Things slid around the boat, dishes rattling and clanging as they banged around in the cabinets.  It was unbelievable.  This went on for 9 hours!  It was impossible to sleep.  Thankfully, when it finally ended, all was well (except my nerves).  We made the uneasy decision to stay one more night.  Luckily, we did not have a repeat of the night before.

The beautiful waters of Uvala Vela Slatina from our drone

We made a quick stop in Mali Losinj for the night to take care of some business on the island house, and then made our way to the island of Ilovik.  Dan’s Aunt, Uncle and cousins own a restaurant on the island, and we wanted to go visit them.  As it turned out, our Kiwi friends and their new American friend were headed there also, so we agreed to meet up for drinks later that day.  Dan and I spent a couple hours hiking the island, visited with family, and had dinner and drinks with Jeremy, Chrissy and Mitch.  It was a great day and evening catching up with everyone.

The family restaurant on the island of Ilovik
Uncles, aunts and cousins!
Ilovik and Zoe from our drone

The next day we headed to the island of Vir where we anchored near some castle ruins.  As it turned out, our new American friend, Mitch, anchored nearby and we were able to share drinks and stories on board.  Unfortunately, we didn’t do much exploring since this was a stopover on our journey south in preparation for our next guests.  We took the opportunity to take a cab into town to visit one of our favorite sporting goods stores in the hopes of replacing our blown up SUP.  We had no luck. To make matters worse, we could not find a cab back to the boat.  Multiple times a car would be on the way only to cancel at the last minute.  After 30 minutes of sitting outside the store, we finally found a cab…..for 3 times the price we paid to get there!  Grrrr!!!

Vir Castle at sunset

Once our guests, Josef and Lisa, were onboard, we headed to the island of Murter.  What a treat we had when we sailed into the bay, and discovered our sailing friends all anchored here as well.  We wandered the old town and then headed up to the top of a hill with great views all around.  From there, we headed down to an old church and graveyard on our way to some Roman ruins.  A lot of the ruins are submerged, so you can snorkel the area and explore them.  Later that night, we had our friends from 3 different boats join us for drinks and stories.  Sailors do love their stories!  Sailing friends are also an amazing resource to share best places to anchor, sights that should  not be missed, and many other things of value.  With 9 of us on board, this was the biggest group we have ever hosted on Zoe.

We ask guests to bring a flag we can fly that means something to them. Here Josef proudly hoists the Bavarian flag, from where he was born.
Dinghy ride to town
Octopus salad, local cheeses and Prociutto on Murter
Cruiser get togethers are always fun and filled with stories. Represented here are USA, Germany, Canada and New Zealand
View of Murter from the hilltop with roman ruins at it’s base
Submerged ruins of the Roman city of Colentum
Ruins of Ancient Colentum

The next day, we were on our way again.  By the afternoon, we arrived at the south end of Dugi Otok, in the bay of Telašćica.  We grabbed a restaurant mooring ball for dinner that evening, and quickly jumped in the dinghy to head to the opposite side of the bay to explore.  As we rounded the corner from our bay, a huge powerboat came flying by us.  As luck would have it (NOT), we hit the trough of his wake just as his wake began to curl.  The huge wake crested over the top of the dinghy leaving us all soaking wet.  We continued on despite looking like a bunch of drowned rats. We took a beautiful hike along a saltwater lake, stopping at this amazing rock garden overlooking the sea.  Here, many people have passed by adding their contributions to the stone structures that cover the landscape.  From there we headed to the cliff tops that tower over the sea.  The views were amazing.  We returned to Zoe without any more powerboat incidents.  Once we were all fresh and clean, we took the dinghy over to a lovely restaurant overlooking the bay.  We had a very nice fish dinner.  Unfortunately, we felt a little taken advantage of in the end.  Of course, there was no menu, and our choice was fish or a pork filet.  With no menu, it meant no prices either.  We were stunned when the bill arrived.  It was a nice dinner but not worth the exorbitant price we paid…..and we only ordered their house wine (which was crappy, by the way)!

The mysterious cairns of Luka Telascica
You pick your dinner from the fresh catch of the day
Dinnerof fresh fish at an island konoba
The wild side of Dugi Otok

Our final island on this part of our journey was the island of Molat.  On our way there, we cruised past the towering Veli Rat lighthouse.  This is the highest lighthouse in the Adriatic at 42 meters high (138 feet).  By the lighthouse is a small, beautiful chapel.  Not far from the lighthouse, we came upon our lunch stop, the shipwreck of the San Michelle.  We anchored nearby and hopped in the water to snorkel this shallow wreck.  The wreck was an Italian merchant ship that sank in 1984, and part of it still peeks above the surface of the sea.  The water was crisp and the current a bit strong, so we made sure to swim over to it with our fins on (getting back to the boat was a piece of cake since the current drove us there).  The water was crystal clear, and the wreck was amazingly intact.  We spent quite a bit of time swimming over, around, and through parts of it.  

Sailing the wild windward side of Dugi Otok.
Veli Rat Lighthouse
Wreck of swimmable San Michelle from our drone
Robyn swimming the shallow waters of the wreck

Before long, we were on our way again.  Since Josef and Lisa were coming to the end of their visit, Molat was a stopover before returning to the mainland city of Zadar.  We grabbed a mooring ball next to a beautiful, wooded island and took the dinghy into town for a walk.  We found a great walk that took us to the top of the hill with great views of the surrounding sea and the bay where Zoe was tied up.

The mooring ball field in Molat.
Exploring a former submarine bunker on Dugi Otok enroute to Zadar

In the morning, we dropped lines for our 5 hour journey back to Zadar.  This time we anchored right outside the city itself.  Zadar is an amazing city to visit.  It is known for it’s Roman and Venetian ruins that surround the Old Town.  As you walk around, there are several Venetian gates in the city walls.  There are numerous churches and cathedrals throughout the city and since it was Friday night, we were treated to witnessing several weddings take place.  The fun began with the church bells chiming, Croatian flags waving and live music playing, and everyone singing.  When the bride and groom emerged from the church,  there were cannon blasts of confetti, colored smoke, and flaring light.  Croatians definitely know how to put on a wedding spectacular.  After wandering the inside of the old city, we headed to the riva (waterfront walk).  Here, they have created a sea organ.  Along the stepped walkway are a number of holes, at various levels, that run down the walk.  As the sea water crashes into the wall, the holes create a musical treat that sounds just like an organ.  Here you will find many, many people crowded around listening to the sounds of the sea and watching the spectacular sunset over the sea.  Afterwards we had an amazing dinner in an intimate courtyard surrounded by a towering Venetian wall.  This was our last night with our friends Josef and Lisa. 

Ruins of the Roman Forum in Zadar
Wedding fireworks
Wedding smoke bombs!
Click to check out the festive way they celebrate weddings in Croatia
Fantastic view of times past from the restaurant
The famous sea organ of Zadar
Click to hear the Zadar Sea Organ in action
Sunset crowds at the sea organ

We left Zadar the next morning on our 6 1/2 hour journey to Otok Bosnajak.  This was a brief overnight stop as we continued to make our way south.  We made an overnight stop in Uvala Mirine on the mainland.  He lies the fortress ruins of Ostrica…..which of course we had to go hike!  The fortress walls are amazing to see.  The real fun came when we reached the fenced off area and had to climb this homemade wooden ladder to get to the other side to explore.  I don’t do ladders!  As I climbed this rickety old thing, I could feel it swaying beneath me.  Oh man!  Needless to say, I crawled across the top platform before heading down the other side.  Can’t wait to do this again when we come back from exploring!  Check out the cool pictures of this incredible fortress wall.

Climbing over the fence to get access to the park
The walls of Ostrica, some of the longest intact fortifications in Croatia
Getting ready to weigh anchor after a great stop

At this point, we have hopped our way down the coast and are currently outside of the city of Split.  We have been switching between a couple of different bays as we wait for some sunscreens to be made for the windows, and hideout from thunderstorms and wind.  You gotta love transition season in Croatia.  We will be hanging out in this area for a week awaiting the arrival of my daughter and her fiancé.  Our next post will bring you some more sights and adventures as we make our way through some more islands, eventually landing in the amazing city of Dubrovnik.

The town of Marina Agana and it’s ancient fortress keep

Back To Where It All Began

With bad weather moving in, we tied up in a marina near Primosten Croatia for 4 days.  It’s near the middle of the country’s coastline and offers good opportunities for land exploration and other adventures, but there was not a rental car to be found!  It has been one of the busiest years we can remember, and finding a rental car in August has been nearly impossible.  We did manage to do some nice hikes from the marina, both along the coastline and up through a grapevine terraced hillside to the very top of the point overlooking the sea.  At the very top, is a monument (Our Lady of Loreto Statue) to the Virgin Mary which stands 17 meters (55.77 feet) high and is visible from Italy on a clear day.  There wasn’t much more exploring we could do without a vehicle, so we were eager to get underway once the weather cleared.

Our Lady of Loreto statue, near Primosten Croatia
You can’t beat the views from the statue. The peninsular town of Primosten is a beauty!

From there, we headed to the island of Pašman.  We were making our way pretty far north, so this was a convenient rest stop for the night.  We still had a fair amount of wind (15-20 knots), so we grabbed a mooring ball and settled in for the night.  It wasn’t long before every spot was taken.  Since we were anxious to get more miles under our belt, we got moving early for our 7 hour journey.  The downside of our journey north is that the prevailing wind is pretty much always from the north which means very little opportunity to sail 🙁  Our next stop was the island of Olib, and a large anchorage on the southern end of the island.  We still had some residual wind creating a bit of chop in the anchorage, but we did manage to get in a swim for some exercise.

Moonrise over the anchorage
We enjoy the wild and remote anchorages to mix things up. The water was super clear but water was chilly!

Olib was another one night stop before heading to the island of Silba.  This has been one of our favorite islands, and you can access town via a 20-30 minute walk through the countryside.  We tried a new bay this time which had been filled with mooring balls.  The balls were uncomfortably close to one another, but there weren’t many boats so it was okay.  We quickly learned why there weren’t many boats.  The wasps were insane here.  We started out using our zapping racket, and that soon became futile.  We ended up hiding inside the boat because they were so bad.  Before heading to town, we constructed a wasp catcher using a water bottle and some watermelon juice.  By the time we got back, there were over 60 dead wasps in the bottle….a special treat for the fish.  It still didn’t deter them!  Needless to say, we only lasted one night here as well.

We enjoyed strolling through Silba Old town. No cars and the wooded setting is unusual for the area
The northern part of the Adriatic is notorious with sailors due to it’s feared Bura wind.

Once again, we were tracking another weather system (ahhh, you gotta love northern Croatia).  We headed up to the island and town of Mali Losinj.  This has always been one of our favorite places, fairly close to Dan’s family home.  We spent 4 nights here enjoying the town and visiting with one of Dan’s cousins and our friend Magrit, from the town of Stivan.  We found some more great hikes including one to Vela Straza (Monte Baston), an ancient hilltop fort.  This was considered to be of strategic importance thanks to the wide views which allowed for the protection of the town of Mali Losinj.  Once again, no rental cars available!

The town of Mali Losinj. Largest island town in Croatia
Hiking and exploring the area
Vela Straza. Ancient lookout for signs of trouble.
A tunnel to explore. Perhaps for guards?
The views of Losinj Bay were great.

Before long, we were on our way again.  Destination:  The island of Cres and home of Dan’s father and his ancestral roots. This would be our final stop in the northern Adriatic and where it all began for us with Zoe.  If you’ve been following our blog from the beginning, you will recall that we had Zoe moved to the island and town of Cres after we purchased her in Tunisia.  I lived in the marina on Zoe, alone, for 5-6 weeks getting her ready to become our home.  Dan was still working at the time back in the US.  I stayed on Zoe during the spring while monitoring the exterior renovations that were being done on Dan’s ancestral home on the island.  So, here we were, back at our favorite marina (ACI Cres) after several years away.  It felt like coming home.  Unfortunately, this will probably be our last visit up here with Zoe (we will always come back by land) as we are feeling the pull to explore farther afield on the boat.  We spent another 4 days here (and yes, there was weather AGAIN!)  We explored all of our favorite haunts and hikes, visited with friends in the town of Stivan, checked on the house, and visited the crypt of Dan’s dad, aunt, uncle, grandparents, and great grandfather.  As you can imagine, visiting the small village of Stivan is bittersweet for us, but it always calls us back.

Lighthouse on our passage north.
ACI Marina Cres. Where our sailing adventure began in 2018. Full circle!
Wandering the Old Town
Monastery in Cres Town
Lighthouse showing the way into Cres Bay
Nighttime views in the marina. We always enjoy the bleating sheep at sunset. So peaceful and serene.

We said farewell to Cres this morning and have begun our journey south again.  We have 3 more sets of visitors over the next month and a half, each arriving further south in Croatia.  We will be taking them through more of the islands of Croatia, sprinkled with some land adventures, before we make our way back to Greece and Zoe’s winter resting place.  As always, we hope to bring you some new and exciting adventures during our explorations with our guests!