Welcome to Northern Istria….

For those who do not know, Istria is home to some of the most amazing olive oil, wine, and truffles.  I am a complete truffle addict (you thought I was going to say wine, didn’t you?). It is definitely one of my all time favorite treats here.  So far I have made pasta in a truffle sauce, truffle polenta, and truffle smashed potatoes.  The last two were new experiments and a definite hit!  I had one other, out of the ordinary, culinary adventure the other day.  I made stuffed zucchini blossoms.  Now mind you, I have never eaten a zucchini blossom, much less prepared one.  A friend offered up a suggestion, and I ran with it.  They came out quite tasty.  Definitely something I will play with in the kitchen again.

So, enough of the culinary adventure, let’s get back to the adventures of life on a boat and hanging out in medieval towns.  After our unpleasant experience with the harbor police, things got much better.  We spent two nights in Umag on the mooring ball, and it was very enjoyable (although our first night came with some heavy boat bouncing….talk about getting your sea legs fast!). Our last day was May 1st (Labor Day) and a big holiday in Croatia.  As we made our way out of Umag, a marching band was busy playing tunes in the town square, and many people were out and about.  We chose to move our way down the coast to the city of Novigrad…..another quaint seaside village resort.  This town was beautiful as well.  A big church tower sat at one entrance to the bay and a big, green park at the other side of the bay.  There were lots of restaurants on the water surrounding the bay, and the holiday was in full swing here as well.  As we tied up the boat, we could hear the music from several different bands drifting out over the water.  This town was very lively and full of people as well.  It was finally a gloriously sunny day, and everyone was out enjoying the holiday.  We ventured into the town to do some exploring.  The one major downside that I have with these quaint little towns is that there are absolutely NO dinghy docks.  Because of this, we have had to get very creative with where we pull in because the seaside walls are so much higher than our dinghy.  This town was no exception.  In the last town, we tied up near stone steps that came down to the water.  The problem here is that our dinghy would get thrashed on all the sharp shelled mussels and other shelled organisms growing along the wall.  The other problem is that the lower steps are so often submerged that they are like trying to climb ice due to the algae growth.  As we pondered where to tie up in Novigrad, we found a number of areas with ladders going down to the water.  Hmmm, that seemed like a little better option.  We tied up and climbed out….perfect….I can handle this.  Unfortunately, the climb down looked like it was going to be nightmare since the ladder did not reach up above the wall (needless to say….I fretted over the acrobatic moves that would be required of me throughout our stroll of the town).

Finally a ladder that doesn’t require acrobatics!

At this point, Dan and I were actively monitoring 5 different weather reports since another big storm was headed our way.  We were debating whether to spend 3 or more nights in this lively little town before heading for shelter.  Well, that was quickly decided for us when we were told how much they wanted for us to be on the mooring ball.  They charged us extra for being a catamaran.  I understand this when we are in a marina or tied to the town quay (we basically fill the width of what two monohull sailboats would occupy), but we were on a ball in the bay with no other boats, and the balls were spaced far enough apart that we did not impede anyone using a ball beside us.  I think Dan very seriously thought about leaving and going elsewhere.  Anyway, we sucked it up and continued our adventure (but decided that two days would be the max here).  After wandering around town, we decided to rent a scooter and go explore an ancient hilltop fortress known for their truffles.  We headed out of town on our little scooter (yes, I say little for a reason) and descended into a beautiful, green valley which followed along a winding river.  The sun was out (for the first time in a number of days), and we were happily drinking in the sights.  As we began approaching the winding road 750 feet up to the town, our scooter got slower and slower.  We are talking 12%+ of uphill grade.  With two of us on this little 50cc scooter, it was having none of this.  I jumped off the back and began to walk up the hill (so not fun).  I walked for the beginning, and then Dan decided I should drive the scooter, and he would hike.  I have never driven a scooter before.  Yes, I know it’s not that difficult!  But after struggling to navigate the turns while going uphill, I eventually gave up (for fear of plummeting over the side of the mountain).  Luckily by now, we had made it to the top.  We explored the town which was extremely busy with tourists, and when we finished we took a much kinder route home.  Yes, it was downhill from the fortress, but remember…we descended into that beautiful valley.  Three hours later, we made it back to town and headed back to the boat.  Tomorrow, we would head for the medieval city of Poreč where we would tie up to the town quay to ride out the storm.

First time on a scooter! And learning while on a steep uphill grade too!
View of the Adriatic in the distance from the hilltop artist colony of Groznjan
Wandering the streets of Umag

The rain had arrived during the night and was still around when we cut lines the next morning.  Fortunately, it was a short one hour blast to our next stop.  This would be our first time tying our boat to a town quay.  This is it’s own bit of fun and stress.  These town quays are lined with many restaurants and bars guaranteeing a large audience to watch you as you pull in.  There was no exception on this day.  As a matter of fact, the many people strolling the promenade made it a point to stop and watch as we brought our boat in and tied up.  Here is how this bit of fun goes:  Dan backs down to the wall where I have to hook a line that is held up by the harbor master and toss him my stern line.  I then have to drag this wet, dirty line (it’s been lying on the floor of the sea) to the front of the boat to pull up the thick mooring line and then cleat it off to the front of the boat.  We then repeat this process on the other side of the boat.  This is all done while Dan ensures that we don’t back into the wall or pivot in any direction into neighboring boats.  We managed to get tied up with minimal fuss.  Since we are tied to a wall, no dinghy needed….Yay!  Well, not so much.  As I said, the town walls are very high.  We are very high as well which is normally not a problem, but there are very big tidal swings here which meant the plank we set up from our boat to the wall was at an incline I was not comfortable with (not to mention there were only a couple of inches on either end of the plank supported on the boat or the wall and the boat was pitching around….so not good).  We did a lot of fiddling with the lines to try and get us as close to the wall as possible while still being safe when the storm arrived.  As I’ve said before, in calm weather, navigating the plank is not a big deal.  However, when the boat pitches around….so does the plank (a sure fire recipe for ending up in the very cold water in front of many witnesses!)

Tied up on the city wall of Porec, waiting out the storm
One of my most memorable steak BBQ’s ever!

The next day, we rented a car to go do some exploring of the nearby sights.  We started at a nearby Karst cave which we toured.  We went down, down, down into 5 different chambers.  The final chamber (open to the public) was 160 meters underground and allowed us to see some albino salamanders that live in these depths.  The formations within the cave were amazing to see….some of which were over 100,000 years old.  The experience did not disappoint.  Of course, what goes down must come up :). The climb out was slick and steep but pretty quick.  We were definitely sucking wind by the time we emerged from the entrance.  Our next stop was a local winery that was highly reviewed.  The grounds were beautiful, and we sat and enjoyed a tasting of 8 different wines produced on sight (and of course we purchased a couple of our favorites).  We are literally beginning to create a wine cellar on board with all the fun and fabulous wines we have discovered!  After, we took a drive to a viewpoint of a local fjord.  The view was amazing, and the wildflowers surrounding the cliffs were incredible.  We also took some time to hunt for some wild asparagus.  We did not find any :(. At least, we don’t think we did…haha.  I think we need to see one up close and personal before we risk picking something that might just be a fancy weed!  We had a little bit of a reprieve in the weather today….the rain came and went throughout our excursion.  Tonight, heavier rain would begin and the high winds would arrive by tomorrow (near gale force).  We were fully prepared for a day stuck on board to ride out the storm.

Depths of the Baredine Cave
Turns out stalagmites look like alien baby pods when lit up
Rare subterranean albino salamander….can breath in water or air. Only lives deep in the cave depths.
Wine tasting at Matosovic Winery in Istria. YUM
Gotta love when they give you a scorecard to keep track!

As I mentioned before, there are many restaurants and bars about 50 feet behind our boat (picture a narrow street and we are backed up to one side and the restaurants and bars line the other side).  On this night, the bar directly behind us was doing some sort of disco night with colorful flashing lights and very loud music.  It was looking to be a long night.  I think I finally put earplugs in around 1 a.m. and could still hear the music!  That is one of the downsides of tying up to the town quay.  The other downside is that you are in a fishbowl.  Many, many people walk by and stop at our boat to check it out, and some even take pictures.  As a catamaran, we are a little bit unusual in this northernmost part, and our American flag with hailing port of Phoenix, AZ definitely makes us an oddity.  You definitely have to get used to the lack of privacy when you are on the wall.  As predicted, the rain arrived very late in the night and by morning, the wind was howling with gusts up to 30 knots.  We spent the day on board taking the opportunity to do some chores and work around the boat.  It’s been a whopping 54 degrees today and the rain has not let up.  In the week that we have been underway, we have only had one nice day of sunshine :(. We are really hoping that changes soon.  We are ready for the sunshine!!!

Rain, rain and more rain. We have had only a handful of true sunny days since arriving. Bring on summer!
Life on a city wall…welcome to the fishbowl

We ended up growing very fond of Poreč, and decided to stay a few days longer than we had originally planned (gotta love not having to sail a schedule!). We tried to rent a car for our last day in town, but they emailed us that morning telling us they had nothing available.  That limited our explorations, but we made the most of it.  As a matter of fact, our first adventure was to explore a 6th century Euphrasian Basilica that had been built over top of the original 4th century Basilica.  This was one of the earliest churches ever built and is famous for it’s frescos and mosaics.  The wall mosaics were constructed by Byzantian masters.  There is a mosaic of a fish on the floor that dates back to the 2nd half of the 4th century.  The fish symbol was significant because it had become the secret symbol of Christianity during a time when the practice of Christianity was illegal.  This basilica had been built after the Roman persecution of early Christians.  We have included several pictures and a very brief background in this post.  I am hoping to create a post later that is solely dedicated to touring the basilica for those who might be interested. After, we walked to a place for wine, olive oil, and cheese tasting.  We had read really good things about this tour and were excited….especially since it was quite a long walk to get there.  Unfortunately, it was a huge disappointment, so I will leave it at that :). We have really enjoyed our 5 nights in this city, but we are ready to explore some new sights.  Tomorrow we will set sail for the city of Rovinj and some new adventures!

Amongst the first Christian churches ever built
The fish mosaic harkens back to a time when it was a secret symbol during the Christian prosecution by the Romans.
Famous fresco dating back to 6th century
Want to ring this soooo bad….
See you next post….thanks for reading!

Arrivederci Italy!

Beautiful Dolomites of the Belluno region of Northern Italy
Great spring time hiking all around the region
Cadini Breton waterfall
Rest stop with a view!

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.

Learning the “ropes”in Arizona for ascending a tree…err…I mean a mast…
Time to put the new found skills to work…
Up up and more up…
Finally to the top!

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.

Zoe on her way to the splash zone…
Almost there….
Down she goes!
First sunset from the boat….

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.  

Monitoring the weather to find the right window for the passage

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.

Across the Gulf of Trieste to Umag, Croatia
Making our way out of the lagoon
Only one way to get through the lagoon shallows
Out of the lagoon and into the Gulf of Trieste we go…
Goodbye Italy…..snow capped Dolomites made for a scenic goodbye

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.

Umag city center
Celebratory dinner to mark a safe and uneventful passage!

The Return to Sailing Season!

It’s finally here!  Time to return to Europe and get Zoe ready to be dropped back in the water.  We’ve been given a splash date (when Zoe will be hoisted up by crane and set back in the water) of April 24th.  There is much to do to make sure she is ready for the next 6-7 months of sailing.  We got this!

Ha!  How quickly that warm, fuzzy feeling has been beaten down.  We have now completed our first full week of work on the boat, and I can tell you that along with the blood, sweat and tears (literally) there have been extreme emotional highs and lows.  To begin, the exterior of the boat was absolutely filthy after sitting for 5 months in wind, rain, and a hail of bird poop.  As we entered the inside, my heart sank even further.  Just to refresh your memory, shutting down the boat at the end of last season required the following tasks:  All clothing was removed and stored in vacuum pack bags; all bedding, pillows, and towels  were removed and vacuum packed; all remaining food and spices were taken out and placed in air tight containers; all cushions and mattresses were up-ended and stored away from walls and windows; all sails and canvas were stripped from the boat; all lines were removed and stored. So this entire mess, was now sitting inside the boat, along with the contents of 5 large duffles worth of supplies that we ferried over from the U.S.  I think I felt a panic attack coming on 🙁

Where to begin?!  I figured the quickest way to make the biggest dent was to unpack all the sealed bags and containers and put the stuff away.  That relieved some of the debris and allowed me to get the guest cabin made up and ready for future visitors. 

Guest cabin ready…

At this point, Dan and I decided to take a break and go in search of a new mattress for our bed.  We had decided to purchase a memory foam mattress which turned out to be quite a challenge.  Knowing that it would need to be cut down to fit the unique shape of the bed in our cabin, we could not buy one that needed to be contained within a cover.  We finally decided on one that we found at IKEA.  The trick now was to get it back to the boat in our tiny, little clown car.  As the pictures will show, we managed to wedge it into the car with me fighting to keep it off the steering wheel and gear shift. 

Next was hauling it up 10 feet to the deck of the boat, down the stairs into the hull and our cabin.  I think you are starting to get the “sweat” part of where this story began.  Have you ever cut through 8 inches of foam with a box cutter and a serrated bread knife?  I’m here to tell you, it SUCKS!  Not only did it take forever, but left a barrage of foam snow all over our cabin.  Great!  I now created a new mess to clean up!

All done!

With the inside starting to show signs of improvement, we decided it was time to tackle replacing our trampoline.  The trampoline on the front of our boat was really showing it’s age and had a lot of sag making it super uncomfortable.  We purchased a new, tighter woven trampoline.  After receiving a $800 euro quote to install it, Dan decided we could do this ourselves.  At this point, picture my eyes bugging out of my head.  Step number one was to soak the trampoline in water for 24 hours so that we would be able to stretch it into position.  We put it into a giant, plastic tub and filled it with water.  Being on the hard, our boat is not resting level.  So, the water in the tub was about 2 inches lower on one side of the bin.  My very helpful husband (he is on the ground manning the on/off knob of the faucet) tells me to put something under the low side to level it.  Did you know that those big plastic tubs are not meant to hold 100’s of pounds of water (ok, it wasn’t quite that much)?  As I went to lift up one side, the plastic broke slicing through my finger and palm in two separate places.  Yep, it hurt like hell and now I’m bleeding (I told you there was blood, sweat and tears).  The tears came next as I sat down to wrap my bloody wounds, feeling totally defeated by my boat 🙁

If you know me very well, you know that my pity party was short lived and I was back at putting the boat back together.  I forgot to mention that during this entire week it has been cold, windy and rainy.  Fun times, right?  It was finally time to install the trampoline.  The dealer told us it would only take 5 hours….uh yeah right!  I know how this goes.  There are 60 lash down points to secure the trampoline to the deck, and every one of them requires gorilla strength (and pulleys, winches, and pliers) to stretch the trampoline to each point and secure it.  At this point, my hands are raw and my body is broken.  Let’s just say there have been some contortionist moves required.  After 5 hours on day one and 4 hours on day two, we are still not done :(. We are getting closer though, and it looks amazing so far.

Old trampoline on it’s way out.
12 feet off the ground and tying knots…60 of them!

Well, our 5 hour trampoline job took us days and 16 hours.  It nearly did us in :(. On top of that, we winched too hard on one corner and tore a hole in it!  Add another job to my list….attempt to weave the hole closed (which I did and, it doesn’t look too bad). 

All done!

Fortunately for us, putting the sails back up was a much less painful job.  We managed to get the mainsail back up in about 4 hours after watching the videos we took at the end of last season to refresh our memory of where everything went.  The genoa was up in about an hour. 

Trying to remember how to rig a square top main sail…
Genoa sail on it’s way up…

Score 1 for team Muzich!  Over the next few days, we got the leak in the dinghy repaired, dinghy scrubbed, chaps back on, and back in the “garage.”  We got the cockpit enclosure put up, have begun the clean up, and got my cilantro planted! 

Starting to look like a sailboat!
Dinghy back in it’s garage.

Hopefully we will have homemade salsa before time to leave the boat at the end of the season…..lol!  At this point, Easter weekend has arrived, and we have decided it is time for a boat/work break.  We are heading to the mountains for a little play time before the final push to get Zoe ready.  It is now T-minus 4 days until launch!  I promise our next post will be more fun and a lot less drudgery….but in all fairness, I did promise to bring you the good, the bad, and the ugly of life on a sailboat!

Venezia bound at last

We made it through the nasty storm without issue, and despite the winds not dying down overnight.  The next day, we planned to head to the ancient city of Poreč (have you noticed that pretty much every city we’ve gone to is “ancient?”).  This was going to be our jumping off point for our crossover to Venice.  We also needed to make sure that wherever we chose as our departure point had an immigration and harbor patrol office so that we could check ourselves, and our boat, out of the country.  When we arrived, we decided to grab a mooring ball instead of tying up to the city wall.  The weather was suppose to be pretty nice, and we much prefer the quiet of the bay versus being on display in front of all the restaurants and people strolling the town.  By the time we got tied up, it was only 3:30, so we quickly pumped up our still deflating dinghy and headed to the immigration office.  Deflating dinghy you ask?  If you will recall, we came back to a partially deflated dinghy in Primošten (wow, that seemed like forever ago!).  While prepping for our departure from Cres, we worked on finding the leak and patching it.  Needless to say, it didn’t fix the problem 🙁  

Back to our current story…..we headed into town on our dinghy and tied up to the wall.  We walked over to the customs office only to discover it was closed!  Are you kidding me?  They are typically open until 5 p.m.  it is only 4:30.  As we stood there trying to figure out what to do, we noticed the sign indicating that 4 days a week they closed at 3 p.m.  Well wasn’t that just great!  We had a 55 mile crossing the next day, so our goal was to be underway by 6:30 a.m. to ensure we arrived in Venice with plenty of daylight to find our way through the lagoon.  Now what!?  They didn’t open until 8 a.m.  We decided at this point to wander the town and check out the beautiful sights since we were already onshore.  It was shockingly crowded here for the end of September.  We walked the cobblestone alleys exploring the beautiful architecture of the city.  We even stumbled onto a intercultural event with blaring music and different countries represented by groups of people dressed alike and dancing in the square.  Ironically, most of the music was American (but all the flags on display were from the EU).  We enjoyed the scene for a bit, and then continued on our way.  Unfortunately, our hearts weren’t totally into this visit as we were both preoccupied with how we were going to proceed in getting out of Croatia on time and in safe weather.

Poreč’s lovely cobblestoned alleyways

Poreč’s old city fortifications
Cultural Festival

We returned to the boat to begin strategizing.  If the customs office opened at 8:00 like the sign said, and the process was expeditious, we could be on our way to Venice by 9:00.  We looked at the weather forecasts, re-calculated our distance, and calculated time.  At best, it would take us 8 hours but could take up to 12 if we tried to sail in less than sustained 15-20 knot winds or only used 1 motor.  We both agreed that the 12 hour version was not an option.  We did not want to navigate the Venice lagoon and an unknown marina in the dark.  The second option we tossed around was to delay Venice for a day or two and continue our way north.  We would be close enough to Slovenia to tap us out of Croatia on time, it would be a shorter open water crossing (however more miles due to moving north along the coast).  Delaying our crossing could put us into another bad weather window since the storms seemed to be rolling in on a more regular basis now that fall had arrived.  After much consideration, we made a pact (my requirement, of course).  I made Dan promise that the only way we would lift sails was if we had at least 15-20 knot sustained winds…gusts don’t count.  You lose time powering down the boat and changing course to hoist the sails, and we did not have time to spare.  I also requested that if we were unable to keep 6 knots (about 7 miles per hour), under 1 engine, that we would motor under both engines.  With our agreement in place, we decided to go ahead and make the jump the following day provided there were no delays with immigration. Needless to say, it was a rough night (of course it was!  A long, draining day awaits you!).  The wind had kicked up yet again…..and NOT in any of the forecasts!  This was our first time on a mooring ball in high winds, and the noises were actually louder and more intense than when tied up in port (lots of creaking and cracking as the boat pulls and twists on the single point of the ball).

When morning arrived, we scrambled to get to the immigration office right as they opened.  We tied up the dinghy and raced over there.  A group had already beat us 🙁    I whispered to Dan that they were on the catamaran that had come in a few hours after us last night.  We soon realized (more like overheard) they were headed to Venice as well.  This was oddly comforting knowing someone else would be on the same path as us.  We finished our clearance and were told to head across the way to the police station to finish our check out.  The group was just finishing as we approached, so we stopped to talk.  They were, in fact, headed to the exact marina  in Venice that we were.  After a brief discussion about engine size (Men!  Always comparing sizes 🤣), the race was on!  We both got back to our boats at about the same time, and quickly prepared for departure.  They had the jump on us after dropping our mooring lines, but had to make a side trip to the fuel station (that would easily cost them a 1/2 hour).  We were out of the breakwater by 8:40 and ahead of schedule.  Yeah us!  There was not much wind forecasted by any of the models (but we’ve seen how well that’s been working), so we knew motoring was probably going to be the case for most of the journey.  We also knew that after several days of heavy wind, coming down the gut of the gulf, that we were likely going to have uncomfortable seas.  We decided we would do an hour on/hour off rotation at the helm since neither of us had a great night sleep, and it was going to be a long day.  Since I was on the wheel coming out of the breakwater, I started.  There was some wind….not enough to sail with but enough to chill you to the bone….and it looked like the seas were going to progressively get worse.  Warm clothes, heavy weather jacket, life jacket and tether attached to the helm station were the theme of the day.  When Dan came up to relieve me, I asked him if what I was seeing on the horizon was rough water.  The entire horizon looked like the boiling surface of water.  Neither one of us could figure out if we were seeing the line of rough water or our eyes were playing tricks on us.  It didn’t take too long before we had our answer…..large swells,  breaking waves, and whitecaps…..let the fun begin.  We alternated our shifts, catnapped when off, and tried to keep warm.  Surprisingly, the 8 hours was over before we knew it.  I didn’t think I would like the switching every hour (too quick), but I think it made the passage go really fast.

As we approached the entrance to the lagoon, things got really interesting.  The water color shifted from the beautiful, clear, deep blues to this milky, murky, grayish-green.  That wasn’t the interesting thing though….it was this really bizarre, roiling, washing machine of confused waves that greeted us (greeted is probably not the right word since the water seemed angry as hell).  We made sure to give the land and any water markers a wide berth so as not to get pitched into them by the crazy movement and hellacious current.  The water stayed this way for a very long time as we made our way deeper into the lagoon.  We later learned that coming into the lagoon can be a challenge if you don’t enter during a slack tide.  Hmmmm….we missed that little tidbit.  So of course, we entered during the tidal change and against 2 knot currents!  Needless to say, it was a slow journey to our marina. 

Crossing into the Lagoon

The next piece of fun was entering the main “traffic” canal.  OH MY GOD!  This was your worst freeway at commuter time….only you are not at a stand still, you are playing frogger on steroids with high speed powerboats, ferries, water taxis, etc.  This is Dan’s specialty and one of my greatest nightmares.  Whew!  Glad we were done with that!  As we entered the transit dock area to our marina, Dan repeatedly tried to reach the marina for direction and assistance.  Finally, they answered and sent the marinero out in his dinghy.  He told us it was too rolly on the transit dock and to follow him into the main marina.  Ummmm, this isn’t right.  We both had understood, when we visited in the spring, that our boat could not come through the front channel that he was now leading us down.  Up ahead we saw the sliding bridge opening that he expected us to go through.  Now mind you, there are boats parked on both sides of us, leaving about 3 feet or less on each side.  Dan shouts to the guy, “Are you sure I can fit through there??  I am 7.25 meters wide.”  The guy tells us it’s about 7.3 meters wide!  Oh hell no!!  Now comes the fun part….oh yes, there is always a fun part.  Dan has to back out of this winding channel, staying clear of all parked boats, and avoiding the new, impatient arrivals that are trying to go around us.  I’m on the front with a boat hook, ready to fend off any boats we get to close to, and calling out directions to avoid a couple hazards.  We’re gonna need a stiff drink after that bit of fun!  We head out into the main channel (the way we should’ve gone in the first place), dodge a few more high speed ferries, and enter a canal on the back side of the island.  We come into the marina and get Zoe tied up in her slip….home for the next month.  In case you were wondering, the group we had met in Poreč ended up parked right beside us a few hours later.

This entrance is way too tight for a catamaran!
Zoe’s Italian home
Exploring the nature park next to the marina
The family car in Venice is a boat….
Last stop this year!
Random sculpted marble for contemplation

Our track across the Adriatic

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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…..in 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…..no 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…..so 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

“Kruising” the Kornati

After two relaxing days on the island of Ilovik, we decided to make another long push south.  Since we have never been to the island of Rava, we decided we would stop there for a night or two and then head into the Kornati National Park.  The winds were once again in our favor, at least in the beginning.  We managed a glorious 2 hour sail, silently gliding through the deep blue waters.  The only sounds were the hulls slicing through the water, the waves splashing against the bow, and the wind in the sails….so much nicer than the rumbling of the Diesel engines.  As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end….and so did the wind.  When the wind dies off here, it doesn’t just gradually recede, it abruptly ends….and so it did 🙁  We then spent the next 4 1/2 hours motoring along in the blazing sun.  Next thing we knew, the wind kicked up again!  Woo hoo!  So, out came the sails one more time.  Unfortunately, there was only about a half hour left before coming into a variety of small bays where we would stay.  Our journey to Rava had taken us 8 hours, and we were both ready to cool off with a swim.

As we motored past the first bay (Mala Rava), I immediately nixed that one.  It was extremely small and narrow and nearly full with boats on top of one another….yuck!  Pressing on.  We came to the next bay, and it looked a bit better.  The buoys were spaced a little farther apart and most of the boats had opted for one side of the bay.  We chose a buoy that we felt was ideal for us.  In front of us was a smaller sized sailboat with 3 people on board, and behind us was a powerboat with a couple on board.  This seemed perfect.  We tied up in our nice little spot in our small, quiet little “neighborhood.”  Have you hazarded any guesses at where this is headed?  Our first “oh shit” moment arrived with the arrival of the mooring fee collector.  He tells us it’s 360 kuna.  Are you kidding me???  Our most expensive fees have been around 240 kuna and for much nicer places.  They are charging us an extra fee because we are a catamaran.  This is a joke because we are only on one ball and not in the way of renting the nearby balls….just like everybody else.  Dan begins contemplating moving somewhere else.  The sun has already begun to go down, and I have no desire to drop lines and search for somewhere new (we don’t even know if it will be cheaper anywhere else).  The guy agrees to drop the price to 300 kuna (about $50), so we agree to stay.  As the sun continues to go down in the sky, our front neighbor leaves….NOOOO!  You are probably thinking, “what’s your problem?  You should love one less boat next to you.”  Well, we have quickly learned that buoys rarely stay empty.  Then our other neighbor left 🙁 Maybe it’s us….maybe we ruined the neighborhood 🤣 I’m sure you can guess what happened next.  Both boats were replaced by much larger boats with 7-8 people on board.  Wouldn’t you know, the one closest to us….about 15 feet away….and in constant view of our sitting/dining area, came roaring in with all 7 family members naked 🙄.  Before you think I am some kind of prude, I totally support people’s choice to run around naked….more power to you.  Out in the anchorages, or the mooring fields with lots of space between you and your neighbors, go for it!  Just not 20 feet from my dinner table.

After witnessing their youngest pee off the side of the boat for the umpteenth time, we opted for an evening indoors.  We closed up the boat, fired up the generator, and enjoyed a wonderful evening watching a movie in air conditioned comfort.  I forgot to mention, as we cleaned up from dinner, Dan put his spicy pork scraps on a hook and threw it overboard.  Since he was using a simple hand line and not a pole, we quickly forgot all about it.  When our movie ended and we were ready to head off to bed, Dan  headed out on deck to make his rounds and ensure everything was secure.  I was inside doing the same thing.  Next thing I know, Dan is yelling at me, “Robyn!  Quick!  Grab the bottle of rum!”  As I stand there completely bewildered at why he’s yelling for me to bring him rum (he already had his wine!), he yells to me again.  “Hurry!  I caught a fish and I need to put him out of his misery.”  Okay, my brain has now re-engaged, and I’m racing to get the rum out to him (we had learned many years ago that by pouring alcohol into their gills, the fish dies quickly and more humanely that stabbing his brain or squeezing his eyeballs into their sockets).  As the fish flopped on the hook and we made eye contact, I suddenly felt very sad.  Yup, here comes that vegetarian urge again!

Surprise dinner!

As you may have figured out, this place was a one and done.  We booked out of there earlier than normal.  As we continued down the shoreline of Rava, we discovered that the last cove had 4 secluded balls and beautiful scenery.  We made note in our guide so as not to forget this one.  We decided the night before to head to Telašćica National Park and Kornati National Park.  Both places are amazing, but if you don’t purchase park passes ahead of time, the price is substantially higher.  We also needed to decide how long to stay.  A 3 day pass is cheaper than a one day pass, and a 7 day pass is cheaper still.  This area is very expensive this time of year regardless of the savings 🙁  We decide to go for the 3 day pass and make the most of it.  We motor for the next 4 hours (yep, no wind) and arrive at the entrance to Telašćica aptly named Mala Proversa (Mala means small).  Oh my god!  There are boats everywhere!  Big boats, small boats, boats carrying hundreds of day visitors….all entering and exiting this extremely tight channel.  It is so narrow that there is no way 2 catamarans could go through at the same time.  I am filming this craziness while trying not to freak out.  Dan miraculously finds a hole in timing where a big cat has exited and a big tourist boat have gone through, and we slide through with nothing more than some small passing speedboats.  I think we both took a huge sigh of relief.  After a bit more cruising, we came into a large bay.  The front end near the restaurants was loaded with tourist day tripper boats….probably 10 or more.  From there the bay opened up with lots of buoys all nicely spaced to give everyone some semblance of solitude.  We once again selected a buoy farthest from the town and the commotion.  We planned to explore the sights here, but we would wait until all the tourist boats departed and it was no longer the heat of the day.  For now, it was swimming and sunning and napping.

As 5 o’clock rolled around, the crowded tourist boats had headed out, so we made our way into “town.”  From the dock, we walked to the salt lake to have a look around.  We wandered almost halfway around the lake when we came to a field of cairns (stacks of stone usually used to mark trails).  This looked more like a LEGO land of cairns.  They were everywhere with paths running through them.  They came in a huge array of shapes and sizes, and just beyond them, was the sea.  It was quite an interesting and majestic sight.  After exploring there for a bit, we wandered back and made our way up to the sandstone cliffs and their lookout points.  On the way up, we passed a multitude of trees that appeared to be holding signs (they had made fingers out of twigs).  Each sign extolled the importance of trees, and our responsibility to take care of them and replant them.  Ironically, these were all in English…..something we had never run into as of yet.  I hope there wasn’t a hidden message there 😉  When we reached the top, the views were breathtaking (and the sheer drops of 600 feet were terrifying.  I found myself getting dizzy just looking over the edge 🤢 After many photo ops, we headed back down.  Despite the lateness in the day, we were both hot and drenched in sweat.  We made our way back to the boat and immediately dove into the cool, clear water.  Afterwards, Dan set to work gutting last night’s catch while I cooked up some mussels in a garlic wine sauce.  We enjoyed our tasty treasures from the sea.

Seaside cliffs of Telascica Nature Park

Now that’s a drop…

Mysterious field of cairns
A tree with a message

The next morning, we dropped lines and began our move to the Kornati.  I can honestly say I was a little sad to leave this mooring field…..it had suited us well.  As we pressed on, we once again found ourselves in the chaos of summer sailors and tourists.  Given the narrowness of some of the channels, and the sheer volume of boats, we opted for hand steering over the auto pilot.  We passed a number of quaint little mooring fields, but Dan wanted to get deeper into the islands.  Eventually we decided on this very small mooring field just around the bend from the ruins of an ancient Venetian fortress.  We settled in for the afternoon and our usual routine of swimming and sunning.  Here, we had our own little aquarium under the boat, and they seemed to follow us everywhere we swam.  Our plan was to go back and explore the ruins later in the day, but it was so hot out, we decided the next morning would be better.

Fortress on high on the hilltop
If she only knew what was in store for tomorrow’s hike up that hill
Chasing sunsets…

So that brings us to today, and the conclusion of this post.  We got up, dropped the dinghy, and were on our way back around the bend by 8:30.  We pull up to this rickety, old, wooden platform where Dan wants to tie our dinghy.  Ummm, I’m not going to be able to climb up on that!  It sits quite a bit higher than our little boat.  Dan tells me I will be fine….just stand on the side of the dinghy and crawl up.  Oh sure, easy for the long legged, 6’4” man!  Let me get this straight….I am to stand on the rounded edge of the dinghy, while it bounces around in the water, and crawl up another 3 1/2 feet onto this rickety platform while NOT falling overboard and knocking myself out on the way into the water….oooookay.  Yes, all ended well as well as I am still here to write about it 🙂  We walk around the trail to this quaint little church before heading up the hill to the ruins.  We are standing at the base of this hill trying to figure out the best way up this rock terraced, barren landscape.  Let’s go hike to the ruins, he says.  It’ll be fun, he says.  He does not say I will now be scampering up rock faces and dodging a multitude of sticker bushes like a bloody goat!  And I know it’s like a goat because I’m following their little trail of nuggets the whole way up.  Of course we go the complete wrong way up (up the backside where it is very steep and a lot of climbing).  When we get to a particularly high rock ascent, I look around for a less steep approach.  Just as I am about to blaze my own trail, I look up and find myself inches away from a big cobweb holding a giant spider!  Yep, I squeal and scamper away cursing my husband as I am now forced up the very steep rock face.  Alas, we made it.  We wandered around the ruins and the spectacular views overlooking the water and the surrounding islands.  It is simply stunning.  While Dan takes some time out to fly his drone, I am bound and determined to find the “real” way up to this site.  I wander around until I eventually find a much more stepped pathway in the rocks.  As I continue to puzzle my way down the hill, I hear the drone far above me and know Dan is still at the top.  I continue picking my way down (quite easily this time) and before I know it, I am back at the church.  Dan is nowhere to be seen.  I wait, I whistle, I yell out his name….no response.  Eventually he appears, and I attempt to yell up the mountain how to get down.  He disappears again.  I wait and wait and wait.  I start to worry a bit, so I start back up the path (I am very familiar with the route up now).  Unfortunately, the higher I go, I lose sight of the fort and potentially Dan.  I go back down and climb to a higher perch on the other side of the church.  I wait, I whistle loudly, I yell for him repeatedly (yes, I know it’s a long shot that he might hear me).  I wait and watch some more.  Now, I’m starting to get a little freaked out.  It should not be taking this long.  So up I go again.  As I ascend, I am repeatedly yelling his name.  Next thing I know, a herd of sheep come scampering around the bend on the ledge above me.  Great….what if they startled him and he fell off the ledge and is lying unconscious somewhere! (Yes, this is where my ridiculous mind runs to).  As the sheep finish checking me out and scampering off, I hear my name being called in the distance.  As I make my way down, I see Dan standing at the dinghy.  Seriously?!  WTH?!  I’ve been worried sick.  Apparently he blazed his own crazy trail that was neither easy nor fun.  Either way, we both made it back to the boat in one piece.  Lesson learned….if you are going to separate, don’t leave your phone and water with your partner!

Church at the dinghy landing before the hike up
Venetian Fortress guarding the Kornati channel
Picking our way up the hilltop…

Abandoned movie set from a 50′ western

We returned back to Zoe and went for a quick swim after our very hot and physical adventure.  It was now time to make our way to our final stop in the Kornati.  We cruised down the channel for 2 hours to our next destination.  As we pulled in, two men sped over to assist with our mooring lines and ensure that we would be dining at their restaurant.  They said they would be back in a couple of hours with the menu to take our order…..and they were.  Although the prices gave us a gut check (we knew they would….we had already read up), I was very excited to have a night off of cooking.  We have been living quite frugally as far as making our own meals and not eating out, so we are both a little excited for this treat.  So much so, we are going to “dress up” for our evening out (mind you, we have been living in swimsuits with the occasional shorts and T-shirts for exploring).  Tomorrow, we will be heading for port where we will hole up for the next few days.  A really wicked storm is coming through this weekend so everyone is headed for safety.  This should give us some land adventures to share for our next post 🙂  We hope you will come along with us!

Octopus appetizer
Skarpina and Skampi Brudet over pasta


Our track this journey this far