Island Adventures in Southern Croatia

When we wrapped up our last post, we were at anchor in a bay awaiting the winds to die down for the night, and our guests to arrive the next day.  Well, wouldn’t you know it, the winds only got worse (and the anchorage got much more crowded).  By midnight winds were pushing 25 knots and gusting more, so Dan and I took turns keeping an eye on things all night long.  Ahhh, the not so joyous part of sailing.  At one point, our Italian neighbor had come ridiculously close to our boat as we all moved around on our chains.  At 3:00 a.m., a nearby gulet (a small, piratey looking cruise ship) must’ve dragged anchor as he was busy trying to re-anchor in the dark.  You are probably discovering that this kind of fun and mayhem rarely occurs during daylight hours….it always seems to happen in the middle of the night.

Believe me that anchored sailboat looked much closer that night than the picture shows!

We survived our night, had a morning nap when all was calm, and went for a refreshing swim.  By mid-afternoon, our guests had arrived, and Dan took the dinghy across the bay to pick them up.  With everyone back on board, we set out for our next destination…..the bay of Okokulje on the island of Mlijet.  It was about a 2-3 hour motor north (of course, no wind to sail with….only at night when we want to sleep!).  We pulled into the bay with the most pristine water I have ever seen.  The water was crystal clear with amazing visibility.  It was as if the water had been covered with glass….you could see everything with 3D clarity.  We tied up to a wooden dock, near the entrance of the bay, belonging to the restaurant Maestral.  By arranging to eat dinner at their restaurant, we were able to tie to their dock free of charge.  We had also read very good reviews and were  eager to share Croatian cuisine with our friends.  It had been a very hot day, so we were all eager to cool off in this amazing water.  After a great swim, we wandered into town for an excellent dinner with very friendly proprietors.  That night, as we were all settled in for a restful night of sleep, Dan decided to do one last sweep of the deck and lines.  That’s when he just about stepped on a mouse!  A mouse had scampered up our dock lines and was now somewhere on our boat…..great!  So here I am at midnight scampering around, cutting up water bottles to try and make mouse funnel deterrents to put on our dock lines.  At this point, we have still not found the mouse.  I’m really hoping he found his own way off the boat that night.

Arrival of our next set of guests – Marcial and Allysen!

We wanted to get an early start to our next bay, so we dropped our mooring lines and released our dock lines.  That’s when one of the lines became tangled between the wood planks of the dock….great….not a good situation.  We released the line from our boat, so we could move the boat away from the rocky shallows, and our friend Marcial jumped in and swam to retrieve our line. 

Entering Mljet National Park
Arrival in Mljet on a somewhat rickety restaurant dock
Konoba Maestral in Okokulje, Mljet Island
Marcial swims back our stranded dock line
Leaving the dock in our wake now that we have departed safely

Once Marcial and our line were back on board, we were off to our next stop, the town of Polače.  We tied up to one of the restaurant mooring balls and made a reservation for their island specialty, goat peka.  Chunks of young goat (don’t judge!), potatoes, carrots, olive oil and herbs are cooked for many hours under a metal dome (bell) surrounded from top to bottom in hot coals.  Croatian pekas are absolutely amazing.  Throughout our journeys, we have had goat, lamb and octopus….all have been amazing.

Entering the channel enroute to our next stop
Our spot for the night, on a mooring ball near town

Once we were settled in, we headed to shore to rent some e-bikes for a journey to a saltwater lake.  The hills on this island are quite intense, so the e-bike was a real treat for tackling that steep terrain.  I started out ahead of the group and as the terrain got steeper, it was getting harder.  Wow!  Am I that big of dumb ass that I can’t figure out an e-bike after instructions???  As I continued on, I kicked it up to medium assist.  It got harder!  So I went to high…..even harder.  What was happening?!?  In the meantime, I hear everyone behind me shouting “weeeeee.”  When they caught up to me, I told Dan I didn’t think my bike was working.  He hopped on to check it out and then rode back down to the stand to get me a new one.  I hopped on and started pedaling up the steep hill, and “weeeeeee!”  I got my “wee” on.  The bikes were definitely a lot of fun!  We arrived at this beautiful saltwater lake surrounded by forest vegetation.  Once in the park, no cars were allowed which made for an awesome bike ride around the shores.  We stopped at one point where the water was rushing through a channel, under a bridge.  People were jumping in and riding the current out the other side.  Our friends, Allysen and Marcial, decided to have a go at it.  They had so much fun, they did it again.  Afterwards, we hopped back on our bikes and continued our journey around the lake.

The e-bike gang at the entrance to Saltwater lakes
Serene bike ride around the lakes.

Before long, we came upon a spot with a number of bikes parked on the side of the path.  There was a sign with a flag stuck to it that said to wave the flag, and a boat would come get you to take you to this small island in the lake.  So, of course we did!  It wasn’t long before a small motor boat pulled up and ferried us to the island.  First order of business was some ice cold beverages.  After, we walked the grounds of this 12th century monastery which was shut down my Napoleon in 1909.  The church did not get it back until 1998.  The island was small, so it didn’t take long for us to explore it, and soon we were headed back to our bikes.  In the end, we biked over 9 miles and had a great time.

“Our Lady of the Lake” church on an island in the middle of island
Waving the flag sends a small boat to bring you to the island
Ancient Franciscan Monastery
Exploring the church and the surrounding grounds
Beautful stained glass in the church
Seen on an island stable
Lighting a candle of remembrance for loved ones
Marcial and Allysen trying to beat the Soline Rapids – not a chance!
Through the rapids
A portion of the old Roman walls that encircled the town
A view of Zoe through the walls. Note the swim line very close to the boat. Uh oh!
Dinghy ride back to Zoe!!

It was time to get moving to our next destination.  Once again, departure came with some challenges.  First, the float on the buoy we were tied to managed to twist itself repeatedly on the line.  If it wasn’t untangled, we would have no hope of pulling our lines free of the mooring ball.  Once again, Marcial came to the rescue and swam out to untangle it.  With that problem solved, we had one more issue to consider.  Because of the placement of the ball, strong wind, and the direction of the wind, our props were now less than a foot (.3 meters) to a swim line (a large roped off area to protect swimmers from boat traffic).  This meant that Marcial and I had to get the lines free from the ball very quickly while Dan kept us off the line.  Any snag or hang up could end in disaster with our prop wrapped in the swim line.  Did I mention we had a knucklehead who had anchored way to close as well.  As I’m sure you suspected, we got our lines off super fast, and Dan expertly maneuvered us away from the swim line and other boat.

Getting Zoe unwrapped from the mooring ball float before departure

Our next stop (and final stop with our friends) was the island of Korčula.  We anchored off another little island known as Badija.  Fortunately, we were actually able to sail almost the whole way there which was a nice treat.  On the small island beside us was a beautiful monastery and lush forest grounds.  The Franciscan monastery was built in the 14th and 15th centuries.  In 1909, it opened a grammar school to educate local boys from less privileged backgrounds, as well as others.  The school was in operation until 1943.  The island and monastery were seized by Tito’s government after WWII, and the monastery was not returned to the monks until 2004.  The island is very popular with day trippers, boats and swimmers (there is a non-stop flow of taxi boats from Korčula bringing in visitors).  The island itself is a beautiful place to walk and is home to many friendly deer.  They have grown quite accustomed to human interaction and the treats that people provide to them.

These guys were really tame and used to island visitors
Trying hard for treats – I had none!
We tied our dinghy up on the dock and started to explore the island
Wandering the grounds of the monastery

The following day, we took a high speed water taxi into Korčula town.  This was another beautiful town with its medieval squares, churches, and palaces.  You can’t help but be transported back in time.  We spent several hours exploring the treasures here before making our way back to the boat and a much needed cool down swim.  Unfortunately, Marcial and Allysen would be leaving us the next day, and the only way to get them back to the airport in Dubrovnik was to catch a 7:30 a.m. ferry out of Korčula.  This meant taking the high speed water taxi at 6:45 a.m. followed by a two hour high speed ferry to the outskirts of Dubrovnik.  Since their flight was not until 6:30 p.m., they ended up with a day to spend exploring the beautiful city of Dubrovnik.  Since Dan and I were up to say good-bye and see them off, we decided it was probably best for us to get underway as well since we had a 5 hour day ahead of us to our next destination, Vela Luka, on the opposite end of the island of Korčula.  This spot turned out to be a one and done.  The winds were high and the swell was pretty bad which made for no fun swimming or much else.  We blew out of there very quickly the next morning.

Water taxi to Korcula old town from Badija Anchorage
Entrance to the old city
Marco Polo house – purported to be the birthplace of Marco Polo himself
Climbing the steep and claustrophobic stairs of the bell tower
The views were amazing from the top!
Korcula town from the water
The old fortifications are stunning and very well preserved
Lovely old city of Korcula and it’s charms

Next stop:  The island of Vis.  This was another 5 1/2 hour motor since there was no wind.  We spent 2 nights on a mooring ball off the town of Komiža.  If you are a fan of Mama Mia 2, a fair amount of the movie was filmed here.  A few boats away from us was an Australian couple we had met not long after checking into Croatia.  We spent a great evening with them onboard sharing drinks and great stories.  The next day we headed into the town itself to walk along the waterfront and up the hill to a beautiful church and cemetery.  The cemetery was stepped on the hillside with beautiful headstones, flowers and candles.  Croatian cemeteries are pretty unique from my perspective.  They typically house the bodies of multiple family members and each person has their picture on the headstone.  The gravesites are always very pristine and well tended to, and this one had amazing views overlooking the islands and bay.

View from the church over the town.
Komiza town, Island of Vix

At this point, we have been rapidly making our way north in order to meet our next round of guests over the next few months.  We made a brief, overnight stop outside the town of Rogoznica.  We had once again motored for over 6 hours and had planned to anchor deep in the bay.  When we arrived, the wind was funneling through and the best spots to anchor were snarled up with fishing traps.  We gave up in frustration and headed for a mooring ball outside the marina.  It was a very pleasant atmosphere aside from the mooring balls being uncomfortably close together.  I’m talking 2 meters (about 6 feet between us an the monohull that tied up next to us)….never mind the mooring balls were kind of expensive!  

So, that brings us to today.  We have been tracking 2 big weather systems due to come in this week.  There is a jako jugo (strong southerly wind) due in tomorrow and a jaka bura (strong northeasterly blow) two days later.  Did I forget to mention the 2-3 days of thunderstorms that are coming with these winds?  We had a dilemma.  Some of the marinas further north were already booked up for the impending storms, and others were just outrageously expensive.  We knew of a safe marina with reasonable rates just 45 minutes from where we were currently moored.  Needless to say, we decided to ride things out in Marina Kremik.  We figure we will use this time to do a hard reset on the boat (deep, deep cleaning both inside and out, big re-provisioning, lots of laundry….you know, the fun stuff!)  We do hope to do some land exploration while we wait out the weather, so I will leave you here until next time!

We’re the white dot and keeping an eye on a windy week coming up
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Karen
Karen
1 month ago

Simply awe-mazing. Stay safe, you two.

Tom Strebel
Tom Strebel
1 month ago

Great post. I am definitely interested in seeing some of your food pictures. Goat is almost always amazing, and here in Brazil, it is pretty easy to get at a lot of restaurants (particularly those that specialize in goat). Have a safe summer!