We are finally back on the move! Here is a semi-quick recap of what has transpired with the boat. The solar arch was fabricated and installed, solar panels installed and wired, new stern light wired up, new lithium battery bank installed, super powerful inverter installed, and everything wired up to some super fancy controllers (don’t you love my technical terminology?!). Our poor electrician spent 7 very long days (including a Saturday) working on this intricate system. We had also been talking about changing out our propane stove top with induction. We have never been a big fan of having propane inside the boat for safety reasons (it also makes the boat very hot when cooking). We decided we would save that project until the winter since we had already overloaded our electrician. Fate had other plans for us. Doesn’t it always seem to go that way? A day after we decided to postpone installing induction, we had a propane leak inside the boat! The worst part is that we had the boat all closed up and were inside with it so we didn’t pick up on the smell. Fortunately Dan stepped outside to check on something and immediately smelled it when he came back in the boat! We quickly scrambled to throw every window, hatch and door open to start airing out the boat. As you may or may not know, propane is heavier than air and therefore sinks to the lowest point possible. This is particularly scary on a sailboat because the lowest points are in the hulls, below the water line, with no ventilation. We made sure every electrical system was shut down, opened up all the floorboards, and placed battery operated fans into the hulls. Needless to say, I was completely freaked out. Nothing like sitting on a bomb in the water! That settled it….tomorrow we would start the process of putting in an induction stove top.
Since we had been talking about induction for quite some time, we had already looked at a number of options and done quite a bit of research. Since we were stuck in a city right now, it would be a good time to purchase one. Once we are back in the islands, there is no shopping for things like this. The good news is that Dan is finally learning to trust his wife’s instincts and not cut corners. Unfortunately, he has had to learn this the hard way a few times! When you cut corners, your wife is not happy. Then you end up replacing what you bought with what your wife wanted in the first place and you are BOTH blissfully happy. Yes, I say both. Almost daily, Dan remarks on how much he really loves our new gangway (the one I wanted in the first place instead of the moving wooden plank!). Long story short, we got the nice induction top. So after completing this HUGE electrical system upgrade, our wonderful electrician wired in my induction top (bye, bye propane inside the boat), added an electrical outlet to our cabin, and rewired our water maker (the original owner cut the lines when the water maker broke so that no one would accidentally turn it on). I have to say, the boat looks amazing and the systems are running flawlessly. We fill our batteries with solar power and make our own water. The only reason to come to land now is to refill food. We figure we can stay out on the water for 4-6 weeks at a time before needing to touch land! Woo hoo!
Let’s get back to the fun stuff….adventure on the high seas! On July 11th, we finally cut lines from the marina in Pula (one day before our month long contract expired). This put a serious dent in our cruising season since we MUST be out of Croatia no later than July 29th, or we are illegal. There had been quite a few storms and wind over the last few days, and things were still quite gusty when we pulled away from the dock. This was an adventure in and of itself. The channel was somewhat narrow and across from us sat a line up of large boats waiting to take tourists out to some of the sights (so we had an audience to boot!). The marina was full on our pier, so we were all squished in tight to one another. The last piece of the challenge was the huge, 50 foot power boat they put to the left us (the direction we were headed). On top of all this, every boat has front mooring lines which means each side of your boat is tied to a bow cleat (on the front) and goes down to the sea floor where it is anchored in to concrete on some other mechanism. These run off the front of the boats at an angle, so you have to be careful of those or they will wrap your prop and then you are really screwed. Don’t forget the gusty wind that I mentioned earlier. I was a nervous wreck (that’s what I do), but my very competent husband extracted us beautifully and even got some nods from the seasoned tour boat captains. You may be wondering why on earth I’m nervous if he’s the one driving??? Well, I am the one running from one side of the boat to the other with a boat hook and sometimes a fender to keep us from smacking into any other boats (me keeping a 25,000 pound boat pushed off of anything else sounds like a losing battle, don’t you think?). As I said, thanks to his docking/undocking skills I did not have to do anything except give verbal cues for distance and obstacles in the water.
We were finally set free! We had many, many miles to go in order to get to the southern part of Croatia. We have not yet done an overnight passage (this is where you take shifts round the clock), and neither of us felt like we wanted to jump right to this just yet. We decided our first stop would be the awesome town of Mali Losinj on the island of Cres. The winds were up and in the right direction for once, so we were able to sail most of the way there. We also did our first sea trial of the water maker and had success! After 8 hours, we were tied up to a pier in the heart of town. We wandered to my favorite little specialty shop to load up on truffle products (cheese and jarred truffles) along with some awesome local grappas and prosciutto carved right off the leg. We had a wonderful, traditional dinner of sea bass and blitva (a mixture of Swiss chard, garlic and potatoes) at a local konoba and then, spent the evening visiting with our contractor (from the house), and two wonderful young ladies who befriended us last year while acting as our translators in order to obtain our long stay visa. Tomorrow would be another early start and a long day of chewing up miles.
Next stop, July 12th, was the island of Dugi Otok and the town of Brbinj. Once again, the wind gods were smiling upon us, and we were able to sail most of the passage carrying a boat speed of over 1/2 the wind speed (that’s a really good thing). After 7 1/2 hours, we arrived in the beautiful bay and tied up to a mooring ball. There were very few boats in the bay providing us with the quiet isolation we had been seeking. We hopped in the water only to discover it was super cold! I did not last long before I was back out and on deck. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) Dan decided to check the anodes on our props. These protect our sail drives for stray electric currents in the marinas. Since we had spent a ridiculous amount of time in marinas up until now, they were very badly degraded. Having to replace sail drives is an outrageously expensive endeavor, and one we did not want to have to encounter. Dan did his best to try and replace the first one, but soon discovered he needed 3 hands to hold the two pieces and screw them in around the prop (oh yeah, this is all under water). Since it was getting late, we decided we would work on this tomorrow before we headed out. That night, I tossed and turned all night scheming on a solution to help Dan with the anodes that did NOT require me to get in the water 🙂 Yes, it was that cold. Wouldn’t you know, the next morning brought a wicked storm. We had gusty winds, pouring rain, thunder, and of course nasty lightning. It was looking like we would be spending another day in Brbinj. I ran Dan through several of my very brilliant solutions to how I could help him without coming into the water (Fear number 1: The anodes are very heavy and if I drop them, they are not retrievable. Fear number 2: I have to hold my breath and hang out under the hull and somehow communicate that I need to go up for air while still holding the anodes in place). Yes, this is the stuff that keeps me up at night! Anyway, the storm had passed by late morning, and we set to work replacing the anodes. You’re probably wondering which brilliant solution we opted for? We tied fishing line through one set of holes on each piece. I lowered the line to Dan and kept the weight of the anodes off of them through the line. This allowed Dan to secure the other screw into the hole of the two pieces with no risk of them dropping to the bottom of the bay. Once secure, he cut away the fishing line and secured the second bolt. Have no fear, the fishing line stayed secure in my hand and did not get left in the sea :). With that task done, we decided to get a few more miles south and left the bay that afternoon. Next stop: Vodenjak on the island of Iž.
They say that boat ownership is nothing more than fixing your boat in exotic locations. I am beginning to understand the truth in that. Our next stop was a quick 2 hours away. The seas were choppy after the storm and the wind was on our nose, so no sailing today. We pulled into this cute little mooring field and quickly tied up once again. Places were starting to get much busier the further south we got, and this was no exception. It was now July 13th. We had never been to this bay before and were very tempted to stay one more night but alas, we felt the need to keep getting south. I forgot to mention that we have friends coming in to Dubrovnik on the 22nd which is still a fair distance from us at this point.
July 14th, we cut ties bound for the island of Žirje. The morning began sunny and calm (like being on a lake), so there was no sailing in the morning. By the time the afternoon winds kicked up, we were once again under sail at a nice clip of 7-8 knots. We also had our first dolphin sighting in the distance. In the past, we have had them surfing off the bow of our boat. We have not yet had that this year :(. By the afternoon the winds had kicked up some white caps and things were getting quite gusty. After 5 hours of travel, we pulled into the mooring field only to find it completely full. This was not a good feeling. It was only 2:30 in the afternoon and every single ball was taken. We quickly decided to head to the bay of Primošten (another one of our favorite places) on the mainland of Croatia. This was about a 2 hour motor away. As we headed out of the bay, we had our 2nd dolphin sighting. This time they were much closer. Unfortunately, the little buggers are quick, and we did not get any good pictures. As we arrived in Primošten, our hope was to grab a mooring ball (never been a problem) but our back up plan was the anchorage close by. There were 2-3 foot swells and very gusty wind in the bay, so we really preferred to moor (it’s a little more sheltered inland than the anchorage). Wouldn’t you know, every ball was taken AGAIN! Where were all these boats coming from??? As we hung out just outside the ball field contemplating our next move, the sea gods smiled on us yet again! One boat dropped their ball and headed out. Needless to say, we took off like a bat out of hell to secure that free ball. No other ball became free that night which forced a number of boats to leave or go anchor. It was a bit of a rough evening as we pitched around in those 2-3 foot swells for several hours, but we didn’t look near as rough as the big power boats around us that were rocking side to side at 45 degree angles!
The very next day, we were on the move again (this was getting tiring). Our next stop has been one of my very favorite places, so I was busy angling on how to get Dan to spend 2 nights there! There is a bay on the island of Šolta that is tucked deep in and surrounded by these sheer rock cliffs. Not only is it pristine blue water, but the sounds of nature and the views are amazing. Oh, and there is a family run restaurant on the top of the hill, at the head of the bay. The food is amazing. If you eat dinner there (highly recommend booking ahead), your mooring ball is free. We ate there a number of times last year, and I knew exactly what I wanted this year! We tied up to our favorite spot, in a more isolated spot in the bay, and went for a swim. Our pre-order for tonight: Lamb peka! The restaurant offers a variety of meat and fish dishes which must be ordered ahead of time. Everything is locally sourced by them and is super fresh. I had Dan talked into doing two nights here so that I could get my fix of lamb peka and then octopus peka the next night. When we went to make arrangements for the 2nd night, they told us that was their day off! NOOOOOO! They did say we could stay in the bay for the night on the ball which we happily did. The next day we hung out and relaxed and did a nice, long snorkel of the bay. We swam through a variety of fish “nurseries” from the smallest looking fish (smaller than a tadpole), through some babies, teenagers, and some bigger guys. A curious Orada followed us around for quite a bit. It was a great afternoon, and my wonderful husband agreed to spend one more night so that I could get my octopus fix. Sadly, a captained charter boat came in, and they bumped us off our favorite buoy. However, the mooring guy did put us on a buoy at the base of the sheer cliff in a gorgeous little cove. As boats continued to pour in, the crosswinds were getting quite strong which makes for some tense, nail biting moments as you watch them try and tie up. It wasn’t long before there was no more room at the inn. They began turning boats away. Once again, dinner did not disappoint. This was a special treat for me. We had been logging very long days and moving every day. We also eat on board the majority of the time in order to save money. Which means I do a lot of cooking. I was very grateful for this multi-day rest and two fabulous dinners made by someone else 🙂
That bring us to today, July 18th. Since we took such a long break, we have some miles to make up. We dropped lines early this morning (very few in the bay were even up yet) and set off for the island of Lastovo, 7 1/2 hours away. We are now the furthest south (in Croatia) that we have ever been on a boat. We are now reasonably close to where we will meet our friends in 4 days. Our plan is to bounce around the islands and national parks down here, pick up our friends, show them some southern Croatian sights before we all head out to Montenegro! Since this is getting a bit long, I will leave you here, and we will catch up again real soon 🙂