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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