“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


The American Migration South

We arrived back in our home port on Wednesday night. Our goal over the next few days was to get Zoe cleaned up and re-provisioned (stocked with food and supplies) for our journey south. We have a new set of visitors joining us in Split in two weeks, so we needed to get Zoe ship shape after our last guests departed and prepare for our 10 day trek south. Split is a 160 mile sail south from our home port, and most of our days and nights will be out in remote areas (by choice) where we will need to be self-sufficient with food, water and fuel.

Provisioning, in and of itself, is now quite an adventure. Luckily, we have finally figured things out, and although not easy by any means, we are getting much more efficient at this process. As you will recall, we no longer have our rental car so everything we do is on foot or by bicycle. The area of the island where we live has 1 “supermarket” (picture something 1/4 the size of an American supermarket). I have come to hate going here (and not because it’s a 3 mile ride uphill, in traffic, on narrow roads) but because it is ALWAYS packed! And NEVER has more than 2 registers open (if you’re lucky). So Dan and I have gotten very clever in our shopping ways (I guess you could say more like locals and less like tourists). The day after we got back to port, we rode our bikes into town to the local fish market. After our time on land, we were craving some fresh fish. We picked up a couple of yummy Brancine and a Rumb fillet (flounder, we discovered) for making Ceviche (one of our new favorite meals…..but unknown to Croatians apparently). We then went next door to get some locally grown limes, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, and avocado. On our way back to the boat, we discovered the butcher shop. We found some amazing treasures here too! Bye, bye “supermarket”! We ended up doing this trek again the next day in order to be prepared for our departure. So here goes Dan and I, on our folding bikes, riding to 4 different places and loading up these big duffles on our back to haul back to the boat. Then we get to ride through a gauntlet of people inhabiting the pathway that lines access to the water. It is quite the adventure!


Once back to the boat, I began vacuum sealing our haul of amazing fish and meats. We have 2 small refrigerators with those tiny little freezers you see in a dorm fridge, so space is at a premium. At this point, we make sure we are all set to depart tomorrow (Sunday). We will have a couple of last minute tasks to do in the morning, and we will be on our way.

Vacuum sealer…great way to make use of limited fridge space

Sunday (today….check it out! I’m real time blogging now!) we cut lines (no, not literally). It was relatively calm in the marina, but we still had a small audience who came to watch us depart. We are the ONLY Americans and American flagged boat in the marina, one of the very few catamarans, and even fewer catamarans to see depart the marina. Fortunately for us, it was an uneventful departure (our favorite kind)! Once in the channel, the remnants of the Bura were in full effect. With 20-25 knot winds and some rolling seas, we were able to sail about 10 miles of our 40 mile journey. Sadly, the wind then died down to nothing and we were forced to motor the remaining distance. This also meant hours in the blazing sun with no breeze for relief 🙁

Originally, we had 3 separate bays in mind to moor for the night. Each one we cruised by was loaded with boats and far to tight for our girl. At that point, we opted to continue on the the island of Ilovik. We knew there were a lot more mooring balls here within a wide open channel. Believe it or not, Dan has family here too (yes, they are everywhere) 😂 He has an Aunt and Uncle who own a restaurant here. We are hoping to pop in and say hi tomorrow morning. It is very high season here, so a visit tonight would not be a very good idea. Anyway, we got Zoe tied up and quickly dove into the crystal, clear water to cool off. After a beautiful sunset and great dinner on the grill, we are enjoying a quiet evening on the water. I’ll be back tomorrow with our next escapades 🙂

The days voyage
Sunset over the mooring field

Today, we opted to just stay put. We had spent 9 hours making our way south, and unfortunately had a very sleepless night. There was not a lick of wind, and the night was very still. This translates to a very hot and sweaty night below deck despite all the hatches being open 🙁 The first thing we did upon getting up this morning was to dive into the very crisp and clear water surrounding our boat. It was refreshing and picturesque. What better time to add a chore! It had been several weeks since we scrubbed down the undersides of our hulls, and since we were already in the water….why not?! Despite the workout out of trying to scrub underwater, while staying afloat, and moving down the length of the boat, this is actually a quite entertaining chore. Not the scrubbing part…that’s gross! Not only are you scouring off this slimy stuff, there is all kinds of “things” growing there attached to the boat (I’m not even going to think about what’s there!) At this point, you may be asking yourself, where is the entertainment? Well, we have discovered that bath time for Zoe means feeding frenzy for the fish. So as we scrubbed, hundreds of fish followed us around every inch of the boat, sucking up all the “goodies” we were dislodging. They stuck around for the scraps from our breakfast, and every time we approached the back of the boat, the swarmed out awaiting any new treats. It was like swimming in our own personal aquarium.

Scrubbing with a hungry audience
Aquarium below the boat


As the day heated up, and swarming bees descended upon us, we decided to dinghy ashore to see Dan’s family. Since his Aunt and Uncle have retired from running the restaurant, it was a long shot that they would be on the island today. As luck would have it, they were! We spent the next few hours visiting with them over beers, prosciutto and cheese. It was great to just relax and have nowhere to be. Tomorrow, we will continue our journey south on another very long passage. Soon, we will be entering the islands of an amazing national park. To quote George Bernard Shaw, who visited in 1929, “On the last day of creation, God desired to crown his work and thus created the Kornati Islands out of tears, stars and breath.”

Ruins of a Venetian fortress as a backdrop

Adventures on terra firma

Well, I epically failed at writing my blog in real time this go around.  In my defense, Dan had our days racked and stacked….so here we go!

We had a number of activities planned that began on the mainland of Croatia and ended with us dropping Jacob and Brianna in Trieste, where they would make their journey to Venice and then onward to the U.S.  On Sunday morning, we all walked the mile to the city center of Cres to catch the catamaran to Rijeka, on the mainland.  The ferry was suppose to leave at 9:20.  Apparently, this was not a hard and fast time as the ferry did not arrive until 9:50.  We quickly boarded this cattle car of the sea for an hour and a half ride to the mainland.  We then trekked uphill for awhile to find the rental car place.  The car company upgraded our car to a nice size SUV type which you’d think would be awesome, but in this land of extremely tight roads, small parking spaces, and curves only big enough for one small car….this was more of a curse than a blessing.  We started our journey at the ancient Roman citadel of Kastav which had breathtaking views of the Adriatic and island of Cres.   

Kastav, known as Castua in Roman times

Earlier in the week, we had made arrangements to go visit more of Dan’s family on their farm.  This was on the Istrian Peninsula of mainland Croatia where Dan’s mom had grown up.  We drove through the lush, green countryside where the farm was located.  After a few failed attempts, we finally found the right property (it’s not like there are street signs, you know) 😂.  As has always been the case, the family rolled out the red carpet and spoiled us rotten!  After warm hugs and greetings, they ushered us to the house where we shared a toast of their homemade brandies.  We then went out onto the upstairs patio that overlooked their farm and the beautiful valley floor.  They brought out their own homemade wine from grapes grown right there on the farm.  Then came the homemade prosciutto (butchered and cured right on the farm) and homemade cheese.  This has always been the best prosciutto I have ever had.  I have never liked it anywhere else I’ve had it due to its fatty nature and slimy quality.  Their prosciutto is similar in texture to a hard, dry salami….amazing.  Next came a cabbage salad, tomato salad, mashed potatoes (you guessed it!  All grown right there on their farm).  The star of the show….roasted lamb….slaughtered earlier that day and also raised there.  Talk about your true farm to table experience!  We were in heaven!

After the meal, we went for a walk around the farm.  We wandered through the ruins of the house Dan’s mom grew up in which currently is used for various things.  One room contained a number of hanging pig legs being dried and cured for prosciutto.  We met the cows, the pigs, two orphaned baby ducks, the lambs and sheep, and the chickens.  We wandered through the cellar where the wine vats were fermenting the wine.  It was such a cool experience for us urban dwellers.  After this tour, we strolled their property and down to their vineyard where we learned about the different grapes they used for making wine.  We then sampled the various grapes, straight from the vine.  After that, we wandered to the “swimming hole” that Dan and his cousins grew up playing in.  From there, we were shown an area of their property where infamous black truffles can be found.  Black truffles sell for upwards of 1000 euros per kilo and are found using pigs or specially trained dogs.  When they found out how much I loved truffles, they graciously brought out their truffle hunting dog and puppy in training.  Next thing I know, I’m being handed about 6-8 beautiful truffles to take home with me!  It was such an amazing day of laughter, experiences and love.  It was a sad moment when it was time for us to go….but we were due to meet with another of Dan’s cousins back in Rijeka (about an hour from the farm).  After a long, exhausting day, we found a little apartment to rent and crashed for the night.

Truffle puppy!

The next day, we made our way to the medieval hilltop fortress of Buzet (which also happened to be the truffle capital of Istria).  We spent the evening wandering the ancient walled fortress and taking in the amazing views.  We then decided to head to Motovun, another ancient walled fortress.  Dan and I had been here once before and fell in love with the place.  On our last visit, my truffle addiction began.  We had enjoyed a beautiful sunset, overlooking the valley below, while enjoying a bottle of wine and plate of truffle cheese.  When we arrived, it was immediately noticeable that things had changed.  No longer could you drive to the top.  You had to park at the bottom and take a shuttle bus to the top.  Needless to say, the place was packed 😢  As we wandered the fortress, we noticed that every table at every restaurant along the wall was reserved.  My happy place was quickly disappearing.  We headed to an area where you could actually walk along the ancient wall, only to discover that turnstiles had been erected!  And, of course, ticket sales were closed for the night.  What happened to my wonderfully, romantic place?!  I was so sad.  We headed back to our quaint little family owned hotel in the fortress of Buzet (6 whole rooms).  It was a wickedly toasty night and then the raging thunderstorms rolled in.  As you can imagine, none of us got a whole lot of sleep.



Once we all got moving the next day, we headed to one of Croatia’s biggest truffle producers before setting out for Trieste.  We had stopped in the day before, but it was too close to closing to do the tasting.  The very nice woman told us to come back the next day, and we would be shown an amazing tasting experience.  She did not lie!  It was phenomenal.  In the beginning, we were the only 4 in the place.  She began by showing us the black truffles and explaining how they are rated for pricing.  I showed her mine and asked for advice in keeping them safe and tasty until we returned to the boat.  She then showed us a replica of a white truffle that had been found there weighing in at a hefty 3 pounds!  If I remember correctly, she said it fetched an amazing 3700 euros!  The white truffle (which I had never tasted up to this point) is VERY expensive because it is only found in 3 places in the entire world (Istria being one of them) and only from September to January.  The first thing she brought us was a truffle infused beer.  It was okay, but none of us really cared for the taste.  Next, she brought out a tray consisting of bread with white truffle dipping oil, 6 rounds of bread each topped with a different truffle product, 3 types of truffle cheese, and a truffle sausage.  Of course I liked almost everything 😜 The final part of our tasting involved sweets.  We sampled a white truffle infused honey brandy and a black truffle infused cherry brandy.  Oh YUM!  We also tried some cookies, fig jam, honey, and chocolate….all infused with truffles.  It was such an incredible experience!  Then it was shopping time…..poor Dan….he knew it was coming.  I walked out with 8 different products and recipe dreams for everything!

Truffle producer in Istria
Top section – white truffle infused olive oil with bread
Middle section, from left to right – White truffle cream, Minced white truffle, Porcini mushroom white truffle cream, minced black truffle, black truffle sauce, black truffles and olives and tomato sauce with truffles.
Bottom section – cow truffle cheese, goat truffle cheese, sheep truffle cheese and truffle sausage.
Dessert truffle sampler
Truffle beer (meh) with replica of multi thousand dollar white truffle

We made our way to Trieste which took about an hour.  The worst part was the border.  I crossed this border several times in April and was the only car going through!  Today, we sat in line for about a 1/2 hour.  We decided to take the kids to the Piazza Dell’Unita D’Italia (this has been in existence for 700 years).  We enjoyed some yummy Italian coffees before making our way to the train station where we would part company.  We got the kids onto the train to Venice (they would have that evening and the next day to explore Venice before catching their flight home).  Dan and I then began our journey back to Croatia and Zoe.  We opted for a really nice scenic drive we had discovered once before.  This also contained a tiny, little known border crossing.  Guess what?  We were they only one there!  We got back to Croatia about 8 that evening and decided to get a room in Opatia for the night.  Opatia is a seaside, luxury tourist town on the Istrian riviera.  We strolled the boardwalk that evening until the crowds of tourists overwhelmed us, and we retreated to the quiet and solitude of our room.

Trieste square

The following day, we had to return the rental car by noon and then kill 5 hours until time for the catamaran to take us back to our home on the water.  We were both more than ready to get back to Zoe and some much needed relaxation (well, that would come after the chores).

So here we are, enjoying a quiet evening in the cockpit.  We have been hard at work getting Zoe prepped to head out on the sea again.  Our plan, weather permitting, is to set sail in 4 days.  We will be heading far south on this adventure where we will be picking up new visitors in the city of Split.  We are planning to take a week to 10 days to get down there where all new adventures await.  If all goes well, we may head to Montenegro once our visitors depart us.  We hope you will stay with us as this adventure unfolds!

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Underway to Pula to pick up visitors

I decided to change things up a bit and try to live blog as we go. It won’t be posted as it happens, but I’m hoping by writing as things are happening, I won’t have to keep asking Dan if I am remembering things in the right order 😝 So if my tenses (yes, once a teacher…always a teacher) start to switch back and forth, you’ll know I fell behind. Well, that is my story anyway, and I’m sticking to it!

We set out today around 11:00, and it was a veritable traffic jam! Apparently we all decided to leave the dock at the same time. Our goal was to fuel up before heading out, but that was an epic failure as well. There were at least 6 boats waiting in line for the fuel dock! If you’ve never done it, sitting in a line/holding pattern on a boat is NOT fun. Since we still had over a 1/2 tank of gas in each tank, we headed on out. Our destination today was Medulin or Pula on the mainland peninsula of Istria. Dan’s son, Jacob, and niece, Brianna, were flying in to visit us for a week, and we needed to be in Pula to pick them up. As it turned out, Jacob’s flight had a mechanical problem which forced it to cancel (which meant Dan spent several hours, in the middle of the night, scrambling to rebook him). Anyway, we got well underway, and traffic thinned out dramatically. The seas were calm and the wind was light, but we hit a patch that allowed us an hour and a half (of our 7 hour journey) to actually sail. The saying here in Croatia is that you either have too little wind or too much. Needless to say, our journey took quite a bit longer than expected.

We had decided to moor in Medulin tonight. The guidebook proclaims that this amazing bay of coves and anchorages was a place you would want to spend a week exploring. HA! Maybe if you enjoy living in a zoo! As we entered this huge bay, every square inch of it was packed from shore to sea. Tents and campers were racked and stacked on every open space of shoreline. We dodged parasailing tourists, jet skis, kayakers, SUPers, powerboats, sailboats, hobie cats….you name it, we were dodging and skirting it. The waterway was as full as the shore. It was awful!!! We pulled into the mooring field, and I felt ill. It was a tiny field of balls surrounded closely by the land which housed a carnival and lots of restaurants and hang outs. That wasn’t the worst part! As I have mentioned, Croatia has been (and still is) under an extreme heat advisory. The air was completely still and blistering hot. But here is the best part! Instead of the beautiful, turquoise waters we’ve had in the islands, the water here was a greenish brown (gag). And the deeper we got into the bay, the brownish foam on the surface got heavier. Ummmm, hell no! There was not one person swimming off their boat, which is how everyone wiles away their days in the mooring fields. That was a big, neon sign right there! We once again entered the gauntlet and headed out. This time, we headed to a mooring field outside of Pula. As we came into this bay (another hour later), my sense of dread once again escalated. If dodging the chaos was bad last time, this was 100 times worse! The entrance to the mooring field was a very narrow channel where we not only had to dodge other boats, but swimmers and SUPers crossing the channel without even looking for boats! Don’t worry….all has not been lost….as we came into the mooring field, it opened up nice and big, with quite a few balls open for the taking. We picked one we felt the best about, and got ourselves tied up…..and yes, we magically ended up back in nudie land….haha.

So here we are, sitting in this quiet and still mooring field, darkness has descended upon us, and we are waiting for Brianna’s arrival. She is due to land in Pula, will take a cab to a restaurant at the end of the bay, and Dan will dinghy in to pick her up and bring her back to the boat. Our plan is to stay in the bay tomorrow but maybe move to a better ball as we see which boats leave. Jacob is scheduled to arrive tomorrow night, and then we will make our way back to Cres the next day. Tomorrow I will add any highlights we encounter to this post. If you are growing weary of sailing posts, stick with me. We are about to take to land for a few days for some new adventures!

We decided to spend another day on the ball here in Pula. We spent the day swimming and SUPing, eventually heading across the channel for a beer at a local beach bar. By the time we got back to the boat, we dove in for a swim in order to cool down. I kept feeling something brush against me in the water, but whenever I looked, there was nothing there. After a bit of floating around, Dan decided he wanted to practice learning to dive. So with Brianna and I in the water coaching, we laughed hysterically as Dan’s dives looked more like a frog leaping from a lily pad. His last dive had finally begun to show some signs of improvement, and as he stood on the swim step, perfecting his form, he promptly announced that there were a bunch of jellyfish swimming around the boat (and our exit route OUT of the water!) I scrambled to the ladder, using my arms to forcefully move large amounts of water out of my path. We guided Brianna to the SUP which she quickly jumped up on. Next thing we knew, these large brown jellyfish came drifting by (the previous ones had been somewhat small and clear in color). These were the size of a saucer with hundreds of dangling tentacles. Brianna decided to try and video some of them and even brought one up on the board with her using the paddle. Needless to say, we all decided swim time was over! Given how many people were swimming in the bay, and no one seemed to notice them, I decided to look them up. I soon learned that the translucent ones were non stinging….whew (especially since I’m pretty sure that is what kept brushing me in the water). According to google sources, the scary brown looking ones do not have harmful stings to humans. I cannot confirm this as NONE of us were willing to test this out.

When jellyfish attack!

This evening, we decided to dinghy to shore and Uber into the city of Pula. Ironically, the Uber turned out to be the hardest part of this whole process! After climbing up the hill to wait for our Uber (15 minutes out), he eventually cancelled at the last minute. Grrr. We ordered another one. Once again, after waiting in the sweltering heat, they cancelled again! We decided to try one more time….and this time we took off on foot to the nearby town where it appeared our Uber driver was dropping a fare. We trekked further up the hill and around the bay (about 2 km) just in time to see the back end of our Uber driving away. Fear not! He had turned around and came back. We finally got our ride. We arrived across the street from the ancient Roman Arena. We wandered around this majestic, ancient arena taking in the historical site. The arena is still used today for concerts and various other venues. As a matter of fact, the World Cup was televised in the arena on a giant screen with 20,000 in attendance. I can only imagine what a sight that was to behold. From there, we waded our way through the throngs of people ending up at the Temple of Jupiter. Having once been a teacher of ancient history, I absolutely LOVE seeing historical sites from ancient times. Luckily, hailing an Uber to go back to the boat was much easier. The tough part was the 10 minute dinghy ride back to the boat in the pitch black while avoiding the obstacles of mooring buoys strewn about the bay.

Ancient Roman arena, built first century AD
Worlds largest collection of ancient Amphorae, found in Pula

Temple of Jupiter – Pula
Downtown Pula

So that brings us to today. We opted to bug out early…ok, semi-early. Dan and I got us underway by 8:30. Unfortunately, our late arrival to the boat the night before, and our semi-early departure from the mooring field meant we missed the fee collectors. For all I know, we may be wanted criminals now 😬 Anyway, our departure was another episode of collision avoidance between the early morning boaters, randomly anchored boats, SUPers, and swimmers. I won’t elaborate on the giant luxury yacht that bore down on me, refusing to alter course, requiring me to drastically alter course and surf their wake in the gentlest way possible. There was not a lick of wind and the seas were flat as glass. We pulled into the island of Zeča 4 1/2 hours later. Sadly, our little bay (only 3 of us in it a month ago) was filled with about 15 boats 🙁

This is an anchorage, so I’m back to the battle ground with my Rocna. We head to the outskirts of the bay, but I am not happy with the ground….it’s rock and sea grass. We decide to take our chance (Dan’s choice) and drop. With absolutely no wind, we wait. Dan decides to go into the water and see what’s happening. The anchor has not even spun around properly, so I back the boat up just enough to spin it around while he watches through the water. He tells me it has dug in behind a rock. SWEET! We set an anchor alarm to ensure we don’t drag, and we swim and play all day, never moving. Toward the end of our day, I swim out to the anchor with Dan so I can see how it’s set (he had told me the anchor was 1/3 dug in behind the rock). What I see is an anchor resting in a channel between two rocks! What 1/3 he was seeing, I have yet to figure out. The good news is our chain had settled around another rock and our anchor (and the chain) had not budged in many hours. With an extremely calm and quiet night forecasted, we felt pretty secure for the night. Unfortunately, I cannot claim anchor victory with this half ass ground lay…..so, anchor 0 – Robyn 0…..at least until we do battle once again. I shall master this damn beast! Tomorrow, we will make our way back to the marina and begin some land based adventures! Stay tuned!

Water in the Croatian Islands is so clear!

Sunset dinner in the Cres Marina

Video of our day anchored off remote uninhabited Croatian Island
We spent the night anchored off an uninhabited island

Exploring the islands of Northern Croatia

Welcome back! In our last post, we were sadly saying good-bye to the island of Silba and continuing to make our way south. We headed out quite effortlessly despite a very full mooring ball field (summer high season is definitely in full swing!) July was high season for the Germans and Austrians to visit Croatia, and August is peak season for the Italians and Slovenians. Europeans definitely know how to do vacations….their people get the entire month off! But I digress….

Our next port of call was the town of Brbinj, about a four hour sail away. As we sailed along, we cruised past a submarine bunker used by the Germans in WWII. We pulled in closer to have a peek, but there were quite a few boats anchored, leaving very little room for us. Plus, the wind direction was not optimal (blowing us on shore), and I’ve been struggling with our new anchor 🙁 Lucky for you, we have been to one of these bunkers on a previous trip, and I remember every cool aspect about it. First, these concrete caverns are build deep into the side of the mountain, well hidden from sight. During our last visit, we swam deep into the bunker which was both eerie and super cool (literally and figuratively). As we swam in, the water got chillier due to the lack of light. The other interesting thing I noticed was the little bit of sea life living in there was albino. After exploring the depths by water, we walked the small cement walkway into the depths. We came upon a door and of course HAD to explore. As we walked into the dark corridor, we shined our flashlights around taking in every detail. It’s hard to describe the feeling of walking through these hidden tunnels once occupied by German Nazis! After a long, meandering trek, we came out of the bunker very close to the entrance yet quite hidden away. We do want to go and explore these bunkers again, but we will wait until it’s a little less crowded (and we can share more detailed pictures).

We continued on our way until we arrived in Brbinj. A large, semi-empty mooring ball field opened before us, and we were super excited to have such seclusion during high season. We picked the most isolated mooring ball we could find and settled in. By now, we are getting better and better at picking up the mooring ball in one shot. Dan is learning his new role at hooking the ball, running a line through it from each side of the boat, and then cleating each line off. I am learning my new role of coming up on the ball, in the precise spot, and then keeping this big girl on her mark regardless of what the wind and water are doing. Once we got her all settled in, it was time for our usual post sail swim (or should I say float) and our celebratory Karlovačko beer. We had an awesome view of the quaint little town and decided we would explore it the next day. On a side note, Croatia has been under an extreme heat advisory for about a week now. This makes time in the water a necessity (basically our only partial reprieve from sun when you are on a boat 24/7).

A large ferry came in 3 times a day which caused a few rollers through the bay but nothing uncomfortable. We also had a steady wind which helped keep things cool. A few boats came but very few stayed. How was this possible in the busiest month of the year?! I certainly wasn’t going to complain. This was paradise in my book! Dan, on the other hand, began to ponder what everyone else must know that we did not. Silly man! Just enjoy the solitude. As planned, the next evening we took the dinghy over to town. Our guidebook said there were 3 restaurants and a couple of markets. We wandered over to the other side of the island, where we had read there was another mooring field, as well as a small dock you could tie up to. There was not a lick of wind on this side of the island, and the water was still as glass. And guess what we found? All the missing boats! Racked and stacked! No thank you….I preferred my slice of solitude. Plus it was blistering hot on this side since the wind was blocked. We headed to the one restaurant on this side (it looked and smelled really good) only to find out they were booked solid. The waitress said they could maybe get us in around 9:30 or 10:00! Ummm, I don’t think so. We wandered back to our side of the island where the other two restaurants were located. We wandered by one little restaurant that looked rather busy and decided to proceed to the last one. Many tables had reserved signs on them, but no one was in the restaurant. It was still a little early by European standards (7:30 I think). We ordered a pretty basic and uninspired meal, and it tasted about as inspiring. A complete and total disappointment (and overpriced to boot). As a matter of fact, I gave a wandering kitty some of my meal. After dinner, we headed back to the boat to settle in for the evening. Tomorrow, we would be on the move again.

We decided it was time to begin making our way back north and back to port. From Brbinj, we took a short hop to the town of Veli Rat. We cruised through the first bay disappointed to see all the boats racked and stacked. So, we headed out towards the marina and a quiet little mooring field outside of a tiny little bay. Once again, we found ourselves blissfully alone. This island was home to the tallest lighthouse in the Adriatic and a short 20 minute walk from the little bay. We hopped in the dinghy, tied up to shore, and headed down the road to the lighthouse. It was quite busy with cars and people on this island, and the lighthouse sat next door to a very large camping area where people were stacked on top of one another (not my idea of a fun way to camp). We wandered around the lighthouse which was an awesome sight. We marveled at how rough the open sea was on this side of the island (a direct shot to the coast of Italy). As we made our way back along a different route, we stopped in the little camping market to see what they might have available (at this point our provisions were getting a little low). We opted for some varieties of cheese and salami and were super excited to find mussels….something different from our usual fare of chicken, turkey or čevapi (a type of meat sausages eaten with a red pepper and eggplant relish). We got back to the boat, and it wasn’t long before the guy came by to collect the mooring fee. This one was by far the most expensive one we had (about $47). Needless to say, we only stayed a night. Weather forecasts were calling for a Bura (very strong winds and potentially dangerous sea conditions) so we decided to get closer to home and tuck into a protected bay. This meant a 7 hour day of cruising, our longest one yet.

We opted to head back to the island of Unije to ride out the storm. We were familiar with the mooring field, and the bay was fairly well protected from the high winds that were forecasted. We spent 7 long hours under the blazing sun making our way to a Unije. As we made our approach (around 4 p.m. which is quite late for us), we noticed a huge amount of masts in the first mooring field and quite a few in the anchorage. With the storm approaching, we preferred to be snug on a ball rather than trusting our brand new anchor (well, it was more my lack of confidence in getting this new beast of an anchor to dig in). Handling the anchor has always been my job, and I have always been very good at it. I instinctively knew when to snub it and when to pay out more chain. I felt totally in tune with the anchor and the boat. Recently we upgraded our anchor to a beefy 72 pound Rocna. King of the anchors! But it has been kicking my butt and draining my confidence. Don’t you worry, I will win this battle, but close quarter anchoring with a big blow coming in is not the time to practice. At this point, Dan and I both admit to each other that we have knots in our stomachs. If our little known mooring field is full also, we will be forced to continue to home port which is another 4 hours away. This would mean arriving home at 9 p.m. and having to dock Zoe for the first time just the two of us (and in the dark and in the wind)…..ack! As we came around the point to our little mooring field, we whooped with joy. It was virtually empty! We quickly tied up (we have now gotten super proficient) and…..you guessed it! Time for the celebratory swim and beer (after 7 hours in the blazing sun, we are both quite pink).

We spent the next 2 nights here listening to the wind howl and rocking around, blissfully happy to be back in our wonderful little bay (which was shockingly empty compared to our stop here at the beginning of our trip when every ball was taken). We had been out for 12 days and were feeling a little homesick for our marina (it is a beautiful place only a mile from the city center, and the people here are amazing). We check the forecast which says the Bura should be dying off by 11. We decide to head out at 9 figuring the Bura will be gone by the time we come into dock four hours later. You are probably wondering where we get such precise and amazing forecasts. We are now wondering that too. As we made our way home, we were beating straight into the wind which was howling. The seas were somewhat tumultuous but manageable. Unfortunately our 4 hour journey took 5 1/2 hours (but hey! At least we didn’t end up on Gilligan’s Isle!) and wouldn’t you know, the wind did NOT die down. We now had new knots in our stomachs. First time docking this big girl with just the two of us. Since Dan has to drive the boat, that leaves me to scamper around securing all 4 corners of the boat. The back end requires throwing a line to the dock (while keeping it out of the water so as not to foul the prop) and then hooking a sand line which you then pull as your scamper to the front of the boat and tie off. Remember the awesome marina we are living in and the great people? Well those wonderful marineros were on the dock to assist, and one even jumped on board to secure one side of the boat while I did the other. These guys are our heroes, and we love them to pieces!

So here we are, safe and snug back in our berth. Unfortunately that meant a very un-fun, hot day of washing down the boat, doing laundry, cleaning the inside of the boat….and just basically getting her back in tip top shape. We arrived here Saturday afternoon and will be heading out again on Tuesday…..this time to the north. For now, I got my fix of hobotnice salad at (octopus salad), we hit the ribarnica (fresh fish market), local produce stand, and pekara (bakery) for some amazing fish dinners. And we are currently sitting on deck listening to music blast from the city center after a spectacular fireworks show in honor of Croatian Victory Day (Independence day).

Here is a short video of a few parts of our day coming back to port during the Bura wind:  Zoe during the bura

Victory day fireworks:  Fireworks!