Trapped in the Northern Adriatic!

Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but it sure feels that way :). Without a doubt, it is an awesome place to be trapped…..but it is seriously throwing a monkey wrench into our plans!  We always forewarn those who come to play with us on the sea, flexibility is a must on a sailing vacation because you never know what might come your way.  In this case, our house batteries (the ones that run the refrigerators, freezer, lights, plugs, etc.) gave up the ghost.  This meant heading back to a big city, out of the islands, to get the work done.  So, let me back up a little to where we last left you.

After 5 days at anchor in the bay of Punat, we were feeling pretty confident and successful with setting our hook and riding out moderate weather.  As we made our way out the sea, we once again hoisted sails and set our course for the island of Rab.  When we reached the island, we had a number of different anchorages to choose from, so we motored through a couple to find our happy place.  While the first one was quite spacious with lots of room, we just weren’t feeling it (despite it being a very popular anchorage and town).  In the end, we dropped anchor in a beautiful bay just outside the famous 4 steeples of Rab.  We were tucked deep into the bay with forested land on one side and a towering monastery on the other.  You definitely could not beat the views.  Since we were a bit far from the main highlights of town, we were completely isolated from the number of boats that came in later that week.

Famous bell towers of Rab.
View of a Franciscan monastery from our anchored boat

We took our tender to one of the closer towns, and set off on foot to the ancient city of Rab.  It was a long, lovely walk along a path that followed the sea until you reached the steeples, at which point you climbed a large number of stone steps into the medieval, walled city.  We spent several hours taking in the sights before taking a different route back to our boat.  This one took us through a maze of winding pathways that snaked through dense forested grounds.  Despite being a tough uphill hike, the shading of the trees made it a very nice hike back.

Seaside promenade on way to old town of Rab
It was great wandering the ancient cobble stone streets
The waters of Croatia are amazingly clear

At this point, we were approaching 10 days at anchor (our longest run ever being on the hook).  We were feeling pretty confident and successful with ourselves at this point and super excited to carry on with our journey.  Things were humming along far too smoothly, don’t you think?  Here is where things start to go sideways.  It soon became evident that we were having to rely on our generator for longer periods of time and more times throughout the day to recharge our batteries.  It didn’t take long for Dan to discover that our house batteries were no longer holding a charge.  This meant that we needed to go in somewhere that had shore power so that we could plug in.

We were once again very fortunate in that Dan discovered a hidden gem on the island of Cres in Punta Križa.  This floating pontoon with shore power and water was not identified in any of our cruising guides and therefore not well known by people.  It was tucked into this very isolated bay with only a campground and 1 restaurant at it’s entrance.  Once we were plugged in, Dan decided to run some tests to confirm our fears.  In the end, our batteries refused to hold a charge which meant no more anchorages or mooring balls until we got them replaced.  Luckily for us, this isolated floating pontoon was the next best thing to being out at anchor.  We enjoyed 5 days here while researching our next steps.

Drone shot I took of our pontoon home. The dock is not in any guide books yet so isn’t heavily trafficked….yet
All lit up and hoping for some fish to bite. No such luck.
Lazy days are made for hammocks…
Robyn knows how to put out a spread!

  We had already made the decision to install solar, so now we were scrambling to price out a new battery bank and someone to install them.  We also needed to find a marina to house the boat while the work was being done.  Here is the kick in the teeth…..after 11 days of paying a daily rate, a monthly contract becomes much cheaper.  At this point, we don’t know when they are going to start, how long it is going to take, and the batteries will take 5-7 days to arrive at the marina.  To further complicate things, Dan is scheduled to attend a business conference in Greece in a couple of weeks! (I told you he was failing at being retired).  After considering all factors, we decided to return to the city of Pula (almost all the way back to where we started this journey in April) and sign on for a month contract with the marina.  While this is NOT our happy place, it’s definitely one of better cities to be stuck in…..and the view from our boat is amazing (the towering walls of the ancient coliseum are right next door).  Since I already know my way around this city pretty well, it is a very convenient place for me to be stuck alone for a week when Dan heads to Greece.

After a 9 hour sail surfing some pretty good size swells, we arrived in Pula and are now tucked into our new home for at least the next 3 weeks.  While this may seem like a little inconvenience, it is quite a bit more complicated.  As you will see, we are pretty far north in Croatia, and we MUST be out of here by July 27th when our visa expires.  Italy is no longer an option because the boat has to be in Montenegro by September to avoid that pesky 25% tax hit.  We have to be out of Croatia for 3 months before we are allowed to come back through (that includes transiting in their waters).  I’ve made it sound a little worse than it is…..we can be in Montenegro in 44 hours of non-stop sailing (so it is feasible), but that is a painful journey.  Not to mention, for the 4 seasons we have sailed in this country, we have spent almost no time in the southern islands.  So, provided we have no other “issues,” we will once again make our way south at the end of June and have a few weeks to explore before heading to Montenegro.

Narrow channel entrance to harbor.
Zoe is in parking spot right on the downtown promenade
Celebratory end of passage dinner…
Ancient roman coliseum view from our boat

Since the goal of our blog is to share some amazing sights and places (and some of the craziness of living on a boat in foreign lands), we may go quiet for the next few weeks so as not to bore you :). We do plan to take some excursions during this down time, so we may include some pics with a brief synopsis.  We just wanted you to know that we are still here and will be back to blogging when we have more interesting things to share!

The Sea Beckons

We are finally back at sea!  It was a long journey to get here.  At last post, we headed for the marina to get Dan to a doctor for his back.  The short and dirty of it…..he had a bulging disc and some compressed nerves.  This boiled down to 3 injections over 3 days to reduce the inflammation and pain, 1 MRI, and one surgical injection via x-ray into his spine.  Each day he moves a little bit better but still requires constant vigilance over how he moves and the tasks he undertakes.  On a more positive note, I have learned many new things since so many boat tasks have now fallen on my shoulders in order for him to recover properly.  We also had the opportunity to spend some time with Dan’s mom and son as well as several cousins, aunts, and uncles.  We really love the Opatija Riviera where we were holed up in the marina, but we were anxious to get back out on the water.  Our plan was to spend 2-3 days at the marina.  The reality was that on top of the medical necessity, we got pounded with some really nasty weather.  We later learned that it was so nasty that the harbormaster wasn’t even letting the fishing boats go out.  In the end, we spent 12 days in the marina! Once again, NOT IN THE BUDGET!!  Needless to say, we’ve got some anchoring in our future to make up for the extra expense.  Oh well, I still need the practice 🙂

Zoe at her pricey berth in Opatija
View from the boat
The opatija riviera off our front bow

The day we left the marina, the rain was coming down at a steady pace, and low lying clouds blanketed the water.  It was a cold, wet and dreary cruise, but we were excited to finally be on our way again.  Our goal was to find a protected cove on the island of Krk since another northerly blow (bura) was headed our way.  We passed several beautiful anchorages, but we felt it would not be a good decision unless we took a stern line to shore which Dan was not capable of doing this early in his recovery.  Instead, we continued south to a big, protected bay in the town of Punat.  This would be our first anchoring of the season.  Lucky for us, this bay is well known for good holding in a muddy, clay bottom.  Our anchor dug in, and we settled in for the night.  The first night we did not sleep well.  You find yourself constantly waking up and making sure the boat has not moved from where you have secured it (this is despite having an anchor alarm set on our phone).  We never budged.  When the bura arrived the next day, we rocked and bounced in the wind and waves but never slipped from our position.  This also meant we were boat bound since there were whitecaps, current and swell in the bay.  This would be no fun in the dinghy (plus we weren’t sure if Dan’s back could handle getting into and out of dinghy just yet).  Being boat-bound landed me a few new learning experiences.  I learned a few new knots, one of which we used for the new dinghy lines to the davit.  I have learned to mouse lines (a temporary stitch and wrap method that allows you to use an old line to pull a new line through various pieces of sailing hardware).  My final new skill, and by far the most difficult, was learning to splice an “eye” into our lines.  We decided to change out the bridle for our anchor and wanted an “eye” spliced into each end with metal brackets to avoid chafing.  Dan made me watch several videos which made little sense to me, so in the end, I did it my way!  Haha!  It was super hard and left me with the knuckle pain of a 90 year old arthritic woman :(. Despite it being my first attempt and my own blend of methods, they turned out pretty damn good!  Yeah me!  I hope it’s a lot of years before I have to do another one!

Robyn hand splicing 12 strand mooring line for our new anchor bridle
New custom “made by Robyn” anchor bridle spliced and whipped, ready to deploy!

The bay was much calmer the next day, so we decided to venture out to the little island of Kosljun in the middle of the bay.  This was home to a 15th century monastery that we wanted to explore.  Since we were still unsure of Dan’s back, we decided it was time for me to learn to be dinghy captain.  It’s funny, I have no reservations about driving our 15 ton, 40 foot catamaran…..but our 9 1/2 foot rubber boat with a 8 hp motor had me very hesitant.  Dan coached me through the steps of starting it up, switching between forward and backward, and a warning about going too fast and sudden movements of the motor.  Yeah, this was gonna be fun.  So off we zoomed to the island with me getting a feel for the movement of the motor in relation to the dinghy.  Needless to say, I got us there in one piece and tied up to the wall without incident.  I’m becoming a whiz at these “blue” jobs!  Now if I could just get him to take some of the “pink” jobs off my plate :).  The terms pink and blue jobs are used a lot in the context of sailing.  As I am sure you figured out, pink refers to female roles (cooking, cleaning, laundry) and blue jobs are the more “manly” tasks of dealing with lines, captaining the boat, working in the bilges, etc.  Dan and I have always agreed that all jobs will be done by both of us, but sometimes you fall into patterns and routines and that falls by the wayside.  In order to support his recovery, I am fully purple now!🤣

Dinghy captain in training!

Anyway, back to our story!  As we stepped onto the grounds of this little island, it was like being transported back in time.  Everything was extremely lush, green, and tropical looking.  There were stone walls, overgrown with moss, that meandered the grounds giving the whole area a very medieval look.  Our first stop was to explore the Franciscan monastery itself and many of the artifacts from that time period.  As has been the norm in this part of the world, it was magnificent looking.  But, it wasn’t until we discovered the hidden treasures on the grounds that a feeling of haunted eeriness crept over us (or me anyway).  As we followed the moss covered stone walls down an outdoor corridor, it opened into a variety of stone structures (I don’t know what else to call them) which we soon discovered depicted the stations of the cross.  The stations of the cross is a series of fourteen pictures or carvings representing successive incidents during Jesus’s progress from his condemnation by Pilate to his crucifixion and burial.  Each stone structure housed an individual depiction.  At the end, there was a tiny little shrine housing a beautiful alter and the replica of a glass coffin containing Jesus.  Like I said, it was a very haunting experience.  From there, we wandered further down the pathway where we encountered another small shrine.  This one also contained a beautiful alter and the replica of a glass coffin containing a statue of St. Francis of Assisi.  It is extremely difficult to capture the essence of the experience in words, but hopefully our pictures will give you a little of the flavor.

Entrance to the 15th century island monastery
Walkway dating back to 1579
Stations of the cross in a forest grotto
Last station…
Shrine to the Patron saint of Franciscans – St Francis of Assisi

We returned to the boat and not long after, some surprise visitors arrived.  I noticed a dinghy with three young men on board headed toward our boat.  As they pulled up, they eagerly greeted us with a variety of questions and then asked us to do shots with them.  Dan invited them to come aboard, and we spent the next hour or more visiting with these young men from Germany.  After sharing their stories and our story, we shared a shot of a German vodka they had brought with them.  When they departed, they insisted that we keep the bottle and enjoy it, as they would be flying home the next day.  They had just come into the marina from a week long charter on a sailboat.  They had been on their way to the little island with the monastery when they spotted our American flag and decided to come visit.  It was a fun and entertaining diversion to our day.

Inpromptu german drinking buddies
I’m told this is not the finest specimen of german vodka!

In the end, we spent 5 days anchored in the bay of Punat.  Our anchor held rock solid through a variety of winds and a couple of thunderstorms which made us really happy.  Our last couple of days, we spent time wandering the boardwalk of this awesome, seaside resort and were able to meet up with family and a good friend I met last year.  As much fun as it was to just “nest” in one place, it was time for us to get moving.  Our plan is to explore a number of islands and their anchorages in this middle Croatian region before we head back north to have solar panels installed on the boat.  We are very excited about this as it will allow us to stay out for very long periods of time without having to run our generator and burn diesel.  Once we have solar on board, we will begin making our way south for the remainder of the season.  For now, we are bound for the island of Rab to see what kind of mischief we can get into there :).  Finally, the sun in shining brightly, and we have just enough wind to do some actual sailing.  We have finally found our bliss.  We will be back soon with some new tales from Croatia!

Reunion with a friend made last year on Cres
Rainbow over the anchorage….
Under sail for the first time this season.
Our friend took this shot of Zoe as we left the island Krk and headed south to Rab