2021 Season Finale of Adventures with Zoe

They say better late than never, and I am definitely late with this one.  It’s hard to believe that another sailing season has come and gone, but here we are.  In a normal year, our sailing season will go 6-7 months.  Unfortunately, between Covid restrictions, a home purchase, and parental health issues, our season has been a brief 3 1/2 months.  So, here is how we wrapped things up.

When we left you last, we were hanging out near the city of Split in Croatia, and awaiting the arrival of my daughter and her fiancé.  We anchored our boat in a bay very close to the airport, and walked to the terminal to meet them.  It was exciting to watch their plane approach the airport, flying right over top of us.  We soon had them gathered up, loaded into the dinghy, and on our way back to the boat.  Since it was late in the evening, we stayed the night on anchor.

We picked up Shawn and Mark at the Split airport

The next morning, we headed across to the other side of the bay and anchored closer to the city of Split.  We headed into shore and straight into the old city.  Our main point of interest here was Diocletian’s Palace.  This was built for the Roman emperor, Diocletian, around the 4th century A.D. and makes up about half of the old city of Split.  On a side note, the palace was used in filming Game of Thrones, season 4.  See if you recognize any of the sites!

Split knows how to do candy shops
FaceTime call back home
Palace of Diocletian basement (used in Game of Thrones for dragon storage)

After spending a few hours in the old city, we headed back on board and set sail for the island of Šolta.  This is home to one of our all time favorite bays with an amazing restaurant set high on the hilltop.  We made sure we had a reservation and ordered the lamb peka (slow cooked lamb and vegetables under a metal dome, covered in coals).  The marinero greeted us when we arrived and got us tied up on the mooring lines.  Shawn and Mark took the kayak out to explore the beauty of the bay before heading into dinner.  We had an amazing 3 course dinner overlooking the bay and the 2 other boats there with us (gotta love getting into late season).

Kayak fun in Uvala Jorja, Island of Solta
Pre dinner shots of Rakija
Wonderful view to go with our slow cooked Lamb Peka dinner

We left early the next morning for Stari Grad on the island of Hvar.  We tied up to the town quay and rented a car for the next two days of exploration.  First stop, the town of Jelsa which is a fun little seaside village.  We wandered around here until it was time for our visit to one of Dan’s favorite wineries on the island of Hvar (this island is very well known for producing excellent wines).  The winery was in the midst of harvesting and production, so there was lots of activity.  They took us into the cellar which was kept very dark and only lit by candles.  We had a great time tasting their custom infused olive oils and a variety of wines.  From there we headed back to the boat and spent some time exploring the town of Stari Grad (old city) Hvar.  We found an interesting monastery which we explored and then hiked to the top of a hill with an outdoor area for church and great views of the island.  They are in the process of gathering donations to create a stations of the cross that lines the hike up to the top of the hill.  

Dubokovic Winery cellar
Our sommelier and Mark mixing their own dessert wine
Trvdalj Castle, Stari Grad Island of Hvar

The next day we explored the city of Hvar.  We drove up to the Venetian fortress that overlooked the old city.  Construction of the fortress began in 1282 and was completed in 1551.  This multi-level fortification has been really well restored and easily takes you back in time.  The entire population took shelter in the fortress in 1571 when the Turks attacked, plundered the town, and set it on fire. The fortress was composed of four circular bastions, a tower and walls with battlements, pieces of which are still present. There are cannons pointed out to the sea, and you can descend into the “prison” to check out the cells and their torture devices as well as visit the collection of amphorae collected from the surrounding sea.

Fortress high over Hvar town
Hvar town by night

Since it was Dan’s birthday, we had a reservation in the old town of Hvar at an amazing restaurant overlooking the waterfront.  We enjoyed a 7 course  tasting menu paired with wines, and it was out of this world.  It was definitely a great way to celebrate Dan’s birthday.

Great view and dinner to ring in Dan’s 54th birthday

Once again, we left bright and early to cover the most amount of miles.  We made a quick overnight stop on the island of Scedro to help break up the very long journey.  Here, we did some swimming and hanging out.  Later in the evening a local boat came cruising by offering up homemade wines and brandies as well as assorted other items to purchase.  After tasting a couple of the brandies, we settled on some fig brandy and ordered some fresh made bread and pastries to be delivered in the morning!  How fun was that?!

Boat delivery of local liquors on the Island of Scedro

We set off in the morning bound for the island of Korčula.  We anchored off the island of Badija just like last time and were shocked at how few boats were here compared to our summer time visit.  We headed into the island to walk around the grounds of the monastery and find the deer.  This time we brought a bag full of carrots.  It wasn’t long before my daughter had several deer following her around.  I think this might’ve been her favorite part of the trip…..well, that and all the stray kitties.  That evening we took the high speed water taxi to old town Korčula where we had dinner along the fortress wall overlooking the sea.

Free range deer of Badija island
Once they know you have carrots it can be hard to get away!
High speed water taxi to old town Korcula from the anchorage

From Korčula, we headed to the island of Mlijet and the town of Polace.  This time we tied to a restaurant’s dock that sat right under some Roman ruins.  Talk about some great backyard scenery.  We scurried off and jumped on some e-bikes for another exploration of the salt lake and monastery on the island in the middle.  This was our second time doing this excursion this year, and we highly recommend it.  We had such a good time yet again.

Ancient roman ruins in Polace, Island of Mljet
Rented E-bikes and explored the salt lakes on Mljet island
Found a cave along the way
And some bridges we had to haul the bikes over
Mark flagging down the island monastery shuttle taxi
At the foot of the Roman fortress wall
A wonderful dinner (mixed grilled meats) to cap off a great day.

At this point, we were reaching the end of Shawn and Mark’s trip, so we were headed to their final stop and the holy grail of their visit.  They are both huge Game of Thrones fans (as is Dan), so we were headed to Dubrovnik.  Here we pulled into a really awesome marina to spend the next couple of days.  The first day, we headed into the old city of Dubrovnik to walk around and explore the castle walls.  We then took a tram straight up the face of the mountain to a fortress on the top of the hill.  Here, you had amazing views of the entire city and the surrounding sea.  In the evening, we went back to the boat and walked to Sunset Beach which is the largest beach in Dubrovnik.  There is a beautiful boardwalk the runs along the coast, and you can find many restaurants, beach bars, and even a bar set into a cave.

Old town Dubrovnik
View of Dubrovnik from the tram to the moutaintop
Timelapse of the incredible views from the tram

Our second day was the highlight.  Dan had booked a private Game of Thrones tour.  We spent 3 hours wandering the grounds while our guide pointed out the various sites that were used in the show.  While he pointed out the sites, he held up a photo book with the actual scenes as they were portrayed in the show.  This allowed us to see where CGI was used to enhance the backdrop for the scene.  It was a great tour, and we really enjoyed our guide and his humor.

Game of Thrones tour

We had reached the end of Shawn and Mark’s visit and were approaching our window to make our way back to Greece before some really nasty weather was due to arrive.  We decided it would be fun to tick off one more country for them, while getting us a little further south.  Off we went to Montenegro!

The next morning, Dan and I pulled out of the Marina before the sun was even up.  We went across the channel to the customs dock and took care of the formalities of checking all of us and Zoe out of Croatia.  Before long, we were underway and headed south.  Dan and I were somewhat on edge since we checked out a little further north than Croatia wants you to, but we hate trying to check out in the town of Cavtat.  We had asked the officials of both locations and were told it was okay provided we stayed to the outside of the islands and did not meander through the islands on our departure.  We had heard numerous stories about people getting fined for doing what we just did (but we don’t know if they may have broken the rules and cruised around the islands and walls on their way out).

Early morning check out of Croatia at the Gruz Customs dock

The seas were up a bit, so the ride was bumpy.  We were a little worried about Shawn and Mark since they were fast asleep in their cabin which is one of the worst places to be when it comes to feeling the movement of the boat.  If you are prone to seasickness (they were not), this is NOT the place you want to be.  As we passed the last town on the Croatian coast, we saw a large police boat cruising down the coastline.  In the end, they left us alone, and we left Croatia without any issues.

We arrived at a marina in Montenegro by early afternoon and took care of formalities before picking up a rental car and driving the coast of Montenegro to the Bay of Kotor.  This area has been inhabited since the times of antiquity.  The bay is surrounded by towering mountains and surrounded by some of the most well preserved medieval towns.  

Portonovi Marina, Montenegro
Wandering old town Kotor
Last night in Europe for these two!

Before we knew it, Shawn and Mark’s visit had come to an end.  We hopped in the car and drove them from Montenegro back to Dubrovnik, Croatia to catch their flight home (it’s only a 40 minute drive).  Once we were back to the boat, we cast lines to fill up with duty free fuel and then make our way back to Greece.  This would involve our longest passage yet…..44 hours non-stop.  Our weather window was now, and it was only 2 days long before things got really dicey.  We NEEDED to go!  We were on our way at 3:00 p.m.  

Our 48 hour passage plan south to Greece

By the time darkness surrounded us, the seas had picked up and we were pounding into the swell.  Dan and I took 4 hour shifts, so while one is at the helm on watch, the other is sleeping….well, in theory.  I seem to struggle with being able to sleep when I am off shift.  This first night was even tougher as the seas slammed into the bridge deck making a great deal of noise.  As I came running up the steps from below deck, I slammed my bare foot into the stool which was then followed by 3 distinct cracks.  Three toes went in a direction that was different from the others.  Yep, pretty sure we’re looking at 3 broken toes.  Ahhhh boat life!  It is definitely not for the fragile.

Albania has concrete pillboxes by the hundreds lining the coast for defense
Albanian Coast guard towing a local fishing boat

We cruised down the coast of Montenegro and Albania without incident.  By the second night, we had entered Greek waters and were coming in to the northern part of Corfu.  Here the island is widest and creates a rather narrow channel between itself and mainland Greece.  Between the lights on land, the lights on boats, and the known hazards in the water, I felt very uneasy navigating this in the pitch black.  I called Dan up to take over this more visually challenging area.  I then took the 1 a.m to 5 a.m. shift down the coast of the island.  The first big ferry I spotted was over 600 feet long.  I adjusted course a little more to the starboard side (right side).  Soon came another big ferry…..eesh.  He was over 800 feet long.  I slid a little more to the right.  Distances are deceiving in the dark (even when your radar shows that you have plenty of room!).  Then came the behemoth…..a 1000 foot cruise ship in a blaze of lights.  Yes, I moved further right yet again!

Big cruise ship in the Corfu Channel

As the sun peeked over the horizon, the seas and wind began to build.  Once again, none of the weather forecasts had called for this.  By the time we got to Preveza boats were circling outside of the marinas.  Well, this was interesting.  We radioed the Preveza marina where we had planned to tie up for a few days while getting Zoe ready to be hauled out.  They were full!  Everyone was ducking for cover for the impending storm that would arrive later this evening.  We asked if we could come in for fuel.  There was an hour wait!  All those boats out circling in the bay were waiting for their turn to come in.  We headed across the bay to Cleopatra marina where Zoe is stored for the winter.  After a long, stressful wait, they radioed back that they could make room for us.  Whew!  We had a safe home until haul out.

The storm came in, as predicted.  We had one good day of weather which we used to get the sails down and stored and filled up the fuel tanks.  The last couple of days we worked in the pouring rain and howling wind.  Wouldn’t you know, the day we hauled out was the day the weather was at it’s worst.  According to the marineros, the current in the marina was the worst they had ever seen it.  Between that and the wind, getting off the dock and into the haul out bay was extremely stressful.  At one point, the marinero in the large rib, rammed us super hard (harder than necessary) which just about sent me overboard (I was at the front of the boat waiting to toss the line).  The current swiftly carried us to the entrance of the haul out bay and we were in.  Oh, and soaking wet from the pouring rain.  Not fun!

Summer is over!
Hauling Zoe out for storage on land
Zoe parked for winter on catamaran row

So, that marked the end our 2021 sailing season.  We had the opportunity to have one last dinner with our Swiss and Kiwi friends before saying good-bye until next season.  Other than the brutal 36 hour trip home, sleeping in the airport and having to wear a mask the entire time, we are now home safe and sound.  This will be our last blog post for a little while as we reconnect with family and friends.  However, when December rolls around, we will be on the move again, and you are welcome to join our travels!  As always, thanks for being a part of our adventures!

End of season dinner at Panos Taverna with some Kiwi and Swiss friends

Some stats for the season:

Total miles sailed: 1585 Nautical miles
Total nights onboard: 107
Nights at anchor: 49
Nights on mooring ball: 30
Nights in a marina: 25
Nights at sea: 3
Countries visited: 3 (Greece, Montenegro, Croatia)
Ports, marinas and anchorages visited: 51
Total guests: 8

Zoomable map of our wanderings this season:

Highlights of Central Croatia and the Adriatic

Once the weather cleared, Dan and I said a sad good-bye to ACI Cres Marina one final time.  We headed south down the island of Cres to the anchorage of Uvala Vela Slatina.  The bay was wide open with a great sand bottom and crystal clear water.  Unfortunately the weather system that had come through had dropped the temperatures enough that the thought of swimming was very unappealing.  We had the bay all to ourselves (except for all the naked sunbathers who liked to SUP and kayak past our boat….no, I am not kidding!).  We are always curious when we have an anchorage all to ourselves….why was no one else here?  The weather was settled and calm, but at 9:00 p.m. our tranquil bay became horrid as giant swell came rolling in from all directions.  We pitched around like we had just jumped on a bucking bronco.  We rocked wildly from side to side, front to back, this way and that.  Things slid around the boat, dishes rattling and clanging as they banged around in the cabinets.  It was unbelievable.  This went on for 9 hours!  It was impossible to sleep.  Thankfully, when it finally ended, all was well (except my nerves).  We made the uneasy decision to stay one more night.  Luckily, we did not have a repeat of the night before.

The beautiful waters of Uvala Vela Slatina from our drone

We made a quick stop in Mali Losinj for the night to take care of some business on the island house, and then made our way to the island of Ilovik.  Dan’s Aunt, Uncle and cousins own a restaurant on the island, and we wanted to go visit them.  As it turned out, our Kiwi friends and their new American friend were headed there also, so we agreed to meet up for drinks later that day.  Dan and I spent a couple hours hiking the island, visited with family, and had dinner and drinks with Jeremy, Chrissy and Mitch.  It was a great day and evening catching up with everyone.

The family restaurant on the island of Ilovik
Uncles, aunts and cousins!
Ilovik and Zoe from our drone

The next day we headed to the island of Vir where we anchored near some castle ruins.  As it turned out, our new American friend, Mitch, anchored nearby and we were able to share drinks and stories on board.  Unfortunately, we didn’t do much exploring since this was a stopover on our journey south in preparation for our next guests.  We took the opportunity to take a cab into town to visit one of our favorite sporting goods stores in the hopes of replacing our blown up SUP.  We had no luck. To make matters worse, we could not find a cab back to the boat.  Multiple times a car would be on the way only to cancel at the last minute.  After 30 minutes of sitting outside the store, we finally found a cab…..for 3 times the price we paid to get there!  Grrrr!!!

Vir Castle at sunset

Once our guests, Josef and Lisa, were onboard, we headed to the island of Murter.  What a treat we had when we sailed into the bay, and discovered our sailing friends all anchored here as well.  We wandered the old town and then headed up to the top of a hill with great views all around.  From there, we headed down to an old church and graveyard on our way to some Roman ruins.  A lot of the ruins are submerged, so you can snorkel the area and explore them.  Later that night, we had our friends from 3 different boats join us for drinks and stories.  Sailors do love their stories!  Sailing friends are also an amazing resource to share best places to anchor, sights that should  not be missed, and many other things of value.  With 9 of us on board, this was the biggest group we have ever hosted on Zoe.

We ask guests to bring a flag we can fly that means something to them. Here Josef proudly hoists the Bavarian flag, from where he was born.
Dinghy ride to town
Octopus salad, local cheeses and Prociutto on Murter
Cruiser get togethers are always fun and filled with stories. Represented here are USA, Germany, Canada and New Zealand
View of Murter from the hilltop with roman ruins at it’s base
Submerged ruins of the Roman city of Colentum
Ruins of Ancient Colentum

The next day, we were on our way again.  By the afternoon, we arrived at the south end of Dugi Otok, in the bay of Telašćica.  We grabbed a restaurant mooring ball for dinner that evening, and quickly jumped in the dinghy to head to the opposite side of the bay to explore.  As we rounded the corner from our bay, a huge powerboat came flying by us.  As luck would have it (NOT), we hit the trough of his wake just as his wake began to curl.  The huge wake crested over the top of the dinghy leaving us all soaking wet.  We continued on despite looking like a bunch of drowned rats. We took a beautiful hike along a saltwater lake, stopping at this amazing rock garden overlooking the sea.  Here, many people have passed by adding their contributions to the stone structures that cover the landscape.  From there we headed to the cliff tops that tower over the sea.  The views were amazing.  We returned to Zoe without any more powerboat incidents.  Once we were all fresh and clean, we took the dinghy over to a lovely restaurant overlooking the bay.  We had a very nice fish dinner.  Unfortunately, we felt a little taken advantage of in the end.  Of course, there was no menu, and our choice was fish or a pork filet.  With no menu, it meant no prices either.  We were stunned when the bill arrived.  It was a nice dinner but not worth the exorbitant price we paid…..and we only ordered their house wine (which was crappy, by the way)!

The mysterious cairns of Luka Telascica
You pick your dinner from the fresh catch of the day
Dinnerof fresh fish at an island konoba
The wild side of Dugi Otok

Our final island on this part of our journey was the island of Molat.  On our way there, we cruised past the towering Veli Rat lighthouse.  This is the highest lighthouse in the Adriatic at 42 meters high (138 feet).  By the lighthouse is a small, beautiful chapel.  Not far from the lighthouse, we came upon our lunch stop, the shipwreck of the San Michelle.  We anchored nearby and hopped in the water to snorkel this shallow wreck.  The wreck was an Italian merchant ship that sank in 1984, and part of it still peeks above the surface of the sea.  The water was crisp and the current a bit strong, so we made sure to swim over to it with our fins on (getting back to the boat was a piece of cake since the current drove us there).  The water was crystal clear, and the wreck was amazingly intact.  We spent quite a bit of time swimming over, around, and through parts of it.  

Sailing the wild windward side of Dugi Otok.
Veli Rat Lighthouse
Wreck of swimmable San Michelle from our drone
Robyn swimming the shallow waters of the wreck

Before long, we were on our way again.  Since Josef and Lisa were coming to the end of their visit, Molat was a stopover before returning to the mainland city of Zadar.  We grabbed a mooring ball next to a beautiful, wooded island and took the dinghy into town for a walk.  We found a great walk that took us to the top of the hill with great views of the surrounding sea and the bay where Zoe was tied up.

The mooring ball field in Molat.
Exploring a former submarine bunker on Dugi Otok enroute to Zadar

In the morning, we dropped lines for our 5 hour journey back to Zadar.  This time we anchored right outside the city itself.  Zadar is an amazing city to visit.  It is known for it’s Roman and Venetian ruins that surround the Old Town.  As you walk around, there are several Venetian gates in the city walls.  There are numerous churches and cathedrals throughout the city and since it was Friday night, we were treated to witnessing several weddings take place.  The fun began with the church bells chiming, Croatian flags waving and live music playing, and everyone singing.  When the bride and groom emerged from the church,  there were cannon blasts of confetti, colored smoke, and flaring light.  Croatians definitely know how to put on a wedding spectacular.  After wandering the inside of the old city, we headed to the riva (waterfront walk).  Here, they have created a sea organ.  Along the stepped walkway are a number of holes, at various levels, that run down the walk.  As the sea water crashes into the wall, the holes create a musical treat that sounds just like an organ.  Here you will find many, many people crowded around listening to the sounds of the sea and watching the spectacular sunset over the sea.  Afterwards we had an amazing dinner in an intimate courtyard surrounded by a towering Venetian wall.  This was our last night with our friends Josef and Lisa. 

Ruins of the Roman Forum in Zadar
Wedding fireworks
Wedding smoke bombs!
Click to check out the festive way they celebrate weddings in Croatia
Fantastic view of times past from the restaurant
The famous sea organ of Zadar
Click to hear the Zadar Sea Organ in action
Sunset crowds at the sea organ

We left Zadar the next morning on our 6 1/2 hour journey to Otok Bosnajak.  This was a brief overnight stop as we continued to make our way south.  We made an overnight stop in Uvala Mirine on the mainland.  He lies the fortress ruins of Ostrica…..which of course we had to go hike!  The fortress walls are amazing to see.  The real fun came when we reached the fenced off area and had to climb this homemade wooden ladder to get to the other side to explore.  I don’t do ladders!  As I climbed this rickety old thing, I could feel it swaying beneath me.  Oh man!  Needless to say, I crawled across the top platform before heading down the other side.  Can’t wait to do this again when we come back from exploring!  Check out the cool pictures of this incredible fortress wall.

Climbing over the fence to get access to the park
The walls of Ostrica, some of the longest intact fortifications in Croatia
Getting ready to weigh anchor after a great stop

At this point, we have hopped our way down the coast and are currently outside of the city of Split.  We have been switching between a couple of different bays as we wait for some sunscreens to be made for the windows, and hideout from thunderstorms and wind.  You gotta love transition season in Croatia.  We will be hanging out in this area for a week awaiting the arrival of my daughter and her fiancé.  Our next post will bring you some more sights and adventures as we make our way through some more islands, eventually landing in the amazing city of Dubrovnik.

The town of Marina Agana and it’s ancient fortress keep

Back To Where It All Began

With bad weather moving in, we tied up in a marina near Primosten Croatia for 4 days.  It’s near the middle of the country’s coastline and offers good opportunities for land exploration and other adventures, but there was not a rental car to be found!  It has been one of the busiest years we can remember, and finding a rental car in August has been nearly impossible.  We did manage to do some nice hikes from the marina, both along the coastline and up through a grapevine terraced hillside to the very top of the point overlooking the sea.  At the very top, is a monument (Our Lady of Loreto Statue) to the Virgin Mary which stands 17 meters (55.77 feet) high and is visible from Italy on a clear day.  There wasn’t much more exploring we could do without a vehicle, so we were eager to get underway once the weather cleared.

Our Lady of Loreto statue, near Primosten Croatia
You can’t beat the views from the statue. The peninsular town of Primosten is a beauty!

From there, we headed to the island of Pašman.  We were making our way pretty far north, so this was a convenient rest stop for the night.  We still had a fair amount of wind (15-20 knots), so we grabbed a mooring ball and settled in for the night.  It wasn’t long before every spot was taken.  Since we were anxious to get more miles under our belt, we got moving early for our 7 hour journey.  The downside of our journey north is that the prevailing wind is pretty much always from the north which means very little opportunity to sail 🙁  Our next stop was the island of Olib, and a large anchorage on the southern end of the island.  We still had some residual wind creating a bit of chop in the anchorage, but we did manage to get in a swim for some exercise.

Moonrise over the anchorage
We enjoy the wild and remote anchorages to mix things up. The water was super clear but water was chilly!

Olib was another one night stop before heading to the island of Silba.  This has been one of our favorite islands, and you can access town via a 20-30 minute walk through the countryside.  We tried a new bay this time which had been filled with mooring balls.  The balls were uncomfortably close to one another, but there weren’t many boats so it was okay.  We quickly learned why there weren’t many boats.  The wasps were insane here.  We started out using our zapping racket, and that soon became futile.  We ended up hiding inside the boat because they were so bad.  Before heading to town, we constructed a wasp catcher using a water bottle and some watermelon juice.  By the time we got back, there were over 60 dead wasps in the bottle….a special treat for the fish.  It still didn’t deter them!  Needless to say, we only lasted one night here as well.

We enjoyed strolling through Silba Old town. No cars and the wooded setting is unusual for the area
The northern part of the Adriatic is notorious with sailors due to it’s feared Bura wind.

Once again, we were tracking another weather system (ahhh, you gotta love northern Croatia).  We headed up to the island and town of Mali Losinj.  This has always been one of our favorite places, fairly close to Dan’s family home.  We spent 4 nights here enjoying the town and visiting with one of Dan’s cousins and our friend Magrit, from the town of Stivan.  We found some more great hikes including one to Vela Straza (Monte Baston), an ancient hilltop fort.  This was considered to be of strategic importance thanks to the wide views which allowed for the protection of the town of Mali Losinj.  Once again, no rental cars available!

The town of Mali Losinj. Largest island town in Croatia
Hiking and exploring the area
Vela Straza. Ancient lookout for signs of trouble.
A tunnel to explore. Perhaps for guards?
The views of Losinj Bay were great.

Before long, we were on our way again.  Destination:  The island of Cres and home of Dan’s father and his ancestral roots. This would be our final stop in the northern Adriatic and where it all began for us with Zoe.  If you’ve been following our blog from the beginning, you will recall that we had Zoe moved to the island and town of Cres after we purchased her in Tunisia.  I lived in the marina on Zoe, alone, for 5-6 weeks getting her ready to become our home.  Dan was still working at the time back in the US.  I stayed on Zoe during the spring while monitoring the exterior renovations that were being done on Dan’s ancestral home on the island.  So, here we were, back at our favorite marina (ACI Cres) after several years away.  It felt like coming home.  Unfortunately, this will probably be our last visit up here with Zoe (we will always come back by land) as we are feeling the pull to explore farther afield on the boat.  We spent another 4 days here (and yes, there was weather AGAIN!)  We explored all of our favorite haunts and hikes, visited with friends in the town of Stivan, checked on the house, and visited the crypt of Dan’s dad, aunt, uncle, grandparents, and great grandfather.  As you can imagine, visiting the small village of Stivan is bittersweet for us, but it always calls us back.

Lighthouse on our passage north.
ACI Marina Cres. Where our sailing adventure began in 2018. Full circle!
Wandering the Old Town
Monastery in Cres Town
Lighthouse showing the way into Cres Bay
Nighttime views in the marina. We always enjoy the bleating sheep at sunset. So peaceful and serene.

We said farewell to Cres this morning and have begun our journey south again.  We have 3 more sets of visitors over the next month and a half, each arriving further south in Croatia.  We will be taking them through more of the islands of Croatia, sprinkled with some land adventures, before we make our way back to Greece and Zoe’s winter resting place.  As always, we hope to bring you some new and exciting adventures during our explorations with our guests!

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

The Twelve Hour Nightmare From Hell

I am jumping ahead of myself to share a story while it is still fresh in my mind (which it is because it is hard not to keep reliving it).  I will get back to our regularly scheduled adventures (of the fun kind) soon.  Unfortunately due to the nature of the story, there will not be an abundance of pictures (and none from what you would probably really like to see as it unfolded).

On July 24th, we left our anchorage in a beautiful bay on the island of Lopud.  We set sail earlier than normal in order to get to our final stopping point in Croatia where we would clear customs and immigration and make our way to Montenegro.  As we traveled down the coast, we briefly hovered outside the beautiful city of Dubrovnik and it’s magnificent ancient walls in order to take pictures from this unique perspective.  From there we continued our way down to the town of Cavtat.  It is in this town that you have to clear out of Croatia before continuing on to Montenegro since they expect you to get out of their waters by the fastest means possible (and they watch you on radar to make sure you do!). We arrived by late morning, found a spot we liked for anchoring, and dropped the hook.  We spent several hours swimming and hanging out…..no problem.  Later we took the tender into town to see about clearing out with the harbor master before going to the customs dock in the morning.  It took us a bit of wandering around to finally find the harbor master who then informed us that we could not check out with them the day before but needed to tie up to the customs dock on the day of check out and then come see them before clearing customs and immigration.  From there, we wandered over to find the customs dock and office in order to be more efficient in the morning.  The dock requires you to med moor (drop your anchor out in front, get it set, back up to the wall and then tie your back end to the wall).  This looked like all kinds of fun since the wall was only big enough for two or three mega yachts or 5-6 normal size boats.  The wall also curves slightly pretty much insuring the strong possibility of crossing anchors with someone.  We returned to the boat feeling pretty good that we had a full understanding of the procedures for tomorrow.

Bucket list moment sailing past the Ancient walls of Dubrovnik
One of the best maintained walls from the ancient world in existence

We spent the rest of the day swimming and hanging out with friends who had joined us 3 days earlier.  As the evening rolled around, the bay became very rough with swells.  We spent the next several hours pitching around, sometimes a bit violently.  By nightfall, the swell had really died down and the winds had begun to pick up.  We headed to bed around 10:30 and did a final check of several forecast models. 

Sunset over the Croatian archipelago from the Cavtat anchorage. Looks calm right?
25 knot gust….oh how we missed those as we were blasted with 40 knots plus a few hours later

All looked well.  The wind continued to pick up, causing the boat to creak and groan.  Dan checked our anchor alarm regularly to ensure we were safely hooked in and not dragging.  At about 1:15 a.m, we heard a rather loud bang, and almost simultaneously, the anchor alarm sounded.  We were dragging at a very fast pace.  We scrambled on deck just as someone in the anchorage started blasting their horn and another person yelling to us.  The wind was howling at 30-40 knots and we were within a few meters of hitting a trimaran that had been anchored in the same vicinity.  Dan quickly fired up the motors, and I ran to the front to start getting the anchor up.  The water in the bay had breaking waves from all directions.  The entire by was a buzz of activity as nearly every boat had broken free and were scrambling to avoid either other boats or the shore.  We later learned that a 50 foot catamaran had actually hit another boat when he dragged.

With the engines gunned in forward gear, we managed to avoid hitting the boat we had come so close to.  We motored around trying to find a place to re-anchor in the pitch black.  The water churned violently and sent spray up as the wind blew across it.  I will forever be grateful that our friends, Tim and Aline, were there to help us.  While Dan drove the boat, we made several attempts to anchor but could not get it to set for more than 1/2 hour or so.  Despite using spotlights to find land masses and obstructions in the water, it was impossible to see what lay underneath us each time we dropped the anchor.  Each time the anchor was pulled back up, it required both Tim and I to use the boat hooks to stab through the weed and clay that caked the anchor.  Aline kept the light wherever we needed it and scampered back and forth between Dan and I to relay messages (the wind was shrieking so bad that neither one of us could hear the other despite yelling as loud as we could).  While all this is happening, many other boats are doing the same thing.  Everyone circling around, trying to avoid other boats, and find a safe place to get anchored.  We were reaching the point of giving up and just heading out to sea to motor around until daybreak.  We made one final attempt (this was now our 4th or 5th) and dropped the anchor.  We let out 150 feet of chain (well over the 7:1 storm ratio) and waited anxiously.  It was now 4 a.m.  Tim, Dan and I sat in the cockpit for some time waiting and watching.  So far, so good.  Tim eventually headed down to bed to try and get a little sleep.  Dan and I opted to stay up on deck as the wind was still gusting in the 20-30’s.  Around 7 a.m., I headed down below to try and get some sleep and Dan slept on deck.  We weren’t taking any chances this time.  Unfortunately, it was one of those times when there was no possibility to try and capture this on video given the speed and danger of the situation as it unfolded.  To put a little humor into a situation that still has a little traumatized….I will never again sleep in a nightshirt while at anchor.  As it should be, the situation was all about protecting the boat and the people on board.  Unfortunately, in winds this high, my stupid nightshirt left me regularly flashing the entire anchorage as it threatened to blow completely overtop of my head.  Now, here’s the stuff MY nightmares are made of!  Hopefully, everyone was too busy with their own situation to notice 🤦‍♀️😬

After a short two hours of sleep, I rousted Dan so that we could get moving over to the customs dock and get ourselves checked out.  We had wanted to be there right at 7 a.m. when the harbor master opened, but after last night….that wasn’t happening.  We hustled to get underway and rounded the bend to join a number of boats already circling and waiting for their turn at the dock.  Now mind you, we are all on boats, so there no “line up” and you have to rely on the courtesy of others to respect who has come before you.  Yeah right.  As in land life, some people just don’t care if it’s their turn and will happily cut you off to take their place ahead of you.  To add to the fun, the wind gusts were still high and blowing on our side (this makes for a real good time trying to anchor and tie up…..especially when you are coming in next to a multi, multi million dollar yacht with full crew…..ugh.  Instead of giving you time to get yourself tied up, the other boats are coming in on top of you which severely limits your maneuverability!  It took us 3 attempts to get the damn anchor set and finally secure ourselves.  Poor Dan was dealing with all this chaos on 2 hours of sleep!  We finally got settled, and Dan was off to take care of all the legalities.  Ironically, that part went really quick and smooth.  I give a huge shout out to the harbor master staff and customs/immigration staff for their helpfulness and pleasantness, but their docking situation SUCKS!!!  They need a bigger and less chaotic customs dock given the amount of traffic that is forced to check in and out of this location…..or at least let the boaters anchor and come in!  Afterall, no one even looked at our boat.

Everything was done, and it was time for us to get going.  Of course, that did not come without it’s fun as well!  I told you it was a 12 hour nightmare!  Several of the boats that insisted on racing in and not letting others get settled first managed to cross their anchor chains.  This required a person on one boat to swim his anchor and figure out how to move it off of someone else’s without dislodging the other guy.  When the next guy went to leave, his was crossed as well.  Since we had come in before all of these boats, we waited for them to untangle since they were surely all over top of ours (remember that crosswind….our anchor was no longer right in front of us).  The harbor master ended up boarding this one big power boat (this guy had been a total ass….trying to cut everyone off and throwing his hands in the air when the harbor master signaled him to stand down until we all got settled) and made him lift his anchor and move off the dock so the rest of us could leave free of his anchor.  At this point, we are ready to move very quickly to avoid any collisions due to the gusty conditions.  Right as we are about to release the final line, a family on a paddle boat cruises in front of us waving!  EVERYONE on the dock was yelling at him to get out our way NOW!  We luckily extricated ourselves from the mess without incident.  We were finally under way to Montenegro with a big sigh of relief.  At this point, I was ready to say good-bye to Croatia.  As I mentioned before, we are still somewhat traumatized by the whole experience, but we have talked through it numerous times with our friends who helped us every step of the way, and some new friends who had been in the anchorage with us (turned out they were the ones sounding the horn to get everyone up….we will forever be thankful to them for that).

Cavtat – southernmost port in Croatia. And the jumping off point for Montenegro
Customs Quarantine dock -AKA “Q- dock”

Anyway, we have learned a great deal from the experience and how to better prepare ourselves in the future.  This is the worst weather situation we have experienced out on the water.  With warning, we always head for the safety of a marina.  This came out of nowhere for us.  We have slowly been restoring our faith in our knowledge and abilities and appreciate the friends who have helped us process the trauma of the experience.

Free To Chase Sunsets Once Again!

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!

This is one heck on an electrical upgrade! But it unlocks unlimited off the grid living…
Our electrician hard at work…
Installing solar panels on a custom stainless steel arch
Cutting a larger hole for our new induction stove
Much better!

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.

Happy hour with our translators…

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.

Sacrificial saildrive anodes that protect expensive underwater parts.

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.

Brbinj, island of Dugi Otok
Dan at the wheel in his happy place
Flying our big Gennaker and enjoying the winds in the right direction for a change

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!

Sunset over Primosten, Croatia

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 🙂

Slow cooked octopus peka. Yummy!
Dinner with a fabulous view. Our moored boat is over Robyns shoulder in the distance
Boats racked and stacked and waiting for dinner!
Cliffside views right from the back of our boat
Zoe moored for the night in our favorite spot

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 🙂

Land ho!

We are taking a small reprieve from life on a boat to share some of the spectacular inland sights that can be found in this region of Europe.  The architecture and rich history found in this part of the world never ceases to amaze me.  We arrived in Pula around 7 pm on June 12th.  As we came in, they told us they had a special place for us….hmmmm….that could be good or bad.  It quickly became evident that it is all about perspective.  While we have a great view of the ancient colosseum from our boat, we are also in a very tight channel with large tour boats across from us and the street directly behind them (this translates to constant boat traffic in and out in front of us and a great deal of road noise).  Since the city is also right across the street, we are also subjected to really loud music until the wee hours of the morning (and not good music!).  It’s going to be a long month 🙁

Back through the narrows to the ancient city of Pula.
Zoe in her berth. We are pretty much the only catamaran here and stick out!

The following day, our arch fabricators came out to re-measure Zoe for the framework they are building to hold the solar panels.  We were then hit with the bad news that it may take them up to 2 weeks before they would be ready to install.  We wanted so bad to be out of the marina and in the islands that we could taste it.  So, we decided to make the best of a bad situation.  We concocted a plan to head out of Croatia by car and explore some other countries while we waited (this also had the added benefit of giving us more time on our visa within Croatia since we would be “tapping out.”) That Sunday, we made sure Zoe was tightly secured in her slip and ready for the impending weather system that was coming in while we were away.  We hit the road toward our first destination, the capital city of Ljubljana, Slovenia.

Three hours later, we arrived and headed off on foot to explore the old city.  As has been the case in most cities we have visited, it consisted of ancient stone buildings, magnificent churches with their bell towers, and a castle sitting high up on the hill.  This city also had a beautiful river that ran through it and bridges that took you from one area of town to the other.  After wandering the cobblestone alleys drinking in all the sights, we settled on this wonderful little restaurant along the river.  As we often do (when it’s offered) we opted for the chef’s tasting menu which did not disappoint!  We decided it was time to find a place to stay for the night (yes, we wing it quite often….sometimes it works out great and sometimes it doesn’t).  On our way back to the car, the impending storm I mentioned earlier reared it’s ugly head, and we were caught in a downpour of giant, pelting drops of rain.  We ran for cover and waited for it to let up at least a little bit before racing the rest of the way to car.  Dan found us a highly reviewed little apartment on the edge of town and off we went.  We struggled to find the place since it was tucked up in a pedestrian zone and not visible from the main road.  Luckily the owner signaled us from the road and guided us to the place.  Remember how I mentioned that winging it was sometimes hit or miss?  Well this was a miss.  The place was nice, but the bed was hard as a rock and there was no air conditioning which meant it was sweltering hot.  We tried to sleep with the windows open, but it was ridiculously loud all night long.  Needless to say, neither of us slept well and were no longer happy campers.

Wonderful Ljubljana
My best “be a dragon” pose. Needs work.
The dragon bridge. They like dragons here….
Ljubljana castle high over the city.

We wanted to continue our journey to other countries since we had been to numerous cities in Slovenia on different vacations to Croatia.  Our next stop was Budapest, Hungary about 5 hours away.  Once again, we were winging it :). By the time we arrived in the city, it was rush hour and traffic was horrendous.  It was also getting late, and we were both tired.  Dan ended up finding us this awesome boatel on the Danube River.  We quickly went to check in to this adorable mini river cruise boat (but it no longer “cruises”).  We had a great little room with porthole views of the beautiful parliament building, downtown skyline, and the river rapidly rolling by us (the Danube has quite a current running).  We decided we were too worn out to explore, so we headed to the market for some finger foods and opted for a mattress picnic in our room.  Tomorrow would be a big day of exploration.

Our “boat-tel” on the Danube
Our room on the former river cruise boat
Can’t beat the view from the room!

We got ourselves moving the next morning and headed out on foot to explore this magical place.  This was going to be a walking tour, and a pretty long one at that.  Our first stop took us high up a hill followed by an endless amount of steps.  Here we arrived at a place called the Fisherman’s Bastion.  This bastion features pointed towers and turrets that look like something right out of Disneyland.  It was quite a sight to see.  From there we headed down to the Chain Bridge and crossed over the Danube to take in the views of the Buda Castle which dominates the landscape on one side of the Danube.  Once again, I will give a quick synopsis of the sights and let the pictures show you the beauty that is Budapest.  Next stop:  The Hungarian Parliament building. This neo-Gothic, neo-Romanesque, neo-Baroque structure is one of the main tourist attractions in Budapest, and it is quite a sight to see.  It dominates the skyline of other side of the Danube, and is just as amazing lit up at night as it is to see during the day.  From there, we wandered into a park area with a fun and interactive fountain in the square.  Behind it stood a controversial memorial to the victims of the Holocaust.  The monument depicts Hungary as the Archangel Gabriel being attacked by a German imperial eagle, and the critics say it absolves the Hungarian state and Hungarians of their active role in sending some 450,000 Jews to their deaths during the occupation.  The photos, relics, and letters surrounding the monument invoke chills and are quite sombering.  As we continued our walk through the city, we happened upon a bronze statue of Ronald Reagan….definitely wasn’t expecting that….so of course we had to pose with him 🙂

Fairy tale land
Fisherman’s Bastion
Chain bridge
The Hungarian Parliament building. Quite an impressive sight.
Guards circling a flagpole over and over and over…
A picture with the Gipper….his role in ending the Cold War is appreciated here.
Controversial memorial to the Nazi takeover of Hungary

After 6 1/2 miles of walking in the heat, Dan and I were exhausted.  We still had a fairly long way back to our hotel, so we decided to take a couple hour river cruise and see the sights from the comfort of a boat with some champagne in hand.  Needless to say, that was quite a bit of fun, and we got some great pictures of things we might not have gotten the chance to see.

Danube river cruise, champagne in hand
Budapest Castle
So many sights along the Danube in Budapest.

Our plan at this point was to spend one more night and then head to Slovakia for a night and on to Vienna for a night or two.  Yep….best laid plans and all that.  I swear, our entire adventure this season has been plans written in the sand!  We got a call from the distributor of our solar panels, and he needed us to meet him the next day to pick them up.  Seriously????  This meant an early departure from Budapest and an 8 hour drive all the way back to Croatia!  Ugh!!!  We were disappointed to have to cut our inland exploration short but excited to finally have one piece of our boat upgrades in hand.  Unfortunately, when we finally met up with the guy, he had the wrong panels.  Ironically, this was probably a good thing because I am pretty sure they were not going to fit into our car!  Since he brought the wrong ones, he wanted to do right by us and actually delivered the right ones all the way to the boat.  That was a huge help!  

Too bad these weren’t the solar panels we were looking for…

At this point, we have been in the marina for 3 weeks.  It seems every day something is delayed.  Contractors tell us they will be here and then they no show without a word.  Guess some things are a problem no matter where in the world you go.  On a positive note, as I finish up this tale, our solar arch finally got installed today and all our new batteries, switches, and parts are on board.  Our electrician is scheduled to arrive tomorrow (fingers crossed) to install the solar panels, wiring, and batteries.  Once that is done, we will once again be on our way and hoisting our sails!

It’s finally here! This entire pallet is for us… Big electrical system upgrade coming up….
But first, we needed solar panels. This is our installer pulling a monkey move 8 feet over the water.
1300 Watts of solar panel goodness. Should be enough to cover our daily electrical needs at anchor
Nighttime view from the boat of the ancient Roman Ampitheatre

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

The Southwestern Sights of Istria

Captain’s Log Day 1:

After our 5 day stay in Poreč (our longest stay in any one place), we were ready for some new sights.  As we headed out to sea, the winds were a bit higher than forecasted.  Unfortunately, it was right on our nose which meant no sailing.  Believe it or not, we have yet to actually sail!  We have either had no wind or the wind has been right on our nose.  The seas were quite choppy as well which meant a rough and bumpy two hour ride to our next port of call, Rovinj.  We arrived safely and tied up to the town wall.  It was our first truly sunny day in quite some time (at least until the rain came in the evening).  You definitely couldn’t beat the view from our new spot.  As we were finishing tying up, a tour group rushed over to talk to us.  Turns out they were Duke alumni on a cruise and were super excited to see our American flag.  These were the first Americans we have actually encountered in the last month that we have been in Europe.  Since the day was so nice, we enjoyed my birthday lunch out on the deck with an awesome bottle of the Prosecco that we had picked up in Italy.

Approaching the city of Rovinj
Tied to the city quay, with a mooring ball to help keep position
Birthday victuals for Robyn
Birthday girl!!!
Gorgeous city view

Captain’s Log Day 2:

We awoke to the constant drum of rain and pretty strong wind gusts.  I don’t recall that being forecasted!  I am about ready to change our website name to Two Trapped on a Boat :(. We also had a new problem….the wind had clocked around to the west causing a confusion of seas within the bay.  As I started making our breakfast, we surged to the wall and the dinghy hit.  As the rear of our boat came within inches of smashing against the wall, Dan and I scrambled!  Since cooking on a boat means propane and open flame, I quickly turned off the burner before heading out into the rain (in my pajamas) to try and secure our boat.  We quickly loosened the back lines and motored forward to tighten up our front lines.  We were now pitching around in a washing machine of 3 foot swells bashing us from all directions.  The questions soon became….do we ride it out and hope it passes soon or do we drop lines and attempt to tie up on a mooring ball in the middle of a different bay with more protection.  Neither option sounded overly great.  So, life on a boat….every day tasks become quite challenging when your are pitching around violently in every direction.  Imagine yourself in a 2’x3’ cubicle trying to take a shower….it’s quite the adventure!  Imagine trying to put clothes on while not loosing your balance.  Like I said, the mundane tasks of every day life take on a whole new meaning when living on a boat.  So here we are…..Two Trapped on a Boat :). My above question was soon answered about an hour later.  After spending 6 hours sitting in a horrendous whirlpool of waves and swell, 3 guys from the harbor master’s office came and said it was time to go….the situation was getting too dangerous.  They helped spring us free from the wall so we could escape the mess as quickly as possible.  We then headed around the bend to the mooring field.  We are still rolling around, but we are not getting the backlash of waves smashing into the wall and then back at us.  Things are much more comfortable, and our high level of anxiety has begun to subside.  We have also found ourselves plotting our next hole up as another wicked, winter storm is headed our way in the next few days.  This constant crappy weather is taking a serious toll on our marina budget!  We get charged about $115 per night (and that is on the cheap end) to be in a marina.  That is a pricey parking spot!  You can get a nice room for cheaper than that!

This is not fun anymore! Time to move…
Zoe in her new and much calmer digs

Captain’s Log Day 3:

Finally!  A beautiful day of sunshine and calm seas!  Since we still had some time before the bad weather was due in, we decided to stay another night on the mooring ball and go explore the town of Rovinj.  We took the dinghy and found a spot to tie up that didn’t require the usual acrobatics (other than climbing around a steel girder and some glass walls surrounding a seaside restaurant we traipsed through :). We headed straight for the basilica and bell tower.  As we entered yet another beautiful church, we were treated to a group of people singing.  We don’t know if they were there to practice or a random tour group that just decided to sing for everyone.  Needless to say, the combination of acoustics in the church and their voices actually gave me chills.  I’ve included a brief clip to give you an idea.  Our next stop was to climb the bell tower (you actually pay to do this!).  So up we climbed 150 very steep and winding stairs made from 2×4 planks of wood.  Some steps had a downward pitch, some were worn into slickness, and all had big open gaps just waiting to catch a foot!  It is also very narrow in the tower, so your goal is to make it to a small landing before the next group of people starts coming down.  The final ascent to the bell tower is basically a ladder with a handrail on one side only and nothing to assist you when you reach the landing.  We had some beautiful views of the Adriatic and Rovinj.  After taking some pictures, I decided to start down.  I am not a fan of heights or confined spaces filled with people, and I knew at some point others would be coming up the steps.  Dan decided to stay behind and take a few more pictures.  I had just reached the second set of steps when I heard the bells begin to chime!  My first reaction was “Oh no!”  My next reaction was to laugh hysterically picturing poor Dan up there standing under those giant bells.  Did I mention it was noon?  Yep, that means twelve giant gongs that can be heard throughout the city.  When Dan finally came down, he said that the clicking of the bell gears gave him warning that the bells were about to go which allowed him time to shove his earlobes and fingers into his ears to prevent him from going deaf.  On the downside, he wasn’t able to capture any pictures or video of this since his hands were otherwise occupied 🙂 We enjoyed wandering around the cobblestone streets before heading back to the boat.

Up up up we will go
Rovinj views from top of bell tower
Thats our girl in the distance, in the mooring field

Captain’s Log Day 4:

We awoke earlier than usual since we wanted to get underway to our next destination, Pula.  This would be about a 2 1/2 hour trip south where we would pull into the marina for the next 4 days to ride out the storm.  Weather was predicted to begin tonight, and we wanted to be safely in place before this happened.  As we headed out to sea, the skies were overcast and the wind had already picked up.  Once again, it was right on our nose so still no sailing.  We arrived in Pula as scheduled and made our way to the marina.  We had stayed in this marina last season to ride out a storm as we made our way North to Venice for the winter.  There is a a beautiful colosseum that rises up very close to the marina.  The wind was beginning to pick up and dark, menacing clouds were beginning to form.  This created some challenges for docking.  The marina had given us a spot on the inside of one of the pontoons lined with large boats and a narrow channel.  On top of that, we had a fairly strong cross wind.  Because our boat is a catamaran, it has very high sides which the wind loves to take advantage of and push us where we don’t want to go.  It took us 3 attempts to get Zoe docked and tied up!  But hey, any time you can dock without hitting another boat or the dock is a score, and we will take as many attempts as necessary to ensure success.  Since the rain had not yet started, we decided to take the opportunity to get off the boat and wander into the old town for a nice walk.  We stumbled onto a fun little concert happening in the square, so we stopped for a drink and a listen.  We then decided to head back to the boat.  On our way, a wedding procession was driving down the road.  They definitely know how to do a car procession here!  The lead car had two gigantic flags waving out of the windows on each side of the car.  The second car was waving these very bright flares.  All the cars were honking and waving.  It was quite the spectacle to witness.  As predicted, the rain began and increased in intensity.  

ACI Marina Pula….getting close!
Sampling local olive oils at the Pula Olive Oil museum

Captain’s Log Day 5:

We awoke this morning to heavy rain and gusty wind.  We were happy to be tucked safely in our marina.  Once again….we are “Two Trapped on a Boat.”  The rain has been relentless, and the really big winds are slated to start tonight and through the next two days 🙁 

The feared Bura wind is named after the Greek god of Wind – Boreas
When stuck in a Bura…what should you do?

Captain’s Log Day 6, 7, 8:

Needless to say, we ended up staying a little longer than expected.  The weather was horrible, as predicted, so most of our time was again spent trapped on the boat.  On day 7, the wind gusts were particularly bad, and the stern of our boat banged into the dock.  Dan and I immediately scrambled out on deck to pull us up tighter on our front lines.  In these kinds of winds and with the boat weighing about 15 tons, this required us to use the motors to help keep the pressure off the lines while pulling them tighter.  Unfortunately, Dan decided superhuman strength was needed and tweaked his back.  This was not overly apparent until the next day.  The weather finally cleared, and it was time for us to make our way north on the eastern side of the Istrian peninsula since Dan’s mom and son would be arriving soon.

Laundry day means deciphering directions in Croatian…

Captain’s Log Day 9:

The day was calm and the seas were flat (which still meant no sailing).  Our plan was to find a nice anchorage for a few days before arriving at the next marina.  Following our pilot book, we pulled into several different anchorages that no longer looked anything like the pictures we saw in the book.  After repeated failed attempts to find the right spot, we threw up our hands and decided to head to the quaint seaside village of Rabac where we would tie up to the town quay.  After 8 hours of cruising from our last home to this new one, we were finally tied up.  Unfortunately, we were handed a few more lessons on this excursion as well.  By now, Dan’s back is giving him a lot of trouble, and he is in a tremendous amount of pain.  The bay we are tied up in turns out to be very bouncy which requires a great deal of line adjustment to avoid smacking our boat on the stone wall.  This has now fallen squarely on my shoulders since Dan is down for the count doing anything strenuous with his back.  The other piece of fun is that the town wall is super high and uneven which means our plank is very precarious (a steep angle and very wobbly) to walk across.  We pay for 2 nights and settle in.

Captain’s Log Day 10:

Well, things have gone from bad to worse.  Dan’s back goes completely out, and he is frozen in place down in the hallway of our hull.  He can’t move, turn, walk….nothing.  This goes on for 45 minutes before we can finally get him up to the main floor of the boat.  This is bad….really, really bad.  We are also continuing to pitch around and on alert to avoid hitting the wall.  He finally agrees that it’s time to see a doctor.  I am slightly panicked because I cannot undock and dock this boat alone.  After making some phone calls, he gets set up with an appointment for the next day in the city of Rijeka, about a 1/2 hour drive from where we are scheduled to tie up 3 days later.  We decide it’s time to go despite having paid for 2 nights (one of those lessons I mentioned earlier….never pre-pay more than one day on a town quay).  I quickly drop lines and we begin our journey further north.  We are both a little stressed because we have not yet received confirmation that the marina we are headed to can accommodate us coming in 3 days earlier than planned.  It is a 2 hour cruise to the marina and if they can’t take us, the only other marina that might be able to accommodate us is 4 hours back south to the island of Cres (where I lived last spring).  Eventually we hear from the marina and all is good…..whew!  Dan was at least able to drive us in, but fully muscling the lines was all on me now (along with any other physically strenuous task!)  We walked along the beautiful seaside boardwalk to go pick up our rental car.  This would be our next great challenge.  Dan can barely get into and out of the car, and I have to be his neck in watching for oncoming traffic since he can’t twist his body.  He also requires a lot of assistance to get up from sitting and getting dressed.  This has gotten really bad, and we are now both strategizing on what we will do if this becomes the end of our sailing season.  Adding insult to injury, we MUST have our boat in Montenegro by September in order to avoid paying a 25% VAT (tax) on her.  We also have the Schengen dance that we are doing (a fun bit of country hopping that we have to do in order to be in this part of the world legally).

Beautiful views heading up the Croatian coast of Istria
Next ACI Marina- this one in Opatija. 80% premium for catamarans. Ouch!

Captain’s Log Day 11:  

We painfully arrived at a specialized hospital to see a neurosurgeon about Dan’s back.  We will forever be grateful to Dan’s distant cousin Kristian for arranging all of this for us.  This turned out to be a remarkable experience.  Not only did Dan get seen 20 minutes early, but they immediately did an MRI and had us back in the doctor’s office reviewing the images instantly.  It turns out he has a bulging disc and some compressed nerves.  The doctor gives him a shot and a couple of prescriptions for pain relief, and books him an appointment to return in 2 days.  Here is the amazing part….we did not need to fill out any paperwork and our entire bill for this experience (keep in mind, we are not using insurance) was $250!!!  Are you kidding me?  Our out of pocket with insurance would’ve been a great deal more in the US.  The doctor (and us) are hoping that with time and rest, his back will heal itself.  In the meantime, the poor guy struggles to stand up, drive, or even bend over.  We are hoping for the best, and praying that our sailing season is not coming to an abrupt end.  Fortunately, we are safely tied up in a beautiful marina in the town of Ićići.  Unfortunately, it is very expensive and once again killing our marina budget.  Oh well, what are you going to do?

Captain’s Log Day 12:

Today we welcomed our first visitors of the year onto Zoe. We had the pleasure of meeting the man who was our broker when we bought Zoe. Up to this point, our contact had only been via email and phone. We were excited to finally meet him in person. He and his wife and child joined us on board before heading to a lovely little fishing village called Volosko. He has also been a huge source of help and guidance whenever we have needed it. We definitely feel blessed for the friends and family we have in this part of the world! Tomorrow, we will drive 2 hours to the capital city of Zagreb to pick up Dan’s mom and son. This should be an adventure in and of itself given Dan is still in a lot of pain and can’t sit for very long. Our next post should entail more sights and adventures…..I hope. But hey! This is life on a boat, right?

Zvonimir and his family came by for a visit….our first time meeting!