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!
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