Back in time: My boating experience as a beginner, and moving on
>> Croatia motor boat charter in June 1991
>> My attempts at boating in the following years, and a fresh start in the UK
>> Croatia motor boat charter in June 2000
>> UK from 2000
Motor Cruise, 22 – 28 June 1991, from Zadar to its archipelago
An eager but somewhat naive and flawed first motor boat trip, at the outbreak of the Yugoslav Wars.
[I have written this cruise log in hindsight. Much of it is from memory, therefore some details may be inaccurate]
I was living in Vienna and had started being interested in sailing and boats. Anne and I had been to Dalmatia on a land-based holiday around Hvar in the summer of 1990, and liked it a lot. We had rented a small dinghy for an afternoon, and loved the water.
I had been talking to two friendly colleagues from my lab, who had done a couple of motor boat trips in Croatia and were fond of them. The plan for our first trip was to join them on a week's cruise in June. They chartered a motor boat to suit the four of us, but, unfortunately backed out closer to the start date, due to worrying news in the media about the risk of an impending war in Yugoslavia.
Anyhow, I was feeling optimistic and adventurous, and we were keen to proceed on our own.
I had obtained a Croatian boat license ("Küstenpatent") in 1988 so was able to charter a boat on my own.
To save money, we wanted to change the booking to a slightly smaller model for just the two of us. We took another look into the 1991 Sunturist brochure:
The choice of boats of interest to us is between several GRP motor boats from 8 to 9.7 meters length.
Those are displacement boats from local yards, they are basic but practical and sturdy; they have inboard Diesel engines and allow slow but steady cruising.
I do not have any hands-on knowledge of boats; like most first-timers and sun holiday crews, we choose by the number of berths, the layout, and the price. A Donat 800 with 2+2 berths seems nice enough on paper and should be fine for us; we are looking forward.
It will be the first time I'm in charge of a boat, and I'm eager to prepare myself well. I review the notes of the boat course I had attended, and then spend a full afternoon with an experienced colleague who holds a yachtmaster license, quizzing him about his sailing know-how in Dalmatia.
Zadar (marina Borik) - Kukljica (Ugljan) - Sali - Telascica (Dugi Otok) - Iz Veli (Iz) - Bozava (Dugi Otok) - Veli Rat/Pantera bay (Dugi Otok) - Zadar.
Total mileage on this trip: about 83nm
The small circles in the green line mark our overnight stops: Zdrelac passage (Ugljan) - Mir cove (Dugi Otok)- Iz Veli harbour - Bozava harbour - Veli Rat/Verunic - Borik marina (Zadar)
Boat: Donat GRP motor boat, length around 8.0m (27ft), displacement hull, single inboard diesel engine on shaft drive.
Charter operator: “Sunturist” (Yugoslavia), booking via Krisa GesmbH (Vienna)
Crew: Wilhelm, Anne
June 21, Friday. Journey by car from Vienna to Zadar
Our boat is based in Marina Borik near Zadar.
June 22, Saturday. Marina Borik. Zadar to Ugljan / Pasman passage
Beautiful clear skies and calm weather, a good day for taking the boat over and casting off.
We go through the handover procedure of our boat with our charter operator, and it gets completed without problems.
Instead of an electric fridge the boat has got a large ice box. Handled carefully, this turns out to be practical and efficient, and has got the huge advantage of not running the battery down. The toilet seems to be a DIY modified domestic unit rather than a proper ship's toilet, but it works. The discharge is, of course, direct to sea. All on the boat seems to be simple but is working, and quite adequate for a week's holiday in summerly weather.
Then - as soon as we are ready and trying to leave berth first time - a mooring rope gets in the way. It gets caught in the prop. Oh dear, the boat is hanging on it helplessly without power; that's an embarrassing start. I had not looked out around the boat properly.
A diver is called to free the prop, and I have to pay a fee.
Finally we get out of the marina and head south across the Zadar channel.
Finally having left marina Borik, looking back.
The boat’s naturally aspirated diesel engine appears to run reliably, but is quite noisy.
After cruising along at 7 knots for an hour or so we arrive at the Zdrelac passage, between the islands of Ugljan and Pasman.
Our plan is to anchor in the wide and protected passage, and stay for the night.
It’s our first anchor manoeuvre, and I am anxious to get it right. The ground is said to be rocky in places.
There are only few boats around, and I anchor near a trawler yacht, and later have a few words with the owner who appears to be an experienced captain.
Anchored in the northwest part of the ample Zdrelac passage, nearer to Ugljan. This is our first night at anchor.
All seems fine, but I’m still a little nervous about the holding of our anchor; the evening is quiet and the night perfectly calm, no problems arise.
June 23, Sunday. To Sali / Dugi Otok, and on to Telascica and Mir cove
A sunny and calm day rises. It's Anne's birthday, but we aren't making a big fuss of it
We motor straight across the Srednji channel towards the island Dugi Otok (Long Island), and have a look around Sali harbour. Sali has not stayed in my memory.
Then we continue towards Katina island, and take the narrow passage between it and Kornat island.
Helmsman at work.
It's traditional chart and compass based navigation, and steering by hand; no GPS, no auto pilot, but there is a depth sounder.
The passage we have to use is Vela Proversa ('Large Proversa' passage). [The more direct route via Mala Proversa, the 'Small Proversa' passage on the north side of Katina island had at that time not yet been blasted open to allow navigation].
In its shallowest part the Vela Proversa passage is said to be only 1.9m deep. Navigating the leading line through the passage, which is marked on stone cones ashore, is a thrilling experience because you know that there are hard rocks in the shallow parts on both sides.
This is the entrance to the Kornati area, where we turn north towards the Telascica bay on Dugi Otok, today's target.
Once inside Telascica, we have the beautiful bay almost to ourselves, and drive up to its head. Then back to Mir cove, where we tie up alongside the public pier for the night. There are only one or two other boats around.
The quiet experience of nature is magical, we truly enjoy the bay.
In the morning we get 'visitors'.
Beautiful morning in Mir cove, tied up alongside
[There were no Nature Park fees and wardens.Today, Telascica with its salt lake is a busy tourists' hotspot. Daily entrance fees are charged, and in season hundreds of day tourists arrive at Mir cove on numerous trip boats which raft up on jetties three and more deep. Multiple rows of mooring buoys are occupied by visiting yachts.]
June 24, Monday. From Telascica to the island of Iz
Mir cove. "Mir" means "peace", and a safe and peaceful haven it was (but, note the guard vessel in the background).
Leaving Telascica we return the way we came, through the Vela Proversa passage, this time going towards the mainland.
Navigation through Vela Provera passage at Katina island (to the right and in the background), looking back. It might look like a wide passage, but you have to keep to a narrow navigation channel, steering on a line marked at both ends by aligning white/black paint marks on rocks ashore.
Once past Katina, we turn northwest and motor towards the island of Iz, leaving Lavdara island to port.
We have chosen the small marina at Veli Iz to stay for this night.
Our first harbour manoeuvre proves to be tricky, despite calm weather conditions.
Our boat has got a single prop on a shaft drive (of course, no bow thruster).
Having read once about prop walk and wash is of no help when asked to handle the actual boat in a real berthing situation in a harbour first time.
Furthermore, the engine noise in the wheelhouse is so intense, that I have no chance to hear what Anne, who is outside on the front deck, desperately tries to tell me, nor do I hear the gesticulating helper/marinaio ashore.
I keep messing up the docking manoeuvre, acting like a deaf fool behind the wheel.
[I had believed that one could learn all you need from a script, and had ignored the importance of practising; all experience I had got at that stage was steering a dinghy with an outboard engine on a couple of occasions.]
Eventually the boat gets into its berthing position, still undamaged, and is tied up.
We get chatting to one of the people who helped, the friendly skipper of a Bavarian sailing yacht. He is cruising with two friends who are co-owners of the boat. I feel I need to talk to him about the difficulties I had with berthing. Of course, I blame it all on the primitive boat and its terrible prop walk. I am only too pleased when he shows empathy; oh no, no, it wasn't my fault, he probably could not have done much better himself... how sweet that sounds to me.
It is our first island harbour, and the boat is tied up safely. In the evening we go out to Iz village together with our new friends to have dinner. It's going to be a good evening, and we have plenty of local wine.
Finally getting back to the boat I go to bed and fall asleep instantly.
Later that night Anne has an accident when leaving the boat to go to the toilet block: She slips off the passarella, and falls down between the boat and the sharp-edged quay wall. Her leg gets wounded badly.
The Bavarian skipper is still around, hears her and is ready to help. He finds the doctor’s house and helps her to the doctor who attends to the wound. It needs stitching and dressing.
"Wilhelm keeps asleep during all that time despite attempts to wake him, like comatose”. So I am told the next morning.
I feel sorry about Anne's accident, but do not see any fault on my side, not even for being unable to help. My view is, that my duty as helmsman and navigator had ended as soon as the boat was tied up ashore, and, that all adults needed to look after themselves in the end.
[That was a regrettable mistake; I had ignored the skipper's duty. He is of course in charge of the safety of his boat and crew at all times, whether under way or moored.
In hindsight, what could have led to the accident, apart from influence of booze and tiredness? During the night the sea level must have fallen. As a consequence, the boat may have moved, its distance and height to the quay changed. Quite possibly it got hazardous to get ashore and back on deck, given the awkward nature of simple passarellas; but a novice may not have enough skills to notice and manage unexpected dangers in the dark.]
25.6. Tuesday. Bozava (Dugi Otok)
Another lovely bright and calm day rises (we have started taking this for granted!).
As soon as matters are settled in Iz Veli marina, we are ready to sail towards the small harbour of Bozava on Dugi Otok, together with the Bavarian sailors who have recommended the harbour, only 11nm to go.
Anne has to take it easy, she must be careful to keep the bandage on her leg dry.
Bozava is quiet and laid back. It seems another pleasant place. The unstable political situation is clearly doing its own to scare away tourists.
After berthing, we have beer in the harbour side Konoba right by the pier.
That particular 'Mediterranean' feeling, a warm evening under pine trees, with nothing disturbing the peace, is going to last in my memory.
At Bozava; clear water even inside the harbour
The Bavarian skipper, a true captain
Evening is setting in, we are getting ready to go into the village to have dinner.
Bozava harbour pier in the evening sun. Our cruiser is the small motor boat with its red tender. Next to it lies Carina, the sailing yacht of our Bavarian friends.
26.6. Wednesday. Pantera bay and Veli Rat
We say au revoir to the Bavarians, and move on towards the north tip of Dugi Otok.
A restaurant with jetty in Veli Rat/Cuna cove invites for an overnight stay. Even for a small boat like ours, the water depth is low at this jetty.
Across the impressing large Pantera bay, then passing Veli Rat towards the sheltered shallow Cuna cove.
Over night the water level sinks further, as could have been expected. The boat seems to slightly touch ground in the morning.
Anyhow, the bottom is soft mud, so it does not cause any problem, and we re-float happily once the water rises.
27.6. Thursday. The threat of war is looming large - going back to the base
On my portable multi-band radio we hear news about military movements and boarder closings between Croatia and Slovenia. The war has been closing in, just what we had hoped would not happen so soon.
We do not want to get stuck in the car en route in Croatia or Slovenia, or to be on a road together with tanks and soldiers. So we decide to return to our home marina Borik the same day.
We intend to get ready to leave from Zadar the following morning, one day before the scheduled end of our charter.
So we motor back all the way, past the northwest tips of islands Tun and Sestrunj towards Ugljan and then across the channel to Zadar, and berth in our charter base Marina Borik.
no caption needed
back in Marina Borik
28.6. Friday. Getting out of the way of war: Ferry Zadar – Venice
The most convenient way to escape trouble, and even get a pleasant end of the holiday, seems to take a car ferry to Italy.
We book the Jadrolinija service from Zadar to Venice, and have another beautiful time at sea - of a different kind of sailing.
At Zadar - business as usual, no worries. Sun, beer, cigarettes and happy faces.
Car Ferry Zadar to Venice. Surprisingly in hindsight, there was no problem getting tickets for this service on June 28th
29.6. Saturday. Venice and return to Vienna
Arriving in Venice is always a nice experience. From here we can drive back to Vienna easily.
Costs: Boat charter price (1991): ATS 8600 (Euro 627)
Ferry Zadar-Venice: 2 passengers 1400 Kn (Euro 184), car (Ford Sierra) 1230 Kn (Euro 161)
In summary, we spent a week under the sun, blessed with warm, calm and stable weather, and surrounded by beautiful nature.
We have been to beautiful bays and pleasant small harbours. Together with the friendliness of the local people and modest prices, this has been a nice experience.
However, it could have been much better, had there not been the accident and other troubles which - in hindsight - were related to my lack of practical experience and precaution.
Looking back at some of the nice memories from this trip ...
Moored at Bozava (Dugi Otok)
One of nature's highlights - Mir cove / Telascica
NOTES ABOUT MY BOATING IN THE YEARS FOLLOWING 1991
LIVING IN AUSTRIA
In 1992, living in Vienna, I obtain a license for 10m motor boats on inland waters. I join a friend in purchasing a rib to be used on the Danube; but for some reasons it does not fulfil the expectations and is hardly used.
I am not someone who was born with sea legs, but I keep up my interest in getting a coastal sailing license. I enrol on a training course with the well- known sailing school Hofbauer in Vienna.
Unfortunately, I have a bad experience on my first practice sail training trip in the Adriatic sea in October 1992, starting from Portoroz (Slovenia):
We are on a 47 ft (14.2m) yacht, packed to the gunwales with 10 other trainees, and led by an instructor, who seemed better as a sailor than as a coach. He is co-owner of that training vessel - an unfortunate conflict of interest. I remember him shouting at a trainee, apparently worried that someone might do harm to his precious personal investment. I may be too shy, but I feel discouraged and rather try to avoid doing tasks on his yacht than exploring and practising them.
What's worse, his decision to cross the notorious Kvarner Bay in stormy weather turns out 'sickening' to most of us - yes, in its literal terrible meaning. The traumatic first time experience leaves me with hardly any confidence in my yachting abilities at all.
I start dreading the thought of having to do such a frustrating trip ever again, whether for training and exam purposes or else. In fact, despite having passed the shore-based exam in 1993, I never went back on one of their yachts. I have never again - touch wood! - been seasick after that; but crossing the Kvarner still commands huge respect to this day.
In early August 1993 I join two friends of a friend for two weeks sailing in the northern Dalmatian islands. My target is to gather experience and miles needed to qualify for the practical exam. They own a 33ft (10m) yacht based in Pula, and turn out to be nice guys and bold, but rather care-free, sailors.
I like several aspects of this trip, which takes us to places such as Losinj, Iz, the Kornati islands, Telascica, Zut, Murter and Silba, further on to Rab, Krk and Cres. But, I am neither proficient nor at ease being crew, and not much of an asset on board I am afraid.
We do 422 miles in two weeks, and two full night trips. I admit that I am far less sporting than they are; I am not fond of 'racing' the yacht all day, and find struggling with the spinnaker rather unrewarding.
More importantly, however, I remember feeling uncomfortable facing the numerous 'challenges' and 'near-misses' that keep arising regularly during this trip.
I start taking it for granted, that dealing daily with unfortunate incidents and (near) accidents is what yachting is all about.
'Sudden and unforeseeable' weather hazards forcing emergency escapes seem to be just the norm, and inevitable.
How would I ever be able to cope with all that hassle and threat if I was in charge of the boat? Very well then, so much for yachting.
In summer 1994 I move to England, and have got other things on my mind than sailing; I miss deadlines to progress and complete the Austrian license.
Later in 1998, having moved to a house in Kew by the tidal river Thames, with a handy pontoon nearby, the desire to have one's own small boat emerges.
LIVING IN ENGLAND
Anyhow, two years on, in May 1996, I am offered the opportunity to join a two weeks' sailing trip through the Cycladic Islands with friends from Vienna. We are five calm guys on a comfortable 41ft (12.5m) yacht. This time it's about relaxed cruising and exploring interesting sites; it's a pleasant hassle-free trip, we are blessed with good weather and having a good time. I am grateful to our skilled skipper and his experienced friends.
I also participate in a couple of sailing weekends on the English south coast with business friends, which go well.
These positive experiences rekindle my interest to get involved with yachting once more: Anyhow, I have realized that I loathe being just 'non-confident' crew, and that I must make a new effort if I wanted to be skipper.
Later in this year I decide to turn the page on my previous learning experience, and take up the Royal Yachting Association RYA training scheme from scratch: I enrol in a remote learning course, and book practical sailing training weekends with Southern Sailing out of Southampton. Those are on smaller sea boats, with a maximum of 4 trainees to one friendly coach.
To me, this brings about the 'turn of the tide'; in the tidal Atlantic waters off the English south coast, sailing is a down-to-earth activity. There is not a bit of the unnecessarily stressful and unnerving style of the previous training and experience. I feel comfortable with taking on all those jobs at hand on a yacht, start enjoying it and being at ease, even on a simple yacht in British late autumn weather... with the ETA at the pub in good time for the last orders.
I further do practical sail training out of Gibraltar in the following year.
I get Jane interested, and we start looking on the used boat market. By end of October I buy our first little motor cruiser, an older Sealine 255 of 26ft (8m), to be kept on the river Thames.
Slowly I am getting to grips with handling a twin outdrive motor boat.
In April 2000 Jane and I go on a week's RYA practical motor yacht coaching in Gomera/Canary islands. My intention is to extend my coastal skipper license from sail to motor, and Jane is going to acquire competent crew skills.
With a relaxed mature skipper trainer on a private charter yacht, under - for Gomera - unusual and extremely stormy weather conditions, this is a valuable experience for both of us.
I convince Jane, who has never been to Croatia, that Dalmatia is a nice cruising ground and quite different from the Canaries.
In June 2000 we embark on our first charter trip in post-war Croatia.
At that stage, we are in our early days of practical Med cruising experience, and are exploring. However, I am no longer a novice to yachting.
There is still a long way to go before we will be aware of the best kind of boat for us, and be confident in all Med manoeuvres.
But I know what I am doing, we are well and safe, and are enjoying it as we go.
This trip of 2000 will mark the start of a series of annual charter trips, where we will be trying different kinds of motor yachts.
This experience will eventually help making a decision when it's time to think about having our own boat for the Med.
Cruise to the Dalmatian islands south of Split, June 17th - 24th, 2000
Our first trip in post-war Croatia
ITINERARY Marina Kremik/Primosten - Milna (Brac island) - Bol - Starigrad (Hvar island) - Lovcisce (Scedro island) - Korcula town (Korcula island) - Soline/Sv Clement (Hvar archipelago) - Palmizana marina - Hvar town - Milna - Necujam bay (Solta island) - Primosten - Kremik.
Boat: "Red Lobster", Bayliner 2755 (ca.8.5m), single Mercruiser petrol engine on stern drive
Crew: Wilhelm, Jane
Total mileage: 206 nm (32 - 24 - 50 - 48 - 52 nm)
I have read a favourable report about an Austrian motor boat charter company who offers a 34 feet twin diesel engines sports cruiser, which is a similar specification to my own boat in England at that time. Unfortunately the boat isn't available in the week we want to book, and I am not willing to go for one of their larger and more expensive fly-bridge yachts, which I consider to be oversized for us two.
They refer us to an operator in the same marina, Kremik, who has a smaller and cheaper motor boat available. I agree to go for it; but I am soon going to learn that the rules here are not different from elsewhere: You get what you pay for, what looks like a good bargain might have unexpected downsides..
Anyhow, during this first Croatia trip we are getting amazed and charmed as we visit the nicest places with complete ease and relaxation in glorious weather.
If the last sentence sounds like the 'Golden Old Days', that is indeed intended: Back in the early 2000s was a perfect time to explore coastal Croatia.
* Dalmatia had for decades been a favourite cruising ground for Austrian and German sailors, but was only just starting to attract international attention as a yachting destination. In 2000 not many people in England knew Croatia well, some were not even sure whether the war was over yet and it was safe to go there.
* All of Croatia's unique and pristine features were on offer, a full nautical infrastructure was available and welcoming the yachtsman. All that nature, history and hospitality have to offer, was there, and all under the sun without crowds anywhere. That's as close as you can get to boaters' paradise.
* None of the horrid developments in the wake of aggressive tourism increase, which we have to suffer nowadays, had started: Oversized yacht charter fleets marketed to sun tourists with no experience, inconsiderateness and hooliganism of uncivilized crews, overcrowded harbours, marinas and buoy fields, disruptive party week flotillas of up to100 boats, run by unscrupulous internet holiday operators, year on year price hikes, excessive fees - all that was not even imaginable in the early 2000s.
Saturday June 17th. Getting out with a late start
Our Croatian Airlines flight from Heathrow to Split scheduled for 4.40 pm is not ready due to problems with BA's main computer system. Already on the airport, we turn back home, and later, after struggling to get up to date information, get to the airport at 10pm. The flight finally takes off by 11:30 pm and arrives at Split at 3 am local time on Sunday!
Luckily, our taxi driver at Split has been monitoring flight arrivals and is spot on to greet us even at this unearthly hour; we arrive at the Kremik marina 3:45 am, find our boat “MY Silvi”, and finally go to sleep at 5am.
M/Y Silvi is an older Sea Ray 268 sports cruiser with twin petrol engines. It looks a bit tired and its green hull has faded in the sun, but in one outstanding feature this craft can rival any gin palace: Its sheer number of cup holders dotted all around the deck.
Sunday June 18th. First day, and more difficulties.
We have a late start to recover from the travel stress. Sort out paper work and try to get the food shopping done. Part of our list is still missing but by that time the store is closed and will reopen Monday morning..
Next step is to familiarise ourselves properly with the great grand motor yacht.
Weather seems to get a bit windy, and outside at sea white horses are seen. Yes, confirms our charter guy, when wind gets up like this the sea is "no place for small boats, they quickly huddle up in harbour. Only big guys can still go". Listening to the wise man we decide to stay in the marina this night, and to get all necessary shopping done next morning, and start from there.
View of Kremik marina from the restaurant (no floating pontoons yet; photo taken in the following year, 2001)
Later in the afternoon we check MY Silvi out and find that the controls on one of the engines are tricky; the engine cuts out when changing gear from forward to neutral or reverse. Having experienced awry mooring manoeuvres myself, I am very worried what might be coming towards me. I ask the owner/charter operator, he is unable to sort out the problem but promises a mechanic friend will be available Monday morning.
We have a pleasant dinner at the Kremik marina restaurant.
Mon June 19th. First day at sea, finally.
Unfortunately the gear/throttle problem cannot be resolved, so I ask if there is a replacement boat available; we are offered "Red Lobster", a similar sized Bayliner (2755), owned by a friend of his. It is a planing boat as well, but with a single large Mercruiser petrol engine; it needs to be prepared first, they say.
A single engine is of course not ideal, but its different layout offers sufficient space for us both, and it looks a little newer, so I agree.
Finally, we set off at lunch time.
Jane has bought us the brand new Navigational Guide to the Adriatic, Croatian Coast (2000), in the English language and with nice photos and plenty of information. I believe it is the first guide of its kind in English, for an area which has so far mainly been covered by german and italian publications.
We set route for Milna harbour/marina on Brac. Some wind is coming from the west, but it is from the aft quarter and so our cruise is fine.
On route we stop and anchor in a bay on Solta for a swim, which is great; but it appears that our anchor is not holding well.
Soon we continue on the short leg to Milna (island Brac).
By that time the boat's GPS has given up its ghost, so I can put my small hand held unit, which I brought with me, to good use.
Mooring up in ACI marina Milna turns out to be a bit of an experience, due to an awkward to reach berth (at least that's what I think at the time!) with an unfamiliar single engined boat which shows a strong prop effect going astern. So, the manoeuvre takes us close to the moorings of local fishing boats. Add to this a shouting and gesticulating marinaio who cannot believe that there could be anyone on the water who is not an old hand at all aspects of their Mediterranean way of mooring. (That unpleasant practise of picking up and pulling the boat with a muddy slimy dripping rope which is fixed to the sea bed somewhere in the middle of the harbour).
After tying up safely without having done any damage we relax with a drink and enjoy the lovely and picturesque old fishing harbour of Milna with its excellent new marina.
Milna ACI marina in old town harbour. Red Lobster is the small sports cruiser, third on the pier, with a blue stripe on the gunwale. The prominent large house next to the church was not a ruin then, but had a newish looking roof.
Jane logs "I think the main problem is this strange method of mooring stern to shore with a light pick up rope on a bigger mooring rope and chain in the front - very peculiar".
Shortly later I decide to try starting the engine up again, just as a test. This doesn't go well; not only does the engine refuse to fire, the noise and bleeping sound in the tranquil atmosphere around us are quite annoying, so I decide to face the problem if it occurs again, on the next morning.
Leaving the boat, we have to find that the cabin lock has got a problem, but decide to ignore it - why worry, there are only honest people around us for sure…
We sit down for a wonderful fresh fish dinner in the old part of the harbour, in what can be only fairly described as a film set - just ancient and quaint, and without annoying signs of tourism as we find them in countries further west.
We wonder about the economy and the level of income of the locals... anyhow, after several glasses of wine we amble back to the boat.
Alarmingly (to those who think that in the “non-tidal Med" the sea level must be constant at all times…) the water, and with it the passarella, has dropped by about a foot - "we must say we hate those things", but get back on board and bed down for the night.
Tuesday June 20th A dodgy engine and Jane’s birthday gets overlooked
Today is Jane's birthday but the self-absorbed distraught skipper appears to be oblivious to this most important date in the annual calender (!) … anyway, Jane waits patiently without saying anything. And, it's a wonderful morning in fabulous surroundings. Fishing boats depart around 2 to 3am, sailing yachts around 6am, and church bells authoritatively demand attention at 7am; a very nice looking very old church it is indeed, and has got very loud bells, too.
Navigator Jane plots today's route
We shower, have breakfast and are underway by 11:30 am. Jane has plotted the route along the South coast of Brac to visit Bol, and then on to a large anchor bay in the Starigradski canal, on the NW coast of Hvar, where we anchor successfully (on the 2nd attempt), and have some lunch. It is one of the arms of the Tiha cove.
Time in the sunny afternoon is spent studying and rowing about in the dinghy, and sun bathing.
Sunny afternoon at anchor in a cove near Starigrad (Hvar)
By 5 pm we feel ready to leave the lovely quiet bay and head for Palmizana marina/Hvar for the night.
But fate is not with this plan of ours; we appear to have developed an engine problem; no way to get the monster up and running. Suspecting a mere carburettor flooding I wait a while and try again, but without luck. Call the owner, he suggests tricks we have already tried. Final suggestion is to rig the dinghy's tiny outboard engine and try to slowly get to Starigrad, 3 miles away. No problem as the weather is calm and balmy.
Anyhow, we are less than delighted, and ask the sailing yacht which is anchored next to us, whether they were going to Starigrad and maybe could give us a tow… they decline, explaining that they are anchored for the night. We get underway, probably making about 1kn.
After only a short distance of struggling we see the yacht, called Moonraker, coming towards us to assist us - they must have watched us and taken pity. Excellent sailors and great people, thank goodness.
Willi is of course furious with the owner to have let us get into this situation, probably through sloppy engine maintenance. Anyhow, we are towed to Starigrad, and the kind captain of Moonraker collects his tow line. We shout a big thanks and ask what we can give them in return; the answer is a bottle of gin would be welcome. They leave and we buy a bottle later, in the hope we may catch up with them soon.
Powerless in a power boat we get roped along by some kind yachties and end up alongside the pier at the harbour entrance.
Later on Willi tries the engine again, after a call from the owner giving another “trick“ to try and - guess what- it starts. Thank god we hadn't tried this in the presence of our selfless rescuers, what an embarrassment would this have been.
The skipper is now in a slightly gloomy mood which is not helped by encouraging comments from Jane, who infers he may have forgotten her birthday … Anyhow, we have a lovely meal in a family run restaurant and, after all, finish Jane's birthday happily.
"Powerless": Red Lobster on the communal pier at the entrance of Starigrad harbour
Wed June 21st Towards the South and Korcula.
After a good peaceful night we manage to slip away from the quay without paying any harbour dues; we had been moored next to some commercial craft, yachts usually go further inside to the yachting quay.
The engine seems to be ok so there is no need for a mechanic. Once out of the Starigrad channel we discharge our holding tank which got full - I wonder whether that could have been all ours.
Head for Sveti Clement and Palmizana marina, and do a harbour tour in nearby Hvar town - really a nice old town and very nice harbour.
Seas are flat so we press on and have a smooth ride to Lovisce cove on Scedro island. Stop at anchor in SE bay, for a swim, then change to E bay and see a restaurant that had been mentioned in David’s log.
Leave and drive on through the Korcula channel and towards Korcula old town, with some SW wind in the channel.
Approaching picturesque Korcula walled Old Town from the West on a sunny afternoon is a highlight for any mariner. Even more so, when it's your first time and you are practically the only boat around.
Moor up in Korcula town marina (ACI), east of old town, this time without any hiccups - happy bunnies!
Have a drink on board, in very hot sun, before getting ready to explore the town before dinner.
Lovely medieval Old Town, cleverly laid out to protect against the northerly bora but allowing the mild SW Mistral to waft through. After visiting the (purported) house of Marco Polo, the local hero, enjoying great views from the top, we have very good dinner at characterful restaurant Addio Mare.
Have coffees and digestives in a quite grand looking hotel on the west harbour front, watching a beautiful sunset. Back on board for a candle lit nightcap and a good rest.
Thursday June 22nd Time to start moving towards the base. Hvar is the next highlight.
Very quiet night (apart from noise from the fridge, so I ultimately switch it off).
Our plan is to go to Palmizana marina at Hvar for the next night.
Leave by 9am, get to the petrol station and fill up, and view islands around Korcula town in passing, including Badija with its beautiful monastery.
Badija monastery on a small island near Korcula town
Then head towards Hvar town, but first to go to a bay. After 2 hours of motoring at 20 kn which is a bit boring and tiring due to engine noises, we reach Soline bay on S side of Sv Klement for lunch, and anchor successfully.
Willi starts (already) being concerned about getting back to base on time, whilst Jane fully enjoys the pretty bay, its clear water, the wonderful sun and peace - just as one imagines paradise.
Anchored in Soline cove, Sv.Klement island, Hvar
Have a good swim and leave for Hvar at 3:30pm; have a look around the harbour, also look for the fuel station but fail to spot it (we hear later it's in a small side arm in the East of the harbour); moor up in Palmizana marina at 4pm - very clean water, children and dogs all swim in the marina.
Marina Palmizana, Sv Klement, Hvar town in the distance
At 6pm take a taxi boat to Hvar old town. Walk to the top of the citadel for its stunning views, and explore the Old Town.
Fabulous view from the fortress over Hvar harbour and archipelago
Nice sightseeing at Hvar town. Franciscan monastery, above.
Have excellent dinner and later stroll around the harbour, leave 10:30 pm back to the marina, the boat ride takes less than 20min.
Next day is our final leg back to Kremik marina.
Friday June 23rd Making best use of our final day at sea.
Leave Palmizana at 8:45am towards Milna, refuel and leave Milna 9:45 am for Necujam bay on the N of Solta, only 8nm from Milna.
Have lunch and a swim and leave at 1pm towards Kremik.
Taking a slow ride whilst leaving Drvenik to port, Jane decides to ride on the bow and sunbathe - which she enjoys but gets sun burnt as the wind does not let one feel the real power of the sun.
Enroute we take a brief look at Frapa marina and around Rogoznica bay - does not seem very notable really. Then make for Primosten and have enough time to anchor on the east side of the bay. Have a good swim and decide to bring mask and snorkel the next year to make use of the crystal clear water down to 10m depth.
On the way back to Kremik, around 7pm, the sea state is flat, the smooth surface glittering eerily in the evening sun as if it was oil.
...outside Kremik marina looking towards Primosten
From marina Kremik we take a taxi to Primosten to explore the old town and have dinner on the harbour front, wonderful fresh fish in a restaurant called Staro Selo. Then walk to the hilltop and enjoy the fabulous view from the cemetery - blissful ancestors enjoying such views perpetually!
We return to the marina and finish the day with a final drink by candle light.
We are thankful to be back safely, despite a dodgy engine, and with only one minor loss - a towel had gone over board in deep water and been quicker to sink than the "man-over-board" manoeuvre to rescue it.
Sat June 24th Returning home.
Cloudy skies (first time in this week) and rumble of thunder at first but clear by 10:00 am.
Have breakfast and nice not overly sweet pastries; refuel the boat and get ready to hand it back.
Waiting for the taxi we notice again the presence of crickets and Mediterranean smells of pine and herbs that grow wild and are also cultivated throughout the islands, lavender, rosemary, thyme, marjoram.
The food in restaurants has been very good, generally with fresh local produce used and a good level of sophistication.
As we discuss what to do "next year" it transpires that this year's experience could mark the start of a series of similar holidays on the Croatian Adriatic sea.
The allurement of the Dalmatian sea ...
>> Croatia Trips 2008 - 2010
Meanwhile in the UK, later in 2000, our small Sealine is taken from London to the south coast, where it reveals its severe limitations in prevailing wind and seas.
I replace it with a larger more seaworthy craft, a used 33ft (10m) Fairline Targa with twin Diesel engines.
'Ileana' at Brixham (Devon)
We base the boat in Southampton, which is fairly easy to reach from London, and are going to have a few good seasons cruising the Solent and nearby south coast, between Brixham and Chichester.
Jane & 'Harry' at Weymouth, and Yarmouth (Isle of Wight)
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