SEASON 2017 : MORE CROATIA, MORE PLACES RE-VISITED.
Summary and statistics of our 2017 season.
Same as in previous years, we visit Croatia three times, in June, July and September; each visit is about 3 weeks long. Our home berth is in marina Frapa, Rogoznica, between Split and Sibenik in central Dalmatia.
1. Trip: We spend 11 out of 17 days cruising* (65%), 3 days windy (<=5), 1 day slight rain.
2. Trip: We spend 17 out of 20 days cruising (85%), 3 days are stormy (bora).
3. Trip: We spend 7 out of 20 days cruising (35%), 13 days are rainy, thundery or stormy
* 'cruising' means being on a journey / away from our home berth.
Total mileage in 2017: 675 nm. Engine hours: 87; average Diesel consumption 4.0 ltr/nm
All in all, 2017 is an atypical season for us weather-wise, with an average to dry June, extremely dry and hot July, and an extended period of rainy and stormy weather in September. Our cruising % figures reflect the impact of the weather on our activities.
First Visit : June 4 to 21
A pleasant re-visitation of central and northern Dalmatia in early season
Frapa – Murter/marina Hramina – Katina / restaurant Mare – Dugi Otok/ Pantera bay – Losinj/ marina Mali Losinj – Ilovik / town quay – Dugi Otok/Brbinj Lucina – Zlarin/Zlarin town quay – Frapa
What is new to us? Marina Hramina in Murter for a start; we have come here to get a service job done. The marina surprises me with a lot of mud and shells on the mooring ropes. That’s why Jane always says I should wear gloves …
Favourite places of ours, Katina and restaurant Mare, the Pantera bay and the lively but pleasant harbour of Mali Losinj do not need further descriptions; we have nice calm weather and enjoy them once again.
Arriving at Ilovik, the inner (south) side, of the L shaped quay is full, but there are spaces and moorings on the north side. In NW wind, the berthing manoeuvre is messy because the moorings have not been taken care of apparently. They are tangled and get stuck, or run in a different direction from what was expected. One of the ropes the harbour master has lifted, runs sideways across under our boat and I find out it has got round a prop; I have to dive later and free it. Taking one of the buoys in the channel outside might have been an easier choice; but at the end we are fine and hop on land and off. Outside, on the south side of the quay, I can see some cross-shaped floating pontoons. No boats are on them at that time, it seems to me that they are only suitable for small boats.
Ilovik pier, a ferry stops at its head.
Have dinner in Konoba Oliva, very pleasant and value for money. Weather has become rainy, but that's not for long.
In Brbinj we try Lucina cove this time, the ample cove is empty, but has a large field of brand new “intelligent” white buoys in it. You need to be online to find out which is available, and be able to pay for. The operator is adriabove.com; anyhow, the service is not yet up and running at that time. Nobody attends and there is no charge.
This intelligent beast senses when you lift its handle and reports you to its boss.
Looking at the small restaurant grill Bepo we are at first not sure whether it's open; but no worries, it is fine and we eat there.
The final stop of this trip is Zlarin. Very quiet here, too, we berth alongside on the south side of the pier. A lovely place.
Zlarin pier looking west
Second Visit : July 4 -25
Great time in the summer sun comes with insects and the sights of distant forest fires.
It is high summer, and our aircon pump has developed a problem. I have it swapped with the second which we do not use, but it will need replacement as soon as possible.
We spend two nights in the Sibenik islands at Kakan (Potkucina/Borovnjaci anchorage), then move on to the Kornati and moor up at Opat restaurant. On our way I have heard some childish hooligans abuse VHF radio Ch.16, the emergency/calling channel, to transmit burbs and chants. It's high season, and there are different people around.
In Opat our berth neighbours are family crews from different east European countries; the parents have no idea of appropriate behaviour on a yacht, their children play loud music and are allowed to be noisy and boisterous until late night. We hear that they "are on holiday and must have fun". It is sad how some people's selfish inconsideration and lack of manners can spoil the experience of others in a beautiful cove.
Our next stop in the Kornati is Levrnaka, which is new to us. Konoba Levrnaka is beautifully situated, and has a feeling of quality around it. The T shaped mooring pontoon is substantial and solid, a small fee of 80 kn is charged, that includes electricity in the evenings. Their mooring guy is incompetent, however, maybe we are unlucky that day. (Later addition: He appears to a member of the owner family). Prices are on the high side, but all in all it is value for money.
Konoba Levrnaka in the Kornati
From Levrnaka we move to Murter and berth in Betina marina, to be close to our service people at the shipyard to put in a new aircon pump. We use this opportunity to explore Betina.
Betina's old harbour (on the opposite side of Betina marina) has recently been renovated and is a relaxed place
I can't miss this photo opportunity: Old m/v Susac (1948) at Betina ship yard
Our next trip takes us again to Hvar and Tiha cove for one night; then the "The Yacht Week" flottila's arrival scares us away into Starigrad the next day.
On our way past the west coast of Brac island we watch forest fires develop; there hasn't been rain for two months. There are more fires to come.
We have got a new problem on board; the generator can't be used, its impellor has burnt out due an oversight by a service man. Despite best effort I can't fix it, a short re-visit to marina Betina has to be scheduled. In the meantime we enjoy life without a generator.
A "The Yacht Week" skipper has taken his boat to the harbour to stock up
Feeling good at Starigrad
Back to Frapa, where stronger wind than we like keeps us for 3 days.
After that we are off towards Zut, with a first stop at Murter to get the genny fixed, and on to Zut Pristanisce cove (near Gustac island); we have booked at restaurant (now) called Trabakul. The same family runs a restaurant in Betina. We note that there a three restaurants in this bay, some have moorings, and there are also several buoys.
The reservation has worked, but, on Trabakul's pier Tarilian looks like a whale among small fish, a little embarrassing but ok; the other boat people are friendly and pleasant.
This evening the waiter teaches me everything one needs to know about a John Dory.
On the pontoon, we sometimes notice a whiff of sewage smell, hopefully Trabakul will sort their sanitary installation out.
Zut: Pristanisce, a kind of "micro harbour", and, next to it, restaurant Trabakul with its pontoon platform.
From Zut we move on to the Mare restaurant on Katina and manage to get two days there without long reservation; they are very busy in July. Every night is different; for me it's bliss to have calm weather and quiet neighbours at night.
From Katina we move back south to Kakan and the Borovnjaci anchorage, the usual.
.. keeping an anchor watch ..
We conclude the trip with a visit to Zlarin, nice to be in a port again.
Places like Zlarin harbour remind me of the tourism agency's past slogan "Croatia - the Med as it once was".
Third Visit : September 1 to 21
Previous extremely dry months have left damages; this time we get lots of rain and thunderstorms
Frapa – Zirje/Stupica Vela - Frapa – Hvar/Tiha cove – Brac/Milna marina – Frapa - Zmajan (day trip) - Frapa No phase of stable weather between the end of August and Sept 22, only a couple of 3-day windows to go out. Seven good days out of 21 is all we get. The rest is lost to the Jugo, thunderstorms and rain after rain. Zadar old town gets flooded by record levels of rain.
On the second of the both "opportunities to go out" we visit Tiha cove again, our favourite anchorage on Hvar. On the way we anchor for lunch at Drvenik/Krknjas anchorage, and are a bit shocked about the damage the previous dry and hot months have done to the shrubs and plants.
Several dry months and scorchers have left many smaller shrubs dead
In parts of the Tiha bay (Hvar) wildfires have wreaked havoc; when we arrive in mid September we find it like this
Luckily, "our" part of the cove has been spared. Tonight there are only few yachts visiting. Dinner at the small restaurant in Tiha cove, as idyllic as bays get.
Dinner "al fresco" in September means getting fresh in the evening.
This year we start our first trip early in the season and enjoy an extended period of stable summerly warm weather
Frapa - Murter/Marina Betina - Preko - Dugi Otok/Pantera Bay - Ist - Molat - Katina - Kakan - Zlarin - Zirje/Stupica Vela - Frapa - Hvar/Tiha Bay - Starigrad - Frapa
As if it was a compensation for last September's nasty rains and storms, Dalmatia greets us with balmy temperatures and beautiful sunshine in May. Apart from 3 or 4 days of inclement weather during the period, which include an abysmal thunderstorm night on June 8, we enjoy good conditions for motor boaters in low winds with lots of sun. Even the water is swimmable in May, quite a treat.
First couple of days are spent with snagging around the boat and enjoying the warm sun.
May 24, Thursday, after a day of rain, we leave for Betina to pay a visit to our engineering company and pick up some new covers.
Next morning we visit the award winning museum of wooden boat building history, an ambitious local project. Betina old harbour has been refurbished, looking posh and inviting to the crowds of summer tourists expected. Note the traditional boats.
The following day, Friday May 25th, we continue our NW course to Preko, where we are greeted by Stuart and his competent ladies' crew, fellow Cruising Association members and owners of a sistership of Tarilian.
Our friend takes a great shot of us arriving at Preko
Traders meet at marina Preko: Three Stars on the left, Tarilian to the right.
After being invited for drinks on Three Stars, and duly marvelling at each other's boat, we have some good nautical natter; spend a nice evening having dinner at Roko's in the harbour.
May 26th, Saturday. Making use of the good weather forecast, we continue to the north end of Dugi Otok and take a buoy in Pantera bay to stay overnight. There is only a handful of yachts in the whole huge bay, all is really quiet and pleasant. Dinner at Gorgonia grill at the entrance of Cuna cove, opposite Veli Rat village, simple but good. They are surprised about the number of guests in early season.
Moored in Pantera bay, south west cove. A calm night and morning; we experience wonderful stillness in the large bay.
From the landing stage in Pantera bay there is a short walk through an old forest to the Veli Rat lighthouse
May 27th, Sunday. The next day we experience that we are still in pre-season: Ist harbour and Zapuntel are not open for business yet; but we persist looking and find nautical services at Molat harbour, where we had been last in 2010, and found it pleasant (see log Charter Croatia 2010). The (only) restaurant offers good service.
Ferry time at Molat, the fast ferry has arrived whilst the car ferry is leaving. They do not seem to cause too much swell on the moorings.
May 28, Monday. In hazy sunshine and the calmest of seas we continue our cruise along Dugi Otok towards the Telascica, looking at small places like Rava, before going through Proversa Vela passage, round Katina, and berthing at the Mare restaurant. The weather is sunny, up to 27 C, and the food excellent as usual. We decide to stay a second day.
All is fine, until I try to launch the dinghy to have a spin round the island. With the heavy dinghy dangling high up in the air, the passarella suddenly stops and refuses to make any further movement. A heart stopping moment. Luckily I soon discover the culprit, a dodgy connection in the DC power supply of the hydraulic pump; I get it working again. Whew! ...the pleasures of boating.
May 30, Wednesday, another sunny day and light winds, temperature gradually increasing to 28 C. Leaving Katina island
From Katina we cruise down SE between Kornat and Zut, towards Kakan, anchoring "outside" the Borovnaci buoy field in SW of Borovnik V, on light sand (poor holding). After lunch and a swim we proceed to Zlarin harbour where we arrive first; all seems asleep at 15:30, but the harbour master on his electric scooter shows up soon.
All seems set for a quiet and relaxed evening, but a cruiser berths at the head of the pier near to us. It is a chunky gulet style cruiser, rubbish music pours from their disco in the evening, a female voice keeps yelling karaoke unbearably out of tune, German package holiday fun? The boat's name is San Snova, of "Inselhüpfen.de". Anyway, they quieten down after 11pm.
Evening at Zlarin pier. Add a nice glass of wine for Mediterranean bliss.
May 31, Thursday. A further day of a shallow high over the Adriatic, hot and sunny weather. We head for nearby Zirje and take a buoy at Stupica Vela, one of the classic coves. Konoba Stupica, the restaurant of the Old Ladies is in full operation, the bay gets quite busy over the afternoon.
With a forecast for the fine summer weather to continue, and a calm night, we stay on the buoy for another day. Ask for a cheaper price for the second night, and are offered a discount.
Unfortunately, not all boaters in the beautiful bay are decent and quiet. In the afternoon a Fairline motor yacht arrives, chartered by people whose pleasure it is to whizz around on noisy motorized surfboards (jetboards). 2 adults and then 2 young females keep going round buoys and close between moored yachts at speed. Their illegal nuisance goes on and on for more than 2 hours until the gang finally leaves the cove. Why could those 'sporting' people not have their fun in a lonely cove elsewhere, where they are on their own, instead of going on a buoy right in the middle of a buoy field next to other boats? It seems, these stupid posers wanted an audience to show off.
After dinner at the Konoba we hope for an undisturbed night, but a bunch of 4 sailing yachts, rafted up and tied to buoys at the far end of the field, start a party around 9:30 pm. One of them appears to have disco equipment on board; thumping music, shouting and screaming go on until the early hours. Although at a distance, it's painfully noticed across the whole cove in this calm night.
It seems that selfish and inconsiderate must-have-fun-at-all-cost rowdy behaviour on chartered boats is on the increase and unstoppable.
Stupica Vela/Zirje, near perfect for peaceful enjoyment. Sadly, mindless fun tourists and rowdies with no consideration for others come here too, and abuse the freedom far away from authorities.
June 2, Saturday. We feel it's time to return to Rogoznica. We spend the following days working on the boat and getting on with day to day life matters which had been postponed during our cruise.
June 6, Wednesday, after some rain and thunder, we are ready to set out for a brief trip south to Hvar. I had called the Tiha bay concessionary the previous day and been told they did not expect any flotilla that week. However, when we arrive at the cove we find the "Yacht Week" flotilla occupying the main north arm, Veli Dolac, where the grill restaurant is! We hide in a small western arm, taking a buoy two coves away from the flotilla, as beautiful as ever.
In the Tiha cove, which only few years ago had been without any shoreside facilities, more catering offers are popping up, a sign of the aggressively increasing nautical tourism in the region.
The buoy man says there is no problem with the flotilla, they have only onboard music, and are not heard outside their bay.
We have nice dinner at the grill restaurant, only mildly distracted by the party flottilla moored in front of us.
In fact, we do not notice them at all during the night. Beware, however, what happens in high season: They are boasting that they bring in a full floating disco and DJs.
Between parties: 'The Yacht Week' flotilla shifts customers to the next party location.
June 7, Thursday, we move to nearby Starigrad, one of our favourite old towns. Temperature has reached 29 C; we spend a fine evening in harbour.
June 8, with a grim forecast for the later part of the day, possible thunderstorms from afternoon, and a stormy night, we decide to leave for Frapa. The SE Jugo wind F4-5 has already started and raises easterly swell in the Hvar channel. Anchor for a short lunch break in Necujam cove (Solta) under leaden grey clouds, then proceed to Frapa; some unexpected southerly swell around cape Rt Ploca, often a troublesome spot for boats on a NE or SW passage.
Berth at Frapa in good time before the thunderstorms start in the night.
Stable summer weather returns June 10.
An unusual sight: Swifts taking a break on one of our mooring ropes in the marina
June 12, we leave for Split airport in the morning.
Our first trip goes to Hvar island; we visit restaurant Ringo in Pribinja cove. The friendly owner, Jure, has promised us a mooring place close to the restaurant, but it has been blocked by a small flotilla of catamarans, not his guests, he insists. Instead, he helps us anchor with a landline in the neighbouring cove Vira, where the small harbour is reserved for fishing boats. This cove seems to be protected from all winds, so we are safe there.
A landline is tied to a tree where there is already a rope end pre-prepared on a branch.
Ringo is a fish only restaurant, and is in competition with their new neighbour Arsenol on the same jetty. Jure's fish is fine, and his prices are reasonable for the location. However, an embarrassing situation caused later by ignorant British (land) tourists, who upset the owner, does not help a relaxed atmosphere; not his fault. Maybe our fault to go to Hvar, the red-hot focal point of Croatian island tourism.
For wild fish, Croatia's most expensive meal, you pay more than in a good London restaurant. Choose your fish carefully, have its weight confirmed, and ask the waiter to fillet it - unless you are an expert.
From Pribinja we move to Tiha cove, it's Friday, therefore there are no charter yachts and plenty of buoys to choose from. Nice stay as always. This day is a highlight, we have delicious octopus at the grill, and in the night witness a rare total lunar eclipse. The complete cycle is brilliantly visible with no clouds over the full moon.
We stay on the buoy for a second day.
Veli Dolac, part of Tiha (Starigrad). Dinner in spendid sunset, but only recommended for weekends...
For Sunday night we go to Jelsa harbour. I am nervous about the mooring situation, but there are plenty of spaces. We are directed to a berth on the new south quay, convenient for access to cafes and the centre, but right in front of several restaurants and cafes.
Late in the evening a group of local men in a cafe nearby, that looks already closed, are heard singing loudly what seem to be traditional songs. Great local tradition, or just drunken after midnight?
On Monday it's back to Frapa, and the following morning out to the north-west towards Kaprije and Kakan to go on a buoy at the Borovnjaci anchorage.
The mooring manoeuvre turns out rather more complex than I had hoped. When we arrive before 3pm, all buoys are already taken apart from a couple in the far south east corner by the entrance. We have no choice, really, if we want to stay here. A gusting west 4 wind blows and is raising swell across the large anchorage. When I go swimming to attach our own line underneath the buoy I find that this buoy is (yet again here!) one with a broken open bracket at the bottom which is just waiting to come off and detach itself from the ground rope. Attaching my rope to the ground rope is hard work in the swell and wind, which keeps "drowning" the buoy (and me) with Tarilian attached.
Dinner at Babalu is good as usual, but I am slightly distracted by my worries regarding wind and buoys. The west wind gradually calms after 7pm and turns into light northerly which continues during the evening. Despite a forecast (from three sources !) of north 3-4 for the middle of the night, it remains calm. Computer models often get local conditions wrong.
The following morning is clear and calm, already getting hot. I worried about a fuel contamination in the starboard tank, though it was minor, and changed the pre-filter. Minutes after starting the engines, just out of the bay, the starboard engine stalls so suddenly that I have the impression something got round the prop, but it does not restart. A bit shocked, we return to a buoy with with the port engine and stern thruster. I find that the engine needs bleeding; at the previous filter change it had worked without, now I know better; I bleed it and hope nothing else has gone wrong.
As the day had a poor start, we decide to stay in the bay for another day, now on a buoy in an area we like better.
Having been to Babalu the previous evening we try Paradiso restaurant tonight. Weather forecast for the night is, luckily, wrong again, instead of N3-4 it is calm.
Paradiso is beautifully located, tables lined up under trees with view to the cove and boats. But, the menu is limited to a choice between few expensive dishes. The service provided by young family members is amateurish and slow.
Our meal is ok but average; neither food, service or atmosphere justify the high prices here. The restaurant is run by a greedy lady, who tries to make the most money she can get away with.
The next day, Thursday, we will go to the Kornati and try Konoba Zakan, which is run by Marina Hramina. Due to its size reserving a mooring space should not be a problem. Ravni Zakan island is only a short trip to north west.
Sod's law has it, that after a calm trip all the way, just around Zakan we find gusting westerly wind 4+; it comes from abeam and makes the mooring manoeuvre a bit of a trouble. Shortly later the wind stops, just to get up again briefly later. It's Croatia!
Konoba Zakan is large, modern and stylish. It attracts Italians and large yachts, some very large.
The quality of our meal and professionality of the service are impeccable, a big contrast to the faked "luxury" the evening before. Here the upmarket prices are justified. National park fee of Kn300 is added to the bill (unless you have got a ticket). However, its style is quite unusual for the Kornati; we personally prefer smaller places, maybe, with a cosier atmosphere.
Konoba Zakan looks modern, unusual for a Kornati restaurant. The views from the terrace are superb
The weekend is approaching so we do not expect problems with spaces, but restaurant Mare is still fully booked. Zut cove seems an alternative, I call up Sandra restaurant and we go to Zut in bright sun and light north westerly wind.
After one change on their pontoon, we get a pleasant space with a view. Nice and helpful young marinaio, has even got good humour which we do not find often among Croatians.
All are happy and troubles seem resolved; at least, until new ones appear!
It has been one of the hottest days. Left on the rail on the sun side of the boat, the standup paddle board has blown up and gone pop. I feel its weakness had not been explained properly. Had the rain shower that goes over us later arrived earlier, it might have survived.
dead SUP... be careful to always reduce pressure when left in hot sun
The next disappointment comes at dinner, when we treat ourselves to fresh fish. The fish turns out to be insufficiently grilled rendering a part of the fillet inedible. Given the huge price tag on wild fish (about £65 per kilo), this is even more frustrating. I complain and get apologies, but the damage is done.
Sat August 4 is yet another scorcher. We decide to give them a second chance and stay for another leisurely day, despite the problem at dinner.
It turns out a good decision to stay, anyhow. It's rather quiet, hardly many yachts around, swimming is nice. This evening, steak and homemade pasta are both quite fine, and cheaper than fish.
At Zut cove, in the distance Tarilian on Sandra's pontoon, far right the pontoon of Zut ACI marina.
On Sunday morning, after a quiet night, I am woken by the noises of a workboat on the other side of the floating pontoon. It turns out that they deliver water.
Water delivery to the restaurant - Sunday morning at 8 am!
In the afternoon we drive to Betina shipyard to be ready for Monday morning, when Luka's people will pump out and clean the starboard fuel tank.
First Sunday in August seems to be a day of celebrations in Croatia; we encounter a busy shellfish festival in Betina old harbour, with an extremely noisy band. Late evening we hear distant noise from an event across the water at Pirovac, ending with fireworks at midnight.
The following day the work on the boat gets done, and we return to our home berth at marina Frapa the same day.
In summary, we had excellent sunny weather over two weeks, and were out of our home marina on 12 of 15 days, which is a lot. Only 2 or 3 days were windy, but none was stormy, there were only three local rain showers over the period. Some warnings in the marine forecast did not affect our area.
However, too many charter yachts, of which there is overcapacity, is a root cause for troubles with boating in Croatia.
Overbooked restaurants and moorings mean you find your favourite place full for several days, and have to phone around for second rate choices.
We do not see as many yachts sailing at sea as we had expected. The reason might be that rather than sailing many are crowding anchorages and hanging around on buoys for most of the day. It can be hard to find free buoys from Monday to Thursday in some areas. Likewise, spaces in harbours are only available on Fridays to Sundays, on weekdays charter yachts and, nowadays, bigger and bigger flotillas invade and are blocking many places. Local sailors are jobbing seasonally as paid skippers for unskilled people on chartered boats, adopting a ruthless approach. We encountered some who are even rude and thuggish to those who are not their clients.
Inexperienced and ignorant high season tourists are drawn in by Croatia's excessive mass marketing of places like Hvar - which already got crowded - and are causing embarrassing situations.
I have got the impression that locals are less relaxed during this period. Maybe, the demand at peak season puts too much pressure on them, maybe they are trying too hard to maximise their revenue during the short peak season.
A most unpleasant high season experience, for me personally, was the heat itself; even nights can be hot. Cruising on a larger boat is work for the single or double handed crew, and exhausting under such hot conditions. Aircon only helps to a certain extent. Hot weather makes dealing with difficulties, such as technical issues, feel that much harder. The pleasures of hot weather do not outweigh the downsides, unless your are on a beach holiday.
My intention for this trip was to give high season in Croatia a try. Certainly, we had moments of delight; we noted that some people seem to mainly use their boat as a stationary holiday home in harbour, but this is not our way. Being part of a crowd competing for moorings and restaurant spaces and getting squeezed, is not what we like. There is nothing we could not do before or after high season, we are not constrained by school and other holidays. I did not feel relaxed during this trip, it left me exhausted.
We do not intend to come to Croatia in July and August again.
On arrival to the boat, a nasty surprise awaits us: The passarella is not willing to make the slightest movement. I climb on board over a neighbour boat, and find that the domestic bank of three batteries is dead. They are only three years old, have been well cared for and been fully functional during our last trip, less than four weeks ago; after that I had left them fully charged and topped up by solar charger. They are now defect and do not accept any charge. I have new batteries installed the next morning.
The corpses of our batteries pile up on the pier.
After this initial hick-up our stay continues in a far more pleasant way.
Apart from three or four days of rain or unstable weather within the whole three weeks' period we enjoy a very warm, dry and calm late summer.
We find it is comfortable enough to enjoy time in our home port, with the number of tourists decreasing gradually a relaxed late season feeling is setting in; yet the day temperatures are topping in the high twenties and up to 30 deg C.
We go out on two "mini-cruises" to old favourites of ours. The first is north to Katina and the Mare restaurant, then to Zirje, Stupica Vela, on a buoy. In each location we stay for two nights, before returning to Rogoznica.
Katina and the Mare restaurant, with view to Telascica in the background
On the way back we get scared by a knocking noise in the aft cabin which appears to come from the starboard propeller/shaft. I suspect a problem with a rope cutter, and, at Frapa, have a diver inspect the prop gear. He takes off the offending blade, which had come out of alignment; it had only been re-fitted earlier this year. Boats!
Our second trip is to south; first to Sesula cove on Solta, for a night on a buoy at Sismis restaurant, which offers quite sophisticated food in the brilliant sourroundings of the fjord-like cove.
Then to Hvar and the Tiha cove; we are told that the obnoxious party flotilla, The Yacht Week, had been there the night before - and been very noisy. So we are safe to come today and spend two nights on a buoy.
When there are many empty bouys, you can tie the stern to the next buoy, to provide a stable position for a larger boat.
The octopus peka at the Veli Dolac grill is a treat, yet again!
Time for sun downers at Tiha cove. On a weekend in mid September, there are only few boats.
After the buoys it's time to move to town, nearby Stari Grad. Although there is no problem getting a berth this night, it's worth calling the harbour master ahead. Even in September it can get busy with charter yachts during the week, sometimes, he says.
Last visit to Stari Grad in this season. Our berth is close to the centre, this time
With a forecast of calm and warm weather to continue we spend yet another night on a buoy on Tiha, before moving on to Brac and Milna marina (ACI).
Milna is a beautiful old harbour, too, but our "ruin town": Of several formerly grand houses, in prominent locations, only the facades are standing, and left to fall into dilapidation with the roofs gone. The reason is, apparently, that all previous owners and their families who emigrated long ago, are needed to agree the sale to potential buyers, or, sales fall through due to rogue agents and practises. The authorities appear not to care about preservation of historic townscapes.
Konoba Gajeta, despite being situated right on the riva by the marina moorings, is recommendable.
It's soon time to think about going back to Frapa, so I can prepare the boat for leaving, go through all isues and start a to-do list for the works at the yard next spring. Our flights to London are scheduled for the Sept 21st.
In summary, our third visit was very different from last year's at the same time. This year we were lucky to have no storms or strong winds, but pleasant early autumn weather; mostly sunny or sun and cloud, dry and very warm.
On our way back to Rogoznica; even the waters around Rt Ploce (Razanj), very often a windy spot, are pleasantly calm
SUMMARY of our 2018 SEASON
We visited Croatia three times, in May-June, July-August and September; each visit was for about 3 weeks. Our home berth is in marina Frapa, Rogoznica.
Total mileage in 2018: 666 nm. Engine hours: 88; average Diesel consumption 3.8 ltr/nm
2018 was for us weather-wise a fine, far better than average, season. Some good early summer weather in May, a hot period in July-August, and an extended period of dry, warm and calm weather in September.
The new season is casting its demands ahead. To reduce costs and the unpleasant experience of travelling, we are planning two visits to the boat, one in spring and one in late summer, each a little longer than the three visits in previous years. The seasonal service works on Tarilian have been scheduled for early March, and I arrange to go to Croatia and take the boat from marina Frapa to Murter myself - mainly to check it out for potential technical issues. There is always something to do on a boat, too!
View of Split from the plane
Weather forecast for Sunday March 3 is perfect for taking the boat to Murter/Betina, but from Monday strong Jugo is expected. So it has to be Sunday.
Nearly there: Sunny weather and calm seas at the NW end of Murter island; once past the Prisnjak lighthouse turn to starboard to approach Murter/Betina
I have berthed Tarilian at the shipyard Betina, awaiting craning a few days later.
Some pleasant sunny days at this time of the year, but cold nights and often wind.
Our 2019 Spring holiday, May 29th to June 28th
Let's start with a review of the experiences during this trip, about 'The Good, the Bad and the Ugly' as of today.
Let's start with The Good
Yes, the places we used to enjoy still exist and are as nice as ever; even after many years of meandering in central Dalmatia, we find new ones. We also join a Cruising Association get-together for the first time, at Milna (Brac).
We re-visit Tiha cove near Starigrad with the brilliant little Veli Dolac grill; the Borovnjaci buoy field at Kakan with the Babalu grill; the evergreen Stupica Vela cove on Zirje; Katina and the trusted Mare restaurant; the pleasant harbours of Vrboska (Hvar) and Zlarin island, where we weather a couple of days of wind.
A new discovery to us is the lovely Konoba Bain in Zut bay; we also, for the first time, stay a night at Sali harbour (Dugi Otok).
More about all of it, and photos, below.
Secondly, The Bad
Ah well, 'hell is other people'. I am not even talking about the regular worry about noise from crews of ever-increasing flotillas who use their cockpit as a pad for late night drinking and socializing in harbours. But, being disturbed all night by reckless drunken young party folks on charter yachts at a (supposedly) quiet and high quality Kornati restaurant does come to us as a shock. More about Konoba Levrnaka and its unhelpful manager below.
The authorities appear to be getting more greedy year on year. National park Kornati and Telescica daily entry fee for a boat of 11-18m are now Kn600 (Euro 81) if purchased in advance, even much higher when purchased on site. A rip-off for small crews. Not sure how much trip operators pay for their hundreds of customers polluting the sea. Not sure either how the money gets used, the main activity I perceive from the park authorities is heavy marketing to attract even more visitors and tourists.
Another bad experience is with a contractor who is meant to attend to some technical issues. We have gone to Betina just to meet him. He turns out to be unreliable and lets us down, causing us a bad night and waste of time. Organizing technical services in Croatia in season appears to be nearly impossible, there aren't enough trained engineers available and services are hopelessly unprofessional.
Finally, The Ugly
The weather at the beginning and towards the end of our holiday is unpleasant. Arriving May 28, it's wet for three days, I have to use heaters to overcome the chill overnight (more like winter!). With sea temperature at only 17 deg or so, no one can even think of a swim.
By May 31st we are going out, but unstable weather continues until declining further by June 5th with stronger Jugo and low temperatures. Though already June, there are no crickets heard, summer seems far away.
It gets better by June 8th but there are still windy days. The temperature has picked up; however, by June 19th it changes to hot summer. From June 24th, with 30 deg and more - atypical for June -, it's getting uncomfortable. To make things worse, the air conditioning unit in our aft cabin isn't working.
Let's have a look at 'The Good', and maybe sometimes less good, too.
The first trip out of marina Frapa, our home berth, is to Milna (Brac) on May 31st.
Boats of members of the Cruising Association (CA) in front of Milna's church (ACI marina). To the left Stuart's Trader 'Three Stars'.
Tarilian leaving Milna marina, June 2nd
On buoy in Tiha cove (Hvar), in the background Veli Dolac grill, June 3rd. Relatively quiet at this time.
Stupica Vela (Zirje), June 10th. The temperature has picked up, the buoy field is filling up rapidly. We visit once more on June 26th
With a forecast of Jugo we prefer to berth in a harbour. We visit Zlarin twice during this trip. At Zlarin village. Some of the old stone houses and ruins nearly remind me of a stage set.
Good Old Tijat, still in service at the age of 64. A piece of Mediterranean nostalgia. >> Click on the photo to watch my small clip of Tijat at Zlarin (youtube)
June 14th, moving to Betina shipyard in expectation of getting an engineering job done.
Mate Jane finds a 'strange big mooring post!' here ...
First time staying at Sali (Dugi Otok). During the day many yachts stop here for catering before going out to islands where there are no shops. The large number of cruise ships that arrive to berth in this harbour makes us worry about noise at night, but it stays fairly quiet.
At Sali harbour. We have moored on the south quay; on the north quay the moorings are in front of noisy bar Maritimo.
On the following day moving on to Konoba Bain, Zut island, June 18th
We are berthed across the end of a pier, but the weather is stable and calm so there is no worry.
Dinner at Konoba Bain, superb setting and excellent meal
June 19th, Levrnaka (Kornati national park)
In stark contrast to the previous evening, we are in for a shock at Konoba Levrnaka.
The pricey restaurant is run with the pretence of excellence, but the service is marred by some waiters who are embarrassingly incompetent. The kitchen is actually ok.
The worst of this holiday comes in the night, when two crews of charter yachts who had been celebrating noisily and drinking at the restaurant for more than 3 hours, after closing hour at midnight continue their boozing party in their cockpits near our boat. Party lights come out, music is played, bottle after bottle opened, shouting and screaming are heard. They continue till well after 3am without any consideration for the other boats around them.
When I complain to a member of staff on the following morning, he confirms that they had been disturbed by the noise even at the back of their house, a distance from the yachts.
The manager, who appears to be a younger member of the owner family, says sorry about the disruption, but he makes it unmistakably clear that he is not interested to protect his customers' right for quiet enjoyment of his place at night. I can hardly believe what I have just heard; the money from out-of-order boozing and partying charter crews is much more important to this greedy man than keeping the reputation of his business and custom with decent, but smaller, crews on private boats.
We are never going to return to his ill-managed place.
Konoba Levrnaka: Empty wine and spirit bottles galore from yachts Mojito (www.suntourist-charter.hr) and Alegria I (www.eurocharter.hr), after all-night noise disruption from reckless drunken crews on June 19, 2019
June 20th. Having had enough of the dubious 'delicacies' at wannaby upmarket Kornati restaurants and 'nature delights' of the touristy National Park with its rip-off entry fee, we are going back to the Sibenik archipelago.
Borovnjaci anchorage on Kakan. View from Babalu grill. Tarilian on buoy in the far distance. Note the big spider above the small local boat ...
Babalu grill. The summer is now in full swing, the crickets are finally out and active
On buoy in Kakan, June 20th, by small Borovnjak islet. Kaprije harbour can be spotted to the left, in the far distance
On June 28th, a day of extreme heat, we are happy to return to London after one month in Croatia. We haven't ventured very far on this trip, we have done about 270 nm.
We are giving the frenetic months of July and August a wide berth, and are going to return when the greatest of heat is over.
Our 2019 Late summer holiday, August 29th to September 23rd
Sometimes the Good and the Bad get a little mixed, experiences aren't just black and white.
Yes, we did get the aft cabin air-con fixed at the start, but the auto-pilot was not dealt with, the problem had not been communicated properly although I had specifically asked, described it and sent a couple of emails. It did get sorted, but much later.
The weather was very hot at the end of August, and there were several periods of nice calmer weather in September. Anyhow, two or three times we didn't go out but stayed in a marina or harbour following forecasts of strong wind and rain, which didn't happen. Is that good or bad? Well, local forecasts are notoriously unreliable, but could we ignore them?
Clearly on the ‘Good’ score were several days in beautiful weather enjoyed at our usual old haunts at Tiha bay (Hvar), Stupica cove (Solta) and the Kakan anchorage. We are still happy with the choice of our home berth, at Frapa. Not to forget a first time visit to small cove Jorja, on Solta, and its lonely restaurant. Here, as in several other places, we feel welcome and get treated by pleasant and genuinely hospitable people.
We did not spot any dolphins this time, but met gulls in unusually larger numbers.
On the ‘Bad’ side, our cruising plans were cut short by an unfortunate technical failure; the hydraulic pipes of our gangway broke, which meant that we were also unable to launch the tender which needs the passarelle as a crane.
That caused a ‘captive holiday’ in a boatyard for full 6 (SIX) days. O dear! The worst nightmare of a boater, right? Yes, but … there is more to say, and you can find a survival guide below.
Let's turn to the images of our September trip.
New(ish) isolated danger marker east of V.Drvenik (at approx. 43deg 26.0N, 15deg 11.3 E)
Visit to Zirje: There are pleasant simple things which have not changed in a long while.
Still water in the innermost part of Stupica Vela cove
In the morning of one of our days at Stupica cove, I notice a large piece of driftwood slowly floating past: It's about 3 meters long and part of a massive trunk of a former tree. Certainly not good if a boat would hit it. I get out in the dinghy, tie a rope around the trunk, and slowly tow it towards the konoba's jetties. Far too heavy to pull it ashore, I am just able to wedge it between rocks so it can be picked up later. The konoba owner has noticed me and seems pleased; I hope it will make good fire wood one day.
The buoy field is full to the last place, but none of the numerous crews of strong young sailors has shown any interest in this danger to navigation, let alone tried to help.
On our way south to Hvar we stop for lunch at the islets outside Maslinica harbour (Solta) which are conveniently located en route. In a promotional publication I found this micro-archipelago described as a great and safe anchorage. I think there is hardly any protection, and the holding on rocks and weed is unreliable. Useful as a day anchorage in settled weather only.
Attractive surroundings but poor holding: Anchoring around the islets outside Maslinica (Solta)
'Yachting' in Hvar style. The Yacht Week party flotilla invades Tiha bay near Stari Grad once a week (yes, I said this before).
On the penultimate day of their week, the entertainment seems a bit laboured and skippers struggle to keep the bored party guests in high spirit. They are probably fed up themselves having to put up with all that party nonsense and low wages for a whole season.
Beware - Every Thursday is Yacht Week day at Tiha
Anyhow, the weather is glorious and perfect for the bay. We like the cove and the small Dolac grill: We take a buoy in a remote arm of the cove, safe from all noise; then manage to arrange to have dinner ahead of their booking for the skippers' party. That goes well, and isn't noisier than having dinner in some London pubs.
With a forecast for deteriorating weather we move to Stari Grad.
Arriving in Stari Grad: This is how we know and like it (note the sailing yachts to the left)
The inner harbour is pleasant and filled with small local craft. There are cafes, and you find good restaurants in the old town.
Being located on Hvar, however, Stari Grad harbour is getting invaded by an increasing number of privately chartered superyachts, huge sailing yachts and catamarans, and, in addition, every day seven and more large holiday cruisers (the big cheap ones) that raft up on the public pier.
Visitors on this day include: A 38-meter Gulet, Stella Maris (watch berthing), a 49-meter brand-new sailing yacht, a motor yacht of 30 meters, and one of 40 meters. They stick out like beached whales between ordinary yachts and boats, obstruct the view for all smaller boats; their generators are kept running 24 hours, their crews do not even bother connecting to the - quite substantial - shore power installation.
Out of proportion: Money is everything and showing it off on Hvar is key. Unfortunately, that includes Stari Grad.
Compare the length of the ordinary sailing yachts first on the pier (in the photo above) to the superyacht next to them, three to four times their length. This swanky 40-meter monster carries the absurd name of "BeachHouse", and can be yours for one week from 130.000 euro + expenses. In addition, I feel, you may also need a good deal of dubious taste.
When we finally get ready to leave Stari Grad, after weather warnings have kept us there for a couple of nights, misfortune strikes: The outer part of the passarella crashes down and does not move any longer. Pipes have broken and hydraulic oil is pouring out of the outer arm.
No assistance is available locally; we will need to get to a major town such as Murter and our usual service company. The main cylinder of the gangway still works, so we can get on land, but no way to launch the dinghy.
On the way back towards north we stop for a night at Stomorska on Solta. The small church of Stomorska. All boater who stayed here have heard its bells, but I wonder how many have seen it.
On our way towards Murter, we encounter brochure quality autumnal cruising conditions.
Passing between small islets near Kaprije in the Sibenik archipelago, view north towards Murter (in the distance)
Passing a diving boat near Kukuljar islands south of Murter. The Kornati are seen in the background to the left.
Arrive at Betina and berth alongside in the shipyard. Two service companies have been alerted, to attend to our gangway and to the auto-pilot. We aren't aware yet that this is going to be the start of an epic 6-days captive holiday in the shipyard.
The main reason for the delays is the difficulty to source the unusual American type fitting for the hydraulic pipes, which have to be specially manufactured in Sibenik. A weekend gets in between, and a hiccup with a further pipe.
After the extravaganza on Hvar, Betina shipyard takes us back to the real world of boats (I actually quite like the latter)
View from our saloon: Betina shipyard specialises in the restauration of wooden boats
View from Marina Betina towards the shipyard next to it. Tarilian is in the distance, to the right of the travel lift, berthed along the sea wall.
No plank to walk, no dinghy crane; so, no Mediterranean cruising (at least for me)
How to survive a stay like this? The correct answer is, of course, you must keep up the morale of your crew.
The bicycles come out for short rides to town and around, water toys can be used from our mooring, Google provides suggestions where to go dining. For me, being the bilge monkey, there is never a lack of things to do, anyway.
Our berth is very secure, has power and water, and the views to the marina and to the wave breaker at the rear are nice enough. Outside working hours there are no noises, and the weekends are quieter than in any harbour.
On a bike tour, view of Betina (mind you, roads are quite steep around here)
The area around Betina's old harbour has been beautifully restored. For yachts there are no safe moorings on this side of the island.
Six days after we had arrived, works get finished; Tarilian has received a new auto-pilot pump and new hydraulic pipes in the gangway.
Finally, ready to leave, we face a forecast for only one more calm day before a front from NW is expected to bring fresh wind and rain.
Decide to spend it in the Kakan bay, en route to Rogoznica, and return to Frapa the following day. The recent experience has made me loose some confidence, and I am happy with the relatively short route.
Ah, a golden evening in the calm bay? Actually, the main point isn't the sun but the repaired gangway.
When we had arrived at the bay, we noted that there were fewer buoys than in the past, at least 8 missing. On the NE side by the small Borovnjak island there was only one where previously had been six or so.
Talking to the people at Babalu grill over dinner we hear there had been a storm in August, six buoys broke. I wasn't given details how the failures happened, but further buoys appear to have been removed. I had repeatedly warned that the buoys in this field seemed old, rickety and poorly maintained. We have only ever used them in settled calm weather.
The boys in the Borovnjaci anchorage are weak and poorly maintained. Be aware of the danger...
After a windy day in Frapa I'm keen to go out for a final short trip of the season. The forecast is for some more wind during the day and a light Bora at night, but calm on the following day, before a Jugo wind starts midday on the next.
I choose to try a small cove on Solta which is open to the south; there is a restaurant we had not visited before. I call the restaurant and book a table and mooring buoy.
On the way to Solta we stop for lunch at the ever popular Krknjasi anchorage (Drvenik), hailed as the 'Blue Lagoon'.
During this holiday we believe we noted more catamarans than ever before. These unsightly 'supersized toboggans of the sea', which take up 2 and more mooring spaces in marinas and harbours, seem to have become the favoured floating holiday pads for families, parties, and larger groups of friends. Their ample 'patios' provide space for - often noisy - socializing.
Krknjas anchorage. In this picture happen to be 9 cats and only 7 yachts. Is this a trend?
The south west coast of Solta feels somewhat forbidding and lonely; there are mostly steep rocky slopes, densely wooded, and the small coves are narrow and deep, not ideal for anchoring.
In a couple of coves, a restaurant with buoys has been set up, I chose Lero in Jorja cove.
The guy from the restaurant is very helpful with the moorings, and even provides a "taxi-service" ashore for dinner so we do not need our dinghy.
The wind during the day has left some swell which keeps rolling into the cove gently and rocking the boat; we expect it will go down later in the night. The Bora is, as expected, only felt lightly; at a stage, anyhow, I need to adjust the ropes to stop them causing noise.
Lero's service is welcoming and the food sophisticated; we are pleased and, whilst not cheap, find it good value. Not to forget the free mooring. They only cater for boaters; on this Friday there are only three yachts, but the following evening they are fully booked with 10 boats.
A table with a view: Dinner at Lero's; little Tarilian is gently rocking in the cove, it's peaceful and quiet here. On the horizon lies Hvar.
The next day, in calm late summer weather, we go for a further night to Tiha cove. Delightfully calm after last time's Yacht Week visit.
Dolac grill at Tiha cove
I had called the Dolac grill ahead, and they are ready to serve us, friendly as always; but it turns out that the cove is mostly empty. We remain the only guests on this Saturday evening, September 21st. How embarrassing, they had come out for us only. That's the risk these businesses, which solely depend on boaters, have to put up with.
On the way back to Rogoznica on the following morning, between Solta and Ciovo, we spot large numbers of gulls floating in the sea like white dots.
The weather forecast proves to be accurate this time, for a change; just after midday the Jugo start blowing, and makes the final few miles to Rogoznica, near the infamous Ploce point, a little uncomfortable. Click here for a clip taken on a previous occasion, in calm and pleasant weather.
We travelled 238nm between Aug 31st and September 22nd.
I want to conclude this 2019 cruise report with an analysis of our experience from my personal perspective as a boat owner and long-time cruiser in the region. I want to be specific about the frustrating developments I am perceiving, which might lead us to consider changing our cruising area. This would be a pity as we would certainly miss aspects of Dalmatia.
Let me start, yet again, with tourism expansion, more and more uncivilized revellers and their ways of having holiday fun. Too many charter boats on the water, crowding and party animals, leading to many unpleasant encounters.
There is a perennial conflict between boat owners who are here for a longer stay and seek peaceful enjoyment, and some ill-mannered folks on 7-days charter holidays who get drunk every day and let their hair down. The nuisance ranges from "just" causing noise and disturbance to outright danger through inappropriate and illegal use of water toys. It does not even cross their mind that they should consider others around them. This conflict is always won by pompous, selfish, thoughtless or rude people who can't be bothered to care.
Even though the 'bad guys' are a minority, the tone in Croatia's nautical scene has got increasingly loud, blunt, and predominantly Slavic. The style and manners of water tourists have gone right down as numbers increased year on year.
Apart from those well-known noisy party weeks flotillas, we encounted hooligan crews smoking drugs openly in harbour, and other unpleasant and carefree holiday makers on and off the water who take advantage of the lack of enforcement of law and order, and the absence of reminders to show manners, respect and consideration for others.
Few examples; it might seem to be a minor issue, but noisy conviviality in the cockpit of a yacht until the early hours becomes asocial behaviour when you are in a berth right next to neighbours who are trying to sleep on their boat, maybe with windows open after a hot day. Pissing over board from the bow of a yacht in a marina, right in sight of other boaters having breakfast, isn't 'seaman-like', but simply disgusting.
A group of young English-speaking tourists had made a booking for a "birthday dinner" in a small fish restaurant in an island cove, but only half of their party turns up, hours late, and only want drinks. It does not occur to these brazen morons that they should at least apologize to the host who had to turn other customers away; on the contrary, they start a row with him about their "rights", disturbing the evening for other guests. Regarding the upper end of the market, I am thinking of massive chartered superyachts getting squeezed into pretty harbours, and filling them not just with their overwhelming presence but with the humming and stink of their diesel generators running 24hours a day. A nightmare (literally) if you happen to be berthed near to them.
Central Dalmatia, the islands south of Split, may be the epicentre of the described problems, but those are no longer limited to this region, nor to high season. The Kornati and Telascica, for example, have started to be affected and become tourism hotspots.
We have already given up visiting Croatia during the months of July and August, due to overcrowding and hassle.
I have previously voiced my concern about the development of nautical mass tourism in Croatia encroaching on individual yacht cruisers and owners like us. What exactly do I mean?
Yachting, sailing and motor boat cruising are hobby activities and leisure sports carried out by people who have chosen to pursue them and have generally acquired relevant skills. No matter whether they use their own boat or hire one within the cruising area, they are passionate about their hobby and usually experienced. The country's nautical infrastructure was built to support and serve those leisure activities, make them convenient and pleasant, and provide safe moorings.
The concept of skippered and crewed private charter used to be an upmarket service found with large, often luxurious, motor yachts. In Croatia, this business idea has been scaled down and taken to the mass market.
Today charter companies, with year on year expanding fleets, offer budget sailing yachts and catamarans from 12m length, with a skipper and even an optional cook. On offer are individual journeys as well as joining one of the increasing numbers of large flotillas. Specialist online operators have created themed holidays, for example booking yachts or cabins for party week flotillas.
Their common concept is, to turn yacht charter, originally created for sailors and cruisers, into a holiday industry of the mass market: They target the broad public with no background and interest in boats or yachts.
Customers book a yacht or berths, with a local skipper, transport, sometimes catering and entertainment. No experience or nautical knowledge is expected, no active involvement in navigation or sailing required.
The once individual sporting activity of "yachting" has in Croatia been dumbed down and commercialised to mean a package holiday on the water that competes with bus tours, cruise ships and other touristic offers. First-timers get pulled by targeted online marketing. This business has the potential to grow even further. It's a matter of glittering multimedia ads and bargain prices.
So far so good, but how does this affect the experiences of individual yacht cruisers and boat owners? I think it has changed them beyond recognition, and I'll try to explain why.
Traditional - gulet style - holiday cruisers, as well as super yachts, do not really compete with yachts for marina spaces, buoy moorings or anchorages. However, the new mass charter business and flotillas compete head-on:
Croatia's nautical infrastructurewas not built to support this extra holiday business. There is not enough capacity for the vast numbers of additional yachts during the season, even after the extension of buoy fields. Space and facilities, especially in attractive regions, are limited: In a more and more squeezed market there is competition, and, I'm afraid to say, corruption.
Private boat owners, in particular foreigners, have got no chance to compete successfully for spaces which are being claimed by local commercial operators and mercenary paid skippers. I am not happy to be told by a harbourmaster at Jelsa, a popular town on Hvar, "we have flotilla here every day in week, you can come Friday or Saturday!"(sic). Similar messages from other harbours and marinas.
With any forecast of inclement weather, where a safe mooring place is needed, the lack of spaces escalates further and can become stressful and dangerous. We had to resort to driving back to our home berth.
The quality of our holidays has been going down. The chances of getting quiet enjoyment of our boats, which was the reason why we came here, have been diminished. What was once a wonderful cruising experience, has turned to frustrating worries where we can go. We are at risk of being driven out of areas we used to visit, unless we accept stress and nuisance. We are getting confined to niches which we did not seek and do not prefer.
Croatia's government and harbour authorities are stakeholders in the growth of nautical tourism. In the weak national economy, they are desperate to rake in even more money from tourism; they see nautical tourism as one of the few growth areas and are milking the system. They won't make any regulations and improvements which could be a risk to short term revenue.
Even promises to sort out environmental issues remain empty talk; problems get brushed under the carpet and lied about.
Official tourism propaganda, fuelled by unabating mercenary greed, is gaudely exploiting the natural features of Croatia's coast, and pursuing every revenue opportunity, assisted by collaborating authorities. All popular anchoring bays are being monetized and turned into dense fields of revenue creating buoys.Quality tourism, once Croatia's declared aim, has been given up and replaced by quantity. There has been a huge increase of nautical tourists from Eastern European countries. To me, it isn't the same place any longer, when instead of 10 yachts there are now 30 or more, literally in touching distance of each other. Anyhow, even this increase in capacity is often not enough, buoy fields get filled up early in the afternoon, harbours and marinas are overcrowded. The experience of nature and quietness has been corrupted. "The Mediterranean as it once was", Croatia's tourism slogan until 2014, has all been lost.
Summing it up, Dalmatia has over the last 3 or 4 years gradually changed from a cruising region we once unreservedly enjoyed as a whole, to one where disappointment and frustration have been mounting. Several places in Central Dalmatia have lost attraction and even become no-go zones, or very difficult for boaters who seek a quality stay and are not willing to put up every day with the threats of crowding, noise, nuisance and stress.
Over the whole year 2019 Tarilian made 567 nautical miles and 78 engine hours; the fuel consumption was quite economical at 3.7 ltr/nm.
Heavy Jugo (southeasterly) storms during last December had caused an incident in the marina, Tarilian's tender got dislodged from one of its chocks and its plastic hull was damaged. Skipper Sime discovered it early and took it to the service yard, the repair was an insurance case. The boat had to stay over winter on the outer pier 10, which is exposed to the Jugo wind.
At the start of this year, and following our experiences of 2019, we initially looked at options to move the boat out of Croatia and to a base either in Northern Italy or in the South Adriatic. However, we had not done our homework and did not want to make a rash decision, so renewed the contract with marina Frapa in Rogoznica.
The seasonal maintenance works in Betina were proposed, earlier than in years before, for a start in mid-February; that made me a little concerned about the weather when driving Tarilian over to Murter. I went on a flight to Split on Feb 14th. The forecast was promising, calm weather on Sunday Feb 16th, ideal to get the boat ready for lifting at the beginning of the week.
It turns out rather pleasant: With a cloudless sky and visibility far reaching and crystal clear, the calm sea almost seems to belong to you. All you meet are some small local fishing boats, here and there, and maybe an island ferry in the far distance.
Sunday Feb 16th, 2020, approaching the Sibenik archipelago from south east. Islands Kaprije/ Kakan straight ahead and Zmajan to right.
Yet, you aren't quite on your own; I had four sightings of groups of dolphins, some kept discreetly in distance, but one group swam around and under the boat and then enjoyed its wake.
In the open going from Rogoznica towards Kaprije island, looking backwards to south east.
Yes, dolphins are in the picture.
Passing to east of Kaprije, the sea gets even more smooth.
Arriving at Betina ship yard before 2pm, I find that the berths near the cranes have already been taken. A helpful marinaio from Betina marina has spotted me coming in, and assists mooring up along the pier on the side of Betina marina.
Tarilian berthed alongside the pier of Betina marina for the next day or two. It's a pleasant and mild late winter Sunday afternoon, and small sailing school boats are going around.
The lifting of the boat does not get scheduled for the next day. Anyhow, on a boat, you can never get bored, there is always something for me to do.
Unfortunately, the car rental company I had booked, Hertz, had messed up my booking. No one was at the airport nor contactable when I arrived. I had to find a taxi to get to Rogoznica. Hertz doesn't even offer a working solution to the problem they caused, it's "out of season"; so I need to find a local rental car to get around, back to Rogoznica, and finally to the airport. I contact one of the companies at Sibenik, and a car gets delivered to Betina marina in the evening.
On Tuesday, Feb 18th, the service team is ready, and I take Tarilian over to the craning bay.
The growth on the hull after one season is mild, the antifouling appears to have worked.
However, there are distinct areas where antifouling is not applicable, which are covered with astounding marine growth within less than five months.
On the transom, one would not be able to tell underwater lights and anodes ...
and the generator exhaust has been seriously covered.
The driving gear does not look too bad
More boat yard impressions ...
a car of the Croatian hydrographic office showing just the right chart
The Betina ship yard is known for its restorations of wooden ships. Did pirates use thrusters? This "authentic galley ship of 1914" has got one...
So, why so many details about a mere maintenance trip in late winter?
No one had the faintest idea of what was about to happen to our lives in the following weeks. We are under shock.
At the time I am writing this, the whole island of Murter has been put under quarantine to suppress the spread of the Corona virus. The works on Tarilian are finished but some deliveries are outstanding, the boat is still moored at Murter, no one is allowed to go there.
In the UK, we are all under lockdown, we aren't allowed to meet others, let alone to travel. It's similar in most other countries of Europe, and in many parts of the world.
At this stage (end of March) it is unclear when life will be allowed to return to some sort of normality, and, when the 2020 boating season in the Med might be allowed to start, if it will be possible at all. Makes you aware how much you want it and miss it ...
This begs the question how long I will have to wait for the next chance to eat delicious squid cooked in its own ink?! Jane finds this horrifying, "yuck, even the potatoes are black (!!)"
On one of the calm evenings, an intensely red sunset turns the marina briefly into surreal colours.
There are boats in a deserted marina waiting for us. But, this time, no one can come.
My planned maintenance visit to Croatia in April is, of course, made impossible by the imposed travel restictions.
Let's hope we will get through the foul weather without wreckage, and one day be able to continue our voyage still in one piece.
For the time being, Mast- und Schotbruch, fair winds and following seas to all. Stay safe.
Heathrow Terminal 5 is very empty but flight almost as usual, not full, all need to wear face masks. Arrival at Frapa in the afternoon, pleasant weather.
Life feels more normal and relaxed than in the UK, restaurants are all open, tourist numbers are still low, similar to pre-season, and Covid figures are reportedly low.
July 13th, the requirement to wear masks in all shops, offices and on public transport is introduced following an incident at a sports event in Zadar. Waiters have to wear masks.
We are still a little shell shocked from the life experience in England; also, there are jobs to be done on the boat, which I would have done earlier had I been able to travel in April. We take it easy.
First short trip is on July 14, to Zirje island and Vela Stupica, the old haunt. We spend a couple of nights on a buoy. Nice summer weather, though in the morning of the 15th light Jugo blows into the cove raising swell - but it abates over the day. The water temperature is surprisingly cool for the time of year, only around 20 deg in the more open waters. I trust it will rise soon with warm summer weather ahead.
Stupica Vela (Zirje) buoys are all taken
It's so nice to be back to life as we know it...
Return to Frapa on July 16; in the evening I finally have a haircut done at the local salon.
During the following days a frontal trough passes, the weather turns grey and windy for a while.
On Sunday, July 19, Rogoznica celebrates its traditional Catholic feast of the "Return of the Painting of the Virgin Mary to the Gradina Chapel".
Legend has it that in 1772 a fisherman found the painting at the Gradina Cape in a miraculous way, later the chapel was built in the same spot to house the painting (it's the cape at the entrance to Rogoznica cove, with a red lighthouse).
On each 2nd of July the picture is taken by ship, in the company of a priest and young girls dressed in white, to the Parish church. It returns to its sanctuary on the Gradina Cape on the first Sunday after Our Lady of Karmel (July 16th), in a procession by land and sea, around the bay,
In 1887 there was an epidemic of black measles that cost many lives. It is said that the dying in Rogonica stopped after the local priest and believers went barefooted on a pilgrimage to the sanctuary begging the Virgin for mercy.
In 2020, this procession must have a special meaning to many locals.
The procession lands at Marina Frapa. For best quality choose HD quality (Auto1080p) in Youtube Settings
July 21, we set out for a second, a little longer trip, going southeast to Hvar and on a buoy in Tiha cove near Starigrad.
Same situation and prices as last year, but not busy. Have delicious octopus peka at the grill.
I am intrigued by the range of different kinds of boats you see here; from large to superyacht sized crewed craft "isolating" in anchorages, to miniature live-aboard cuisers of locals. And, all boaters seem to fulfil their desires and achieve satisfaction.
On the journey to Hvar I had detected knocking noises in the aft cabin, most likely caused by a mis-adjusted rope cutter - same problem we had the previous year.
After two nights on the buoy we move to Starigrad harbour.
The day temperature has gone up and we enjoy fine weather; with this comes the afternoon westerly breeze, the Mistral, which blows between 2 and about 7pm making mooring manoeuvres uncomfortable.
The following morning, July 24th, we have a diver, one of the marineros, take off the starboard fixed rope cutter blade, so the knocking noise stops.
The day has been forecast to be sunny and calm, fine for cruising, but bora is expected for the following night - we need to be in a safe harbour.
The trip back to Frapa, with a lunch stop at Necujam cove/Solta is indeed pleasant, unusually calm, and thankfully uneventful.
Approaching the passage between Brac and Solta (Splitska Vrata) from SE in fine weather. Lighthouse Rt Razanj to right.
We continue along the north coast of Solta and then north of Drvenik towards NW.
In the evening there is a thunderstorm, as expected, and the Bora makes a brief but powerful appearance.
Rainbow over Rogoznica in the evening after a heavy downpour
From July 27th we get settled high pressure weather again, with clear days and afternoon wind W and NW4.
So far, the temperature has been pleasant with 25-27C day maximum and around 20C deg in the night.
July 28th, we reserve a place at Konoba Bain in Zut cove. The 37 nm passage to Zut is easy in light wind, we do not even need to stop for lunch but have sandwiches on the way.
Arriving in the cove it turns out that the south side of their jetty - where we were meant to go alongside - is occupied by a yacht but they have kept the north side for us which is even better.
At Konoba Bain, Zut cove
Whilst the number of land tourists may still be lower than in previous years, there are plenty of boaters, mostly owner operated craft, so the family run Konoba is very busy.
We are here for a pleasant fish dinner; I am not even sure whether they do anything else than fish. It appears that their supply is from local fishermen and trustworthy for quality and freshness. The choice is sometimes limited, depending on the catch.
At Bain, there is a brilliant view towards the sunset; but this openness to NW also means that the cove does not offer protection against the Mistral.
Zut cove. In the evening the wind abates and the night is calm. The lights of the ACI marina are seen in the distance to left.
The following morning, July 29th, I call the Mare restaurant on Katina, only a short drive away, and confirm that they have a place for us.
By early afternoon we leave for Katina; the thermal wind has already started when we berth at their pier. Misfortune strikes; when Jane attempts to fix a mooring line to a bow cleat - they are heavy at this place - she injures her back. She is under pain and leaves the deck. Her disappearance means I am suddenly on my own in the manoeuvre.
Jane is concerned how serious her back issue might get and how she will be able to heal it and keep moving. Ice packs are, at least, available on board.
To lower stress, I suggest to stay put in Katina for two days and then move back to Frapa.
However, the Mare restaurant is very busy so unfortunately all their moorings have been reserved for the following night. We have no choice than to leave. I decide to move straight back to our home berth at Frapa. We are now single handed with regards to berthing manoeuvres, and, anyway, Jane can't risk getting into a dinghy to go ashore and other activities.
The weather has heated up considerably during the last couple of days and reached the level you would expect for end July, 30 to 34C during the day and 26C or so in the night.
The number of tourists in Rogoznica has increased, and on some evenings seems almost as lively as in previous years.
The Covid restrictions have practically stopped all tourist cruisers (gulets), even at Starigrad none were seen, but diving excursions and day trip boats are available. Regattas and most flotillas seem to be cancelled, but private charter yachts are hired in increasing numbers.
Air travel is at a low level, most tourists come by car from Slovakia, Poland, Czechia, Germany, Austria. High summer is time for family holidays; we were actually not disturbed by any of those noisy hooligan charter crews which we had encountered in previous years. Allegedly Russians tourists were not allowed to travel this year.
We spend the remaining days until our return flight on Aug 5th in our home marina.
I have good use for spare time as I need to organize an unexpected major repair project at a flat in London to tight deadlines, amidst a computer virus that has struck my laptop causing havoc to emails just at the wrong time.
On Aug 3rd unpleasant Jugo gets up and blows at force 5 all day, gradually easing on the following day.
Jane manages to recover gradually using her experience with Pilates; we walk to restaurants and are able to travel home without problems.
Rogoznica: On a calm evening after a hot day, the flybridge can be a nice place for a night cap.
We intend to come back to Croatia in September for another stay.
Our 2020 late summer stay, September 5 to 24
On August 22nd Croatia is struck off the UK's list of 'exempted countries', like many others. That means we will be asked to self-isolate after our return.
Yet, we are confident that we will be completely safe on our boat on our own, and far away from tourism hotspots, social gatherings and public transport.
We are determined to have another stay under the sun, and a few weeks of life in relaxation and relative normality; for a brief period, at least, we try to escape the dispiriting and damaging daily dose of Covid scare spread in the UK.
Croatia Airlines' flight from Heathrow to Split on Sept 5th is spookily empty, about 22 passengers in a A319 airbus. With one passenger per row, that is unsustainable business.
We are not coming to the Med this time to do far reaching cruising and exploration, but to take it easy and enjoy the summer weather, the sea, and the simple life in Rogoznica and on nearby islands, in these abnormal times.
Zirje and Zlarin (Sibenik islands)
Our first short cruise goes, yet again, to Zirje island.
Approaching Stupica Vela, and tour of cove. Make sure you choose HD quality (Auto1080p) in Youtube Settings.
From Zirje to Zlarin harbour, to stay for two days before returning to Rogoznica.
Zlarin harbour approach from south Tarilian once more at Zlarin island. Only about 6 visiting yachts stayed over night at this time
Boats mooring at Zlarin pier in prevailing wind Konoba Aldura - nice dinner with views
At Rogoznica, the village is still relatively busy during our first week, but then many land-based tourists leave; for many the season has ended early.
With fewer and fewer people around, you start asking yourself what you are doing here.
Anyhow, the weather is still hot, like high summer rather than September.
Anchored for lunch at Zmajan island in calm weather; then back at Rogoznica
Islands of Kakan and Kaprije
As the weather forecast is for calm nights, we visit the Kakan anchorage, known as Potkucina, for the first time this season. The blue water and beauty of surrounding nature always attract us, and we like the Babalu grill who prove again that they are doing a nice dinner.
Anyhow, the cove is relatively large and poorly protected from swell and winds. The best protection is probably found in the north close to one of the small islets depending on expected wind. On the west side, nearer to the main island Kakan there is often swell from northwest or northeast. Even 3-4 bft of wind cause swell that is unpleasant during the night, and not ideal for swimming during the day.
Add to this that the buoys are not very well kept and therefore of worry. The concession owner seems to be greedy; mooring charges are higher than in Stupica and no receipt is offered; he also chases money for half days/short stays which others don't do.
Some of the defect mooring buoys and ropes have been replaced for this season; the new buoys are plastic balls with a channel through the centre where the rope runs and is terminated with a loop so it does not slip out. To attach to the buoy, one has to put a rope through the loop. Seems easy; I have not checked how the ground rope is tied to the block but I suspect that there is no chain attached.
We go on one of the old buoys on the north west side not too far from the grill. I am not happy that the northwest wind which was said to calm after dark continues until late night. Nights feel much longer at this time of the year.
... the blue water and beauty of nature always attract us to return to the bay despite its disadvantages ...
After the night on the buoy we decide to re-visit Kaprije town, just 2 nm across from the cove. We had been there last time in 2003.
Since that time the ferry pier was extended, mooring lines laid, and a buoy field of around 25 buoys created in the southern part of the cove.
The number of laid moorings is approx. 15 including 3-4 for smaller boats at the end of the short pier. Fees are the same as at other ports within the Sibenik port authority region.
Several new buildings seem to have gone up but the place is still very quiet. We take a walk all around the bay.
On pier at Kaprije town
I did not feel there are any special attractions to this simple village but it is pleasant enough and laid back. There is a choice of 3 restaurants and a small market.
There are no cars but each resident seems to own at least one small boat judging by the sheer number of them. We further note a number of richly fruit bearing pomegranate trees in front gardens.
An unusual feature are the numerous boat parking facilities all along the coast, ranging from simple small rock jetties to mini-piers.
The life line of local transport, as well as village supplies, seem to be the various arrivals of the two ferries from Sibenik; the first comes in as early as 6am. Do not worry too much, the intrusion to boats on the other side of the pier is brief and not terribly severe.
Ferries go along the pier where a sailing yacht has temporarily moored up
Meet Losinjanka and Little Prince ... The cove is open to the north west and the Meastral wind is felt all afternoon, making it clear why there is a need for safe moorings.
As the evening comes, the wind stops and it's time to have sun downers on the fly bridge.
We have dinner at Konoba Neptun right by the ferry pier, pleasant and good value for money. Close views from the tables over the pier and our boats.
On the journey to Kakan I discovered that the macerator pump has given up its ghost, the motor must have burnt out, a shame after only 4 years of very light duty. Frapa service confirms that they hold a spare and we make an appointment for the day after our return.
Talking about unappetizing memories, reminds me of a very unpleasant incident the following morning. Our boat gets filled with terrible sewage stink around 7:30 in the morning, which is still noticeable an hour later. The only source can be one of the other boats where someone emptied the holding tank. Our neighbour is a Croatian sailing boat, talking to them they point at the large Italian motor yacht Panatarei which is alongside the pier and been already there before we arrived. Whether it's true or not, whether it was an accident or not, this unbelievable incident should be followed up by authorities - but there is no one to do this.
Sept 19, I review our flight bookings, being concerned about cancellations. Indeed, our return flight to London Heathrow, scheduled for Oct 3rd, has been cancelled by Croatia Airlines.
The weather forecast for the week after Sept 24th and into early October doesn't look good. The pleasant high-pressure weather we have been enjoying so far is coming to an end and unstable cool and windy weather ahead.
Presented with a broad choice of travel options from Star Alliance, albeit no direct flights, I change to a trip via Frankfurt on the earlier date of Sept 24th.
That leaves time for a final short cruise - to enjoy the last days of this year's real summer
Solta island/ Sesula
After heading north earlier we decide to go south this time, the nearest island of interest is Solta. We have been to Sesula cove before but not visited the popular Sesula restaurant which offers moorings for guests. Sept 20th is a sunny Sunday, and I call ahead to make sure they expect us.
A lunch stop on the way at conveniently located Krknjas, Drvenik Veli east coast, shows us that there are still many boats around in the Split area on a weekend, even without big tourism. We anchor in the outer (eastern) part between the small islands.
It's easy to anchor there but the spot is exposed to swell from passing power boats.
On the east side of the ever busy and confused anchorage at Krknjas; west winds sweep over the low islets
Anyhow, Sesula cove offers good protection, the Maestral is only felt lightly.
At Konoba Sesula, a very friendly and efficient marinaio rushes to help us, and fixes the boat to one of their mooring lines front and back. We rig an extra 25m shore line. The night is expected to be calm.
Real holiday feeling, I do not even need to launch the dinghy, the guy takes us ashore at our chosen dinner time.
Looking around the mooring situation at Konoba Sesula
The following day starts calm and sunny, light to moderate Jugo (south east wind) has been forecast.
We leave Sesula late morning. For a lunch stop I choose a nearby cove, on the west coast of Drvenik V, M Luka ('small harbour'), protected from south and east winds.
After lunch we notice black clouds forming above us, and soon the characteristic rumble tells us that an isolated thunderstorm is about to make its appearance. Up the hook, and we're off towards our home berth; the storm luckily decides to head in a different direction.
Back at Frapa, we go through the usual end-of-season procedures such as re-fuelling.
The next days give time to tidy up and prepare the boat for winter, before leaving for our return flights on Thursday, Sept 24th.
Rogoznica town quay, Sept 18th
By the time we fly home to the UK, the official infection rate in the UK has climbed up and is twice as high as Croatia's. Being asked to self-quaratine for full 14 days, despite being free of symptoms, coming from a country with lower infection rate than the UK, and having spent three weeks on our own yacht, with no socializing or gatherings, is very frustrating. Measures like that, where there is no consideration for regional and personal circumstances, and not even an option to get out via voluntary testing, are bureaucracy by numbers and can undermine confidence in the authorities.
A Plovdiv maintenance ship seen at a light on the south end of Kaprije, Rt Lemes. Keeping navigation safe.
As always in September, the water was still warm, and this time even the weather was more like high summer. But days are getting shorter and evenings earlier and cooler. When dining outside, as is usual, you want to start no later than 7pm, and by 8pm it's dark. I believe that around Sept 25 was about the right time to leave this year, at least for us and our expectation of a holiday.
We have been lucky with lots of sunshine and hot days, but it was strange to experience high summer weather with so few tourists around; boats were still going and some anchorages reasonably busy though. Some restaurants closed after mid-September but most popular places were still open and had guests. We noted that some restaurants with business mainly from boaters ran out of one or another dish, it was probably difficult for them to predict how many guests would come.
I am happy to note that we did not encounter charter boat hooligans nor noisy flotillas; nights were quiet. We were reminded of nice holidays of much earlier years. It was good to feel similarly minded to the other boating folks around us; this is how it once was.
We are glad to have stayed on our boat twice in this extraordinary year 2020, but it has felt unusual in many ways. The first trip was special because it followed the traumatic lock-down experience in UK. For the second trip, travel warnings for Croatia from foreign governments had scared many foreigners away and spread a gloomy mood which sometimes overshadowed our stay. Yet, life seemed much more normal than at home and we felt welcome and safe.
For the records. We travelled 187nm in July and 113nm in September. Tarilian did a total of 356nm in year 2020; engine hours were 49.
Our time on the boat is over for 2020, but the year with its 'unprecedented' events has not ended yet. More catastrophy is about to strike.