August & September 2015
Our 2015 adventure began with leaving Washington, D.C. after celebrating Julie’s 39th birthday for the 22nd time with our sons, their wives and our two grandchildren. We flew Delta to London-Heathrow, where we stayed at the Hilton for the night ready to fly British Air to Split, Croatia early on Wednesday, the next morning. Once in Split, we took a short taxi ride to Trogir Marina – a well-positioned boutique marina located on an island between an industrial port and an “old-town” marine trading village. We met up with our close friends and traveling companions, Peter and Nikki, and, after depositing our gear into our cabin on the boat, began a walk through the ancient town of Trogir. The streets were lined with all sorts of local vendor booths and shops selling heather sachets, olive oil, soaps and souvenirs, along with all sorts of market foods and clothing. The light rain that developed did nothing to dampen the activity, as we stopped at a local shop and had a big lunch of mussels (as a starter), followed by grilled octopus, beef, kolbasz, cheese and zucchini fritters. It was all washed down with pivo (beer) and cider. We then walked off our gluttony by shopping through the Marina stores finding a unique shop that sells bags made of sail-material. After returning to the boat to relax, visit, unpack and stow our gear, we waited for the skies to clear before setting out again to ogle the yachts in harbor, and make our way to a nice, little restaurant where we dined on mixed mussels and grilled prawns – Awesome!
Thursday, August 20th began as a day of perfect weather in the 60’s and 70’s, ideal for the day’s sail to the island and town of Vis. The island of Vis is farthest west from Croatia’s coast and was historically controlled by Italy, and the Italian influence is prevalent even today. The harbor was full of sail boats, all backed-in to the wharf, as is common in the Mediterranean. Once we were set, we set out to explore the town, only steps from our boat’s stern. While there, we walked to the neighboring town of Kut, a quaint seaside town of old stone with a church from the 1500’s and a fortress with cannons to protect the town. We then returned to Vis and traveled to the far side of the bay to investigate an old cemetery, ringed with olive trees. In this town, the markets were again filled with seashells, heather sachets, and olive oil. We ate ashore in Kut at a small, local restaurant, where the island’s specialty: mussels, followed by eggplant casserole with anchovies, pasta Faggioli, and grilled sea bass. We then stopped and had street food for dessert -12 mini donuts with powdered sugar and chocolate, (white and dark), made to order for us while we waited. These, of course, we ate with a pear liqueur as a nightcap.
Friday was again perfect weather, and after morning cappuccinos and breakfast pastries, we set sail for the famous island and town of Hvar. Hvar is a protected bay shielded from the sea by another island. The water there was crystal blue, but the small bay is dominated by super yachts with names such as: “Lotus”, “’joy Me”, and “Spirit”. Hvar is a high-end playground for the rich-and-famous, and luxury tourist spot for us! The wharf there is reserved for luxury liners only, so we were required to take a mooring ball and longline our stern to the shallow, rocky wharf. Lunch was a traditional Croatian goulash, mussels, and grilled shrimp and scallops! Walking about the town, we ran across the youth hostels and local topless beach. Since the view was good, we stopped for drinks where we met some young British recruiters on holiday and talked rugby with them. Roc and Peter then decided it was time to “burn some calories” and hiked to the top of the local fortress above the town! From that vantage point, the harbor and town, with its luxury ships, offer a beautiful view.
Saturday morning, we set sail back to another marina in Trogir to trade in our 3-cabin boat, (“Martana”), for a 4 cabin boat, (“Kaja”). Another day of great sailing weather allowed us to get there before midday, dock-up next to our “new” boat and move all of our gear from one boat to the other. However, problems with “Kaja’s” GPS System and a non-functioning head, (toilet), delayed us for all afternoon. These problems, coupled with an incoming storm and the mass exodus of all of the marina’s other sailboats for “Yacht Week”, convinced us to “stay put” for the night! So, in consolation, we walked down the coast to a wonderful restaurant, “Frankie’s”, where we sat outside in the upstairs balcony overlooking the bay and treated ourselves to a lavish meal of mussels, veal and chicken!
The storm passed in the night, and, in the quiet of the morning, we had the full attention of the marina staff in trying to ready “Kaja” for us to be able to leave. With one of the boat’s heads permanently nonfunctioning, we convinced the staff to “jet blast” the waste storage from its tank (a very nasty job), which would allow us to proceed with an acceptable situation. The boat would then have only a single functioning head! We finally left port and laid course to Vela Luka on the northwest end of the island of Korcula. This would be on-route to Dubrovnik, where we would rendezvous with other friends coming aboard in a few days. Vela Luka is a quiet, historic town with a town quay that we tied-up at. Down the street, we found a nice family restaurant, where we dined on mussel risotto and shared an excellent order of lamb chops! That evening, we shared cocktails on the boat, played cards and toasted with local pear “palinka”!
The next morning, we set sail for the city of Korcula, an ancient town for which the island is named. Korcula is famous for being the birthplace of the famous explorer, Marco Polo! We were lucky enough to get there at a reasonable time to avoid the rush for boat space on the wharf. However, this port does leave the boats tied-up there open to the waves directly from the sea. That means that ferry traffic and large ship passing by the bay drive waves onto the moored boats, requiring them to be carefully tensioned in order to keep their sterns from hitting the pier. Once getting water and electric hooked-up, we went to explore the old-town. This is an ancient “walled-city”, with stone walls surrounding it, and narrow walkways crisscrossing within, up and down steep hills. Nikki and Julie explored the shops while Peter and Roc climbed the local church’s bell tower for a panoramic view. That night we sat at a table on the wall’s water’s edge, enjoying the starry sky, the ocean’s gentle breeze and great food! Strolling back to the boat, we stopped for gelatos and finished off the evening with “toasts” to the places we visited thus far.
The morning was Tuesday, August 25th and it was Peter’s birthday! For breakfast, we had traditional walnut fig pastries with our coffee, and then set sail for Polace. The sailing was great, and we ate a light lunch aboard as we enjoyed the blue seas and fair wind. In Polace, we backed the boat up to Spongo Restaurant’s private wharf where we would incur no docking fees. We preordered dinner (a fish pot for two and a mixed pot for 2), and then walked to explore the 2nd Century Roman ruins that the city is built upon. We took note of the local paths that would allow one to explore the area further, and decided that tomorrow would be a good time to journey on them. Back at the boat, we met new “neighbors” who had docked next to us – 9 men – former schoolmates on a “reunion” sailing trip – who were having a great time! At dinner, we had grilled octopus for starters, followed by our “pots”. However, we had obviously made a key mistake, when we found we had enough food to feed 8 people, instead of only the four of us. To celebrate Peter’s birthday, Nikki ordered a birthday cake! We all sang “Happy Birthday”, ate cake, and polished dinner off with joyous shots of grappa, before we called it a night.
Wednesday morning, we had a light breakfast, and then set off hiking the trails we had noted the day before, heading into the hills to a place called “Velalike Jezzerra”, a “inland” lake. The lake is brackish waters with intermittent overflow from the sea, and along its shore we saw fish, sea urchins and sea cucumbers. The mountain path was very old – made of huge stones – obviously set in place through massive manual labor over a thousand years ago. After we returned to our boat, we set sail for Sipanska Luka, (“Luka” = Bay), on Otuk Sipan, (“Otuk” = Island of). Another day of excellent sailing weather brought us a pod of playful dolphins off our bow. Good sailing, saw dolphins. Sipanska Luka is a very protected bay and a quaint little town of only 500. The island of Sipan is the largest of the Elephanti Islands located just offshore and to the northwest of Dubrovnik. Here, for the first time, we were required to actually anchor and test out the dingy and motor. Upon getting to shore, we noticed a crowd in the center of town, where the locals had turned out for a Bocce Ball Tournament – serious stuff – with spectators crowded around the court and a local bar. We joined the crowd and were amazed at the skill these people had rolling a ball over a bumpy, uneven surface. After we walked around the town, gathered a few supplies, we returned to the boat where we cooked pasta onboard. We finished the evening with a rousing game of cards, music and nightcaps.
On Thursday morning, August 27th, we took our dingy back ashore for a breakfast of fresh croissants. While waiting for the local supermarket to open, Peter and Rocky explored the local church grounds before we all eventually returned to the boat to begin our short trip to the city of Dubrovnik. There was no wind today, so we motor sailed our way into port. Along the way, we passed 4 large cruise ships, as Dubrovnik is a major port for tourists and travelers. The Marina Dubrovnik is up a small river that flows to the sea and is some ways from the city proper and old-town, but it was an excellent marina with laundry service, 3 restaurants, great showers and a refreshing swimming pool. Peter and Roc hiked up the mountainside to explore an old Church and graveyard, and after getting lost at least once, finally found their way back before darkness fell. That night, we relaxed on the pool patio and took dinner poolside at the local restaurant.
Friday we had breakfast onboard our boat, and then took the bus to old-town Dubrovnik where we were to meet our friends for the day, and explore at the sights of the old walled city. Roc and Peter went ahead first while the girls waited at the marina for a special delivery of liquor. Once in the old city, Roc found their way to the “Buza” (hole) bar, located seaside outside of the wall on the edge of the cliff. Eventually, the girls found them, as did Terry and Elaine, and Rick and Mary Jane, our guest and friends that would be joining us for the last week of sailing. It was great having drinks with old friends, and grabbing some lunch in the middle of old town. The afternoon was spent catching up on news from “the states” while walking and shopping about town. We decided to ride the panoramic airway tram to the overlook above Dubrovnik, walked around the old town Marina, and had drinks in an old Irish bar. As the sun fell, we returned to the Marina on the bus and enjoyed a casual pizza dinner overlooking the marina’s yachts.
Saturday started with a light breakfast, and we prepared the boat as Terry and Elaine, and Rick and Mary Jane, arrived and settled into the two stern cabins. Once aboard, we set sail for Otuk Mljet and a small town called Okukjle. The wharf there was small and underdeveloped, with room for only a few boats. But the locals were welcoming, and we had our first group dinner at the highest peak of a local residence/restaurant, served by their family members. It was a great dinner of grilled fish and grilled prawns that everyone enjoyed. The dark, night-time trek back to the boat, however, was another matter as everyone was exhausted from the long, adventurous day.
On Sunday, we ate breakfast on the dock of a local family restaurant and then set sail for the port of Lastovo on Otuk Lastovo. Unfortunately, there was little wind that day, so we occupied ourselves “dragging” from the swim ladder behind the boat, and finally motoring our way into port. Lastovo was another small but pristine port with a welcoming wharf and a hotel with restaurant right ashore. We all met on the hotel’s balcony for dinner that night, before retiring to the boat for a lively game of cards and some ill-advised drinking!
On Monday, the last day of August, after a breakfast buffet on the hotel’s balcony overlooking the bay, we set sail for a return to Vis. Again, the wind was poor and we needed to motor sail for most of the day, but we arrived in Vis, eager to show our friends one of our favorite locations thus far. We again backed into a prime spot on the wharf right in front of café tables within a step from our boat’s ramp! After re-exploring the towns of Vis and Kut, and shopping at the local market, we settled into a little Italian restaurant between the two towns where we dined on a lasagna casserole and all of the accompanying Italian sides. We again had desert on the street with the same local vendor selling chocolate donuts and corkscrew fried potatoes.
Tuesday morning, after breakfast, we set sail for the short trip to Hvar. Along the way, we took the time to marvel and sail alongside a large square-masted ship also heading to Hvar. Again, we took a mooring ball and long-lined our stern to the shallows by the rocky wharf. This required us to use the dingy to line-ferry ourselves from the boat back-and-forth to shore. Unfortunately, with 8 people now on-board and a very small dingy, this required multiple ferry-trips to move us back and forth without the ability to stay dry! However, everyone made it onshore and took the opportunity to explore the town. Again, a group climbed to the ancient fortress up the hill, while others took the time to shop or chill at a local vendor. That night we visited a waterside Croatian restaurant that served a delicious local specialty of potatoes and onions with Cevipicci (lamb). After making it back to the boat safely, everyone relaxed with a drink and shared their day’s adventures.
Wednesday morning, we took a leisurely start with a light breakfast ashore, the stowing of the dingy, and a short sail to the town of Stari Grad. Because the wind was again poor, we again took the occasion to drag behind the back of the boat and enjoy the crystal-blue seas. Stari Grad was a very nice town with a beautifully wide wharf. The only issue, however, was that the showers and mariner’s restrooms were a 1/4-mile up the hill at a campground! An electrical problem with our shore-power plug forced us to hunt the local stores for a replacement and repair, and while the women shopped for local crafts, the guys finally fixed it. That night we made reservations at a little hillside, traditional Croatian restaurant where we ate a traditional Croatia dish consisting of potatoes and lamb cooked for 3 hours under a cast iron bell on a wood fire – it was so tender and delicious! The group also sampled lobster salad, grilled lamb chops and grilled sea bass. That night we moved our party to the wharf with music from our ipod and drinks from the boat, and were soon joined by passing locals who danced and drank with us into the evening hours. All-in-all, one of our favorite towns!
The next morning started lazily with everyone rising at their own preference and wandering off to the many cafes that lined the wharf. We, (Julie and Roc) took a leisurely walk to the far end of town where we found a waterfront café that looked over the local protected swimming area, where residents were getting their daily exercise. After cappuccinos, we returned to meet up with everyone at the boat, and set sail for the city of Bol. The recreation peninsula at Bol is one of the most photographed and popular beaches in Croatia, but the public wharf is at the quaint, old harbor of the waterside town, a few miles away. Julie, Roc and Nikki took a water-taxi to the Bol Beach, which was composed of smooth, white stones of varying sizes. Located there were lots of lounge chairs, music clubs, and cafes right at water’s edge and plenty of activities for everyone, including water slides, parasailing, tubing, banana boating, etc. Nikki and Julie took a 10 minute wild “inflatable sofa ride” behind a manic speed boat! After barely staying aboard and landing on each other from jumping over waves, they decided they needed to be rewarded with some local Limon ice cream! What an adventure! After returning and joining up with the group, we found a nice restaurant for diner, before everyone set off to find a quiet place to people-watch.
The morning of September 4th we were awoken by the waves of the morning ferries arriving into the town’s port. We grabbed coffee and some croissants before setting sail for the trip back to Trogir to return the boat. The weather forecast was for storms later that day, so we decided to take up a spot in Marina Trogir Seget that afternoon before it would arrive. Arrive it did, and the evening was a wet affair with everyone beginning to pack and doing laundry at the local marina’s facilities. We also had dinner at the marina, eating local gnocchi, before calling it a night under drenching conditions.
On Saturday morning, September 5th, it was time to leave our boat. Everyone was busy packing and moving gear off the boat, receiving our “check-out”, ordering taxis, and getting breakfast. The continued storm from last night didn’t make things any easier! Since Rick and Mary Jane would be staying in Split a while longer, and the other 6 of us would be traveling by bus to Croatia’s capital city of Zagreb, we all caught a single taxi for 8 and headed into the main terminal/port of Split. Split is a large, industrial city with lots of 1950’s-style high-rise apartment buildings. Mary Jane and Rick said their “good-byes” to us to check into their hotel there, where they would explore for 2 more days before continuing the vacation in Germany. The rest of us got lunch and waited for our bus to start the next leg of our adventure.