Akuna Bay Cruising Club

`Sailing in Croatia (or how to get a Split-ing headache).

Friday 13 October, 2006

Kim and I had the good fortune during 2001 to have been stationed in Adelaide and even better were living at the CYCSA. We had our boats a Nolex 25 at first and then a Duncanson Offshore 32 stationed on the marina at the CYC. Whilst at the CYC we made some very good friends in Chris and Bev Edwards and met Richard and Di Dix. All of us were and still are members of the TSASA (Trailer Sailer Assn of SA). We have been very good friends with the Edwards ever since sharing a love of sailing, food beer wine and happy hour, and a holiday together each year, usually sailing. Last year it was the Whitsundays. During the early party of this year Chris asked us would like to go to Croatia sailing with a group of other Australians. We were to share a boat with them and the Dix's. You bet was our reply.
As the plan unfolded the details promised a great trip. The boat was to be a new Benetau 42 with the name "Pipedreams" which is very fitting in that I work for Vinidex who is Australia's leading Plastic Pipe Company. We were travelling in company with 4 identical boats and one 50 footer. Sailing in the north of Croatia at the end of the summer season was the basic plan with a combination of anchoring overnight in secluded bays and tied up in beautiful marinas on other nights. A pre departure raft up on boats in Pittwater's Castle lagoon and a later BBQ revealed that the rest of the participants were like minded and good folk. The basic details looked good.
The day of departure has arrived and we are off to Frankfurt via Singapore which was just like any other plane flight to Europe. An early morning arrival saw us book in and into Frankfurt for a look around, some beer and of course Frankfurts. In the evening we met up with the rest of the party who had been travelling in Ireland. The next day we are off to the lovely city of Split in Croatia. If you have ever seen a post card of a fairy tale landscape then that's what unfolded in front of us as we progressed by bus to Sibenik for lunch. This town was so clean and tidy that must have been groomed with a toothbrush and the day well it was the one they took the photos for the tourist promotions. The lunch, the food, even the black pasta, the beer, the wine. It can't get better than this, well wrong, it did.
Now Chris and I have always played off each other driving our wives mad with comments that are well, sick. Now Split, well you can't get married there as you will Split, that rock over there is Split, You get Splitting head aches, Split personalities, you get the picture. To make it worse we visited places like Rat, Is, Sue. Well the banter did not stop. It even affected the other boats who joined in.
We picked up our boat from Biograd Marina which is located about half way up the coast. These marinas are stunning in the number and the size of them. Biograd is typical with hundreds of boats, masts and mostly very competent staff. This particular Marina had excellent facilities showers etc. Shops and the town are right at the end of the marina. There are many Marinas up and down the coast some of them are expensive and have poor facilities, buyer beware. There was one marina in Zadar where Mrs Kelly would not let Ned play with the staff.
The boat was very well prepared by Sunsail. All systems and equipment worked very well. Three cabins, three heads, hot water, great fridge freezer and on our boat our ice expert Richard always made sure we had ice. Pipedreams was also the only boat equipped with an MPS (Multi Purpose Sail) which is like a Spinnaker without having to use a pole. The MPS was left on our boat accidentally, we did use it extensively to the disappointment of the rest of the fleet.
Provisioning in Croatia is easy, just go to the local market and you can get what ever you want. Avoid the large Supermarkets. A lot of the things we usually purchase such as toiletries, medicines, coke are in packages the same as ours. However some food stuffs are in "mystery boxes". Take a little time and it easy to get a great feed, gear for happy hour and even fix your aches and pains. Beer is easy. We liked the 500ml cans of great beer. Try drinking three of them and not let them get hot. Wine, well avoid the crown capped ones they are best left to age or even die. The more expensive corked variety is more palatable. We even took in a wine tasting on the island of Susak. This is a small island in the North and is one of the most Northern Islands and closest to Italy. It is a very ancient island with no paved streets no cars and a very small Harbour. A bit of a shock for the locals when six boats with the Australian flag and the boxing Kangaroo flying and 40 of us descending on the population of about 200. They have a great grape growing area, some good wines and some real crookies.
On our first night out we were moored in Telascica Bay a beautiful bay in the Koranati National park, on the island of Kornat. There was a Bavaria 44 with 8 German guys on board moored just up from us. They were drinking a bit in the evening when one of them a 24 year old decided to relieve him self off the back of the boat. He fell and hit his head and disappeared. Being a dark night his mates could not find him. In the morning they could see him on the bottom in about 20m of water. The police and the Coroner attended. They informed us that it was the third such death in the area this summer under similar circumstances. A lesson for all of us. Up the hill from this tragedy we traipsed to find ourselves atop a line of cliffs some 300M high and stretching in each direction far as we can see. The scene was interspersed with islands close up whilst less than 100km out to sea was Italy, just over the horizon. At the bottom of the cliffs in the beautiful clear waters a million fish. A very different scene from the tragedy over the hill in the bay.
We ate out on a number of occasions, an interesting experience. On one occasion about 15 of our number found and booked a back blocks small town traditional restaurant. The food was cooked on an indoor BBQ, a fire place looking thing where the food is placed in a hollow on top and a fire is built on top of the food. Cooked for two hours the food was sensational. On another occasion in Ilovik we were to be taken by taxi boat to the local and biggest restaurant. The guy piloting the "taxi" did not know how to drive a boat. The place was a rip off, the food was bad and not inexpensive and to top it off they charged extra for the salt, pepper, sauce , bread, complimentary or so we thought, condiments, in a word disgraceful. On another occasion a beautiful experience at a great place called Mali Losinj. We had gone out in this beautiful town up the hill and in the back blocks. The people there did not really understand much English, about as much as we could speak German which they understood. The menu was in the local lingo and in German. After a very difficult period in trying to order, the head lady communicated that she would select the food and that if we did not like it then we would not have to pay, well we paid. A German couple sitting near by who spoke as much English as we spoke German were laughing at us so we invited them over to join us. Great company and fun, they joined again on our boat for happy hour the next day. Dining out was good fun and generally a low cost affair except on the one occasion.
The scenery was up to and exceeded our expectations. From beautiful old towns to remodelled modern towns with huge areas of development thanks to rich Europeans and including the modern Eastern Europeans who have holiday and retirement homes there. The islands and the near main land were made of a gazillion small rocks which had to be made into houses, fences and piles to gain arable land. We saw heavily wooded land to the back of islands with absolutely barren land on the mainland side, such a stark difference with in kilometres is hard to imagine. The towns of Mali Losinj and Veli Losinji (big Losinj and Little Losinj) on the island of Cres are worthy of mention. Post card worthy, clean, friendly and prosperous, a place you could live. Cres is called the island of Dolphins, the towns are made of promenades and footpaths. We hired a motor scooter and toured these towns. The smaller Losinj must be the place in every fairy tale of pirates and of the sea ever made, so cute, and may be the way the Mediterranean must have been in a former age. One lucky sailer had tied up at the local wharf, very lucky people. The town of Rab on the island of Rab is an old town with buildings back to the Romans was also stunning. Modern yet old, an interesting mix of the ages of modern man. Off south from Rab at end of the island, a distance of about 15 km, three of the boats visited a place on the mainland called Velebit National Park. This was a fiord cut into the mountains of the mainland which were some 1200M straight out of the sea. This fiord was an S shape about 300M long and 25 wide and all but invisible from the sea. We were looking for the opening about 200M out from the edge of the mountain and were in 150M of water! Once found and safely inside and tied up at the wall we were visited by the dreaded Yellow shirt, a person charged by the Government to mind the buoys and charge us about 120 Krona ($20) for the privilege. The yellow shirts were at every mooring. Anyway back at the Fiord we were tied to the wall with the main anchor out in 20M of clear water. We could see the shackle on the anchor on the bottom it was so clear. On the opposite side to where the boats were one could see a ship wreck which was so visible you did not need to dive on it. The water was so clear that the boats looked like they were floating on air. Fresh water from snow melt filtered through the mountains and gushing up from the bottom probably decades old made the water clear, and very, very cold. The scenery, well its very different to what I have seen in other parts of the world. Civilisation has been around these parts for a long time.
Navigation was easy; the maps are as good as or better than our coastal maps. The navigation aids are accurate and plentiful. Our boats had GPS as well we had a handheld Garmin (very good). We also navigated the old chart way on some of the runs. We never got lost or even anxious and felt safe at all times on the sea. Also very confident that we were not going to run aground we sailed hard and the boat relished it as did we..
The sailing is a sailers dream, over 1000 islands all about five Km apart with many small towns, bays and things to see. We sailed in conditions from totally becalmed and motoring to a force 7 gale in the Adriatic. Very good sailing which required good sailing skills. The company and the boat and the conditions made it a sailing holiday that was always going to be too short.

Stephen & Kim Smith