Both Slovenia and Croatia are in the EU but Croatia is not in the Schengen Agreement, and so it was necessary to check out of Slovenia by completing a simple Crew List and submitting this to the Border Police in Piran harbour. It was just after sunrise that I headed to Umag, the first port of entry in Croatia, and moored against the customs pier. After completing another simple Crew List, producing all personal and boat documents and paying a tourist tax of about £110, in Kuna as Croatia is not in the Eurozone, I left and headed down the Istrian coast towards Pula. Some of this passage was under sail and some was motoring, but all was in brilliant sunshine and a 37 degree welcome in the marina at Pula. I knew that Pula had a fine Roman amphitheater but hadn’t realised that it is still used for concerts and Tom Jones was live the very next day! Tickets for standing (or sitting) on the grass were still available! I last saw Tom Jones in concert in Nottingham about 35 years ago, and now at 77 years of age he gave yet another fabulous show in a fabulous setting. I stayed in Pula longer than anticipated because of the weather. The recent heatwave across much of Europe created unstable conditions and strong storms were forecast for the weekend I had planned to move on. The storm arrived on the Sunday evening and I was glad I was safe in Pula marina. The heatwave across Europe has been named “Lucifer” and normal service was resumed for a short sail to Pomer, where I only stayed one night and then started island hopping. The island Cres was my first stop, and in the main town Cres. The one noticeable difference in Croatia is the lack of UK yachts…it is predominantly Croatian, Italian and Slovenian sailors in the marinas. I knew the passage north and then south around the island Cres to the island Krk would be a mix of sailing and motoring, but what I hadn’t considered was the fabulous sailing in fabulous scenery. I arrived in Punat inside a wonderful inland bay in full sunshine. Punat is one of those jewels that I’d never heard of, and will never forget….a wonderful holiday resort without the high rise hotels and set in a bay with an island monastery. I left Punat early morning to catch a better wind, and I did everything from drifting in a light breeze to flying along at 7 knots in 25 knot gusts…and plenty of sunshine, of course! Rab was destined to be a lively and popular place, and it was just that! Definitely one of the highlights of Adriatic. The weather gods were against me and the day I wanted to sail to the island Pag, I motored for four hours in F1 wind to the ACI marina at Simuni. I wanted to move further south to a safe marina as some strong winds are forecast for Sunday. The other side of the island Pag is the Velebitski Kanal which is notorious for strong Bora winds. It is very quiet in comparison to lively Rab, but the highlight will be to try the famous Pag cheese! I stayed in Simuni for four days as the strong wind blew itself out. It was still a good wind on the day I left and the sail down to an anchorage on the island Ugljan was perfect. I don’t anchor much because I prefer the social aspect of a marina or town harbour. But when I do anchor overnight I do enjoy the simplicity, the peace and the solitude. In the morning I waited until there was a gentle breeze and set off again at about 11am. It was another lovely sail until, nearing the harbour, I was getting the boat ready to moor…and dropped a fender in the sea! So I put the engine on and finally retrieved the floating fender. The small town of Sali on the island Dugi Otok was worth the effort. I moored against the harbour wall directly in front of the Maritimo Bar. What a lovely town, and especially in the evening. There are two national parks nearby that require a Day licence to anchor, or pick up a mooring buoy as I did in Uvala Telascica….with the help from a naked guy in a dinghy from a nearby boat! After that shock it was very calm. Great for swimming and paddle boarding. The next I was able to sail off the mooring buoy and sailed all day down the Kornati islands. But as the day progressed the wind strengthened and my planned anchorage for the night was very exposed so I motored back 4nm to the ACI marina on the island Piskera. Although the Kornati national park is a fascinating area, it was a bit too quiet and desolate to stay longer than one night. So the next morning I started the day paddle boarding between the two islands, and after a chat with an English couple Andrew and Kath with “that” dream to sail away one day, I sailed away in very light winds driving me along at less than 3knots. Then as the day progressed I left Kornati and slowly built up the boat speed as the wind increased. I arrived in Jezera on the island, Murter in 18 knots of wind, sunshine and the last can of Italian beer from the fridge! Jezera has a good marina in a natural bay and is a pleasant holiday spot for some great early morning runs and good paddle boarding. However, it acted as a magnet for big charter yachts skippered and crewed by inexperienced people who seem determined to scare the living daylights out of guys like me!….one such yacht hit the Wildbeast but did no damage. My next destination was just 11nm down the mainland coast….Sibenik, the “most Croatian” of Croatian towns as neither the Romans nor the Venetians influenced its architecture. Sibenik has also featured in some episodes of The Game of Thrones. Dinner, drinks and a book swapping evening on Con Brio of Dartmouth added a special touch to a lovely city harbour stop. But September brought a change in the weather…very strong winds nearly gave me a problem in the harbour and heavy rain in Zagreb caused the cancellation of the Croatia vs Kosovo football match. Then on the day I left Sibenik I sailed for a couple of hours in rain on my way to Trogir.
Trogir is a fascinating island about the size of a small UK shopping centre! It was also where Caroline joined me on the Wildbeast. It was easier to catch the local bus to Split rather than sail there, and it turned out to be one of my favourite Croatian places. The sail to Milna on the island Brac was lively and turned out to be the start of a mini-adventure. The marina at Milna was full so we headed out into the bay to anchor for the night. All was fine until a huge early morning storm knocked out some electronic instruments with the biggest and loudest lightning strike I had ever witnessed. By midday the sun was shining again and we were able to find a place in the ACI marina. The search for the fault was proving fruitless, but we met some UK sailors including Rod and Pam again and we indulged ourselves with some running, swimming and early morning Pilates. The bad weather returned on Sunday and I was still no further forward in identifying the electronic fault. It turned out that the last few days have seen the heaviest rainfall for over 30 years on this Croatian coastline. As the weather took a turn for the better we caught a ferry for a day trip to Hvar. Eventually we left Milna and had a fabulous sail down to Korcula and in sight of the old town Jo and Liz on Nimrod sailed past our bow on their way to Loviste.
Not only was Korcula a splendid walled town, but we cycled, swam, paddle boarded, dined out alfresco and in style and watched a brilliant Singapore GP! A northerly wind had been forecast for the day we left Korcula to sail to an overnight anchorage on the island Olipa. But, the following day was a horrid few hours of motoring in the Kolocepski Kanal into a strong wind….last night I really ought to have anchored closer to Dubrovnik, our final Croatian destination! A beer on a glorious first evening, and dinner with David and Ann, friends from the Cruising Association. Priority number one was to resolve the electronic problems, and then visit the old town. The lightning damage to the electronic system turned out to be huge, and an insurance claim was followed by a surveyor visit and finally the green light from my insurers, Bishop Skinner, to replace all the faulty equipment and cabling.
Having learnt a little bit about the Yugoslav Wars in a walking tour of Dubrovnik I bought a novel entitled The Cellist of Sarajevo to read and made a bus trip to Sarajevo. A wonderful trip aided by my Airbnb host Belma and another guest Alexandra, travelling the region from her native Italy. I learnt a lot more about the war period and fell in love with Sarajevo which continues to rebuild the city and city life. The view from the Yellow Fortress included the military cemetery and was a special place to be at sunset.
Back to Dubrovnik and what better place to meet, yet again, with Matt, the beer loving cyclist!
But all good things must come to an end, so I left Croatia and went to Montenegro.