Two weeks of sailing this time, leaving everything behind. Our ship this year was a Bénéteau Oceanis 373 and our route can be found below. We covered some vast distances: starting from Split to Dugi Otok, going down south to Mljet, and back to Split again. My estimate is that we sailed approximately 300 nautical miles, or over 550 kilometres. This sailing expedition was a mixture of some familiar and some new territory.
Weather circumstances were a mixed blessing. We started with some beautiful sunny weather. After that, we had some days of mixed clouds, fresh weather and even some storms. The second half of the second week was beautiful sunny again. Fortunately, this meant that there was no shortage of wind. This year we had a lot of northerlies (Bura, Tramontana en Maestral). Usually 10 – 15 knots, but heavier sometimes: 30 – 40 knots. We ‘clocked’ our ship at 9,2 knots top speed.
Around 10:30 CET we leave the marina. It is a true sailing rush hour, and in a long line of sailing boats we sail in the direction of Rat Pelegrin, the westerly point of Hvar. We will try and reach Bol, a tourist resort on the southern shore of the island of Brač. There you have Dugi Rat (the Golden Horn), a famous pebble beach and surfers’ hotspot. Some friends of ours are staying there, and the plan is to drop by for a visit. The wind is north-westerly, 10 – 12 knots, and the long slow waves are coming in from the north-west. Around 11:00 CET we round Rat Pelegrin, heading in a north-easterly direction.
Half an hour later things turn nasty. The wind turns to north-east, and increases sharply. Pretty soon we are fighting 20 – 25 knots of wind and some serious waves. The 13:00 CET weather prognosis warns for 40 knots Bura wind. Most ferry services to and from Brač are stopped because of the weather conditions: wind and waves.
After some consideration we also abandon our attempts to reach Bol. Progress is non-existent, and mooring at Bol or anchoring at Dugi Rat would be suicide under these conditions. We head for Lučice instead, our trusted bay on the southern shore of Brač. Even in this well-protected bay, which is quite full given the early time of the day, we measure up to 20 knots of wind. Bura is showing her teeth again.
We take it easy for the rest of the day. A bit of swimming, a bit of sun-tanning, a bit of reading. Life can be difficult at times…
I wake up around sunrise (05:30 CET). We have to be back in Split in two days, so it is about time to head north again.. Unfortunately, both VHF as well as FM reception is not good in this bay. Thus, I have very little information about the weather prognosis. It is dry and sunny now, and the water of the bay is like a mirror. But that does not say much in the Adriatic…
Around 08:00 CET we lift anchor. We slowly manoeuvre through the dangerous entrance of Luka Polace towards open water. There we head north-west towards Korčula. At first we do some motorsailing, but soon the wind to 8 – 10 knots from the north-east. Bura-time again. It makes for some great sailing on a sea which is still completely empty at this time of the day. We have our breakfast at sea while approaching Korčula.
Pelješki Kanal is entered around 10:30 CET. While I am getting annoyed by the long row of holiday homes that stretches along the coast from Orebic towards the north-west (Croatia, take care what you do with your coastline!) we listen to the weather forecast. It is not good. We were already monitoring a beautiful thundercloud hanging above Korčula for a while. That seems to be the start of a serious storm from the south-west. They expect winds around 40 – 45 knots, 8 to 9 Beaufort.
The wind increases steadily to 15 – 20 knots (still from a north-easterly direction). With 7 knots of speed we fly towards Hvar. Everywhere around us we see the most beautiful rain- and thunder showers. A group of yachts behind us disappears behind a curtain of water. To our port side we see lightning shooting through the air. For the time being we sail nicely between those showers. Our secondary port of destination today is Šćedro, but the wind will have to turn southerly for that to be an option. Šćedro only has protected anchorages on its northern shores.
Near Šćedro the storm catches up with us. In a couple of minutes, the wind turns from north-east to south-west (180 degrees! A great phenomenon to witness). Rain pours down on us. We have taken down the bimini and have prepared for the storm in every possible way. Heavy weather suits are out, and both life-jackets and life-lines are ready for the grab. But things are rather easy so far, the wind does not get much stronger than 20 knots.
Thus, we continue sailing towards Hvar. With these south-westerly winds ACI Palmižana would be an ideal destination. Around 16:00 CEt the rain stops, we still have 6 miles to go towards Hvar. Around 17:00 CET we moor the boat on one of the last free spots in ACI Palmižana. With an extra bow-line, since the weather prognosis is now talking about Bura wind (north east) again! And Bura is the only wind that causes some swell in this well-protected harbour. But even in Bura, ACI Palmižana remains my favourite harbour along this coast.
That night we have a dinner at Meneghello. It is a fine restaurant, but take care! At 18:30 CET we managed to obtain the last non-reserved table here. The restaurant was still very quiet, and we had the first choice of fresh fish. Furthermore, it was on our table within 45 minutes. When the restaurant fills up, both staff and kitchen cannot handle it anymore. When ordering, people were told that it might be two (2) hours before the main dish would be on the table. This was being told when the wine and other drinks were on the table already… Our meal was excellent, though.
A resting day in this beautiful bay. Part of the crew uses it for visiting the Mljet National Park. The rest takes it easy aboard our ship. We have some thunder storms during the morning and during the evening. After a direct hit by lightning, the village of Polace is without electricity. By that time we are back on the boat, having returned from a visit to the ‘best pizzeria in Polace’ (the only one, that is). Nothing special.
And a wise lesson I learned here: Why should you always first start the outboard engine and then let the passengers enter the dinghy? To prevent the black eye that I gave one when we underestimated the length of the starter cord…
This morning we have an important action point on our agenda. Fetching cookies at Cukarin, the place where they bake the best cookies that we found so far along the Croatian coast. We buy some big boxes for ‘along the road’. Around 11:00 we leave the harbour. The wind is south-easterly, 8 – 10 knots. We sail along the string of small islands east of Korčula in a southerly direction. After rounding Rat Ražnjić, the south-easterly point of Korčula, we sail into Uvala Pržina around 13:00 CET. It is a beautiful bay with a sandy beach on the southern side of the island. We anchor here for a few hours, to enjoy the sun and the sea. The bay is completely open to the wind, which has turned to south-west by now. Fortunately the swell is relatively easy, and the anchoring is good.
Around 15:00 CET we lift anchor and hoist the sails. We leave the bay in a south-south-easterly direction (course 120) aiming for the northern coast of Mljet. The wind is still south-westerly, 10 – 12 knots. Ideal sailing conditions!
One hour later we are joined by dolphins again. Never did we see as many dolphins as we saw this year – we might even get used to it. Around 16:30 CET we reach the island of Mljet. We sail further to the south-east, and pick the most westerly entrance of Luka Polace. This is a wonderful and well-protected bay, with lots of space and high hills that will protect you against all winds. We drop anchor for the night in 12 meters of water, surrounded by around 15 other yachts.
This morning’s newspaper brings an article on a yacht sinking near Žirje in heavy weather yesterday. Its crew washed ashore on Žirje. We passed that same spot on our third day, under very different (and more comfortable) circumstances. A night like the last one, combined with such a message, does remind you that the sea should be taken seriously at all times.
Around 10:00 CET we leave the harbour of Hvar. Together with most other yachts, since the swell remains a source of discomfort there. Bura is blowing from the north-east, 10 knots, and increases steadily to 20 knots (5 Beaufort) over the following hours. There is quite some swell and beautiful crests on the waves. Both the genua and mainsail are reefed when we pass Šćedro. Before 14:00 CET we pass Pločica lighthouse, which is between Hvar and Korčula. The wind calms a bit to 15 knots from the north-east, and the reefs can be taken out of the sails. Pelješac is appearing on the horizon, and because of yesterday’s rain we have a very clear view.
When sailing into Pelješki Kanal, the channel between Pelješac and Korčula, around 15:00 CET, the wind turns to south-east (Jugo). Straight on our bow again, so there is not a lot of sailing to be done. We do some tacking, but when wind speed decreases to 4 knots there is not much fun in that either. Thus we motor towards Korčula.
After two sleepless nights in Vinogradisce and Hvar I am dying for a good night of sleep. Thus, we do not anchor in one of the bays around Korčula, but we go for the marina instead. We arrive around 17:00 CET. In this harbour we also find back Tamara, the yacht that we sailed last year. This year’s crew is a group of Australians that sails the Croatian coast for a couple of weeks.
That evening we have dinner in Adio Mare, a local restaurant. It looks a bit like a pirate hole. Harrrrrr!!!! The food is good as well.
Because it keeps on raining, we do not get out of bed until 09:00 CET. The weather looks rotten. But it is Saturday today, the day that most charters change crew, and thus are in their home ports. That means that Hvar, the one place where everybody wants to go, will be relatively quiet.
We lift anchor at 10:30 CET. Slowly we motor through the shallow channel between Marinkovac and Planikovac, two small islands east of Sveti Klement, Around 11:00 CET we sail into the harbour of Hvar town in the rain. We sail several rounds there, but no harbourmaster shows up. Because we do not feel like anchoring, one of our crew members steps off at the ferry quay. He walks over and fishes out a mooring line for us. With three people on the boat we moor the boat according to the book. The storm damage is still visible on the quay walls, and a lot of moorings are missing.
Half an hour later, after the rain has stopped, the harbourmaster appears. ‘It rained…’ he says. It does not make me appreciate him more, but unfortunately this kind of behaviour is quite common in Hvar. Fortunately, the sun comes out, and we can still enjoy our day in the ‘Saint-Tropez of Croatia’. We get our laundry done (there is a launderette at the open market next to the cathedral) and we also do some shopping. Investments in Hvar are obviously picking up: two hotels around the harbour are closed for renovation. But some things do not change: Prices in Hvar are on average 50% higher than in Split or Zagreb. For the privilege of mooring your boat on this quay for a night you will pay as much as in a marina.
During the night, the wind turns again. This causes a nasty swell in the harbour. We now have a swell from the north-west, and the wind from north-east. We veer out the lines, so that we get our ship at 1,5 – 2,0 meters from the quay, and pull the mooring line at the bow. The rolling is very uncomfortable. Fortunately, there is enough distance between the ships due to the missing mooring lines from last week’s storm. Usually the boats are moored so close together that there is a serious risk of the stays getting tangled.
Near Vis, south-west from us, we can see a huge thunderstorm. If that would come our way the harbour of Hvar would become outright dangerous. Thus, we make sure that we are completely ready for departure. At 01:00 CET we even fill up the water tanks. We are taking turns keeping the watch for the rest of the night. Some other yachts are obviously making the same preparations as we do. I would rather be outside than inside the harbour during a heavy storm. Fortunately, the storm passes west of Hvar, and our discomfort stays limited to the rolling, the party people and the weather conditions.
In the morning, the wind is from a south-easterly direction again. Fortunately, that does not last long. Around 10:45 CET, while we are sailing south of Rat Movar, the wind turns from south-east to north-west in just a couple of minutes, and increases to 10 – 13 knots. That makes for some great sailing. Thus, we leave Šolta to our port side, and continue towards Hvar. Around noon, we are joined by a group of dolphins again – it is always a fantastic experience.
There is a brief period without any wind during the afternoon, but for the rest the wind remains stuck where it was: north-west. At the end of the afternoon we reach Sveti Klement, where we sail to the Vinogradisce cove. We drop anchor here at around 18:00 CET.
During the night, the wind turns north-east and increases: Bura is here. Even in this well-protected bay we get gusts of wind of around 20 knots. I get up regularly to check our anchor, but we do not run into any problems. Around 05:00 CET it starts to rain, and it looks like it will not stop again.
A new day, and we are keen to go further south. After yesterday’s tiresome trip, we take it easy in the morning. Around 10:00 CET we leave the harbour of Tribunj behind us. The weather prognosis speaks of north-easterly winds. That is good, given that we want to go south-east. However, the wind rapidly changes in south-easterly as well, straight on our bow, and it stays there for the whole day. That means tacking, and not much progress in real terms. My original objective for today was Šolta, but halfway during the afternoon we have not even made it to Primošten. Besides that, there are regular rain showers and thunderstorms.
In the end, we reach Rogoznica around 17:00 CET. We do not really feel like another night in that marina. According to our Pilot Guide, the bay on the other side of Rogoznica island should be an excellent anchoring spot. After inspection, we do not agree. The coastal line is completely covered with holiday homes at various stages of completion. Not much authentic nature left this way! Unfortunately, you see that in many places along the Croatian coast. We do not really feel to anchor on in a construction area, so we do pick up a mooring in Marina Frapa after all, where I moor the boat in one of the tightest spots that I have managed so far. For comfort, we go and eat one of those great pizzas at Restaurant Fortuna that evening. It works.
It is quiet when we wake up in the morning. Still not much improvement in the barometer (981), but the sun is out and there is no wind. Because the long-term weather forecast for the northern coast is not that good, we decide to start moving south again.
Around 10:00 CET we are in the narrow channel between Kornati and Katina. Some careful manoeuvring with a maximum speed of 2 knots, because the channel is less than 3 meters deep at some places, and we draw 1.80 meters. According to the Pilot Guide we should stay on the Kornati side of the channel. The Pilot Guide is right…. Except for the last curve…! The depth meter jumps back from 5 meters to 2 meters. In a quick reaction I pull the gas handle backwards and turn the rudder hard to port towards open water.
We hear a scraping sound and the boat gets lifted a bit. My heart misses a beat. Will we run aground? What will be the damage? It lasts only a single moment, after which we pass the ‘threshold’ and glide into deeper water. A quick inspection under the floor panels shows that the boat is dry, and there is a sigh of relief. On the first possible occasion we inspect the bottom of the keel. A nice scratch, but it is not the first one and it will probably not be the last one.
Thomas Siffer once wrote that every sailor who said that he never ran aground, is a liar. And if not, that the running aground will still occur. It seems that I have become a sailor at last.
We quickly forget the incident when we get company of 3 dolphins, north-east of Žut. They stay with us for quite some time – it is already our second meeting in less than a week. And the dolphins bring something else with them as well: the wind. A little breeze, 6 – 8 knots, varying between south-west and north-west, gently carries us in a north-easterly direction towards Murter. However, there is a serious swell in Murtersko More. That turns this trip into an uncomfortable afternoon. Near the end of the afternoon Tribunj appears on the horizon, and around 18:00 CET we moor our ship on one of the last available spots in Tribunj Marina. After dinner, we visit the town of Tribunj, but take my word on it: you do not miss much if you just leave it like that.