On this last day we can feel a change in the weather coming. During the day, the clouds increase slowly but steadily. The wind is changing. We use the morning to sail to Rogač (on the north side of Šolta) and to refuel. This queue at this gas station is usually not as long as the one in Milna (Brač), where the service station sits next to the exit of the marina. Yet even here there are seven ships waiting in line.
Then we sail to the bay Uvala Nečujam, slightly further east. In this bay we did some great snorkelling last year, but this year the situation has deteriorated. The water is less clear, and the sea life has decreased. Even the colours of the coral are gone. It seems that another piece of seabed has been lost.
Around 14:30 we depart from the bay towards Marina Kaštela direction. At first with the wind right from behind, which makes great sailing. Unfortunately the wind dies after an hour or so. We continue on the engine. By 17:00 our ship is moored safely to the pier in the marina and it is time wash off the week’s salt.
Early that morning (06:30) I am in the cockpit to experience the beautiful sunrise. There is no sign of life on the other yachts, nor at the various houses around the bay. I always find this one of the most beautiful moments of the day. An hour later, the nautical weather report tells us that an area of high pressure will stay firmly above the Adriatic Sea for the next few days. In short: it’s great summer weather, and also in terms of the wind we expect no change.
Around 08:00 we leave the bay and motor around the peninsula and the cape Rat Velo Dance to Vela Luka. We want to refuel to ensure that we need no harbour during the coming days. A small tanker ship is just bringing in new supplies, so we have to wait for half an hour.
Vela Luka looks beautiful from a distance, but up close it seems messy and not very authentic. We feel no urge to stay around longer. By 10:30 hours we anchor in the lagoon behind the island Gubeša. That bay can be found some 3 miles west of Vela Luka on the north side of Zaljev Vela Luka. It looks like a very promising bay on paper. It is shallow with an open connection to the sea. But even here there is a lot of human activity around the bay, and there is not much life in the bay. It is, however, an excellent place for anchoring, with a depth of 6 meters and a sandy bottom.
Around noon the wind starts to blow, 15-18 knots from NW direction. We hoist the anchor and leave the bay. Once we round Cape Rat Proizd we sail a course 320 – 330 degrees toward the island of Hvar. Purely out of curiosity we sail a round in the harbour of Hvar town around 16:30. It is extremely busy, the port is literally brimming with yachts of all shapes and sizes. The port authorities have put mooring buoys at all possible places in the harbour, and they are all taken. Even outside the port you see sailing yachts and motor yachts everywhere. Five years ago, this was a nice place drop by occasionally, but for now they will not see me here.
We continue in a westerly direction through Pakleni Kanal. By now we are using the engine, because the wind has decreased and changed direction, straight on our bow. After rounding Rat Pelegrin we continue ENE towards Rat Kabal. By 19:00 hours we anchor in Luka Tiha. We still have time for a pasta and a glass of wine before it gets dark.
Around 10:30 we leave the harbour and motor along the coast between the islands towards Lumbarda and the SE point of Korčula. Near Lumbarda we hoist the sails in a NW wind (5 – 8 knots). We sail around the cape Rat Ražnjić, and head west along the southern coast of the island Korčula.
Around noon, the wind increases to 12 knots. We tack with long runs in the channel between the islands of Lastovo and Korčula. During the afternoon, the wind increases even more, first to 16 – 18 knots (wind 5) and later to 20 – 24 knots (wind 6 Beaufort). Perfect sailing conditions! Our ship is holding well, running through those high waves. Occasionally we catch some water in our cockpit.
The south coast of Korčula is beautifully wild and virtually uninhabited. We pass a few small villages, the rest is wild and empty. We are clearly outside the normal sailing routes, because we do not meet any other yacht.
By 18:30 we enter the bay Tri Luke. It is situated on the SW side of the island of Korčula. The bay is protected by the islands Trstenik, Pržnjak Mali and Veli Pržnjak. Because of this, it offers a well protected anchorage in almost all types of wind. With our minimal draft, we can go deep into this bay, and we moor in the most northern part of the bay. Around us there are 10 other yachts in this bay.
That night we have a unique experience. For the first time in all my years as a sailor, I am lying in a bay where every ship has an anchor light. And around 21:00 that evening we have a late-night swim in the dark, to cool down after the warm day. Swimming in the moonlight, followed by another glass of wine, and another good night of sleep is guaranteed.
Early in the morning, at 06:00 hours, I wake up because the wind turned to the north. This bay offers no protection for that, and the swell makes our stay rather uncomfortable. I woke up twice during the night, because it was raining. It seems to be a southern extension of the storms in the northern coastal area. Time for us to go south.
Despite the early hour, we lift our anchor and we sail from the bay. Our course is 100° towards Korčula. The nautical weather forecast at 07:45 confirms this choice. At 09:00 we pass Šćedro island. We see the contours of the lighthouse on the island Pločica on the horizon, we will hold it on our portside.
After a beautiful sunrise through the clouds, the weather clears up a bit. Unfortunately, that means that there is no wind at all. But it is rather busy on the water, with many fishing boats and some cargo ships. The latter are probably on their way to Neum, the seaport of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Later that morning we enjoy a group of dolphins in the vicinity of our ship. They are not very close, but it is still a beautiful sight.
By 12:30 hours, we anchor in the bay behind the rock Plič Vrbovica, a bay about 3 miles west of Korčula. We take our time for a quiet lunch and a round of swimming. There is quite some human activity around the bay (including the construction of holiday homes), and there is (as a result?) not so much life in the bay. Not really an interesting place to dive. An hour later we sail on, and a little after 14:00 hours we moor the boat into the rear corner of ACI Marina Korčula. Time for a shower…
That evening we have a delicious dinner at Konoba Mareta.
At 07:45 I listen to the nautical weather forecast via Split Radio via VHF (announced on VHF Channel 16). The weather looks good again for today. No change in temperature, and during the course of the morning a good sailing breeze is expected. However, for the evening and night a storm is forecasted in the northern coastal area. We will monitor how far this storm will extend to the south.
During the morning we take it easy. Some swimming, some snorkeling, and catching up on some sleep. There are large groups of small fish in this bay. A great sight while snorkeling.
Around noon we leave the bay and head W to Rat Pelegrin, the western tip of the island of Hvar. The first hour the wind is still unstable. Headsail on and off and on and off… Conditions change after we pass Rat Pelegrin, and the island Vodnjak (the most western of the Pakleni Otoci, the group of islands south of Hvar). The wind is now from SSW direction and increases to 15 knots average.
Sailing with a pleasant speed we head towards the island of Vis. We decide not to go to the town with the same name, but go slightly further east to Uvala Stončica, a bay on the northeastern tip of the island of Vis. Here we anchor around 16:30 in the small bay on the west side. Given the high temperature (over 30 degrees Celsius), it is time for a dip in the water.
The trip to Split goes well, and at 13:30 hours we are in the harbour. Our ship ‘Reni’ is waiting for us. We handle all the formalities and check the boat from front to back and top to bottom. Furthermore, we do the shopping. We try to take stores for the whole week, because we intend to spend as little time as possible in harbours. It is always a special experience, a charter base on a Saturday.
Around 15:30 we sail from the marina. Marina Kaštela is a genuine charter base, I estimate that there are around 200 ships departing. A major logistics operation. Fortunately, there is a huge supermarket less than 10 minutes walk from the marina, which makes everything a lot easier. That was different when all charters departed from ACI Marina Split.
There is little wind, about 6 knots from ZO (Jugo). On the engine we cross the bay Kaštelanski Zaljev and around Rat Marjan and Rat Čiova, then across Splitski Kanal towards Splitska Vrata.
As usual the circumstances change when we pass Splitska Vrata. By now, it is 18:00. On the ‘other side’ of this channel between Brač and Šolta there is 15 knots of wind (SE). We hoist the sails, and decide to sail to Luka Tiha, a bay in the Stari Grad channel on the island of Hvar.
Using this ideal sailing winds make three long runs, successively on a southerly, easterly and southerly course. By 20:00 it is dark, and the sea around us is almost deserted. We see some lights in the distance, probably fishing boats. For the rest: empty sea apart from our own navigation lights. The moon is in the first quarter, and stars appear in the sky. Just before 21:00 hours we take the sails down in Starogradski Zaljev, and we motor slowly towards Luka Tiha. Our destination is the northernmost bay of Tiha Luka. There is no light to be seen anywhere, but someone notices our approach and turns on his mooring light. Coming closer, we see two more ships. It still amazes me that so many people do not use their anchor light.
Our anchor held immediately, and while I check whether we are properly anchored we cook some soup. After a meal of soup and bread it is time for bed. There is no wind at all, and it is a quiet night.
We took a ‘slightly’ different approach this time. We participated in an offshore cruising trip, organised by Ultra Sailing. The trip brought us from Split (Croatia) via various Italian harbours to La Valletta on Malta (and back). The distance covered was over 1.100 nautical miles in all, 2.000 kilometres.
Sailing the high seas requires a different ship. Our choice was a Bénéteau 50. A good and stable ship, with all the facilities required for a trip like this. Our route can be found here. We had a crew of 9, including a professional skipper with experience on this route. Myself, I was one of the watch leaders. The trip took 2 weeks to complete.
We took hundreds of photos during this trip. It takes me some time to sort them out. For this first version of the story I have just selected a few, more will follow!
Our watch from 0100 – 0300 is extremely quiet. Easy sailing conditions, light shipping traffic, calm sea and a moonlit night (the moon is nearly full by now).
When we come up for our 0700 – 0900 watch, conditions are completely different. The ship has just rounded Capo Santa Maria de Leuca. Waves have increased and are now moderate (4 on the Douglas scale, up to 2,5 meters). The wind has increased to 25 – 35 knots (around 7 Beaufort). Obviously, the predicted storm for the Adriatic Sea has arrived early.
It becomes a day of very hard work. During the day, sea conditions worsen to very rough (6 on the Douglas scale, waves up to 6 meters). The wind increases to 8 Beaufort, with gusts of up to 42 knots (9 Beaufort). We sail under a small jib and without a mainsail. Still we record speeds in the double digits – our average speed during this day is well over 9 knots. Our record speed was 18,4 knots while surfing from a wave. That is just over 34 kilometres per hour, an incredible speed for a boat this size! I do not know whether it was storm related, but we saw dolphins at least ten times during this day. I do not have much time to take notice, however. Not all crew members can take their turn on the rudder in these conditions, and I have to take extra turns which are not physically hard work, but requires constant concentration.
Around 1930 we know we are in the vicinity of Cavtat, the most southern town of Croatia. However, we are unable to find it… There are few beacons along this part of the coast, it is dark and raining, the 6 metre waves make that we do not even see the mainland at all time. We find the situation too risky to enter this rather tricky harbour, and decide to press on for Dubrovnik.
By 2030 we have Dubrovnik in sight. Even here we have to take care to find the right beacons marking the entry to the harbour, which is marked by rocks on all sides. However, by 2000 we enter Velika Vrata and pass between Rat Bezdanj and the island of Grebeni. Some 15 minutes later we pass under the famous bridge.
By 2130 we arrive at ACI Marina Dubrovnik. Nobody responded to our calls via VHF and mobile phone, so we pick our own spot along the quay and moor the boat ourselves. Back on Croatian soil. Time for a quick shower, and then for a long sleep…
At 0600 we leave the harbour of Roccella Ionica. The morning was very quiet: sunny, warm, calm (rippled) sea and no wind. Within hours, we have a northerly wind of 15 – 20 knots and are sailing along nicely.
Our first destination for today is Crotone, on the coast of the Gulf of Taranto, where we want to load fuel. After that our course will be east-north-east for Capo Santa Maria de Leuca, the south-eastern tip of Italy.
Around noon the wind changes to south-south-west and increases to 25 – 30 knots. Excellent sailing conditions! We reach Crotone at 1430, only to find out that the petrol station is closed until 1530 (siesta…). We use the time available for cooking a big pot of chicken curry for dinner that night.
Leaving Crotone at 1600 we nearly forget one of our crew members, who went ashore to drop the garbage. Fortunately we find out in time… During the next hours, we have several encounters with groups of dolphins again.
After dinner, at 1900, the watch system starts again. My team has 1900 – 2100. Darkness still comes early, and it is a beautiful moonlit night. Our course is 055, wind 20 knots from south-east.