Off to Croatia

Dick and Irene Craig
Fri 15 May 2009 17:26

The chap who came to investigate the grating noise, which occurs when the passerell is extended, initially diagnosed that the problem had been caused by a build up of salt. Having washed off the salt, which had accumulated during the sail to Italy the previous day, then lubricated with silicone, he had to admit that the problem was not salt. It seemed that one of the side members is slightly twisted. Apparently this hasn’t made the passerell dangerous, nor is it likely to cause any further problems, so we have put it on hold for now. To delay and have it repaired will take up too much time which just isn’t available at the present time.

The journey from Santa Maria di Leuce was flat calm, with never more than a force 2 blowing, from the direction we were traveling. The sun blazed.

During the first hour of our journey, we passed many large caves, which were being visited by a tripper boat, as we motored past.

Three quarters of an hour from our anchorage at Otranto, 2 dolphin came up to the boat to say hello but, like the 2 we had spotted off Corfu, they didn’t stay with us.

The little port of Otranto was so pretty, with its Venetian architecture and blue, transparent water. There were a number of rocks on the sandy sea bed but with sufficient water above them for us not to be concerned.

I had bought some flour for making bread, while we were at Prevasa. In my ignorance, I had assumed that when the shopkeeper told me that it was black, he really meant brown. 

It soon became obvious that the usual recipes for brown bread, and for whole-meal bread, were not going to work with this flour. The bread being produced was more like German black bread and although very tasty, was not what I wanted. I experimented a little until I finally produced a loaf suitable to our requirements. It was great fun waiting for the bread machine to finish baking and to see what sort of loaf had been made this time.

The passage to Brindisi was glorious if you didn’t mind having no more than force 2 on a broad reach. Although there are 2 firing ranges, one near to Otranto and the other close to Brindisi, practice doesn’t take place at weekends, it was therefore not necessary for us to take the boat 5 miles off shore.

Wrong! Not far from Otranto, a chap was firing mortars but fortunately not out to sea.

We encountered many small fishing boats, a lot of flotsam and jetsam as well as a great deal of sludge from discharged holding tanks.

At Brindisi we topped up the fuel and fresh fruit and vegetables. I was amazed to find that the bread flour was half the price that I had paid in Prevasa. That evening we ate at a local trattoria where we shared a mixed anti-pasta, so plentiful that we didn’t need the rest of the meal, that we had already ordered. With red and white wine, the whole feast was only €10 per head. Who said that Italy was expensive?

We left Brindisi next morning, breakfasting en-route, as we had done yesterday. The weather forecast was a variable 1. Not sure how variable a force 1 can be but smooth and blue suits me perfectly, though I think my shipmates might like a bit more wind.

The wind did come up to a force 2 and we managed to motor sail most of the way.

The shipping channel stretched to 50 miles offshore and there was hardly a moment when there wasn’t a ship in sight, sometimes several. A number came as close as half a mile and some less than that. It was necessary at times for either us, or the other ship, to take avoidance action.

During this busy period, the navigation equipment decided to play up and countless times we had to reset it.

We were inundated with flies. There were so many that a huge batch of them must have hatched after we had left Brindisi. We were lucky that very few managed to get inside the boat but the fly-bridge was littered with carnage as we swatted the flies all day long, constantly having to sweep up the bodies and dispose of them over the side.

By the time it was dark, the worst of the shipping traffic was behind us, as was the Raymarine problem. The equipment still went wrong at 3am and 6am and just before 8am but after the awful daytime performance, we were able to take it in our stride.

Dick was on watch between 9pm and midnight and was rewarded by the arrival of dolphins, which played around the hulls for about an hour before they left us.

Soon after midnight, the “man-overboard” alarm sounded. The captain rushed on deck, grabbing a pair of shorts, on the way topside. While maneuvering our way between a fleet of fishing boats, one of the personal “man over-board” alarms had been accidentally set off. Rather a false alarm than the nightmare of a real incident.

The flies remained a problem throughout the day, though we managed to dispose of most of them and the rest jumped ship once we arrived at Vis, one of the Croatian islands near Split.

The approach to Vis was very beautiful with lots of green islands and blue sea.

The guy who took our lines and passed us the lazy lines, told us that the office, where we needed to take our boat papers, was closed until 6pm. When we went to locate the office during the afternoon, a notice on the door stated that the office was open between 7am and 1400 hours.

The setting was very picturesque and we anchored in the bay overnight. Next morning, Dick took the dinghy ashore. The office didn’t open at 7am after all.

After breakfast, we moved the boat to a space on the quayside, which had been occupied earlier, by a police boat. Dick went ashore and tried again. This time he succeeded in getting the necessary paperwork done and for €255 we are now able to sail in Croatian water for a period of up to 12 months.

We cast off in sunshine and made passage for Zirje. Just after 1o’clock, Caroline spotted dolphins 200metres away. The dolphins were not interested in us they were too busy performing for a fishing boat.

The sun still tried hard but the visibility was becoming hazy. The forecast warned of fog offshore. So pleased we had done the overnight passage the night before last. It would have been awful having to cross the Adriatic at night, with so much traffic, in foggy conditions.

There was just enough wind, to sail on a broad reach, for half an hour, using the parasailor, just after noon. Then I spotted a turtle traveling south.

We tied up to a buoy when we arrived at Zirje, barbecued a rib of beef and had just finished supper when a chap arrived for the mooring fee. He wasn’t an official and had no receipt or identification but said that he had been collecting money from yachties for as long as he could remember. We declined to pay the fee and having been assured that it was quite permissible for us to anchor, we did so. Our preference is to anchor, rather than use a mooring buoy. One is never certain how large a boat the buoy can hold, or how well the mooring is maintained.

Another long day, as we make passage along Murtersko More, through the centre of the islands to Skarda, then, changing our minds on passage, because the wind is going to change direction during the night, anchored at Ist instead, spotting dolphin on the way..

The next leg of our journey was to Kanalic, a passage taking 10 hours, half of which we were able to sail, using the parasailor. Once again we were delighted to be visited by dolphin. We have seen more sailing boats on passage today, than we have seen since leaving Prevasa at the end of April.

Kanalic is the most picturesque place that we have seen since leaving Vis, with wooded islands and trees, growing to the edge of the water, as well as plenty of space to anchor.

Just 7 miles on from Kanalic, we reached Pula, where the Austrians had developed a major naval dockyard, which expanded rapidly until 1910.

As we approached the industrial looking city, we passed, on both sides of the natural harbour, what appeared to be a considerable number of deserted buildings, which had probably been used by the armed forces, naval or military.

Pula is famous for its Roman remains. Quite close to the sea is a well preserved Roman amphitheatre, the construction of which started in the reign of Emperor Claudius. There are also 2 triumphal arches, built 1st century BC, a theatre, built 2nd century BC and a temple to Augustus. Today, the latter houses an exhibition of ancient sculptures.

It is from Pula that we will officially leave Croatia, crossing the Adriatic overnight, so that we might arrive in Venice as the sun rises.


Below: View from our anchorage at Otranto, Italy

            Dick cleaning the boat encouraged by Caroline

            View from our anchorage at Vis