Croatia: Sun, Sea, Sailing

Day 2 – Waking up and off we go!

The sea-river coming out of Dubrovnik marinaAfter our first rather idyllic day chilling in the marina and our lovely evening in Dubrovnik, we woke on our boat, Anastacia, and it was time to head off into the ocean blue!

A quick catch up with our lovely lead crew – Toby, Hayley and Harry – who helped us ‘un-moor’, and we were off! (there will be a mixture of actual sailing terms and Jo-sailing terms throughout, ‘un-moor’ is one of the latter…)

We headed down the channel, under a pretty epic bridge and out to sea, circling a teeny tiny island with a monastery on top. This may have brought on some ridiculous banter/in-jokes about monks getting on with their stuffing…it was all a little strange.

Time to SAIL!

monk islandAnd around this time, we decided to stop pootling along using the motor on board, and decided to get out the SAILS! I learned a fair amount of sailing terminology here – winching, the genoa, sweating the main as some pretty good examples. The wind was fairly calm, so I asked our awesome skipper and friend (dubbed rather unfairly for the trip as ‘Captain Boring’!) if I could have a wee go at the helm – steering – and that I did, not very successfully as I learned that, unlike cars – boats are huge!

Steering an inch to the left or right seemed to do nothing – so subtle steering was out. Wheeling the wheel round and round in either direction made the boat flip all the way around. So it took a while to learn the right amount to turn the wheel to go where we actually wanted to go!

Lunch – with a side of naked please…

A typical beautiful bay After a while of my pissing about, Skipper took over again and we were soon passing through the water at a lovely leisurely pace towards our lunch spot in a pretty secluded bay, where we instantly jumped in the beautiful blue water and got our exploration on! Lunchtime on our boat was very mediterranean – ham, cheese, bread, tomatoes, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It was during lunch that the entertainment started – which I had a front row view for…another boat had dropped anchor in the same bay as us and, after a while on board, we noticed them all drop their clothes and hop in the water one by one.

These confident individuals were all clearly past their middle age and where in the full prime of their lives, swimming and laughing with carefree, naked abandon. And although this was quite the spectacle (particularly when one of the fellows decided to climb around to the front of the boat and proudly pull in the anchor, standing admiring his work after – tackle fully blowing in the breeze), I couldn’t help but think ‘strong. Strong ‘not giving a damn’ confidence levels and attitude. Good on them!’

After our swim, lunch and entertainment, we got going again towards our evening destination – the charming port village of Sudrad on the island of Sipan.

Hangin’ with the locals

Croatia clear waterAnd charming it was, a lovely dainty place with crystal clear waters and only a single restaurant in which to dine. First Sunsail had laid on a cocktail party, where we could get to know the others on the flotilla a little better, where I met art lecturer Mick, his friend and skipper Mike, the world’s perfect family whose names I don’t remember, the wonderfully tanned lady and her two teenage lads, the confident saffa and his sister, and various others.

And off we went for dinner, drinks and back to the boat for more gin (which was to become a holiday theme for the sailing ladies, though not, sadly for me – gin is just not my bag!). This is where, at about 2am when having some pretty raucous conversation, myself and 2 other sailing ladies noticed someone was trying to get our attention. Which I of course, believed was someone in the flotilla wanting us to shut. up.

Of course not. It turned out to be 2 locals on their boat who were inviting us to join them. Which of course, we promptly did.

Croatia boats moored upThe next hour or 2 was spent trying to get over language barriers to have a decent conversation with these 2 locals (whose names I never did quite hear properly to remember; there are only so many times you can say ‘sorry, what?’) on their boat-home. It turned out one was a skipper who hired out his boat to tourists, and the other was his friend, back from working in the USA aboard a cruise ship as a chef. They lived nearby and knew the chef at the restaurant we had eaten in, and decided to stop by for the evening.

We got talking religion (the cause of all evil apparently), politics (Thatcher didn’t help Croatia), war (one of them used to scavenge around bomb sites for shrapnel as souvenirs during the Serb/Croat war) and drugs (all the light hearted topics you get into when travelling…!) – all before at about 3am, I decided I was pooped, and off to bed with me.

The next day was to become the day we became flotilla-famous…

Day 3 – We WILL sail!

Pretty much the same, a briefing, breakfast and off we went on the longest travel day – a 26-nautical mile journey from Sipan to Mljet.

It all started off well, pootling along, getting the sails out, stopping for lunch (no nakeds this time around, though we did have a collision of sorts with the catamaran from our flotilla, our skipper’s legs saved us from impending crashage…), and back on the open (ish) sea towards the lovely Polace on the island of Mljet.

Croatia SailingSueAt some point, everyone was having a go at the helm – and during this time, there was a lot of tacking – where someone had oversteered and gone across the wind (I think?), meaning the boat severely turned around and the crew had to quickly adjust the sails for this new direction (which could be as much as a 180 turn!). This happened several times, meaning our poor Skipper was about tearing her hair out, knowing we had travelled about a mile in about 90 minutes…(compared to the 5 miles an hour we could have been doing without this pissing about!)

On the plus side, once we got going after this, there was some great sailing weather – winds up to 25 knots, the boat was heeling over, we were getting splashed – it was great fun!

Until we realised it was 6:30, and we should have been at our destination for about 5pm…

Then it started to get dark

Sailing skipper sunsetWhich our Skipper was pleased about – as she was able to clock up more ‘night miles’ in her Skipper log book. As we had no clear sight between us and the lead crew (ie – there was land in the way), we could not radio them to let them know we were ok and on our way, so they had to phone us to check if everything was alright.

When we got in (gone 9pm), they were waiting for us with cheerful faces…of sorts…all the other guests had gone for dinner and they’d had to wait for us! Not ideal. Sheepishly we managed to get Anastacia rafted up to the other boats, we all hopped straight in our dinghys and headed over to the land. This wasn’t without hilarity either, as steering a dinghy isn’t quite as easy as you might think! Unlike the sail boat, the outboard motor is what you use to steer, so to turn left, you push the motor right. Well – in the pitch black with several boats anchored up all around you – navigating this was…fun!

We finally made it over to shore (banging into a few boats and apologising profusely along the way!) and nipped over to the restaurant, where all of the other guests were finishing.

raft building
Here was our raft of boats – don’t they all look lovely? Until you see at the far right…us perched on the end, looking somewhat out of place!

We had our dinner with the lead crew (who really were very patient and lovely – in spite of us making them very late…), where we got to know them a little more, before heading back to our boat. Initially we were exhausted when we pulled into Polace, however, at gone midnight, we were ready for after-dinner drinks on the boat again!

This time we were joined by Harry and Toby (engineer and flot skipper respectively) who stayed up drinking gin with us until around 4am, showing us the route we had taken (mapped via gps) – which had a section of extreme zig-zagging in the middle…oops! And as we put it to them, yes – we could have switched on the motor and got there faster, but we were on a SAILING holiday, not a motoring holiday! From then on, they knew we were keen, and determined to sail as much as possible!

I tried to be banterous, saying how it was a shame Toby had put us on the end of the raft, as the Cat was a bigger boat than us, to you had 13 boats of increasing size, and then us at the end…this did not go down well…’that’s what I was TRYING to do! But you guys were so late, we made the Cat wait for 2 hours before letting them raft up – hoping you’d get there and we could put them on the end, but eventually we gave up and put them there – meaning you ended up on the end!’

Oops.

Sore subject.

And then we went to bed! I think I shall save the rest of the trip for another blog post (or 2 possibly!), where you’ll learn more about our reputation, more strong sailing terms, weird chat, calendars and brown clouds…

For now, 3 days in, just ahead of half way through, we were loving Croatia, and loving sailing – so even though we were causing trouble and holding people up, it was awesome!

Part 3 to follow…

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