We had a wonderful five-weeks aboard our new yacht, S/Y “MISSI.” Judith and I saw some delightful new places and visited some spots from our previous two years in Croatia. Our base is in Šibenik and our home port is D-Marin Mandelina Marina, where we have an annual berth.
|D-Resort & D-Marin Mandelina Marina|
We had hired a very able skipper and captain for the year; Tilen is young but professional; and knows the Adriatic well. A hostess also joined us for the stay; Cornelia. She is a talented chef, creative at provisioning MISSI wherever it is that she stops and counted upon during our berthing, mooring or anchorage for her able hands on deck.
Rather than give a chronological, day-by-day account, I’ve decided to group the post into three parts: daytrips from Šibenik and life in the marina, an eight-day trip southwest and another multiday journey northeast. But first I’ll start with some lessons learned.
Several times each day it sank in that I’m seventy years old. Despite all the electric winches, self-tacking systems, roller furling, and out-of-this-world instrumentation and navigational aids boating remains a physical activity. You need flexibility in your neck to see the top of the mast and the wind vane, agility and balance to move about, leg strength to get out of the water onto the transom, coordination to ease out the sheets in a strong breeze without losing a finger, good stretch to reach for a bouy with the boathook, finesse in a tight stern-in docking in a brisk crosswind – you get the picture. I thought of myself as fit for my age, and I still think I am. But I’m seventy; no getting around this fact.
I also learned that sailing isn’t like riding a bike – it doesn’t automatically come back. I needed to relearn balance, the helm and the weather and the wind – which is a very local affair. I remember being able to sense the wind and see the weather, but I lost it. I had to remember the feeling of steering into the wind – the sensation of wind in your face, equal tingles on each ear. I easily lost sense of its direction under pressure. Being rusty doesn’t half explain what I’m trying to say.
Finally, MISSI is a big boat – 32 gross tons, 62.7 feet long, 17.6 feet at the beam and a mast 90 feet above the waterline. She carries a mainsail of 1,030 square feet, and a light-wind Code 0 headsail of 1,710 square feet. The irony is that to have the room, comfort and conveniences one wants you need a yacht of this size, but it almost assures that the dimensions, complexity and maintenance make it totally unrealistic to handle with just Judith and me.
I wrongly thought that this would eventually be a private, “Judith and me” experience – it will never be. We need a crew, but thankfully have found a surprisingly good pair in Tilen and Cornelia. It will be different than what was in my mind; however, the sensations of being at sea are more than I could have imagined. And Tilen has freed me from the ongoing maintenance and day-to-day headaches of managing MISSI. We’ll see how it goes.
Šibenik and Day Trips:
We arrived to Šibenik from an overnight in Split on the 4th of July – sort of my yachting Independence Day. Šibenik is well situated for us, and D-Marin Mandelina is regarded as the best marina in Croatia. The city has much history, dating back almost 1,000 years. Its inner bay drains the Krka River basin and is connected to the Adriatic by the narrow two mile St. Anthony’s Channel - well protected from most weather and wind.
|The Channel Can Get Tight!|
Our berth, #16 on “G” dock, wasn’t quite ready, so we temporarily tied up at the guest pier and Judith and I continued our stay at the adjacent D-Resort Hotel. There were two days of final provisioning and other chores to be done (like getting the wine fridge stocked).
On the 7th we moved onto MISSI and had our first day trip to nearby Otok (“island” in Croatian) Kakan, stopping for a great lunch prepared by Cornelia (one of many!) and a swim before motoring back to the marina. Dinner was aboard; we had a very restful night’s sleep in our wonderful master cabin.
To acquaint you geographically, as you leave St. Anthony’s Channel there are several pleasant islands one or two hours sail away: Prvić, Tijat, Kaprije and Kakan (our first outing) to the north; Zamajan and Žirje (the furthest out) dead ahead; and Zlarin, south. By the end of the month I was comfortable navigating this very busy section of the coast.
|Šibenik and its Surrounding Islands|
|More Confusing on a Nautical Chart!|
Other trips were to Tijat, Žirje and Zlarin; and further afield to the very charming town of Primošten. Each spot was unique and unforgettable.
By way of example, I’ll relate one of our two stops in Tijat, in the lovely cove Luka Tijascica. At times the cove can get filled up with boats, but the atmosphere is never claustrophobic – the water is very clear. Onshore there is a great outdoor restaurant, Spirito’s Summer Place, with an almost Caribbean carefree feel, presided over by the amicable and bubbly Grega, it’s manager. Great fresh fish from the grille, nice wine list, hip music and cheeky décor define the experience. And the potatoes with truffles – ah.
|Judith & Tilen at Spirito's|
These close by islands accommodate the mood you wake up to; whether you want a buzzing place like Tijat or a chill out in a private secluded bay like Zlarin’s Magarna Cove – each within a two-hour sail. The sea is pure and clear, temperature averaging 25°C, or 77°F – excellent for just diving in.
We had a few days where some scheduled maintenance was needed, so we took two daytrips to Krka National Park. We drove to nearby Skaradin and took a small ferry to the base of the lower waterfalls. These picturesque cascades are formed by limestone deposits combining with microorganisms – the structure is called travertine. The first outing had us climbing the path up through these streams and pools of the Krka River. Another day we went further north and visited the Manojlovac Falls, the ancient Roman settlement of Burnum and Krka Monastery and catacombs.
Judith and I had visited Šibenik before, so we were familiar with the old town; centred around the imposing Cathedral of St. James. Started in 1431, it is unique as it is constructed only of the dry assembly of custom carved stone slabs. While in port we availed ourselves of several meals in town. The most notable spot is Pelegini, a lovely one-star Michelin restaurant near the cathedral.
I mentioned earlier that the marina is well protected. Even so, we experienced two strong weather fronts moving through, the Bora from the north and northeast. For almost an hour each time, MISSI strained on her lines and heeled perhaps 10 degrees just from pressure on the mast. Winds gusted to over 100 kilometres in driving rain. One gains a certain respect for this unforgiving force of nature; the second storm damaged over 140 yachts along the Croatian coast.
Our Trip to Vis and Southwest:
We left Šibenik on July 16 and sailed south along the coast to a secluded bay off the town of Rogoznica, stopping here for lunch and a quick swim. Upping anchor, it was then off south to Vis Island, another 32 nm (nautical miles). We moored off Kut, a smaller enclave than Vis Town, and took our Williams tender and had a nice meal at Konoba Vatrica.
|Approaching Vis - Town Hall & Riva|
|Konoba Vatrica in Kut|
|Cafe Life - Vis Town|
After morning coffees in Vis Town, MISSI was underway to Dobri Island on the southern side of the Paklinski Chain – another sumptuous lunch and swim. That evening we took a berth in Palmizana ACI marina on Paklinski’s largest island of St. Klement. Tilen and Cornelia freshened up the yacht and Judith and I shared a nice bottle of a Provencal rosé, “Whispering Angel” as I remember, at Toto’s. Dinner was also at Toto’s, a hip spot 300 metres walk south across the island and facing Uvala Vinogradise, as usual, packed with boats.
|Judith Found Her Spot|
|View from Toto's|
Up again to another nice Cornelia prepared breakfast, we headed further southeast to Vela Luka on the western end of the big island of Korcula. Staying outside the busy port, we anchored in Uvala Plitvine for the night. It was a quiet and peaceful cove, more so because we had some strudel made by Tilen’s mom – habit forming!
Up early, breakfast and a morning swim, we motored with little wind to Lastovo Island and Zaklopatica Cove. It was a challenge to find a good spot for MISSI, but we finally secured buoys to our bow and stern to avoid too much swing. Dinner was ashore at Augusta Konoba, the owner picked us up so no need to pull out the Williams. It was another fun alfresco spot – a good meal interrupted by unexplained canon fire and screeching children. The final entertainment was an out of proportion Russian yacht trying to squeeze on to the very tiny dock. A phalanx of adults and children stormed the restaurant and we were displaced. But another glass of wine in our cockpit restored the peace.
|Zaklopatica Cove - Lastovo|
By now I hope you are getting the picture. Wonderful but healthy breakfast, perhaps a morning swim, motoring or sailing to a new spot, sometimes with a lunch and swim interlude, and finally anchoring, mooring or tying up in a marina toward sunset – not a bad life. Waking up to one view; falling asleep to a new one.
But back to the trip. We delayed leaving Lastovo hoping for a favourable wind but were disappointed. We motored most of the way to Mljet Island and the small town of Polaĉe, part of Croatia’s national park system. It is a spacious and picturesque bay. We dropped anchor and had dinner in town at Konoba Antika – a nice grilled seabass for four.
|Mljet Island - Polaĉe Cove|
The next morning, we were off to the far eastern end of Korcula and Korcula town; we put into the overcrowded ACI marina. I was anticipating dinner at Dimitri Lesic’s Michelin starred restaurant and it did not disappoint. Wonderful food, beautiful setting! The morning before we left, I met a charming Italian man from Padua; he had a stunning old wooden ketch, the “Bel Ami,” that I later learned was the boat used in “Mama Mia II.” This affable old man was 86 and still sailing, and his wife, 91. So Judith and I certainly have a chance!
Mid-morning, we were off again, working our way back northwest to our home port of Šibenik. Our destination was Ŝĉedro Island, a small isolated spot south of the much larger Hvar Island. This was the most pristine spot of our entire trip – magnificent. We anchored but also ran two lines to shore. Swimming was perfect in wonderfully clear water. Tilen got some drone shots but they could not fully take in the majesty of the place. Cornelia made a great pasta carbonara.
In the morning I swam out to retrieve the shorelines and we were off to Ŝolta Island and Maslinca Marina on its northeast corner. We had visited last year, its an upscale place in a protected horseshoe shaped bay. We saw Salma Hayek and Owen Wilson here, shooting scenes for their upcoming movie “Bliss.” Oddly, they declined my invitation for drinks on MISSI. In lieu of this, Judith, Tilen, Cornelia and I had a nice dinner at Restoran Sampjer, nestled on a hilltop overlooking the town.
|Restoran Sampjer - Ŝolta|
In the morning we had a long leg ahead of us back to home port, about 32 nm. It was a good sail in a strengthening breeze until we reached the eastern tip of Zlarin Island. The wind became unsettled in direction and was gusting over 20 knots. I hacked bringing in the headsail and tripped the electrical breaker on the roller-furling system. This required a trip below to the panel, all the while MISSI a bit unstable. Things turned out alright, but Judith had a scare as I fought to keep MISSI into the wind while Tilen maintained his cool and dropped the main sail. Back in the marina we stayed on the guest pontoon until the wind settled. For me, a not so auspicious end to a lovely eight days. Judith and I stayed that evening at the D-Resort Hotel for a night off the yacht; Tilen and Cornelia worked hard cleaning up MISSI from her days out of port.
Our Trip to the Northeast:
On 29 July with left Šibenik with the intention of sailing to Pasman Island, but the weather on route changed so we decided to tuck into Marina Hramina on Murter Island. We had had a quick overnight trip to the island earlier in the month; staying on anchor. Today we also dropped anchor for lunch and a swim; but then retreated to the safety of the marina. We had a very tight berth and a difficult docking in a strong crosswind. We made it nonetheless and had dinner at Murter Fine Food Restoran in the old town.
|MISSI off Murter Island|
In the morning we continued to Pasman Island’s Landin Cove, on its southeast side. We arrived early and had a nice day of swimming, sun and relaxation. Meals were onboard and delicious. The wind remained strong from the west – gusting to 20 knots.
MISSI was finally in need of some fuel, despite her 1,000 litre diesel storage capacity. We rounded Pasman Island and headed northeast up the shallow channel between the island and mainland. We made a lunch stop at the “heart-shaped” Galesnjak Island, and also had a dip. Afterward, we continued up the channel to Sukošan and the D-Marina Dalmacija, filled MISSI’s tanks at the fuel station and tied up to a guest pontoon for the evening. Dinner was on the marina’s beach at the chic Portus Restaurant. Still, the marina was not as elegant as D-Marin Mandelina.
After breakfast and a walk, we were off back southeast down the channel, passing Biograd na Moru and anchoring in Crenva Luka for lunch, swimming and some sun. It was then south to the Kornati Island chain an Otočić Ravni Žakan – more swimming and sunbathing. Dinner was onshore at an upscale spot, Konoba Žakan. Some more wine in the cockpit and it was off to another dream filled sleep.
|Leaving Problems Behind|
By ten we left, returning to Šibenik in a light drizzle; lunch was onboard. The following morning Judith stayed ashore and Tilen, Cornelia, Tilen’s step-father Robert and I went out for a day of practice: raising sails, tacking, jibing, reefing, lowering sails and more; only stopping for a quick lunch. It was a good day for me – repetition is the key.
|Practice - Practice - Practice|
It turned out to be all I had imagined and better. Regret is corrosive, especially as you get older, and not doing this would have gnawed away at me. It was a bit crazy to get this yacht, but I honestly believe it was one of the better decisions I have made. We left MISSI on August 5, heading back to Budapest. I missed her as soon as we reached the highway. Here’s to many more happy days…
|To Judith - Thanks for Coming Along!|