07/19/2013, Korcula, Croatia
From Vis island we sailed to Korcula island, arriving late afternoon in Tri Luke, on the southwest corner of Korcula.
This three fingered bay offered protection from a predicted wind change to the east overnight and again, due to many charter yachts (please read inexperienced young skippers) already anchored with stern lines ashore, we anchored well out in the bay, to give Trilogy adequate swing room. We chose the most western of the three bays, as it offered the deepest water.
With Kat and John engrossed in a game of Yahtzee, Garth and Ros decided to explore all three bays in the dinghy as the setting sun bathed everything in a soft golden hue. Our guidebook said that the coves are packed with holiday homes, mostly illegal! We did not manage to find out an explanation for this statement, but there were some very big new homes being built, so we are more than a little curious. We delight in the old original stone shuttered cottages as most of the new concrete homes have little aesthetic value. We think concrete must be very cheap in Croatia (probably due to the abundance of limestone) as the amount of concrete construction in some of the homes is quite phenomenal and they look more like fortresses.
Kat won out in the Yahtzee just as the dinghy expedition concluded, which meant it was Gin and Tonic time (yeh!). Having bought a range of tasty local products in Vis Town, we enjoyed the evening twilight trying out the capers, anchovies, cheese and mortar, a wild herb collected on the stony beaches, which has a slightly acidic/lemony overtone. Kat prepared another wonderful meal of cevapcici, mashed potato (Croatian cuisine doesn't know this version of spud preparation), a sauce based on roasted red capsicum and paprika (a product called Ajvar) and an arugula salad with lemon and shaved parmesan. We have had our share of delicious restaurant meals but our meals on board have all been first class and offer the special ambience that only dining on the water can do.
Another leisurely morning and we up anchored heading for Lastovo Island. Kat took the helm while John and Ros did anchor duty and prepared Trilogy and the skipper prepared the passage plan. We unfurled the headsail and managed 7.3 knots in a light breeze and reached the picturesque western aspect of Lastovo with a myriad of small islands and beautiful bays. The islands and islets are densely covered with trees and in 2006 this region was declared a 'natural park'. We nudged into the tiny bay where the township of Ubli sits, but it had no breeze and there seemed to be only modern holiday houses and low rise apartment buildings. We decided to continue without stopping for a lunch break and before long the seaward land had lost all trees and we observed cannon emplacements lining the cliff top, further remnants of the Yugoslav occupation.
We arrived in Skrivena Luka, a bay with a discreet narrow entrance of 6 metres depth and opening up to a depth of 15 metres, perfect for anchoring. We cooled off in the crystal clear water and all had a siesta. It was great to have a lazy afternoon but as the day cooled off the swimming, Yahtzee and exploring picked up pace.
Garth and Ros set off to check out the bay and also the two restaurants, to make the choice of an evening venue. Our information described the konobe on the east of the bay as no printed menu (and therefore price list ) and an owner who claims 'I am the menu'. A small flyer which advertised prices for this restaurant had been delivered to the boat but we were keen to check out the konobe on the other side of the bay with a flash new jetty. We knew we were in lobster land, as the marker buoys were prolific along the coastal waters. As it turns out, Konobe Porto Rosso was the best restaurant we have experienced yet out in the islands, with a comprehensive menu. We asked to inspect the lobsters and were taken to the end of the jetty to watch the large cage hauled up to reveal two different varieties and we opted for the smaller ones. It was only a quick glimpse as they were concerned for the lobsters out of the water in the heat. It was strongly advised we decide at that stage if we wanted lobster and how much....OK.... we'll have 2 kgs between the four of us!
When it came time to dine, John selected Dom Perignon 2002 Vintage to go with our char grilled lobster and the night was off to a very good start! Lamb Peka was available but we passed that up for beef with truffle sauce served with wild asparagus and baked potatoes followed by crepes with sour cherries and ice cream or citrus syllabub, served with a straw, both superb desserts. The red and white wine were excellent and we finished with a delicious dessert wine that was claimed to be the last bottle in Croatia along with a complimentary local cheese and fig platter. Our waitress Nina had looked after us very well and she joined us for a glass of the dessert wine, which was a nice touch. She is a journalist working in her summer holidays while visiting her mother on the island, who happens to be a music professor. Nina is heading to Buenos Aires in October and will be in Melbourne in January, to do a documentary on Australia's economic survival of the GFC. Croatians all seem to know someone in Australia and Nina's relatives from Lostova Island have settled in Geelong. Apparently there are Croatian government restrictions on returning to Croatia with foreign money, so very few migrants have returned to Croatia. However the manager of Porto Rosso is an Australian born daughter of Croatian parents and she has taken up life in Skrivena Luka a year ago to run the restaurant and what a great job she is doing!
Business as usual next morning with swimming, brekki, fresh bread purchasing and a cup of very good coffee at Porto Rosso, before departing this delightful bay.
07/10/2013, Vis, Croatia
It was very hot in Vis Town! The sea breeze wasn't cooling the harbour foreshore and we needed to crank up the air conditioning on board to cope.
We were lucky the tourist office was close to Trilogy and we were able to arrange a 'military tour' for the afternoon with a company called 'no bullshit holidays', which sounded appropriate for us adventurers. The land cruiser tour commenced at 3pm, which gave us time to relax a little and consume a small amount of food and large amounts of water (or something stronger).
Joined by a Swedish family, our guide took us on a wonderful tour of the island of Viz, providing us with a most interesting account of the history of the various occupations of Vis, from the Illyrians to current times. It seems that Vis Island has always been and remains today strategically desirable due to its spring water supply, location on the outer edge of the main central Dalmation Islands and a deep, safe harbour at Vis Town. With each passing age this beautiful island was bumped into the hands of different conquerors including the Illyrians, Greeks, Romans, Slavic tribes, Italy (Venetians), Austria, France, Great Britain, Austria (again) and Italy during WW2.
Tito used the island as an important base for the Yugoslav National Army from the 1950's during the Cold War and established his supreme headquarters in a cave on the island. The tour showed us a huge concrete bunker accessible to the sea that housed submarines, missile silos ( land to sea with an 85 km range), 8 cannon installations (45 km range, networked by tunnels across the island), a hospital, telecommunications and radar control rooms all located underground, deep in the mountain. The Yugoslav news agency headquarters was also located in this complex. It has been said that whoever controls Vis controls the Adriatic and certainly Tito believed that! Although there was target practice, there was never a shot fired in defence.
To complete the tour we were taken to a beautiful fertile valley that in WW2 had an airstrip constructed which was only 1200 metres long. Fighter bombers based in Italy often did not have enough fuel after their mission to get back to base and this airfield, although perilously short for the B17 planes (eFlying Fortresses), served as a welcome refuel stop when fuel was too low. Recently, a 92 year old former pilot returned to the valley, his claim to fame being that when given the choice of going down in the sea or attempting a landing, replied over the radio, 'I can't swim, so I'm coming in!' He overshot the runway and decimated the vineyards in the plane's path, but survived.
The valley grows the best grapes on Viz Island and as a finale to our excellent tour we visited Roki's winery. Under the shady trees we enjoyed several glasses of wine and a tasting plate that was full of local delicacies including cheese, capers, olives, marinated sardines and olive oil. The on site restaurant is well regarded for it's Peka and we were delighted to see inside the cookhouse where the chef had 15 Peka dishes all being slowly cooked in the coals for the evening diners. We were shown the Lamb Peka when the lid was taken off for turning the meat and the fragrant herbs made us all wish we were staying!
Vis is a truly scenic island and there are many dwellings scattered across the landscape, but as is often the case, much of the land is covered by rocks and is relatively infertile. Huge rock piles are visible everywhere, which in times gone by when wine growing was a much bigger industry, the infertile land up the slopes was terraced and the discarded rocks piled high, so that vineyards could be cultivated. Vis is said to have the perfect climate for grape cultivation and the wine tasting convinced us that it is a very good drop. Once back in Vis Town, we washed the dust off and headed to Kantun Tavern, who fed us very well with our choices of steak in wine sauce, grilled calamari with grilled seasonable vegetables and prawn risotto, followed by chocolate cake for dessert.
After another sound sleep, we completed the tasks of washing, cleaning, shopping in between entertaining a lovely Swedish couple, the husband being a boat builder. By late morning we were squared away and set sail once more on our journey south.
(Lots more photos posted in the Photo Gallery)
The hype of Hvar Town left behind, we motored towards the Pakleni Island group, a picturesque group of wooded isles, with the inevitable 'naturist' islands of Jerolim and Stipanska proving popular with those who think swimwear is too expensive to waste money on!
Our choice was Palmizana Island and Tarsce offered the right protection for an overnight anchorage. We prefer to seek out the tranquility of fewer boats and people if we can, especially after a lively port and by evening only a few yachts remained. After sharing a fruit platter, swim and relax on the foredeck, the 'girls' set off for an exploratory expedition in the dinghy. Although dinner was planned to be on board, we followed signage to Dionis Konobe, 400 metres across the island and discovered a rustic taverna overlooking a flourishing vineyard. Back on board, as the sun set we enjoyed exotic fruity cocktails courtesy of Genna and Helen and Kat spoilt us with another delicious pasta creation. The sky was clear which meant star gazing was on offer and noted a number of small fishing boats working the waters late into the night.
Next morning, we all swam around the wide bay and enjoyed some of our best snorkelling, with large rocky overhangs creating interest beneath the surface. Sea urchins are prolific all through the Adriatic waters and we have been totally amused by the urchins habit of piling 'collectable' shells and rocks on top of themselves. They make us smile and appear to have neighbourly competitions for the best selections. The downside of sea urchins is that they can give nasty stings if their spikes are tampered with, so wearing soft soled shoes is wise and so far we have been spared. A delightful savoury egg breakfast was prepared and then we were on our way.
We set the sails and headed for Vis Island, which is claimed in Lonely Planet to be the most mysterious of all the Croatian Islands, and this is mostly because it is the furtherest of the main Dalmation islands from the coast, but more of that in the next posting. By lunchtime we had arrived at Ravnik Island, where the lure of a 'green cave' had got our attention. We anchored off on a rocky bottom, but in spite of our Rocna anchor and ample chain out, skipper was not feeling too confident that we would hold for long. We piled into the dinghy equipped with our snorkelling gear and headed inside the cave that had two points of entry . One small shaft of light from above penetrated the 10 metre deep clear water, but it was not until we swam to the back of the cave and looked back to the cave entrance that the truly turquoise green water was revealed. All very satisfied with our special experience, we headed back to Trilogy for a tasty belated lunch. Food flavours seem enhanced in this part of the world, probably the combination of fresh air, lots of exercise and fresh full flavoured produce.
Moving right along, our anchorage for the night was a little further west in Mala Travna, anticipating that there would be a wind change from the east by morning. Another picturesque coastal settlement awaited us, with only a handful of cottages and one small restaurant open in summer. Our information advised that the Konobe owner is Zenko Karuza, a Croatian writer and it warned that the restaurant was not for impatient guests! We were intrigued and decided to go ashore after our refreshing swim and diving competition to check out whether we would be welcome for dinner. Access was up a steepish rock face and to our amazement Zenko was a very 'zen character', warm hearted and definitely welcoming. We negotiated our meal of carpaccio of local fish (sardines and anchovies) followed by Lamb Peka, a traditional dish cooked in a large flat covered dish, with fire coals piled up around the pan, for several hours. There are always vegetables cooked with the chosen protein (octopus, fish, meat) and delicious juices to enjoy. Zenko with a smile said we needed to be 'disinfected' before we departed, and skipper was madly apologising when Zenko offered us each a glass (or two) of schnapps, to share with us before we left! Zenko also asked us to dress up, as Genna had told him that she was in the fashion industry, so we did our best to oblige. Zenko's great grandfather had built the original cottage and Zenko came back 20 years ago when the locals were able to return after Tito's reign on the island finished. Zenko lives in Zagreb in the winter months and enjoys the timelessness of this tiny community in summer. Later that night when the Peka was served, Zenko said, 'I have prepared goat Peka for you', which we gathered was meant to be an even greater treat than lamb! We feasted on the Peka, something we had been dreaming of trying since Susan and Rick had mentioned it at handover. The wine was from Zenko's vineyard and was full bodied in flavour. Needless to say, we very very carefully clambered down the rock face to our waiting dinghy and went to sleep dreaming of a wonderful evening with Zenko. Next morning we swam and dived before a cook up of eggs, proscuitto, tomatoes and basil.....yes, Basil is back on board!!
We had a wonderful time sharing the journey with Genna and her mum Helen, but as they needed to catch up with Ellie in Dubrovnik, we needed to motor to Vis Town, for them to catch the noon ferry. Having moored against the sea wall while Kat played taxi service for Genna and Helen in the dinghy, we waved farewell to our happy companions on the deck of the ferry as it departed for Split.
With an excellent breeze behind us, we hoisted the sails and set off once more. How could this day trump yesterday? In this paradise, each day brings ever increasing delights and pleasure.
All on board were keen to be part of the sailing and Jack was no longer given exclusive rights. Skipper Garth is very patient with us all and we felt the exhilaration of fine tuning Trilogy so that she purred and hummed her way along the passage plan heading for the island of Solta. The prevailing wind had whipped up the sea and we all relished our turn at the helm on the beam reach. We planned to overnight in Sesula but to our amazement there was standing room only in the bay. The water was choppy at the entrance and it seemed every charter yacht in the Adriatic had converged into this protected bay, with a large storm threatening.
There was no indecision, we would not join the throng and in fact you would have to have rocks in your head to attempt it. We headed further south and joined a few yachts in a delightful cove of Poganica, which offered good protection, although we stayed well out for swing room and rode the gentle swell most of the night. There were two little summer dwellings on the rocks above the water and next morning a family arrived at one and opened up the vivid green shutters. We swam, snorkelled and explored in the dinghy to satisfy our curiosity. Imbibing cocktails, nibbling on local delicacies of soft cheeses, sweet sweet tomatoes, artisan breads and spicy pickles, not to mention local olive oil for dipping, followed by mushroom risotto par excellence ended our day.
Another peaceful night in the bay and we set sail for the island of Hvar. By mid-afternoon we approached Hvar Town, a popular port accessible by ferry from both Split and Dubrovnik. It was Friday, but it seems like a Sunday, as the place was pumping. Large motor cruisers jostled for a small section of the quay and yachts lined up on the other side on a series of buoys. Trilogy nudged her way through the crowd and to our great delight, the buoy in pole position was free for us to pick up. There was no doubt we were in for an entertaining night with music, bars and people filling the scene.
Jack and Kat took off to rendezvous with Jenna, her mother Helen and sister Ellie. It was Jack's last night and we all wanted to make it a grand finale. Jenna's family joined us on board for drinks and much later we all dined at Dalmatino, a very popular spot for a good food. The meat lovers went for steak with a wine truffle sauce and the fish lovers chose all manner of seafood, including massive lobster. The night slipping away, the young ones departed to partake of the party scene and while the bigger people crawled off to bed they were to hear the music scene for many hours to come.
Next morning we headed ashore to farewell Jack on the ferry to Split and welcome Jenna and Helen on board for a couple of nights. The harbour master's office had identified that the paperwork wasn't in order, so the skipper was kept entertained sorting out the confusion. John shopped for his loved ones while Helen and Ros found a fresh fruit and veg market and other goodies that appealed in the nearby supermarket. We all relaxed at a quayside cafe, consuming several coffees that met with our approval. Coffee is taken seriously in Croatia but we have not often thought it was up to our expectations. They understand cappuccino and espresso but most other variants familiar in Australia cause confusion. And while we are talking food (again), we also think that cooked Aussie cafe breakfasts are still the best.
Don't forget to look in the Photo Gallery at the album "Garth and Ros in Croatia" for more photos.
We made good time to Zadar and berthed at Marina Zadar, directly opposite the old town in a lively port, with many car ferries and cargo vessels plying to and from the harbour.
After squaring away Trilogy, Kat and Ros set off for a late lunch in the old town by rowboat transfer across the narrowest point between the marina entrance and old town. No sooner had we wandered along the main shopping street than Garth requested our return with cash to pay the servicemen who were willing to investigate the water pump and freezer issues. We were grateful for their prompt attendance and relief that came from the noisy water pump, when a new pump was installed. The freezer issue was not so easily addressed but good advice was given. Ros returned to the old town to seek out the tourist information office as the plan was to take a tour to Plitvice National Park the following day.
With an early start required for the tour, we ate earlier than usual at Kornat Konobe on the waterfront. Unfortunately a huge car ferry arrived right in front of the restaurant consuming our view not only of the harbour but also the magnificent sunset. This quality restaurant did not disappoint! We all enjoyed a delicious carpaccio of sea bass and then the meat lovers feasted on 'Fred Flintstone' portions of T Bone steak, served on a volcanic rock to allow the diners to sear tender slivers of rare beef that had been piled high around the bones. Much adulation and lip smacking was heard from the carnivores. Dessert of heavenly chocolate cake followed for those who had a tiny space left. The staff were very professional but came unstuck when we were served two desserts that should have gone to another table. We had started eating from the plates by the time the mistake was realised because the delivery waiter had insisted in spite of our protest that this was our order. Next thing, the head waiter tried to retrieve the dishes and we had to again protest that we had already tucked in. Needless to stay, we were served our own plates in addition to the mistaken order and were expected to finish the lot! Marasko (cherry liquor) followed to make sure we left with our feathers completely smoothed! With very full tummies, we were pleased that the rowboat service was still operating for the food comatosed.
Up early for our road trip, we enjoyed the scenery on our journey north to Plitvice National Park. The tour guide spoke six languages fluently and swapped effortlessly between three languages to give the group information along the way.
Zadar, a city of nearly 75,000 people, sits in the shadow of a high mountain range. The city enjoys a sub Mediterranean climate, with no snow and temperatures reaching just below zero celsius in winter. In the height of summer, the maximum temperature climbs to the high 30's. Fresh produce to feed the population is all grown in the fertile plains just to the north of Zadar.
After two and a half hours, we arrived at the park entrance. Plitvice National Park is the largest of Croatia's eight national parks and in 1979 UNESCO included the park in the World Natural Heritage site. Lonely Planet guide rates this park number one top experience in Croatia and we were not disappointed. The tour was arranged so that we took a short ferry ride across the largest lake in order to climb to the upper levels of the 16 lake complex and later caught another ferry the length of the largest lake to pick up the walking trails to view the lower level lakes. Turquoise waters cascade, gurgle, tumble and splash through the forested landscape of beech, spruce and fir trees. At every turn, there is a changing scene of moss, ferns, fish and submerged logs. Calcium carbonate deposits on these logs turning them yellow and the timber eventually solidifies. This unique water environment is in total harmony and sadly (for us!) no swimming is permitted at all in this very tempting water, as the biodynamic process of tufa formation is delicate.
The park is home to 1267 different species of plants and many animals including brown bears, badgers, wolves and linx. We saw no animals during our time in the park, but later on our homeward journey, we stopped for a roadhouse meal where some orphaned young bears were being raised. They will never be released to the wild but a large enclosed forest habitat is being prepared for their adult lives. Jack had chosen to stay on board for the day to get some study done and we enjoyed being back together and sharing our tales over another delicious pasta meal prepared by Kat. The sunset in Zadar was something special that night and we all breathed in the beauty of the evening before we sank into slumber between fresh linen.
The new morning demanded cleaning duties for Trilogy and shopping to stock up again. Our plan was to head south from Zadar and with a light westerly blowing we hoisted the sails for the first time, much to everyone's delight. We made reasonable progress and ate our usual smorgasbord lunch on deck. Jack grabbed his first opportunity to experience the wind filling the sails and he demonstrated intuitive ability under the skipper's watchful eye in our champagne sail.
By around 5pm we dropped the sails and headed into Potkucina on the island of Kakan. The bay was wide but well protected from the north, where the wind was predicted to swing by the early morning.
No sooner had we picked up the mooring than the local mooring master arrived, promoting his restaurant around the headland, which he assured us was better than Babalu Konobe in our bay. As he was willing to transport us in his flash motor boat and promised we would not be disappointed with the feed, we took up his offer and once more we were delighted by the experience.
Paradiso Konobe, aptly named, was situated in a tiny cove of aqua blue water, surrounded by conifer trees, with wide umbrellas creating a canopy over bench style table seating in the sand. As always in these simple tavernas the choice was grilled meat or fish, with the suave waiter making a strong recommendation for the Adriatic fish. What was super special here was that the fish was simultaneously grilled and smoked in an outhouse and the flavour was superb. We feasted on plate size sea bream and tender calamari, served with delicious french fries and simple salad. The home made fresh bread was an irresistible finale to the meal in order to mop up the savoury juices. The local white wine was the perfect accompaniment to the meal and we've learnt to accept the waiter's advice for wine selection, never yet being disappointed by any Croation wine, which reflect many of the familiar flavours of Australian wine.
By the light of the moon, we were transported back to our beloved Trilogy, all feeling very contented and grateful we had made a very good decision to trust the promise. Swimming in the tranquil bay was simply delightful and we all squeezed in multiple swims before we again set sail.
07/06/2013, Kornat Island, Croatia
After a peaceful night in Scradin, we cleaned Trilogy inside and out, to make full use of the shore power and water. John is an experienced bosun from Vanuatu cruising, and he made sure we all completed our tasks with due diligence. The washing machine also whirred away and in no time the washing was dry. We topped up on a few supermarket items and departed Scradin around 1pm for the journey down the river to the sea at Sibinek.
We paused en route to get a glimpse of Zaton, a pretty little port with a dominating church, but kept motoring as we had a few hours to motor to our destination of Smokvica Island and the village of Lojena.
A passing storm had whipped the wind up in the bay we thought would be protected, so after a rather difficult mooring exercise, we settled in for a quiet night on board, as the dinghy ride ashore for dinner would have been too tricky.The wind abated late that evening and next morning the skies were clear blue again. We enjoyed a swim in the quite chilly water and after brekki Jack, Kat and Ros headed into Lojena.
There are only two permanent families living in this settlement and they survive by fishing, selling hand made pottery and feeding the summer visitors. Piccolo Konoba had lobster on the menu and we noticed huge lobsters sitting in cages in the sea water close by, no doubt awaiting their turn for the pot! We walked to the top of the saddle behind the houses to survey the Kornati island archipelago, which was well worth the climb. Along the trail we got close enough to the incredible dry rock walls that divide this landscape, wildflowers in bloom, wild fig and pear trees bearing fruit, a glen filled with the sound of summer cicadas and a small low stone built shepherd's hut.
There are 147 islands, islets and reefs in the archipelago, mostly uninhabited, and 89 form the Kornati National Park, which protects both land and sea. Kornat Island is the largest, around 25 kms long and at the narrowest point 2.5 kms wide. Those islands that are positioned to seaward have the most interesting and dramatic furrowed coastlines. The islands to the north-west end of the group, outside the National Park are privately owned by two ancestral families, who only visit in summer time to cultivate the land and enjoy the relaxation such remoteness offers.
By late morning we were ready to make our passage to Vrulje, on the western coast of Kornati island. We stopped for lunch on board on the island of Lunga and enjoyed the wonderful scenery all around us. It is quite hard to describe the beauty of the archipelago; the islands are bare of trees and quite stark in appearance. The interplay of light works its magic on the limestone contours with bold striations creating fascinating patterns. In days long gone, property was divided by stone walls and we were in awe of the large number of walls painstakingly constructed running vertically from below the water line to over the crest of the ridge line.
By late afternoon we had moored at Vrulje, Kornat Island. Kat and Jack wasted no time in getting the dinghy to shore and before long we were all relaxing at Ante Konoba with beer, wine and schnapps aplenty. The sun set and a chilly wind kept us a bit uncomfortable, but that didn't stop our pleasure