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19 June 2024 | Ҫandarli, Turkey
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03 June 2024 | Aegean Sea
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30 October 2023 | Durrës, Albania
29 October 2023 | Porto Montenegro to Athens, Greece
22 August 2023 | Montenegro

Mljet National Park, Croatia

15 March 2023 | Mljet National Park, Croatia
Vandy Shrader
We were finally going to check out Mljet National Park!

After saying goodbye to lovely Uvala Przina, we headed toward the northwest tip of Mljet Island, where the park is located, seventeen miles away.



We took our time getting there, hoping that if we arrived around midday, some of the charter boats would have left for their next destination, leaving us some room to anchor in Uvala Polače before the afternoon bolus of charter boats arrived.

This had become our standard procedure, once summer set in and Croatia's waterways and anchorages were packed with boats. Europeans are comfortable anchoring a lot closer to other boats, than we are, so by getting there early, we saved ourselves the anxiety of arriving in an anchorage that we would consider too full. Europeans don't care if they can jump from your boat to theirs; they just put their fenders out. We're not there yet. Plus, many of the boats are charters, not someone's home.


Awildian and a buddy

Uvala Polače is sheltered by several small rocky islets, which make for a circuitous but beautiful trip along the passage from the main channel into the anchorage.


My interpretation LOL

Along the way, we saw several boats that had tucked up into slight indentations in the shore, dropping their anchor and then tying to trees or rocks. We hadn't done the "tying to land" procedure yet, preferring to be away from shore when we anchor.

The Polače anchorage was bigger than I expected, and deeper - 35 to 40 feet in most of it. In spite of the large open anchoring area, quite a few boats had chosen to drop their anchor near shore, back up until their stern was almost touching, and tie to trees or rocks. We dropped Awildian's anchor in 37 feet of murky turquoise water (which jives with reports that it has a muddy bottom), well away from shore, where he could swing around.

We'd read that the park rangers would come by to collect the daily fee for anchoring - 600 kuna, or about $83. When they did, they were friendly and spoke excellent English. We asked them for the 3-day pass, which would have cost quite a bit more, but they said, "You can stay as long as you like. Just show this receipt when a ranger comes by."

I mention this because for some reason Croatia has gotten a bad reputation for being overly expensive and for price gouging. During our three months in Croatia, we experienced none of that.

When the anchor was down and we'd waited a little while to make sure it was set in the mud, we took our dinghy to shore and enjoyed lunch at a small shoreside restaurant.


Eric in the restaurant

Afterwards, we asked where we could drop our rubbish and were told there was a place about 100 meters up the road, where we could dinghy to. So we got back in our dinghy and scooted along the shoreline about half a kilometer (we've learned that when people say "about 100 meters" they usually mean a bit more) until we found a small concrete dock with a trail leading up through the bushes. Sure enough, the trail intersected a road and there sat about a half-dozen rubbish bins, well-hidden from the shoreline. We deposited our rubbish and headed back to Awildian for a swim.

The next day, I went for a hike in the scrubby forest that bordered the anchorage. Earlier, I'd seen a small family of goats wandering there, but they had moved on by the time I arrived.


No goats now

The day was hot and sticky. Even the birds were quiet, probably hanging out in the shade, up in the pines.



The cicadas were singing their hearts out, though. They ascribe to a "live fast, die young" timeline.


Out of the ground, out of his skin, up the tree to sing

In the afternoon, the wind picked up. The forecast was for strong winds beginning in the night and continuing for a couple of days. As the day wore on, the anchorage became a melange of all kinds of big tourist boats, who were coming to Polače, as we had, because it is such a sheltered anchorage. Most of them backed up to the shore and tied, but some swung with us.

One steel tourist boat came very close to us, its captain having decided that he wanted to back up to the shore directly behind us. It took him several tries. Despite the strong wind, and the presence of Awildian and another catamaran anchored nearby, he kept dropping his anchor slightly in front of us, then trying to maneuver between us, coming within only a few feet of us a couple of times as the wind blew him around. It ended up all right, with him tied to the shore behind us, but it was a bit dodgy for a few minutes.

I'd like to know what Europeans' fascination is, with anchoring along the shore, with their stern tied to a tree or rock, and within easy reach of land-based bugs like mosquitoes and wasps. With all this lovely, open water available, with just an anchor drop, why spend a lot of extra time and effort to drop anchor, back to shore, and tie on to something, often requiring several do-overs before you're done.

The next morning we dinghied to shore and rented a couple of e-bikes.


Our bikes

My sister, who'd visited Mljet National Park only a few weeks earlier, had recommended e-bikes and she was right. After paying our entrance fee, we headed out. This was our first experience with e-bikes. Both of us were impressed by how easy it was to power up the hills. I could get used to that!

Two of Mljet's main attractions are Veliko Jezero (Big Lake) and Malo Jezero (Small Lake). Though their names are mundane, their appearance is anything but: two shining, blue-and-turquoise gems with crystal-clear water, connected to each other and to the Adriatic Sea by a couple of narrow canals.


Mljet's lakes

We enjoyed biking the roads that ringed the lakes, gawking at the beautiful scenery and occasionally stopping to cool our feet in the water.


Coolin' my feet

The day was very warm - in the upper 90's F (mid-30's C) - and we appreciated any shade that happened to fall across the road.

At one point we saw a sign that said "Lookout," and since we suspected that this was a scenic vista and not a warning, we parked our bikes and set off along the rocky trail. It was a hot and dusty hike, but fortunately not more than about a kilometer. We were hoping that at the end of it would be a nice overlook of the lake. But when the path ended, we were on a cliff overlooking the Adriatic Sea. "The Sea?!" we said, disappointed. "We see plenty of seas!"


The Sea view

I suppose other people don't see quite as much of the ocean as we do, and it was kind of pretty, but we were hoping for a different view.
So we turned around and hiked back, catching a nice glimpse of Veliko Jezero on our way to our bikes.


Veliko Jezero and the monastery island

In Veliko Jezero is a small island (Sveta Marija or Islet Maria) upon which is a Benedictine monastery. We'd been admiring the pretty island as we rode along, and when we came around a corner, we saw this sign:

It's a bit hard to read, but it says:
"Free boat to restaurant. Use the flag."


Use the flag

Apparently the monastery now also has a restaurant. A group of people had just followed the instructions on the sign, and sure enough a small skiff was setting out from the island. We decided to follow suit.


Our ride approaches

We enjoyed our lunch at the small restaurant and then took a stroll, exploring the monastery and its grounds, with the requisite Roman ruins in their backyard.

Some photos for the monastery buffs:




We learned that the Benedictine monks had built their monastery on top of some previously sacred ruins, sometime between 1151 (when they were given the island by a duke) and 1220 (when the monastery is first mentioned in sacred documents). A long time ago, anyway.

After lunch, we rode along the canal that connects Veliko Jezero to the Sea, past a couple of low dams that had been placed diagonally in the flow to collect floating trash ("mostly from Albania," the sign informed us). Near the end of the road was an arched footbridge over the canal, with stairs, which had been kitted out to allow e-bikes to be more easily walked across. Metal troughs had been placed on the stone stairs, creating ramps with just the right width for bike tires. I had a hard enough time walking my heavy bike up and over the bridge; I wouldn't want to have to haul it up and down the stairs. Unless you wanted to ride all the way back around the way you'd come, you had to cross the canal and resume the loop on the other side.


The arched bridge

When we got back to Polače, we were thoroughly sweaty and tired. After returning the e-bikes and dinghying back to Awildian, we changed into our swimsuits and jumped into the water to cool off. The wind had died down, most of the big tourist boats had gone to other destinations, and we enjoyed a quiet evening, our last in Mljet National Park.


Comments
Vessel Name: Awildian, previously SCOOTS (2012-2021)
Vessel Make/Model: Leopard 48
Hailing Port: San Francisco, CA
Crew: Eric and Vandy Shrader
About: We've been living aboard full time since September 2014. We sailed our Able Apogee 50, SCOOTS, from 2012-2021, and are now aboard our Leopard 48, Awildian, since March 2022.
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