Our Ever-Changing Backyard

20 August 2018 | Nukobuco Island, Fiji
25 June 2018 | On passage from NZ to Fiji
24 June 2018 | On passage from NZ to Fiji
19 June 2018 | Marsden Cove Marina, NZ
04 June 2018 | Marsden Cove Marina, NZ
22 May 2018 | Marsden Cove Marina, NZ
09 May 2018 | Town Basin Marina, Whangarei, NZ
01 May 2018 | Town Basin Marina, Whangarei, NZ
24 April 2018 | Town Basin Marina, Whangarei, NZ
20 March 2018 | Many Locations in the United States
27 November 2017 | Opua, NZ
26 November 2017 | On passage beween Fiji and New Zealand
25 November 2017 | On passage beween Fiji and New Zealand
24 November 2017 | On passage between Fiji and New Zealand

Southward in Croatia - Aug/Sept 2022

04 May 2023
Vandy Shrader
Southbound through Croatia
August-Sept, 2022

Here is a link to the animation showing our entire trip,
with a few photos.

Southward in Croatia

Below I've given you some more details and photos about each place we visited. Each one merited a blog entry of its own, but, sadly, they'll have to share this one.

Zadar to Lumbrak
After picking up our friend, Sharron, from the ferry dock in Zadar, and exploring the city for a bit, we headed south, back the way we'd come, and anchored again at Lumbrak. As before, the anchorage was packed with boats when we arrived in the afternoon, but by evening, only three remained to enjoy the placid water.

In the morning, Sharron and I took the dinghy to shore. She went for a run and I went birdwatching.

When we reconvened on the beach an hour later, a naked man was standing near our dinghy. Then he turned and walked along the beach toward us. That was a bit awkward. Both of us kept our eyes on his face and smiled when he passed us.

The forecast called for thunderstorms in the afternoon, but by the look of the sky, the weather was going to arrive in late morning. We took the dinghy back to Awildian, lifted his anchor, and got underway.

Lumbrak to Uvala Stupica Vela (Otok Žirje)
The rain started as we left Lumbrak. Lightning accompanied us for the entire trip, often spearing down closer than we'd like, followed by loud thunder. Fortunately, our helm station has an enclosure, so whoever was keeping a lookout could stay dry, because the rain fell in buckets. We followed the storms in real time using the Weather Radar function on Windy.com (it's nice having internet all the time), so we could see where they were forming and drifting. We knew we were in it for awhile.

When we arrived in Uvala Stupica Vela, a small cove dotted with dozens of bright orange mooring balls, Sharron pitched in to help with snagging and tying us to one of them. It was intimidating, to be out on the front of the boat, picking up a mooring with lightning spearing down nearby, but the three of us worked together well and got it done quickly. Once Awildian was secured, we enjoyed some hot chocolate.

The mooring balls were owned by the little restaurant in the cove, so we made reservations for dinner.

By dinnertime the storms had passed, the sky had cleared, and everything was calm and dry. We tied our dinghy to the small quay at the restaurant - Konoba Stupica GRILL FISH WINE - and perused their menu, written on a chalkboard. It didn't take long: there were three kinds of local fish, a pork dish, and a beef dish. Sides were a mixed salad or a potato salad. We enjoyed a really nice dinner with local wine, and pancakes stuffed with nuts and honey for dessert. After that, we sampled some Croatian grappas infused with either dark cherry (višnja) or walnut (šokac).

The next morning, a man came by in a little boat, with bread and pastries for sale, which we enjoyed for breakfast. Afterwards, we climbed the hill behind the restaurant to explore the ruins of a 6th Century Byzantine fortress. It was fun to wander around and over and through the stone walls, and enjoy the view of the sparkling Adriatic Sea.

Uvala Stupica Vela (Otok Žirje) to Vinišće
We sailed today! It's rare that there's enough wind for us to sail, but today we did. We anchored near the town of Vinišće, which lies at the head of a narrow inlet on the mainland. We enjoyed a lazy afternoon and then in the evening took the dinghy in to explore the small town, which extends along the waterfront at the head of the inlet.

Vinišće to Split
Today we motored to Split, and dropped our anchor in a wide open bay on the "back" side of the city. From there Eric, Sharron, and I could dinghy into the marina, and walk or take a bus into the old part of town, where Diocletian's Palace is located. We spent a couple of days exploring the Palace on our own, and also as part of a very small paid tour (just the three of us). Split's old town is an amazing place, well worth a visit.

When the time came for Sharron to continue her travels by air, we dinghied across the bay to Marina Kastela, and after a lunch of yummy čevapćići (small sausages) in a tiny restaurant, she caught a taxi to the Split airport.

Eric and I stayed in Split for several more days. We caught up on housework and boatwork, listened to the cheers and songs from the nearby soccer stadium when the Hajduk Split team played, and one day we caught a bus to Trogir, the old town at the other end of the bay.

Trogir is a fascinating old city, with thick stone walls, fortresses, and bridges. Even the ride to Trogir was interesting: along the coast road are seven small harbor towns, each originating from a castle "kaštel" that had been built by a rich family in the 15th or 16th Century.

Note the date

Split to Omiš
Our next destination was Omiš, which is one of our favorite places in Croatia. Lonely Planet says this about the little town: "The legendary pirates' lair of Omiš has one of the most dramatic locations of any town on the Dalmatian coast. Situated at the mouth of the Cetina River, at the end of a picturesque canyon, it's backed by sheer walls of mottled grey rock topped with craggy peaks."

During their heyday in the 12th and 13th Centuries, pirates plundered ships and terrified crews all along the Dalmatian coast, spotting their quarry from lookouts constructed on high cliffs,

We anchored Awildian in clear water to the south of the river,

View from the anchorage

and took the dinghy into town. After finding a place to tie the dinghy,

we climbed up to and through one of their lookout fortresses,

walked through the quaint town,

The sign says that it's forbidden to tie your boat to the bridge.

and explored the river by dinghy.

High overhead, a bridge was in the process of being constructed. The roadway was being extended out from tunnels on each side of the gap, and would eventually meet in the middle, where they would be joined.

The bridge has since been completed. We'd love to take a drive across it!

Here are links to a couple of short videos showing the construction of the bridge.

The bridge being built

The nearly-finished bridge

With its stunning mountains, quiet river, beautiful anchorage, and pirate hideouts, Omiš has a lot of appealing qualities. What is not appealing however, is its (deserved) reputation as a "bora accelerator." You may remember that a bora is a strong N or NE wind that blows down the sides of mountains along the eastern shore of the Adriatic Sea. Often, these are forecast. In some places, though, the terrain accelerates the wind. As we found out, Omiš is one of those places. While the forecast predicted a night of light wind in the anchorage, we were blasted by 30 knots all night long. Two nights in a row. Our anchor held fine in the sand, but I don't sleep well when we're anchored in wind like that.

Omiš to Vrboska
Our next anchorage was near the town of Vrboska, on the north shore of Otok Hvar, around the corner from Starigrad, where we'd visited earlier. We dinghied over to an American boat, Orinoco, in the anchorage with us and learned from Ken and Pam, its crew, that the only approved place to tie a dinghy is in the town itself. So we followed them into town, tied our dinghy and went exploring.

Vrboska has the usual quaint white stone block buildings, but it also has a series of arched bridges over the stream that runs through town.

After walking through the town, we crossed the largest bridge, walked up a hill and across the main road, down a dirt road through some trees, which ended at the edge of a beautiful, rocky cove with clear water. What a find!

Vrboska to Lovište
We enjoyed several quiet days in Lovište, relaxing on the boat and exploring the small town.

Lovište to Uvala Račišće
Uvala Račišće is a long, narrow inlet on the east coast of Korčula island, near the town of Lumbarda. Several comments in Navily mentioned that the small restaurant (Konoba Gavuni) on the shore of the inlet had tasty, inexpensive food, and a dessert that was not to be missed: vanilla ice cream topped with roasted pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed oil. Even the contributors commented that it sounds terrible, but tastes really good. So we had to give it a try.

I can report that yes, the food was tasty and inexpensive, the wait staff pleasant, and the vanilla ice cream with pumpkin seed oil was out of this world! We have since kept a supply of pumpkin seed oil on Awildian, and even bought some for our family in the States. It can be used in other foods as well as for a topping for ice cream.

One day we walked into Lumbarda. Neither of us was particularly impressed with this town, which seemed kind of dumpy and not very interesting.

Uvala Račišće to Prožurska Luka
Our friends on Orinoco had told us about this great anchorage on the north shore of Otok Mljet: Prožurska Luka, so we decided to check it out. The harbor is split into two lobes by a small peninsula; both have mooring balls. Several rocky islets guard the openings of the lobes, so there is very little wave motion inside. We entered the smaller of the two lobes, and swung through the anchorage. It was behind the mooring field and at 60 feet was deeper than we wanted to deal with, so we picked up a mooring, which was owned by the restaurant on shore, Marijina Konoba.

In the late afternoon, a young man, the son of the restaurant owner, came by in a small boat to take our dinner order. Because he came a couple of hours before dinner, we were finally able to order peka, a Croatian slow-cooked dish that everyone raves about. We really enjoyed it!

A few hours after we arrived, a small sailboat came into the mooring field - under sail! This is very unusual. The woman at the helm seemed calm and confident; her male partner was on the bow. He dropped the anchor, then swam to the mooring ball and tied their boat to it. We were impressed. Later, on our way to dinner, we stopped by their boat, Venus. We met Kerstin and Andi, friendly Germans who had sailed their 21-foot boat down from northern Croatia, with the goal of sailing her all the way to Greece (which they did). Over the next couple of days, we had fun playing music together on Awildian during a shattering thunderstorm, we shared meals and stories, and built a friendship.

Prožurska Luka to Čajkovići (on the Dubrovnik River)
We passed under the iconic Franjo Tuđman Bridge over the Dubrovnik River on a Friday afternoon. Motoring along the river on the back side of Dubrovnik, we passed old churches and new buildings, and a big marina, before eventually arriving at the wide spot just before the ACI marina, at the town of Čajkovići, which was the anchorage. That evening's entertainment was watching the return of hundreds of charter boats, each of which had to fuel up before entering the marina. The line they made was more than a half mile long.

The next day, we took care of some boat jobs - visiting some chandleries, carting our propane tank to the INA and having it filled, buying some groceries - but we also found time to explore the river with our dinghy. It wasn't as wild or as long as the Cetina, but we saw some ducks and found a waterside restaurant where we enjoyed lunch.

Čajkovići to Cista Luka
We returned to our first anchorage in Croatia, which was also our last. Andi and Kerstin anchored near us, and we enjoyed some more fun times in this beautiful spot.

Clearing out in Cavtat
Awildian and Venus cleared out of Croatia on the same sunny morning in early September,

and headed south to continue their adventures in Montenegro.

Awildian's Travels North thru Croatia

18 April 2023 | Monopoli, Italy - Zadar, Croatia
Vandy Shrader
As you've probably noticed, my "real life" has seriously overtaken my "blog life." So much so that as far as our blog is concerned, we're still in Croatia.

Which we're not.

In fact, we haven't been there since September, when we sailed south to the Bay of Kotor, in Montenegro. Awildian has been moored at Porto Montenegro in Tivat since October.

We've enjoyed our time here very much. We've met lots of interesting and fun people, had lots of social get-togethers, found homes for some lovely street dogs, learned some new words, tried some new foods...

In short, we've been having all sorts of adventures here in Montenegro. Living them in the moment took precedence over taking the time to sit down and blog about them. Which is why our blog is still in Croatia.

Next week, we'll be leaving to head further south, making stops in Albania before moving on to Greece for the summer. And I haven't even told you about Montenegro yet!

We spent three months in Croatia, and saw lots of interesting places. Instead of just brushing all of those experiences off the deck and into the water, I found a way to briefly show you where we've been.

In this link North thru Croatia you'll see an animation with photos of our northerly travels in Croatia, beginning with our passage from Monopoli, Italy, and ending in Zadar, where we picked up our friend, Sharron, who spent five lovely days with us.

Turn on the sound and make your display full screen, with the icons in the lower right corner of the screen. (Otherwise the captions will be hidden behind the logo. )

I intend to do the same for our southerly trip back through Croatia. Hopefully I will. Unless, of course, life continues to be so darned interesting...

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy our northerly travels. If you want to know more about someplace, just ask. :)

Korčula - walking in my ancestors' footsteps

09 April 2023 | Korčula, Croatia
Vandy Shrader
Enough, and the blessing of fjaka
If you read our previous blog post, you'll remember that I mentioned Pizzeria Tedeschi.

Why Pizzeria Tedeschi?

It began with my dad's trip to Korčula in 2013. He'd come to see the place where some of his ancestors had lived, and had rented one of the Tedeschi Apartments, above Pizzeria Tedeschi. While he was there, he'd struck up a friendship with Ivo and Katja Tedeschi, the owners of the building. Ivo had been instrumental in helping my dad to find artifacts associated with his ancestors, including the house that they had lived in, handwritten records of their births in an old book, and a plaque in one of Korčula's churches, bearing the names of several of our ancestors.

In return, my dad had created a sign for Ivo's apartment that read "Tedeschi Aparments. The best in Croatia," which Ivo displays with pride. My sister and brother-in-law had recently enjoyed two weeks in one of the Tedeschi Apartments, and had also gotten to know Ivo quite well.

Now it was my turn. We took a seat at one of the outdoor tables and ordered pizzas and beers.

Nice scenery for a pizzeria

The waiter said that Ivo was in town somewhere and would be back soon. When Ivo returned, the waiter sent him over to us. When I told him my name - including my maiden name, Piantanida - Ivo's face broke into a huge smile.

"Tom's other daughter!" he said. "Welcome." He slid into the bench seat beside me, ordered a beer for himself - and another round for Eric and me - and settled in for a chat.

Van and Ivo

Over the next hour we talked about all kinds of things - about my dad, my sister, Eric, and me. About Ivo. About Korčula, and elements of Croatian culture. When we left, we were full of beer and pizza - the best pizza we had during our time in Croatia, no kidding - and stories. Lots of stories.

Ivo told us that he'd been a diver for many years, and had done many different things during his life. "I am happy with what I do now," he told us, "which is what I want to do. It is enough."

Enough. How many people do you know, who feel that they have enough, and are satisfied with what they have? This sense of having enough - paired with the absence of always trying to accumulate more, to get ahead - is one of the aspects of Croatian culture that you can feel when you're immersed in it. Things flow along leisurely here; no one is rushing. It's relaxing.

View from a window

Another day, when we sat down at one of the half-dozen tables at the Konoba Marco Polo (konoba being a tavern, or restaurant), intending to have lunch. A friendly waiter - the only waiter - introduced himself as Antonio. After taking our order, he came back and had a chat, even sitting down with us for a little while. He told us how he'd gotten fed up with the many rude customers he'd had to serve, in a more popular part of the town, and how he'd decided to take a job at the Marco Polo, because it was quieter. He told us about himself, and his family, and asked about us and ours. He told us how he'd wanted to spend more time with his growing family, so he works 16-hour days during the summer and then has the rest of the year off - for family time. He referred to himself as "a happy peasant" who has enough in his life. Enough. There's that word again.

Van and the "happy peasant"

Taking this a step further, the Croatians (Dalmations, in particular) have a term - fjaka - that embodies the essence of their relationship to life. Translated as "the sweetness of doing nothing," or "a sublime state in which a human aspires for nothing," Croatians consider fjaka to be a gift from God. And on a sweltering summer day it's easy to see why fjaka would be a blessing.

A tour of the town

Ivo introduced us to one of his nieces, Andrea, who took us on an evening tour of Korčula. At 6pm, the summer heat was draining from the air, and the sun would still be up for several hours. It was a perfect time to see the old town. Andrea's tour incorporated some history, including the story of Korčula's "revolving door" occupation by nearly a dozen different kingdoms or nations.

Old town Korčula

Some culture: we learned about city life and played a game on a game board etched in stone in the covered area outside the town hall, where generations of Korčulans had done the same.

Eric won

Some city planning: the Greeks designed Korčula with a "fishbone" plan, with one central street and others branching from it, in a particular way. In Korčula, where the afternoon sea breeze blows from the west, the streets branching off from the west side of the main street are straight, to allow the cooling breeze to blow into the town.

The streets branching off to the east are curved, to prevent the cold, fierce, winter bora winds, that blow from the east or northeast, from penetrating into the city.

Also, the streets are offset where they meet each other, making it hard for any pesky invaders or particularly strong winds to infiltrate the town. The heights of the floors and the locations of the windows across the narrow streets are also offset, so that neighbors don't look straight into each other's homes.

Greek city planners incorporated all of these design elements, to create comfortable living arrangements for Korčula's residents. More than two thousand years ago!

Some botany: Andrea pointed out that the pretty green vines spilling out of gaps and niches on many of the stone walls, with flowers resembling mimosas, were caper bushes (Capparis spinosa).

Caper bushes

Their little buds are the capers we buy in the grocery store. Once she pointed them out, I saw them everywhere in Croatia.

Caper plant with flower

Some mythology: one of Korčula's claims to fame is that Marco Polo was born there. This may or may not be true, but the Marco Polo House and Museum is there for your viewing pleasure, and your entry fee, nonetheless.

In the footsteps of my ancestors
During the three weeks that we were anchored at Badija, we visited Korčula lots of times, always timing our visits to coincide with midday, so that we could have lunch there. We loved to ferret out small cafes, consisting of two or three tables tucked along one of Korčula's fishbone maze of streets, where we'd enjoy pizza, pasta, grilled fish, grilled meat, or čevapi (small Balkan grilled sausages), and split a beer.

A typical side-street restaurant

My great-grandfather, Pasquale, was the first of my direct lineage to emigrate from Korčula. It is my direct lineage to him that is providing the basis for our application for Croatian citizenship. In 1907, he boarded a ship in Trieste that was bound for New York City. Once there, he met up with his older brother, Michael, and began his new life in New Jersey. He met his wife there, had three sons, and spent the rest of his life as an American.

We visited the house where Pasquale and some of my other ancestors had lived. It was cool to see it, even though it's now got a souvenir shop on the ground floor.

Van in front of the Piantanida house

I imagined my great-grandfather as a boy, running down the stairs to go play with his friends, my great-great-grandmother cooking dinner in the kitchen, and my great-great-grandfather having conversations with the other men, in the covered central area, maybe even playing the game carved into the stone there.

In the nearby church, St. Michael's, we saw the plaque that had the names of many of the church's members, including many of my ancestors.

Some of my relatives (in yellow) and my great-great-grandfather's name (red *)

It was really cool, to walk the same stone streets that my ancestors had trod, back in the day. But it was also really cool, that people are still living there today, going about their 21st Century lives in the same stone buildings that have stood there for centuries.

A colorful courtyard

We enjoyed our time in Korčula and Badija, but eventually it was time for us to move on, to see some more of Croatia.

Exploring Badija - near Korčula, Croatia

01 April 2023 | Otok Badija, near Korcula, Croatia
Vandy Shrader
July 2022

Our next destination was the island of Korčula, whose ancient walled city was home to some of my forebears. Though my father and my sister had visited Korčula, I'd never been, and I was really looking forward to it.

Before reaching Korčula, we first wove our way among the constellation of islets scattered off the eastern end of the island, each one a bright, white-and-green jewel surrounded by the clear, turquoise water of the Adriatic Sea.

Islets near Korcula

The waterways were busy with boats - Korčula has a busy charter base and is a popular cruising ground. It was midday, and we were looking for a good place to anchor, within easy dinghying distance to Korčula town. We checked the anchorage near the island of Badija (Otok Badija), with its large monastery and church. The water faded from turquoise to light green as it shoaled over brilliant white sand. I held my breath as Eric steered Awildian through a pass between two islets, where the chart indicated a depth of 8 feet, and the water was clear enough to see every stone and blade of sea grass on the bottom. If the bottom had shoaled since the chart was made, the water would be shallower...The depth quickly dropped from 20 feet, to 15, 11, 10, 9, 8...and then 9, 10, and back up again. I let out my breath. Ok, so the chart was still correct. Also, I'm not used to having a boat that draws only about 4 ½ feet.

Even though the Badija anchorage looked promising, we pushed on to check out a couple of other anchorages around the other side of Korčula town. Rounding the small peninsula on which the walled town stands, we marveled at the old gray stone buildings with their red roofs, all packed into a small area, with a sturdy, fortified wall around most of it. The anchorages on the west side of Korčula didn't appeal to us, so we turned around and headed back to Badija.

On our way, we passed close to the town, and I looked up at the portion of the town that didn't have the wall (which I later learned was called "the living room" by locals). Here, small restaurants lined the street, their outdoor seating areas shaded by fragrant aleppo pines. Scanning the signs, I saw a name I recognized: TEDESCHI.

"Hey," I hollered to Eric, "I see Pizzeria Tedeschi!" (More about this in the next blog post.)

Back at Badija, we dropped Awildian's anchor, joining two other boats who were already enjoying the picturesque anchorage. "The monks had all the best real estate," Eric quipped. He's not wrong.

Deer, priests, cicadas, but no nudists

I scanned the shoreline through my binoculars. "Were those deer?!" Yes they were. A small herd of fallow deer call the island home. It all began with two pairs brought there in 1958 and well, what do you expect to happen, when you put two couples on an island paradise? These days, the deer wander around, hanging out mostly near the quays where the tourist boats and water taxis dock, enjoying handouts from the visitors. Apparently the deer can't read, because they often stand right next to the "Please do not feed the deer" sign while they're enjoying their treats. My sister said that they especially liked the cherries she'd brought with her.

We took our dinghy to shore to do some exploring.

A pretty heart stone that I took home

A walk around the island's shoreline provided us with stunning vistas across the water,

Korcula in the distance

lots of cool shade courtesy of the pines,

and a deafening rendition of the cicada symphony. Along the way we discovered a sad-looking playground, and a dilapidated mini-golf course.

Sad minigolf

Actually it was beyond dilapidated, whatever that word would be.

This sign caught our attention:

FKK? We looked it up. FKK is the abbreviation for the German words "Frei Körper Kultur" which translates as "free body culture." In other words, nudists; in this particular case, a nude beach. Ah, apparently the island's priests didn't want nudists in their front yard. I get that.

A surprise visit from faraway friends

One day, a pretty blue X-boat came into the anchorage, heading toward Awildian. As it got closer, we could see that the people on board were waving at us. That was strange...we don't know anyone who's sailing in the Med. Or do we? When they got close, we were amazed to see that the boat's name was Zensation, and her crew was our friends, Cindy and Geert, whom we'd last seen in New Zealand in 2021. Since then, they'd sold the original Zensation, flown home to the Netherlands, and later bought the current Zensation in Italy. Now here they were, sailing in the same places as we were again! They did a fly-by and then anchored a short distance away.

Zensation and Greyhound

They dropped their anchor near a boat that looked very familiar: a sturdy metal boat with a silhouette of a greyhound on it...that had to be Greyhound, with our friends Marie and Dieter, whom we'd also last seen in New Zealand in 2021!

Oh my gosh! We six, who'd last spent time together on the other side of the world, had converged here, in the little anchorage at Badija! How cool was that?!

But how uncool was this: I'd just tested positive for Covid, so I couldn't hang out with them.

Undeterred, Eric and I put on face masks and dinghied over to Zensation, where Cindy, Geert, Marie, and Dieter had gathered. Floating in our dinghy nearby, we had a really nice chat with the four of them, catching up a bit, and finding out where they were heading next. The next morning, both boats swooped past Awildian so their crews could say, "see you later!" I'm sure we will.

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.

Beautiful Przina

11 December 2022 | Uvala Przina, Pelješac Peninsula, Croatia
Vandy Shrader
Uvala Przina
Pelješac Peninsula, Croatia

June 24-28, 2022

Uvala Przina was just as we'd hoped it would be: beautiful, protected, sandy-bottomed, and (for most of the day) uncrowded. When we pulled into the small cove, only two other boats were anchored there: a large Bali charter cat more or less in the middle of the space, and a small fishing launch to his right. We steered Awildian into the large space to the left of the cat and dropped our anchor into a big patch of bright white sand.

What a lovely spot! The sides of the small bay rose up to gray-white peaks, their slopes completely covered in pine trees, from whose branches birds and cicadas sang. A sandy beach, backed by more trees, with a lone house tucked into one corner, occupied the head of the cove. The clear water underneath Awildian created a delightfully random tapestry of light and dark turquoise, courtesy of the patches of sand and weeds. It was mesmerizing to look out through the fish TVs at the underwater world.

During the next couple of hours, a dozen charter boats arrived. All of them anchored on the right side of the cove, between the Bali cat and the shore, leaving us on our own on the left side. We don't know why they preferred to cram into that one area, rather than anchoring on the left side, but it was ok with us. Their passengers jumped into the water or swam to the beach to enjoy the sunshine. After hanging out in Przina for a couple of hours, they pulled up their anchors and left, leaving the anchorage to us until the following morning, when the next batch of charter boats arrived. Eric and I wondered if the charterers had a checklist of places they wanted to visit during their holiday in Croatia, so they couldn't afford to spend too much time in each place.

One of the luxuries of cruising is being able to take our time.

Not one of the luxuries of cruising, is having to do boat work. While we were at Przina, Eric decided to clean Awildian's hulls, using a scraper and the hookah. The water was a reasonable temperature and as it had been awhile since Awildian had enjoyed a spa treatment, he had a bit of a grass skirt going on. Meanwhile, I cleaned Awildian's stainless steel with Barkeeper's Friend. By the end of the day, Awildian was sleek, slick, and shiny again.

By the way, we haven't seen any of the Mediterranean fan worms that have become the scourge of New Zealand's coastal waters. Since they're native to here, we expected they'd be growing on all the boats and docks. But no. Not one. Maybe they're all in New Zealand, rabble rousing.

A nice spot for a house!

While cutting a cauliflower that had been in our fridge for several days, I exposed a fat, green, groggy - and very lucky - caterpillar! He was unharmed, tucked into one of the crevices. I set him up in a little plastic dish with a paper towel roof, with a bit of cauliflower, and pieces of lettuce and cabbage leaves (in case he had a preference). Almost immediately he began to spin some silk. If he metamorphoses, I thought, I'll keep him safe until he's done, and then release him where flowers are growing.

One day we decided to go to shore and do a bit of exploring on land. I'd seen a guy in a dinghy pull up his outboard and begin paddling when he got about fifty yards from shore. From where we were in Awildian, I couldn't tell why he'd done that. There aren't any bommies in Croatia, or coral reefs, so it wasn't that. I told Eric about this as we were motoring toward shore, after we'd scooped a shiny green beetle out of the water. When we were about fifty yards out the reason became clear: a shelf of sand-colored rock extended out from the beach, creating an area of very shallow water. The rock blended in with the sand of the deeper water, so you couldn't tell it was there until you were almost on top of it. Very sneaky! It would have had the same disastrous effect on an outboard motor, as a South Pacific coral reef would. At least coral reefs telegraph their location by being a different color than the deeper water around them.

Look ma, no swell!

We beached the dinghy and walked through the trees, depositing the shiny green beetle on a branch, and continuing on a trail until we came to a dirt road. To our right, the road eventually ended at the house; we went left.

I like to look down, as well as around, while I'm walking, and was intrigued by the many caravans of large black ants winding their way along and beside the dirt road. Many were carrying seeds and small sticks, and I followed several trails to their nests, watching the ants disappear down the central hole. I was surprised to see that there were also ants coming out of the hole with seeds in their jaws, and depositing them in a pile off to one side. Were they making an offering to the local grasshopper mafia, like in A Bug's Life? On taking a closer look, I realized that only the husks of the seeds were in the trash heaps. The ants must be shucking the seeds and eating them in their nests, then disposing of the husks. I didn't know they did that sort of thing. Live and learn.

Besides ants, we also saw signs of humans along the road: several abandoned houses, and an old tombstone. We wondered if some of the houses had belonged to Serbs who had fled during the war in the 1990s.

Certainly no one had claimed the houses in the meantime. Being around them gave us a feeling of unease. The stories these houses could tell.

The tombstone was all by itself in a small clearing just off the road.

Someone had spent a lot of time cutting steps in the stone hillside next to the road, making it easier to reach the grave.

Using Google Translator we were able to read the tombstone: "Here lies Martin Prkačjn. Memorial is raised by brother Andreji and his grateful sons." And at the bottom, "1934".

And on the flat part of the grave, a smaller headstone that reads "IVANA Supruga Martinova 1884-1950".

I'd love to know the story of this family.

We enjoyed a few days at Przina and then decided it was time to head for the north end of Mljet, and finally visit the national park.

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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