Croatia’s coast is filled with a stunning array of 1,244 islands (if you count every rock and inlet), ranging from untouched nature (only 65 are inhabited) to beautifully preserved historic harbour towns and secluded villages. The islands are scattered like confetti across the Adriatic, and the colours are stunning: vivid blue seas against the lush hillsides and red rooftops in the harbour towns.
May was the perfect time to sail through the translucent waters. Croatia, the newest member of the EU, has become a tourist hot spot, but May is still early in the season, making the islands blissfully crowd free.
Pre-season also meant that there was some risk in terms of weather. Upon arrival in Dubrovnik, Wen and I found ourselves meeting our fellow crewmembers — Simon, Ian, Anshal, and Pippa – huddled under an awning of a pizza place, hoping the torrential rain would let up. At this point, I was a bit anxious – meeting a new group of people and setting sail under the cloudy and grey skies made me wonder what I was in for. Fortunately, everyone was positive and in good spirits to embark on our adventure.
We split into a couple groups, one getting The Arianna ready and the other, getting supplies – 7 people on a boat for a week would require sufficient food and drink!
Covered head to toe in warm waterproof clothing, we hopped on the boat, got one of the sails up, and were off. Fortunately, our stormy weather conditions meant we were able to get some decent speed and were cruising along, but little did we realize, we were off course already! We ended up doing our fair share of circles before finding Louise, our last crewmember, in the dilapidated harbor of Slano.
Given the time, we decided to dock there for the night, and cook dinner on board – Pippa was brewing up some mulled wine, while Louise and I cooked up some fajitas and nachos for our first dinner as a group. A perfect end to our cold, wet first day.
Sunday, May 4
It was a brisk morning, but the sun was peaking in. We set off early as we had a long day of sailing planned: we planned a lunch stop in a gorgeous inlet along the way, and then continued on to explore Mljet’s Nature Reserve.
Over 72% of Mljet is covered by forests, making it the greenest of all the islands. The National Park occupies a third of the island, and surrounding two saltwater lakes, one of which contains a Benedictine Monastery dating back to 1151.
While we had planned to explore the nature reserve, we found there was no anchoring allowed, and despite my above description, the lonesome grave peering out and the sideways branches on the dense forest made it seem like a scene out of Game of Thrones. Being the only boat around for miles, we eventually decided to continue sailing for a few hours to Pamina.
Fortunately, the journey was fairly short – the winds and tide picked up, making for some fun sailing. Overall, 38.1 nautical miles, with a speed of 9 nts. We had also become true sailors – it was only day 2, but we had gone through 1L of vodka, 4L Beer and 6L of wine!
Monday, May 5
I am sitting deck-side on a gorgeous sunny Monday morning, tea in hand. As I write, Simon is on “poop watch” – “is the bilge working?” has been a constant question over the last 3 days.
It was a lazy start, and a very slow sail (light winds) out to our lunch destination: a small village named Lumbarda. Aside from slow sailing, it made for a gorgeous day, so Anshal and Wen went for a spin on the dingy, while the others napped, swam and hung out on the boat.
Instead of heading into Korcula as a group, we split into two teams. Ian, Louise and Anshal went out for a 2 mile run in the dingy to get to town – little did they know that the waves would be huge and they would be drenched in the process.
Wen, Pippa, Simon and I stayed on the boat, and decided to sail with just the genoa. Unexpectedly, the winds picked up to about 30 kts; the only thing was, we had not put the main sail up, or put it away for that matter, and we found it flapping away. Simon instructed us to fix the situation, and Pippa and I ended up trying to tie the main down while sailing at a speed of 8 kts with the boat keeled at what seemed like a 45 degree angle! Needless to say, it took three of us (Wen to the rescue) to resolve the situation without anyone going overboard!
I can’t decide what was more fulfilling – the adventurous sailing or arriving in Korcula to find out that there were hot showers in the marina. It was great to be at port, and we enjoyed a stroll through town and and a seaside restaurant for a fresh seafood dinner.
20.1 nautical miles sailed, maximum speed of 8 kts
Tuesday, May 6
Korcula is the most populated island in Croatia, and the capital city, also called Korcula, is known for its unique architecture and alleged home of Marco Polo. Korcula town is situated on a hill, filled with marble streets. It houses a Gothic-Renaissance church, the Cathedral of St. Marco, and the bell tower, which boasts the best views of the town and surrounding areas.
Following a morning of sight-seeing, we were ready to make our way to Vela Luka, the other port on the Korcula island. Given we were just crossing the island, Anshal and Wen went over land instead and met us in Vela Luka. They definitely made the smart choice as once we were in the open waters, the sea was like silk – there was absolutely no wind! We tried everything, but ultimately, we succumbed to defeat and motored our entire way.
We arrived in Vela Luka just before sunset and spent the evening in town for drinks and dinner.
Wednesday, May 7
Vela Luka is the most inhabited of all of Korcula island. While originally a fisherman’s village, this picturesque small town offers a handful of restaurants and a bit of sight seeing: a church and bell tower, a museum and cultural center, and the most famous, Vela Spilja cave. Vila Spilja is about 100m above the town, and an important archeological site in Europe, dating back over 20,000 years.
Around mid-day, it was time to set sail to Vis. Fortunately, we had some decent wind so we made good time, and actually, didn’t go straight in – all of the crew got a chance to put their sailing skills to the test and practice some of our newly acquired skills.
Vis turned out to be a more interesting town that I expected – this remote island was a Yugoslav military naval base that was off-limits to foreigners for about four decades. The island contains three small fishing villages and is famous for its long history of wine growing. The small harbor was full of energy, and the town consisting of a decent selecting of konobos (taverns) serving pizza and Dalmatian seafood dishes.
35 Nautical Miles, speed of 8 kts.
Thursday, May 8
Anshal started the morning by making breakfast on board, and shortly thereafter, we bid farewell to Wen, as he was off to catch a ferry to Split so he could attend MBAT. We then set sail, with winds in our favor, allowing us to get to Hvar on a straight course, and therefore by lunchtime.
Hvar is easily the most talked about island, with Hvar town being the boho chic port that gives it the glamorous reputation it deserves: Hvar town is filled with fancy yachts moored in, and lined with cocktail bars, cafes and restaurants (review for Divino to follow shortly).
The town is adorable, and its worth taking a stroll down the medieval streets to take in the view of the rolling hills and jagged mountains surrounding it, not to mention to just enjoy the boutique shops and restaurants along the streets. The main square is dominated by St. Stjepan’s cathedral at one end, and cafes at the other. Just up the hill, there is a fortress that encompasses part of the city. While there isn’t much to see in the fortress itself, the views are well worth the visit.
We thoroughly enjoyed the town – it gave everyone time to explore, enjoy some great meals, and a great night out as well.
Friday, May 9
Thankfully the sunshine helped me get up at a decent hour, and a shower helped cure the hangover, so now I sit here blogging from Caffe Bar Placa, sipping a cappuccino, enjoying a chocolate croissant and taking in the gorgeous views from the main square.
While Simon, Anshal and Pippa were setting off, Ian, Louise and I planned to travel by foot, and meet them on the other side of the island. A great idea in principle, but none of considered that Simon drew us a map around 2am, after a heavy night of drinking. The map was so detailed that there didn’t seem to be a reason to question it. That said, 8-10kms later, and one u-turn, we did manage the get reunited with the group on the other side of the island!
Once again, the winds were in our favour, and allowed us a straight course into Split – perhaps what I’d call “lazy man’s sailing”. We even had time to moore into a little bay along the way for some fresh grilled fish, and still arrive in Split before sunset.
It was a gorgeous evening, so Ian and I decided to go for a stroll and explore split. We had a nice dinner in the old town, and then met Simon later in the evening for drinks.
Saturday, May 10
The boat needed to be returned, so it was a relatively early start this morning. Simon and Pippa motored the boat over to Castello Bay, while the rest of us jumped off. We all had different departure times, so it was a staggered good bye.
Ian and I started the day at a harborside café, and then spent the day enjoying some sight seeing in Split. It was a perfect way to end a great holiday.
Trip Quotes (Solely for the purpose of the Crewmembers of the Arianna)
- -“My feet look more alive” – Pippa
- -“Just lean and suck” – Pippa
- -“This is better than sex” – Anshal
- -“How are we going to dump the shit” – Louise
- -“If you can have a debate about the cheese types, you are not in a survival situation” – Pippa
- -“We need to at least practice drunk wifi-ing” – Ian
- -“She (Shivani) almost tacked to maintain her modesty” – Pippa