Monthly Archives: September 2010

Fighting for Hvar

Continuing “Croatian Tapestry”

The sail between Komiza and Hvar was a stretch in and out of lulls and wind alleys, which made for an active day at the helm. And rounding the corner as Hvar Town harbor came into view, I thought “it appears it will be an active night as well.” Hvar from seaward looked every bit the chic Euro vacation destination—a waterfront dotted with posh lounges and beds, yachts lining the seawall, and vendors’ shops crowding the sidewalks.

There’s good reason why Hvar is so popular, we came to find out on our evening stroll through town. But before we were able to do that–we first had to fight for a coveted moorage along the main waterfront. We were the second boat in our fleet to arrive; the first boat was sandwiched in a great spot along the seawall, which had already filled up. We quickly spun around to catch the next best alternative–the many moorings floating in the harbor. We found one of the few remaining ones near shore and noted that everyone else in the lineup had stern-tied to shore; we would have to follow suit. But first, picking up the mooring. Now, in my part of the world, most moorings have a pick-up ring. Not so in Hvar–and the combination of high freeboard and short arms made it dang near impossible to get our line through that ball. My skipper did a fantastic job holding the boat in place despite a gusty side wind, and I finally was blessed with a stroke of luck and got us secured to the mooring. (If anyone has a trick to picking up a mooring you can’t reach, by all means share! I suppose getting the dinghy down from the deck would have been one way of doing it.) Anyway.

The real heroism arose over the stern tie–which we had to accomplish rather quickly now that the boat was trickier for the helmsman to handle with the bow tied off. Given that the dinghy wasn’t handy at all, and I was HOT, I decided to swim our stern line to shore (perhaps 50 feet). I put on a big orange horseshoe, some flip flops, and grabbed a 100′ line. Swimming with that was, well . . . attracted attention. I almost turned around when I realized the sea floor was littered with beautiful urchins, but decided with flip flops on I could find a spot big enough for my foot. Finally, I made it up on the rocks and secured us–and blushed when a boat of elderly Norwegian men broke out in applause. A local woman passed by and tried to describe, using her four English words, how I could have done that more easily–and I only wish I spoke more Croatian because I sure would like to know!

It turned out Hvar was well worth the effort we took getting in. As was typical in most towns, we visited the local market to top off our produce, and stopped by a meat market to sample unusual home-smoked morsels. This particular meat shop also stocked a wonderful variety of local wines, of which the owner, Leo, poured numerous samples. After expressing that we loved each one more than the last, he opened his personal unlabeled bottles (you know the unlabeled ones are always the best!). We sipped the special brandy that families in Hvar make only when babies are born and drink only on those babies’ wedding days years later. It wasn’t for sale. However, we did purchase one of Leo’s favorite bottles of Plavac Mali and some wild boar sausage.

After our “cultural appetizer” in Leo’s wine shop, we hiked up the hill to tour the town fortress, where they really did fight for Hvar. Its labyrinth of levels made for spectacular views of the sunset–even the dungeon had five-star vistas out of its slit windows. The islands of Palmizana lay quiet and wooded in the ruffled blue water, stunning megayachts tucked themselves into nearby anchorages, and the huge Croatian fortress flag threw shadows across the large evening sun. By the end of the evening, I decided that I might like to be locked up in Hvar.

Lessons from American Sailing Week

American Sailing Week, ASA’s annual members’ event, took place on the beaches of Clearwater Beach, Florida, September 10-17. Captain Jean K Levine and Captain Jeff Grossman were the event’s gracious hosts. A week-long party of ASA educators and members with all skill levels, the event is always an excellent and fun place to learn. Member Kerrie Lynn Hartt from Montreal collects some of her favorite lessons taken away the week:

I can’t believe it’s been 1 week since the ASA Sailing Week, and yes its cold here, some 54’F, and I am wearing a winter hat as my body adjusts itself back to the northern climate. So much for getting out my Hobie 14 and sailing, yikes….

I wanted to send my thanks again for a wonderfully interactive, educational and fun sail week. I can honestly say of all the vacations I have taken so far that have had the “all inclusive component,” the ASA sailing week sure beats them all hands down. Also as I reflect on my week’s experiences I wanted to share some “lessons learned” that I retained. I am constantly reminded of the fact that we don’t always know everything and there are ALWAYS new things to learn about sailing, while sailing, and being around like-minded sailors.

Here are some of the key “lessons learned” during my ASA sail week. My thanks to the Captains, instructors and everyone for making my week a memorable one!

1. Captain Bob Morse: For teaching us about rigging and sailing the “Big Fish”, it really was a fun experience. During his “naughty knots” seminar, I learned how to finally remember how to tie a bowline, and, yes, his technique works every time. Thanks also for the reading tip, I will definitely read the book you recommended called “Financial Freedom”…to help me get where I want to be.

2. Captain Dennis Harms: For teaching us about how to stay on course and let the crew trim, which makes it a lot easier on the helmsman. Thanks for your advice and letting us know that certain boats should not cross any ocean, and for pointing out to us that not all boats react the same way in the same conditions. And, yes, there is a “right way to jibe” by ASA standards, and I have video to prove it, Todd was our helmsman that day.

3. Captain Jeff Grossman: He gave great advice on sail instruments and how the better ones do make a difference. Calibrating the depth based on feet from the keel, wow, that makes so much “practical sense” it really should be a standard. Having an iPhone to help fix unexpected last minute rope repairs is a must, otherwise, we would have waited longer than 2 hours before sailing that day!

4. Captain Jean Levine: For showing us that there is a right and wrong way to leave and return to the dock – slip. Keeping the center lines until the very last minute is key and having good communication with both the bow and stern crew is a must. Jumping “on” or “off” the dock is a definite “no, no” and very dangerous. Will have to see what my dad thinks about that huh!! IMPORTANT, never, ever put your hands “through” the helm’s wheel, you could lose it or damage it very unexpectedly – now that’s a keeper. Thanks Jean…..

5. Small boat instructor: Brenda Wempner: “Sailing Made Easy” seminar, thanks for getting me back into small boat sailing! I cannot believe how much fun those little boats are, and dunking, yes please, over and over what a blast that was!! I had so much fun!! I would have never even gone out on a small boat if it wasn’t for you. Thank you, thank you… And I did notice, you really do feel the wind on your face a lot more on a small boat.

6. Captain Dave Amann’s shipmate Pat: for showing me the racing roll technique on the “Big Fish” while racing around “one tree island”, it really made those tacks and jibes faster. Until we meet again. And Captain Dave, thanks for letting us use your Hunter 44. Hope to see you at the races in April, I really can’t wait.

7. “Docking the ins and outs” by Gardner Lloyd at the ASA farewell awards dinner – there are lots of things that can cause us problems when docking, but I like the fact that you recommended that we just wait until the weather is right before making a move. Why struggle when you could just wait. Good common sense to me…thanks for the practical advice.

8. Captain Ken Gibson: Your jolly laughter, enthusiasm, and generosity was greatly appreciated. Hope to sail with you and Cindy again soon.

Thanks to all the wonderful people I met, for sharing your stories, hopes, and sailing dreams with me. Thanks to all the ASA organizers, it was truly the best member’s vacation I have ever attended. Hope to see you all at next year’s event!

For more colorful pictures from American Sailing Week 2010, check out our Flickr stream.

Otherworldly Blue

Continuing “Croatian Tapestry”

The evening we anchored in Komiza marked the end of a splendid day of sailing. We left Luka Vis in the morning and set off on a fast close reach around the end of the island, after which we turned onto a beautiful, sparkling blue run, wing-on-wing for the next few hours. Lunch was accompanied only by the swish of our stern wake as we floated past the remote shore of Vis island. There may have even been some topless European sunbathing in the privacy of our cockpit, but nobody has pictures to prove that so I don’t know where you heard it.

Instead of hugging the coast all the way to the town of Komiza (which is on the other side of Vis island), we set across the windy channel to the tiny island of Bisevo, where the famous Blue Grotto is located. It was no small channel–we beam reached with reefed sails making 6 knots for a couple of hours to get there. But when we got to the cove I felt that I had finally “arrived.” Not just at Bisevo, but in Croatia, on vacation–I had finally wound off the stress of such a long flight and nights of broken sleep, and here we were, rafted up in the clearest, royal blue water I’ve ever seen, soaking in the sun. It was finally playtime.

We got the dinghys down and split up the group (so some people would always remain with the anchored boats). Half of us rowed over to the opening of the cave, where a local man in a skiff charged us a few kuna to get in. The main entrance tunnel was narrow and taller than it appeared from the outside, and I was thinking that this cave was pretty cool. And THEN, a hole opened up to our right, and we turned into another entire cavern that was bathed in electric blue light radiating up from beneath us. There were amazing archways underwater, and fish flitting around in the ethereal water. The air in the cave was complete darkness but the water was light. It was the most arresting combination. So we just floated there.

By the time we paddled back out into the blinding sunshine and splashing wind waves, I felt as relaxed mentally as if I’d just been to yoga. So when we got back to the boat, I dove in, and felt completely rejuvenated drying salty in the sun.

Anchor Tango

It’s like sticking to the right lane of traffic if you’re driving more slowly than everyone else. It’s just good etiquette, and will give you good karma. The unspoken rules of any anchorage work the same way–fail to observe these, and you’ll have someone cursing you under their breath… or perhaps more loudly.

So when I read‘s great article today on Anchor Etiquette, it made me laugh because of an oh-so-typical anchoring scenario we experienced in Komiza harbor, Croatia.

Most nights on the trip, we med-moored, but in Komiza, the docks were full. There was plenty of room in the anchorage, and we were the first ones to arrive, so we headed out and dropped our hook in a nice wide spot. We were getting going on dinner when the rest of the flotilla arrived; the biggest boat anchored nearby us, a considerate distance away, and then two other boats rafted up to the first. The rafted boats swung round at a different rate than single boats, but even still, there was sufficient swinging room for everyone. Until the Germans came.

They swooped on in and dropped the hook on the fly, right in between us and the rafted boats. Then, as they set their anchor, they drifted alarmingly close to the others before the whooping and hollering from the rafted boats caught their attention. So the German boat, “Marguerite,” without pulling up her anchor first, putted around the circle in another direction–which was not the way they came in.

By this point I knew that our chains must be dancing underwater: they’d come in on our left, dropped their hook, and exited on our right, so our lines are most certainly crossed. Sure enough, they hauled up on their hook, hauling ours with it, and snarled the two. It was an absolute circus of an operation, dramatized somewhat by the language barrier, which required the use of large arm motions to communicate. Finally we untwisted and took off into the “sticks” on the other side of the bay (annoyed that “we were there first!”)

Don’t be the boat in the anchorage that everyone secretly hates! Read on for Sail-World’s well-put anchoring etiquette tips:

1. The first boat sets the precedent:
If you arrive in an anchorage and find that all the boats have a stern anchor set, that’s now the rule. If the first one there is a cabin cruiser that yaws all over the place and they have 60 metres of rode out in five feet of water, they have set the precedent. Any subsequent comers will need to give them room.

2. Watch your Wake:
Entering an anchorage or a mooring area is like moving into a new neighbourhood. Enter at a slow speed, less than five knots, to avoid making a wake which might upset their sundowner drinks or the bits from the winch they were servicing, or dinner preparations. This also applies to dinghies when travelling close to anchored boats – and in most countries it’s the law anyway.

3. Give yourself, and other boats room:
Look at the wind in the anchorage and try to work out where the anchors of other boats are lying. Cruise through the anchorage a couple of times to assess the situation. Calling out to find out how much chain the boat has out is an indicator that you are aware of swing patterns and will attempt to place your boat so that it is not in the way of another boat. There’s also some self preservation here too, as you may want to stay clear of potential party boats, or the boat with that very noisy wind generator. Remember, if he was here first, you are the one who has to move.

4. Watch the ‘Magnet Effect’:
A boat already anchored seems to attract the next boat to anchor right next to it, even though there is an enormous emply bay to anchor in. Try not to do this, and, if you were there first, it is your right to speak to a boat that arrives after you and ask them to move if you feel that they are too close.

5. Buoy your anchor:
In a crowded anchorage, it’s a good idea to buoy your anchor – place a floating marker on your anchor so that you, and others, know where it is. There’s nothing worse than tangled anchors, particularly if you have to make a hasty departure because of deteriorating conditions. (Of course, you have to keep a small watch to make sure your first-time sailor doesn’t arrive and try to pick it up as a mooring ball.)

6. Sound carries far:
Voices, music, engine noise, especially outboard motors, unmuffled go-fast boats, ski boats, jet skis, generators, barking dogs and the dreaded ringing telephone are all examples of the egregious disruption of anchorage serenity. Common sense should prevail in predicting what will not be appreciated and protecting the serenity for the common good.

7. Keep Bow to Cockpit communications civil:
It’s not the anchoring, or the need to re-anchor, which separates the beginners from the experts. It is the amount of yelling and chaos that breaks out between the person handling the anchor and the person manoeuvring the boat. Boating is the only sport that requires T-shirts which proclaim ‘Don’t yell at me!’ Either develop a set of hand signals, or better still, use some inexpensive walkie talkies, so that at least your comments on the abilities of your other crew member will be kept on your boat.

8. Think of your neighbours AND the environment:
The smell of burgers on the grill might be a marvellous aroma for most, but really smelly cooking upwind of a boatload of vegetarians may be a cause for some strong sentiments. Don’t go into a crowded anchorage full of pristine water and then not use the holding tank! – It’s really not a good scene for swimmers in the water. And it can ruin your whole day to find yourself swimming with rotten tomatoes or floating banana skins.

9. Be careful with lights at night:
When anchored at night always have an anchor light on (black ball during the day), when looking for an anchorage don’t shine a strong beam directly into another boat’s cockpit, and don’t be the boat that’s lit up like a football field deep into the night when all else in the anchorage are trying to sleep.

Six brandies, two kittens, and one lamb

Continuing “Croatian Tapestry”

The destination for our second day was the tiny island of Vis. After a lunchtime stop at Tito’s private submarine base (which we dinghy’d into with homemade sangria in hand!), we sailed around the point into the beautiful cove of Luka Vis. And this was the view out the stern where we moored:

We had a couple of hours of down time before the taxis arrived to transport all of us to a family winery up in the hills for dinner. We bought some more prsut and nectarines from the market and walked along the rolling waterfront as the shadows grew long. The breeze here was warm, and smelled like rosemary.The island of Vis is one of the outermost in the Dalmatian archipelago, and it felt that way. The pace was slow, the wind was audible; it was the perfect place for a relaxing dinner in the hills. In a caravan of taxis, our group wound up the valley outside of Luka Vis, gaining a spectacular view of the sleepy harbor drenched in sunset. We traveled way inland, past fields of figs and olives, and arrived with mouths watering at Kod Magica, a picturesque family home nestled in a valley of grapevines.

The taxis let us out at the road, so we walked down rows of grapes to get to the door. As we approached, a couple of kittens peeked out of the woodpile, and we passed a roaring brick oven with several large ceramic dishes cooking over the open flame. We were guided out to the veranda, where there was a small table set with two dozen delicate brandy glasses and eight slender bottles of unmarked alcohols. They were infused brandies, several different shades–walnut, lemon, herb, carob and many more, each as aromatic as the last.

What soon became clear was that we were not guests at some nameless restaurant here–we were being served in the family’s home. The kids and kittens played around us and the food was brought out on homey, mismatched serving dishes. Jean and Mila De Keyser, our flotilla leaders, had made a connection with the owners the year prior, and we were welcomed with a long communal table and a multi-course feast. I could write pages about the intense textures and flavors that crossed our palates that night, but suffice it to say that after a procession of goat cheese and olives, salted fish pies (a traditional Vis dish), swordfish pate with capers, the most savory and simple lamb soup, and roasted squid and lima beans (I thought I was full by this point)–the crown cuisine appeared: a lamb and potato peka.

A “peka” is a very traditional Dalmatian dish, but it’s not possible to order in restaurants because it takes too long to make. The meat is slow-roasted for hours on the warm hearth of a brick oven, with hot coals piled on top of the “peka” (a large covered ceramic pot that keeps all the flavor circulating inside it). They set the steaming pekas on our table on beautiful wood trivets made from the cross-section of a tree. The dish’s contents looked simple enough–large pieces of lamb, hefty potatoes, and plenty of carrots. And the owners told us there really wasn’t much seasoning at all (though I have to believe there was some salt in there!). The lamb positively melted in my mouth, and the potatoes and carrots were equally savory, having roasted with the lamb for hours. Our “loud American” table pretty much fell silent as we slowly appreciated each bite. It was hands down the best food I have ever eaten anywhere in the world. I am NOT exaggerating!

The graciousness of our hosts and the graciousness of our flotilla leaders, who footed the entire bill for the evening, flowed like the homemade wines that kept appearing on our table carafe after carafe. The shared meal seemed to create a family out of us, and at the head of the table were Jean and Mila, smiling nonstop, so happy to be able to provide such an experience for others. So when we toasted to Jean and Mila with sweet after-dinner brandies, we meant it wholeheartedly.

ASA iPhone App

We’re so excited to announce the launch of the official ASA iPhone app! The great part about this application is that it collects many great sailing resources in one place–a glossary of sailing terms, must-know knots, signal flags, a light identification guide, and how-to videos. You can also easily find ASA schools in your area using this app, and the course standards are listed as a quick reference. Our social media sites are integrated too!

We are already working on the upgrade, but this first edition is well worth checking out. It’s like having an ASA instructor in your pocket for only $1.99!

To preview the app and read early reviews, go to the store. We would love to hear what you think too!

Pag Cheese, Please

Continuing “Croatian Tapestry”

I rather dread the process of provisioning. Some people might enjoy it, but I’m so finicky about what I eat at any given moment that I dislike having to decide and plan for it in advance. Croatia was the antidote to my provisioning ills–in fact we didn’t have to provision at all, due to the fact that in every island town, no matter how small, local markets abounded with fresh produce, meats, cheeses, wines, and everything else you’d want to nibble on while sailing the Adriatic.

The market in Trogir, our port of departure, was the most bustling and plentiful of them all. We stocked up on home-pressed olive oil (bottled in unmarked recycled water bottles), herbed goat cheese and sharp “Pag” cheese, paper-thin Dalmatian prsut (proscuitto), round loaves of fresh bread, and bags of “figgys.” We bought fresh cantaloupes and a glass jar of honey (with the comb still in it), and a pound of sweet carrots. Then we piled onto our group bus, which was pleasantly fragranced with market-fresh basil, and arrived at Marina Kastela.

The marina was huge and busy, with dock workers scurrying about and boats coming in and out, changing hands for the next week’s charter group. We found our five–Ziva, Hedda Gabler, Mari, Lejla, and Leto–checked out, and were sent off by the dockhand with a hearty “Have fun sailing in Croatian!” We pushed off under a picturesque sunset and reached across the deep blue water toward our first port, Milna, on Brac Island. In the sunset breeze, I felt the hubbub of the marina being swept away with the wind. We dined on our market fare, under quiet sail.

After a couple hours, Milna harbor came into view, casting a warm orange glow across the water as we approached. It was dark as we Med-moored for the first time under the warm lights of the medieval waterfront, but we had plenty of room and a still night to maneuver in. Croatian Med-mooring is simpler than traditional Med-mooring too–dockhands hand over a bow line that’s already anchored to the bottom, so there’s no need to monkey with the boat’s anchor while backing in.

Morning broke with a chorus of cathedral bells, and I poked my head out of the companionway to see the sleepy little town of Milna for the first time. Having chosen not to stock our galley with instant coffee, we strolled down the stone waterfront to a caffe for what was to become a daily routine–frothy hot bijela kavas. I’m normally a drip coffee kind of girl (hailing from Seattle), but they don’t really offer that sludge in Europe. So I ordered lattes, the Croatian “white coffee”–and they were fantastic with a warm chocolate croissant on the side. (I may have gained like 5 pounds over their breakfasts, but who’s checking.) And in Milna, they serve the lattes with kittens on the side–little strays who stay well fed by being so dang cute. I was very close to making this one our stowaway for the week. But we packed up and sailed off to the next island without her. (Of course when we came back a week later, she was still there, dining on tuna, but that’s a later story!)

Croatian Tapestry

Croatia is a stunningly beautiful country. Decades of time here are layered in clear relief: Renaissance structures sit atop pre-Roman ones, graceful Gothic windows are built into rough-hewn 5th century walls, and modern plaster joins marble floors smoothed by several centuries of walking feet. The history is palpable–tangible actually–you can lean on a pillar built in 300 A.D., then reach the other way and touch a sculpture from 1400. It struck me yesterday, as the Croatia Flotilla participants took a walking tour of Trogir and Split, that it will be impossible for me to describe what we’ll be seeing and experiencing here. Croatia is like a tapestry, with strands of history and culture woven all about each other to form luxurious patterns and textures. My account, if I’m lucky, will pick up perhaps one or two single threads of this experience. I hope that the many pictures I’ll be posting will add thousands more words of value.

We’re off to the market this morning to provision with fresh fruit and prosciutto–we embark this afternoon and will enjoy a sunset sail to our first port of call on Milna Island. But meanwhile, I’d like to share with you an incredible moment we witnessed yesterday in Diocletian’s palace; it gave me goosebumps and brought tears to my eyes. This group of men gathered as we were walking through an atrium and sang traditional Croatian music, a capella. Their voices rang out from the ancient walls, and although the words were unintelligible to me, it was one of the most moving things I’d experienced in a long time. (I have a wonderful video of this, but it refuses to upload on this connection, so for now pictures will have to suffice!)

I know how these flotillas go. I’ll make a conscious effort to save my superlatives, because as overwhelming wonderful as Croatia is at first blush, I’m sure that Croatia by sail is going to blow me away.