This Croatian Flotilla is organized by Sea Safaris in Chicago and ASA Captian Jean “John” De Keyser and his wife “Admiral” Mila. Follow along in this three-part series as they lead the way through the three-week journey.
The final week of our flotilla has arrived, and we will be heading back with new crew.
Skipper Joe C and his lovely bride, Anna, will be staying with us for this last week. On “Cetina”, we only have three souls on board: Admiral Mila, Thorsten J from Vancouver and yours truly. On “Tina”, we have Joe and Anna as well as Ron M, his wife Carol and their friend Richard D.
We also had a third yacht, S/V Lovro, with Skipper Alan T, his wife Cynthia and friends, Dave R, Susan S, Deborah S and Diana V. All from the Houston, TX, area.
It took a long time for the charter company to have “Lovro” checked out. We agreed that “Cetina” and “Tina” should leave the ACI marina in Dubrovnik as early as possible in order not to be charged for an extra docking day and that we should wait at anchor in the river for “Lovro” to depart. The plan was to spend the night in the bay of Sipan island.
Tired of waiting, Skipper Joe went ahead and left for Sipan, where we joined them later, once “Lovro” got released.
Sipan is a lovely small city at the end of a scenic bay. “Tina” was already at anchor and we spotted a mooring ball but someone at a restaurant on shore yelled at us that the ball had been reserved. We moved away from it and dropped the anchor. “Lovro” also dropped their anchor near us.
We lowered the dinghies in the water, mounted the outboards and went to shore to find a place for dinner. One place really appealed to us with its patio surrounded by colorful hydrangeas. Marco, the owner, a friendly elderly gentleman got us a table for the “Lovro” and “Cetina” crews. Skipper Joe and his crew had decided to eat on board.
We had a delicious meal at Marco’s restaurant and, of course, we were again the ones who closed the place down. We ferried the crews back to their boats on our small dinghies and soon were heading for our berths. Mljet was waiting for us the following day.
We awakened to, again, a glorious and sunny day but not very promising wind-wise. As soon as we headed out into the wide channel between Peljesac and the island of Mljet, the wind picked up and we had a great sail, tacking back and forth, all the way to the entrance of Polace where we docked again at our familiar restaurant, Sponga. Soon all three boats were at the dock.
The owner of Sponga showed us the fish and lobsters that he kept in a net cage under his dock and six of us decided to share a seabass prepared in salt for dinner. Others decided on a huge lobster. We opted to go to the lake and the Benedictine monastery island in the morning and we relaxed on our yachts waiting for dinner.
The seabass was paraded out of the kitchen with great fanfare. It had been cooked in a thick salt crust which would have kept it nice and moist. Unfortunately, the poor thing had been overcooked and came out dry and chewy as an old leather shoe sole. We complained to the waiter who answered that this was the way they always cooked it. Poor fish!
Monday morning, we went to the national park and the lake with the monastery and, around noon, we left Polace and headed towards Korcula. The idea was to dock at the ACI marina but, when we got there, the place was a total zoo and we went for option number two, anchoring in the Uvala Luka Korcula bay. We then took water taxis to commute to the city for a treat of gelato. Korcula is a lovely place with a very rich history. It is supposedly the home of Marco Polo and you can sense the Venetian influence in its architecture.
While enjoying our ice cream, we were listening to a Klappa acapella group singing beautiful Dalmatian songs. They were just a bunch of friends sitting at a table near a restaurant and they were performing just for the fun of it. They did not try to push CDs or get tips. They just loved doing it for the art and the Admiral and I just sat there for half an hour taking it all in.
The water taxi closed operations at 11:00 PM so, not to miss it, we had to get to the docks to be transported back to our anchored boat. Tuesday was going to be a long sail to the island of Scedro, just south of Hvar island but, before we could leave, we had to go to the ACI marina and take on water for our tanks. We took advantage of that to do some additional provisioning and I bought a chocolate strawberry cake and a chocolate cake for the Admiral’s birthday which we were going to celebrate in the anchorage of Lovisce on Scedro. Lovisce is a gorgeous little bay surrounded by pine trees and with three konobas (small restaurants) along the shore.
We were given two mooring balls per yacht, one for the bow and one attached to the stern. That way, our boats could not swing in the restricted amount of space available.
We had planned dinner on board but first we were going to celebrate Mila’s birthday on “Tina” with cocktails and appetizers and with the two cakes. By the time we had consumed all these goodies, we were not hungry anymore.
We had a very quiet night in Lovisce and woke up energized for our next stop, the island of Vis. We just love Vis and it is almost every year on our itinerary. It is not surprising that it was featured in the movie Mama Mia II as the “Greek Island”. During its history, Vis has always been of important strategic value and was considered the Gibraltar of the Adriatic. The British and the French fought there during the Napoleonic wars. It would have been Tito’s last stronghold had Stalin invaded Yugoslavia. There are memorials to British Commando’s who, during WWII, fought the Germans here but our favorite place on the island is the Kod Magica restaurant of our friends Bise and Dennis Jerkovic in the vineyard about twenty minutes inland from the city of Vis.
This is where we take our crew members for a traditional Dalmatian lamb peka dinner and, again, we were not disappointed. Sitting amid the vineyards with locally made wine and enjoying the delicious food prepared by Bise, her mother and their staff, you realize how lucky you are to experience this kind of cruising vacation. Dinner at Kod Magica is always the highlight of our sailing trips in Croatia.
Soon it was time to retire to our yachts for the night. Thankfully, the marina was very quiet at night, which probably had to do with the fact that there seemed to be less yachts than in the previous years.
Thursday morning, after refueling at the local fuel dock, we reluctantly left Vis and, after a brief stop at the so-called abandoned submarine base, we head towards Hvar but, instead of going to Marina Palmizana across from the city of Hvar, we opted for the city of Stari Grad on the northwest side of the island. Stari Grad, which means old city, is indeed one of the oldest cities in Europe and it is located at the very end of a long bay.
The first time we went there, about ten years ago, it was a drab and uninspiring place. No flowers and no colors. Now it is a vibrant tourist town with flowers, palm trees, plenty of restaurants, a colorful market and an ever-expanding modern marina. The idea was to dock there and to take the bus for a forty-minute ride to the city of Hvar but the crew members preferred to stay in Stari Grad which was too bad as Hvar is such a hopping place. After a pizza dinner near the port and a gelato (who comes up with a flavor called Facebook? It has an unappetizing green color too), we went back to our boats and got ready for our last night of the flotilla.
And there it was, Friday, the last day of this three-week adventure. We said our goodbyes to the crew of “Lovro” who would end up in Trogir whereas “Cetina” and “Tina” were headed for their base in Kastela.
Lazy lines dropped and dock lines hauled in for the last time and off we went back to the home base in Kastela. As I had calculated, we arrived there at exactly 6:00PM where we were checked out. All our crew members left the boats, except for Mila and I who spent our last night on our “Cetina”. She had been our home away from home for three unforgettable weeks.
We can’t wait to be back.
Be on the look-out for the 2020 September Croatia program. It will again be a blast!