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Sailing Croatia

a travel blog by lucy3119

Eight days on a sailing tour of Croatia with friends in July 2011
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A lightning tour (literally!) of Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik, Croatia

A few months ago, my friends and I booked onto what we thought would be a relaxing sailing tour of Croatia's islands, with plenty of time to swim, sunbathe and see the sights. As the holiday drew nearer and we did a bit more research into the tour company, the dreaded phrase 'booze cruise' started to pop up, conjuring up images of being stuck on a boat with a bunch of overexcited gap-year students drinking all night and sleeping all day. Still, we tried to keep an open mind as we jetted off to Dubrovnik, our starting port.

Jess and I arrived in the walled city at 5pm, the day before the actual start date of the island hopping tour. We'd booked into a B&B called Villa Banana for the night: the owners were great, meeting us at the airport with our names on a sign and driving us through the narrow streets to the hostel. There, we met up with Charlie and Beth, who had arrived earlier in the morning, and discovered we'd been given the best room at the top of the house, complete with pretty balcony and amazing views over the town, the port and the sea.

As we were leaving Villa Banana in search of dinner, we bumped into another guy who, it turned out, would be boarding the same boat as us the next day. We soaked up the atmosphere of the old town as we scouted for an affordable restaurant. Many of them are located down impossibly narrow alleyways, making great use of space, but they were so dark and dingy we were reluctant to eat at them...that is, until we finally realised that, with sunglasses off, they weren't so dark after all. We picked a decent looking alleyway and tucked into a traditional Croatian dish, cevapi (or cevapci, or cevapcici, we never found out which was the 'official' spelling).

After dinner, we sat by the waterfront as it got dark, watching the colourful characters (and parrots) passing by. We moved back to the B&B to make the most of our lovely balcony and our last night on dry land, where we witnessed an incredible lightning storm out at sea while hoping we wouldn't find ourselves caught in a sea storm over the next week.

permalink written by  lucy3119 on July 1, 2011 from Dubrovnik, Croatia
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Dubrovnik to Mljet

Dubrovnik, Croatia

We'd booked a breakfast at our B&B and discovered it waiting for us out on the veranda. It was a typical Croatian breakfast of bread and various cheeses, hams and spreads...but by the end of the week, after having bread with every single meal, we were quite happy never to see it again!

Our friendly B&B owners gave us a lift to the port where we were set to board our boat and home over the next week, the Plomin. There were 26 of us on the boat altogether, the majority being Australians, with a scattering of Brits and a couple of Canadians. We also learned we'd be sailing alongside the Plomin's sister boat, the Ika, which meant even more people to meet. We were also pretty pleased to discover that we'd been upgraded (free) from below-deck shared bathroom cabins to above-deck ensuite cabins.

At about 1pm we set sail, heading towards the quiet Island of Mljet. We got a taste of daily boat life when we stopped in a cove for a swim in the sea - we just weren't prepared for it being quite as cold! Luckily, it was the coldest of all our swim stops!

Our first night was a 'quiet' one on the boat ('quiet' in booze-cruise language roughly translating as 'litre-cocktail-drinking-races'...yes, turns out it was pretty much a booze cruise) featuring a fantastic BBQ made by the crew. We had an 'early' night.

permalink written by  lucy3119 on July 2, 2011 from Dubrovnik, Croatia
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Mljet to Korcula

Korcula, Croatia

In the morning, some of us headed into Mljet National Park, where we took a boat ride to a tiny island in the middle of a lake, the home of an old abandoned monastery. Apparently, the monastery was once converted into a hotel but, realising that it kind of ruined the cultural effect of the place, it was returned to its original condition (if you ignore the cafes that seem to come hand-in-hand with every historical landmark in Croatia!)

There was time for a swim in the lake - much warmer than the sea! - before heading back to the boat via an ice cream stall. It was the first of MANY MANY ice-creams consumed at all hours of the day and night throughout the trip (Beth's mantra became "let's eat ice cream"...we even found a hat at a market with those very words printed on it!).

We set sail again for Korcula, described as a mini Dubrovnik, but we had to wait a frustrating hour or two before we were allowed to dock. We had to dock alongside other boats in size order, larger boats by the shore and smaller boats attached to each other, extending out into the water. So if you're the fourth, fifth or even sixth boat into port (which we sometimes were) our trip to shore involved passing through various other boats (trying to jump the gaps between boats is tricky enough when sober, let alone after a few drinks!)

After finally docking, Charlie, Jess, Beth and I explored the old town in the short hour we had left before dinner. It's definitely a pretty place once you get within the old walls. We saw a sign for the famous Moreska, the traditional sword dance of Korcula, and the origins of Morris Dancing! We also spotted Marco Polo's supposed birthplace.

We started to suspect that our tour operator's reasons for choosing certain islands were based around the quality of the bars there, as we were taken to Massimo, a cocktail bar on the roof of a turret. The location was impressive, but we were packed into the tiny space like sardines and were expected to have one drink, then leave. I accidentally ordered a cocktail with a mound of cream on top...it was delicious, though. We were all proud of Jess who, despite being scared of heights, still managed to make it up and down the tower. After watching the sun set from our turret, we headed for pizza in a nice open square, followed by a night at Dos Locos, a pretty average bar and club.

permalink written by  lucy3119 on July 3, 2011 from Korcula, Croatia
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Korcula to Vis

Vis, Croatia

We arrived in Vis in the afternoon after a lazy morning and another tasty ship's lunch. While most people, a bit worse for wear after last night, relaxed on the boat for the rest of the day, Charlie, Jess, Beth and I joined forces with the Canadians Kira, Rylan and Katie to hunt down an old British fortress we'd been told about. We bought some food from a supermarket so that we could have a picnic when we got there, and set out. The problem was, we had absolutely no idea where we were going. Eventually, we found ourselves at an old, abandoned building with a British flag carved into the wall. This must be it, we thought. We soon discovered the place was completely derelict - clearly not a tourist attraction! Still, we settled down in what looked like the remains of an ancient outdoor washroom and had our picnic. Afterwards, we discovered a way onto the roof of the spookily empty fort and got some stunning views of the sea as we watched the sun set.

We spent the night on the boat, 'bonding' with the group over Ring of Fire and various other bizarre drinking games ("I'm a viking, I'm a viking, I'm a viking!"). At about midnight, a group of us started to get hungry, so we wandered back onland for ice-cream, calzoni and impromptu Beatles impressions, while dodging stones thrown at us by a couple of locals lurking on a rooftop.

permalink written by  lucy3119 on July 4, 2011 from Vis, Croatia
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Vis to Hvar

Hvar, Croatia

This morning, we woke up to discover the storm we saw on the first night had caught up with us. We were disappointed to hear that our trip to the Blue Caves in Vis had been cancelled due to the weather. Instead, we set sail early for Hvar, the captain confident that the weather was going to improve - he claims he can feel the weather changing in his bones. In this case, his knee was telling him the wind was changing!

We hoped our captain was right as we sat aboard the rocking boat, playing endless card games to distract ourselves from the seasickness taking hold. Eventually, I succumbed and had to go and lie down.

We arrived in Hvar to calmer waters and sunnier skies, and set out to visit yet another fortress. This one, at least, was an official historical site. Once again, there were some stunning views of Croatia's trademark red roofs from the battlements. Afterwards, to recover from our trek, we sat down but were soon interrupted by a pack of probably stray puppies. We escaped back to the boat.

The evening was one of the most fun, with a seafood dinner followed by a night at Kiva Bar. I wasn't too optimistic about the tiny, normal-looking bar, but the atmosphere and the music was great. We spent the night jumping up and down to some decent music and burning off the ice-cream calories of the past few days.

permalink written by  lucy3119 on July 5, 2011 from Hvar, Croatia
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Hvar to Makarska

Makarska, Croatia

Another relaxing morning/early afternoon sunbathing on deck and swim stops. We arrived into Makarska in the afternoon. Makarska is pretty touristy, with markets, restaurants and watersports being about the only things to do there. We wandered along the beachfront trying to find something to entertain us and settled for eating dinner at a restaurant called (what else?) Bum Bar. The restaurant owner was really friendly, asking us where we'd been and where we were headed and trying to persuade us to try all the local delicacies.

After dinner, we had to head to the markets to hunt down accessories for our pirate party the next evening. I'm not really a fan of markets on holiday, firstly because they all seem to sell exactly the same thing, but mainly because shopping is one of those things (along with watching TV, surfing the internet and worrying about what I look like in public) that I spend way too much time doing at home and therefore like to avoid at all costs while on holiday.

Again, I think our tour operator's only reason for coming to Makarska might have been Club Deep, a club located in a cave that we spent maybe twenty minutes at (just enough time for a dance-off) before realising that the music was terrible and we'd much rather sit out by the sea and chill.

permalink written by  lucy3119 on July 6, 2011 from Makarska, Croatia
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Makarska to Pucisca

Pucisce, Croatia

Another luxuriously lazy morning on the boat and in the sea. As we arrived into Pucisca we sailed past a quarry famous for providing the stone for the White House. Now that's impressive. Pucisca is renowned for its stonemasonry and we visited a school where children go to learn the craft. Although the school was closed for the Summer, they had some of their works on display, everything from sculptures to water fountains. Apparently, the students work on one piece throughout their years at the school, improving it as they learn more skills.

Our guide Carla told us about a nice lightHouse in the area, so we - Brits and Canadians again - walked the coastal path in search of it. Half way there, we discovered some huge webs made by equally huge spiders, which made some of us a little bit more jumpy after that. At one point, I spotted a huge insect on Jess's back, screamed "WHAT IS THAT??" causing Jess to perform what I can only describe as 'the bug dance'.
Panic over, we arrived at the lightHouse, only to find out it was just...a House. With a light on top. We made our way back to town, where a combination of E-numbers and tiredness turned Beth, Kira and I into hysterical wrecks as we suddenly found the unintentional innuendos of the Croatian language hilarious.

We had a captain's dinner - risotto and pancetta - on the boat that night, followed by a trip to the Island's only bar (with music by 'DJ Blizzard') for our pirate party. We met up with the Ika, the other boat, for a fun night, but thanks to Croatia's unhealthy acceptance of smoking indoors we were eventually smoked out of the club and back to the boat.

permalink written by  lucy3119 on July 7, 2011 from Pucisce, Croatia
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Pucisca to Split

Split, Croatia

We woke up this morning to find ourselves in Omis, a town with a pretty amazing pirate fortress (apparently....only one of our group made it on the early morning, hour-long uphill trek to the fort). The rest of us were stuck at ground level, where a very busy through-road made the noisy town smell overwhelmingly of petrol...not so good when you're slightly hungover. We tried to retreat to the quietest place we could find and ate chips for breakfast.

Luckily we were out of Omis pretty quickly, and on our way to Split. We squeezed in one last sunbathing session and one last swim stop: Beth and I FINALLY worked up the courage to jump from the second level of the boat...but not the top!

We got into Split in the afternoon and a few of us joined our guide Carla on a tour of the old town, which for some reason also included a trip to a launderette and a juice bar run by Australians. On a recommendation we ate huge meatballs with mash at a buffet restaurant, where I accidentally ordered lemonade which was, basically, lemon squeezed into water.

After joining up with the Canadians again, we spotted a couple of Roman soldiers hanging out in the pretty square of the old Dioclesian's Palace, and of course had to get a picture taken with them. We also came across a huge stage where a group of performers were rehearsing Croatian singing for some kind of musical show.

In the evening we were taken to a backpacker's bar, but as the atmosphere wasn't so great - or cultural! - we Brits and Canadians headed off in search of other entertainment. We found it in the form of a couple of musicians playing and singing live music - mostly old hits - in the square of the Diocletian's Palace: surrounded by old pillars, it was a great atmosphere. As we sat down at the front we got a shout-out from the singers straight away - "WHERE YOU FROM?"..possibly because we were the only members of the audience showing much enthusiasm. At one point, a drunk tourist in a cowboy hat tripped over and nose-dived into us. And we wonder why tourists get such a bad name sometimes...

permalink written by  lucy3119 on July 8, 2011 from Split, Croatia
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Last day in Croatia

Split, Croatia

We disembarked from the boat for the last time at 8:30 in the morning. We were 5 boats out to (a very choppy) sea which meant jumping the increasingly wide and moving gaps between boats with all our bags...apart from a few cuts and bruises, we made it in one piece.

We were now on our own to explore Split. We left Beth and Charlie and the Canadians to check into their hostels (only Jess and I would be leaving Croatia that day) and met up with them later in the old town square. We decided today we'd conquer the old bell Tower, but when we got inside and discovered just how open and shaky the metal stairs were, some of our group had to turn around. The view at the top was stunning, though, and worth a bit of danger.

In the afternoon, some of us climbed the bajillion steps up to a public park where, having almost passed out with heat exhaustion, we took in the great views and then sat and chilled for an hour.

Then, it was time for me and Jess to say goodbye to the Canadians and Charlie and Beth. We spent way too long at the airport, discovered an army of Australians from our tour heading for Milan, and I bought a ridiculously overpriced can of Coke only to pour most of it down my front. We wondered how long it would take before our bodies realised we weren't on a boat anymore, and the ground stopped moving beneath our feet.

...Almost a week later, whenever I think about Croatia, the ground starts to sway all over again.

permalink written by  lucy3119 on July 9, 2011 from Split, Croatia
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