Cruising Croatia – the Islands

Imagine a week in an anchorage where everyone is friends!

Perhaps the hardest lesson to learn and the one which this life is constantly trying to teach us, is the absolute truth that you simply cannot do it all. Once upon a time, we believed that having a home which we can take anywhere, with all our things and most important humans and pets with us, and fully retired…. at long last… we could do and see everything. But alas, every week is a lesson that we just cannot. In the last post, I mentioned that we would have to miss the sword dance in Kurcula. Now that seems like the least of my worries! We are likely to miss whole islands and again, not just because of Covid but because of every spot being so magical, we are now going to miss whole countries!

Having left the anchorage, and several boat friends in Lastovo, we headed to the city of Komiza, (pronounced Ko-mee-sha) on the island of Vis. Our friends on 3 other boats were able to secure their first Covid vaccine on Split in 1 week and another boat had maintenance due in Split so they both had a different timetable. We, unable to get our second shot until later in the month, had more time before the mandatory stop in Split but we plan to meet up with them this weekend. In the meantime, we wanted to make some stops that the others would be making on their return trip.

I love taking tours. I can spend hours on research and not come close to the learning that will happen from a talented tour guide. Recommended by a charter boat captain next door, our guide, named Gorun, picked us up and gave us a short military tour of Vis. The first thing we learned is that carob was once used as a measuring tool for gold. Each seed within the pod weighs precisely the same mass as every carob seed anywhere in the world. Facinating…

St. Nicholas

We next saw St. Nicholas church up on the hill. Traveling to Venice, Pope Alexander the 3rd’s ship was off course and he landed in the island by accident. The first visit to Croatia by a Pope, he blessed St. Nicholas 1177. St. Nicholas is the patron saint of fisherman and sailors. An actual fishing boat is burned here each year in December in a ceremony signifying the importance of boats to life here on this special island and the importance of boats to the people. The ashes from the burning are then used to build a new boat. This is an important ritual for the entire community and only an actual fishing boat can be burned in the ceremony.

An authentic fishing boat, Vis, Croatia

Traveling further down the road we learned more about the former Yugoslavia Republic. Following WWII the citizens fought with the Russians against the German and Italian Fascists. Upon winning the war, they voted to join their brothers in arms in communism and the 6 countries joined to become Yugoslavia. The dictator Tito was a brilliant statesman, and he kept all the countries friendly even though they didn’t always get along. After Tito died in 1980, the republic began to fall apart resulting in a war in 1991. The Serbs were instructed that wherever there was 1 Serb, they were to declare that land Serbian. Of course, this did not sit well with the Croats as they had no intention of giving up their long and beautiful coastline simply because the Serbians insisted that it was theirs. As a result, war broke out with the permission of NATO. I have been reading and struggling to understand the Yugoslavian war and this was the first time I felt like I understood it. I’m sure that someone reading this is going to take issue with my brief explanation and understanding of the circumstances and I just want you to know that I WELCOME ANY AND ALL INFORMATION to contradict or correct my understanding.

Followers of WWII history will be interested to know that there was a runway built here by the allies to support bombing missions and our guide said that over 2000 American service men were saved by this runway bearing in mind that the entire island is only 6 miles long.

Over 1000 islands are Croatian and even though some of these islands are in fact closer to Italy than Croatia in the Adriatic, they were settled and claimed by Croatia. A stunning archipelago, each of the islands we have visited over the past month truly has its own personality.

An interested thing to note is that 40% of the worlds charter boats are in Croatia. One quickly becomes interested in this important fact upon noticing that one day the anchorage is literally empty and the next full. The same thing happens in marinas. And the funniest observation we have made thus far is that by 1000 every single boat is gone from the marina but by the afternoon breezes kicking up around 1500, every slip is taken. There is no advance reservation system, only first come, first served. And watching this is like a ballet of (mostly) highly competent skippers and marineros cramming yachts in like sardines in a can, barely a fenders width between them. When we first arrived, we were delighted to see so much open dock space and even joked that we may be able to even American tie alongside. But before we even had our last line on, several boats arrived and many more joined so that the whole quay was occupied by the time we had rinsed the boat and showered for dinner. We made the same observation when we visited the town of Vis on the other side of the island, we sat having lunch with a completely empty quay and by the time we were served, we had the live entertainment of at least 10 arriving charter sailboats. By the time we returned to our side of the island in Komiza, the marina was full of a whole new crop of visitors. But they usually only come for the night, then they are off for another island visit first thing in the morning – and to get to the new

And proximity to Split and “The Barn” for much of the charter fleet one can easily surmise a crowded or open anchorage given that the entire fleet turns over on Saturday.

Leaving Vis we had a short 3 hour trip to the island of Hvar. Hvar is 90 km – for reference, Vis is only 5 miles long. Hearing in advance that the town of Hvar is busy with ferries, charter boats and lots of traffic, we decided to stay at the quieter end of Hvar called Stari Grad. We were not disappointed.

Jacks new haircut, Hvar

A water park greeted us at the entrance to the harbor which made Jack’s day, and a long quay with dozens of shops and cafes dotted the other side made Alec and my day.

We spent the first day in the water and the next day on a trip to Hvar. We started with the fort, then walked down to the waterside. Hvar is a breathtaking town and one I could stay in for a week. I’m glad that we are berthed in Stari Grad as the traffic, surge and conditions aren’t great for our taste, but if I had to recommend an island to visit and stay in a hotel, this would be it. Walking the cobbled stone streets was such fun and we have never seen a more pristine village. The restaurant we chose was fantastic, an Asian place called Spice. The people were lovely and there wasn’t a speck of trash anywhere. The shops and buildings were in beautiful shape with stones cleaned and flowers blooming everywhere. On the way back to Stari Grad the taxi driver took us to some lavender fields. In the 1970’s Hvar produced 10% of the worlds lavender. We were also told that due to the conditions and the wild way that it grows, the oil is more potent. I didn’t have to be convinced to buy a few bottles.

My impressions after a month of cruising Croatia are simply that there cannot be a more lovely, safe, clean and delightful place than Croatia. Every experience we have had with a local person has left us more in love than the last. The Croatian people are gentle, kind and nearly all speak perfect English. It is humbling to me to be in a foreign land and see how even shop keepers and servers speak better English than some Americans, and in all cases, it is at least their second if not third language.

We have seen more Americans here in the past week than we have seen in the past 2 years in Europe. It is as though the floodgates have opened and everyone has arrived. Talking to one of the charter boat captains, she remarked, “I have not had too many Americans in the past, but I have noticed that they are different than other European charters in that they are very ambitious about what they want to see”. So funny that she really seemed to “get us”. We are so driven as a culture. Driven in business. Driven in educating our children. Driven in our homemaking lives. And even driven in our vacations. It is so true and probably why, 3 years into this life I still can’t believe that we miss more than we see. I feel like I should be able to see more – to do more. Even after constantly admonishing myself to relax, do the cleaning later, take in the sites, I feel compelled to add 1 more tour, 1 more day of cleaning, 1 more island.

But this is where I am writing this.

Lonely Paradise anchorage, Solta

Alec just sent up the drone to capture this photo. We have enjoyed a swim and lunch in one of the more stunning anchorages I have ever had the pleasure to see. While I wish we could stay here another week, I am shocked to discover that we have covered ¼ of the territory in ½ of the time we have. My sister is flying into Venice, Italy the 7th of August so we are planning to be there by the 1st. The Pula film festival is the 17-24 of July and Jacks birthday next week was supposed to be celebrated at or near the KRKA falls. So, we must press on, all the while remembering to take a moment, breathe, and thank God for this amazing place, and this amazing life, with these amazing humans with whom I am privileged to spend this time.

Happy Birthday Sophie!

Published by cruisingwithgratitude

Alec and Laurie Thyrre (both retired airline pilots) are making an effort to share and experience as much of this beautiful planet with their now 11 yr old son Jack and cat Pratt while traveling aboard a 64' Nordhavn boat. We started this adventure in 2018 and crossed the Atlantic in 2019.

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