Our first 2 weeks in Croatia we didn’t have the best weather but the sun has finally broken through, fortunately right on cue for the arrival of our first guests of the season. Everyone is saying it has been unseasonably cold and a late start to the summer. Although the overnight boat shower has been nice and clean and the Skradin falls were fantastic, we really were praying for sun. Dare I say that now, 2 weeks on, we are (almost) complaining of the 35C heat!
Our tour of central Croatia starts at the old town of Trogir, which is a small but really beautiful gem of a town, set on a tiny island, guarded by a small fort, boasting a lively town square with cathedral and a pretty town quay. We anchored a couple of nights in a quiet bay opposite Trogir (Uvala Racetinovac) and took the RIB in to look around. We also spent a few hours tied up on the town quay with ITIKI getting our Garmin radar completely replaced - the harbourmaster was very gracious about letting us stay while the work was done. We had a hull clean at Marina Baotic which is where our friends found us. There is an extensive market on the “mainland” side of the canal in Trogir selling wonderful fresh and local produce, fruit & veg and cheeses so we stock up. We have a delicious lunch of octopus salad (this is now our favourite Croatian meal!) to welcome our guests before heading off to spend the evening at Uvala Necujam on Otok Solta.
The next day we continue along the north coast of Solta, which looks green and lush. We have the wind behind us and so the parasailor is up until we need to change course to slip between Otok Solta and Otok Brac. We follow the south coast of Otok Brac to Croatia’s most famous “beach”. Zlatni Rat may not sound quite as appealing as Whitehaven or Bondi but it was purported to be the local equivalent, so as beach loving Aussies we felt obliged to check it out and pass judgement. From the air the pictures look quite spectacular, crystal clear, sapphire blue waters contrast the white of the shore. We anchor for lunch and a SUP and then go ashore in the RIB to see what all the fuss is about. On closer inspection the beach is made up of small pebbles, impossible to walk on in bare feet and not that much easier in sandals. It is certainly very popular though and lobster-coloured tourists from a variety of nations line the shores. We wander about a bit but it is too much like hard work so we decide to go for a swim, take our selfies and head back to the boat. The “beach” is steep and getting in and out of the water over those pebbles is not easy, but the water is clear and very refreshing. Definitely worth a stopover if you are passing by that way, and especially if you have a drone. From there we cross over to the northwest coast of Otok Hvar and anchor in a bay that we can’t find a name for on the charts - we claim it as Uvala ITIKI! We think that is only fair as we have the bay to ourselves after an half-hearted and unsuccessful anchoring attempt by a charter boat.
Our next destination is Hvar Town on the opposite side of the island. We leave mid-morning in strong easterlies, briefly screeching along with the gennaker until it reaches its limit and we have to furl it. Rounding the western end of Otok Hvar we are now beating into 22kts. By the time we get to Hvar Town all the mooring bouys are taken by charter boats, but the harbour is poorly protected and way too bouncy to get a good night’s sleep. We half-heartedly consider trying to anchor just outside the harbour but it’s not a good look so we head over to Otok Marinkovak (an island) just opposite Hvar Town. The first anchoring attempt lifted alot of sea grass and an old bathmat. The second attempt was more successful. It’s a busy spot though with a lot of charter boats coming and going and the wind still gusting strongly so the skipper opts to stay on board for the afternoon and keep watch. Myself and our guests flag down a passing water taxi and head across to Hvar Town. It’s quite bouncy in the harbour so I am happy not to have ITIKI in there. Yachts on the town wall are rolling around like a mad woman’s breakfast! I drop into the harbourmaster’s office to extend our cruising permit for another week, they helpfully relieve me of another 500 Kuna. We have a spot of lunch, walk around town and up to the fort. What a fantastic view over the harbour and across to the islands where ITIKI is anchored (can’t quite see her though). We finish the afternoon with a supermarket run, coffee and ice-cream before heading back to the bay for the evening. After a comfortable night, with the breeze and swell now significantly less, we all head across to Hvar Town in the RIB which is a much more comfortable trip that it would have been in yesterday’s conditions.
To Vis or not to Vis – this was the question
Otok Vis is about 22 nm SW of Otok Hvar, a reasonable distance, and really the only reason we were going to Vis was to hop another 5nm across to the Blue Cave on the island of Komizo. There we would need to pick up (and pay for) a mooring buoy, join a queue to pay a guy to spend 10 minutes in a cave that may or may not be blue, depending on the weather. This whole exercise would have taken 2 days of our schedule with our friends. It could have also meant missing Mljet National Park as well. In short, although the cave is quite a “famous” attraction we decided not to do it this time around. In any case if you swim under the hull of our catamaran in a sandy anchorage you get the idea of what the blue cave is like…. Well sort of!
Having made the decision to head east our next stop was Uvala Lovisce on Otok Scedero. We were expecting to pick up a restaurant mooring buoy and enjoy a meal ashore but unfortunately things had changed, the buoys are all private now and covering the best anchoring spots. So after 19 nights of free anchoring we popped our cherry in terms of shelling out for an anchorage, but at 211 Kuna it didn’t break the bank. We had a lovely meal of local lamb and seafood at a small restaurant as well. The bay here is really beautiful and to be fair the mooring bouys make it possible to fit more boats in than would be possible with people anchoring willy-nilly. We have a “fore & aft” mooring, which means we are attached at both the bow and the stern (our first ever) and it is strange to be parallel to and so close to the shore! I can see the bottom, and the ubiquitous sea cucumbers, from the bedroom window!
Our next stop is Korcula Town on Otok Korcula where we can anchor in a picturesque and sheltered bay to the east of the town. Here the Port Authority do charge a fee (200Kuna) so our second in a row! Don’t worry we will make up for it! Korcula is a really charming town, laid out in a fishbone shape to take advantage of the cooling breeze of the Mistral and keep out the cold of the winter Bora. We head ashore to explore, there is a spectacular view from the bell tower of the church and we find a great spot for drinks overlooking the channel.
On we go to Mljet National Park. While Skradin was the highlight of Northern Croatia, Mljet was the highlight of the more touristy central area. We arrive early and anchor in the bay at Luka Polace, opposite the town. The water is beautiful and we spend the day swimming and SUPping before going ashore to find out about visiting the park. We decide to have dinner ashore and move ITIKI to the restaurant quay. Although we have a lovely meal of slow cooked fish and octopus, it’s quite an expensive way to avoid the national park fee, which I am not even sure anyone came around to collect on a Sunday evening anyway! Still we met a lovely kiwi couple on the dock, who joined us for drinks and dinner.
The days are quite hot now so we took off early to walk from Luka Polace to park entrance on the shore of the larger of the two lakes (aptly named the small lake and large lake). From there we took a boat across to a small island (Santa Maria) where there is a church and a monastery and of course a café. This is a beautiful place for a swim as well and coincidentally we ran into a sailing buddy from Sydney who has been on a group charter in Croatia. Turns out her group was at a nearby restaurant last night in Polace as well! Small world. Returning back to the park entrance we decide to head upwards to a viewpoint on top of a hill in the middle of an island. Its quite steep on this side and the switchback trail is exposed to the full sun. The view from the top is stunning though, we can see all the way to the entrance to the lakes on the southern side of the island and down to the north towards our anchorage. We walk back down to Polace and take ITIKI around to Luka Pomena where we will stay for the next two nights. This anchorage is more secluded as the town is not visible from here. Cooling down after the big morning is a high priority, but we do go in and check out the town briefly. The next day we hire bikes to explore more of the park. We circumnavigate the lakes and then take a detour down to Solines, where the lakes open to the sea, and enjoy a lovely lunch of our favourite - octopus salad (of course). We say farewell to our guests in the afternoon as they take the ferry from Pomena back to Split, and spend our final night enjoying the quiet of our anchorage, as we will sadly move on again tomorrow morning. Mljet is a stunning place,
I need to let the photos do the “talking”.
Our tips for visiting Mljet NP by yacht: