Cruising Croatia: Part 2. Lessons 1-5
Slipping moorings early and overcoming the initial adrenalin rush of taking the helm of somebody else’s 37 foot, £90000, 18 month old boat and being told “see you in 7 days”, we nosed out of Kremik and turned south-east for the islands of Drvenik, Solta and Brac. My aim was to keep the distances to less than 25 miles a day, and preferably more like 15, with passages inshore, as my three crew members had limited experience.
Lesson one had been learned the night before when we went to provision the boat: avoid the marina shops (which as you might expect are expensive) and head, where possible, for the local supermarkets. Lesson two, buy as much water as you can carry, then buy half-as-much again (with the same going for beer) and lesson three: don’t assume that your boat’s water-tanks will be full when you set out; ours were, but one boat we met were told their tanks had been topped-off only to find at their first stop, they had less than half the water they thought.
After motoring to our lunch stop, in a wide bay on the southern shore of Drvenik Mali and getting over the initial anxiety of whether the anchor was holding, we picked up an afternoon breeze from the north that set us on a broad reach down the western shore of Solta, with my partner’s brother at the helm (his first experience of steering big boats) and a little help from the excellent Raymarine autopilot, we had a fantastic four-hour reach down to the harbour of Milna on the north end of the Island Brac.
The approach to Milna involves passing through the narrows between Brac and Solta, the Splitska Vrata. This is one of the area’s few true navigational hazards as it is the passage used by many of the coastal ferries leaving Split on their way to the outer islands. In early evening however, the narrow were quiet and soon we were heading under motor into our first night’s moorings.
Milna has two marinas, one in the inner-harbour, run by the ACI company who operate the vast majority of Croatia’s marinas; the other, in the outer harbour, is privately owned by a Dutch couple. While initially heading for the ACI moorings we made a spur-of-the-moment detour and turned to the waving arms of the Marina Vlaska’s portly proprietor.
The second stress point of the day, after the dodgy lunchtime anchoring, was fast approaching. Mooring Adriatic style for the first time: stern-to, in a tight marina, presumably with an anchor out in front. Lesson four was quickly learned: most marinas (and now also harbours) have laid lazy-lines and the days of running out an anchor and motoring backwards onto the pontoon or wall have almost all but gone (in 6 nights we never did it once). Lesson five: the marina/harbour staff will go out of their way to help you get tied up. Once we got over the amusement of the proprietor’s wife shouting instructions that all started with ‘lady, lady, take this rope…’ or ‘lady, lady, pull harder…’ and I mastered the prop-wash of the 373’s Yanmar we found that Sun Bandit was infinitely more manoeuvrable backwards, once underway, than she was forwards. Tying up we found ourselves next to Jetstream, the Aussies who had bribed the bus driver for the unscheduled stop the day before.
Twenty-eight miles left us tired but happy and ready to crack a few cans (thank god for the extra beer provisions) with our Aussie neighbours, and after riding out the inevitable politically-incorrect jokes that would lead us to be ‘Bum Bandit’, at least to our new Aussie friends, for the rest of the week, we settled in for a relaxing evening.
Not only is Marina Vlaska quieter than the ACI in the inner harbour, but the 307Kn fee (about £30) included two fresh loaves in the morning and a 10% discount at one of the better local restaurants.
Saturday, 6 October 2007