Eugene Comes to Croatia

Following on from our last post, we fuelled up and left Brindisi marina at 09:10 on the 11th June for the 120 mile sail to Cavtat, the southernmost port of entry in Croatia.

A slight aside, all of the countries we have visited since leaving the UK have signed up to the Schengen agreement. This agreement means people can travel between them without having to go through customs or immigration. Croatia, like the UK isn’t in the ‘Schengen area’ which means that we have to go to the border police to go through the immigration formalities on arrival – a bit like going through passport control at an airport.

Croatia has VERY strict rules on going directly to the NEAREST port of entry upon arrival in their waters. Most countries will turn a blind eye to anchoring overnight and then going in to the port area. In Croatia you must go directly to the customs dock, which is fenced off from the other areas and the skipper has go ashore with passports and the ships documents and go through the entry formalities. No-one else is allowed ashore until this is completed. Failure to follow these procedures have resulted in very hefty fines.

Anyway, back to the tale, we motored for the first hour to be clear of Brindisi Vessel Traffic Scheme or VTS and then set full sail and headed on a direct course for Cavtat. The winds were quite light but that suited us fine, we didn’t want to arrive before the customs dock opened at 8am as we’d heard that they took your details if you arrived early and made you go to the 24hr customs dock to the north of Dubrovnik. We had until 8pm to check in.

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We had a very pleasant sail pretty much all of the way. The stars and Milky Way were amazing on our night watches. About an hour out, we started the engine, dropped the sails and motored into Cavtat, stern mooring onto the customs dock at 08:40 on the 12th. One of the harbour marinaros took our lines for the princely sum of 100 Kuna (£11.30 or €12.50). We had known that we were obliged to pay this – the port authority and police have given him this ‘concession’.

I took our passports and the ships papers (Registration document, insurance documents, proof of VAT paid, radio license, crew list and my skippers qualifications) to the harbour authority. All details were entered into the computer and photocopies made. The crew list was stamped and signed and returned to me, together with the yearly navigation permit (860 Kuna) and the tourist visa allowing us to cruise in Croatia for a month (1800 Kuna). I had to take these to the border police where our passports were checked against the crew list and scanned. Both the harbour authority and the border police commented upon how much easier this was compared to how we would find entry into the country post Brexit. I know that the exact terms of the UK leaving have still to be determined but non EU nationals have far more hoops to jump through and restrictions placed upon them then we currently do.

We were now free to leave the customs dock and motor round the headland and anchor in Uvala Tiha, just off Cavtat’s small boat harbour.

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Gill and I had last visited Cavtat 10 years ago as guests at my brother’s wedding. We were very pleased that in many respects, it hadn’t changed.

This is Cavtat 2018

This was Cavtat in 2008

We spent a very enjoyable 3 days here before heading north to explore some of the anchorages that we could take Joanna and Eugene to.

One of the first was the beach on Lopud, this is one of the few sandy beaches in Croatia, most are rock or pebble.lopud-1

It was very busy through the day, both on the beach where ferry loads of sun worshipers took the ferry from Dubrovnik to the far side of the island and then took golf cart taxis to the beach, and boats, again from Dubrovnik. The smaller motorboats crowding to be as close to the beach as possible and the larger motorboats and yachts further out. By night the visitors all left, leaving perhaps 3-4 boats to share the large, secure anchorage.

The weather was superb and we loved the place so much we spent 4 days sun bathing, swimming and generally relaxing. It was then time to make our way back to the anchorage at Cavtat to meet our daughter and her friend.

We made a detour to the marina at Dubrovnik to fill up with fuel. In order to get there we had to pass under a bridge where the were bungy jumping..

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And past the cruise liners delivering thousands of Game of Throne fans to the city.

We sailed past the historical walled old town on the way to Cavtat.

We anchored in the same spot we’d been in when we first arrived and went ashore to stock up on beer, wine and crisps before Joanna arrived. The forecast was for a breeze to get up that night with the winds peaking at around 15kts – nothing to worry about.

Around 9pm, dark clouds rolled in and a massive thunderstorm developed with winds slowly increasing past 20, then 30 and 40kts. There were around 15 boats anchored and some started to drag. A 150 foot motorboat started to drag back onto the yachts moored next to us and I had to call him up on the radio to alert him. By this time a couple of catamarans that were close to us started to drag also, coming disturbingly close on several occasions as they tried to lift their anchors. This was all in driving rain, thunder and lightning.

Gill and I made the call to raise our anchor and get out of the way before we either dragged or another boat dragged on to us. Luckily we were able to lift the anchor and motor out in the darkness into the bay. Here we joined 5 other yachts and 2 very large motorboats going round in circles. It became obvious that re-anchoring wasn’t an option in the dark and with so many other boats milling around. We decided to head over to the far side of the bay where the waves would be smaller.

The chart and track below show where we spent the night going back and fro for over 18 miles while we waited for the wind to ease or daylight.

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The arrows depict where the wind was coming from. Around 2am one of the zips which hold the bimini (sunshade) on burst in a particularly fierce gust. We knew we had to get it down or the whole thing would rip or take out the frame. It took over 45 minutes to undo (and break) the remaining zips and push the canvas down below. Gill had been sitting on it to try to hold it down while I battled with the zips, at times she was airborne!

At first light, around 5am we spotted a sandy bay at Plat and decided to try to anchor. The wind was still blowing over 40kts but luckily the anchor set first time in the sand and we could start to relax a little. Not for the first time we’ve been grateful for the setting and holding power of our Spade anchor. 2 other boats saw what we’d done and tried several times to anchor with us, without any success.

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Our wind instruments showed we’d had almost 64kts of wind, that’s Cat 1 hurricane strength.

Our thoughts then turned to Joanna and how we’d be able to meet her as we were no longer at Cavtat where we’d said we would be, nor would we be at the airport to greet her. Around an hour before she was due to land, the winds started to die down and the seas in the bay we were in settled. I was able to lower the dinghy and take Gill ashore where we asked one of the ferry operators if Gill could get a taxi to the airport. He did better than that and phoned one of his friends to give Gill a lift for 100 Kuna, about half the price of a taxi.

Gill was able to meet Joanna off the plane and get a taxi back to where I was waiting with the dinghy to take them back to the boat.

It’s unbelievable that by 11am the sky was wall to wall blue, no wind and the sea like a millpond! It was as though the terrifying night before had never happened. It also massively increased our confidence in our boat and it’s equipment, as well as our ability to cope.

We motored back to the Cavtat anchorage where Joanna saw the boat she wanted, it’s as if it has her name on it 🙂

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After a great meal and a few drinks ashore we returned to Coriander for a good night’s sleep before sailing past Dubrovnik and on to Lopud where we could all get to meet Eugene – Joanna’s giant unicorn!

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It was also time to break out the paddleboard and let the girls have a shot. Joanna proved to be a natural, with Gill not far behind.

After a couple of days at Lopud, we made our way north.

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To the island of Sipan and the beautiful anchorage at Sipanski Luka.

We explored the anchorage and had a couple of superb, and very cheap meals at the pizza restaurant.

On our second night here we joined the locals to watch Croatia play Iceland in the world cup. whenever Croatia scored the locals let off loads of flares:

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Unfortunately the weather turned for the worst and we had to leave this delightful place and head back to Lopud and the shelter of the bay. The conditions improved and we were able to get a days swimming, boarding and snorkling.

We then returned to Cavtat for Gill and Joanna to take the water taxi to Dubrovnik while I kept watch on the boat due to further thunderstorms being forecast.

The girls had a great Mother / Daughter day out…

With that visit, our time with Joanna and Eugene was coming to an end, we had a final meal and drink that evening before we’d have to take them to the airport for their flight back home.

It was great to see them – here’s to next time 🙂

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Part 2 of our time in Croatia to follow…..