Picking up from last week’s update… We had just arrived in Korcula, on Sunday, September 25, passing the halfway point of our two-week charter.
Korcula (Day 8 and Day 9). We stayed for two nights at the marina in Old Town Korcula. Set on a small, hilly peninsula and surrounded by a great wall, the Old Town was very scenic. In a funny way, the hilly streets reminded me of San Francisco. The promenade hosted several nice outdoor restaurants, but the wind forced us to retreat to different restaurants tucked away in the narrow streets. The highlight of the two days was sipping cocktails at sunset at a bar atop one of the stone towers.
Korcula to Pomena (Day 10 and Day 11). On Tuesday, September 27, we sailed around the eastern end of the island of Korcula, and down to Pomena, a harbor on the west end of the island of Mljet.
Getting out of Korcula, though, took us some time. We faced two challenges.
First, we had to get out of the very narrow marina! The wind had kicked up to 10 knots making big boat maneuvering more difficult. We were in a stern-to mooring, tucked in between boats on our port and starboard sides, with the wind blowing from behind us. There was a line of boats facing us, stern-to against the other side of the fairway, with not much more than one boat length of water between us. We had to somehow release our lines, drive out of our mooring, and make a tight left turn toward the exit…before the wind pushed us into the boats opposite us. And our turn couldn’t be so tight that our stern would swing around and scrape the boat on our starboard side.
I watched a few boats leave before me, trying to observe the skippers’ techniques and the wind’s impact on the vessels. I also talked through my departure plan with a few skippers to get their feedback. We ended up using a bow spring line from our bow to the bow of the boat on our port side. With the wind behind us, we gently motored out of our stern-to mooring, and eased out the spring line. When our stern was clear of the vessel on starboard, we sprung our boat around to port. The technique worked well. The spring line helped us make the tight turn without giving way downwind and drifting into the boats lining the opposite side of the fairway. I have to credit OCSC for teaching me the skills to safely depart under these tough conditions.
The second challenge we faced was fuel. Our fuel gauge was not working. It still read “7/8 full” – but that was virtually impossible given the motoring we had been doing in the light wind conditions earlier in the week. We didn’t know our exact gallon-per-hour burn rate, but using a conservative burn rate and knowing our engine hours, I calculated that we were less than half full. Since we didn’t want to ever go below one quarter full, that left us with a quarter tank to go the next 100 miles. But we had to account for marina time, plus any other extra motoring time we might need for anchoring, sightseeing, etc. Long story short, we stopped for gas. The fuel dock was just around the corner from the marina at Korcula, so we stopped briefly and put in 60 liters of diesel. Better to be safe than sorry.
So we finally set course for Pomena, on the island of Mljet. We tried to sail for a while, but the wind had died down, so we turned the engine on and motored – feeling very confident that now we had plenty of fuel.
Pomena provided a nice sheltered bay with a number of restaurants lining the shore. The restaurants offer stern-to mooring spots for free, as long as you eat in the restaurant. We spotted one of the other boats in our flotilla already docked, so we pulled up alongside them and moored, hoping the restaurant they had picked was a good one since we would be here for two nights.
Why two nights? The attraction of Pomena is that it sits within walking distance to the National Park Mljet. The park has two lakes, one of which has an island with a monastery and church that you can visit via boat.
The first afternoon, our crew split up and pursued individual activities. I relaxed along the water at a café, and took a short hike up to the first of the two lakes. We reconvened for dinner at the restaurant where we had docked our boat. Unfortunately, the food wasn’t that good. But it was fun to be reunited with a few of the other flotilla boats. And certainly it was convenient to eat dinner and then walk 10 steps to our boat for sleep.
The second day, my first mate Amanda and I walked up to the second lake and took the small boat across to the island with the monastery and church. It was very scenic. After so many days on the sailboat, it was nice to have a day doing some real walking. The only bummer was that we had to eat at the same mediocre restaurant by our boat again.
After dinner, a few of us went exploring because we had heard the hotel at the end of the bay often has live music. Well, not tonight, apparently. But we did find several small cruise ships tied up next to each other in front of the hotel. Music, lights, and laughter spilled out of the boats. We snuck aboard and hopped from vessel to vessel wandering through the parties pretending like we belonged.
Pomena to Slano (Day 12). On Thursday, September 29, we departed Pomena, and sailed east along the northern coast of Mljet. We headed toward mainland Croatia, to a small bay we had found called Slano. Here, a brand new ACI Marina had just opened this year.
Unfortunately, one of our crew members did not join us for this sail. His flight back to the United States was early Saturday morning, and he was anxious to have at least one full day in Dubrovnik. Our current sail plan (arriving Friday night) wouldn’t allow that. So he made the tough decision to take a ferry directly from Pomena to Dubrovnik.
We were a crew of four. Now we were down to three.
Arriving in Slano, our intention was to dock in the ACI Marina. However, again, we saw another boat from our flotilla at the vacant town quay. So we changed plans and moored next to them. We still snuck into the Marina to use the facilities, but the town quay gave us a better view and better access to restaurants.
That afternoon, Amanda and I launched the dinghy – with the outboard motor – and explored the small bay. We pulled up to a fancy resort, secured the dinghy, and headed to the beach bar for a beer. Apparently, it was some kind of all-inclusive, private resort so they gave us a funny look when we held out cash for our beers. They said, “Oh, you aren’t staying here…” They still sold us the beer and let us hang out on the lounge chairs, perhaps impressed that we arrived by sea, not by land.
We explored the town that evening – what there was of it. Apparently Slano was a famous resort town many years ago, but then was destroyed in the war in the 1990s. Now it is trying to make a comeback – perhaps that’s why ACI built the new marina there. It’s pretty quiet.
We didn’t pick Slano for its scenery or history or nightlife, though. We picked it for its location – only 16 miles from Dubrovnik. We could have a short sail down to Dubrovnik the following day to check out the harbor in Old Town, and still have plenty of time to motor up river to the Sunsail dock at the Dubrovnik Marina.
Slano to Dubrovnik (Day 13). This was our final day of the passage. We departed Slano mid-morning and basically motored the entire 16 miles down to Old Town Dubrovnik. We hovered around the walls and harbor entrance, taking lots of photos and videos. What a stunning sight.
Satisfied that we had appropriately captured the moment, we then turned around and headed back up the coast a bit. We followed an inlet, passed under the Franjo Tudjman bridge, and arrived at the Dubrovnik Marina. There, we were greeted by the Sunsail staff who helped us with the final stern-to docking procedure in yet again a very tight fairway.
Once the vessel was tied up, the three of us cracked a beer and toasted the end of our passage. (We would meet the fourth member later that evening for dinner in town.)
Dubrovnik (Day 14). Technically, this was the last day of our charter, but we spent the early morning packing and cleaning up the boat. We had over-provisioned (i.e., bought too much bottled water, paper towels, etc.) so we left those items for the next crew. We left the boat at 9am, said our goodbyes to fellow sailors on the other boats in the flotilla, and shared a taxi to Old Town, where we checked into our respective apartments.
I splurged and got a huge penthouse apartment with a terrace overlooking the Old Town. I would stay here for the next several nights to relax, recover, and plan my next move.
Overall, the last 14 days have been unforgettable. It was my first international, multi-day charter as skipper. I learned so many things about boat management, navigation, provisioning, weather forecasting, med-mooring, chartering process, etc. Thanks to my crew for participating in the journey and supporting each other along the way.
Having Croatia and the Adriatic Sea as a backdrop for this learning experience was an added bonus. The country is amazing – some parts are super-touristy, but other parts are raw, well-preserved, and/or undeveloped. I’ll be back.
[I've written quite a bit of detail in the last two updates about our route through the islands of Croatia and the Central Adriatic Sea. My hope is these notes will be helpful to other sailors who are planning their own voyage in the area. We were very happy with our passage plan - the islands and towns we visited, the distances we sailed or motored, the time spent on each island, etc. Please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are a sailor and would like more info, or if you'd be interested in me skippering a charter for you and your friends.]