We’ve been sailing for a week on the Adriatic Sea! What a fantastic travel adventure and amazing sailing experience!
I’m currently in Marco Polo’s hometown of Korcula, on the island of Korcula. The wind is blowing hard, which is a change from this first week of light wind. Our boat is safely moored at the local marina, and I’m safely caffeinated in a local café along the town wall.
We’re staying in town two nights, giving me time to take a break from being skipper, and provide an update on last week’s events.
Our trip began on Saturday, September, 17. After a 2-hour classroom briefing on weather, navigation, and local knowledge, we then boarded our 42-foot Jenneau sailboat for a 2-hour check-out. We went through boat layout, standing and running rigging, and systems. Our Sunsail representative then left the four of us to stow our belongings and settle in for the evening.
We had a crew dinner that night, and reviewed our sail plan, emergency procedures, roles and responsibilities, and expectations for daily life on board.
Over the next 14 days, we would sail from the Trogir to Dubrovnik, zig-zagging our way around the islands of Brac, Hvar, Vis, Korcula, and Mljet.
Here is the first-half summary:
Trogir to Milna (Day 1). We left Sunday morning under cloudy skies and moderate wind. (For any sailors reading this as research for their own trip, our departure was actually from the Agana Marina about 12km west of Trogir.) The favorable wind speed and direction enabled us to sail for about half of the 3-hour transit to Milna, on the island of Brac. Arriving at Milna, we med-moored at an ACI Marina equipped with a protected harbor and bathroom/showers. As this was our first stop, we wanted to keep things easy to get into the swing of things.
Milna to Starigrad (Day 2). From Milna, we continued southeast and headed to the island of Hvar. Our first stop was Starigrad, one of the oldest towns in Europe (first established by Greek settlers in 384 BC, per Wikipedia). As planned, we arrived ahead of the afternoon crowd, so we found a spot to park right along the main promenade. We enjoyed a celebratory glass of Croatian wine in the cockpit as we watched the passers-by strolling along the waterfront.
Starigrad to Hvar Town (Day 3 and Day 4). From Starigrad, we sailed west, rounding the western end of Hvar and arriving in the famous port of Hvar Town. I was looking forward to docking at the town quay, but the harbormaster ushered us away from promenade, saying it was too dangerous in the wind and wave conditions. We went motored across the harbor to the mooring balls and tied up there. It took us a few tries in the shallow water and narrow mooring spaces; and the procedure is somewhat complicated since we had to launch the dinghy and have a crew member row ashore with lines to secure our stern. For two days, we could only access the shore using the dinghy. The promenade might have been more convenient, but the mooring ball location actually gave us a better view of the town.
We spent 2 nights in Hvar Town. I think the crew was impressed with the place, and I certainly enjoyed being back in Hvar Town (and not being sick this time). We had a crew trip up the hill to the Fortress Spanjola that overlooked the entire town. I enjoyed taking the crew on my “routine” – sunset cocktail at Hula Hula, dinner along the promenade or plaza, and then a relaxing glass of wine at the wine bar.
Hvar Town to Komizia (Day 5). From the island of Hvar, we headed southwest to the island of Vis, an island famous for its wine as well as its naval history. Our first stop was the town of Komiza, on the west side. We struggled a bit with the high town quay and shallow water. We couldn’t get close enough to the dock for our gangplank to reach. Rather than use our dinghy, we were able to disembark by climbing on the catamaran next to us (with its shallow draft, it was able to get close enough to the dock for the gangplank to reach). In Komiza, the crew split up for exploring. I had a nice walk up the hill to a church and cemetery over-looking the entire town.
Komiza to Vis Town (Day 6 and Day 7). The next day, we sailed back to the east, along the north side of Vis, and pulled into Vis Town. Again, thanks to our early arrival, we were able to dock right along the promenade. We stayed here two nights so that we could enjoy the wine tasting and relax along the town front. We look long strolls along the promenade, enjoyed the sunsets, and had two great dinners at Kod Paveta. (It was so good we went back again the second night!)
Vis Town to Korcula (Day 8). On Sunday, September 25, we had to make the long 45-mile transit from Vis Town to Korcula Town (on the island of Korcula). One of the crew and I woke up at 6:00am, readied the boat, and departed at 6:45am while the other two crew slept.
The sky was clear and the sea was calm, and there was just no wind. Once we were clear of the Vis channel and northernmost point of the island, we turned to the east, set autopilot, and relaxed topside for the next 7 hours as we motored at 6 knots toward Korcula. The marina in Korcula town was very narrow, but with careful maneuvering we docked successfully. Many other boats from our flotilla were arriving as well. It was fun to have a reunion with the other boats and share stories about the first half of our 2-week trip.
From my perspective, the first week has gone pretty well. The advance work in food-provisioning and route-planning and helped us get underway quickly at the start of the trip. We had done our shopping and knew where we were going.
Our plan to leave early in the morning and arrive early in the afternoon each day has paid off – we haven’t had too much trouble finding places to dock in the various towns, where prime docking space is limited. Although the season is declining at this point, some of the town quays are still crowded and competitive later in the day.
The med-mooring style of docking (stern-to) was probably my biggest concern, but thanks to some practice in San Francisco before this trip as well as a good crew on board, we have been pretty successful without any major issues. But there have been some issues, as you might expect.
Sailing (and docking) a boat is no easy task under any conditions. They are big and heavy, and get impacted by wind and waves. There are lot of lines and a lot of things to remember. We have certainly had a few minor problems. Leaving Milna, our dinghy got caught under a neighbor’s mooring line, spinning our stern into harm’s way. We might have hit another boat or wrapped a line around our propeller. But thanks to careful, deliberate actions, we resolved the issue quickly and safely. Leaving Hvar Town, our mooring line snagged under a neighbor’s mooring line; we couldn’t haul it in. Again our stern swung around, but we were able to steady the boat and work with the neighbor to free both lines safely.
These mishaps probably could have been avoided by double- and triple-checking lines, and we are learning from our mistakes. The key has been a helpful crew that has good ideas and remains calm under pressure.
We have also been doing a lot more motor-sailing than actual sailing due to the light wind conditions. We always are careful about wishing for windier conditions - we don't want to jinx ourselves and run into gale force winds. The motor-sailing has been fine, we just need to be careful on fuel and add a fuel-stop to our plan.
All in all, it's been a great first half!
Stay tuned for next week’s update on the second half of this amazing trip. I’ll also include some summary comments about a sailing vacation – if I can find the words to describe it, that is.