It all happened as a result of a former colleagues wife deciding she might be interested in exploring sailing. Louise asked Tom to get me to teach them a bit and 2 years later they decided that sailing in the sun might be a good idea. We had done a bit in the Irish Sea and wanted to explore other options. After much research we decided on Croatia and through a contact of mine, we managed to rent a Catamaran. That way I would learn to sail on a different vessel, and we would learn to see what sailing in the Med might be like.
So we all felt separately into Split and met up in the ferry port to get the ferry over to the Island of Brac where my former motorbike mechanic lives. Andy jacked it in over 2 years ago and lives permanently there, and has recently started a bike repairs business there. He is really enjoying life there and I was interested in seeing how he was getting on. We arrived to dinner in Splitska with Andy, Maria, his wife and Rob, the owner of the boat. We had a great night eating outside in the warm air right by the harbour. All were in good form and excited about what would happen next.
After settling in and a good sleep we woke ready to start the day. Rob joined us for a systems briefing, then we stocked up on food and set off. Our forecast was for winds building during the day and peaking the following afternoon so we aimed to get familiar with the boat and see how far we could get on day one, making sure we were safe for the coming blow. In this part of the Med the predominant wind is Northwesterly but the depression had switched the winds into the southeast. Our general plan thus was to take the southwerterlies north and when the system cleared we could head southwest to the offlying islands, and return however we saw fit. So our first destination was the small island of Drvenik Veli, 20 miles from Splitska. We were sailing in sheltered waters between the mainland and the islands of Brac and Solta, ideal to get the feel of the boat and how she performed. The crew learned quickly, applying what they had learnt on Suckin' Diesel to the new boat. We had good wind from astern for 2 hours which eventually died out a bit and we motored the last miles into port. We anchored in a small harbour surrounded by stone cottages and signs of a former beauty, now being slowly rebuilt. By now we had an update on the blow and it was expected overnight. But we were well sheltered and prepared for it.
The following morning it was grey, and though we were well sheltered, the forecast showed the blow easing around lunchtime. So we went for a stroll ashore to the sleepy village and had a coffee in the small restaurant overlooking the harbour. After a lunch of salad, the first of many, we set off and soon were flying in over 20 knots of wind from the beam. Tom set the record for the trip at this stage doing 10.4 knots. Coming out from the shelter of the islands, we found 2 metre waves left over from the depression which focused our attention and made us concentrate. We sailed well until the winds eased and then shifted 90 degrees onto the nose. So the last hour was uncomfortable but bearable. We left the open sea and headed into Rogazisca which has a large marina catering for super yachts. To save money we took a mooring buoy which cost 35 euros for the night. We could have anchored but we paid so that we could get water and showers. We were told that we could have both but we were ripped off as they didn't exist. Welcome to Med Sailing !!!. Instead in the morning we made 3 trips to the fish market to fill up plastic containers of water to fill our tank. We also shopped for food for a long trip out to the islands.
We were aiming for Bishevo Luka, a small island off the larger island of Vis, a trip of about 35 miles. Leaving the shelter of the mainland, we found the seas had eased a lot and there were plenty of folk on the move. We had winds from the stern quarter of 15 to 20 knots max, keeping us moving well at 5 to 7 knots. As we approached the island the seas were more than a metre and the rocky shore made identifying the small cove difficult. On entering we found the chop was entering and there was little space to anchor. We did drop the hook but were not happy with how close we ended to the rocks. So we raised the hook and headed back out. On checking the chart, I decided that we would aim for a sheltered anchorage on the south side to the island of Vis nearby. Heading into the calm waters, I was able to see the numerous small coves we could have stayed in, but we had planned to eat out that night so I needed somewhere with a restaurant. Rukavac was the destination and we found a restaurant with free moorings just off the beach. We dined very well on Swordfish overlooking the harbour and slept comatose fashion after a long day on the water.
The following morning, after a lovely swim and snorkel, we had the chance to go for a wander and see just how lovely the small bay was. Lots of little cottages overlooking the water sitting in the glorious sunshine. From there we followed the coast around the island to the main port of Vis. As we approached we found more and more boats on the move, now that the bad weather was long gone. We took up a mooring in the busy harbour. Lots of large superyachts and even more charter boats. We guessed there were well over 200 boats moored and a trip ashore gave us the chance to see the huge level of diversity on show. The harbour front was very touristy, but still interesting to see, and the back streets showed lots of arty shops with lots of local culture on display.
After the busyness of Vis, we headed to the Saint Klement islands south of the island of Hvar. We had little wind so motored the short 10 miles. These are low lying islands of rock, sand and trees. We anchored in Saline with other boats looking for peace and quiet, and a great place to snorkel. We had a relaxing evening onboard, with some of the crew heading ashore for an explore where they found lots of natural isolation and a small restaurant surrounded by jungle. The skipper stayed on board to cook and keep an eye on Anne who was fighting off a cold. The following morning we had a breeze so looked to find a destination we could sail to. We tacked west along the south of the islands in a westerly breeze before heading northwest towards the western end of Solta island. The wind stayed very stable allowing us to sail close hauled all the way to the marina in Maslinica. Our information was that the marina was expensive but the crew was looking to fill with water and have a chance of showers ashore. Arriving at 2pm the marina looked fairly empty but we were told that it was fully reserved so we would have to moor med style on the outer breakwater. It was fairly bouncy there and getting ashore was a bit challenging. We went for a stroll and found the place a bit too upmarket and trendy for us, certainly not worth the €180 fee we were quoted. So after 2 hours we left in a challenging manoeuvre in strong winds. We headed to a quiet anchorage on the east side of Drvenik and had a much more peaceful evening there.
The last full day was forecast to be very light so we motored the 15 miles to Milna, on the western side of Brac so that Tom and Louise could get a ferry the following morning to Dubrovnik. We anchored in a bay on the south side of the harbour with lovely swimming opportunities. After lunch we all spent a couple of hours cleaning the boat in preparation for the handover to Rob the next day. In particular, we needed to rub out a mark left by a fender in the hurried departure from Maslinica. In the bright sunshine it didn't feel like work, and it gave a great excuse for a swim afterwards. We all chilled out on board until time came for us to head ashore for a last night dinner for the whole crew. Milna is a lovely little spot with lots of "boat porn". We had a beer and a stroll before dinner, arriving to the restaurant just as torrential downpour started. We didn't mind as we sat down again to some great local food. Costs were similar to home, but the standards of the produce fantastic. By the time the dinner was over, so was the rain so we headed back in the dinghy to our anchorage.
Getting back onboard, we saw the calm conditions were changing. There was now a breeze coming straight into the anchorage. Once I had a chance to verify we were not dragging anchor, I turned on the wind instruments and by the time they were up and running, we had 30 knots of wind and swells coming straight into the anchorage. I felt that it was something which would be uncomfortable but would pass quickly. But the wind continued to rise beyond 40 knots and the swells crashing into the anchorage were now becoming more dangerous, especially since we had a rocky shore less than 100 metres behind us. Thunder and Lightning were all around us. I started the engines to take the weight off the anchor but quickly realised that would not be enough, we had to move the boat. Anne and Tom were happy to go forward to raise the anchor. I was confident they knew what they were doing, even in the dark in a howling wind. So I drove forward gently with Louise keeping an eye on the depth. As we inched forward, Anne got the anchor raised enough for Tom to lie down on the trapeze and unhook it from the snubber rope. Once that was done they combined well to gradually bring all the chain onboard. The worry at this stage was the tripping line, a rope attached to the head of the anchor with a fender on the end of it in case the anchor got snagged. There was the possibility that the rope could get fouled in a propellor, in which case the boat would be very difficult to control. Anyway, they were stars and got everything done exactly as we had practiced many times. The only casualty was the shackle from the snubber which got lost in the mayhem. By now, the waves were still big and we were crashing up and down violently but that eased a bit as we motored slowly further and further away from the beach toward the harbour.
We moved slowly to let ourselves get our thoughts together and make sure everyone and everything was ok on board. After getting navigation lights on to warn other boats (we still only had an anchor light set!) I decided that circling until the thunderstorm passed was not an option as the anchorage would be rolly and anchoring in the dark not a good idea. So we headed into the long harbour, moving slowly to allow crew to get fenders and mooring lines set. There are 3 marinas and as we approached one, well after midnight, 2 staff signalled that they were ready to take our lines so we could med moor. But with it still blowing 25 knots I decided that was a manoeuvre I was not happy to do in the dark. So we went further into the harbour looking for ideas. I then remembered seeing a space on the quayside near where we had eaten dinner. It was empty as we left the restaurant so I decided to head for it. It was a little tight but there were people around to help Anne and Tom get us safely moored with Louise supervising getting us tied up. By that stage we were safe, wet but glad to be moored up. We celebrated our epic with a glass of wine and cheese and ended up in bed around 2am.
In the morning, we had an early start as Tom and Louise had to leave for the 8am ferry. I was pretty tired, but the storm had completely passed and it was bright sunshine and no wind. We dropped them off and then headed north to go around to Splitska to hand the boat back to Rob. We started the cleaning as we went and dropped into Supetar along the way so that Joel could get an early ferry to head to Split for the day. I noticed at this stage that the Radar Dome had broken away from the mast so let Rob know he had a job to do when he arrived. By 12 noon that was repaired and Anne had finished the cleaning and packing. The boat was sorted and so we headed off to meet up with Andy and Maria for lunch. We were fairly shagged by the time we got back to the ferry to Split and the whole enormity of the learning experience we had gone through started to appear. We had just had a sailing experience so different from anything we had done before. But I feel that our previous experience on Suckin' Diesel came to the fore and made us cope well with the challenges.