Seize the day – sailing in Croatia

“It was 2014 when I first started sailing. A the beginning, I was just sailing at the weekends and trying to learn the terminology. With the time I started joining both inshore and offshore regattas and made long trips from the north-west of Turkey to the south side. Now it became a lifestyle for me and I spend most of my time on the boat.

It was a sudden decision that I made to go to Croatia because a close friend of mine asked me if I want to join them for a sailing trip and I said “Of course! “. Unfortunately, he couldn’t come because of some visa issues, but with the other friends, we decided to go anyway. So it all began like this…

Day 1-31.08.2018 / Dubrovnik

We arrived at Dubrovnik in the morning and I was quite excited, because my parents were telling stories about Dubrovnik all of my childhood. So eventually, I made it…! From the airport, you have two common options: bus and taxi. The bus is around 40 Kunos and you have to change your money to Kuno (they won’t accept other currencies). Taxi is around 40 Euros to the city centre. So, I took the bus which took approximately 30 minutes. Anyway, I came to the old town with my backpack and walked around the town which is quite small but really fun to see around. I’ll skip that part fast but I must say that we played basketball maybe 3 hours with some locals to experience some local stuff. At the evening, we just took it easy because tomorrow we were going to take our boat, Bukovac (Dufour 412 GL, which is a mint condition cruiser).

Day 2 – 01.09.2018 / Dubrovnik ACI Marina

In the early morning, we all woke up and took a taxi from the place where we stayed (Villa Ankora) to the ACI Marina, located at the end of a channel, Komolac. The charter company (Dream Yacht Charter) said that we can take our boat at around 5 PM so we had some time until then. There’s a lovely pool in the marina and we used it to chill. Later, we went shopping for our first part of the trip. I must say you should try the local wines which are above average, cool and budget-friendly.

When the girls were putting the grocery to the boat, I and Sergey made the paperwork. Eventually, at around 5 PM, we left the marina.

Our planned route:

1st part; Dubrovnik ACI Marina-Mljet-Korcula-Hvar(110NM) / Hvar-Korcula-Mljet-Dubrovnik ACI Marina(80NM)

Sailing Croatia - Harba

2nd part; Dubrovnik ACI Marina-Mljet-Korcula, Vela Luka(75NM) / Korcula, Vela Luka-Mljet, Dubrovnik ACI Marina(75NM)

Total: Approximately 350NM

Our goal was to go to Hvar and come back. At least for the first part. So we started and we were thinking about going to the first island called Mljet and find a place to moor, sleep for the night. But when the time passed, everyone was really happy about sailing at night so we decided to move on.

Day 3 – 02.09.2018 / Mljet(South Part)-Korcula-Hvar

We were relatively close to the shore and around the middle of Mljet, we saw three lights somewhere at the top. Went there to check and “Voila!”, it was a wild bay, which we named “The Pirate Bay” (from Dubrovnik, approx. 30NM). It was around 3 AM so we were checking the rocks with the torch. I saw a rope attached to the rocks and said: “guys we are going to be here for the night.” We anchored three times because of the bottom. The depth was 12-13 meters and covered with long sea grass. Even with the Ultra Anchor, I didn’t like it. At the end with the quite strong wind, approximately 15 knots coming from the open sea, with 30 meters chain, it became stable. I asked Sergey to take the helm and jumped to the water. With the waves and night, I climbed to the rock while holding that rope, I managed to tie astern with a small damage to my feet. As I told, it was quite windy and the waves were shaking the boat, so Sergey and I decided not to sleep. I should say Renata was a bit nervous so she didn’t sleep as well. After some time of observation, we decided to take the dinghy and check the boat from a higher perspective. There were those 3 lights coming from above as I told earlier. So we climbed up, left the engine on and gave some instructions to Renata. She became a bit more nervous. In the end, we made sure that the boat was solid and got comfortable. We slept a bit and with the first lights, we were on the way again.

From Mljet to Korcula the wind was weaker and coming from 170 degrees so we were having goose wing, directly to Korcula’s islands. Once you enter the channel, there’s an old town called Banja-Korcula. It was amazing because it’s totally invisible until you pass the edge. Then, suddenly the town becomes visible and it’s like a medieval town.

Then, the wind changed to the west and we supposed to go upwind. To be honest, the boat was not good about it. At least for me… We were going around 45-50 degrees, so it took quite a long time to pass the channel.

At 10 AM the wind was totally dead, so we continued with the engine to Rt. Sucuraj, East edge of Hvar Island, to take the north part. The weather was cool but still, we were seeing all the stormy clouds, which we made it without getting wet.

Again some wind and again upwind. Anyway, between Hvar and Brac, there’s another channel which people use for kite-surfing. We came closer to kite-surfers and when we were getting away, they were also following us. We had lots of fun there. We were trying to catch all the winds so at the end it became late. We were thinking about stopping at Stari Grad to check it out, but once we evaluated the route, we recognized that it will take too long to reach it, so we just passed.

When we arrived to Hvar, it was around 9 PM and we made a radio call to the marina. Probably they were busy or something and they didn’t reply. I noticed that most of the boats moored to the entrance of the marina. So we did the same. With the dinghy, best clothes of ours, we landed. Unfortunately, I forgot my shoes at the boat so it cost me 100 Kunos to buy flip flops. Anyway, Hvar is a really nice place, again that texture of medieval town. Lots of crazy people partying. I guess we all had some expectations about getting wasted there but none of us was in the mood. So we ate dinner, drank some digestives and skipped. Lots of people said that it’s not possible to reach Hvar, but here we are.

Day 4 –  03.09.2018 / Hvar-Korcula

Another night on the way. We headed to Dubrovnik again to leave the girls. First Korcula Channel, then Mljet and Dubrovnik.  The first stop was the islands at the east part of Korcula, Vela and Mala Stupa. It was approximately 40NM from Hvar, so all night of sailing. I really like night watches, unfortunately, there’s not that much to tell about nature and the environment but still, I can talk about the emotions and how I act.

Well, you have to be careful all of the time, that’s for sure. Understanding the lights is the key. Once you saw one, you start to guess if its navigation lights. Then you can make a guess about the route so you change yours or keep it steady. The lighthouses are a bit more fun for me because once I saw one flashing, I check Navionics about its detail so I understand that flashing lights represent that land… Kind of a stupid progress game for me.  Another thing about going at night is stars, of course. You see plenty of them and starting to observe them. Finding Polaris and common things are easy and working when impressing people, but to go deeper, I found one called Bellatrix. Sadly, it only appears at winter times so it’s been a long time since I saw it last time. When its dark, its calmer, but somehow getting more wild.  Thanks to technology, now almost every boat has an autopilot so you can go and do your stuff quickly. Luckily I had Renata. That was the first time I was on the night watch, looking for a beauty like her sleeping…That’s not the whole story of course but anyway.

Renata and me

Well with the first lights, we finished Korcula and arrived at Vela Stupa. The place is covered with small islands and the depth is between 5-10 meters. There is a small restaurant and a beach, as well as some mooring buoys. So, I asked Sergey to wake up and help me. It was late morning already when we went for a rest.

A few hours later we woke up, still, I remember that feeling, waking up with Renata, looking at me… I missed this. Meanwhile, she’s texting to me and we’re talking about what to do in November.

Back to the story, it was already noon when we left Vela Stupa. A bit cloudy day and our route was the north part of Mljet. Totally wet, trying to trim the sails. Yes, finally the storm caught us. Luckily it was not that long time, but fun.

Day 5 – 04.09.2018 Mljet-Dubrovnik

In the late morning, we had our breakfast and we are on the way again. No wind, so with the engine it’s around 6-7 hours.  Once we passed Millet, there was an island called Lopud. We decided to take the long way so changed the route a little bit to the North East. Those places are full of trees and really good for anchorage. We didn’t stop but checked only. When we arrived to Dubrovnik/ACI Marina, it was already 9 PM, so we had a chilled night. It was going to be the last day of mine with the crew, but Sergey convinced me to stay. His colleagues will come to the boat and we’ll continue, while the girls will continue to Amsterdam.

Day 6 – 05.09.2018 Dubrovnik/ACI Marina-Mljet

We spent our last night with Renata, Nicole and Luly. Then, we cleaned the boat a bit, went to the shower and prepared ourselves for the second round. It was around 11 AM when Sergey’s colleagues came, so the grocery shopping and the paperwork stuff started again. While they are doing it, I was with Nastya and Kate, getting ready and making a small briefing. Meanwhile, Sergey made the paperwork and the grocery shopping and we got ready. What we did, we did quickly, but it was already 4 PM, so as fast as we could, we passed the Dubrovnik channel.

When we headed to Mljet, the wind was around 13-14 knots, beam reach. Which I like the performance of the boat with this angle. She’s totally steady and fast(7,0-7,5). There was a short time the wind was 21-25kts, which was really fun. The boat was still pretty steady, but getting faster like 8,5-9,5 knots. Almost all the people on board loved it. Except for Anton… He had some sea-sickness.  I should say, we were celebrating the first day as well. Anyway, it was just for the first day what Anton had. He’s strong enough to manage it.

Nastya, Sergey, Kate.

We took the north part of Mljet and sailed a bit more, as much as we could before the night. At the night there was no wind again, so we used engine power. With the first part, I had the night watches with Sergey. I started to trust him totally being able to leave him alone and get some well-deserved sleep.

Day 7 – 06.09.2018

When Sergey woke me up, it was 3 AM, so it was my turn on the night watch with Evgeniy. It was hard to pronounce his name, so he let me call him Eugene. Now I call him Evgeniy. He was already on the deck sleeping, so I woke him up as well and prepared some coffee. We almost finished Mljet and I headed to Korcula again. Around 6:30 AM we made it to Vela Stupa. Woke Sergey up and asked him to take the mooring rope. Which he did and all the crew went to rest.

For 2 hours… Then, we started the engine and headed to the west. When we were turning the edge of Korcula, there was a little wind coming from the north-east, but the engine was on. Our aim was to go to a port called Vela Luka to get some diesel because it was around %25. Suddenly, the engine stopped 7NM away from Vela Luka. We started to sail, but going really slow. Being in regattas gave me some self-confidence, so there was a small channel which makes the way short maybe 1,5NM and there were some small boats I saw. I decided to go there. Luckily, when the wind totally stopped, there was a guy coming to us. We tied each other from the bow and he pulled us maybe 4 miles to the port, Vela Luka. The guy kindly didn’t ask anything from us.  When we were there it was 9:50 PM and the gas station closes at 10 PM, lucky us.  We filled the diesel, checked the oil and decided to go for a dinner. There was a small street festival with live music. After the dinner, Sergey asked his colleagues to find the guy who helped us and leave a bottle of wine to him. Which they did. Once we finished, we got ready and on the deck again. Our heading was Mljet, Pirate Bay, Ropa again. I think that was the perfect place for Sergey and me. We really loved it, so wild and naive at the same time. And we wanted to spend some more time there.

Day 8 – 07.09.2018

The first watch was Anton and Kate’s, but I also slept on the deck to check from time to time. Before, I told Sergey that the best time to take the watch is 03:00-06.00 because at the end you see the sunrise and makes you feel more motivated so you want to stay a bit more. Once the first watch finished, I woke Sergey up and went to sleep. Around 06:30 we were already at the Pirate Bay. Ok, In this part I will write about that Pirate Bay more.

First of all, the real name of the bay is Podrope. It’s a rocky bay so also the bottom is rocky.  Instead of the moor with the anchor to the rocky bottom, others will be better. Luckily, there are some places covered with some long sea grass. I really like Ultra Anchors. Doesn’t matter we tried 3 times to make her steady, at the end I feel safe.

It was around 8 AM and we were preparing the breakfast. Suddenly, we have noticed somebody coming down the rocks with a white hat, blue bikini and the dog –  Zuzu. We were shocked a bit and thinking: “how come in the middle of nowhere somebody walked like that”. The mysterious woman went for a swim, and I also jumped to the sea and invite her for a breakfast with us. Her name was Ivona. She kindly accepted my invitation and we chatted maybe 2-3 hours. I did also invited her to Dubrovnik with us. She wanted to come, for sure, but with the car and Zuzu, it was going to be complicated. Anyway, we took the stairs all the way up, which was 10-15 minutes by walking and reached a small village. Really small because there were only 10 houses. Anyway, after a few minute talks, we said goodbye to each other and went down with Nastya.

Ivona

The problem was that the charter company asked us to bring the boat back at around 5 PM, but it was already 11 AM. So, we realized it was nearly impossible. We called them and told that because of the fuel, we will be late, which they accepted. I mean… ok we also spent more time than we expected with Ivona, but also the fuel gauge caused a delay as well. Fair enough… 🙂

Anton

Evgeniy

Back on the way. First, we needed to pass Mljet, then sail straight to Dubrovnik. But, when we passed Mljet, at the north, there was some black smoke coming from far away. An anchorage spot is called Lupeska. Black smoke means something is burning at that moment. If its white, that means it burned already, but still it’s hot. Anyway, Sergey made a radio call and we headed there to see if we can help. When we get closer, the smoke turned into white. When we were there, the coast guard was already there as well and thanked us. Though, there was nothing we could do, they already evacuated the boat and waited for the boat to cool down.

After that, we headed back to Dubrovnik. When we were at the ACI Marina, it was around 9 PM. The last dinner with the crew and I went to pack. Next morning my plane was at 8:30 AM. Man, I don’t like early flights…

Sergey and me.

Sincerely,

Yagmur Can Okanar

Tip: You can always find good information about the winds and the season on the web. Google it simply!”

 More about Yagmur sailing trips on his Instagram account.

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