Istria continued 

I spent the days whilst Liz was in the UK getting the boat ready for our guests. As we were going to be based  in the Pula area for the next two weeks, I also went into Pula to suss out the town (lovely old part) and figure which were the best supermarkets. Our guests, Aly, Donna, Ben and Liz, unfortunately didn’t arrive until Tuesday as EasyJet decided to cancel their flight on Saturday and once they were at Gatwick! 

So, within an hour of arrival Tuesday afternoon, we were off! First stop Portič, as it’s not far, has turquoise water and a beach bar. At about 8pm sudden squall came through and hit Nimmie sideways lifting the anchor. It immediately reset itself but we were now too close to another boat so we reanchored in another part of the bay. A number of boats had the same problem so supper was put on hold until everyone was sorted!

Kayak racing!

Next day (Wednesday July 26), we ventured along the Istrian coast to Kuje as the picture in the pilot book made it look very pretty. Instead, it was by a fishing harbour with a beach bar that didn’t close until 3am! Still, the water was refreshing and we had a BBQ onboard. The following day we continued towards Vinjole where we had the bay to ourselves for the first few hours. Turquoise water and very sheltered. The water was absolutely freezing as it was fed by a freshwater underground spring. No wonder it was deserted! 

Vinjole


We needed to be back in Veruda by Friday evening to ensure that we had a berth for the following week (as we were in a villa with friends) so a prompt start to the day to make our way to the marina. As we were coming into moor, the bow thruster decided not to work again and they wanted to put us in a space that was, apparently, “smaller than a gnat’s arse”. We made it with no injuries or damage but it was a close run thing! 
We’ve spent the last week in Kamenjak National Park, Premantura in a lovely villa celebrating three 60th and one 50th birthdays. Great fun. One of the days we brought Sarah, Joey, Yvonne and Julie back to Portic. 

A stunning sunset

Now we are back on Nimrod with Sue and Sheila. Back to Portic for the night but sadly have been invaded by charter boats on their first day – although entertaining in a scary way when they are a tad  too close to you and can’t anchor!

Sue trying to drown Sheila!

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Back in Istria

We left Skradin about 10.45am on Monday morning having waved Ingrid and Jan Olav off on their bus to Split and for us to make our way north to Pula as Liz needed to go home to the UK for a few days. The wind was blowing NE and gusting 15 knots as we made our way down river to Šibernik. It then went round to the SW and died so we motored for the first few hours. Then all hell broke loose with the wind and sea building from the NW – exactly the direction we wanted to go. We ended up tacking our way through the islands with the aid of the motor so that we could point a little higher. We only made it back to Soline on Pašman, some 20nm less than we wanted by nightfall. Rather than push on, we decided to pick up a mooring buoy and rest. 

The next morning was a very different mattter with only a light breeze from the North so we again motor sailed towards Pula. We left Soline at 0630 so that we would have 14 hours of daylight. We made it to the anchorage, Portič, in the Premantura National Park by 2030. We knew the holding was excellent here and this time, there were only a few boats there so plenty of room. We went to bed tired but knowing we only had a couple of hours sail round to Pula in the morning. 

On Wednesday, the wind had moved round to the south so it was a warm (and busy) run round the corner to Marina Veruda on the outskirts of Pula. You can tell that the high season has truly started as lots of small boats mingle with the Italian motor boats trying to get somewhere as quickly as possible. There are a number of anchorages around Pula that seem quite busy with turquoise water and beach bars so no doubt we will be investigating them at some point!

One of the many types of vessels we had to dodge going into Pula!


We are now in the marina ahead of our next guests arriving on Saturday evening. Liz has flown back to the UK so has left me a list of jobs to complete before she returns!

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A tale of three national parks

After a lovely peaceful evening in Soline, we motored 10nm to the Telašcica National Park where the mooring buoys are free but they charge you around £50 to enter the park! Still, it was a beautiful place to sit out a blow. Ingrid and Liz tried out the repaired kayak. 

We ate on board and enjoyed the breeze after the searing heat of the day. 

Friday morning dawned with lighter winds but enough to sail or so we thought! We were headed for the southern tip of the Kornati Islands, another national park. These islands have been described as looking like a moonscape as it is so barren. Apparently the Venetians stripped these islands of their trees and destroyed the topsoil so hardly anything grows here now. Not so much beautiful as interesting. We ended up motor sailing and the bay we stayed in is called Opat with a small jetty and a fabulous restaurant. Ingrid and Jan Olav treated us to a sumptuous meal there of freshly caught John Dory and lobster. 

The view from the restaurant in Opat

The views from the top of the hilltop across the Kornati were amazing, even if the climb was a bit steep!


The forecast was showing that a Bora was due in and wherever we were by Saturday afternoon, we would be stuck in for at least two days so we hightailed it out of there towards Šibernik on the mainland. We had a glorious sail with a fully reefed mainsail (made it as small as possible) and a bit of genoa out. We touched 7 knots at times and the waves weren’t too bad as we sailed between the islands. The reason we wanted to head towards Šibernik was to go inland for 10 miles up the river Krka to Skradin as it was the closest we could get the boat to the start of the Krka national park and its waterfalls. It was a lovely meandering cruise up river, under bridges and by lush riverbanks. The wind didn’t abate as we approached so mooring was difficult but with four of us, no damage done to us or anyone else. There were a lot of boats seeking shelter from the bora here including Dream, a 60m super yacht that can be chartered from a mere €370,000 per week complete with a crew of 15!

Skradin with super yacht Dream in the foreground

We decided to eat out after our tiring sail and had an ok meal in one of many restaurants in the village. It’s a huge tourist spot as the national park is one of the top tourist attractions in the whole of Croatia. As a result of its popularity, we took the first ferry to the park at 8am on Sunday morning. It was a good decision as the park was very quiet when we arrived. It seems that it’s a popular destination for locals and tourists alike on a Sunday afternoon as it was teeming with people later. 


We took another ferry further up the river to the monastic island of Visovac and then onto the Roški Slap waterfall area. It was stunning with its lush vegetation, insect and river life so we spend our allotted 90 mins there easily! The world’s second hydroelectric dam was built here in 1895. 

The hydroelectric dam in the foreground looking down the Krka river

Blue dragonflies!

 

What an amazing place to sit out a bora! It was still too blowy to sit outside in the cockpit when we got back so we went out for a pizza, which was excellent. 

Today we said goodbye to Ingrid and Jan Olav as they make their way south to Hvar and Split and we head north to Istria and Pula to meet up with more guests at the weekend. 

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Zadar and Soline

We decided that we would go over to Zadar town to meet Jan Olav and Ingrid off the bus Tuesday lunchtime.  This meant we needed to catch the 10.20am ferry from Preko (which means opposite by the way) so there were a few things we had to do in the morning to transform the boat from two people spreading out for the last month to four sharing. We caught the ferry with seconds to spare and 15 mins later we were in the old town.  Zadar was badly bombed in the Balkans war but its Roman ruins and historical centre were quite interesting to walk around. However, the highlight was the Sea Organ, what an amazing installation. Basically, a variety of pipes have been installed underwater on the waterfront so that the waves make a whale like sound and, as boats go past, the sound becomes more melodious and haunting. Quite soporific. 

Liz sitting on the steps of the Sea Organ in Zadar

The other reason for going into Zadar was the fact that there is a large supermarket near the bus station so we were able to stock up on things we weren’t able to get locally in Preko. By the time we all got back to the marina, we desperately needed a swim in the sea. Luckily, the water near the marina is very clear and clean so we all jumped in! We went out to eat that evening and witnessed an amazing thunderstorm. Unfortunately, the restaurant we were seated in didn’t have space indoors for us and as we hadn’t yet ordered our food we were asked to leave. Suffice to say, we won’t be returning any time soon!

This morning, after refuelling at £1 a litre (bargain), we actually had the time to sail as our destination was Uline Soline on Otok Pašman. A mere 23nm away. We arrived around 4pm, picked up a mooring buoy (you get charged whether you pick up a buoy or anchor) and went for a swim. A lazy couple of hours before dinner at one of the restaurants onshore, where the choice was either calamari or fish. They had run out of meat  but it was simple and delicious. 

Chillin’

The anchorage at U. Soline

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Preko, Otok Ugljan

An early start on Sunday to make our way down towards Zadar in order to meet Ingrid and Jan Olav, Liz’s cousins on Tuesday. During the night the wind had got up to over 20 knots in the anchorage, which was fine for us but a number of boats dragged so we were awake for a couple of hours keeping an eye out. 

The motor sail down was uneventful but we got to pass some lovely islands. The forecast had also shown some high winds all day Monday so we decided to go into the marina at Preko, which is opposite Zadar and a short (cheap) ferry ride away. I’m glad we did as Monday morning the winds increased and the marina was turning people away who hadn’t booked!

Preko from the marina

Monday was a day of chores – shopping, boat maintenance and fitting our new awnings from Ikea! They really make a difference in a marina when you tend not to get much of a breeze but do get scorching sun. 

Very pleased with our Ikea awnings

The evening was spent in the lovely company of Rosemary and Ian who have kept their boat in the marina for the last 9 years so they were pumped for inside information on the local area. 

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Welcome to Croatia – or possibly not!

Spoiler alert – the first part of this post is a bit of a rant. 

We left Venice Lagoon around midday and although we had to motor sail, we had a cracking journey over to Umag with an hour or two of actual sailing. Now, we had read that firstly, you now have to check out of Italy when crossing to Croatia as Croatia is not part of Schengen (like the UK). When we checked out of Italy at the police station in Venice, the very cute police officer said we had 24 hours to actually leave. Perfect. Secondly, when you enter Croatia, you must go to a port of entry which we did by coming into Umag. What anyone failed to tell us was that not only do you need to go directly to a port of entry but you also have to check in with the border police before doing anything else. We got there about 7.45pm and assumed that it was too late to check in so picked up a mooring buoy and started to cook dinner. About an hour later a police launch came by and asked for our papers. They then asked why we hadn’t checked in. My reply was that I had assumed they would be closed and that we would do it first thing in the morning. Apparently, they’re open 24 hours and you will be fined if you don’t check in immediately. So we left the mooring buoy and made our way to the customs quay to be told that we would be fined for breaking the law. As skipper, I took responsibility so managed to get a conviction within 5 mins of entering Croatia! Luckily, the police officer took pity on us and only fined us 1,000 kuna reduced to 666 kuna if we paid within 8 days.  Liz was all for demanding where the regulations stated this urgency but I figured, just be nice. The fine could have been much bigger and they could have impounded the boat. Less than £100 seemed a bargain. They let us stay on the custom quay overnight as it was nearly 11pm by the time they had done all the necessary paperwork and I had agreed I was guilty as charged. It left a somewhat sour taste though. 

Umag harbour before all hell broke loose


This morning, we were at the harbour master’s office at 8am so we could pay our fees and taxes for the next three months in the country and then went to a bank to pay the fine. All done by 9.30am so we slipped our mooring at 10 to make our way south. Not a great way to start our adventures in Croatia!

However, we make good time today and it made a change to have other boats around us during the course of the day. We are currently anchored in a bay just south of Pula,  Istria. It’s a large anchorage with some 30 boats and room for 10 more. After a much needed swim, it is hammock time with a gin and tonic. The northern part of Croatia is supposed to be much quieter than  the south so it could get interesting  finding a space as we move down the coast. 

A much more peaceful anchorage in Portic. Hammock time

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Venice – amazing experience and now Croatia!

We had three days in Venice and took full advantage of our travel card on the vaporetti (water buses). Although it is expensive at €40 for 72 hours, it’s a lot cheaper than the water taxis or gondolas. It probably worked out at about €2 a trip. Neither of us had been to Venice for many, many years so we ensured we did all of the touristy things like the Basilica, Doge’s Palace including walking over the Bridge of Sighs, Murano for the glass blowing and Burano for the pretty coloured houses. We also went round the Peggy Guggenheim gallery and part of the Biennale Art Festival where my niece in law, Trine, was exhibiting. 

What it must have been like to look out for the last time as a prisoner crossing the Bridge of Sighs

Looking out across the Grand Canal from The Guggenheim

Glass blowing on Murano

 

The famous Rialto bridge


But we also took time to just wander the streets and canals, away from the main drag. One of the areas we visited was the Jewish Gheto. Apparently, this is how the name ghetto came into being. The Doge rounded up all the Jews in 1527 and put them on an island that was originally a foundry, gheto in Italian,  and enforced a curfew to stop the men fraternising with the local women. 

The original Jewish ‘gheto’


Nimmie has been staying on the island of Certosa, reclaimed marshland that is now a lovely park area, although the mozzie nets came in very handy at dusk. On Thursday, we took the dinghy over to St Elena to do a grocery shop after having inspected and filtered our fuel. Thankfully, we had very few black bits and no sign of the dreaded diesel bug in the remaining 38 litres.

Not bad for a 20 year old fuel tank

Shopping Venetian style!


So, on Friday morning we left the marina and refuelled on the Lido, then took the opportunity to get as close to San Marco as we were allowed (you need a special licence to go into the Grand Canal) before heading out of the lagoon to cross to Croatia.  

Not many people get to sail their boat into Venice!

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San Marino and Rimini

San Marino is reputed to be the oldest constitutional republic in the world, having been founded in around 300AD. It is a tiny country but fascinating with its castle and towers. Being some 700m up on a craggy hilltop, The views across to the Adriatic were stunning. They even mint their own Euro coins and have a standing army of a thousand soldiers. We caught a bus there from Rimini for €5 each way and as it was only 25km away, took less than an hour. 

Like something out of a fairy tale

Own number plates and of course everything is blue and white!

 

We decided that we would make our way to Venice on the Monday morning so headed into town on the Sunday evening for a meal and a sunset drink. The food wasn’t great but the sunset was breathtaking. We could catch a chain ferry from just outside the marina across the canal for less than an Euro and it saved us at least a couple of miles if we’d gone round by road. Rimini is very much geared to tourists and beaches although the old part of town had some lovely architecture and dates back to Roman times. 

The Tiberius bridge completed in 21AD

Rimini in Roman times


It is also a cycling haven. Everyone seems to cycle and they all have these retro ‘sit up and beg’ types. Our little fold up bikes seemed inconsequential by comparison but at least no one wanted to nick them!

As Venice is 80nm away from Rimini, it meant an early start on Monday morning to take advantage of the tide and also get there in daylight as navigating the Venice Lagoon can be challenging. We slipped our mooring just after 6am and quietly left the marina. The wind was behind us so although we had 10-14 knots of wind, it wasn’t quite enough to give us the 6 knots we needed to average to get to Venice by 8pm. So, as is the way in the Med, we had to motor sail the whole way although we did end up surfing down some great waves on the final leg of the journey. 

We arrived at the entrance to the lagoon at 7pm and by 8.30pm we were safely moored up on Certosa Island. It is reclaimed marshland and has its fair share of mosquitoes come dusk. Liz got bitten to death that first night so I had to go to the marina office to check in and get the electricity turned on. Luckily, it was dark by then so not as bad. It is incredibly quiet on the island and a welcome relief from all of the hustle and bustle of central Venice. 

The peaceful idyll of Certosa


We plan to stay here until Friday when we will cross to Croatia in time for our first guests. 

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Ravenna

As we are planning on being based in Rimini for a few days, we took the opportunity to catch a train, for the princely sum of less than €10 each return, to Ravenna, an hour north. At one time Ravenna was the capital of the Western Roman Empire under Emperor Honorius and a major port. The sea has long receded and the town is now some 11km inland. It is renowned for its Byzantine and early Roman Christian mosaics, dating back to around the 5th Century AD. We thought there would be a couple of places to visit to see them but they are dotted all around the town. 

Whilst catering for tourists, it’s a lovely place to visit with an interesting historical centre and museums that are open all day rather than shutting between 1230 and 330pm, which happened regularly in other areas of Southern Italy. I know we shouldn’t complain but it was also nice that it was overcast for most of the day to give us some respite from the sun. 

We made it back to the boat in time to watch a fabulous sunset with G&Ts in the hammocks. 

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Engine problems resolved and now in Rimini

Having been unimpressed with Ortano, we decided to leave after breakfast. We bled the system again to ensure that there was no air in the fuel as the engine was still very hot when we did it the night before. We crossed all our digits and started the engine. She sounded fine so we made the decision to continue north but hug the Coast so that if we did need to divert to a harbour we could. After the first 6 hours, there was no sign of a lack of power and she sounded ‘right’ so we thought we would crack on. So, 23 hours later we arrived in Rimini, party capital of Italy (Liz is very happy) and none the worse apart from being tired. 

Rimini is tidal so the marina has posts instead of lazy lines to tie up to at the bow (front) and then onto a pontoon at the stern (back). 

Reversing between two piles with very little manoeuvring room


We got in at 0930 about three hours before another storm. The wind really picked up by Midday and by 1800 all hell had let loose – mind you, the resulting downpour gave Nimmie a good wash!

So, today we went on a 24km bike ride on our trusted folding bikes to Ikea. Yes, there’s one just outside of Rimini. We wanted some awning to keep the sun off the boat as it’s already in the low 30s in the shade and nearly 40’in the sun. It ended up an all day affair but a successful one!

Who knew Ikea would be in Italy?

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