Jim thought it important to explain the difference between private cruising and local Dalmatian charter sailing. Private cruising is more self-reliant, being able to exist for long periods away from safe port. Dalmatian chartering is for going short distance between marinas where at night the boat is plugged into the Islands electrical grid, freshwater utilities. Charter boat batteries don’t need to be big. Fresh water tanks can be smaller. When Diana washes the dishes she uses the same quantity of fresh water as used in a home kitchen. Showers can be long and frequent because every night the water tanks are hooked up to the marina’s waterlines.
Fresh food, leafy greens, fruit, fresh bread, fresh seafood is replenished everyday. Specialized charter cooks have lots of time to prepare meals. Charter boat kitchens are large. They have lots of gourmet cooking utensils that would compete for storage space on a cruiser boat. If a charter cook breaks a Turkish coffee maker then a phone call is made and a new coffee maker quickly ferried to the sailboat.
The value of time is different as well. Charter life is based on a schedule. There are more charter boats than Marina slips. Marina slips must be reserved ahead of time. Charter crew are local and need to be scheduled for specific work times. Chartering allows telling the skipper where and when to go yet most charters spend only one night per port. The marinas are full at night and barren in day. The people hiring charters want to visit as many islands as possible similar to whirlwind European bus tours that advertise seeing all of Europe in 7 days.
Cruisers are not on that type schedule. Their schedule is more based on wind, tide and currents. Cruisers have time to relax and spend as much time as they want in port. This allows plenty of time to absorb the culture, get know the local people, unravel and feel the unique sensation of place.
Our self charter on Vana is a mixture of both worlds. Since we have never been to Croatia we are content to be anywhere doing anything. Everything is a new experience. We are quite happy being pampered and cooked for. Enjoying coastal town restaurants at night.
The sense of adventure is more mature. This time of year the seas are normally calm with fair weather sailing. Cell phone towers are everywhere. Phone and internet service wherever we go. Help a phone call away, not much sense of sailing danger.
None of us had any preconceptions of what Croatia sailing would be like. This area was completely off our radar. Pirates? Hillbilly cliff hermits that shoot at you if you get too close?Our adventure is discovering what this place unfolds. So far it opulent luxury in a beautiful place without worries. Different in every way yet totally agreeable.
Wind is strong. Getting around Brac’s southern point could be rough so we motor. As soon as we round Brac’s southern point the wind eases and the sails go up.
The west side of Brac is steep and heavily forested. We sailed by coastal towns. Vineyards, olive groves cling to steep south facing terraced slopes that surround the red tile roof towns.
Up ahead we see kite surfers zipping along the shore. Diana points out we are sailing past Golden Beach, a popular resort town. There is a large sign on shore. Jacque asks Diana what it means. With affection she says it’s the local Split soccer club. I ask who their rival is. She says Zagreb.
The channel between islands is opening up. We see the open sea for the first time. Over the horizon is the middle section of Italy. We are pointed directly to Rome. Our goal for the day is to reach the town of Stari Grad on the the Island of Hvar. We tack to the south and go into a bay on the western side of Hvar Island.
This bay is full of charter boats. The bay is also full of large yachts that we call Russian oligarch boats. As we sail past an oligarch boat I ask Jim, “What if one of these blood thirsty oligarchs is pissed we stole their favorite cook?” Jim laughs and replies we just have to be on the ready for a fight.
We sail past a large Croatian Navy ship that doesn’t have any deck guns. It has towing equipment at its stern. It probably aids ships with engine problems.
Diana tells us Stari Grad is the oldest town in Croatia. The protected harbor here is good so the Greeks built a town here.
She points to an old hotel nightclub that she danced at as a teenager back in the Soviet days. She said it was real nice then. I ask if Russians came here. She said not so many. Mostly Yugoslavian, Czechoslovakian, East German. Now the hotel looks vacant.
We take Vana into the crowded harbor. A speed boat roars up to us. A man yells that we must turn around and leave. He says there is no room in the harbor. Diana harshly shouts back something in Croatian and the man leaves. Diana says it’s ok for us to be here.
Row after row of oligarch boats. The harbor continues but it’s getting too difficult to maneuver. We turn around and find anchorage in a forested inlet.
Today we drop off Diana at the Stari Grad pier so she can take the ferry to Split to attend her cousin’s wedding. She is concerned we will starve without her so she makes us a dinner to eat later before she leaves.
We pump up the inflatable dingy and mount a cheap Chinese 3 horsepower outboard motor to its stern. We don’t have much faith in this motor so we secure oars to the sides of the dingy. The dingy motor starts ok. Jim ferries Jacque and me back to Stari Grad town center. We enjoy a cafe beer while Jim and Tony take Diana to the ferry pier.
We learn later that the dingy motor worked fine but we forgot to check if the gas tank was full. The motor ran out of gas half way to the ferry pier. Jim rowed Diana and Tony to the pier. Diana said that the rowing was a real adventure.
Dingy motor two stroke fuel wasn’t readily available at the pier so Jim, who enjoys rowing, rowed Tony back to Vana where we had a container of fuel.
Jim and Tony then dingy motor to Stari Grad town center and meet Jacque and me at the cafe. We walk around the old narrow streets exploring the town. The narrow streets are very similar to old town Split but the buildings are not as high. As we walk through the narrow passages we discover there is no new town beyond, just open farm fields, lavender and olive groves. It’s quite pleasant.
From the boat we could see a tall bell tower in the center of town. Navigating through the twisting narrow passages to find the bell tower is difficult. The town isnt that big so we eventually stumble upon the tower. On the way we find interesting secluded passageway restaurants.
After exploring around Tony picks a restaurant he likes and orders Croatian wild boar. Tony asks the restaurant owner if pig is actually wild. The owner says yes. The wild pigs are hunted on this Hvar island. Jim orders bottle of wine from a local Hvar vineyard. Tony’s shares his wild bore with all of us. It is really good.
We buy more groceries and the 4 of us fit into the small inflatable dingy and motor back to Vana. In the morning we will sail to Korcula Island.