Thursday, 31 July 2008
We used the RIB to shuttle back a forth from Vis Town and Kut, but in the end were pleased we had stayed away from the town; it was noisy that night.
The next day the wind and swell had dropped, so we headed for Stari Grad. We were really impressed with the town. It had a terrific atmosphere, not too big or small, busy without being too busy. We were a ten minute walk to the swimming area (direction Ferry berth) with an adjacent café and 100m from the first bar in the town! That evening we tried one of your recommendations - Restaurant Cod Barba Luke which was first class and probably vied with Pod Bore at Vela Luka and Trica gardelin at Vrboska as the best restaurants we ate at. The food, as always, was good and meticulously served. We drank a white St Klement and a red Faros(?). The following night it was a toss up whether to eat on board, but it was hot so we plumped for pizzas, salad and pasta at the Pharos on the quay. Simple, but good, and the pizza bread with rosemary was a revelation. It was worth the visit just to eat that. In total, for 4 salad starters, pizza or pasta main course, 4 ice creams and a couple of bottles of wine, I paid 600 Kn. As always the staff were first class. Mooring charges 20 Kn per metre, which seems to include tourist tax
We were sad to leave Stari Grad and decided to try Bol. The small quay was exceptionally busy and pressed everyone close to the boats. That and the adjacent cafés would have made for a noisy night. We noted that the two outside berths on the eastern edge of the inner breakwater were vacant, but after watching those boats already berthed rocked up and down by the swell from the "sixpenny sicks" (trip boats) for several minutes we decided to give it a miss. So we made for Vrboska. Once again another revelation, a beautiful small town.
Clearly there is competition between the ACI marina and the town berths. If there is a spare town berth a whistle is blown, arms are waved to attract attention and lazy lines made ready. The young man and his brother who supervise the moorings are certainly on the ball and a couple of "fixers" - restaurant to eat, wine to taste (and buy) and so on. Apart from the ACI marinas, this was the most expensive berth we had 40 Kn per metre, but I reckoned it was worth it. Incidentally the bornes here have a 32 amp supply as well as 16 amps; the ACI marina only has 16 amp so far as I could see. We ate on board the first night and the second had a meal at Restoran Trica gardelin. This is quite a large restaurant and was busy lunchtime and evening the day of our arrival, so we booked for the second night. One of the best restaurants we ate at.
For our last night before returning to Rogoznica we made for Maslinica. Once again we were stunned; a small village, but with bags of character. We berthed to the South; there aren't many berths, around 12, depending on the size of the boats. A lot of work appears to be going on at the jetty, but I'm not sure for what. In any event, there are only two bornes with eight 16 amp sockets each. The fortified villa is now an upmarket hotel with beautiful gardens and a posh restaurant called "Martinis Marchi". Surprisingly, there was no menu posted outside the restaurant, or any indication that sailors were welcome, so we took our custom to the restaurant at the head of the bay. It was packed, there was an accordionist, and we thorougly enjoyed ourselves; sod Martinis Marchi!
We had a drink at the Konoba Moni before dinner. We were made welcome, even though we weren't dining there.
A couple of points about Maslinica. We arrived during the day from the South and the red/white light to starboard is hidden by trees until one is abeam of it. We also found a number of swimmers in the entrance to the inlet and around the lazy lines of the moored boats, which need to be watched for.
The next day we returned to Marina Frapa. We left early and were glad we did, since we had a Scirocco on our stern, which strengthened as the day went on. Some boats arriving at the marina after us had a real problem berthing.
Overall, we are very impressed with Croatia. The people are friendly and welcoming, and that doesn't appear to be forced. The kids are well behaved. Compared to marinas in France and Italy, everyone made an effort. Invariably, the bornes supplying electricity and water work first time. The mooring fees are cheaper than high and mid - season France and Italy.
Any complaints: one, we couldn't find anywhere that sells Schweppes tonic water in small bottles/cans!
Wednesday, 23 July 2008
Many thanks to Ian Shaw for today's posting with some great detail on his recent travels. Note particularly that Ian reports some changes in Rogač on Šolta. Ian has promised us another instalment on his trip when he has time.
Our friends arrived early on Monday morning and the following day left for Trogir to refuel. Unfortunately, a very large motor yacht had sucked the fuel dock dry and we were told we would have to wait until around 18 00 for fuel. Since it was only 11 00, we decided to head for Rogač on Šolta to refuel. There appears to be a new ferry berth here, further to seaward, then a new or refurbed fuel dock, before the town moorings. Looking at the Croatia Cruising Companion plan on page 150 it would seem the two have changed places. We liked Rogač - it was quiet, we could swim from the small beach which was a two or three minute walk around the inlet to the South side, and we enjoyed an inexpensive meal at Restaurant Pasarela (021 654-505), of fish/pizzas. The restaurant is signposted and is a two minute walk from the beach.
I paid 240 Kn for a 15m boat for one night, including tourist tax for four people. On our side of the harbour, adjacent to the fuel dock, there is only one electic "borne" from which long connecting leads to the berths were laid. It didn't seem to be working when we were there.
We had intended eating aboard the boat that evening, but a generator problem put paid to that (hence the visit to the Pasarela).
We needed to have the generator fixed. The problem was the generator motor water pump, which wasn't functioning and causing overheating. Dismantling was a difficult job, so we decided to head for ACI Milna on Brač to see if we could find a mechanic. This was our first stop at an ACI marina. How different from France were you can spend hours on the phone or VHF trying to find a berth, and when you do you are generally left to find the mooring yourself with no help from the marina. So far, the general practice seems to be "first come, first served", with a marinero to guide you to the berth and pull up a lazy line for you. The marinero seemed very keen to have the Croatian authorisations as soon as possible which puzzled us a bit, but we soon got used to it and it saved us a walk to the reception or harbour master's office (unlike France or Italy, where in some marinas it could be quite a hike). The marina was able to provide phone numbers of mechanics/electricians etc. Ours found the problem in less than a minute (a worn drive belt on the generator motor water pump) and it was quickly rectified. The mechanic was excellent and clearly knew generators.
We spent two nights in Milna and thoroughly enjoyed our stay. It's not stunningly beautiful, but had character (we were treated to the equivalent of the Croatian declaration of independence around midnight on the first night!). We ate two nights running at the Palma restaurant which is directly opposite the entrance to the boatyard on the town side of the marina. We had excellent fish each time and a three course meal with a couple of litres of house wine cost around 700 Kn. Highly recommended, and the waitress spoke better English than we did!
We did want to have a look at Hvar Town, but felt that it would be busy, so decided to head for ACI Palmižana. Once again, no problem with a berth. A one night stay turned into two as we launched the RIB and pottered around. The Captain's restaurant at the head of the jetty offered breakfast, lunch and dinner. The breakfast we had was excellent; we reeled off the order to the waitress who wrote nothing down. We were sure she would get the order wrong, but it was us who were wrong, it was exactly as ordered.
We next headed for Korčula and, specifically, Vela Luka. Of all the places we visited, it was liked the least - mainly by the ladies, but I found it OK. I think the car park adjacent to the town moorings and fuel dock gave it a bit of a desolate air. Part of the town moorings have been refurbed to give space for around 20 boats (depending on size) with new lazy lines and mooring rings. Price 310 Kn including tourist tax. We ate that evening at the restaurant recommended in the Croatia Cruising Companion (Pod Bore), exellent fish and meat and good service too. We paid around 1,000 kn for four.
Today's photo is of Milna on Brač Island.
Saturday, 12 July 2008
Thanks to Nigel Crouch for investing in the Croatia Cruising Companion and for taking the time to give his comments and experiences on his recent trip. Nigel is by no means alone in his comment about rising prices for nautical tourism in Croatia - the exchange rate is largely outside Croatia's control, but the significant year on year increases in daily berth rates at marinas and ports could end up meaning that a sailing holiday in "The Mediterranean That Once Was" (Croatia tourist board strap line) is no longer as affordable as it once was. More important than the prices themselves is that visitors believe the Minister for Tourism has a firm direction to follow and is excercising some sort of leadership on the more excessive price increases, the facilities that go with the tariff, and the overall quality of the cruising area, including conserving the pristine sea conditions that are sometimes under siege from the sheer volume of visitors. Here's Nigel's report with editorial notes in brackets and italics.
We really liked Brbinj (Dugi Otok page 68) and Antonio’s restaurant there was excellent with great grilled fish and a sublime view. I did it again on way back with Jenny and once more it was first-class.
Opat (Kornat page 76 - since we visited we understand that both restaurants are now under the same ownership) was lovely as was the lobster we consumed there in the Opat Restaurant (albeit at a lovely price!).
We spent a couple of nights in Skradin (mainland near Šibenik, page 107) and ate well in Toni’s and Canneletto’s. The Krka Falls trip was as good as ever.
Good fun fighting for a place at Primošten (mainland, page 111; recent update on prices and facilities - Croatia Cruising Companion - Primosten Update) and the harbour guy was particularly helpful. Good environment to watch one of the Croatia Euro games.
Vinišce (mainland page 130) was a very tranquil anchorage and we got some tremendous home-made red wine there (despite being in plastic beer bottles!).
Very nice guy, Nick, at outer marina in Milna (Brač page 152), who has replaced Jan and his wife, who were great characters.
We thought Vis Town (Vis page 180) was great and we ate well in the Wine Bar near the quay. On the subsequent passage to Stari Grad (Hvar page 169) we were pursued by not one but two thunderstorms, which tried to catch us in a pincer movement and almost succeeded. Stari Grad very nice and we had good meals at Pharia and Antika. Jenny had an interesting experience getting locked in the public loos there.
Trogir Marina (mainland page 132) remains the best spot by far to see people doing everything in their power to write off their boats – and everyone else’s.
Maslinica on Šolta (page 149) was a super spot and, again, a very helpful Harbour Master. Ate well in Konoba Saskinja.
We really like Rogoznica (mainland page 127) and Marina Frappa is absolutely first-class and no more expensive than the other marinas. They are just opening a very nice pool there.
We thought Tribunj (mainland page 99 and see recent update
Croatia Cruising Companion - Tribunj Update) was a nice place but the marina there was the most expensive we visited.
Could not get on to a mooring buoy at Soline on Pašman (page 50) despite early arrival – it was packed! – but turned out to be a blessing in disguise as we then went to Luka Žut (Žut page 84) and highly recommend Konoba Sandra, which had wondrous fish.
Luka Telašćica (Dugi Otok page 62) was fantastic and had superb overnight there eating on board in an idyllic spot up near the head of the channel.
Zadar (mainland page 32) was a very interesting place and Jenny had her only pukka cocktail of the trip there – an outstanding Marguerita lovingly made with infinite care by the barmaid. Had a superb meal at your recommended fish place there. Vjeko runs an excellent operation in the marina there with his Kiriacoulis team.
Despite the bizarre weather, it was a wonderful trip and we think that the overall quality of food everywhere had improved significantly. Our one worry was that with the adverse Sterling/Kuna Exchange Rate and high inflation in Marina Costs and Harbour Dues they have got to be careful not kill the golden goose in these difficult ‘credit crunch’ times.
The bottom line, though, is that Croatia is a fantastic sailing area and the people are great – thanks, again, for all your help in making it an unforgettable trip.
And again thanks to Nigel for taking the trouble to send in his comments. It's incredibly helpful to us to hear other first hand accounts of how the various destinations stand up to the test and the consistency of various restaurants that may just have been good on the day(s) we visited. We hope that such reports also provide readers of the Croatia Cruising Companion with added depth and will make sure the book stays as up to date and helpful as possible.
Today's photo is of Opat on Kornat Island.
Friday, 11 July 2008
Many thanks to Mike Forbes for today's posting and photo.
Mike shares his boat with 3 co-owners and is thus one of the unintentional victims of the Croatian legislation introduced in 2005, aimed at preventing illegal chartering, but carelessly drawn up to frustrate a number of yachtsmen simply wanting to enjoy the delights of Croatian waters at an affordable cost.
The government tells us it wants to encourage superyachts, and turns a blind eye in that respect - what about fractional owners?
For more information on the rules and regulations, follow this link - http://www.mmpi.hr/default.aspx?id=668. For an update on clearing customs at Gruz, Dubrovnik (don't - go to Cavtat!), link to noonsite.
Mike tells us that he put the Croatia Cruising Companion to good use on his travels and particularly enjoyed Uvala Pokrivenik on the north coast of Hvar (page 175). Mike is a fan of deserted anchorages and probably won't thank us for mentioning another of his favourites, Uvala Rasotica on Brač island, for which he kindly supplied excellent photos (page 12 and 160).
Mike's photo above shows his yacht in splendid isolation at Neum.
To circumvent the Croatian limit on the number of people allowed to sail on foreign-flagged vessels (28 in our case, shared between four owners) we decided to carry out our mid-cruise crew change outside Croatia, namely at Neum in the short coastline of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
On arrival from the UK I went to the Harbourmaster's Office in Split and told them my plan. The Duty Officer told me that all my crew, due to leave me in Neum, would have to appear on the List of Persons, the official List making up the 28 authorised people. I remonstrated saying that people who disembarked outside Croatia did not have to be listed; unfortunately the 2005 e-mail from the Croatian Ministry of the Sea that outlined the Rules, including out-of-Croatia crew-changes, was at home in UK. He was adamant - and so was I. He was eventually persuaded to telephone his boss - it was a Sunday - and grumpily agreed to issue me with a Crew List with their names NOT having to go on the List of Persons. We now have a copy of the all-important e-mail with our Ship's Papers.
Ten days later we checked out of Croatia at the unlovely industrial port of Ploce. All went well until the policeman who came to stamp our passports asked where and when had we registered with the police on arrival in Croatia. This is normally done by hotels, but arriving as we do and going straight to the marina it is not a practice we have followed. The policeman was taking this very seriously and returned to his HQ for further research and advice. When he returned he said the marina at Split had not reported us but he had found reference to me when I had attended some language training at a hotel in Porec in April. After muttering that ignorance of the law was no defence and laboriously taking down our details he let us go.Two hours later we arrived off Neum.
We flew a Bosnia-Herzegovina courtesy flag (made from a computer print-out) but this was the only flag we saw. We were the only yacht there, indeed the largest vessel. It is a somewhat depressing holiday resort with many people for whom we got the impression that this was their first sight of the sea. We secured stern-to the only quay, with an anchor out, and became the centre of attraction to the curious holiday-makers. The only harbourmaster in Bosnia was supremely uninterested in us, neither did the police want to know. I felt it unwise to leave the boat unattended so we dined onboard on excellent take-away pizzas.
Next day my three crew-members departed to Dubrovnik airport by taxi and were replaced several hours later by five others, including my wife and American grand daughter. I was not sorry to leave next morning, and when we checked in to Croatia at Ploce - flying Flag Q - the policewoman arrived armed with arrival registration forms which she filled in before stamping our passports. Within an hour we were off for a very welcome night at the little Hvar village of Sučuraj.
I am not sure whether other yachts use Neum to change crews, or prefer to go to Herceg-Novi, Montenegro. The latter has the advantage that there are other fascinating places to visit, such as Kotor. Whichever we use, the requirement constrains the cruise and provides a complication we could do without. But this has been a fact of Croatian cruising for foreign flags since 2005 which we have learned to live with. Hopefully, eventful EU accession will consign the Rule to history.
As a postscript to Mike's note on registering as a visitor in Croatia, this is an area where we have heard that the police are tightening up. By the letter of the law, all foreign visitors are required to register with the local police within 24 hours of arrival. If you're staying at a hotel or campsite, or on a charter holiday, registration is normally done for you. If you're staying with friends, or otherwise doing your own thing, the onus is on you, and if renting an apartment you should check that the owner has registered you.
Thursday, 10 July 2008
Restaurant Plavi Val.
Friday, 4 July 2008
Thursday, 3 July 2008
Well, we made it to Marina Frapa. We were lucky with the weather; sunshine all the way, with only a heavy swell on the starboard beam to contend with during the leg to Bonifacio, and a force 6 to 7 in the Straights of Messina. Flat calm on the leg to Ischia accompanied by dolphins at the bow of the boat for about half an hour. We sailed each leg overnight and then spent a day in port before the next one.We spent one night at Messina before crossing the straights to Reggio di Calabria. Neither have anything to commend them. We then overnighted at Marina di Leuca right on the heel of Italy, before setting a course for Vis the following afternoon just North of Otranto (the marina at Brindisi was allegedly full).We arrived at Vis on the Saturday morning, 31st May, around 9.00 am, where we eventually completed the entry formalities on the Monday morning. Strictly, our port of entry should have been Ugbi, but no one seemed to mind. The order was harbourmaster first, then police.We ate at the Hotel Tamaris restaurant on the jetty. I went for a beer first to get a feel for the place and came across Darko, the waiter from Zagreb, who could have graced any five star restaurant here in France. He was knowledgeable about the menu and the wines, enthusiastic for the food he served and gave good advice about what we should order. The five of us had a terrific meal of local fish, T-bone steaks with excellent white and red wines. Recommended.One issue left a bad taste in our mouths and it was nothing to do with Croatia. A flotilla of around 25 charter yachts, crewed by young French doctors and partners arrived on the Sunday afternoon. Their fancy dress party continued until breakfast time the following morning when one of the crew on a nearby yacht decided to cool down his friend with the hosepipe. The locals had had enough by this time and had called the police, who arrived only to be hosed down as well through the open window of the police car. Whether this was deliberate or not is difficult to say, but the guilty party was indentified I suspect, by his own colleagues, otherwise all aboard looked likely to be detained "for questioning", and taken off in the police car. On the positive side we met some charming Americans from the Seattle area, when we helped them repair the propeller on the dinghy outboard. They had a "wobbly" arrival and having made up their lines proceeded to remove the outboard from the dinghy which they had been towing. The skipper, unfortunately, was defeated by physics since he stood up in the dinghy cradling the outboard in his arms only for the dinghy to suddenly slide forward dumping him overboard. I was having a beer at the bar opposite and jumped up since I was concerned he might have injured himself in the fall, but as I did a hand appeared over the jetty clutching the rope attached to the outboard followed by a very wet skipper. The sacrificial pin on the propeller broke, but we fixed them up with a temporary repair. They showed their gratitude by kindly inviting us aboard for a drink before dinner.We eventually left Vis late Monday morning for Marina Frapa arriving just after lunch. It is certainly impressive. We moored the boat on the seaward side of the last pier until the marina master had completed his berth planning. A bit strange since the berth had been booked and paid for in February. So we had the long walk to the heart of the marina.
The system there seems to be that you book anything you need through marina reception...boat cleaning, engineering, electricals etc. One fills in a work sheet and it is then processed. It’s too early to say how well this works and the service manager was new.There is an excellent laundry at the marina, to the extent that we left a lot of our clothes there and will pick them up this weekend.We walked to Rogoznica and back, road surfacing and drainage works all over. Not a particularly interesting walk and I think the answer is to take the RIB across to the village if we want to go there.We found the Croatians we met charming. They were interested in us and what we thought of their country and showed real pleasure when we said how impressed we were. I got a good "feel" about the country and I am sure we will enjoy our visits there. Croatia deserves to succeed.
Thanks again Ian - looking forward to more news!
Today's photo is of the the view from Hotel Tamaris, in Vis, across to the small islet, now attached to the mainland.