Letter from Croatia
Friday 6 June
Croatia Airlines use Airbus 'equipment' but provide simple service. Dubrovnik airport is uncomplicated. We were booked in to the Excelsior Hotel which is 5 star - ask for a sea view if/when you book! The hotel/travel company arranged transport to the hotel.
A better hotel is Villa Orsula - it's smaller and more characterful and is right next door to the Excelsior. We arrived in time for some nightcaps.
Get Matt to arrange transport from the airport to Berenice! The journey to Berenice in the 'New Harbour' (Gruž) takes less than 30 minutes.
Saturday 7 June
2 cruise ships (Costa Atlantica and ?) were parked in the bay which only slightly detracted from the great view of the Adriatic, the island of Lokrum and the city walls.
We visited the old town of Dubrovnik (which is Dubrovnik). It is very beautiful and not to be missed and it doesn't need more than a day. We had lunch at the former convent of St Claire - a welcome rest from the incredible heat.
Having discovered a wine shop, Marcus and I set about choosing the cellar - a most enjoyable chore. Most of the wines were Croatian and one or two Slovenian.
Contact details: Vina Milicic Od Sigurate 2 Dubrovnik Tel: 321-777
In the evening, we ate at Club Nautica. This is slated as the best food in town and it was undoubtedly good but a little pretentious. You sit outside with the old city walls as a backdrop to a very quaint mini harbour.
Sunday 8 June
We arose late but in time for breakfast. Today, Costa ? was parked in the bay. We packed and then decamped to the 'beach' to witness a very large German break a sun lounger just by sitting on it.
We arrived aboard Berenice at 1315. The crew were very smartly dressed and the boat looked fantastic. Matt had efficiently organised transport from the airport for our friends, and they arrived 30 minutes later.
We decided to sail immediately and Tabby produced a great cold lunch which we ate while motoring out of the harbour.
We headed for a small bay on the SW of Lopud where we went snorkelling in the beautiful clear water. We had to form an anchor lifting team as the hydraulic pump blew a gasket.
Then on to the island of Šipan (pronounced sheepan) and into the old harbour town of Šipanska Luka. It's hard to describe such an idyllic place. The stone here is so elegant and there is a faded grandeur to many of the buildings. We were met at the harbour wall by a friendly local who took our lines. All the locals are friendly.
Most of us showered in eager anticipation of Tabby's supper and then walked around the harbour. Once the other side, Marcus, the one who hadn't showered, jumped in the clear water and started out across to Berenice. This was too much for me, so Russell and I gave our clothes to Liz and we jumped in after him. We arrived back aboard Berenice in just our underpants.
Supper was mussels, dorade, tart & cheese. The food was very good, presented nicely and served very professionally. We nearly exhausted the wine cellar.
Monday, 9 June
Slept like a log (Liz described my sleep slightly differently). Matt and Christian worked with a local engineer to get the hydraulic pump fixed.
We took the rib along the coast round to the north side of the island and found many little inlets but most had a boat at anchor. So, we decided to leave them in peace and found somewhere else to have our swim. It's very hot.
We arrived back on Berenice and the table was laid for lunch and the repairs completed. We slipped ashore for a beer in the harbour bar and then back on board again for a great lunch of tomato & basil omelette and 3 different salads served to us as we glided majestically out of the harbour. Just enough wind to put the sails up and then it dropped and the sails came down for the leg across to Mljet (meejay). We stopped in U Nad Garma - like a lagoon on the NW tip of the island. It was something like paradise and we broke out the water skiis - brilliant!
Then on to a tiny bay just below Prožura which boasts a marina. This is a slight misnoma for 3 wooden posts set in rough concrete but it was charming.
More swimming before supper in the now familiar clear blue water. We had Dalmatian ham and melon followed by chicken breast, puy lentils and new potatoes. Hot sour cherries and ice cream, cheese and coffee completed another great meal. We sampled more good wine and stayed up late to solve more of the World's problems.
Tuesday, 10 June
Awoke in paradise, jumped from the bowsprit into water so mirror-like I couldn't see the surface and it felt as if I was going straight into the seabed. There is little more stimulating than an early morning swim in crystal clear water.
No wind, so we motored up the northern coast of Miljet. The rib ran alongside pulling the water skiers. We tied up stern to in Pomeno which is an active harbour and home to a small fleet of charter yachts. Tabby had prepared a picnic and we set off almost immediately for the Jezero lakes. 2 seawater lakes lie in the middle of the island and are fed by a narrow channel from the sea. The boys swam across the lake and the girls walked around.
We found a quiet shaded spot on the smaller lake and tucked in to a great Mediterranean loaf with a puy lentil, a potato and a bean salad. We brought the banana cake back with us for tea.
On the large lake we hired canoes and paddled to the island stopping for a drink in a lakeside café. On rejoining our canoes, Marcus fell in.
We are now sipping a lovely Grašvina looking at the harbour from a distance and about to be served our starter. Supper: goats cheese filo pastry parcel, snapper, blackberry mousse, cheese.
Wednesday 11 June
Left Pomena after breakfast, motored to U Prižna - a delightful beach. We broke out the doughnut and Christian did his level best to make us fall out.
Swimming followed by lunch watching other boats anchor in this peaceful bay. The wind picked up and we hoisted all but the mizzen stay sail. Awesome! We all went out in the rib to have a look she just looks beautiful. Liz took many pictures.
Marcus was crew boss for the day so that he could practice his coastal skipper skills. As we rounded the headland the wind disappeared and we dropped the sails.
Marcus steered us safely into Korčula where we dropped anchor in the harbour and went shopping. This lovely 17c walled town shows signs of loving restoration. We found a small wine shop and bought a case of 3 varieties of white wine. Marcus changed some money in the main hotel and we sought advice on buying wine. She advised against buying non-branded wines in town as it has often been doctored with sugar, colouring etc. She suggested visiting the winegrowing villages such as Lumbarda and buying there.
Back to Berenice for roast pepper soup, prawns & mussels with spaghetti, sunken chocolate cake and cheese. We talked until 3 and had to hit the cognac.
Thursday 12 June
Breakfast as we slipped out of the harbour. The wind was perfect and all the sails went up immediately. Crossing the Peljeski Kanal we reached 9 knots on a broad reach. This was the best sail so far. You cannot imagine how easy she is to sail and how wonderful it feels to be aboard with the Croatian coastline gliding by. Everyone was smiling. I don't have the words to express the sense of pride.
Anyway, we anchored off the Pelješac peninsula at Podstup. Matt and Marcus went ashore to arrange a wine tasting, 'I'll be back in one hour', they were told. So, we swam to a little beach and snorkelled for an hour then lunch - whitebait and great salads. At the sound of his car horn we ribbed ashore and from his boot we sampled a great red, a dreadful white and some frightening schnapps. A dozen bottles of the good red have been added to Berenice's cellar.
More sailing to the Miljet archipelago and we anchor in the dreamiest place - no nothing - just rocks and trees and the sound of goats. We were between Kobrava and Mljet Loads of water skiing and Kate has her initiation and performed really well.
Supper: aubergine & cheese flan, fabulous cevette, caramel oranges, cheese.
Friday 13 June
Early morning dip and then after breakfast we legged it from our beautiful anchorage to a bay on the mainland.
Christian gave us a textbook demonstration of scurfing. Markus and I tried to emanate him and gave up when the pain and bleeding became too much.
The girls thought they would walk up the hill but it was just too prickly. Round the corner into the Stonski Kanal and motored across to Kobas and tied up stern to at Niko's restaurant. Matt bought us a beer and we sat for a while talking to Niko about the war, his sister's family, wine and the local mussels, clams, finger mussels and oysters.
Then we took the rib up the estuary to Ston where they have large salt beds and a 14c fortification - the longest in Europe.
Supper: mussels & oysters from Niko's kitchen, bream and a cake with candles & cheese. Late night conversation until 2am and then the girls went to bed and we went skinny dipping.
Saturday 14 June
Early morning dip before breakfast and then on to a shallow bay halfway back towards Gruž. Finally, Russell got up on the skis! Still few fish.
Lunch: feta & spinach tart, lamb kofta, Dan Fish kebabs, aubergine parcels filled with tuna, houmus and melon sorbet to finish.
Motored into Gruž and parked up stern to in the harbour next to a gross 90' motor yacht. The locals always offer advice on parking. They never seem to know what they are talking about though. The weather now gets seriously warm and humid. It is impossible to stay dry. So, we took a bus from the harbour to the old town. It is very beautiful and I felt at home back in Dubrovnik - forced, as I was, to walk barefoot because of the grazes on my toes incurred while trying to skurf.
Supper at Sesame - I think this is really some of the best food in the area. Beware of the aperitif brandies; they can taste horrible and run at about 45% alcohol. How do I know all this? Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. We had a little sampling session. We variously ate: black risotto, seafood plate preceded by various vegetable and fish carpaccios. If you want to try fish Porporlera (batter of beer and egg white.) then you must give them 24 hours notice. Someone try it and tell me what it's like!
Miška, the restaurateur, is wonderful. I asked about his country and 20mins later we had an insight into Croatia, tourism, the war, Dalmatian weather patterns and much more. Without any prompting at all, Miška went on to describe this beautiful British yacht that was based in the Gruz harbour and that we should go and see it. Needless to say, he was speaking of Berenice. Also, needless to say, I was listening with the appearance of a Cheshire cat. When we revealed the truth he went on to describe the friendly crew and their hard work.
At Miška's recommendation, we went to a fabulous bar which we had seen from the ramparts one week earlier. As we were walking there we met Matt and Tabby coming the other way. So, we invited them along; I think Matt was slightly impressed with the place. Markus and Kate were due to fly very early the next day so they set off back to Berenice with Liz while Sally, Russell, Matt, Tabby and I had another beer. Back on Berenice, Tabby made us a cocktail to try and stave off the reality of this being our last night.
Sunday 15 June
Breakfast in the harbour as Lizzie served us for the last time.
At 1000, I declared the crew off duty. Russell and Sally left by taxi and Liz joined them to be dropped off in the old town. I worked on the satcom email, cellphone internet access, transferring Lizzie's files, printing with limited success.
Returned to the Excelsior Hotel (it's nice but try Villa Orsula!) - exhausted so slept.
Drummed up enough enthusiasm to eat and returned to Club Nautica.
Monday 16 June
Rented a scooter and travelled north along the coast to check out Ston which would be the local town to Broce where I saw a great derelict house. Went swimming along the way to stave off the heat. Reached Mila Ston soon after lunch - a pretty small town and the oyster capital of Croatia. This is a really beautiful spot. Stopped for beer and oysters.
On to Ston which boasts these incredible fortifications. The town is medieval and well preserved/repaired with some bars and restaurants. This is the salt capital of Croatia.
Tuesday 17 June