Picking up where I left off talking about landing in Paradise on a boat in Croatia…
As I wrote about earlier, our seven-day bareboat cruise on a catamaran sailboat (meaning you rent the boat and are pretty much on your own) had gotten off to a great start the first and second days. This included a big lesson learned about karma when it comes to boats. It turns out there were more adventures to come.
Day Three took us to a beautiful, mostly-empty cove for water activities, a nice lunch and relaxation (because there can never be too much of that).
We then made our way across a long stretch to the town of Komiza on the back island of Vis. This small town of fewer than 3,000 people dates back to at least the 12th century, and possibly earlier. There we moored, watched a beautiful sunset and ate a magnificent meal prepared on the boat.
Tell Me It Will Never End
Day Four (gulp – we had passed the halfway mark and were realizing this week would be ending before we knew it!!), we went over to Milna, a quiet cove off seemingly uninhabited Hvar, where we picked up a mooring buoy owned by the waterfront restaurant, Konoba Kotin. This is common there. Restaurants, usually family-owned, buy the concession to mooring buoys and then let you use them overnight in exchange for dining at their exorbitantly priced establishments – nothing is free, of course. (Still, it’s a deal compared to paying for a slip at a marina or babysitting your anchor all night.)
First, however, we took a taxi over a winding, bumpy road to the other side of the island where we saw that this huge island is anything but uninhabited. With busy ferry action and a major tourist scene, it’s quite the happenin’ place. We hiked up lots of stairs and some paths to its hilltop fortress built in the mid-1500s, where we took in stunning views of Hvar City and Paklinski islands, visited the castle prison (whose cells and doors are still intact), and enjoyed a hilltop ice cream.
Upon descending, we roamed Hvar City a bit, marveled at the long ferry lines, sought to solve my husband’s phone problem with a new SIM card and hung out for awhile at a cafe. Back on the peaceful side of the island, our 12-year-old water-taxi driver (associated with the restaurant) shuttled us to/from the boat. Later, we dined on fresh, grilled fish.
Sometimes Ya Gotta Be Desperate to Get Results
Day Five, we stopped in the morning at Marina Palmizana on an island across the way to refill our water tanks. There we got an education on the party-cruise scene. The marina was loaded with boats full of young backpackers who pay a minimal amount to share bunks with strangers and party like crazy all week on a sailboat while island hopping as a huge caravan. Why didn’t they offer these when I was a backpacker????!!!!
From there we looked for another idyllic cove to hang out in for awhile. By now, our daughters’ gentle proddings to meet families with kids their ages had escalated into a full-blown emergency. My highly social children had now gone over a month without any peer interaction, and after watching us cavort with our pals, they were ready to lose their minds. They were belting out hourly refrains of (and I paraphrase): “Put down your beers and find us some damn kids. We’re in crisis, people!!”
Cue the sidebar conversation with Igor, our skipper and a local, to explain the situation and set priorities. He was now in cahoots with me to make it happen. He targeted a small, popular cove with family vacation homes and a little beach. As we floated in, it seemed we had hit the jackpot. Kids galore. But alas, all of the mooring buoys were taken, with other boats starting to hover behind us to look for a landing spot. No room! (I could almost hear God giggling, notorious prankster that He is.)
Have no fear, though. Our super-smooth, uber-connected skipper was on it. He was buddies with the skipper of one of the comfortably moored boats and hailed him on the radio. Whether it was lucky timing, a financial gift or the promise of a first-born child, I don’t know. But somehow that other boat decided to leave. And we were right in there for the handoff, like diners sliding onto a food-court table just as it’s being vacated, trays in hand.
Now it was a matter of finding kids. Mine are at that age when they don’t dare put their necks on the line for fear of suffering any kind of humiliation. I, on the other hand, am at that age when there is no such thing. One of the benefits of the age-related decline of the prefrontal cortex is that one knows no shame. I have no problem embarrassing them or myself. So if they weren’t going to hunt for kids and introduce themselves to perfect strangers, I was more than happy to do so, even at the risk of looking like a weirdo. This mama bear was going to let nothing stop her from helping my kids socialize for the first time in a long while.
I swam from the boat to the roped-off swimming and beach area and hovered, seeking opportunities for a casual convo. No dice. The ages just weren’t right. I then saw a separate roped-off swimming area near a rental home, where a young teen with her father nearby had that same, bored demeanor I had seen many times on my own teen. Aha! I struck up a conversation, asking about the house – it seemed ancient, so I was curious. Dad joined the discussion, and it soon came out that they were from Serbia, and this thirteen year old (13? Am I hearing that right? Finally! A kid my kid’s age!! Oh my God, and she speaks some English!!) was bored silly and tired of hanging out with her 10-year old brother (Come again??? A two-fer!! One for each of my kids – oh the joy. Ok, now, play it cool. Play it cool.)
But before I could reign the words back in, they popped out: “Yippee!!! I have a bored 13 year old! AND a bored 10 year old! Want to come to our boat and hang out???!!!”
Now, in the States, the father would have grabbed his daughter, swum like hell back to shore, run into the house and called the police. Fortunately, the vibe here was such that his kid matched my desperate enthusiasm with an even louder, “YES!!” and jumped up off of her float to swim to our boat, barely taking a breath along the way. Before I knew it, her brother had joined her, and all four kids were off to explore the cove on paddle boards. I could see and hear the two teens over the water yacking nonstop. Meanwhile, my younger one and the boy seemed to talk nonstop as well, even though he didn’t speak English at all and mine certainly doesn’t speak Serbian. This language gap didn’t hinder communication or joint fun one iota. It was a glorious sight to behold.
The only sad part of the story was how little time had passed when we had to regretfully part ways to head to our next port in order to ensure a spot for the night. But they had such a good time while it lasted. My girls had perked up noticeably from even that small injection of peer interaction.
We spent that night on the front side of Vis, where there was a lot of action, including a late-night, open-air cheese market at which, during a temporary fit of insanity, I bought a three-pound block of delicious, hard cheese. [It took three weeks to chip away at it while lugging it around until it was teeny tiny and screaming, “Throw me away! This is not edible mold, folks!”]
Dolphin Bliss and Extreme Paddleboarding
Day Six, we made a pitstop in a gorgeous cove with a hidden treasure: A submarine tunnel. We took the dinghy in for a look, and it was creepy yet cool. Military buffs can see additional photos and learn more here.
After some swimming and snorkeling, we motored the long trek back from Vis in completely calm water. Out in the open sea, with land barely visible, we were all alone when a pod of dolphins decided to frolic nearby. Mesmerized, we cut the engine and floated, hoping they would come closer. When they didn’t, a few of our group, along with my youngest kid, jumped off the boat and gently swam toward them, hoping for a close encounter. (Uh, yeah, we let our youngest jump into the open sea. C.R.A.Z.Y. But don’t go calling Child Protective Services. We were on standby for a rescue if necessary.) It was a pretty amazing scene. As our lone boat floated in the middle of a turquoise sea, my daughter and our friends felt completely liberated swimming out in the open water. Even our jaded skipper treasured the moment. The dolphins kept their distance but were clearly enjoying themselves. When the current got to be too much, the swimmers came back on board, and we were once again on our way, forever blessed with this memory of communing with the dolphins.
That evening we anchored in a paradise-within-paradise off of some small island, going to shore to enjoy a cafe and then again later for dinner.
Day Seven, we tried not to grieve too much on this last real day on the boat. Our skipper took us to a particular gem of a cove that was so perfect and pristine it looked artificial. This place held special meaning for him, because he had grown up spending summers at his grandparents’ place nearby.
There we frolicked in the water for hours. To put sprinkles on the icing on the cake, our skipper broke probably every rule our charter company had regarding our equipment by treating one of the adults and the kids to an impromptu paddleboard-skiing session. It started innocuously enough — at slow speed with everyone sitting, emitting howls of laughter — and then it gradually escalated to high speeds, standing room only, and outright screams. It was a perfect end to a perfect week.
From there we headed back to our starting point to spend Friday night at the marina and vacate the next morning. We spent Saturday amongst the throngs of tourists exploring the historic district of Split, which felt like an ancient Roman Disneyland. We all spent the night at a fabulous, local hotel before our friends’ departure the next morning for the U.S.
Sniff-sniff. The week was over. Fortunately, there was something to look forward to. Or so we thought.
Coming Next: Greece Lightening – Gone in a Flash…