Trip on Louise starting 2018-09-01 in BSAOct18
Pula Croatia 1 – 8 September 2018 – report by Peter Wakeling
Boat: ‘Louise’ Dufour 460
The charter was organised through Nautilus and I managed to achieve large discounts to get a Prestige 46’ yacht for a very reasonable price. A slight downside was that the charter base turned out to be up an inlet at Veruda on the fringes of Pula rather than at the ACI marina in centre of Pula next to the famous Roman Coliseum. Veruda is a posh neighbourhood and there is obviously a lot of money there with expensive houses and hundreds of very expensive boats.
5 of us flew out from Bristol while Tony flew out from Heathrow. A problem with ATC Eurocontrol in Brussels meant we had to delay our take-off for one hour. We later found every flight into Pula was delayed by an hour or more.
I had booked private transfers from SunTransfers as it was half the cost of same transfers using Hoppa which is the company you get if you select the link that Nautilus give you,
We had arranged pre-provisioning from local supermarket and found everything on board on arrival except for a few items we later picked up from marina supermarket. Nautilus had offered a new service in Croatia using an on-line shopping site which turned out ludicrously over-priced and lacking many items we needed. I had to pressurise Nautilus into allowing us to use the old system and they eventually agreed. I imagine they get a hefty commission from promoting these sites.
Went through handover, took photos of boat from all angles, and relaxed before dinner in marina restaurant which is adjacent to large swimming pool. We had booked fortunately as it was full on arrival. Excellent meal accompanied by dramatic thunderstorm, torrential rain and strong winds which had been forecast for about a week before. But poor Tony arrived so late from his flight that he missed dinner as restaurant just closed.
I discussed with member of charter base staff his suggestions for our itinerary. Initial thinking had suggested we start out north to visit Rosinj close to the border with Slovenia, a particularly attractive town, before making a long 45m leg back south to the islands in the Kvarner Gulf. However we were told that Rosinj was out of the question as the marina was now closed and being re-built! Planning the trip beforehand using the latest Adriatic Pilot had revealed two strategically placed short canals among the islands. The first is the canal at Osor between Cres and Losinj. According to the Pilot this has a minimum depth of 2m and also warned of strong currents up to 6Knts which can turn the boat sideways in narrow channel. As our draught was 2.2m I had assumed this was a non-starter. However our companion said it was fine, he had sailed through there on Louise and recommended his favourite anchorage (of which more later). The second canal, the Prolaz Privlaka, is close to Mali Losinj harbour and according to the Pilot has minimum depth of 3m is 6m wide but can be dangerous to enter in the Bora. Sounded fine otherwise: however, our local chap stated firmly that we should NOT attempt that canal at any time as the current can run at more than 10knts. As usual, local knowledge is better than any Pilot. He did also say we could expect the Bora at any time and every week.
We headed out past the offshore rocks and lighthouse of Plicina Albanez, that feature in the recent TV series featuring Francesco’s sailing travelogue through the Adriatic. A chap lives there in complete isolation and says he loves it. We did not stop for a chat on this occasion. We had a favourable prevailing NE F3/4 heading towards the island of Unije some 30nm, where we picked up a mooring buoy in the long Maracol inlet. Not entirely happy with our position, I took the opportunity when another boat departed to move to another buoy. Note that many yachts, but not all, tie to a mooring buoy and take a stern line ashore so they do not swing, but others do swing so you have to be aware. In high season the moorings get full and as the mooring buoys are very close together, then there is only enough room if every yacht takes a line ashore. Used dinghy and o/b to cross the inlet then we hiked a half mile over the hill and down to Unije village. After swim, we had enjoyable drinks next to the beach in evening sunshine before returning to the yacht for pleasant dinner on board.
Next day, after morning swim and breakfast, headed south to the larger island of Losinj and the main town of Mali Losinj which is situated at the end of a narrow 3 mile channel in the centre of the island. Arrived early with plenty of berthing choice in the town marina and decided to go stern to at the outer end of a jetty, facing south, picking up a laid line. This meant that the prevailing wind or indeed the Bora which come racing down the channel from the north, would try to push us off rather than on to the pontoon. A thunderstorm was predicted to occur at 4am and had been for several days. This is a very attractive town clustered around the inlet and we had a very pleasant time wandering around before drinks looking over the water. Checking Trip Advisor suggested that an excellent restaurant was located less than 5 minutes away; we duly booked for later. The berths rapidly filled up over the course of the evening before we headed off for a superb meal at Nostromo overlooking the harbour. Really the best of our trip and good value for money. We returned to yacht for drinks and so to bed. Awakened at 4 am by the most impressive thunderstorm directly overhead and right on schedule again. Strong gusts and loads of noise for an hour. Next morning found most of the boats on upwind side had had to shift further off and raise transom platforms to keep clear of the jetty.
A shorter run of some 20nm next day to the island of Silba, transiting the narrow channel at Ilovik, to Luka Sveti Ante, a sheltered bay on SW of Silba, where we picked up a mooring buoy close to a beach and pier. Delightful place for a swim but found resistance to another longer hike over the steeper hill to Luka Silba and the village, so relaxed on board and in the water before another excellent meal from another of our competent chefs. Took drinks up on deck after dinner to enjoy star-gazing in beautiful dark skies.
When we could tear ourselves away we started to head back northwards, for the island of Ilovik, where we negotiated the narrow channel to pick up a mooring inside the small harbour. Used dinghy to go ashore and explore. Known as the island of flowers, as every house is be-decked with flowers, it is most attractive. House addresses are simply a number followed by Ilovik, no streets. Drinks on quayside watching boats go by until we returned for lunch on board. Later slipped mooring and headed up through maze of channels heading for Pogana which lies up an inlet on southern tip of island of Cres. This is the place our local guide had suggested as his favourite before we started the trip. We found an excellent mooring buoy just off the recommended restaurant. It was noted that this is a naturist campsite, evidenced by the naked paddle boarders etc, but the people eating ashore seemed to be all clothed so we deemed it OK to dress for dinner. It seems quite common to find naturist sites in Croatia indeed there are also some naturist marinas according to the Pilot. We had enjoyable swim before I rowed the dinghy ashore to enquire about dinner for 6. The restaurant was very full with people waiting at 6pm and was told they would try to fit us in after 8pm. We headed to shore for pre-dinner beers at 7.30 and were served on the jetty watching the sunset. After considerable delay (there being very few tables for 6) we were eventually seated. The menu turned out to be a waitress who recited the few dishes on offer that day (this is a noted feature of this restaurant). We had an enjoyable meal for a moderate sum and found they did not bother to charge us for our earlier beers, possibly because we had to wait a long time, or possibly they forgot. Incidentally, tipping is just not a feature of Croatia like most of Europe, you might just leave odd coins in change.
Having received conflicting advice about transiting the canal at Osor, I had taken the precaution of emailing the base manager. He confirmed that we would be OK provided we kept to the centre, not close to boat in front and kept speed up to counter the current. This gave us the option to return via Osor without having to make the much longer journey round the northern tip of Cres with the added possibility of unfavourable winds. There is a swing road bridge at Osor that opens at 09.00 and 17.00 and the Navionics tide data showed we would coincide with high water giving us a further 0.3m for safety. So we had an earlier start at 07.15 with breakfast under way to travel round the southern end of Cres and up into Osor where we timed our arrival for 09.50 along with a small fleet of like-minded sailors. The bridge lifted and the convoy transited the short narrow cut. This canal is pre-Roman and constructed by the Illyrian tribe, and Osor was an important port before the Romans arrived. Tony on the helm kept a safe distance from the yacht ahead and kept the throttle on to counter a 4knt current trying to send us backwards and push the bow sideways into the wall. We indicated a minimum depth of some 0.7m. Outside the canal we turned to moor in the only free space alongside a short quay conveniently placed to allow us to explore Osor. We headed off to explore the historic sites and the quaint statues in the narrow alley ways, all with a musical motif. After coffees in café in the square 4 of us returned to the boat to find that we were occupying the spot used by an excursion boat that was waiting to pick up a party of cyclists. We rapidly cast off and tootled around while the big excursion boat slid in to the berth, picked up his passengers and their bikes and set off again. The remaining two crew ashore returned to find we had left them behind but we chose to move in alongside again while they jumped aboard.
The VHF inshore weather forecast was picked up giving a gale warning for the next day so I re-considered our destination. I did not want to find unfavourable conditions for a long last day’s sail back to Veruda. Rather than head for the anchorage at Krnica, further to the north in the Kvarner Gulf and 30nm from Veruda, we changed course to an anchorage at Paltana much closer to Pula. This is an almost entirely land-locked lagoon with plenty of space for anchoring in the middle. With several holiday beaches but unfortunately overlooked by a large hotel where residents ’enjoyed’ the most awful entertainment all evening. John took the opportunity for another of his marathon swims ashore while the rest of us swam closer to the boat. Another superb meal prepared by our on-board chefs followed by drinks to round off an excellent day.
For our last day it was decided to sail round into Pula town to view the sights. The weather forecast was for thunderstorms in the afternoon but I could find no information about anything like gale-force winds or anything like. We had avoided the Bora all week and I could see no indication of getting it today. We had a leisurely sail along the coast north to the entrance to Pula, with a diversion into Veruda to fill up with fuel, having been advised of a possible long wait in the evening. Pula inlet is protected by a very long breakwater except that parts have been demolished by storms so there are inviting but perilous gaps in the wall which itself is only just above the water. Keep going past the light at the far end. Pula is a very historic port city, with the largest Roman Coliseum apart from Rome itself. Approached from the sea it is a most impressive sight. After our excursion round the harbour we headed out to sea and took advantage of favourable NE F4 to sail back out towards the offshore lighthouse at Plicina Alabanez. Bang on schedule, we found ourselves surrounded by an array of impressive electrical storms which are accompanied by severe squalls. Although the storms were all around we did not get one where we were, so no fierce squall to contend with. I was forced to conclude that local gale warnings here are very localised and refer to the strong gusts associated with these storms which generally last no more than 30 to 60 minutes and only if you are directly in the path. What amazes me how they seem to be able to predict these thunderstorms to the hour up to at least 5 days ahead. Luckily we did not experience the Bora despite having been advised you get it every week some time.
At 16.00 we reversed course and headed for Veruda and berthed on schedule at 18.00. Completed boat inspection and began packing for return. I phoned the local taxi firm contracted by SunTransfers for our return next day to the airport and arranged that for only another 100 kuna we would be picked up with our bags next day at 09.00 and dropped into the city centre to sight-see, then picked up and taken to the airport direct at 12.45 for our flights home. Tony had a late evening flight home so we would leave him in the city. We booked dinner once more at the marina restaurant and enjoyed another excellent meal and very friendly service.
Our sight-seeing next morning included the Triumph Arch and an exhaustive tour of the Coliseum, still the 6th largest amphitheatre in the world and regularly in use today for events and concerts, though no gladiators now. Very impressive, though the finest view is from the sea.
Stopped for coffee and money exchange back into £ much more favourable than back in UK. It should be noted that kuna rate is much better than in UK so get some from ATM on arrival. Cash is the only acceptable means of payment in some restaurants and for mooring fees etc. especially in smaller places. Picked up, slightly late by different van and driver, but reunited with our bags at the airport where the original van was awaiting us. Flight home uneventful with early arrival in Bristol.
This was an interesting introduction to sailing in Croatia. We had deliberately chosen the more remote far-offshore islands rather than the in-shore party islands like Rab and Krk with their much more expensive marinas and crowds. Our frequent use of moorings and anchorages allowed us to enjoy wonderful surroundings at a fraction of the cost. This is probably the least expensive sailing area in Croatia and offers attractive sailing with good winds that allow you to keep fuel consumption to a minimum. We sailed 215nm according to the log, though it was thought to be over-reading by at least 25%. Max wind F4 invariably around NE. The Dufour 460 was very comfortable with an enormous en-suite for’ard cabin, very large fridge with pull out drawers, microwave and all mod cons including led lighting. Generally built for comfortable easy sailing in the Med, it would probably be a pig in any sea. The self-tacking jib is convenient but a poor choice for serious sailing as it is so small; not useful like a genoa for downwind sailing. The in-mast furling main is again convenient but you do need to be careful to avoid it jamming. Nevertheless we made speeds of 8knts in relatively light winds and the helm response was excellent.
A most enjoyable trip with convivial crew who all bonded well despite never having all sailed together as a crew before. A special vote of thanks is due to our group of most proficient chefs who produced a succession of excellent feasts on board.