How do you get a family of five from Charleston, SC to Trogir, Croatia in the middle of a pandemic? Slowly. How do you get a US documented boat out of Croatia and back to Croatia, without creating an immigration fiasco? Quickly.
We began our preparations to return to Madame Geneva earlier in the year, ahead of any knowledge of COVID-19. At that time, we planned simply to do what we have done every year over the last six years. Get back to our lady, wherever she may be, and set her up for passage in our continuing exploration of the world beyond our world. Each year, that place changes. Each year, we have the opportunity to educate ourselves and our children in a manner different. This year, our plan seemingly failed as the world shut down and its people sought shelter in place. We did what most did. We stayed home. We taught our kids. We worked. We hoped that yes, this too shall pass.
Our April departure was cancelled, but the issue remained that Madame Geneva had to exit Europe before her temporary importation expired. The fee for not complying is extraordinary. Pandemic be damned. We waited until we found an option: Get a Rapid Test (must be PCR) within 48 hours of arriving in Croatia and the otherwise banned citizens of United Stated can travel to Croatia. So we managed to secure appointments for those tests (thanks Wendy!) and crossed our fingers for our travel last Monday. The tests were scheduled at 8:45am; the flights began at 8pm from Charleston for an arrival at 5pm in Croatia (26 hours after the test). No problem, right?
Enter Hurricane Isias. Scheduled arrival in Charleston: 8pm Monday night. Cancelling the flight or even delaying the travel a day were not really options…we would not be able to arrive in Croatia within 48 hours and arranging a rapid test required weeks of scheduling. So we opted for a 1pm flight out of Charleston with an 8 hour layover in Atlanta. Our harried departure from Charleston included getting tested, checking on work, grabbing a quick breakfast and waiting in the cell phone area of the airport to get our results (All Negative!).
So through no small effort, we arrived in Split and loaded into a pitiful little rental car (little when you have 5 people, 7 large bags and 5 smallish backpacks). Sleep deprived but truly grateful for our journey, we managed to track down our apartment, almost. As we followed the directions on Google maps, we found ourselves in a cartoon where the walls of the streets narrow and the car does not. I could not even turn in the passenger seat to advise how many centimeters we were from wedging ourselves between the Roman walls of the residences of Trogir. Our rescue arrived by moped. The kindness we experienced from the people of Trogir was incredible. This man guided us back out of the alley and around to a much more accessible approach (where we met our landlord who guided us to park in the bombed out ancient building now turned into a parking lot).
The week was spent readying Madame Geneva. Sails and canvas, all down below, had to go back up into their proper place. The dehumidifier buckets we kept around the boat did great, until one was knocked over and the oily gel of the captured humidity slide with impunity throughout the salon. We scrubbed and washed, and scrubbed and washed. And at last, by Monday we were ready to cast off and begin sailing.
Our travels, by motor (Mediterranean is notorious for an “all or nothing” approach) took us to Primosten, an unnamed bay we called “Quinn’s bay” because Quinn found it, and Sibenik. Importantly, we needed to do what we came to do: Get here and leave and get back here.
So today, we found ourselves clearing out of Croatia (both immigration and customs) but not able to go anywhere (lest we cannot get back in) in order to clear back in. We docked at the concrete pier of customs and tied to broken cleats and a handrail so that Justin could run over and handle the paperwork. His confusion of why the Italians told him to ‘go over the trains’ became clear when he realized he had to slip between the trains (functional and full of salt for transport) to get to the officials.
So after tossing the lines at customs in Sibenik, we cruised past the quay, where we had spent the previous evening, past the cathedral with its intricately delicate baptism room and bullet riddled doors, past the submarine holes and pillboxes, and headed out to international waters, a line on a chart but not on the sea. We plotted and tracked our course so we may show what we have been doing these last three hours since we left Croatia. And with this, and the now very large folder of all of our clearances, we will arrive shortly back in Croatia and Madame Geneva will have another 18 months to enjoy Europe. We, however, have just another five weeks. Much love and stay tuned.