Siroccos, Swans and Schnapps, Oh My!

When the wind blows from the southeast here it blows for a couple days. The Sirocco was predicted and, as predicted, creeps up slowly and steadily. You know it’s coming, but it’s coming. We shared some thoughts about weather and timing with new friends on S/Y Stella, an American woman new to sailing and her Italian man with a lifetime of passages under his keel while the kids zoomed their schooling in Madame Geneva one afternoon in Murter, Croatia. Our Italian neighbor “G” said it would be a proper Sirocco gusting into the 50’s SE starting 12 hours earlier than we had forecasted. I checked and rechecked all sources. GRIB files, weather 4D, local Croatia, all with similar “it’s gonna blow” predictions, all SE, but with a roughly 24 swing in just when.

Luka Jazi: This beautiful wide bay with lots of sand was a perfect overnight for Madame Geneva.
A skinny approach to Murter
Remote learning has begun. Time zones and lack of appropriate clothing make for hearty students.

Murter (we had a ball talking in our Alfred Hitchcock voices calling ourselves “Murrterrerrs” as new temporary residents) is great. Tiny, medieval rooted, a bit tourist centric with a large charter boat base and lots of ice cream, t shirts and restaurants. It’s a magnificent hidey-hole for weather from all sides. Only issue was that it is small and we saw it in a day and if we were to wait out the Sirocco it could be 2-3 days. “Should I stay or should I go?”.

Murter’s house gardens are rich with olives, figs, plums, crab apples, pomegranates, citrus, tomatoes and more.
Quinn’s dawn.

Predawn had Quinn on deck waiting to photograph the sunrise. This kid surprises me every day. We got up to join him since he was stomping around over our heads. The three of us had a planning meeting. I didn’t want to go because the weather has been tough and often violent of late and the forecasts were so confused on timing. Kelly was up for it…or not, trusting my call and my PTSD from other ugly weather situations with children aboard. Quinn said, “I want to go” with a passion he has that says “there are reasons I feel and I need you to understand”. He was ready, the transit was very short and maybe half of the forecasts said it would be ok. The others called for 50 knots of wind and 3-4 meter seas. Ehhh. What are we doing this for anyhow? Let’s go. Quinn’s call.

The weather was nil as we motored down island. The swell was building from the SW slowly with a red haze on the horizon from the hot Sahara wind on its way. Humidity was building. It’s fascinating watching the earth percolate and feeling things brewing. Just go and get there. It’ll be fun.

Quinn resting after his predawn rise. DC Air-conditioning on his face, although he was in the cockpit with a steady breeze…
Just ahead of Sibenic, and just ahead of the waves.
No clue to what this was. The little known concrete submarine? Just off the right was a small sailboat, unanchored with its captain in the water w a mask and snorkel. No crew on board and winds picking up.
Farms, just beyond Sibenik, inside the River Krka.
Approaching the 88′ vertical clearance (MG is 72′ air draft-still technically unsure but haven’t found as styrofoam bridge yet!)
This is what that looks like. Not terrifying at all.

We only needed to get back to Šibenik (SHE-bin-ick) and then head 15 miles inland up the Krka river to a huge inland lake that has no vowels and back up the Krka to Skradin (SKRAY-din), one of the oldest towns in all of Croatia, far inland in a gorge with swans, cedar trees and deep blue brackish water. Simply amazing. From here we rode out 2 days of Sirocco gusting into the 40’s here, 50+ at the coast.

We rented 5 mountain bikes for 250 kuna total ($42.50 US) for the day and rode to Krka national park to swim in the iconic falls and get our blood moving. It was great exercise and well needed.

We find that marinas are comfortable and a bit too easy most of the time. Other times they are the only option or we are filthy, exhausted, low on water or pizza. This was all of the above. We have occasionally made great friends and connections with fellow travelers when smashed into these close quarters. I’ve met Russians, Montenegrins, Finns, Belgians, Scots, Maltese, Italians, you name it. We’re all sailors. Some (most) on holiday. Others wild eyed maybe too long at sea. Some cultures extroverted, others not so much but very rarely unfriendly. Often open and sharing so many similar experiences with weather, hardship, joy and beauty.

Swan Lake. Less orchestra. More growling.

On our first night in Skradin we set up the children with dinner and a movie onboard as Kelly and I set out for a date night. We eased into a less windy restaurant on the waterfront and were largely alone in the dining room except for a family table in the back of the room with a man strumming a guitar and 3-10 people singing local songs with love and gusto. These folks were drinking but not sloppy. Their singing was from deep in the heart. They were sharing wine, meat, songs and cigarettes. After a few songs Kelly and I could not help ourselves and let loose the applause. We were immediately ushered to their table by their most enthusiastic singer in thick Croat. We wanted to join. There would not have been much choice if we hadn’t. Nico spoke very good English, a few others too, some none. It was awesome. We hummed along with these beautiful melodies as they passed the guitar around. It was nearing the end (although they were still going when we bowed out) of a day of celebrating the birth of the restaurant chief’s daughter. Number 6. This was real. And perfect. Then, they started playing Roy Orbison, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen and we let it fly! The Americans can sing!! They were so pleased that we joined them. I explained that we are travelers not tourists and their kindness was understood and appreciated. When we told Nico our children are 10,12 and 13 he was curious why we wanted to get home to them. After all, they had been singing and drinking all day when the new baby and 6 time mother were home. There are so many ways to do this. I love it all.

A perfect compliment to our night on the town was the next night on board. Still blowing a gale we probably couldn’t have left had we have wanted to. Next to us on the dock were 2 German couples from Munich who were friendly, helpful and generally the neighbors you enjoy speaking with be it over the fence or from the cockpit. We were on different schedules during the days with our kids schooling online and boat chores laid out while they were vacationing on a chartered boat. It was nice when they offered a glass of local rose brandy they had picked up in town around happy hour. We made the plan to meet up after dinner in our cockpit for a sundowner. I dug into our booze locker and pulled the bottle of 2003 Rhum DEPAZ from Martinique that had crossed the Atlantic unopened. It still had Caribbean dust on it. Our new friends in turn broke out the homemade schnapps from Munich. Needless to say we woke up thirsty and ready to sail in the torrential downpour the next morning brought. A fond farewell to Skradin and our new friends found us outbound. 200 yards out we spun a quick 180 to get the boat documents I forgot to pick up at the marina office in a downpour after being repeatedly reminded by Kelly to get them (it was a foggy morning in many ways) followed by a quick refueling in Šibenik.

Today we set off for Hvar (HUH-var). Windy…check. Rainy…check. Waves…check…waterspouts….wait…huh? Yep. 30+ knots at times, 15 knots at times, big rain, 3-4 meter waves. 10.9 knots of boat speed surfing waves when a nasty waterspout kicked up off the starboard beam. Mainsail down, Genoa in, staysail our, hats on tighter. Quinn said repeatedly “this is so exciting !”

Beautiful skies…you cannot help to be in awe.

He was right. Hvar now for a day or 2. Lots to see and do. We’re on a mooring in the old town harbor and all of the charter boats want to tie up to us for the night. As our English friends say “not bloody likely!”

Tightly in anchor at Hvar.

Stay tuned. Stay healthy. Much love.


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