The Cats of Kotor by Quinn

When we first anchored at Kotor, Montenegro, we had no idea just HOW MUCH these people worshipped the stray cats in their streets, and just cats in general. At every shirt and trinket shop there were tons of things with cats all over them. But of course, Mom immediately thought, “Let’s go for an uphill hike to see a castle and the small church the soldiers would pray at while being shot at!” At that, most of us groaned. We decided to do that later in the day and in the meantime, we were going to see a little bit of Kotor. 

Once we started walking around, everyone realized that you couldn’t even take more or less five steps without seeing one or two cats. Mom and Dad decided that we were going to continue wondering after the forced uphill walk and we should bring lunch. We wondered around until we found a sign that said something about sandwiches, but it was a letdown. We had to continue walking (with cats still everywhere) until we found a sign that said, “Something Bite Montenegro, Fast Food Sandwiches and Beer and Drinks,” (well, it more or less said that). We decided to go there and we got (after much deciding) 2 ham and pickles and stuff sandwiches for Mom and Dad, and 3 prosciutto, cheese and tomato sandwiches for Gherty, Che, and I. We also got Cokes which we hadn’t had before.

           After buying lunch, we began our forced uphill march. It was totally a march, and it wasn’t only like a quarter mile. There were small steps made of rock on the left side and just a rocky path on the right. After a little bit, I decided it was much easier to use the steps. We walked for a little bit until we found a rest about halfway up. We stayed there for a few minutes to get the water out of Dad’s backpack. Afterwards, we continued going up until we got to the church thing I mentioned earlier. We decided to eat lunch there, but the prosciutto was smoked so it tasted bad. While we were eating, there was a pregnant cat that wanted some of our food and we had to keep shooing it away. Eventually we gave it some bread and after the meal, we made a shrine with the leftover sandwiches and the cat ate them. Mom asked if we wanted to continue going up but nobody really did. 

           Afterwards, we went down and saw an old dog that was rubbing against us. While Gherty, Che, and I waited for Mom and Dad to finally make it down, we realized that across the street there were about 6 cats on a balcony thing. Gherty noticed that there was a cat in a flower pot so we decided to see if Mom would notice. We told her to look at the flower pots carefully and after we told her a few more things, she saw it. We decided to go shirt shopping after that and I ended up getting a shirt that said “I’m with stupid à.”

       Mom and Dad told us to go back to the boat by ourselves and come get them with the dinghy when they called us. When they finally did call, I got in the dinghy and untied it, but it wouldn’t start. I finally just used the oars to get back to Madame Geneva and we told Mom and Dad the problem. After a while, we found out that because of the rain, The Britanic (our dinghy) had water in the fuel. After a few pulls on the starting thing by Che, it finally worked and I got Mom and Dad. 

           That’s all! Stay tuned I guess, Quinn 🙂

Leaving Croatia. Really.

Looking out from old town Dubrovnik

Leaving Croatia was hard.  Emotionally, and then, actually.  Customs and immigration was right across the harbor in Dubrovnik.  We had stayed over fifteen days in Croatia so the kids would not be subjected to another Covid test prior to entry into Montenegro.  Documentation in hand, kunas depleted, Justin arrived and the rest of us waited on Madame Geneva.  And waited.  And waited.  The first call came asking me for the invoice from the marina in Trogir proving we were there.  Email search unsuccessful.  Another call: Any receipt we have, “the more the better”.  I sent the car rental contract, the service bills, the wire receipts, images of my credit card transactions.  And still no Justin.  After two hours he returned, free to go.  Apparently, the marina never informed the agents that our boat was on the hard with them over the winter and so we were a mystery. 

The emotional element was an odd unnerving that we were leaving the home we found in Croatia. The hospitality received was free flowing.  We encountered so many times of simple and unexpected accommodation.  On our last anchor in the bay outside of Korcula, we dinghied ashore reluctant to go into the town proper as the marina was closed and LOTS of boats were finding their way into the anchorage.  The skills varied greatly and I suspect this is foreshadowing of our upcoming trip to Greece.  We watched as one charter dropped their anchor by hand, nearly severing the fingers of one unlucky crewmate, directly in front of the boat just to our port.  This led to a dragging to dig anchor set across the lines of that yacht and ours.  Another decided to just motor in at full speed, drop his anchor in about 12 feet of water just 50 feet off of the rocks.  A choice, just not one we would make.  Not surprisingly, he found the swing uncomfortable and pulled up anchor.  So to shore for lunch, with eyes on Madame Geneva we went.  Except, everything was opening tomorrow.  We followed a few signs of promise and ended up at a gin and tonic lounge.  Clearly a fit not for our three now “starving” kids.  Justin inquired within, wondering if anyone knew of a place close by.  The man proceeded to walk us to the hotel, set up a table overlooking Madame Geneva, and brought out pastas and goulash. 

The beauty of Croatia is hard to capture with words or even images.  The rugged terrain is met with stunning trees and flowers and seas with as many shades of blue as conditions.  We saw more wind in Croatia than in any other part of the Mediterranean.  We used ALL of our sails.  Perhaps fitting that our final days, the wind laid down and we motored away.

The rare quiet of old town Dubrovnik
Yes, that is a ripstick on a drawbridge

Croatia has cultivated paths and those untread by most because of the mines.  There are ruins from the antiquities and ruins from wars more personally felt and recently lived through.  There are aqueducts half buried and wind farms just visible between the peaks of massive mountains.  There are works of art, carved thousands of years ago, and a work of art modernly woven into an organ sounded by the sea.  There are palaces of grandeur next to communist apartment complexes. 

As Justin worked to document, there are many faces of Croatia and we will miss them all.

Much love and stay tuned. 

Last night in Croatia

A Tuba and a Naked Fisherman

We worked for it and now, finally, we are back in the groove. Our first night at anchor, truly anchored not a mooring or touristy marina, marked the start of this leg of our journey. Year 7. Leg 11. Our children have grown up aboard as have Kelly and I in so many ways.

See you soon Grands!

We spent our first week in a 5th floor walk up apartment in Split scurrying back and forth to Trogir (TRO-gurr) and our girl Madame Geneva to perform the ritual of splashing, rigging, cleansing, provisioning….as well as wiring, fixing, hunting for parts in one of many foreign tongues.  Che, having been accepted to a wonderful school of the arts back home, now has a full sized 88 key electric piano as a bunk mate to stay sharp. Che, Gherty and Quinn all finished their last week of school online in Croatia 6 hours ahead.

Last week of school

We’ve got this part pretty well figured out. Once we set off I feel we’ve got the sailing bits mostly dialed in. We’ve tied up to countless moorings, med moored too often to tabulate, and anchored (as well as dragged anchor and reanchored) in most conditions. Not to worry. The weather is still the main concern. The children’s safety and comfort are still paramount. Often at the sacrifice of our own comfort. That’s what we signed up for. Not to worry. We love it.

I see changes in the children that are both predictable and surprising. I can’t tell you what a gift it is to be together so much. Now that we have 2 bona fide teenagers on board and one stretching his wings a year ahead of schedule it’s shifted from, “what will we do today Mommy?” towards “maybe you two should go have a gin and tonic on the Riva so we can read aboard in peace Dad.” They’re independent, resourceful and comfortable in all of these surroundings. I guess that’s what we’ve been working toward so, again, everything here is going well.

We left Trogir after a week headed nowhere in particular. Just happy to get going. The myriad rules for an American yacht with 2 fully vaccinated adults, 2 partially vaccinated teens and one child unvaccinated at 6 months shy of the age minimum is tricky and fluid. Add in the normal bureaucracy of EU rules for a foreign boat and basically we were presented with one option. Enjoy island hopping in Croatian waters for a week prior to heading on.  We need to clear into Montenegro, to clear out of the EU, to reset our temporary import of Madame Geneva for another 18 months. We can’t enter Montenegro without quarantining unless we’ve been in the EU for 15 days continuously. And….only just recently, can we enter Greece at all. Not to mention Albanian waters. We can’t set foot ashore in Albania or the whole house of cards crumbles. Also, they have some piracy issues from time to time. So….we have a plan. And what, you ask, has been our family motto since the day we set off north on our first night sailing? “Make a plan. Then do what happens.” It seems for once we will need to try to stick with the plan so perhaps all this “we got this” bluster is moot. Let’s hope the Bora winds don’t pounce on us from the northeast or the Sirocco from the south right as we are trying to transit the only shore we are forbidden to make landfall on. I’m sure it’ll be fine. It’s only a 24 jump from beautiful Tivat, Montenegro to Corfu, Greece our port of entry. Just like everything else it’s all about timing….eating the bread before it gets hard, remembering to thaw dinner early enough, checking the house battery voltage, charging the e-readers, making fresh water whenever possible……and so forth.

One quick night on a mooring in Uvala Lucice (OO-Vala LOO-see-chuh) in the island of Brac (BRA-tshh). A peaceful and easy first night to get resorted and in the groove. On morning two Kelly and I congratulated ourselves on all systems working great. Solar energy crackling, kids in high spirits. Lets run the watermaker and make sure she’s ready to do her annual heavy lifting. Perfect start up, pumping out fresh water at 100 liters/hour. Yes!! Wait! Where is the brine it dumps from the outlet into the sink? How is it making so much fresh water without the salty bit being expelled? (Slow motion cinematic) Nooooooo!! The marina had closed the outlet valve I have left open for 6 years since I installed it way back in the states. It’s under the cabin sole in the bilge out of sight. That explosion you heard in your imagination was our fresh water pump literally blown in two under the pressure before we could turn it off. Sooooo. After some research and a few lilting, fairly intelligible phone calls we hit the jackpot and found a new pump just a few harbors away in Milna (a rare instance of no phonetics required). A quick motor and we were med moored to the quay and were were in business. 2 hours and surprisingly no bloody knuckles later and the shattered former pump was swapped for the functioning pump. We paid for the night at the quay and have time to burn, so why not pizza and sightseeing? The food was spectacular and the ancient little town was gorgeous. We made friends for the night with a German sailing family who had much interest and many questions about Madame Geneva and the “plan.” Klaus and his family joined us in the cockpit after dinner to swap stories. These are always fun nights. It’s so fascinating how different cultures approach the same challenges in different ways. I said that’s it’s always been important to us not to scare the children when sailing if possible because that could lead to them not wanting to do this anymore. Klaus responded that he enjoys scaring his wife and children. They all laughed.

Next day we got all set to go. It was Sunday and church bells started ringing at 5 AM so getting up and motivated wasn’t hard. Plus, the Russian crew at the quay next to us were singing in 8 part harmony over their breakfast. It was a lovely way to get moving. Then…..break out the tuba!!!! A catamaran adjacent to us thought it was a good time to stand on the coach roof with a marching sousaphone and a full sized accordion and blast out German beer drinking tunes to the roaring applause of everyone in the harbor including the 14th century church behind them that rang her bells at sixteen past the hour to cheer them on. Wide grins. We’re back in the Med.

After being shot out of Milna harbor by a tuba we unfurled the Genoa and left the mainsail down as we charged down the Hvar canalski (VAR- canal) between Brac and Hvar at 8 knots close reaching in the smallest of chop. A great ride and another short one since we have time, there’s still so much to see and it will be quite a while till we come back this way. Anchored in 35 feet over soft sand we found ourselves in Luka Vrboska (LUKA-Ver-BOSK-uh) surrounded by stunning mountains tucked into a protected bight in a pine forest. In the afternoon we dinghied into shore and followed a path around the headland with stunning views and naked people everywhere. Yep! A Croatian nudist camping destination. Why not? The kids have seen this all before from the French Caribbean to, well, all of Europe. They still have reactions ranging from giggles to fury. All part of the journey. Kelly and I did laugh ourselves silly over the man fishing naked on the rocks realizing we started our day with a tuba concert and ended it with a naked fisherman….we all had a great laugh.

Quinn takes the “Britainic” out for her inaugural spin.

We are back at it. I’m so grateful we all made it. Everyone we know and love made it through this year. We are lucky beyond measure. And we know it. And so we carry on. Because this time with our children is short and precious.

Kelly, “Quinn, wanna jump in the water with me?” Quinn, “Nope”.  Perfect.

We’ve missed you Madame

Stay tuned. Much love.

Superstition Ain’t the Way

Kelly and I have found that there is room for superstition in traveling and sailing these past 6 years. Not so much that our actions are dictated by them but more so a feeling that witch-doctory “can’t hurt and may very well help”. I wear a piece of coral Gherty gave me in key west as a little girl around my neck as my talisman. We have been remarkably lucky since she gave it to me so there it will stay. Kelly warned me that her Irish avoid putting a hat on a bed early on in our relationship. I haven’t since then and we have been safe and fortunate so that is a hard and fast rule at home and onboard.

We always joke and remind each other that the ocean will always keep you aware of your insignificance right when things look to be getting easy. Years ago we had been banging upwind in darkness rounding Cape Canaveral, Florida just waiting to pass its outermost bouy so we could finally crack off and begin reaching south without the spray, pounding and rolling. We rounded the red maker and smugly headed off, easing the sails and shooting down the coast when a rogue wave, well over head high, with a seemingly vertical face slapped us fully broadside knocking us down and sent water over the cockpit halfway up the rig. Right. Just need to round the outer marker, huh? Then it’ll be easy, yes? Cape Lookout, North Carolina, Dashais, Guadeloupe, Nonsuch Bay, Antigua, Buzzards Bay, Rhode Island, Vieques, Spanish Virgin Islands, Andratax, Mallorca, Mahon, Menorca the list goes on. Each a long night. Each it’s own challenge. Each finding us hanging on, usually doing the right things to stay as safe and comfortable as possible, each just waiting….waiting for the early glow on the horizon letting us know that although it may not be over it will get a bit easier with the sun up. 

We have written about the Mediterranean winds. The Bora, the Mistral, the Sirocco all blow hard. Some predictable, others less so. We have also written about motoring through the azure glass. Either way we have been fortunate, made the right calls, usually a bit of both. No drama this year to speak of for Madame and her crew. Short trips with no border crossings or passages virtually assured that. I guess the pandemic made our sailing better due to empty anchorages, empty cities and no cruise ships. As easy as this was I’d trade it all for health and normalcy for everyone. “Make a plan then do what happens”. Same as it ever was.

Omiš (OH-meesh) was our last stop before heading back to Trogir (Tro-gur) to break down the Madame and put her back on the hard. 20 miles down the coast with dramatic mountains flanking a river mouth. A walled medieval city peppered with soviet bloc apartments sits nestled in the valley. Ancient lookout towers with World War II pillboxes added hang above on the cliffs. It is stunning. 

Climbing the more reasonable tower
The river at Omis
Pillbox atop medieval lookout

We were the only boat to anchor in 60 feet on pure white sand on an uphill slope. With 10 knots of sea breeze digging us in further we swam and launched our dinghy “Clover” for the last time, her leaks and quirks getting the best of her after 10,000 miles. The afternoon found 5 tired Americans (the only Americans as always this year) picking through Omiš buying souvenirs we hadn’t bought yet for friends back home and grabbing lunch. We were wistful about ending another leg of our journey but also very tired, physically and mentally. Schooling this year wasn’t our typical home school aboard routine. The kids had zoom meetings at all hours since we were 6 ahead and with occasionally spotty internet and conflicting travel schedules and class schedules it got hard. We were ready to head home to regroup. Plus Kelly had promised the children we’d get a puppy and a swimming pool when we returned so that didn’t help either.


We were running on fumes trying to empty our fuel, water and fresh food so we cobbled together a dinner and enjoyed a last peaceful night at anchor.

Madame Geneva at anchor in Omis.

I was shaken awake by Kelly at precisely midnight. She told me the wind was building and the boat was spinning on her anchor. I washed my face, put on a jacket (yep!) and popped into the cockpit to access the situation. A steady 30 knots was blowing down the mountains occasionally with dead lulls of glassy water then hard 30’s again as if the wind was pouring out of a glass bottle. Blast, blast, deep breath, blast. It was a typical katabatic wind. Cold air tumbling down a mountainside at night. Not something that is often forecast and very localized. It surely wouldn’t be a Bora wind as the only forecast for this was 75 miles up the coast in the notorious Velebit Channel. No worries. Just a sporty night. I told Kelly I’d stay up top and keep an eye open and she should go to sleep. 

Around 2AM I called my friends Sam and Lisa back home since it was 8PM there and I was feeling chatty. The wind had begun to hit 40 by then. Concerning but not time for worry. Besides, we were anchored ideally and the lee shore was a 10′ deep sand bank several hundred yards behind us. (You can see it on the right in the photo above).

Around 3 AM I called Mom and Dad. The wind was now a sustained 40 knots still with the briefest moments of glassy water in between hard solid avalanches of cold wind. It’s funny talking to your parents and hearing Dad telling you what a great thing you’re doing for your children at the exact moment the boat is being hammered by increasingly dangerous winds at night in a foreign country. I believed him about the kids upbringing and I believed we were safe but it was getting heavier incrementally and it was still several hours until the dawn. 

Kelly joined me in the cockpit saying the violent swinging was not helping her sleep in the bow. We stayed up under a blanket in the cockpit and simply observed. 40 knots hit 50 and the gusts increased in frequency and ferocity. Looking at my 3 reference points I had picked out we seemed good. Then the wind abruptly stopped. Madame Geneva, fully tight on her anchor in the blow, shot forward in the lull and spun 90 degrees only to be met broadside with the full fury of 50 knots dead on the beam. She sailed bare poled off at 45 degrees and jerked violently. My reference points had shifted. Checking the depth we now had 20 feet under the keel where 60 had been constant. The anchor had dragged sideways across the underwater hill and was no longer set. Time to go. It was 5:30. The sun would not be up for quite some time with tall mountains blocking and delaying the sunrise. 

Our view before bedtime

Kelly started bringing up the anchor while I struggled to keep the boat head to wind knowing that our 20 feet would drop to under ten in short order if we got sideways and dragged further. The dinghy was trailing behind since we went to bed in a calm. Now I was trying to keep it out from under the transom. When the anchor chain was nearly vertical Kelly signaled for me to reverse because the anchor was not coming up. I reversed, spun a wide arc backwards with half of the dinghy under the boat and the anchor let go. Kelly brought it up the rest of the way while I finished our circle in reverse throttle wide open trying to keep us from sliding onto the bank. Che popped up right at this moment and said that mom was amazing on the bow. I’m proud he recognized that.

We motored offshore and the 50 knots quickly turned to 30, then glass. It was our first night with a Bora at anchor. It was fascinating and exhausting. Quinn and Gherty got up and said we looked tired. We motored to a bay near Split, anchored and passed out.  When we woke up we moseyed to Trogir and tied her up. All that was left was 3 days of derigging, washing, scrubbing, packing, homeschooling, renting a car and moving the kids to an apartment in Split to attend school virtually. We donated our dinghy “Clover” to the marineros as she needed so much love and repair only a local with a long cold winter ahead could help her. We donated our trusty basil plant who had traveled with and fed us to a Kiwi couple headed to Greece. They looked at me a bit funny when I said his name is Lorenzo but it’s true. The plant’s name is Lorenzo and has been for some time. We donated the children’s books to the locals, hauled Madame Geneva out of the water and headed home.

Thank you Clover
Thank you Madame

Three flights, one overnight layover at JFK, and 5 negative COVID tests later I am writing this from home. I have a cold beer, I am rested, clean, and getting ready to fall back into what we call “re-entry”. Oh, and we have a new puppy as promised. Ferris. 

It’ll be another long winter but spring will find us aboard again. Hopefully crossing borders and making it to Venice, Athens and Istanbul as we planned before 2020 fell to pieces. 

Please be well. Much love from all of us. Leg 10, year 7 coming up next. Stay tuned!

From Hvar to Lastova

Perhaps what 2020 has provided us is an opportunity to reset expectation, and to work more closely aligned with anticipation.  Expectation breeds complacency.  Anticipation allows for a delicate dance with knowledge and agility.  An expecting society struggles to see the beauty of each day, the simple appreciation of clean water, the comfort of a warm (or a cool) bed in which to sleep.  When those simplicities are made more difficult through an introduction of the unknown, they become more precious, more valuable.  Shake the rug and we realize how much dust has been masking our world.  2020 has provided the shake.  What now will we do with our knowledge and agility?

We, the captain and crew of Madame Geneva, move about in our home.  We have our comforts about us but we must work for them.  We make our water to drink and to bath and there is a great joy in that.  We do not take these things for granted, simply because that is when they break and we are bloodying ourselves to fix them.  We struggle through what is expected of us (work, school) with the limitations of electricity (what we cannot create by solar, we must ration drastically, leaving laptops uncharged and assignments due) and wifi, while wanting each hour to be filled with the rarity of exploring at this time.  We recognize how incredibly fortunate we are for these struggles. 

Last year, we were unable to get to Hvar town.  The weather was not cooperating, our bow thruster was not working and the only available space was a rocky stern-to mooring.  Uh…no thank you.  This year, we arrived in perfect time.  Surprised but pleased to know that we had secured a “360 buoy”, despite the closeness of every known boat in Croatia, we settled into our day with a fresh tank of water made in Rogoznica (that is one tank because somehow we have two other tanks of water but are without the ability to retrieve said water).   We watched a little nervously as charter boats rafted up to one another at these same buoys and were careful to discourage anyone rafting up to us.  Later in the day, we were approached by one of the marineras and we requested that we ride our mooring alone. We were told that only one boat was allowed per mooring.  He said this while two boats were moored together at the next buoy. 

Secure in our knowledge that we were at the mercy of the fates, we left the boat and went into the town.  As with many of these ports, the streets were relatively deserted.  Over the next couple of days, we hiked up to the fort and through the alleys.  We visited shops of handmade jewelry and leather bags, dockside cafes, and narrow sidewalk restaurants.  The kids had their most expensive gelato in Croatia (18 kuna! 2-3 times more expensive than elsewhere and still about USD$2.70 for a cone).  The people were gracious, and worried for business that did not come this year.  “Not since the war,” said a silver smith at his family’s jewelry shop, “has it been this bad.  I was only 9 years old then.” 

We cast off for the island of Lastova.  This national park at the edge of Croatia, well into the Adriatic, was pocketed with bays, ruins, churches, and beauty.  Our first anchorage had us tied to a tree.  Our next had me swimming for a stern buoy with a long line tethered to Madame Geneva, in about 20 knots of wind.  We walked into the town of Lastova, high above the cliffs overlooking a small port.  The chimneys of Lastova vary from house to house, as symbols of status.  Each also served to reflect the intimate knowledge of the wind in that area, providing ventilation in these old stone homes.  Some were grandiose and proud, some small and delicate.   

We have been traveling in Croatia for about five weeks, and we haven’t even come close to seeing all there is to see.  Last year, I said that Split was not to Dubrovnik, but little did I understand how unexplored we had left Croatia.  Though many towns share similar ruins and rules, each has its character often easier to photograph than to describe.  From a bell to a door to a quay made into an organ, these towns provide an opportunity to remember that our expectation can never be met with quite the pleasure with which our anticipation can.   

Take nothing for granted.  Much love and stay tuned.

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.

Brijuni by Che Walling

Pillbox en route to Brijuni

The last two days have been incredible! We left Pula for a different place to explore, and we found one named Brijuni. There was a big seawall, guarding a crescent-shaped bay and we found a spot to tie up. It is very hot in the boat, so Mom and Dad looked on their phones for a place to go. We had no idea what they found because when they did find a place they wouldn’t tell us. They said it was a surprise but they agreed to give us a few hints. Long story short, they were not clear at all. They said, “We are going to rent bikes,” and, “You’ll see.” We walked along the bay side and passed a yellow hotel looking for a bike rental. Mom said it would be around the back of it. I spotted it on a hill and we rented a few bikes to go to the surprise place. Just like that, we were off! We rode our bikes around the windy paths and came across a lot of cool things on our way. There were a lot of trails surrounded by vast areas of sun-soaked grass. Enormous trees shadowed our path with their big branches. We whizzed by a golf course and a lot of fields. On one field, I spotted some deer, but they ran away because of the bikes. After a little longer we stopped at a tall stone wall and walked through an archway. What laid behind the wall was not expected.

Byzantine Castrum

It was massive! Ruins of buildings stretched all the way to the ocean side, which is far! On all four sides, tall walls stood proudly, defending the old town from invaders. We walked along the ruins and saw weird things. I saw a little stone head lying on the ground but I couldn’t read what it said. Dad spotted a big opening that lead down into a deep hole. I followed him over and looked down. There was nothing down there but some trash and overgrown plants. I thought there were steps and almost stepped down but I realized at the last second that it was a straight drop down. It wasn’t that far but it still would have hurt and been unexpected. One side of the wall, which opened up to the ocean, was not tall at all. In fact, we could walk up it and see the view of the whole entire town. Even when in ruins, I could see what used to be there. There were two courtyards and from the middle of both, an oak tree rose. We climbed down and listened to Mom explain was it was. It turned out what we were standing on was not the original ground! After being around for almost 2000 years what we were standing on must have actually been 6-9 feet deeper! I wondered what it would have been like to wind through and out of the alleyways.

Nearby Basilica

We found our way out and hopped back onto our bikes as if that was the full surprise. It wasn’t at all. I went ahead on the bike and came to a huge door that read something that I couldn’t see because I was too far away. When we all got to the door, we looked up and read what it said. It said, “Safari.” I thought it was going to be something boring. I did not expect it to be a zoo! We pressed the button which let us in. We didn’t even have to pay for it because it came with the marina spot. We entered, and it really was a safari. There were huge acres of land which almost matched the authentic habitats. I’m so happy to see a zoo that was a fair size for the animals.  Best of all, the animals were all from gifts from various countries when Croatia became its own country. We were allowed to bike through it and saw many wild things. To the right of the path were zebras and a very odd llama. They had an enormous space to roam and hide when they wanted to. The zebras were rather big when up close. We were on the fence and the zebras were right there on the other side. Two of them stood there, and the llama sat at their feet. Half of the llama’s face was white with a bit of black on the end of its mouth. It looked like it was wearing a skull on its head. Further on there was an intersection which lead left and right. We went right and saw a wonderful surprise.

There was an elephant who was gifted from India. It was very tall and covered in orange dust. Its habitat was very reasonable. Along the sides of its home, there were orange dust marks where the elephant would use the walls as a scratching post. Across the path was a turtle rehabilitation station. The turtle would be nurtured to good health and then released back into the wild. We went further on and there was a small herd of ox lying in the fields. Continuing further, there was another intersection. We went left and came to a big door that read dinosaur prints. We later found out that when the dinosaurs were around, some of them stepped in clay, covered with a sediment and over time it was turned to rock. It was very cool and interesting to see something from nearly 65 million years ago. Further down, we passed a pillbox and got to go see what was inside. When we got to the end there were two shooting holes. On the path out of the safari, there were some more donkeys and two very tall ostriches. After the zoo we went back to the boat and had a wonderful dinner. We went to bed after watching a movie knowing that we just got to see some pretty amazing things.

Google Forms by Gherty Walling

I really hope nobody’s taking me seriously when I write my answers in google forms. When teachers ask you a question it just feels so different then when you see a question in google forms. I mean I held myself back sometimes. But what do they expect when they ask you to put a would you rather after they put would you rathers? Do they expect a thoughtful, nice, non-deadly would you rather? At least I put would you rather know you’re going to die the next day or not know and have it just happen at a random time. That’s not as bad as Che’s would you rather die or live. I don’t know what Quinn did. Just wanted to mention that they asked for a song that should go on the middle school playlist. If you think I did some entirely normal song that I don’t know, Micheal Jackson wrote. You’re half right! I may have put Eat it by Weird Al (I can’t spell his last name!). I think it would be hilarious if we were doing some project with food in it, say you had to build something, and the you heard Eat it! Just eat it! Come on to the speaker. Then the class just started eating the supplies, and it was all because of my master plan!Also she asked us what do you think when you hear the word science? First thing that came to my mind was explosions. I read a book that said these forms were to figure out if you’re a normal kid or not. So I put plants. and explosions. Because plants are normal right? Yeah, whatever. This is just the science one, we also had an over all school one. What are my academic/school year expectations? I kind of want to learn enough to make it to 8th grade, but if you want to let 7th grader compete in the pi contest that’d be great! In case you’re wondering, the pi contest is on pi day. It’s once a year and the 8th graders bring in a pie and whoever can eat it the quickest wins. Unfortunately you only get one chance. Why can’t we eat pie every year?! Anyways back to science! How do you learn best? Seeing, hearing, writing, or doing? Well, explosions… you can’t create them by seeing, hearing, or writing. So doing! There’s my logic for you. Also one question that I held myself back on was; people were to come to you about information about a topic that you know a lot about, what would that topic be? My first answer was me, then I remembered I needed them to think I was semi-normal, so they would be surprised when I brought out my master plan to DESTROY THE- wait I probably shouldn’t say this out to the internet… What I meant was my master plan to save the turtles, yes, to save the turtles.What do you hope we do in science this year? EXPLOSIONS!!!! I mean some fun project that has nothing to do with explosions. 🙁 

Coliseums and Tunnels by Quinn Walling

    So, we woke up and had a nice breakfast of bacon and eggs. After breakfast, we chilled on the boat for a while. After we chilled, we decided that this day was gonna be the day that we visit the colosseum.

    We started to go towards the colosseum. It wasn’t very far from where we were and we reached it very quickly. When we got there, we paid for tickets and went inside. It was beautiful! The sixth largest roman built still standing colosseum in the world! It had a stage thing that Elton John had performed on! The Pula Film Festival starts on Saturday, but we’re leaving before Saturday. Anyways, the colosseum looked very cool. There were some ruined parts that we climbed on. It was huge and everyone loved it.

    After the colosseum, we went to the underground tunnels, built during WWI. We paid and read the sign that said that about 50,000 people could fit inside of them! At first, it looked like what I think a sewer would look like. It got a little nicer farther up. It was really cold but cool. While we were entering one of the prison cells, I stepped in gross water. My toes felt gross for the whole walk after that. There were holes in the prison cells for going to the bathroom. Afterwards, we went to the middle of the tunnels. Two of the tunnel entrances were closed off,so we had to go through the last one. It was amazing seeing all of this and we had a lot of fun. We went back to the boat and chilled after that. Well, that was kinda long. Quinn, Out!

A blind squirrel and a Mexican restaurant.

I feel lucky. Always do these days but lately so much more so. When we left the fjord to head to an outer island for a safe night’s anchor we were a day ahead of when we expected to get back offshore. The wind had been dead, the heat present and the days long and hot. We have lived through and sailed through the early summer Mistral winds that howl from the French Alps and know all too well that in the Med it’s feast or famine for wind. Famine means motoring or motor sailing. Feast often means seeking a sheltered spot and hunkering down or charging on deeply reefed. Often for days.  

Velebit Mountains

The Bora is famous. So is the Sirocco. Winds that are big and destructive which shape how life is lived get names. Bora is the NE katabatic wind which pours like an avalanche down the Velebit mountains. It’s not at all uncommon to be 50-70 mph in the summer. The islands in the Velebitski channel are barren facing northeast, forested to their lee. In the winter some towns string chain or ropes along sidewalks to help people walk into howling snow hurricanes. Sirocco blows from the Sahara hot and strong and when it rains the rain is red. There are safe harbors and bays (Uvala) aplenty. Getting caught out is an option we are careful to avoid.

Windward facing shores are blown barren here

We anchored (3 times to avoid the weed and the rock scale bottom) in a bay alone to run our generator for water making and clothes washing.  A calm and productive night in Uvala Zabodarski, Losinj, Croatia. I doubt most locals know what where we were is called.

Quinn reading on the boom at anchor…in a fjord

The next morning we were off to Istria. This is the peninsula on the mainland just south of Slovenia and a mere 75 miles from Venice. We are the farthest north we have ever sailed. Exactly halfway between the equator and the North Pole.
Light wind motor sailing at 9 knots found Madame Geneva spotting dolphin, green and orange giant jellyfish and boats everywhere. No Americans. Just us…and a lot of Germans, Croats, a handful of Dutch, Austrians, Italians and the first Slovenian boat I’ve seen.

No crowds. No cruise ships. Just us.

We pulled into the marina at Pula because some regrouping and watering/provisioning was in order. We might be accused of thinking we know what we’re doing underway. Occasionally even the blind squirrel finds a nut. Hours after we tied up….Bora! Pretty big summer Bora at that. Definitely gusting 40’s at times in the harbor. 60+ with 9-12 foot seas where we spent the last 2 days alone at anchor. Yep. Feast or famine. Blind squirrel with a full belly. 

Pula is amazing. A giant Roman Colosseum lit at night on the waterfront. Roman ruins abound. Venetian palaces, Austro-Hungarian  empire relics, World War I tunnels under the city, medieval everything and even a Mexican restaurant.  Yep!

Stay tuned. Stay healthy. Much love.