The Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth – Sailing the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia!

I am completely out of sequence on my travels and belated in putting up this post on my experiences in Croatia and sailing on the Dalmatian Coast, but it is not due only to a busy schedule, it truly has been a bit of a hard write up to do and post. I have always had a hard time saying anything that was not really what I wished it would have been. Which I guess is in part is because I always want to make the best out of any situation and put the best light on what ever happens, which I will put this trip, sailing the coast in Croatia, in that catagory and with many thanks to the group of good sailing mates that I had the luck to sail with, we together were able to make the best out of a situation that at its best was a very unexpected adventure.

To take it back a bit, a lot of this has to do with expectations. The background on this trip started back last November, while driving down the PCH close to Half Moon Bay south of San Francisco when I was out for a jog after celebrating my good friend Heidi’s birthday in an old distillery there in the bay. On that jog is where I saw the poster about Ocean Studios, which lead me to meeting Michael Moore, a photographer looking for other adventure photographers for his studio. Michael has since introduced me to Lisa Nash from Blue Planet Network along with Rudi Dundi the photographer who exhibit works on water projects in Kenya. Through Michael, these new friends have been a huge part of my travels and identifying water projects and contacts around the world.

Michael at the time also told me about a couple of trips that he had planned with a group of professional photographers, one to Panama in February and a second to Croatia in June. – The trips were to be given for free to get the professional photographers to come to these places and promote tourism. As a total novice photographer, with a year of travel and picture-taking ahead of me, this all sounded pretty cool to me. How great would it be to be able to spend a week with a group of professional photographers in an exotic location and learn first hand, by experiencing and seeing them do their professional photographs for a week! – Michael agreed it would be a great way to learn photography and said that sadly Panama was full, but he had not even sent out invites for the Croatia trip, so he said he would put me down as a definite. He indicated that there were going to be 10 photographers going on the boat along with the captain and crew and the plan was to sail, kayak and hike for 10 days along the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia!! – YES, count me in please!

I left it with Michael that I would check back in with him off and on and he would let me know as things developed, which we did and all seemed pretty positive, until late April or early May, when I had not heard from Michael for about a month or so. I was in Europe and the planned sailing trip was about a month out, and I was just to the point of booking flights / trains / travels for that part of my trip… – So, I pinged Michael and he informed be that the trip was still on, and he sent me the below detailed itinerary, but that he was now not going and he was not sure how many of the original 10 photographers were going, since the plans had changed and the trip was no longer being sponsored by the group for tourism. Michael did send the contact information along with what was noted as the cost for the trip. Looking it all over, it was still sounding good – still the detailed schedule and plan for hiking, kayaking, and sailing for ten days – essentially wake up for morning kayaks while the sail boat follows you and meets you in port. Have lunch on board and then hike around the island and spend the night in port or sail to the next port to do the same again. The flier indicated there were two double cabins and six single ones on board, which sounded good. And fingers crossed still a number of the photographers going on the trip, since I was originally the only non photographer and since the trip was still going on…. – here is where things went, lets say different from planned…

Attached is the Itinerary I was sent, for those interested in seeing it…

Croatia Adventure final itin

I am an optimist, so I know I am to blame for hearing things the way I hope they will be and finding the what sounds positive into what ever is planned and we do…but in this case, maybe I should have been a little more understanding and picking up on the red flags…

I emailed the contact of the boat to say I was still interested and he said great! – He indicated that some of the original people who were planned on the boat were still coming and really the only change was Michael and the guy who’s group was to help finance it had bailed. He indicated he has filling the spots with his wife and a couple of her work friends from Stanford along with a friend of his wife from Croatia. Since they were going to now have expenses, the plan was to just divide the cost evenly between the passengers for food and fuel and supplies, so the price would not be free, but not as much as Michael had thought. We still were planning in hiking and kayaking and sailing and all… – And there was still a spot for me… was I interested and still wanted to go – of course – definitely!!

The Morco Polo… maybe this should have been the first sign – this is the same ferry that hit an island in Croatia and my transport across the Adriatic to the sail boating excursion

So, I am all in – I book a train to Ancona, on the Italian Adriatic coast and a ferry over to Split, Croatia. Jim, the guy who I was coordinating everything with, said to be sure to get there a couple of days early to see the sights in Split and to plan to get up to Sibnick and finally to Skradin where the boat was leaving from a day early so I could take a hike in the Krka National Park to see the water falls. He indicated that we were meeting some kids from a youth home the first day to take them kayaking, so we were not going to be hiking the park… – I like this guys – helping a youth home and getting me to see all the sights of Croatia – Very positive – and I followed the recommendation 100% and after a couple days of touring and hiking on my own, I was on dock an hour earlier than our 10:00 AM meeting time to load the boat and start the journey on Sunday morning the 10th of June.

Split, Croatia

Sibenik, Croatia

Krka National Park near Skradin, Croatia

I did not see the boat or any people, but there was a pile of supplies on the side of the docks, which looked like it might be ours. About 10:45 or 11:00 AM a couple of people came up including Jim, who I got to met for the first time. He introduced me to the kids from the youth home and one of my future sailing mates, Scott, a pretty cool guy from NY living in Kosovo working on the financing of a new ski lodge to help tourism in the newly formed, previously Serbian, Yugoslavian country. Plans had changed some, Jim said, noting it is better not to have a plan and just go with the flow… – They decided they were going to take the kids up to Krka NP to hike the water falls (the thing I got in a day early for to do yesterday as planned) and we would now load the boat between 4 to 6 PM to set sail. – OK, good and bad – still helping kids, one cool guy on the boat already – but plans don’t seem to important and I had 6 to 8 hours to kill… – I toured the town with them and hiked up to the top look out point, had a chance to sit back and catch up on my blog a bit… – so all good. We boarded about 5 and a few of the group took the kids on a kayaking tour (only 4 kayaks – 3 doubles and 1 single) so only so many could go, but it would give me a chance to see the boat and get settled in the cabin and meet some of the other folks on board.

Well, that would be the case if there were any cabins – This is where I learned that the difference between a berth and a cabin… – a berth, which is all we had, is a flat piece of surface in the bawls of a boat, big enough to enough to lay a 1/2 inch think piece of foam rubber cut up at an odd angle to fit the open flat spot – maybe 18 inches wide at your shoulders and widening to 24 inches at the waist and down to 12 inches at the feet… It remind me very much of he piece of foam rubber my Mom had bought for me to sleep on between my two older brothers, Jim and Dan, when I was old enough to not have to sleep in a crib – In this case, my spot was the bench across from the kitchen table…

The people seemed cool though – we had a couple of people doing cancer research at Stanford, Laura and Edgar, along with Edgar’s wife, Sylvia, who was from Florence, Italy (way cool), and Jim’s wife who also works on the labs at Stanford doing research. Jim and Tina’s 18 month old daughter, Petra, who was very cute and fun, the captain, who seemed cool, a friend of Jim’s wife from Croatia, Martina, who was a total cool addition and one other guy who was on the originally planned trip, Parviz or Perry – a very interesting and cool guy, but the only guy from the original trip and not a photographer – actually no photographers on board… iphones seemed to be the most used technology that I was going to pick up on this trip. – Along with before mentioned Scott, there were a total of 11 of us, which essentially was made up of mainly being just Jim’s vacation with friends and family and me – since I said I wanted to join (noting the above original plan still in my head)…

The eleven shipmates on dock – Let’s go sailing!!

Before leaving the captain and Jim both gave a little overview of the plans saying the plans were open. We would be sailing the captain’s boat back to his home port and doing some stops in cool ports along the way to do some kayaking and hiking. The captain, Kresco, gave us all a last chance to get off… – this is where my optimism took over and over ran my sensibility – after 8 hours of waiting to go, with no plan other than to get the captains boat back to his home port, no cabins, no photographers, limited kayaks, and on some guys family vacation that I did now know… – but a cool group of people and cool boat and an amazing new land and coast to discover – I stayed on.

Our Captain – Captain Kreso

The Bente Donte ready to set sail

I don’t regret staying on – it did prove to be an amazing group of people and the coast is beautiful… – but we essentially spent the next five days trying to catch a wind, trying my best at night to sleep on the upper deck (all five nights) and getting a chance (barely) to kayak twice.

After the first night of not sleeping on the deck, we were moving about 1/2 knot per hour on sail and I had fallen a sleep for about 30 minutes after lunch and having a few beers from a baby pony keg they had brought on board (like the like Heineken ones you see in the States), when there was a bunch of commotion as Perry was throwing a kayak into the water. – Jim asked if I could help, so I jumped up and helped put the second kayak into the water. This kayak Edgar was get into it – his wife Sylvia was not up for going and since it was a double, Jim said to me, “jump in…” – half awake a groggy from beer and no sleep, I jumped in and started paddling – …I looked back to see who was in the next boat, and apparently there was not another boat coming – everyone else had decided to stay on the boat.., and I was out there – not much of a kayaker to start with – with another novice kayaker – half asleep and paddling away.. – where to – who knows – when and where were we going to meet the boat – who knows.. – No plans, right – that is the way to go…. – Yikes – what did I get myself into…

Kayaking – Supposedly to that flat rock island…

After about 2 plus hours we convinced Perry maybe we should turn back to find the boat, which we could not see for at least the past hour. We had passed a major water way out to the open sea, while we remained paddling between islands and not sure what the sailboat path would or could be. – We found the sailboat about 30 minutes later and they were surprised we paddled so long and so far… especially after having a couple of beers at lunch… – Trust me – they were not the only ones surprised!!

That night we had a nice dinner that Martina, Tina’s friend from Croatia had made us, along with some good wine that the captain had bought from the port master, who made it himself from his own grapes. Followed by another not so sleepful night back up on deck. Now there were three of us on deck as the melons below were starting to smell and the bathroom that had limited water was not exactly smelling rosie.

Sunset on the Dalmatian Coast

The next morning I was up early and we were crashing along at full speed in the wind and the rain and rocking and all… – no time for kayaking or hiking that day – we were headed to meet some people in Rab the next morning. We had picked up another guy who was along for the ride and to help with the overnight sailing to get to Rab so he could look at buying a boat for himself – 12 of us on board now – with 9 berths – two couples… – and a baby, – meant more of us on deck for night three…

The following morning we pulled in port in Rab, which was an amazingly cool town and the plan was to be there for the night so the captain could run some errands and the guy could buy his boat. And as I quickly learned also we were there to return the kayaks to the guy we had borrowed them from… – I learned this by Jim asking me as I woke up, if I wanted to go kayaking and if i did I had to let him know right away… – ok – I learned my lesson on this one before… – I asked questions – who else is going?, when and where are we going?, for how long?… – it turned out that no one from our sailboat was going and it was only the outfitter who owned the kayak was going out with clients for a day long kayak – but as Jim offered none of this – he just says – no worries – do what you want – there is no plan…. – The fact is not that there was no plan – but there were no facts given – so no one could make a sensible decision on anything – I am glad I asked and through the course of the “do what ever” I learned what was really taking place and I stayed in town and had a great day at the beach with the other boat mates, and having a great dinner, meeting a girl from Austin, developing some fun stories in themselves to be shared when I see you all in person, and I even had time to get on the internet and get my haircut… –

Arriving in Rab, Croatia

But note, the kayaks were going – I had, had one chance for a groggy three-hour kayak in unknown waters and plans, but half the people on board had not even been in a kayak yet – and we were giving them back – …not exactly the above eight page flier planned trip! – To our luck, and no plan by Jim, the outfitter only had two clients for the day long trip, so they were able to leave us two of the kayaks and I was able to get a second fun outing with the folks who had not been out yet and we got to discover the coast around Rab. Not planned of course, but at least this time, luck fell in our favor, and we had a blast!

Kayaking and Beach Day in Rab, Croatia

Rab was also amazing, in part and a lot in thanks to Scott, who first thing in port booked a big suite in the hotel and he gave everyone a chance to take a real shower and use a real bathroom. – A lot of people joked, it was the best part of the trip – Way, way too nice!! – Thank you for sure Scott!! – Definitely a positive!!

The last day, was scheduled to get to a port with transportation to let off Laura, Edgar and Sylvia, who were having to leave early to get to a conference outside of Lucca, Italy and Sylvia was going home to see family. – I immediately said I would join them and rather than spend another day getting the boat to the captains port, I would make my travels plans from this transportation hub. – It sounded easy enough, but the captain decided to stop in this little port, which was real nice. We had returned the rest of kayaks to their owner, but we could swim and check out the little bar and restaurant there, which was nice. We had to leave about 2 or 3 PM to catch the bridge opening, but being before lunch, that should not be an issue… that is until 2 or 3 came around and the captain was happily drinking at the bar with Jim keeping him company until it was too late to make the bridge opening… – So, plans were changed… or, oh yea, we had not plans… –

Our bar the final day and night

It turned out Croatia was playing in the Euro 2012 that night and this would be our last night together, so we would all have a chance to celebrate. The captain had talked to the locals and apparently a small bus would pass by the village about a mile up the hill, at about 6:00 AM and the group could get up there to catch the bus to get to the City that we were headed to catch the big bus to the ferry to the transportation hub that we were trying to get to… Sounds easy enough – I swam in to the bar and had a beer and Tina and Perra came in by dingy – once we were all there and got some pictures of the group of us all at sunset, the captain and Jim who had been on shore all day wanted to get back to the boat, but Tina want to stay, so Jim could take the baby back – Martina wanted to use up the rest of the food, so she went back to cook and everyone else started to head back, which sounded fine to me – other than when the captain said… you can’t leave Tina here alone – so Joe, you should stay with her – …to watch a sport you don’t really know – for a team you don’t know – playing against Italy, who the rest of the bar wanted to win – while an obnoxious drunk Italian yells at you to press up closer to the wall so he does not have to move his chair two inches to see the game… and to miss the last meal together as a group celebration that was taking place a couple hundred meters away across the water… Still trying to be optimistic – I was in a bar – Tina is cool – I was in Croatia and there was sports on TV… – but… wow I am not 100% sure I love the no planning / no information idea….

Sunset on the last night on the boat

The last morning the boat started moving about 4 AM and we did not have to climb the hill with luggage in a borrowed wheel barrel to catch the ride to the big bus and instead the boat got us up to the draw bridge and to the big bus to take us to the ferry to take us to the main land and the transportation hub… – Yes, this is where I got off the boat…

Sunrise arriving on the Dalmation Coast o Adriatic Sea

As I said, I do not regret the decision to stay on when the captain gave us our last chance to bail, but I was so glad to be back to knowing the options and yes, having a plan!

Ferry out of transport town

The boat truly was an amazing experience – 100% different then I expected, but I truly loved the people – Martina, the girl from Croatia was amazing – intelligent and interesting and cute and a total addition. The captain was fun-loving and the historic old boat was cool. Laura and the groups from Stanford where way cool and Scott was a total positive. And Jim, although I am very thankful you opened the invite for me to join you all, I would note there is a difference between giving people information and having a plan, there is a huge difference – but overall I am glad I did it and makes for a good story of discovering Croatia.

Bottom line the beauty was in the people and the scenery, so I hope the following pictures tell the positive and amazing side of the story. I definitely recommend going to Croatia, but recommend – have somewhat of an idea and maybe even a little bit of a plan…

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About joesworldwatertour

I am starting this labor day, 2011 on an up to two year tour of the world to visit and work on water service projects in developing communities. I am a water engineer who has been working in the corporate world of consulting since I graduated from college too many years ago and I hope this will be a chance to use my knowledge and experience to give something beneficial back to the world. I am starting my adventure with four months of research and a little decompression time before leaving on world travels in January, 2012. - I love people and will be missing a lot of close friends and family over the time away, but also hope to meet and friend a million more ahead!!
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2 Responses to The Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth – Sailing the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia!

  1. Anarya Andir says:

    Wow, wow, wow! What an incredible trip. The photos are stunning!

  2. Christine Schultz says:

    Oh, for goodness sake,Joseph! Between this experience and your taxi ride in Ghana, I think you will need a year to recuperate( unsure of spelling on recuperate) Jim’s suggestion that you come home for the 4th of July couldn’t have been timed better! Love, Christine

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