For the last five days we have been sailing around the islands with UK friends Debbie and Quentin and have experienced all types if weather; rain, glorious sunshine, massive thunderstorms, overnight gales of serious intensity. None of that got in the way of a good time however and it had been good to share some of our favorite spots with friends. Daughter Harriet and boyfriend Will form the replacement crew later today.
The area between the salt lake and the sea at the very southern end of Dugi Otok is made up of limestone cliffs and a limestone pavement. In an unusual display of 'public' art, visitors have built hundreds of cairns out of the limestone and sometimes decorated them with bits of driftwood and junk. There must be at least 500 and even though it doesn't photograph well its seriously impressive to see. Yes, of course, we (re) built one too.
For the last several days we have been cruising the Kornati Islands, one of the most remote spots in Europe. Fifty something islands, no ferries and no resident populations, just visiting yachts and occasional tripper boats. The islands themselves are Karst limestone, often frost-shattered and barren. A few wild sheep are all that remain of the agriculture that successfully destroyed the environment through over grazing.
Luckily there are several good restaurants to serve the yacht market and we have been working our way through some of them and enjoying some good seafood. Even though it’s September, there are lots of charter boats here and some of the anchorages are quite crowded. 90% of the charterers are German, with the occasional Scandinavian and the very occasional British charter. We’ve witnessed quite a few Bavarian singing nights, mostly after the two Brits have retired to their boat! There are a few privately owned boats (mostly Austrian and German) and a fair number of super-yachts cruising through here too although nowhere for them to stop even if they wanted to.
The sailing has been exceptional and we have been working the boat hard to successfully prove she is the fastest cruising boat in the Kornatis (despite the huge amount of extra baggage we are carrying around with us). The weather is now changing however and sunshine has given way to rain and electrical storms all around us.
Approaching Luka Telescicia National Park to moor for the night we were caught in the most violent rain storm we have ever seen. Despite full waterproofs we were soaked through by the time we moored up and escaped below and the rain was so intense that from the steering position at the stern of the boat I couldn’t identify Jan at the bow, all I could see was a vague shape in a red waterproof through a driving fog of rain. Needless to say two hours later the rain had stopped and we spent the next day exploring the salt lake and the cliffs of the park whilst our gear dried out in the sun. Settled weather has now returned.
After ten days of isolated cruising we have been driven into a marina on the island of Murter as we have run out of water (and the food situation is looking a bit scary too). So we now know we can go ten days without civilisation (or more if we cut down on the number of showers). Photos to follow when we get decent wifi connection.
Wind instrument replaced and all the navigation instruments chatting happily together again and we are ready to set off to explore the Kornati islands, some of the most barren and isolated islands in Europe with a dramatic beauty of their own. Inevitably it was man who created these landscapes, overgrazing with sheep and then burning vegetation and letting the fires get out of control. Today the 50 or so islands are an uninhabited National Park and only visited by tour boats and yachtsmen. There's nothing there apart from some good restaurants- our sort of place.
We enjoyed our first real walk of the trip climbing to the Venetian fort at the top of the island. The views down to the Kornatis were spectacular even though the Croatians had ruined the fort by building the biggest microwave/ telecoms tower in the middle of the fort. There was so much microwave energy floating about up there that we could have cooked our picnic had we remembered to bring it with us.
We had a great evening with Harry and Matt, successfully feeding them up after several days of fasting due to a lack of cash. They had great tales to tell of their 3 week trip across Eastern Europe and we were impressed how much cultural exploration had got in the way of partying. They headed back to the UK this afternoon, holiday over.
We are back on the boat again but enjoying a few delays. We arrived very late on Friday and the arrival of bad weather on Monday was widely forecast. Gales and rain of truly biblical proportions duly arrived. In between times we explored Zadar and cycled around the island of Ugljan. Tuesday was a day of slowly improving weather but whilst checking the boat out we found our complex instrument systems were refusing to talk to each other and an electrician was required. He arrived today and after much head scratching declared that the boat had been struck by lightning and blown out the network. Everything with B&G written on it would need to be removed and checked and we should contact our insurers. Instead I contacted Inspiration Marine, our dealers, who said "no it's almost certainly a warranty fault with some small bit of kit, don't let him take any gear off the boat". Simultaneously our electrician re-appeared and said his colleague had told him of the likely problem and sure enough when we disconnected the windspeed instrument everything else returned to life. So now, with some relief , we are waiting on a new windspeed indicator (Friday) before we can set sail.
The upside of our delay is that we can now meet up with our godson Harry, who, with a friend, is finishing a cultural tour of central Europe in Zadar and our offer of dinner and a bed was greeted eagerly as money is obviously running short at this stage of their travels!