Croatian humor from Darko the dinghy driver: A ship's captain calling on the radio says "help, help, I'm sinking, I'm sinking" and the response back is "what are you sinking about?"
There's a lot to think about while in Croatia, which of the many islands to sail to next, where to drop anchor for the night, what old cobblestone streets to explore, when to swim in the pristine bays, so many difficult decisions to make. It was a good thing we had almost two months to make them all, and still there was not enough time. I know that may be surprising to hear, seems we have nothing but time now that we are not working and have such a small space to call home. But reading back through the ship's log, a journal we keep on board that chronicles our days, where we are, where we're heading and the conditions we encounter getting there, we realize why time has sped by. We usually made at least two stops a day, there were just so many islands and so much to do. The weather cooperated, giving us plenty of warm, sunny, breezy days, and we had the added bonus of family on board to explore all these places with us.
Our first stop in Croatia was Cavtat, outside of Dubrovnik, from there we sailed north as far as Sibenik, stopping to see as much as we could along the way. We hiked the paths through Krka Park and swam the pools beneath the many rushing waterfalls, walked the cobblestone streets of the Diocletians Palace in the ancient heart of Split, sampling the street food at road side stalls while shopping for the Croatia cravat, stopped at the island of Brac and the beautiful beach of Zlatni Rat which looks like sand from a distance but finding pebbles underfoot when we swam in, were serenaded by local musicians in our dinghy when we drove them to their next job across the small harbor while visiting Hvar, enjoyed homemade crepes on the streets of the old town of Stari Grad and a traditional peka dinner at a near by farm, explored the island of Vis with views of the surrounding bays and local beers from the hilltop fort, enjoyed interesting boat side conversations while waiting to enter the crowded, but worthwhile Blue Grotto on Bisevo, sailed to the distant island of Lastovo with it's turquoise water and idyllic beaches, stopped at the island of Korcula to walk the streets of the old walled city, get a lesson in local wines and watch a traditional sword dance, swam and hiked around the salt water lakes in the national park on Mjlet, enjoyed anchoring in the crystal clear waters on Sipan and dining on fresh fish served by a professional Croatian bowler, admired the view over the many tiled roofs, despite the blazing sun, while walking the old city walls of Dubrovnik, and along the way taking in the history by stopping at the many museums and churches when we weren't busy swimming and hiking the tranquil bays. And we have found that the good beaches here are always rocky, some big, some tiny, all difficult to walk on. It makes sense now why every town has it's concrete slab beach with stairs into the water where so many of the locals choose to hang out.
With all this traveling between islands something is bound to happen, and it did. Normally we raise our dinghy out of the water and hang it on davits off the back when sailing between ports, but one day with light winds and a short distance to go we decided to leave it tied to a line off the stern. Those winds blew stronger than expected, we decided to sail further, and an hour into our trip we realized our dinghy was no longer trailing behind the boat. We really try not to do stupid things but this would clearly fall into that category. Searching for it was like looking for a needle in a haystack, it could be anywhere, out to sea or washed up to shore in the rough waves, and we couldn't help thinking how difficult, and pricey, it was going to be finding a new dinghy in time for family visiting. So with binoculars in hand we turned around and started our hopeless search back to where we started. Pulling into the crowded harbor of Hvar Town that we had left hours earlier, dodging the many ferries and pleasure boats, we had all but given up hope, and then Tony spotted it in the distance! The line on the dinghy had gotten wrapped around a mooring in the harbor and there it was just floating peacefully, waiting for us to retrieve it. Finding it seemed a bit of a miracle and I couldn't help but think my dad had a hand in that, comforting to know he still joins us on this journey.
And everywhere we go we continue to gather stories, from locals and other travelers we meet along the way. Luckily we didn't have to converse in Croatian, a difficult language with it's limited vowels and unlikely letter combinations, most people made it easy for us and spoke at least a little english. The taxi driver that could tell a good joke but also shared a bit of what he experienced living through the Homeland Wars that were fought in his streets, the fellow visitor that had family in Croatia and was driving his van around the country in the 90's when the war broke out, the woman selling homemade leather shoes that wasn't all that happy with the effect the Game of Thornes tours had on her city, tourists were missing out on the history and many churches of Dubrovnik, the motor boat driver from Vis frustrated with having to share the Blue Grotto with tour boats from other islands, believing Vis should have a monopoly on this gem due it's proximity and the fact that tourists were only recently allowed on their island because of the military installations there. And I have learned that you don't ask locals where they are from, of course they are from this town where they live now and have lived their whole life. We have also found that in sharing stories you can't help but talk politics, a subject we avoid when home due to the many divisive points of view. But when sharing views with people we meet from so many different countries there is such a curiosity and genuine interest in gathering information, not persuading opinions. There's a lot of questions to ask about what things are like in this former Yugoslavian country, and they are just as curious about what is going on these days back in the US. We love gathering the stories and by doing so we keep finding that regardless of geography, we're really not all that different.
Leaving Croatia is a turning point in our travels, now we are heading west towards home. We can't help but have mixed feelings about that, we continue to miss home and everyone there, but knowing this is the last time we will sail these waters on Spindrift makes us determined to make the most of the time we have remaining. So we'll keep collecting stories, and a basket full of boat cards, from people we meet along the way. Our world continues to feel so much larger than the 53 feet we share on board.