Having left Stockholm and Sweden back in 2013 we had arrived in Croatia in 2016. We had then spent two seasons cruising the Dalmatian coast using Korcula as a base. Croatia is truly stunning with an archipelago consisting of numerous islands and water that pretty much allows you to check the anchor from the boat even if it is close to twenty meters deep. It offers anything that a cruiser could wish for. This is not a secret to the yachting community and visitors that come to explore the country on their own keel are becoming a major source of income for Croatia. A development that clearly has not been missed by the authorities, both local and national. Every year we noted new and increased charges ranging from cruising permits, boat taxes, harbour and moorings fees, national park dues and, the most annoying one, anchoring fees. For using your own anchor in a bay. You only have to drop the hook and before you have opened an anchor beer some guy in a dinghy with a white shirt and a captain’s hat turns up with a note pad asking for a ridiculous fee. As if the shirt, hat and note pad props make him look official in some way.
We love Croatia though. Even though we at times felt taken advantage of. The country has a long coast line with numerous islands, historic villages, vineyards and anchorages. The islands come in all shapes, high and low, uninhabited and developed, green and lunar like. All beautiful though. And I guess you can’t go wrong with a country that produces lavender, truffle and wine. By now we also know what wines to buy, what to eat and maybe more importantly, what not to eat. We have for example never seen a cow in Croatia. At least not on the islands. I would go for lamb, chicken, pork and fish instead.
But at least for my own sake, I can say that I didn’t come to Croatia to stay. I didn’t just swap cruising in the Stockholm archipelago to transport the boat to another group of islands and stay there indefinitely. I always viewed the Stockholm-Korcula trip as a start of a journey rather than a transportation. And I much preferred sailing to Croatia than to be there. In my mind, the whole point with a boat is to move and preferably not to turn around. If you believe earth is a sphere you shouldn’t have to. Just go west and you will eventually get back to where you started anyway. That way you will get to discover new places along the way too.
The plan for this summer was to sail Saoirse to Tropea, on mainland Italy just north of the Messina Strait. I was going to take the boat by myself to Cavtat, just south of Dubrovnik, where I was going to pick up my crew, Daniel and Justin. Daniel is my youngest son and Justin is his basketball mate. They both sailed in Croatia the year before and this summer they were going to stay on Saoirse for two weeks and fly home from Zakynthos, the southern-most Greek Ionian island. I would then go via Sicily, the Messina Strait and the Aeolian Islands to Tropea where I was planning to get some work done on the boat while it was stored on the hard for the off season. Work that would prepare Saoirse for a live-aboard life.