As we’ve been winding down our last couple of weeks of cruising, we’ve started planning next season’s travels. Normally we refuse to make firm plans, but here in the Mediterranean we need to be far more organized than usual, in order to make sure we are compliant with all the various immigration and tax laws. If we aren’t careful in our planning we could be booted from the EU, or subjected to large tax payments.
|The big picture of our three-year cruising game plan. We haven’t started detailed trip planning for 2014 and 2015, so ignore the route shown. This is intended only to show the countries we’ll be cruising.
Specifically, there are two different things we need to concentrate on: Vat tax, and Schengen.
As non-EU residents, if our boats stay in Europe more than 18 months, we could be subjected to a Vat tax of around 21% of the value of our boats. To avoid this tax we will need to take our boats out of the EU for some period of time. The nearest non-EU country to our current location is Montenegro. Thus, when we return next season, we’ll immediately head south to Montenegro, and exit the EU (Croatia joined the EU in July of this year, just before our arrival). A side benefit of returning to Montenegro is that we’ll be able to buy tax-free fuel, which is under half the price of what we’d pay in the EU. A third benefit is that we enjoyed our time in Montenegro and look forward to returning!
After Montenegro we plan to continue our journey west, re-entering the EU in either Greece (Corfu) or Italy (Brindisi). This will start a new 18-month clock ticking, which means 18 months from that time we’ll need to be thinking about exiting the EU again, probably to visit Morocco.
A potentially trickier problem is the Schengen issue. A subset of EU countries have signed onto something called “The Schengen Treaty,” including all of the countries we’ll be visiting in the near future. Schengen is an immigration policy that says foreigners (non-Schengen country residents) are allowed in Schengen countries only for 90 days out of any rolling 180 day period. We typically cruise at least four months a year, so this is a serious problem. Our current strategy, to comply with the Schengen regulations, is to apply for an extended stay visa in Italy. This involves a fair amount of bureaucracy, including convincing Italy that we have adequate finances to support ourselves, promising that we will not attempt to work, proving that we have insurance, and asking our police department to confirm that we do not have a criminal history.
Do not misinterpret my comments as complaining about the Schengen system, or saying that it is unfair. I believe quite the contrary. It will require some planning and effort at our end, but … I understand and support countries having strong immigration policies.
Anyway, to recap our last couple of weeks….
|Sans Souci and Seabird, alone at anchor in the Uvala Jasenova anchorage, near the ancient town of Nin.
I mentioned in my last blog entry that Sans Souci and Seabird were pinned down in a large, empty bay while waiting for a Bura (strong, 25 to 45 knot NE wind) to pass. It lasted for two full days, after which we decided to head to the nearby town of Zadar.
If you were reading just about anyone’s blog except mine, you would now be reading about the long history of Zadar, which was already a major trading center by the seventh century BC. However, my policy is to avoid competition with Wikipedia, which already has more information than I can provide: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zadar
Earlier, we had met a very nice American couple (Gayle and Jeff Allen from Lazy Bones, a sailboat) who tipped us to a little-known anchorage right in front of the old town of Zadar. It was a small anchorage, and not very well sheltered, but it was in an amazing location. Sans Souci arrived first and we dropped our hook, leaving what we thought was enough space for Seabird. However, when Steven looked at the tiny amount of space left over, and the lack of much protection from the elements, he wisely headed a couple miles away to a more appropriate anchorage. We thought about following, but … how many times in your life do you get a chance to drop anchor in front of an ancient city? Roberta and I felt bad…but, we didn’t move. Later when we all met for dinner, we discovered that we had been wise not to move. Our anchorage was a bit rolly, but Seabird was slammed endlessly by four and five foot waves while at anchor. They had a hard time even getting off the boat and onto the tender!
Roberta and I did some Googling for restaurants, and to our enormous surprise found a nearby Thai restaurant! (http://www.pearlofsiam.com.hr/onama?lang=en)
Sans Souci anchored in front of the old city of Zadar. It was an amazing place to anchor, but there was only room for one large boat.
After a long period of nothing except Croatian food, it took about 30 seconds for us to decide to book reservations there. Steven and Carol, who have spent two years in Thailand, were as excited as we were, particularly when I mentioned that the restaurant served Phad Thai, and Thai massages! I’m not a massage guy, but Steven is a fan of massages, especially Thai ones. “Is it a real Thai massage?,” he asked. I had no idea. Meanwhile, Roberta was saying that the food would almost certainly be bad. Often, getting cuisine in one country, that comes from another country, doesn’t work out so well. But, in this case, the food was wonderful. Maybe we were just starved for Thai food, but we were very happy. Later, when I asked Steven about his massage, he said it was “half good.” I asked what that meant, and he said that half of it was awesome, but that for the other half the masseuse decided to apply some serious pressure. She spoke only Thai, and he could only scream in English, so there was nothing to do but let the clock run out, and limp home as best he could.
Various scenes around Zadar
A couple of 3d scenes from around Zadar:
Zadar has a pipe organ that is played by the sea water! It was installed in 2005, and designed by Nikola Bašic. Near to the sea organ is a large, round panel built into the ground, which is a combination of solar panel and light show, also powered by the waves.
If the above video doesn’t appear, you can play it by clicking this link: http://youtu.be/4nISG7iBk-A
And, here’s a 3D picture of the large disc/solar panel: http://photosynth.net/view.aspx?cid=cd106889-5be5-4a62-8a40-cb3b61b511ff.
Sans Souci is barely visible, sitting at anchor, in the background.
Zadar was a great city, and we would have stayed longer, but we are reaching the time of year when storms begin to enter the weather pattern. We could see that several days of storms were coming, and that they would be coming from the south (which is unusual.)
In this new phase of our cruising adventure, decisions are made not by where we want to go, but instead by the weather. We needed a large shallow bay, which could hold both boats, that offered good protection from the south. One would think that with all the islands, that would be easy to find, but we had a heck of a time.
Roberta playing with the dogs (Toundra and Keeley) at Uvala Lucina, near Brbinj
Finally, Roberta found one, called Uvala Lucina, near the town of Brbinj, on Dugi Otok island. It would mean a bit of backtracking, but not too much. And, of particular appeal was that it was only seven miles from a bay called “Pantera” which had been one of our favorites on the way north. We didn’t want to repeat anywhere we had already been, but we’ve had several occasions where we arrived at an anchorage only to find no space available to hold us. We always need to have a destination, plus one or more backups in the plan.
As it turned out, no backup was needed. Uvala Lucina was perfect! We were well sheltered and had plenty of room for both boats.
We were expecting bad weather, so both of our boats put out something like 10 to 1 scope. We wanted to be prepared for whatever mother nature tossed our way.
|Barbecuing steaks on Sans Souci, with Seabird anchored in the background. We fared much better than Seabird on this occasion. While we were dining on board Steven and Carol tried out a local restaurant on shore. He ordered a cheeseburger. It arrived with no bun, the cheese inside the burger, and tasted gross. Was it beef? Did it once have four legs? The answers were not clear. Carol ordered spaghetti. It arrived with potatoes and peas mixed in, and no sauce. Yuck.
Keeley and Toundra enjoying the sunset
The water in the bay was as clear as any we’ve seen
Our first evening at the anchorage was perfect.
However, the next morning, early, we were reminded why we had come to the bay.
A terrific squall struck in minutes. Our world quickly changed from calm to anarchy. The worst part was that it was an electrical storm with lightning all around us. This meant shutting off all the electronics in the pilot house and taking our computers downstairs. On Seabird, Steven mentioned that he took his navigation computer and put it into a microwave oven for protection. Roberta and I went into the master stateroom to wait out the storm away from the pilot house.
This video shows a bit of the squall:
If the above video doesn’t appear, you can play it by clicking this link: http://tinyurl.com/leyc9vw
The storm didn’t last long, and although it was indeed followed by a day of wind, it was all rather anti-climactic. We had a great time at the anchorage and spent several days enjoying ourselves.
Steven, on Seabird, used the time to catch up on his own blog, which has gotten a bit behind, by publishing a blog entry talking about our trip from Symi, Greece to Athens:
I read his entry in amazement, because it was only a couple months ago, but so much had happened that it felt like years had passed. It was a reminder of how many places we had been in a very short time. This summer we’ve moved around quite a bit. I just checked my log book and Sans Souci has dropped anchor in 39 unique locations spanning over 2,000 miles. That’s quite a few, but honestly, it feels like ten times that number!
After a few days at anchor, it was time to move again. We identified an anchorage on the island of Zut, called Hiljake, and headed there. Unfortunately, on arrival we discovered what we had feared. It was another case of a large bay, deep in the middle, and shallow towards shore, in which mooring buoys had been placed entirely around the edge of the bay. We had two choices: 1) Drop anchor in over 100 foot of water (impossible for us) or, 2) Go elsewhere. We chose option 2.
We have added to our maintenance list to swap out our 400’ of chain for 600’ of chain. This will open up many more anchoring opportunities in the future.
Steven raised an interesting question: Why do they put the mooring buoys in the shallow water, instead of the deep water? If a boat is tied to a mooring buoy, it doesn’t care how deep the water beneath it is. Whereas, if dropping anchor, shallow water is much preferable to deep water. I’m sure the reason is that it is simpler for the people placing the mooring buoys. And, in reality, it doesn’t make much sense to cater to boats who drop their anchors. There aren’t many of us. Sans Souci and Seabird are too heavy to use the mooring buoys, and we are rare beasts in these parts. I doubt that I’ve seen three private boats, since arriving in Croatia, as large as ours. I remember feeling like a tiny boat in Montenegro, so there are large boats in the Adriatic, but Croatia isn’t attracting them. Whoever runs tourism for Croatia may want to visit Montenegro, and build a strategy for attracting larger power boats. This is a place where size does matter. I have no stats to back this up, but feel safe in saying that large power boats spend more money per foot, on meals ashore and other tourist activities, than their sailing counterparts.
Only five miles from where we had to turn around at Zut was Pasman island, with an anchorage named Soline. I have lost count of the number of anchorages we’ve visited named Soline. It’s apparently a popular name, and thus far all of them have been good, so we headed there.
On arrival, we discovered that it was a long skinny bay, with a shallow section at each end, loaded with mooring buoys, and a deeper (100+ foot) section in the middle. As we were on the radio saying that we’d need to head elsewhere I realized that if I tucked in closer to shore than I liked, and closer to the mooring buoys than I liked, there was a 55’ depth to be had. It wouldn’t be perfect, but we could make it work. Seabird hunted around, and also found a place.
In this picture it seems like the other boats are a mile away, but in actuality we need a large “swing circle” around our boats. The boats on mooring buoys need only a swing circle with a radius as large as their own boat, whereas we need a radius of at least 300 feet in all directions. In fact, when the wind came up, Seabird came within a dozen feet of running over one of the mooring buoys, which is barely visible on the right side of this photo.
Looking down the bay of Soline, with Sans Souci and Seabird far in the background
My first duty at Soline was to check out the restaurants on shore, hopefully finding a place for dinner. At my first stop, the restaurant was closed. Leaving the dock the tender suddenly ground to a halt. I had wrapped a line, attached to a floating plastic coke bottle, around the prop while backing away from the dock. While I was staring at the line wrapped around my prop, the father from a German family sunbathing on the dock dived in the water and swam out to help. A friend of his brought him a knife, and a couple minutes later I was back in action. Nice people! I had radioed Steven on Seabird to come help, as soon as I realized I was stuck. A minute later when I realized I had assistance I radioed Seabird to let Steven know no rescue was needed. Carol answered the radio and I asked her to intercept Steven. She said there was no way she’d be able to stop him. The chance to rescue me would be too much fun!
One of my projects while at anchor was to clean the glass on the underwater lights on Sans Souci. To my dismay they were caked with barnacles and crud. It took probably 30 minutes per light to get them cleaned. I had to work carefully in that I was constantly worried I’d break the glass. Now that they are clean, I’m thinking ahead to the winter. Who will keep the crud from getting thick this winter? Would a diver be careful not to break the glass? If I layer them with Vaseline before leaving town, would that protect them? I do not want to return next season to an inch thick layer of crud on my lights. Maybe they’ve only collected crud because they are turned on each night, and over the winter, with colder water, and no light, they’ll be fine. I don’t know.
This sailboat passed by the anchorage, pulling kids in a raft behind the boat. I’m sure there’s a good punch line I could put here, but all of my ideas have involved mother-in-laws, and Roberta would clobber me if I use one, so .. invent your own.
Roberta and I hiked a couple miles across the island to a bay on the other side, just to give us and the dogs some exercise. To get back, Steven and Carol brought Seabird’s tender around to collect us. Roberta and Steven held the dogs while Carol and I sat on the bow of the tender so that I could take this picture. With 20/20 hindsight we should have taken Toundra’s and Keeley’s life jackets because, as you can see — we had to hang on to them! Our poor doggies – they have bizarre lives!
We did find a good restaurant at Soline. It’s funny how our taste buds have been “recalibrated.” I scouted the restaurant at lunch, and took pictures of the food for everyone, to show how awesome it was. We’ve been burnt enough times that we are reluctant now to dine off the boat. We all enjoyed the meal, but I also commented that if the restaurant were in Seattle it wouldn’t last a month.
On our third day at Soline, we were awakened by darkening skies. Minutes later, I heard lightning, and just minutes after that, our sunny morning had transformed into something much different.
This brief video shows the view looking towards Seabird:
|Squall, at Soline Bay, on Pasman Island
If the above video doesn’t appear, you can play it by clicking this link: http://tinyurl.com/leyc9vw
Suddenly, the boats on mooring buoys that had seemed so far away, were much closer. Our anchors were holding, but our margin for error was gone, and Soline had become a lot less fun.
The forecast was for several more days of bad weather. We needed somewhere large and shallow, where we could spread out.
I had teed up a bay, called Kosorine, on the island of Murter, but it was now out of the question. Too tight.
Steven suggested the town of Vodice. We wouldn’t be sheltered, but in front of the town was a massive shallow bay. We would have plenty of room to drop our anchors, putting out as much scope as we could desire, and thereby withstand any storm that might come our way.
On our way, we saw storms around us, but managed to stay on their periphery. On arrival at Vodice, the weather had turned, and it was now a nice day. We were feeling cautious, and anchored shallow, with 10 to 1 scope, prepared for a hurricane anyhow.
While we were underway, I joked with Roberta that “…tonight we’ll be sitting at a tex-mex place sipping margaritas.” To my shock, and entirely by coincidence, Steven later came on the radio to say, “Ken. There is a Mexican restaurant in town.” How could that be? There couldn’t really be a Mexican restaurant in Croatia, could there? I had to check it out. Roberta has more common sense than I and said, “There is no chance it could be good. Why try it?” I, of course, did give it a try. We live in Mexico (Cabo San Lucas) half the year, so we have opinions on what makes good Mexican food. As it turned out, calling the food Mexican was a bit of an exaggeration. I ordered something called the Santa Maria Tortilla, and it came with a layer of mystery meat, kidney beans, and something resembling corn bread where the missing tortilla might normally live, but overall…it was a good enough place. I don’t know I’ll convince Roberta to ever go there, but I’ll give them an A for effort.
Sans Souci, anchored out in the boondocks, at Vodice, Croatia
Vodice turned out to be a very nice tourist town. Plenty of restaurants and a nice waterfront. Unfortunately, we had kind of a rough incident with the dogs that soured us a bit on the town.
We took the dogs into town for a walk, and encountered many dogs not on leashes. Our dogs literally scream in terror when they see another dog. I think it is a “little dog” thing. They are frightened of other dogs, and this comes out as aggression. Roberta and I had to carry the dogs a lot, but then after we had hiked over a mile from our tender, a large black dog started following us. We spent an hour trying to dodge the dog and get back to our tender.
Back on Sans Souci we were constantly being circled by jet skis, boats going in and out of the marina, and various tour boats. Vodice is an active tourist town, and our boat seemed to have become a tourist attraction. We called Seabird and explained that we were going to move the boat to the nearby island of Prvic, only a mile away, to get out of traffic. Steven and Carol decided to stay where they were.
This was to be the first time our boats had been out of sight of each other in nearly four months. For Sans Souci, it was a good move, and we enjoyed our new location, but it also felt really strange being away from Seabird…
Sans Souci anchored in front of the town of Sepurine, on the island of Prvic. We weren’t very sheltered, and did get bounced by the swell a bit, but loved the location and the island. Very charming.
I’ve noticed that three or four days seems to be our limit for anywhere. We were now down to only two weeks before we would be ending our cruising time in Croatia, and knew that our last week needed to be spent tucking the boat away for the winter.
So, where to go?
Last month, when Roberta and I were driving (a car!) near our marina, Mandalina Marina in Sibenik, we visited the Krka National Park. There we saw that a river stretches its way from Sibenik, through a winding series of passages, to the park. Roberta lobbied me to bring the boats up the river. Those who know me know that tight passages, and currents, are not my favorite kind of cruising.
|The town of Skradin, gateway to Krka National Park
But, now … we needed something “different” to cap off the trip, and looking closely at the charts, the narrow passages weren’t “that” narrow. Best of all, our goal would be a town called Skradin, which was only 1.5 miles from a huge lake, which was perfect anchoring depth.
After a group chat, we decided, “Let’s go for it!”
|The passage to Skradin was better than expected, but it was tight with many blind corners. Making it more interesting was that large tour boats also use it, and encountering one on a tight corner would be no fun. One would think these large boats would use AIS (a radio technology that allows other boats to appear on my charts,) but … some, like this one didn’t have their AIS turned on. I found an imperfect solution to the problem, which I radioed to Seabird, “Seabird, you can go first on this portion of the journey. Let me know if any traffic is heading our way.” It worked.
We anchored in a little cove off the main river, in a perfect location, a short ten-minute tender ride to Skradin. We’re still at this anchorage as I am typing this. There are at least four other little towns we can tender to from here, and we have front row seats for watching all the other boats go up and down the river. None of us now are in a hurry to leave. Our plan is to stay here until weather, or the calendar, forces us to move.
While tendering around exploring I noticed this giant “thing” floating. It was at least 14 feet by 14 feet, and an equal distance tall. Only when I was close did I discover that it is a “climbing toy.” Very cool!
While at anchor we were approached by a swan. This fellow was extremely well-trained to beg. We gave in and gave him a cracker, but knew to maintain distance. Swans may be pretty, but they can also be pretty fierce.
|Sans Souci and Seabird, anchored on the river.
A 3D picture from where we anchored on the river: http://tinyurl.com/lchjg6t
One of the many things we can do from where we are anchored is to hike to the Krka waterfalls. Steven and Carol hiked up yesterday, but only went to the first of many waterfalls. When they returned we had this exchange on the radio:
Ken: “If you’d kept going there is another lake, and a boat you can take from there to see a monastery.”
Steven: “We decided to turn around.”
Ken: “Roberta said it is a very special monastery, and is the most popular image on postcards about Croatia.”
Steven: “Nah. I think we’ve seen enough monasteries to last a lifetime.”
I relayed the conversation to Roberta, who said, “I think we are all about done with Croatia, and ready for someplace new.”
Croatia is wonderful, and I doubt we’ll ever find a place with so many islands, so tightly packed, offering so many anchorages, and so much variety. Sadly, we hit Croatia on a year when summer had a late start, and an early departure. It’s the luck of the draw. Conversely, a few years back we hit the Bering Sea on a year when the weather was as nice as they’ve ever had it. I’d call that a fair trade, and, in fact, the good weather has much outweighed the bad. I have a nasty tendency to talk about the squalls more than the sunny days, on the blog, because it makes for more exciting reading. The bottom line: If anyone reading this has an opportunity to rent a sailboat, or powerboat, here in Croatia, even if for only a week – do it! You’ll be glad you did.
|Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while might remember that last month we participated in a rescue of a boat named Nashira that had broken anchor. This was followed by Steven and I diving under Nashira to cut off a rope that had wrapped itself around their prop. The next day Roberta and I dined with the British owners, Liz and David. The big dinner topic was, “What went wrong, and how can we ensure it will never happen again?” Both Roberta and I were unambiguous in our recommendation: a new anchor! Steven had noted their anchor while we were diving, and mentioned to me that it was far too small for the boat. Yesterday, they (Liz and David) happened to be cruising near where we are, and decided to hook up with the four of us for a dinner at Skradin. During dinner David mentioned that they followed up on our suggestion and had already installed a new anchor: a slightly smaller version of the same Rocna on Sans Souci! I grabbed this picture of their anchor as they were running down the river past our boats.
And, something for the boat-geeks…
I haven’t said much about techie issues this season, with good reason. The boat has behaved near-perfectly! We had one struggle, with dead batteries on a generator, but overall this has been a trouble-free year.
At the request of some readers of my daily blog I created a video describing Sans Souci’s electrical system. It turned out both better and worse than intended. I had a hard time trying to decide how technical it should be, and wound up with a mishmash of things that were too complicated, and things that were too simple. It’s now on my to-do list to redo this video someday. I do think that anyone considering world cruising should spend time studying electricity, and perhaps this video will help generate interest in the subject.
If the above video doesn’t appear, you can play it by clicking this link: http://tinyurl.com/m59b8cl
This may be my last blog entry for the season….
If anything particularly noteworthy happens I’ll do one more, but at this point I’m thinking that it could be good to just do nothing until the time comes to return to port. Once at the marina we’ll be slammed, as we clean the boat, and start making lists: lists of things to bring back next year, lists of things to get fixed during the off-season, and lists of things we need to remember to take home.
So it has come that time where I sign off, and wish you all well.
Until next year….when the journey resumes.
Ken and Roberta Williams
Nordhavn 68, Sans Souci
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