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  • Writer's pictureCaptain Ian

Montenegro to Split, May 2024

On May 19 we arrived back in Montenegro to commence our 2024 sailing season. As we had done in previous years, we had planned to do as much of Nova Jean’s recommissioning work ourselves as possible. We will be cruising Croatia this year and any money saved during commissioning will be needed for Croatia’s expensive marinas. Nova Jean was filthy. I mean REALLY filthy. Navar shipyard, where she had spent all winter, is located right at the end of Tivat airport's runway. Every time a plane takes off, it dumps an oily soot all over our boat. We had washed and scrubbed the boat 3 times before we realised that a light squirt of engine degreaser made the black magically disappear. Other jobs we needed to complete were to replace the sacrificial zincs, replace the saildrive seals, and the big one, give her a fresh coat of antifoul. This was then followed by the terrifying job of relaunching the boat, which thankfully went without a hitch. We only had a couple of days left in Montenegro before we needed to sail North to Croatia, and given we would not be returning to Montenegro for the foreseeable future, we spent one final day touring the bay of Kotor, taking photos and saying goodbye to our home away from home.


















Ston

Our sail from Montenegro to Croatia was trouble free. In fact we managed to sail without engine assistance for most of the way. Always a good feeling. Check In to Croatia in Dubrovnik was simple and quick, so we continued sailing North towards the town of Ston while we had good wind.  We anchored in a protected bay just short of Ston for the night and continued our journey the next day. The historic town of Ston is accessed via a narrow channel that passes under a terrifyingly low bridge. Ston is famous for it’s enormous fortified wall that was built in the 1300’s. The wall traverses the hill behind the town of Ston, connecting it with the town of Mali Ston on the other side. Ston is also known for it’s salt farming and oyster farming, neither of which we sampled while we were there. The town itself is very pretty, however it has a slight Disneyland feel about it. The buildings of the old town are just a little too perfect and clean. We were too exhausted from the previous days sail to climb the wall, so we opted for a lovely meal in town and an early night to bed.












Mijet

The next day, after a great night's sleep (it’s amazing how tiring this sailing business is), we motored to the town of Polace on the island of Mijet.  We anchored in Polace last year, however we never went ashore. This time we tied up to one of the many restaurants on the foreshore (a free mooring so long as you eat dinner at the restaurant). We took our scooters inland to the lake within the national park and went for a ride on the ferry to Sveta Marija. It was here that we had arguably the worst cup of coffee in Europe, that was ironically also the most expensive cup of coffee in Europe. The hope was to get something warm in our stomachs, but sadly it fell short there too. Nevertheless, the view was stunning and the adventure was well worth it. Later that evening we met some fellow Aussies that were just beginning their sailing adventure and enjoyed a lovely meal with them.












Badija (Korcula)

Our next destination was Korcula. Korcula was the farthest North we made it last year, and we were quite underwhelmed by the place. We were determined to give it another go and had been recommended a good anchorage to base ourselves. Sadly, Korcula was still underwhelming and the anchorage was not comfortable and didn’t feel safe. However the island we had anchored next to was really quite beautiful. Otok (island) Badija is home to a Franciscan monastery and has a lovely pathway that circumnavigates the entire island. Badija is also home to wild Reindeer.










Hvar

Hvar is a good day's sail from Korcula and we had a Southerly blow (the Jugo) coming in, so we needed to get cracking. Hvar harbour has a terrible reputation in Southerly winds as it offers very little protection from the wind or swell. So we opted for a mooring ball between two small islands just opposite the town of Hvar. The mooring balls belong to a restaurant on the island and by using the ball, you agree to eating at the restaurant. However the restaurant was still closed in May, so we had two free nights while the Jugo blew. And boy did it blow… The wind had settled by day three, so we dropped our dinghy (ken) and ventured across the busy channel to the township of Hvar. Hvar is a super pretty town that is a very popular tourist destination. And you can see why. We walked the back streets, stopped at a restaurant for some breakfast, bought Pedro our chilli plant and did a little provisioning at the local supermarket. It was here that we broke our number one rule when food shopping. When you see something you like, you NEVER buy just one.  We had finally found a box of edible breakfast cereal and we only bought one box. It would be another four weeks of exhaustive searching before we found Weetabix again. We bought all the supermarkets stock the second time. Won’t make that mistake again… It was back to NJ after that and off to Stari Grad (still on the island of Hvar).


















Stari Grad

There are very few options for anchoring in Stari Grad and the Marina is exorbitantly expensive. The one anchorage that is close to town is great in any wind other than a Northerly, and today the wind was coming from the North… We didn’t want to pay for a marina berth so dropped the anchor and prepared for an uncomfortable night. We did manage to get ashore to see this delightful town and I even managed to get a haircut from a bloke that looked like he had seen both world wars. We had a fantastic coffee, almost lost our dinghy keys and bought a pot for Pedro (chilli plant). If we had a little more time and a calmer anchorage, it would have been nice to take the scooters ashore. Stari Grad has some really nice bike paths. 


















Vrboska

Vrboska was a delightful surprise. As is often the case with this cruising business, the places you stumble upon by chance or necessity are often the best. The anchorage just out of Vrboska (still on the island of Hvar) was serene and beautiful. It’s shallow, sandy, safe, clean, and well protected. The shoreline is heavily wooded with pine trees and there is a popular resort hidden away behind the trees. It’s also a short dinghy ride into the town of Vrboska. Vrboska is often called the Venice of Croatia, which is drawing a long bow given there is only one canal. Nevertheless, the town is oddly appealing. Perhaps spending the previous week in major tourist destinations were to blame, but Vrboska felt very authentic and welcoming. We hope to get back here someday.















Split

Split is the second largest city in Croatia (next to Zagreb) and the largest city on the Croatian coastline. It was initially settled by the Greeks, however like much of Croatia, it’s been invaded and ruled by the Romans, Byzantine (who were really just the Romans), Venetians, French, Austro Hungarians, Slavs, bundled into Yugoslavia, then German & Italian occupation during WWII, and then finally became part of Croatia in 1992 (yes, it was a little more complex than that). In fact the only empire that didn’t manage to rule over the city were the Ottomans (they came very close though). We were excited to visit Split and had earmarked several places to visit. Sadly though, we found the place a little bit underwhelming. Perhaps we had too higher expectations.  The old town was sweet and some of the architecture was really quite pretty. The waterfront promenade was also rather nice. Would we go back? Probably not. 














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