DESTINATIONS in between islands

The Hedonist IN BETWEEN ISLANDS: Croatian Coast 8 Days Sail

When I think of heaven, in between islands on the Adriatic is it.

Light Chaser Life is introducing a series called In Between Islands by both of our writers. This is the third post from our new series of life in an archipelago.

The boat was so new it was called “Bavarian 51 Cruiser No Name.” The plan was to meet up at Split and sail to 7 islands on the Adriatic Coast, stopping by some places to hang out.

When I imagine what heaven is like, it is like the Croatian archipelago off the Adriatic Sea. Clear water with a blue you have to swim in; simple, good food, some of the best wine in the region and spectacular views. Starting out at our base in Split, in a small part of the town called Spinut, we found No Name docked at a small, non-touristy marina that the locals call “Lucica.” We set off on No Name with the essentials: some fresh food to cook, dry food for on-board light meals, about 50L of water per person, and a case of Malbec from Argentina, thinking we would purchase plavac mali wines along the way. It was also important to get cash for the voyage as in some places where we would stop, there would not be ATMs or establishments wouldn’t be able to take payments by card.

View from Tvrđava Španjola, Hvar.

Island of Hvar

Hvar was our first stop, where we walked up the hill to the fortress Fortica, also known as Tvrđava Španjola (Spanish Fort) which was built after the old fort was destroyed in a freak explosion in 1579. Originally, the fort was constructed by the Venetians in 1278 to protect the community. From the castle, the view of Hvar town and the Pakleni Islands is superb.

Hvar’s main square is the largest in the Dalmatian county of Croatia, and walking around the 4,500 square meters of the piazza, it was not difficult to imagine the way it must have been long before the cafes and the Konzum grocery, in the days when the city in the middle of the square flourished around 1520. The stone paving is uneven, telling the story of old footsteps in the plaza. The buildings are Renaissance-baroque style and include the Bishop’s Palace, the Arsenal, the Governor’s Palace and some other buildings, which are used for public offices.

We stopped at the Konzum to get cold beers after the walk before boarding No Name to head toward one of the Pakleni Islands, Palmižana, in the bay of Vinogradišće where we would hang out at the Laganini Lounge Bar.

Palmižana, Pakleni island

Laganini Lounge and Bar on Palmižana.

It’s still too early in the day for the night crowd who visit Laganini Lounge Bar when we anchored in Vinogradišće bay and took the motorized inflatable to Palmižana. So no one else was at the bar. We ordered mojitos and they came to us impossibly giant in size, so we settled into the lounge chairs overlooking the water and chilled with our oversized drinks.

Giant mojito at Laganini’s.

Laganini is special for me because that’s when I thought about the main character for my first novel, Superficial. In between sips of the mojito I was dictating notes into my phone. For the rest of that summer, I would write 2000 words a day every day until the first draft was completed on August 1st. I often think of why that was an inspired summer (because if I could recreate it, I’d be a fountain of creative work), and all I can think of is that the feeling of freedom that the sailing gave me was all it took to get into the summer-long flow.

Where I conceived the idea for Superficial, a novel.

A secret bay somewhere on Hvar

We dropped anchor for the night somewhere in a secret bay on Hvar island. We had an acquaintance who had a kitchen and prepared a special pasta and mussels dish for us. We ate in a small hut overlooking the bay and washed it all down with some Malbec and lots of laughter.

Secret bay on Hvar.

Mediterranean food is simple. It can be as simple as vegetables grilled over an open fire and steamed mussels with spaghetti. Simple food cooked well is some of the best food there is.

Mussels with pasta.

Sleeping on the boat was super. The No Name had four cabins and a skipper’s cabin, and the six of us shared a cabin for each pair. There were two showers, and with the limited fresh water on board, we were very careful with showering. I got teased because of my tendency to shower twice a day, once in the morning and once before bed. (It’s a habit I picked up while living in the tropics, where one gets sticky during the day.)

Vis and Biševo

We sailed to the island of Biševo, about 4.5 nautical miles (8.3 km) where half of us took the inflateable to explore the Modra špilja, a cave that you can only explore in small inflatable boat or by swimming. The other half of our group swam from No Name to the cave.

We sailed briefly to an inlet where the houses right on the water made me think of investing in real estate right there. It was midday, and we didn’t stop at the inlet but continued on to a side of Vis island. The air was still, and it was difficult to find strong enough wind to use the sails, so we slowly made our way to our marina for the evening.

The marina was in Komiža, and we docked there for the night. We walked along the narrow stone cobbled streets of the small fishing town, tourists outnumbering its residents in the cafes and restaurants. Along the streets, a few children sold trinkets they had made from seashells to tourists.

Lastovo

We set sail for Lastovo the next day. Lastovo is a municipality made up of 46 islands. The largest island is also called Lastovo. Arriving into the bay where we docked for the day, it was difficult to resist a swim before venturing onto the island.

Lastovo Island’s bay.

After the swim, we hiked up the road to the town center, where most of the Lastovo residents numbering some 700 or so, live. You can hike up the road or take a forest trail to the church at the top of the hill.

We made our way down to the No Name and sailed around to a marina on another side of Lastovo Island, from where we took the motorized inflatable to visit the lighthouse in time for the sunset. The lighthouse is reachable on foot from the rocks where we beached the inflatable, and at the top of the cliff where the lighthouse stands on the west side of the island, the sunset was magnificent.

Lastovo sunset from the lighthouse.

We spent the night in the marina, dining at a restaurant on the island. Good seafood and grilled vegetables are normal dishes in the Dalmatian region. And of course, there is always wine.

Korčula

From Lastovo to Korčula with little wind took up most of the next day. Korčula is much bigger than Lastovo and is the second island with the most people in the Adriatic. Because there are ferries connecting Korčula with the Pelješac peninsula’s Orebić on the mainland, and ferries to and from Split, Lastovo, and Hvar, Korčula gets more tourists.

In fact, there are water taxis that serve the boats that come in to its marina. We docked beside the marina for a couple hours of wandering and chanced upon a carnival right there in the marina parking lot, where large portable speakers were playing La Macarena and costumed residents danced on their way to the event.

La Macarena in the parking lot, Korcula.

The next morning, unshowered, I flagged down a water taxi to get to Vela Luka to get a proper cappuccino and a croissant for breakfast. Vela Luka has some sites of historic and cultural interest, and a good number of tourists visit it during their holidays in the Dalmatian region.

We did not stop too long at Vela Luka as the marina water was not a good swimming area. Too many boats, and the water traffic made it a bit unsafe to swim. We were soon underway again, to the island of Šolta, where we had a lunch appointment with a retired sea captain at his house.

Šolta

We arrived early and waited for the appointment time, 11.00am, and had lemon radler beers beside the water and as we had run out of our Malbec, checked out some Dobričić wines to purchase. The local Dobričić was a little expensive, and we settled for a bottle of plavac from Hvar, which was surprisingly a little less costly.

Travarica, a rakija or schnapps made with herbs.

As usual the Croatian welcome is a shot of the local rakija, liquor made from fruit or in the captain’s case, herbs, called locally travarica. The shots opened up our appetites while we listened to the old captain reminisce about his voyages in Africa, Asia and pretty much everywhere else.

Lunch was grilled fish caught fresh just hours before, grilled vegetables and the plavac wine.

At the Captain’s house for lunch, Šolta.

Our afternoon at the captain’s house on Šolta was a fitting conclusion to the sailing week. Šolta is a calm island, with few visitors and few residents, so there are no crowds and no touristy shops. To and from where No Name was moored, we walked through olive orchards and did not meet a soul until the small quay where there were a couple of local stores and a row of houses.

The thing that happens is that just at the end of your trip, you don’t want it to end. We left Šolta to sail back to Split, 9 sea miles away.

Some of us had to go back to the US, some had to go back to work, and Gabi and I had the rest of the summer planned on the Pelješac peninsula, where I would continue writing Superficial and finish it on the last day of our summer holidays. The setting of our sailing trip became the setting of the novel. When I think about it now, I think writing every day was my way of journaling the beautiful days bursting with freedom in the Croatian archipelago, where in between islands, I learned the meaning of a Greek word eudaimonia, the “flourishing of life.”

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