With permission to only stay in Croatia for another couple of weeks it was time to start the 250nm journey back towards Dubrovnik where we will check out. However, there are some more places to visit along the way and so we set off weaving around the islands towards the Kornati archipelago.
There was just a gentle breeze as we weighed anchor at Pula but once out of the bay the wind picked up and was blowing 20-25kts. It was a very lively sail close reaching across the gulf of Kvarner. The swell was breaking over the bow and our toe rail was almost in the water but Ziggy happily ploughed through the waves at over 7kts.
With a very salty boat (and crew) we turned into the shelter of the island of Unije and anchored at Uvala Vognišća. Upon arrival there was a big space all to ourselves to anchor but by sunset several other boats had joined us. It is a bit cooler now particularly in the evenings and the sea temperature here was down to a chilly 22.9°C but a refreshing swim and shower was still very welcome.
Leaving the bay the next day in a dead flat calm sea and with no prospect of any wind, we were happy to be entertained by some dolphins.
It was a very clear day and for the first time in a few weeks the haze had lifted and there was a good view of the mountains in the distance. The engine was on for most of the time as we made our way around some small islands and rocks to Otok Ist.
We anchored in Uvala Široka on the SE side of the island. The water was very clear and we could see some old moorings laying on the seabed, so not wanting to foul our anchor on them or be in the path of the ferry we stayed a little outside of the main part of the bay.
In the morning some ladies visited us on a small wooden boat selling fresh croissants (how could we resist), so after a delicious breakfast we motored out of the bay. The wind was very light again leading to a frustrating day of sails up, sails down every half an hour.
Eventually, arriving at Dugi Otok we headed to the village of Sali on the SE coast which is the main settlement on the island. Passing a small chapel at the entrance we continued into the bay and moored on the public quay where it was already quite busy and with lots more boats arriving. Sali is a very pretty harbour surrounded with colourful houses and a number of cafes and lively bars around the waterfront.
After leaving Sali the following morning, our next destination was the Kornati archipelago which consists of approximately 140 uninhabited islands, islets, rocks and shoals covering an area of 300 sq km. The Kornatis are the largest and densest archipelago in the Adriatic and famous for being identified by NASA astronauts as having the bluest water on the planet.
We sailed along the Komatski Kanal, through the countless small islands that are lined up close together forming a unique lunar landscape and giving stunning views of the white limestone rock against the crystal clear blue sea.
The islands are made of shell limestone and have many cracks, caves, grottoes and rugged cliffs. Since there are no surface streams the islands are mostly barren, with only thin patches of grass. Previously they were covered with thick forests of evergreens and holm oaks but over centuries the trees have been burnt down deliberately by shepherds to increase grazing land. Nowadays there are only a few small native trees in some of the more sheltered bays.
There are no permanent settlements but a few houses are occupied during the summer by fishermen and farmers from Otok Murter and Dugi Otok who now come to cultivate olive groves, vineyards and orchards which are clearly visible as you pass by some of the islands.
The names of the islands Babina Guzica and Kurba Vela, which in Croatian refer to buttocks and prostitution, are just some of the many vulgar names officially given to places in the Kornati archipelago. When Austrian surveyors came to record the archipelago at the end of the 19th century, their local guides mocked them by making up vulgar names for the various locations. (Paul is convinced that Dugi Otok is named after the popular childrens TV character however I have had to disillusion him, it actually means ‘long island’ as it is 24 miles long).
In 1980, eighty-nine of the islands were declared a National Park, Nacionalni Park Kornati, protecting the islands and their marine surroundings. There is a daily fee that allows you to enter and pass through the Kornati National Park. We had booked into a marina for the night which included entrance to the park so assumed that it was okay to roam. With so many picturesque little bays we found a nice spot and anchored for lunch.
There was hardly anyone around and it all felt quite deserted, however, as soon as our anchor was down, ‘as if by magic’ the park warden appeared and wanted to see our ticket. Unfortunately, as we didn’t have a physical ticket, and our email confirmation wasn’t acceptable to him, he told us to leave. We lifted the anchor and headed towards the marina at Piškera island.
The marina is set in a wonderfully remote location with panoramic views of the hills and surrounding islands, the facilities are quite limited with water and electricity rationed and all supplies having to be delivered by ferry. This all added to its charm and the peaceful and relaxed atmosphere.
We walked over the nearby rocky hill for views over the other side of the island and out to sea.
We are now half way through our journey back to Dubrovnik but there is still one more famous site to visit next week which has been recommended to us……