Strange Noises in the Night, Submarine Hideouts and Plumbing Problems

(This post is Part Five of the series: Heading Out to Sea after the Coronavirus in Croatia, focusing on our first sailing journey to the islands in the Adriatic after restrictions let up in Croatia.)

Sailing Onward Down Dugi Otok

After we returned to our boat from buying olive oil in Zverinac (see The Voyage Continues to Zverinac: The Case of the Missing Olive Oil) the evening was a little uncomfortable. I decided to wash my hair and about halfway into the shower realized that the shower bilge wouldn’t pump out the water. I’m standing ankle deep in water at this point and it wouldn’t drain. I kept pushing the loud bilge drain button and the water remained. If you’ve ever been in a bathroom on a boat then you know it’s pretty tiny and a little claustrophobic. And now steamy because of my warm shower. Ugh.

I hurriedly rinsed my soapy hair in the sink, grabbed a towel, and like every damsel in distress, I called to the Captain. He can fix anything, right? For the next half hour we tried everything possible to drain the water through the bilge (okay, I stood and watched him try), and I wondered what the rest of the trip would look like without a working shower. It was still really cold at the end of May in Croatia, so taking a shower off the back of the boat wasn’t an option (at least not for cold-natured me.) Looks like it would be sink baths. Because…

The shower just refused to drain. Just absolutely refused. I stood dripping wet hoping I would get a good rinse off eventually, but it wasn’t to be. Mike finally just took a bucket and sponge and soaked up the water this way. Thanks for trying, Mi Capitán.

We were both pretty tired and a little snappish by the end of the evening after a long day of sailing and then hiking, then boat problems. Ready for bed, we went to lay down in the V-berth and had just put the covers on when we heard some strange noises.

Sounds of Silence?

First it seemed like a dripping or pitter-pattering sound and it was just loud enough that Mike went to go check outside to see if it was raining. It wasn’t.  I had imaginings that it was somehow connected to the shower bilge, but the Captain assured me it was impossible since we were in the bow of the boat and the head was in the back. And I don’t claim to know anything about plumbing, but the dripping sounds sure seemed to coincidentally start right after my shower fail.

We lay in bed contemplating the issue, then both agreed it sounded more like a slightly electrical sound, like a sizzling.  It was a little loud, but not that loud. Think of rain pattering or bacon sizzling far off in the distance.  Or maybe even a bowl of Rice Crispies. Eventually we were so tired that we just fell asleep. If the boat sank or exploded, we would go down sleeping. So I guess we weren’t that worried.

The next morning we woke up late and I groggily made some coffee, while Mike prepared the boat to sail to Sali, a town on the island of Dugi Otok.  Sali is the city with the land entrance to the Telašćica National Park, our final destination southward on the trip. I may have been a little grumpy. But coffee and sunshine and sailing are the cure for any foul mood.  And these emoji Mentos made me laugh.

Arh!!! Onward to Dugi Otok, mates!

Holes in the Island

As we prepared to leave Zverinac we noticed something peculiar on the island across the channel. The island we saw was a portion of Dugi Otok, (remember Dugi Otok means “Long Island,” so we still had to travel pretty far down the island to get to Telašćica National Park.) We thought we saw a hole in the island.

This hole looked like a tunnel from far away, so we decided to take a closer look after confirming it with the marinero.  The Zverinac marinero/mini-market manager/tourist information guy told us it was a submarine tunnel built by the Yugoslavian Army during the German occupation in World War II.  This tunnel is one of three on the island of Dugi Otok that housed submarines during the war.


There are several more on Vis Island and a few near the entrance to the channel that leads to the city of Šibenik, which we visited on our next sailing journey at the end of June 2020. But let’s check this one out for now.

We motored over to get a closer look.

Here is the video of us exploring it further. It was a pretty remarkable sight to see and you can hear the wind picking up in the video. That gorgeous water though…

A Night in Sali: More Plumbing Issues and the Noises Get Louder

After a nice brisk sail to the town of Sali on Dugi Otok and a slightly uneventful docking experience (they are never completely free from complications as you’ll see on our next journey out), we decided to go on land and jumped off the boat to have a coffee. It was easy to do as our berth was on the seawall that connects right to the city.

So basically our boat was right in front of this cafe/bar, which we hoped wouldn’t be too loud at night because it seemed to be the center of the social life in Sali. At least the large size of our audience when we docked seemed to show everyone in Sali was out to watch us dock. Fortunately, we didn’t really hear any land noise that night because of the other problems we encountered.

Our boat was docked right in front of the Maritimo cafe and bar in Sali on the island of Dugi Otok. You can see our passerell or board plank in the picture for ease on going ashore.

The Tank is Full

Oh, and this had happened. We had also discovered that our holding tank wouldn’t empty. You usually empty the waste tank out at sea, but something was wrong and we couldn’t get it to empty. More plumbing issues on RITA that surprisingly were unrelated. A full holding tank means no bathroom at sea, folks.

Just a bucket.

It’s one of the fair weather sailors’ like me worst nightmares. Me to Mike: “Um, like, can we just go home now?” Maybe I didn’t say it out loud.

Luckily, we were at a place where there was a cafe with a restroom right in front of us. A really clean one. But for the rest of our journey, this problem would haunt us. As Pongo said in 101 Dalmations, “it was a problem, a real problem.”

And as we settled in the harbor for what was to be a rough night because of windy conditions and a wavy harbor, those strange noises came back, and they were much, much louder. What the heck was going on?

So the shower is clogged, the holding tank won’t empty and the noises were back with a vengeance. And I was sooooo tired. Just. Let. Me. Go. To. Sleep. Please. Sailing can be energizing but it can also be very draining (unlike our shower bilge that couldn’t do either).

As we got into the V-berth again to go to sleep, the noise became like a roar and a problem we just couldn’t solve. Mike kicked groggy me out of bed to lift the mattress in order to get underneath the berth to check the electrical wiring there. We were really scared that there was a serious issue that we weren’t aware of, at least the captain was. I was just really tired. But then his worry made me worry. Would our beloved Sailing Vessel RITA explode in the night?

After much turning things over and searching high and low on the boat, we did what any modern day person does when they have a serious question or a problem.

Google it.

Despite being on an island out in the Adriatic, we had a surprisingly good internet connection thanks to our little cafe across the way.

And the Winner Is…

Snapping shrimp. Yes, the winner was Snapping Shrimp aka Pistol Shrimp! Unbelievably, this is what we were hearing.

What? Shrimp don’t make noise. Do they?

Apparently the Snapping shrimp (Alpheidae) in the cold waters of the Adriatic do, and they are so loud that colonies of them are known to interfere with sonar or underwater communication. And according to all the questions on Marine forums on the internet we discovered, we were not the only ones plagued by these loud, little creatures on their boats. It’s their claws that make the noise. They shoot water out with enough force to kill small fish. And they are so loud that they compete with sperm whales and belugas for the title of the loudest animal in the sea. Go figure. We thought it was our electrical system, and it was just some angry little shrimp trying to get a bite to eat.

Here’s Mike’s recording of what it sounded like:

So we learn something new everyday, don’t we?

Now we could try to get some much needed sleep. Mike managed with a little piece of cotton stuck in his ears.

Me? I was too tired to let a bunch of shrimp keep me awake a second longer.



(Stay tuned for the final two episodes of our first sailing journey through the Adriatic after the Covid-19 restrictions were lifted in Croatia. Thanks for coming along with us.)

10 thoughts on “Strange Noises in the Night, Submarine Hideouts and Plumbing Problems

    1. Wow, you, too? I’m so glad to hear we weren’t the only sailors we know who had heard of this weird shrimp symphony, lol. (But also sorry if it kept you up at night.) We mentioned it to another sailor on our dock and they didn’t think shrimp could make such a ruckus! 🤣🤣🤣. And thank you, we resolved both issues and on our next trip out in late June, RITA had no issues at all.

  1. Looks like a beautiful boat though and the water is so clear. We went to Mlini a couple of years ago and would love to go back to Croatia one day, whenever we are allowed to leave Western Australia. Maybe sometime next year..hope you got your plumbing fixed

    1. Yes, we did get everything fixed. The next trip out we had no issues thankfully and was much more comfortable. Croatia (and specifically Istria) has a number of Aussie expats, several of whom I’ve had the fortune of befriending. I hope you make it back here sometime. Look us up in Istria when you do and we’ll show you around. It’s not as well-known as the Dubrovnik area, but just as magical! Thanks for stopping by!

      1. Thanks Cindy, I will certainly keep that in mind. I’ve had a couple of invitations since I’ve started this blog. And likewise if we ever open our borders 😂 and you do visit WA, please let me know.

  2. What a fun read! That noise would have driven me BONKERS… until the source was figured out. After that, as long as I knew what was causing it, I could have gone straight to sleep. For me, it’s always the not knowing that keeps me awake, more than the noise itself.

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