(This is the third post on our sailing adventure from Pula to Kornati, Krka and Telašćica National Parks in late June 2020 after Covid-19 restrictions were lifted in Croatia. It focuses on the challenges of mooring, the interesting town of Veli Iz on the beautiful island of Iz and the Telašćica National Park.)
Mooring in the Adriatic & the island of Iz
No doubt about it, mooring in European harbors is different that in the USA. It’s much more exciting and definitely a more concerted group activity. As we began our mooring in the town of Veli Iz on the island of Iz, we came up to the town’s quay wall where motorboats and sailboats were all side by side docked closely together. So close that their fenders, or the bumpers hanging from the side of the boat, are touching. A boat yard is directly in back of us with a lot of activity going on there. It’s not the prettiest place we’ve moored, but it’s close to the town, so it’s practical.
As we motored in, we had some difficulties coming into the berth because of the currents and we sort of gently made contact with the motor boat who we are docked next to on the quay. That’s a very diplomatic way of saying we almost crashed into them. A gentle crash though, nothing earth shattering because of the fenders. It’s like playing bumper cars with boats. Big, expensive boats. Yikes.
The side rails of this smaller motorboat almost got stuck under our rails because they were much lower in the water than we were, and I had to push the boat away from ours with some force. Doing this made me extremely nervous as mooring always seems to do. I mean you are dealing with expensive vessels that people are very invested in, both financially and emotionally. I don’t want to damage their boat or ours for that matter.
Anyway, my nervousness made me a little confused, so I forget which way I’m supposed to pull the line in to secure the boat to the mooring line that is attached to the sea bottom. The German lady on the boat we almost crashed into sees my confusion (and my deer in the headlights look) and asks kindly if I want her to come up on our boat and help me do it. Of course I do, I think, but I don’t tell her that. Her attention makes me quickly unfreeze and I begin pulling in the line in the right direction (by pure chance) as Captain Mike, trying to steer the boat away from the stone quay, is yelling at me, “Pull in the rope!!!”
This European docking thing (known as Med mooring) has been a learning process for both of us, but for me especially. And the circumstances are different all the time, the wind direction, the currents, the boats next to you, and the marineros (dock line attendants) all play a part in what kind of berthing experience you will have. It’s not like mooring in the USA where you have individual piers with posts you tie up to and that you can manage by yourself or one other person easily.
Here the boats are attached to two lines that are secured to the sea bottom and two more of your lines that you tie to the actual dock. You have to lift these nasty, gunky lines (they are not called “slime lines” for nothing) off the sea floor (normally the marinero’s job) and your job is to carry these slimy, heavy ropes to the front of your boat, yank out the slack, then tie them off onto your boat’s cleats. (I want to go wash my hands just thinking about it.) Meanwhile the Captain is trying to keep the boat from smashing into the dock with the engine and bow thrusters (if needed).
Fenders play a big part in keeping boats from being damaged and although it feels crazy while it’s happening, most moorings somehow manage to work out in the end with no damages. Don’t ask me how as we’ve seen and experienced many near misses since we’ve been sailing, as you will see later in this series, when I describe a comical experience of someone else in a giant yacht trying to moor in the Kornati Islands. It’s definitely one of the highlights of the trip.
In this particular situation in Veli Iz. I was unnerved and aggravated at myself for not getting the hang of this easier, but it’s trial and error and I’ve become used to the errors a lot. By the end of this trip though, I think I finally got the hang of it. And our next trip out in September was a cakewalk in that respect. (By George, I think she’s got it.)
Exploring Veli Iz
We walk around Veli Iz, and it is a lot bigger town with many more people than our previous destination of Zapuntel on Molat. People look relaxed and happy swimming off the coast, and the outdoor cafes are full of people having coffee or Ožujsko, a popular Croatian beer. Fortunately there are several restaurants open and in the evening we dine on fresh orada (a local fish) and a fish brodetta with polenta that is a local delicacy in this part of Croatia. A little island cat sits begging for some food by our table as we eat. It’s kitten season and we watch them frolic in a yard across the alleyway from the restaurant. These islands, like most of the towns and cities in Croatia, love their mačkas (cats).
The friendly konoba owner who grew up on the island of Iz said the fish brodetta is his grandmother’s recipe and it’s made with shark meat (um, what?) and shrimp covered in a tasty brown sauce. As one who has not eaten shark much, it is surprisingly delicious. There are several groups of people at the restaurant, but it is outdoor seating like many of the konobas, so we are not too concerned about social distancing here.
Dugi Otok and Telašcica National Park
We sail into Telašćica National Park the following day and right to a mooring ball in Telašćica Bay. (This type of mooring is pretty simple, as you just grab the mooring buoy with a boat hook and then attach your boat’s lines to it.) The bay is quite a beautiful place and surprisingly empty for a Saturday in the summertime. The tourists haven’t made their way here yet and just a few boats tied to mooring balls meant an extremely peaceful day and night there.
The water was crystal clear as always, and when I jumped in, I saw many species of fish I hadn’t seen before on my snorkeling adventures in the Adriatic waters. There were multitudes of the bright yellow conical shaped corals or sea sponges, many multicolored fish, a pink sea anemone, a rather bulky and crusty looking crab who was extremely shy and a starfish. I’d never seen a starfish underwater up close in the Adriatic, so I took this as a good sign as my friend’s daughter-in-law was having her grandbaby at that time. Baby Julia’s going to be a star and love the water like her mom and dad, I’m sure of it.
In the evening hoards of fish literally attacked the bread I gave them and aside from the loud donkey braying occasionally from the mainland (there is a donkey sanctuary in the park), it was a beautiful and calm oasis. Of course, it would have been more peaceful had my silly husband not kept calling to the donkey who seemed to be trying to find his way home as the sun went down. The donkey kept responding and I think they would have gone back and forth all evening had Mike not gotten a little tired of making donkey noises. Good times.
The area within Telašćica is quite beautiful and known for its salt lake, Lake Mir, that sits in the middle of the park amidst rising mountains. The lake was created as the seawater seeped up through the karst ground during the last ice age when the water rose up 100 meters and has a higher salinity than the surrounding waters and is unique in that respect. Having ridden our bikes through the park on the last trip this May and gone straight to the top of the lookout (much to the dismay of my quadricep muscles) way up on a cliff, it was nice to stay near the boat this time and simply swim and enjoy the nature surrounding us.
The lush tranquil beauty inside the park gives way to epic scenery as you leave it and sail onward or skirt the outside of the park. The cliffs are tragic and steep and teeming with strange nooks and crannies with multitudes of Alpine swifts snaking their way in the currents and crying happily at their luck to live in such an incredibly beautiful location. The cliffs themselves are so high it’s mind boggling, but when you crane your neck to see these natural wonders you notice different types of plants that stand out growing straight out of the cliffs as well as the tiny holes that the swifts nest in.
How life manages to not only endure, but thrive in these precarious places is still wondrous to me.
The tiny black swifts that dive around the cliffs shriek and fly with such graceful maneuvering that it looks choreographed. You can find these birds all the way to the Kornati Islands and even further south down to Dubrovnik, and it is a true delight to witness their acrobatics and their joy to be alive. These little birds don’t have well-developed legs, so they spend most of their time flying. Lucky them.
A beautiful sage green plant grows in small circular bushes on the cliffs and adds another dimension to the beauty there. It’s a protected species known as Degenia Velebitica that thrives in the mountain cliffs and screes around the Velebit Mountains and the nearby islands. It flowers in April and May, and I’m sorry we’ve missed seeing the yellow flowers that grace the plants at this time. How life manages to not only endure, but thrive in these precarious places is wondrous to me.
We motor to the place below the lofty cliffs where we had ridden our bikes a few weeks earlier and see it with a totally different perspective. It seemed so scary standing on the precipice from up above looking down, but from down below looking up it was just as magnificent a sight. All the fissures and sharp cracks in the stone harken back to a time when the islands were just forming and for not just once in my life, I wish I was a geologist and knew more about how these islands rose up from the Adriatic. You can see layer upon layer of rocks that look like waves that rise and fall and wonder what earth shattering event is responsible for their existence. It’s an incredible sight as you float along in the sailboat looking at all the nooks and crannies as the happy little swifts fly by.
Nature at it’s best.