We returned to Icarus in Marmaris, Turkey in May of 2002 to very interesting news. In those days, sailors communicated using what are called Single Sideband Ultra High Frequency radios, essentially the same ones used by those nerdy guys with their ham radios in the 1940s and 1950s and those clandestine spies for the West and the USSR in the Cold War as well. In the Mediterranean there was a sort of ‘conference call’ every day at 7AM when boats from all over the area would get on the same frequency. There was a moderator who managed things, and information, particularly weather information, was exchanged.
The interesting news that Spring was that a group of sailors were organizing a gathering of boats from all over the Med, to converge on the town of Stari Grad (one of the oldest towns in Europe) on the island of Hvar, perhaps the most famous of the thousand plus Croatian islands. It was scheduled for the Fourth of July weekend, and we decided while still in Turkey that we would be there for sure! But that did mean a long journey from where we sat midway down the southern coast of Turkey. So we set out across the Aegean Sea, hopping from Greek island to Greek island until we arrived on the famously overly-touristed island of Santorini, fortunately well before its high season.
We were exceedingly lucky as well in that there is a small fishing village and harbor on the distant end of the island, and we were able to find space there among the fishing boats. This was because Icarus only drew three feet and there was a substantial sandbar in the entrance, thus impeding most monohull sailboats. Our neighbors on the dock were entirely fishermen, smiling and friendly in part we thought because Icarus was a catamaran and thus a bit of a curiosity in that part of the Mediterranean. Here is one of our neighbors making his way out to fish as the sun set.
Now you have all seen tons of photographs of the white and blue beauty of Santorini, but here are a few that are a bit different. Let’s start with that cat on the wall
and the highly decorated narrow lane through the back of town
and finally a car just squeezing through a tight spot in a bell tower.
We left Santorini and headed for the very bottom of the Peloponnese, that little explored part of Greece, but wonderful to visit and lying to the south of Athens and the Corinth Canal. And we must confess, it was a close call. The wind died and we had to rely on our engines, which worked fine but needed diesel to run, and we foolishly had left without a sufficient quantity. We finally made landfall at about 2 AM on fumes, and threw the anchor down in front of a lovely sand beach in the calmest of seas.
The next morning we moved to the local dock, hired a taxi, and shuttled jerry can after jerry can of diesel from the local filling station down the road. We then went west down the coast to the large city of Kalamata, famous for its olives, where we found German sailing friends we had sailed with in Turkey. Their boat was in the boatyard for repairs and we had to climb a twelve foot ladder to reach its cockpit and cabin. We went to dinner with them, then climbed up and spent a late evening in their cabin that can only be described as intoxicating in the extreme! As an aside, we have three earlier blogs about Peloponnese from our experiences there in 2014 and they begin here: https://vagabonandave.com/into-the-peloponnese/
After a couple of days to recover from that now infamous evening, we began sailing north up the Ionian Sea and stopped briefly at the island of Cephalonia, where “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin” takes place and was filmed, and where Dave had camped in an olive grove for a week in 1973. We also returned briefly to Corfu and ducked into the harbor of Ithaca, long sought home of Ulysses and beautiful in the still of the afternoon sunshine.
Our goal was Croatia to the north, so from Corfu we sailed well out into the Adriatic and, accompanied by Faith and Rudy on Boundless, spent the night evading the coast of Albania where pirates reportedly lurked, reaching Dubrovnik the next morning. We had a couple of days there, the city having regained much of its former grandeur in a recovery from the 1991 shelling during the civil war, but only the facades of buildings that had been restored. Much was still needed, but has now been completed.
From there we headed up the coast and out to the islands, exploring many for several weeks in preparation and anticipation of the Stari Grad Rendezvous over the fourth of July weekend. The islands are varied and beautiful, though generally rocky and without beaches. But the sailing is still superb, with the winds regular and protection from rough seas always easily found in the shadow of a close island.
One of the real curiosities of these coastlines are the submarine sanctuaries the Germans build during World War Two. Most were blasted out of the rock and allowed their submarines to enter, be repaired, supplied and refueled, and with a curtain of camouflage draped over their entrances and surroundings, virtually invisible. They were fascinating to explore.
We were also drawn to Split, Croatia’s second largest city, where we were due to meet our daughter Leila for a week or so of sailing and the Stari Grad Rendezvous. Split itself is quite beautiful, its center all within the enormous palace built by the Roman emperor Diocletian, and was the home of Marco Polo before he set off to the east. From the hilltop above town it is a sea of classical Mediterranean tile roofs.
Its harbor is a delight as well, with a veritable farmers market of boats set up as vegetable and fruit stands along the dock.
Once we picked up daughter Leila from the airport, we brought her aboard and put her to work at the wheel as we sailed out to Hvar and the rendezvous. She did well, though she is the only person we have ever known who insists on looking out UNDER her sunglasses instead of OVER them.
The port Stari Grad itself is deep and well protected, and from a distance quite pretty.
And when all the forty or so boats were collected on the docks and anchored in the harbor itself, the courtesy flags strung up made for a very colorful scene.
Now Leila was fine with the dinners in town and the music and the book exchange on the dock,
but when it came to mature, fully grown men and women, from all over the world, struggling through things like a tug of war
and greased watermelon water polo
it was simply too embarrassing to watch and all she could do was to hide with a book to the other side of the bay.
From Stari Grad we headed back to the mainland and went north to beautiful Krka Waterfalls National Park, up a winding fresh water river pictured at the top of this entry. The river itself was so beautiful and still.
The park is beautifully laid out and you move up the series of pools, cascades and waterfalls by boardwalk pathways which give you access to everything but do not disturb the delicate wetland plant life underfoot.
And the falls and cascades are spectacular, stretching well beyond those visible in this photograph.
On our return down the river to the sea we encountered this canoe and kayak struggling along and decided to give them a tow and a couple of beers to make their journey a little easier.
We also enjoyed a visit from daughter Shadee and her husband Cambyse who flew into Split. They liked wrapping up in a sleeping bag and dozing on the trampoline as we sailed to where we were staying in the marina at the town of Marina.
Split was easily reachable from there by local bus, and the marina was free because it was not yet finished by the government. Lots of our friends from the Stari Grad Rendezvous were there, and we had potluck dinners on the dock
and a float party as well, where dinghies are tied together and float to where ever the currents and winds take them. This is just the start,
but by the time we were finished we had over twenty dinghies in the float and managed to bang into the boat you see anchored out directly behind us. Their only recourse was to get in their dinghy and join us.
After doing some more sailing with Shadee and Cambyse, including a chase by a bora bora, the violent and sudden wind that descends from the Alps into the Adriatic with almost no warning, we left them in Split and crossed the sixty miles or so to Italy to the west. From there we continued down Italy’s eastern coast, around the boot at the bottom, and up the western coast. We particularly liked the chance to see the famed Amalfi Coast from the water, since one rarely has a chance to see it that way.
We also visited a series of islands on our way up the western Italian coast, including Capri,
and close to Naples, Ischia with its prominent fortress on its promontory,
and Ponza with its lovely harbor. Icarus is in all of these island pictures. Can you spot him?
We finished this long season in the lovely town of Gaeta, on the Italian coast between Naples and Rome but closer to the former.
We were there until early December and loved the times and the evening dominos with other sailors; the chance to ride bikes out into the country to a piece of the Appian Way and the ruins of ‘vacation homes’ of several prominent citizens of Roman times; to take an easy twenty minute train into Naples or one for an hour and fifteen minutes into Rome; and to shop for groceries on the narrow streets and enjoy a fine espresso. And Icarus had his home for the last winter in the Mediterranean.