Saturday, August 11, 2018

Roman Architecture Ruins in Croatia

Exploring the Roman Amphitheater in Pula, Croatia. 

For the past week or so, we have been sailing in northern Croatia. From Zadar, we hopped through a few islands, stopping in a lagoon off the village of Punat. We then made our way to Icici, to pick up some mail from Opatija marina, as well as our cargo, and then sailed along the mainland coast to Pula to check out of the country.

Excited to see the Roman amphitheater lit up at night!

Pula is an industrial port but is famous for the well-preserved Roman amphitheater and Augustus Temple. The cranes put on quite a show at night, with color changing lights. The anchorage outside of the marina has good holding and offers good protection from the wind and swell.

Roundabout docked at the customs quay with the color-changing lights on the cranes in the boatyard.

We wanted to check out the sites, refill our gas container for the dinghy, and explore a little more of Croatia before heading to Venice!

The Amphitheater is well worth a visit. Constructed in 27 BC - 68 AD, it is the ONLY remaining Roman amphitheater to have four side towers with all three Roman architectural orders entirely preserved. It is among only 6 of the largest surviving arenas in the world and is the best preserved ancient site in Croatia. Today, it is used as a venue for concerts.

Walking through this place was like going back in time. From the outdoor arena space to traversing underground to where the beasts and gladiators were kept, ancient storage and work spaces, we learned quite a lot about this period in time. Matthew is studying Medieval history, as part of the California 7th grade history standards, so this fit in perfectly as a boatschool field trip!

Down below, where the chambers for the beasts and gladiators were, is another part of the museum. Ancient pottery, art, storage urns, and tools are among the numerous artifacts on display.

So much to see!

Cargo Delivery!

Cargo inspection officers.

This has been one of our most frustrating experiences ever, waiting for our cargo to be delivered from St. Thomas.

10,427 miles
365 days
143 emails
27 phone calls
and we FINALLY have our stuff!!!!!🎉😃🤸🌎
A year ago, we shipped about 800 lbs of stuff to St. Thomas for us to later pick up once we closed on our boat (Roundabout1) in the BVI. Hurricanes #Irmaria blew those plans all apart and after things settled down, we were able to get our cargo out of St. Thomas and over to Miami. From there, it was supposed to be delivered to us in Greece. Due to the shipping company missing the boat (literally), our stuff did not make it in time before our visas expired. After literally 100 emails, we learned our stuff was stuck in Hamburg, Germany and needed to get rerouted to Rijeka, Croatia.

I still get heartburn thinking about it all and marvel at the incompetency of the shipping handler.

At one point, we had our stuff on an express truck, to be delivered to us July 16th. Then we learned that it was taken off the truck, because a larger shipment which would create more revenue for the truck service was taken instead. Argh!!!!!

After more phone calls and emails, we finally received confirmation that our cargo had been loaded onto a different truck on July 20th and would arrive on the 25th or 26th of July. We had to extend our sailing visas for Croatia, costing us more time and money, and so the overall expenses to get our stuff was way beyond the initial costs.

Waiting at the shipping agent's office. We went back and forth a couple of times for various parts of the clearance process.

July 26th arrived and we had an appointment to meet the clearance agent at 11am in the city center of Rijeka. I brought Zach and Cadence with me, as Jared and Matthew had some projects to work on back at the boat. This guy knew his stuff and was the most efficient person out of this whole process. We learned that they normally only handle commercial goods, but after hearing our story, they wanted to help us out. We told him we were very grateful and appreciated his expertise!

Customs building next to the port.
We showed up on time and were led into the agent's office to wait until the customs officer had returned from break. Half an hour later, we were in the agent's car to pick up the customs officer, to inspect our cargo.

Waiting to inspect our cargo. It is behind this door!

We arrived at the port storage warehouse and waited about 20 minutes for someone else to unlock the door.  A localized squall had come through and was now soaking everything and everyone in the process. Oh well, at least it cooled us off from the heat.

Upon entering the warehouse, we immediately spotted our two pallets and were a bit dismayed to see the outside covered in black grime. I thought it was mold at first and the customs inspector said he would just look at a few boxes and we would be on our way. He went pretty quickly and I was relieved to see that the boxes under the plastic wrap were dry.
Inspection in progress. 

We hopped back in the agent's car and dropped the customs officer off at his office and then returned to the agent's office. We had another hour's wait for paperwork to be prepared, and so I took the kids to get a quick lunch. Finally, we paid the fees (the agent also lowered his fee as he felt for us after learning our story and seeing the potentially ruined cargo), and were on our way back to customs to show the receipts so it could be cleared and released to us. A truck was scheduled to deliver our cargo to the marina around 6pm that day, and so 7 hours later, we were done with the entire process.

Our stuff has arrived! We unloaded the truck and brought it all onto the boat.

Our cargo was given an estimated value and we paid 25% VAT for that. Due to the look of the outside and thinking it was mostly ruined cargo, they lowered the value and our cost. This turned out to be a blessing, as when we later unpacked everything there wasn't any mold at all! The black grime was just from shipping. We were so grateful to close this chapter!

This was the boat inside and out! It took about 2 days to organize and sort everything. We also donated some duplicate items to local families and to the fire victims of Greece.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Failing Electronics

Tech is great...until it doesn't work.

We set sail north from Zadar early Saturday afternoon, to a bay just off the town of Rab. We sailed cautiously, as our wind instrument wasn’t working. Three dashed lines was all it would display. Being as our autopilot computer had just failed (we were able to purchase a spare while in Zadar), this was a bad sign.

About a mile out from Zadar, Jared went below to check for corrosion on the wires. All of a sudden, everything went dark. We had blown a fuse in the process.

Matthew was with me at the helm, and so I put him on watch, meaning he also had to hand-steer our course. We have a backup chart on our iPad, which came in handy. I went down below to see if I could help Jared. The wires behind the nav station were all fine, and same for the wires at the base of the mast. The blown fuse was replaced and everything came back on line, including the wind display.

However, a few minutes later, it was back to those dashed lines again. We knew then that our system was starting to fizzle out and we would be breaking out another boat buck to replace it. It seems that for a boat 6 years old, we shouldn't be having these issues. At this point, she is practically brand new with all the upgrades and repairs we have done over the past 7 months! At least we now know every inch of her and that all the work has been done as it should.

View of Roundabout at anchor from the top of the fort.

We arrived to our anchorage five hours later, dropped the hook, and Jared went up the mast to see if the issue was at the top. Nope, those wires were clean and looked really good, so it must be the display itself. I searched online and did all the tests mentioned, including a reset, and no joy. We would be buying a replacement kit. Fortunately, there are a couple of Raymarine dealers in our area, so hopefully we can have this task completed in the next day or so.

Wandering around Rab town.
More of the town.


Enjoying the sights and cooling off with frozen treats.

We decided to check out the old town of Rab since we were in the area. What a beautiful place! It is so green! Huge trees spread out to shade the walking paths, landscaped gardens show off vibrant colors, and the medieval architecture is stunning. We wandered around for most of the day, stopping only to cool off in the sea.

Later that afternoon, we hauled anchor and sailed on to Punat, which is the town next to a very shallow lagoon. The charts stated that the entrance is dredged to 5m but it was mostly around 2m or so. The shallowest spot we saw was 1.8 (our draft is 1.5), yikes! If you decide to visit this lagoon, exercise caution and stick to the channel. It's easily seen in bright daylight.

After quite a show put on by mother nature (lots of thunder and lightning), we woke up early to make the rest of the way towards Rijeka. We are picking up mail and hopefully, our cargo here. It's also the location of the Raymarine dealer we need to visit.

Constantly on the lookout for fishing gear left out in random places.
We motored most of the way, due to lack of wind. The final hour, as we were approaching the marina, we turned off the engines and let the sails do their job. Speeding along at 8 knots felt wonderful! We had no sooner tied up then Jared was off to the chandlery to pick up our new electronics. The store hours were extended just for him and we were so grateful for this! We really need our wind instrument functioning!

So for tonight, we will enjoy the unlimited power and water (a/c on full blast), give the boat a deep clean, get all our washing done, and stock up before we head over to Venice in the coming week or so (waiting on a good weather window).

The perfect tree for climbing! This was in one of the gardens near the fortress.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Zadar and the Sea Organ

Greetings to the Sun solar art (left) and Sea Organ (right)
photo credit: zadar travel (couldn't fly our own drone with the wind)

It sounds like a fairy tale, a magical musical instrument played entirely by the sea. It was brought to life the other day as we sailed by, on our way into the anchorage. The soft whimsical notes drifted out to us and we all fell silent as we enjoyed the melody.

Upon dropping the hook, we went ashore to check it out from land. It truly is a lovely place, sitting in the sun while enjoying the music. Kids jump around on the steps, swimmers splash in the sea, and sunbathers lay out to soak up the sun.

The sea organ is comprised of what looks like steps leading down to the water. It's the clever engineering underneath those steps where the magic takes place. The lower steps allow air and water to flow inside. That water and air is then funneled into resonant chambers under the steps, and pushed out through the channels on the upper stairs. These cause the undulating, wind-chime like notes to be produced. As the sea is always in motion, the organ notes never sound the same, each note completely unique.

The stairs extend for about 70 meters (approximately 210 feet) along the coast. There are 35 pipes of different lengths, diameters, and angles, which were built vertically into the coastline and these slant upwards towards the pavement on shore, ending in a canal. Built into the pipes are whistles (also called labiums) which play 7 chords of 5 tones. Above the canal, there are perforated stone stairs through which the sound escapes as the sea pushes the air outwards. 

It was an idea brought to life by architect Nikola Basic, along with the assistance of a few experts in the field of music and engineering, and is now one of the hottest tourist spots in Croatia.

Our crew playing on the lights.

At night, the place takes on an entirely different atmosphere. Near the Sea Organ, is a solar panel art installation known as Greetings to the Sun. It soaks up the sun's power throughout the day and then puts on a color-changing light show at night. While it was beyond the kids' usual bedtime (sun sets around 9pm here), we went ashore for the sunset and to see this beautiful light show in action. It is an evening we won't forget! Being Friday night, there was an arts and crafts fair, musician stands everywhere, street corn, cotton candy, and other tasty treat vendors, and hundreds of families out to enjoy the evening. Our kids joined in playing with the locals, dancing on the rainbow circle of light, playing tag, and stopping only to eat ice cream before rejoining the games.

I think this is our most favorite place in Croatia, besides the Krka Waterfalls and National Park.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Sailing Croatia

Krka National Park

We left Montenegro around 1:30pm with a rainstorm on our stern. We had great sailing up to Cavtat, the first port of entry into Croatia. We were a bit uneasy, as we heard there are guys who demand to handle your lines as you tie up and then payment for doing so. As we backed up to the quay, sure enough a guy was there waiting for us. Fortunately, there were quite a few other boats tying up, much larger than us. He then noticed Zach jumping off to catch our lines, and so he moved on to the other larger (and more profitable) yachts. Tying up was easy and soon Jared was off to go check us in to the country. About 30 minutes later, we were casting off the lines and pointed in the direction of a free anchorage around the corner. Croatia jacked up their prices, including the cruising tax this year. In addition, they laid claim to most of the anchorages, forcing sailors to pay no matter if they anchored or took a buoy.

Cavtat customs quay (left) and anchorage around the corner (right).

We were lucky enough to receive a map created by fellow sailors showing Google pins of all the free anchorages. There are hundreds of them! So far, they have all been fantastic and we haven't had to pay a cent.
Exploring the tidepools in Cavtat.
After dropping the hook, we had dinner and went to bed to the cheers of the nearby soccer fans watching the World Cup. The next day, we wandered around Cavtat. It reminded us of Pacific Grove, where the forest meets the sea. The kids explored tide pools and discovered an octopus changing colors as it navigated the pools and rocks.

After a nice walk, we ate a late lunch at a nice cafe, stocked up at the local produce market, and bought sim cards (unlimited data for a week for about 11us, so we wouldn't use up our project fi data--needed to backup 400 gb on our one drive, and this would cost way too much on our current plan).

A pirate ship ghosts past before the storm.

We hauled anchor and sailed over to Sunset beach, an anchorage off Dubrovnik. We spent the next day just lounging around, swimming, and took the kids to the floating water park nearby. Later on, we walked into the old town. It was similar to Kotor, with the medieval architecture and old world atmosphere. We walked along the famous fortress walls and were treated to stunning views of the city and sea. It was a pretty warm day and Sunny was pampered by quite a few cafe owners, who wanted to pet her and offer her cold water to drink. We always bring water for her, but Sunny lapped up the extra attention! We found a cool bookstore and the kids found some new treasures to add to their library.
Aquaparks are at most anchorages. RA in the background.
The next anchorage was in Zaton, which was quite a windy place. The Bora tends to funnel through here at high speeds. We liked the area, as it was peaceful and had great hiking trails nearby, but we sure did dry our laundry at record speeds while there!

Zaton town anchorage.

From Zaton, we visited Korcula / Mljet. Due to weather, we stayed there two nights and then booked it north.

Two ways to provision near Hvar: local produce market (left) and grocery boat (right).
We were treated to a gorgeous sunset.

Happy boat kids!

Hvar was the next destination, as we heard we could fill our cooking gas bottle there. We anchored off the archipelago and stayed a few days, as it was so lovely. We met up with another boat family, s/v Wind, so of course the kids spent most of each day happily playing. We caught another soccer game in Hvar town with the Wind crew and the kids spent the evening playing soccer in the old courtyard. How cool is that, playing with kids from around the world! Futbol knows no language barriers.
Kids playing futbol in the courtyard.

After saying farewell to our new friends (we had to make tracks north and they were meeting friends south), we sailed over to Starigrad, still on Hvar, but around the corner. This is a very well-protected inlet with lots of little bays to anchor in. We found a secluded spot and really enjoyed it there. We found coral for the first time in a long while and lots of fish!

Anchorage near Starigrad.

A short dinghy ride brought us over to Starigrad town, where we walked about a mile or so to get the gas bottle refilled. At first the guy wasn't sure he had the correct fitting for our Greek tank, but then Jared showed him he had it backwards and it was set to go. So handy, this husband of mine is!

Carrying the gas bottle to the filling station (left) and entering the station (right).

Starigrad quay.

Primosten (view from the boat)
Central town garden, Primosten.

We left Hvar the following day for Primosten. It was reputed to have a nice anchorage and quaint little town. We loved it here and spent the next few days swimming between the beach and the boat. We were lucky to meet up with another boat family, s/v Spacegrazer! Again, the kids had a blast playing water games.
Water babies!
Weather was changing and so while we would have loved to remain in Primosten a little longer, we had to move. We sailed on up to Sibenik and into the Krka river to see the famous waterfalls. Wow, what a place!

Anchored in the river and we found more kids!

We anchored off the river in a peaceful little bay the first night and then motored our way through the narrow river channel to the lake. We found another little bay to spend the night, as the winds were gusting into the 30s and we needed to find shelter. So calm it was, in that little branch off the lake! We found a little market for groceries, a bakery, and enjoyed a hike around the forest.
Tunnels along the channel walls and many mussel and oyster farms! They bring the fresh seafood to your boat!
We transited underneath two bridges on our journey upriver.
Skradin anchorage and mooring field. Swans are EVERYWHERE! 

Early the following morning, we sailed up to Skradin town and picked up a marina buoy. The winds were still gusting and we didn't want to leave the boat at anchor while we toured the falls.

We hadn't even had a line secured to the buoy when a marina employee was at our bow to assist. 400 kuna later, we packed a lunch and drinks, bought our tickets, and were on the water taxi to the falls.

Krka waterfalls.

Krka Waterfalls is part of the National Park and is well worth a trip! A truly magical place with wandering streams and hundreds of waterfalls. We hiked over the bridge by the large falls and spent most of the day wandering around the paths observing all sorts of wildlife and historical artifacts. The mills are still functioning and the kids were astonished to see the corn grinding away under the power of the water. This field trip turned into quite the educational experience.

A few times, we would all sit down and dangle our feet above the cool water, watching dragonflies flit around, fish swishing their fins back and forth against the current (we compared how the fish in the stronger current had to swim a bit faster in order to accomodate), birds singing, and frogs croaking messages to their sweethearts.

After a snack, we all enjoyed a dip in the river and playing near the falls. The water was cool and refreshing. Jared and I laid out towels on the grass while the kids played.

A few hours later, we were back at the boat to change and go back ashore for dinner. We spent the remainder of the evening wandering around the town, playing on the playground (we found a zipline!), throwing the frisbee for Sunny, and eating ice cream in the shade.

Next morning, we sailed back over to a bay near Sibenik town. I took Zach ashore with me on a mission to score some appliances (ice maker, hand blender, and spiralizer). The ones we own are for a 110v connection, and since we are selling these, we wanted to replace with 220v. Now we can make smoothies and all sorts of stuff with these new gadgets. We treated the kids to the large waterpark the following day. We spent all day going on the water slides and lazy river with them. After they made some new friends, they left us to go play and so Jared and I spent the rest of the time on our own. It was sort of like being on a date!

Dalmatia waterpark.

Sailing by the famous sea organ!

A couple of nights later, we sailed up to Zadar. I've always wanted to see the sea organ and here we found ourselves sailing right by it! We anchored off Olive Island the first night there, caught the World Cup game with the locals, and then found a nice spot near the sea organ the following day. When the town goes to sleep at night, you can hear the organ softly playing. It put us all right to sleep!
Zadar at night (sea organ is to the far right, where as the Greeting to the Sun solar art is the blue light (color changing light display).

Sea organ artwork.

We are spending a few more days here as we await boat parts. Uber is functioning here and so I plan on using that to get us stocked up on provisions (having a car to tote groceries makes all the difference)! From here, we will sail on to Rijeka to finalize documents for receiving our cargo (it's been a year since we have seen those boxes, so it will be like Christmas when we get them).

As of this blog post:

Countries visited: 3: Greece, Montenegro, Croatia
Nautical Miles sailed: 28,000