Illegal Boat People

Our trip back from Australia was via Dubai and Rome flight, followed by a 3 hour bus ride to Pescara, where Adrian and Anita had left the boat with Steffi’s assistance.

We spent the night at Steffi’s recovering and catching up. Next morning it was down to the boat for an engine service, which took most of the morning.

Brad and Bec arrived by train from Bari at lunchtime, and after a large shop, it was off to Steffi’s to enjoy a swim and a relax before we did the restaurant on the beach night, the last of the season.

Next day, we took Steffi, Adriano and Sarah for a sail along the coast to one of the bays they often went to. Unfortunately it wasn’t a very nice day, with a bit of a swell running, and some dirty water being washed down from Venice, so we didn’t swim much. Still it was nice to be back on board La Mischief putting her through her paces, and it allowed Brad and Bec to get acquainted with La Mischief before we headed off to Croatia.

And next morning we were off, 115nm straight across the Adriatic to Vis Island. We left just before 6am and got great winds. We put up the geneker and took off. By lunchtime, the wind increased to 24 knots and down came the geneker. We needed a reef shortly after but we were going along at 7s ad 8s on flat seas. And we needed to as we wanted to get there before it was completely dark.

We passed the first of Croatia’s islands before sunset and closed in on Vis town as the sun set. We had just enough light to navigate into the harbour and pick up mooring.

By then it was 9pm and we presumed everything would be shut and we would need to wait until the morning to check in. So we stayed put on the boat – the lure of the water front bars would have to wait.

We had a leisurely morning, not wanting to go in too early and find things shut. So we went in t 9.30am and after a bit of a hunt around we eventually found the harbour master at the back of a building up two flights of stairs. We congratulated ourselves for not attempting that the night before as we would have never found it.

We filled in a new vignette listing the crew details and showed them our cruising permit. Then it was off to find the police station. It was equally as hard to find and after asking several people we found their office – no sign except for a note on the door saying to ring 192 if it was unattended.

We went inside and saw the nice looking police woman, who took our passports and then proceeded to tell us we had a problem. It seems we should have checked in with the police as soon as we got to Croatia.

Not sure what the problem was but the cell just around the corner made me hope it wasn’t a big problem.

We were then told to wait outside, which we did. We waited and drank coffee and waited some more. Then she appeared and locked the police station and disappeared somewhere. We waited some more. Then she came back and went in side. We waited some more. Then she asked me (and not the others) back inside.

She explained that I had to pay a fine of 1000 kuna (A$200) but if I paid it straight away it would reduce to 667 kuna plus 100 kuna tax. This was evidently a new rule brought in 2 months ago and I was the first person to be fined in Vis. Great. I had a go at pleading my case but she just kept saying I should have come in and found the police station and rung the number on the door. Yeah right.

Anyway, I paid the fine at the Post Office and then had to take the receipt round to another police station. We decided to head there by dingy but were quickly intercepted by the police boat who were very keen to see we had paid our fine and add to their revenue raising initiative. We gave them our receipt and all was good.

Now that we weren’t illegal boat people, it was time to celebrate our new-found freedom.

For photos of Vis see

1000nm is Not That Far if you say it quickly.

The EU welcomes yachties from all over the world, provided that they only stay 90 days every 6 months. Great!!! Other that Gibraltar and Morocco, I’d been in the EU since arriving in France on the 17th March so now it was time to leave.

Although Croatia has just joined the EU, it still wasn’t hooked into the Schengen immigration zone, which is the thing, so therefore Croatia is okay for the moment. So Croatia it is, 983nm away as the crow sails.

Our route took us down the bottom of Sardinia, across the top of Sicily, through the Messina Straits, around the bottom of Italy’s foot, and up the Adriatic Sea to Dubrovnick. I had a place to catch on the 9th August and we left at 5pm on the 31st August.

My super smart GPS had us arriving in Dubrovnick on the 7th August if we sailed straight through at an average speed of 6 kts so we had a day to effectively spare. Nothing like a bit of pressure.

The first couple of days and nights we ran 3 hour watches, with myself in a consultancy role, checking at the start and end of each watch and generally being available on a break glass if needed approach. After that I started to miss my night watches and we started rotating through four 2 hour watches.

It took us nearly 48 hours to cover the 290nm to Sardinia and we spent all our time motoring into a fairly light wind. Occasionally we would head off and get a decent enough angle to pull out all the genoa, but not often.

On the way to Sicily, we were entertained by dolphins and whales. Usually around 6pm, the dolphins would head over and play between our bows for 30 minutes or so. We even got to pull out our Geneker and sail for a couple of hours.

Sitting here at 5.30am in the morning on watch, the temperature is 27 degrees. Balmy nights and warm days.

We got to Sicily at midday on day 4, and halfway along the island, we celebrated our half way point. We passed inside some impressive looking islands as we motored along the coast. It would have been nice to stop and have a quick swim but we were racing to get to the Messina Straits to catch the tide through (4 and a half hours after Gibraltar HT according to guide book), so there was no time to dilly daly.

We made the straits just after dark and kept to starboard of the designated shipping lanes. Watched a passenger liner slip in front of us at 15kts.

The straits are narrow – really, really narrow. 1.6nm narrow at a couple of spots. As well as the ships going up and down, we had a constant stream of ferries crossing back and forth from the mainland to Sicily and back. Thank god for AIS.

We eventually made it through all the traffic and popped out the other side as the straits began to widen. And then the wind started to lift from the 10 knots we had entering the straits.

I’d been sleeping and the crew woke me as we needed a reef – two actually. This was more like the winds in the Strait we had read about. Still sleepy we turned into the wind and started to put in a couple of reefs. Normally reefing is easily on La Mischief, but still half a sleep I managed to balls it up and ended up snapping a lazy jack. Bugger.
Without the lazy jack in place the bottom of the sail spilled out and we ended up dropping it completely and lashing it to the boom.

Next morning, we assessed the damage and lifted the main sail to its full height without any reefs – this being the only configuration that we could manage without lazy jacks. The next day was spent motoring along the bottom of Italy’s foot in light winds.

We hadn’t been able to do a lot of sailing, with the motoring being on pretty much all of the time. With a broken lazy jack and running a bit low on fuel we decided we would pull into Italy to refuel.

We picked out Santa Maria di Leuca, right on the cape. We arrived there early in the morning and Adrian went up the mast to fix the broken lazy jack. Then we took on enough fuel to make it to Croatia as fuel is a lot cheaper in Croatia than Italy.

Then it was into the Adriatic. We had a bit more luck with the winds as we just had enough angle to motor sail north. Next morning we sailed past Montenegro and into Dubrovnik, just over 1000nm from Palma. It had taken us just under 8 days and I think we had the motors off for less than 12 hours during that time.

We decided that we would stop in Kavtat, as this was quite close to both the airport and Dubrovnik and looked nice, easy to enter and quite protected. We got there at about 11am and pulled into the Q jetty. Adrian backed in and asked how much insurance cover I had as he went stern to beside a beautiful 150 foot yacht – I told him it didn’t matter how much I had given how expensive the boat next to us was.

Checking into Croatia involves taking a crew list along to the harbour master and getting a cruising permit for the boat (1765 kuna = A$335) – valid for a year) and visitors tax (720 kuna). Even though Croatia has just jointed the EU, they are still keeping their own currency – must be a good thing given the problems Greece etc are having. Next stop was the police who stamped us in and then we were done.

Leaving the Q jetty, we went and picked up a mooring right next to another Australian cat. The Croatians are mad keen on water polo and that night, we found a water polo game going on in an outdoor pool not much more than 50m from our mooring. We dingyed in and watched a bit before having a farewell meal with Roger who was flying out the next morning.

Next day, we dingyed in and said our goodbyes to Roger before heading off on a ferry to Dubrovnik. We could have caught the bus but some Poms we met the night before said we should definitely go to Dubrovnik by boat and they were right – it was so the right way to go to this very impressive city.

But before any sightseeing could be done, we needed to find a replacement impeller for our genset,which we eventually did out at the ACI marina the other side of town. Then it was back to town where we did the walk around the city wall that goes right the way round this magnificent old city. I’m sorry Sevilla, but I think I’ve just got a new favourite European city. The walk took a good couple of hours as we savoured both the city and the seascape from multiple brilliant view points. It was very hot and a bar half way round that sold fresh orange juice was a welcome pit stop.

Back at the boat it was time to pack, ready to head back to Perth for Cas’ 50th.

For photos of Dubrovnik and Kavtat see