A Shore Foray and some Natural History

We had slept, unrocked in our waterborne cradle but were rudely awakened at 6.15 by a gutsy rendition of Happy Birthday in heavy Slav accents from the 7-man crew of the neighbouring charter yacht.  We lay and tried not to hear their loud and animated conversation, at times the talk was clearly heated.  I got up, went up into the cockpit and gazed down the fjord-like inlet to the islets at the end.  The surface of the water was unbroken, everything very still.  A single gull occasionally flew down to peck at the water.

One by one the others surfaced.  Carolyn and I enjoyed a pre-breakfast swim, a wonderful brisk freshen-up.  Once we were set we dropped our mooring and headed away from Levrnaka.  We are bound for Smokvica, finally.

We have barely got under way when we sail between two islands, round into a small embayment on the south side of Kornat.  There is a small chapel near the shoreline.  The simple style is typical of the Croatian islands, a white building of artless design with a plain cross on top.  The water is crystal clear, the seabed looks interesting.

We decide to anchor up, row ashore and walk a while.  Although in previous years Carolyn tells me there has been a key in the door to the church it is not there so we cannot look inside.  I’d rather roam around the small building photographing the plants and lifting the red clay roof tiles.  Under the first tile fragment I find Mr and Mrs Flak Jacket Toad and wonder how they manage to raise their families, as the island appears devoid of fresh water.

We clamber up to the ruin on one of the hillocks where we can enjoy a view of the Kornatis and capture some digital images.  Carolyn is reminded of the words of George Bernard Shaw: she expounds “On the last day of the Creation, God desired to crown his work and he cast down a scattering of rocks and gems and created the Kornatis”.  When we return to Verity she searches for the quotation, which actually reads “On the last day of the Creation, God desired to crown his work, and thus created the Kornati Islands out of tears, stars and breath”.  I much prefer Carolyn’s version…..

There are scattered shells of the Roman snail , an edible species which the Romans introduced to the British Isles.  There are still populations of this species on Chalk terrain in England although they are threatened by unscrupulous collectors who sell them to London restaurateurs.  But the species has legal protection under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981.  From this vantage point we spot a small pond in a greenly vegetated depression set back from the coast.

During the clamber back to lower ground I try to get close enough to photograph a pale yellow swallowtail butterfly which flits between magenta pink thistleheads, but have no trouble photographing the attractive beetle which has settled on my hat.

Back on the boat, we feel rather warm after our exertion.  The water temperature is 22 degrees, clear as a sapphire, inviting.  It takes a bit more courage to enter the water as it feels almost icy, but once acclimatised it is one of the nicest swims I have had, I’m in no hurry to get out.  Nick and I are on lunch duty.  I produce a pot of finely chopped green cabbage and spring onion sweated in butter to accompany four delicious tomato and mushroom omelettes crafted by Nick.

We left the Kornati National Park at its southern end and made for Smokvica.  As we arrived at the entrance to the cove I recalled many of the details of our previous visit here when Mike and Carolyn teamed up with Lymington friends on a charter catamaran.

There is time for quiet so I open up the Conchological Society Recording Manual on my laptop and continue with some editing.  This is now a real chore as the Manual, a voluntary effort by several contributors,  has been two years in the writing but we are on the final lap.

With the approach of cocktail hour we prepare dips, carrot sticks, bread sticks and Mike conjures up a bottle of bubbly in recognition of Nick’s engineering labours to date.  I love this interlude of a sailing day, rarely missed, when we sit and allow our personal mechanisms to go into tick-over.

After, we skull ashore, to a waiter who is waiting to take our painter and show us to a table at Konoba Piccolo.  We are next to an Austrian couple with whom we strike up a conversation.  (Before they return to their boat, Lanerlei, they invite us for a glass of Schlumberger at 10 o’clock the next morning.  Named after its creator, who was born in Stuttgart and was a director of a leading champagne house in Reims, it is a sparkling wine made from Austrian grapes.)

We’ve come to Piccolo to eat their peppered steak.  It is cooked and served in shallow clay casseroles, a chunky piece of meat sitting in a deep puddle of thick curdy pepper sauce.  I’d love to find the recipe for this, it’s not like any other pepper steak I’ve eaten.


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