We find a charming anchorage for a swim and lunch at the southeast end of Solta although the experience is blighted by a plague of wasps who we are only partially successful at distracting with a dish of marmalade. Finely chopped with a shallot and some mint, parsley and basil, I create a squid salad with the evening before’s left-overs.
Driven away by the wasps we press on to Luka Tiha on the north side of the deep inlet on the northwestern end of Hvar where we find anchorage. There is a slightly undignified moment when a British vessel off to our starboard accelerates alongside then accuses us of racing them to their spot. Nigel deals with this succinctly and firmly. We get there first!
We are eating on board and I am chef. Coq au Vin simmers away on the hob, a busload of potatoes are boiled and some are mashed; others are kept for potato salad. Green beans also accompany the meal. Jane who is vegetarian has smoked salmon with a spoonful of the Coq gravy on her mash! Carolyn says it is the best meal she has eaten since she arrived in Croatia. She, Nigel and I talk late into the evening and we are all rather later rising in the morning.
We all have a swim in the still, sun-bathed waters of the embayment then breakfast on the bows. Nigel is not one for tarrying and we are soon up-anchored and on up the inlet to view Stari Grad on the large island of Hvar. The Cruising Companion says it is an interesting place to visit with several attractive buildings. Jane and I who are on a photography mission at the bows think this rather an understatement.
This is the site of the ancient Greek colony of Pharos founded in the 4th C BC. It is claimed that some of the early Greek walls have been incorporated into modern buildings. There is a museum, an art gallery. The water front is charming. There are no large yachts moored but small local craft are strung out along the quay enabling a good view of the buildings along the harbour from the water. Nigel asks if we want 30 minutes ashore but I’d want at least 3 hours as I think there’d be an internet café to seek out. In the event we motor idly down to the busy part of the port, turn and saunter back.
The water is so clear we can see the cause of occasional disturbance at the surface of the water ahead of us. A group of young bass (they are known as ‘school bass’) are encircling and jabbing at a larger school of silvery slivers of fishy life. It is clear the bass are working in cooperation.
We leave Stari Grad for our next destination and Nick tries to spin for a few fish whilst we are underway without success. We make a lunch stop along the north coast of Hvar and take a dip first. After lunch there is a landing party composed of Nick, Carolyn and I.
We row across the narrow tract of water separating Phillipides V from the limestones dipping into the sea. The limestone is extremely karstified leading Carolyn to suppose it might be a volcanic rock but it is just the erosion of wind, rain and sea, aided by the biodegradable actions of the simple, invertebrate, animals living on the rocks which are bathed by the tides.
Once landed you need to pick your way carefully over the tops of the limestone blocks which are reminiscent of the limestone pavement of the Burren in western Ireland. Nick wants to check out a sizeable white object he thinks might be a fender – it isn’t. I’m looking for small treasures amonst the detritus, much of which is wood. There are boards and a panel from a boat bearing flaky traces of a rich blue paint. In places it looks like lapis lazuli.
Our overnight stop is the picturesque Vrboska. It is situated in a valley and is crossed by a bridge at the head of the inlet. There are typical coastal village houses and some Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque buildings. It has a famous fortress church. The enthusiastic harbourmaster has encouraged us to moor off the town quay rather than use the marina. This is a happy choice as we sit in the cockpit people-watching with impunity. By good fortune our choice of restaurant for the evening also offers internet which will be free if we eat there. I could not recommend the Mediteran Restaurant too highly. We had a wonderful meal, made memorable by the charming brothers who attend to us, and utterly delicious by the 4 different vegetable dishes to accompany our protein. Nick and I had rare fillet steak, Nigel and Jane chose Bream and Carolyn had roast pork.
The following morning Carolyn and I walked up to the restaurant to claim our free internet time. The others walked out along the north side of the Vrboska inlet. Late morning we drop our moorings and head for the island of Zecevo to anchor for lunch. We notice there is a plethora of rather brown naked bodies strewn along the shoreline and later read in the Cruising Companion that this is a Nudist’s island.
We cross to the island of Brac and follow the coast east to find an overnight anchorage. The wind comes up rather rapidly and is northeastern so we search hard for a haven for the night, eventually finding good shelter at Uvala Luka near Povlja. This is the safest and most sheltered anchorage in the Bracki Canal. We eat on board – Nick’s omelettes, sautéed potatoes, beans and then settle down to watch 2 episodes of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. It is great to view something we remember from our salad days, that has stood the test of time, with some of the best actors of the time: Alec Guiness, Ian Richardson, Ian Bannen, Bernard Hepton, Hywell Bennett…. Sadly with us no more.