For the next week, we planned to slow down and take a break from hosting mode, as we made our way by ourselves south to Cavtat to pickup our kids. In the last few weeks in Croatia, we had been forced to skip several interesting islands due to the weather or schedule challenges. We now finally had a chance to check these places out before we said goodbye completely to this country of countless islands.
Bidding adieu to Emmy, Graham and Sarah, we set off from Murter with the eagerness of seeing new places, while re-visiting some of our favorites. As we entered our fifth week in Croatia, we were starting to gain the comfort and confidence that comes with prior knowledge of these waters. No longer were we shuffling through pages in a cruising guide on a cold wintry night; we had zig-zagged our way through these long, skinny islands on our own craft, faced a fair balance of adventure and adversity, and were still married happily enough to want to spend another week alone together!
Moving to the East Coast of the U.S. many years ago, we had to accept the difficulty of staying in touch with our West Coast family roots. Not only did both of our brothers live in California, but much of my extended family was in British Columbia. And despite best intentions, it simply is hard to keep close ties. So I was pleasantly surprised, after reconnecting during a winter ski trip to Western Canada, that my second cousin Graham and his wife Sarah accepted our open invitation to join us for sailing in the Med. Perhaps because of our casual nature, I think they thought they better take us up on our offer before we changed our mind! Both Graham and Sarah sail their own boat on Okanagan Lake, and we always welcome experienced hands onboard Sea Rose. After planning our summer cruising calendar, we reached out to our friend Emmy to see if she could join us for the same week. Emmy took up the challenge last summer, helping us sail overnight from the French Riviera to the rugged island of Corsica, and we knew her friendly demeanor would fit in well with my Canadian family.
It was mid-June and by this time, we had been in Croatia for a little over two weeks and had spent a lot of time in the southern islands of this lovely country; however, as our next set of friends joined us, we were excited to be moving further northwest into an area abundant with national and nature parks! Tom wrote about our visit to Mljet National Park which occupies significant land and coastline on the island of the same name. Before we would leave Croatia, we will have visited Mljet two more times! This post will introduce two additional national parks and one equally special nature park. We’re lucky to be able to capture this beauty digitally today. I would hate to have had to ration my film use in these amazing places in the days of my youth. Prepare for a high number of photos!
We have a bunch of visitors lined up to come stay onboard Sea Rose this summer – 30 in all between mid-May and early October. We are often asked if this is too much and because of these questions, we ask that of ourselves … are we ‘ok’ with the work required to host this many groups and individual people? For us, it comes down to two important factors: (1) the obvious – we love seeing our friends and family and when we travel five months out of the year this is one way to remain connected to people who are important to us; (2) when we have friends and family on board, we live our experiences more fully than we do when it is just Tom and I. Having others around causes us to use fresh, naïve eyes as we pass through the days with our company on board. It is almost like having kids; if you’ve had them you’ll understand what I mean. Parents often free themselves up to re-experience things their kids are learning with abandonment; even getting as silly as their young, exceedingly loved companions! When having people on board for whom our lifestyle is not a regular occurrence, we allow ourselves to become fully immersed in the experiences of our guests, or our ‘kids’ if you will!
I hope my parents can look down from the heavens this week with pride. Like all parents, they just wanted their children to be happy, but more than that, for them to get along. Maybe not as best friends, but at least cherish their company and care for each other’s well being. But this isn’t always easy in practice. Todd had the marching orders, whether desired or not, to break the trail, and through sheer luck of birth order I was allowed the time to observe his experiences, learn and adjust. In sailor speak, he was the first into an unknown harbor at night. I got to breeze into the same harbor with all the knowledge and confidence of a seasoned captain. Our divergent roles, and a 4 year age gap, didn’t help. But time is the greatest healer. And learning how to be adequate parents ourselves brought us further together. It was in this spirit that we found a week in our busy schedules to sail together in Croatia. Todd was joined by his wife Molly, and sons Richard and Peter. Unfortunately, their daughter Julia was halfway around the globe in New Zealand pursuing her own geographic adventures and couldn’t make this trip.
If you had asked me a year ago where Croatia was, I’d have a hard time locating it on a map. Now, we were about to become intimately familiar with this mysterious country and its coastline. But first, we needed to be welcomed into the country by Mr. Customs and Mrs. Immigration. From fellow boaters and books we had read, I was prepared for a little more bureaucracy and a few more bucks to have the pleasure of sailing these waters. We were told that Croatia was more expensive than other Mediterranean countries. And back in Montenegro, one official warned us to be very careful to check in at the first available port. He told me the tale of two boats that had taken liberties with entering Croatian waters unofficially, one to seek safety during a storm, only to end up being fined over a thousand euros. That got my attention. As did the sleek sailboat docked behind him that had been confiscated by Montenegrin authorities for reasons that might get me killed if I asked. OK, maybe not that severe, but it is fair to say that the message had been delivered and we would be stopping at the town of Cavtat, just across the Croatian border, pronto.