Posts Tagged beach

Hvar, Croatia: Fast Ferries, Fast Times

Hvar Ferry“I don’t know why everyone is panicking,” is not what you want to hear from a ferry boat steward when you’re bobbing around in the Adriatic Sea.

We had arrived at the harbor in Split at 3pm after a long day of driving from Dubrovnik to Mostar (Bosnia) and then to Split. Our driver had a quick chat with a man on the ferry dock and assured us the next ferry to Hvar (pronounced Huar) was at 4pm. Fantastic. Only an hour to kill before heading to our island paradise.

We walked up to the ticket window to buy tickets and were informed that the next ferry was leaving at 6pm not 4pm. We paid the extra Kuna (Croatian currency) for the “fast” boat, which would get us to Hvar in one hour instead of two, and then tried to decide what to do for the next three hours.

The walkway along the harbor was dotted with cafes, touristy trinket kiosks, a bus station, and a lot of students sporting backpacks. It was 96 degrees and smelled like a combination of cigarettes and hippies. We settled on a cafe that had shade and the fewest people smoking.

The only food options were sandwiches and savory pastries that looked like they had been sitting in the full sun all day, but what are you gonna do. We killed the next three hours eating lukewarm pigs in a blanket type pastries, drinking Coke Zero and coffee and trying to forget how hot it was.

We randomly met a Scottish guy named Stevie based on the fact that we needed each other to watch our bags while we took turns going to the pay toilet. Note to self: always carry 5 Kuna in coins, because there’s no such thing as a free lunch or a free pee in Croatia.

At 5:30pm we started noticing that people were starting to line up for the ferries, so we happily jumped up and walked over to the pier with Scottish Stevie. We got in line for the first boat we came to and got halfway through the line before someone told us the boat was going to Vis not Hvar.

We finally found the right line for the right boat and joined the queue. It was not one of the big lumbering ferries that you can drive cars onto, but a sleek catamaran that looked like an Airbus inside. And the A/C was on! Oh happy day. We each grabbed an aisle seat so as not to get trapped between anyone who hadn’t showered in a week, or anyone who looked like they might be the seasick type.

As soon as the boat got underway Stevie offered to buy a round of drinks. “What do you want? Gin and tonic? Vodka? Wine?” he said. “I don’t know,” I said. “Surprise me.”

When Stevie finally returned he had a bottle of water, a Coke Zero, a beer and a glass of white wine. “What happened to the gin and the vodka option?” I asked. He explained, “I asked for a gin and tonic. They were out of gin. They told me they had vodka, so I asked for a vodka tonic. No tonic. I asked what mixers they had, and they said Orangina. So I got you a glass of white wine.” You can always trust a Scottish guy when it comes to booze.

Just as I was beginning to enjoy my glass of wine we started to hit some chop. The further we got from Split the worse it got. The guy next to me was fanning his girlfriend who looked like she was going to blow at any minute. It was 6:50pm, and we were supposed to arrive at 7pm, so we all figured we could keep our lunch down for 10 more minutes. Then the boat started to slow down.

When a ferry starts to slow down it usually means one of two things: you’re close to port, or you’ve lost power and the captain is about to hand out oars. I decided to survey the situation, and when I stood up to look out the window over the bow I could see we were still miles away from Hvar.

We were all speculating as to why we were cruising at less than warp speed when one of the uniformed stewards came by and said, “I don’t know why everyone is panicking. One of the engines sucked in a piece of wood and had to be shut down, so we are only using one engine right now.” Well thank goodness we didn’t hit a body. It was just a piece of wood. We were limping along on one engine, and our “fast” boat was now a slow boat that turned the 1-hour cruising time into almost two.

We did finally make it to the port of Hvar under our own power, disembarked with a throng of 20-somethings on holiday, and realized we had just landed ourselves in the middle of Croatia’s version of Cabo during Spring Break. My girlfriend and I silently wondered if we had made the right decision, booking five days on Hvar. On the other hand, young Scottish Stevie announced (with a huge smile on his face) that he was going to call his boss and ask for an extra week off.

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Sailing Italy: Walking to Atrani

Today I found my external drive containing all of my stories from a trip I took to Italy two years ago. None of these blogs were ever published. Better late than never!

In 2010 I crewed a sailboat in Italy with a handful of people I’d never met. These are my stories…

Walking to Atrani

Atrani ItalyI have nothing against my boat mates, but there is such a thing as too much togetherness. I was the last one to climb out of my bunk today, only to sit down at the table to hear that an executive decision had been made and we were sailing back to Capri right after lunch.

“Wait a minute,” I asked. “Why?”

I was starting to feel like a traveling salesman. I really wanted to stay in one spot long enough to actually have some down time. I was in desperate need of Me time.

“I have an idea,” I said, hoping the executive decision that had been made earlier wasn’t one that couldn’t be vetoed. “Why don’t we stay in Amalfi another night?” I suggested we relax in Amalfi for a day, and then leave the marina early in the morning. That way we could take our time getting to Capri and even stop for a midday visit to Positano.

My suggestion was met with surprising enthusiasm. My boat mate Val had had enough of the allergens in her cabin, and wanted an opportunity to get more time above deck, and everyone else just shrugged and said, okay, sounds like a plan.

Having made the decision to stay one more night suddenly let everyone breathe a sigh of relief and gave us all permission to scatter to the wind for the day.

I quickly applied some sunscreen, grabbed my purse and basically told the others I’d be back at some point.

My goal was to get as far away from the center of Amalfi as possible by foot. You see there was a Club Med 2, 5-mast cruise ship anchored in the harbor which translates to a few thousand extra people crowding the narrow streets of Amalfi. No thanks.

I started walking south along the road that hugs the coast, with my sights set on getting to the next town, whatever that was.

This is not the wisest decision I’ve ever made. The roads that hug the Amalfi coast are not for the faint of heart, whether you are a driver or a pedestrian. They are only wide enough for one car in some places, and the larger buses will come within in inches of the railing that you find yourself so terrifyingly plastered against. There is no shoulder to speak of.

But I saw little old Italian women walking the windy road, so I figured it was okay. What I didn’t realize is these women are trained professionals, as in, they have been doing this their entire lives. when in Rome… I took a deep breath and stuck with the old ladies.

The first town I came to was Atrani, which is supposed to be an artist community, although I saw no signs of art or artists anywhere. Just the same pizzerias with the same menus I had seen in Amalfi.

There was, however, a nearly deserted beach down a steep set of stairs, and it was at that point that I realized I had been sailing on this sailboat in the Mediterranean Sea for four days now and hadn’t once so much as dipped a toe in it. This had to be rectified.

I walked down to edge of the dry pebbly sand where the gentle waves were lapping at the stones, slipped off my Keens and stepped into the Mediterranean. This is exactly what I needed. Solitude, sun and the sea.

I sat there for an hour, I think. I lost track of time. I took a picture for a young Italian couple, who wanted a memory of themselves by the sea. I collected bits of tiles and pottery that had washed up on the shore, and imagined the Italian kitchens they had once been a part of.  There was the wave-worn terracotta oval, with the blue glaze the color of the ocean. A small triangular piece with a single dot of red glaze that looked like an eye. A bit of white pottery with hand-painted grapes and vines. Someone’s trash became my treasures.

I tucked the small broken pieces of pottery into my purse, put my sandals back on and made my way back up the steep set of stairs. I wasn’t exactly sure what I would do with my treasured pieces of trash when I got back home, but I did know that those small pieces of pottery will forever remind me of my hour of bliss on the beach in Atrani.

Atrani Italy Beach

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