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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