Week 141: Murter to Pula

It's a small world. Making new friends on our way north as we hide from storms then make some (nautical) miles to reach Pula.

Week 141: Murter to Pula
Mike, Tim, Linda and Karina at breakfast in Artatore

We're not British (or German).

We pull up into a beautiful bay, look at the amazing clear water, check the temperature... 16.5C (62F) and proclaim "screw that" then huddle up on the boat. Meanwhile, the first naked bodies of the season have appeared, bathing themselves off the swim deck (almost certainly German) and families are swimming around their charter boat (almost certainly British) while we think it needs a good few weeks of sunshine and another 5 degrees of water temperature before we're ready to jump in.

At the beginning of the week we decided to wait out the storm in Murter which proved to be a good choice. A big anchorage with lots of swing room, shallow water and a thick mud bottom. The winds were nothing like what we'd experienced in Montenegro, but still significant with gusts close to 30kts. Given that no one entered or left the harbour, I think we made a good choice to stay. Beside protection from the wind, it offered a lot of shelter from the swell which the south winds driving up the Adriatic can really kick up.

A charter fleet repositioning - around 30 boats came streaming in, setting up here for the start of the season we suspect.

I made a run to shore in the winds to try and buy some parts at the marina store, only to find out that it was shut for May 1st which is a public holiday in Croatia (and a lot of Europe too). Most of the time in 'Tilly' (our tender) we don't bother with life jackets, but given the conditions it seemed prudent to put on all the safety gear this time.

By Wednesday we were ready to get going. Four days in one spot is too long when we have places to be. So we set off! Of course the weather wasn't going to cooperate completely - it was now swinging around to blow from the North. The patterns here are interesting, it's quite clear that the mountains on the mainland have a big impact on the strengths of the wind, I imagine there's some passes or lower regions up there that funnel the breeze down. We did a big (for us) day of about 6.5 hours, which was enough to move us north of the wind zone into a more sheltered bay to stay for the night.

We climbed the old WWII fortress on the hill above Murter. Underground tunnels and bunkers to explore with amazing views.

For a change, we spent the vast majority of the time cruising from the inside helm. Which when the weather is cooler and the seas are calm, makes for a very pleasant journey. I was joking with Iain from Intrepid Bear about the pleasures of cruising in t-shirts and ugg boots while the sailors are in full foul weather gear in those cooler seas.

Karina on watch at the helm.

It's easy to see why the Croatian coast and islands are such a popular cruising destination. While both Croatia and Greece generally have mild winds during summer, a big feature of cruising around Croatia is that there's typically not too much swell - the islands are (annoyingly) long, but they provide a lot of protection and there's not much fetch for the swell to kick up. Several days this week we cruised in 25kt plus winds that at times in Greece would have been a bit rough (especially in the Cyclades), but here was not even noticeable (from the inside helm in my t-shirt and ugg boots).

Small fishing villages and clear waters

Arriving our our selected bay, it was "Yet another beautiful anchorage" (YABA), but somehow felt dissatisfying. Without the swimming there's only so much peace and quiet you can take!

Fortunately, there was relief ahead. Linda and Mike on Jabulani II who I had met briefly in Montenegro (Karina skipped that curry night) were heading south from Pula and if we pushed on a little further on Thursday, we'd be able to meet them at Artatore. This would put us next to the Kvarner Gulf which we'd have to cross to make Pula. It worked out perfectly - the weather was continuing to settle (which meant a good crossing - while it's not that far across the gulf, it's a long stretch of water and if the winds are blowing quite rough, as we learnt from Linda and Mike).

Pulling into Artatore, Linda was waving from the back of Jabulani II and we received a lovely video of us entering the bay and an invite to join them for lunch. Hamburgers fresh of the BBQ! We really need to get one for Matilda. It was great to meet them and we had a great time just chatting and getting to know each other. It was also such a pleasure after a long cruise to have someone to greet you and it was great not having to think about lunch. We'll have to pay it forward in the future.

We headed off to shore to get Rosie off the boat for the first time in days but invited them to join us on Matilda the next morning for brunch, Karina's special - pancakes with bacon.

It's always fun meeting like minded people and we really enjoyed their company, it was just the tonic we needed after pretty much two weeks alone on the boat and four days straight aboard without a break ashore. We had both lived in Melbourne, although they now live up in Noosa - so of course there are lots of similarities there too.

As they headed off south to Zadar, we decided to move one more island over. A short hour and a half hop to cut an hour of the crossing on Saturday. I'd shared a photo of us online and with Linda, then a little later I had a message from her "Did you know Mike used to live in Ivanhoe? Someone he knows from Ivanhoe just messaged and said,'how do you know Tim and Karina?'"

Well, that spurred a further conversation on the memories we shared of that time there. It's crazy to think that there's now two couples we've met in Montenegro that we lived in the same suburb/city as! Eric and Vandy who lived on our street in Belmont, and now Mike who was not too far away from us in Ivanhoe. It's a small world. Mike also drove an old Model T ford on occasion and of course we had our bright yellow Mini Moke - there's no doubt we've seen each other in passing at least.

Crossing to Pula and allowing the tanker to go first

The last anchorage was YABA, but with naked people on the boat next door. A peaceful night and then off to Pula.

It's only been one day but Pula is a great change of pace. It's a really interesting city, as Karina said "you feel like you need to discover it". It's not "obvious" like some destinations. I guess what I mean by that is that there's beauty here, but on the surface it's a grimy post industrial, post war city. The big feature in the harbour is a massive ship yard with a half built ship rusting away.

An old Austro-Hungarian ship yard, it went into bankruptcy back in 2019 and it seems the shell of the boat they were working on is still there, not completed. It's created a lot of local unemployment - the ship yard was the biggest employer on the Istrian Peninsula. There's also two huge drilling (oil?) rigs sitting on the shore that don't seem to have been moved in a while, they are both on Google satellite photos.

One of the neat things about travelling so slowly (it's taken us what, 8-9 months to get from Greece to almost Italy through the Balkans), is you see how the history and culture changes bit by bit. Pula is interesting for several reasons, but one in particular is that it's one of the first "truly" Roman towns we've come across - there's no classical Greek presence at all (there's obviously some trading etc. but no settlements).

The main attraction and the one that bought us here is the Arena. It's a Roman Ampitheatre which is Croatia's largest standing Roman ruin and one of the best preserved ampitheatres in the world. It's the only one with four remaining towers on the outside.

So that's the plan today! After touring the outside yesterday, we're leaving Rosie to guard the boat and heading off to visit a few museums, see the inside of the arena and the Zero Strasse, a network of underground bunker tunnels into an old Austro-Hungarian fort.

Cranes at night
Cranes at sunrise

As to the next week, we're heading north to Rocinj, leaving Croatia and going to Trieste in Italy and back down to Venice next Tuesday.

Until next time

Tim & Karina

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