TSC Maiden Voyage Part 5: The Party After the Storm and Sailing Winnetou Canyon
In the last week of sailing, we had encountered some of the craziest weather I had ever experienced. First, as we tried to outrun the storm by sailing north from the Kornati Islands to Mali Losinj; and then, as we discovered what bora winds were while navigating through the Velebit Channel.
The bad weather wasn’t completely behind us yet. In the coming days, there was another storm brewing and we had decided to find shelter for a few days in Zrce Beach. If we were going to be stuck anywhere, it may as well be in a party town.🥳
Initially, we had arrived at the big bay of Pag, but since our goal was to make it to Zrce, we continued on. It was already getting dark as we began to make our way to Zrce, and it took us about an hour to get there with the engine. Luckily, just before the sun was fully set and the light was all gone, we sailed into Zrce Beach.
We were happy to see that there were already some parties going on. Unfortunately, the dock in front of the main bar was already taken by a yacht.
Tangent – we later learned this yacht belonged to a famous DJ who spends his time yacht-setting around Croatia, djing at all the different hotspots of the Dalmatian coast. He was actually German, but I forgot his name.
Anyways, instead of docking, we picked a mooring. If you’re not familiar with the term, a mooring is any permanent buoy or structure to which vessels can attach to, to secure themselves. This mooring was just short of 200 feet away from the club.
As we were trying to pick up the mooring, we had a little mishap. We lost our hook – this is the pole-hook-thing you use to draw the mooring towards you, some might say it’s kind of useful. 🤦♂️
Also, keep in mind that if you don’t put the line into the mooring fast enough and the boat is rocking, you will eventually lose the mooring and drift away -which is exactly what happened to us. 🤦♂️🤦♂️
I don’t remember the details all too clearly, it had been a long day, but either the guy holding the hook fell in the water, or just the hook fell in the water, I’m not really sure what exactly happened at first.
But once the pole was in, I really thought it would float, but it didn’t, it just went straight down to the bottom of the Adriatic. It was our only hook, so right away my brother jumped in after it but he didn’t manage to get it. Next, Sheila dove down 10-12 feet with a high-power, waterproof flashlight, and she got it!
At Zrce, we moored right in front of Noa Beach Club. This club had the silliest little COVID rule going on; because of Corona, they close every day for one hour at 8 PM. So they close at 8 PM but open up again at 9 PM – very silly if you ask me.
So basically only from 8-9, no one can be in the club. During this time, we couldn’t leave our boat either, so we just enjoyed a nice evening on the boat. We had dinner on board and later, much later, at around 10 or 11 PM we went with the dinghy to the club.
We met the VIP waiter and he gave us a space in the VIP area, he was the one who actually told us about the DJ and his boat. He also told us that he was leaving the next morning, so we could take his spot on the dock, right on Zrce, and just in front of Noa.
We had a really great time at Noa, so much so, we stayed at this club the whole night. Enjoying the music, meeting up with the French girls Josh had met on tinder. Although this time it was not four french girls it was 10 french girls that came to party. There were some french guys too, all in all, it was a super fun night.
And it got even more fun after the club closed at 4 AM -we still wanted to keep partying, so we invited everyone back to the boat. In the end, it was 9 french girls and 1 (very gay) french guy coming back to our boat, aside from our typical crew of course.
As you can imagine, it was really nice to have the boat full of beautiful girls… I won’t say what else happened, but we basically drank a lot. It was the french guys’ birthday too, so we celebrated his birthday as the sun was coming up.
At around 8 AM, we brought most of them back to shore, it was their last day in town and they had to go back to the hotel and pack. We were sad to watch them leave, the night had been pretty cool.
Getting the VIP treatment at Noa Beach Club
For the rest of the day, we had a super lazy day in Zrce Beach. We decided to rest, after all, we could afford the break. On one hand, the wind was quite heavy on the Velebit Channel, so there was no incentive to leave the bay. And on the other hand, we had skipped our time in Istria, so we had some extra time to kill before having to be at the next mandatory stop.
There was only one stop left that was important for me, and that stop could wait a little. So, we diced to just chill in Zrce and enjoy all of the watersports opportunities swimming around with the scooter.
We have this fun thing where we tie my flamingo to my feet with a rope. Then I use the scooter and drag the flamingo behind me. At one point Sheila was on the flamingo and I just went with her all-around Noa Beach Club.
That bay was already quite active at that time, there were lots of people on the beach. It was quite a nice little show for them, me going around with the scooter and dragging Sheila and Daniel behind on the flamingo.
Oh, I forgot to mention, that morning, when the other yacht left the spot in front of Noa, we left the mooring and took the spot. Now we didn’t need to use the dinghy to get to shore and back, and now the girls could also come on board much more easily… and also escape much more easily. 😇
Either way, it was pretty great having our own space, right at the club. In all honesty, I really enjoyed being seeing with our catamaran there, we had our own little pier with the pool from Noa right there.
For the rest of the afternoon, we simply enjoyed the water and some other activities, lazying around at Noa in the sun loungers, simply enjoying life. In the evening, we were ready for another night of partying – which was not as remarkable as the night before, but still pretty cool vibes.
Time to explore the Winnetou Canyon, this time from the water
Not pulling an all-nighter worked well, because early the next morning we left. We could have actually stayed one more day, but we decided to keep moving because I wanted to see Winnetou Canyon.🤩🤓
On this day, the wind was nice again, so we could venture into the Velebit Channel with ease. That morning we left Zrce, passed the big bay in Pag and navigated down the Velebit Channel once again. We motored down all along the Biokovo mountains. In this area, the wind was still quite strong. There wasn’t much wind, but whatever came through was fierce.
Despite the winds, we continued on, all the way to the bottom of the island, we got to the place where we could see Pag bridge to our right. We would actually be going under that bridge the next day.
First, however, we were going down along the mainland, until we went into an area where we had the mainland on both sides. Our main goal was to get to Zrmija Canyon but to get to it, you must first encounter another canyon near Starigrad. Then there is another canyon in Novigrad, in this kind of lake/lagoon.
We went to these places first, these canyons were still quite nice. We also ventured into the Novigrad lake, quite scenic. We took some nice pictures with the Velebit Mountains in the background.
We were basically going into this lake where there were lots of other boats. Little boats, big boats, but we were the only catamaran there. Eventually, we encountered the Zrmija Canyon, which you should know by now, is a famous set for the Winnetou Movies. You may remember that I was there at the very beginning of my time in Croatia when I was road-tripping with Daniel.
Since that visit, I was intent on coming back to the site but arriving from the water, with my own catamaran. It all started with me thinking to myself: “It would be really cool to come here by boat, with a big boat like a catamaran…” and now, there we were.
I like to think that we were probably the first catamaran ever there, I mean, there were lots of day-trippers visiting in small boats. The path there is actually quite narrow, especially with a catamaran, but the good thing about the cat is, because it doesn’t go too deep underwater, you can actually navigate through shallow waters with it.
So that is exactly what we did. To be clear, the waters in this place weren’t super shallow, it was still more than deep enough for the boat, around 5-7 feet, but quite narrow maybe 2 times the size of our boat? – which is not a lot.
We went pretty far into this area, around 2 miles to get to the set of the Winnetou movies. As a refresher, Zrmija Canyon is the view of the Peccos settlement, which is featured in some of the famous Karl May films.
I gotta say, the area really looks like the wild west, the views are really impressive and you can still see the Biokovo mountains in the back. So you have these high cliffs, towering over 600 feet above you. I really enjoyed having visited this site, and not just by car.😎
The journey on this river went smoothly, we made it to the end and back safely. The entire time we were on this tour we played the Winnetou movie soundtrack. We were the amusement of all the little boats that passed us by.
Navigating up a lake and through a canyon, our path to Ribnica
After this route, we went back into the main lake and then took another little river to another lake. We didn’t venture into the other lake much, we just went as far as we could to simply check it out. After the canyon, this sight wasn’t as impressive, no more mountains or desert landscape.
But it did have a nice little settlement along the river, the town was called Ribnica, and that’s where we moored overnight. In the evening, we went along the key for a bit and found a nice little restaurant to have dinner.
We moored right in front of the restaurant, we were their first catamaran of the season. We all enjoyed a very nice dinner. I had some excellent lamb, probably the best lamb I’ve ever had. It was a lovely night, and we even joked around a bit.
You see, they had this wall in the harbor and we used it to project the Winnetou movie onto it. Once again, the projector came through and worked like a charm. So, after dinner, we watched the movie from our catamaran, on the harbor, it was so cool. We enjoyed a few drinks as we watched Treasure in Scissor Lake. After, I went to bed with a big smile on my face.
Nin and Zadar, our last days from our 3-week maiden Voyage
The next day was supposed to be our last day on the initial route we had planned. Now, we were at that location two days earlier than scheduled. With the extra time, we decided to go out of the lakes and get back on the Velebit Channel and head north, towards the Pag bridge. We reveled in the landscape for a bit and then headed over to the next stop, an island called Nin, which is quite famous for its sandbank.
The sandbank is really beautiful to see from the air, but you can’t really experience it fully from the water. The island also has a nice town, which is actually known to be one of the most romantic towns in Europe… I don’t really know why. The town is also home to the smallest cathedral in the world, whatever that means.
Either way, the cathedral was really nice and Nin itself was quite nice to visit. Not as romantic as I expected though. We ended up having a nice and quiet evening in town, walked around, found some ice cream, and then went back to the boat.
We almost didn’t find the boat thought, it was a bit more offshore than we remembered and it was very dark. We also forgot to switch on the anchor lights, so we really couldn’t see anything. Luckily, in the end, we spotted it.
The next day we continued sailing south-west towards Zadar. Daniel and I had our flight to Vienna leaving Zadar the day after. So we made a quick stop in Zadar to pick up Christian and another tinder girl who was supposed to continue sailing with Josh after we left. We basically met this girl one night, and the next day she was ready to sail away with us.
The area in Zadar we arrived at, I had already visited when Julia was in town a few weeks back. However, nothing eventful happened on the last day aboard the boat. After Zadar, we went over to the island of Ugljan, just north of Pašman. Sheila had some sailor friends chartering a boat in the area and they had invited us to hang out at this bay in Ugljan.
Unfortunately, the plan didn’t really work out. First, we went to a marina, and in this area, it was quite nice. We got to use our toys and enjoy the water for the last time during this voyage. But after, they invited us to this restaurant a bit further south, they told us it would be easy to anchor in this place. Spoiler alert, it wasn’t.
Because they said it would be ok, we sailed there and it didn’t work out. The area was really bad for our anchor and we didn’t manage to make it work. So we just decided to leave and search for another bay to anchor in. If we would have known that would be the case, we would have left the boat at the marina and then taken a taxi.
In the end, we found a nice little bay with a good spot to chill, the only caveat, we didn’t get to have dinner with Sheila’s friends.
Our last evening on board was very chill, everyone went to a restaurant in town, but I didn’t go with them. I had a pretty intense stomach ache, and I was nervous because this was happening two days before my big birthday in Vienna was supposed to start.
So for that night, I stayed in, I was in really bad pain, I even had to vomit a few times. I don’t really know what happened. Maybe it was that leg of ham that I carried in my wardrobe for a month. 🤔🤭
You may remember that before the export and import of my boat I got a really nice leg of ham, which I kept in my wardrobe all this time. At some points, we also had it out on the deck, in the sun. Now that I think about it, it was probably the heat that got to it, and it, in turn, got to me -or, it could have been something totally unrelated, we’ll never know.
That whole night I couldn’t get shut-eye, I just laid down on the mat and at some point, I felt a little better and was able to drift off for a bit. Early the next morning we sailed to Zadar, as I continued to nap during the journey.
In Zadar, we went to fill up the gas tank, my last service on this journey was footing the gas bill. After, we said some quick goodbyes, and just like that, Daniel, Markus, and I were on our way to the airport to catch our flights to Vienna.
Funny story, I was supposed to fly to Vienna with my brother, I had sent him my flight details, and told him to just book for himself. I told him he didn’t have to book for me because I got my own ticket. Or so I thought. Apparently, I must have forgotten to finish booking my own flight.
So there I was, at the airport counter trying to check-in and the lady tells me that I’m not booked on the flight… and that my friends, is how I missed the flight to my own birthday.
Also, it just so happened that exactly on that day Austria had declared Croatia a risk zone – so immediately all the flights were booked out. I was running out of time, I couldn’t book a flight online, couldn’t book it with the info desk at the airport either. I really thought I would get stuck in Croatia and have to miss the start of my birthday conference.
The most available option was for me to fly the next day, but I would have missed the welcome dinner at the conference. As a Hail-Mary, I went into the Croatian Airlines office, and finally, these guys said they could get me on a flight leaving that same day.
The ticket turned out to be quite expensive, I think about 5x what the original flight was, but still acceptable, I was just grateful to be able to get into Vienna on time. If you haven’t the recap of my birthday in Vienna and the silliness that ensued in Montenegro, go do that now, it’s a good one!