The ACI Pula, Veruda, Pomer and Medulin marinas, with their ample offerings of boats for chartering, are situated at the top of the Istrian Peninsula and only a few kilometres from the airport. As they are very well connected with inland areas via the highway, the Istrian Ypsilon, I would definitely recommend that you travel to Central Istria and visit Motovun, Grožnjan or one of the many picturesque places and fortresses and savour the local gastronomy and wines, all of which make Central Istria an essential destination on the tourist "must see" lists.
It is impossible to reduce Pula to a simple, short text. Ancient, medieval, Venetian, French, Habsburg, Hungarian, Italian, Yugoslavian, Croatian, and above all Istrian Pula - a city imbued with history, a strategic port, the intersection of languages, culture ... and a little bit of everything that prevails in that city.
Every era left it’s mark, seen in the buildings, which are dominated above all by the Pula Amphitheatre, and in the people and their dialects. A day is too little, much too little to get to know this city, but take some time and get to know its people.
Find one of the little hidden cafés out there at the entrance to the shipyard, stop in for a morning coffee and hear what the fishermen say after a busy night, and what the shipbuilders have to say before their workday. Drop into the town market whether you wish to try some homemade grapes, wine or oil ... there are some worthy grandmothers who have everything you need, understand all the languages and speak their own, which is apparently a mixture of all those languages.
The Amphitheatre - Whether it was really Emperor Vespasian who built this magnificent building in honour of his enthusiastic lover, Antonia Puljan or whether it’s just a legend, is completely irrelevant. The amphitheatre is there and leaves one breathless. Be sure to check out the programme of concerts and shows and choose one of the events. It somehow seems to me that the best way to experience this architectural masterpiece is with a mass of people, exactly what it must have looked like in those ancient days when gladiatorial games, amongst other events, were held there.
Depending on whether you left the city of Pula for the start or, what seems to me a better solution, for the end of your trip, after sailing from the marina, I would suggest sailing east around Cape Kamenjak. Sail into the Bay of Medulin (if you are leaving from Medulin or Pomer even better) and anchor just off a secluded, shallow cove. Portić Bay, secluded and well protected, and in the evenings when daytime boaters leave and that strange silence ensues with the noise of crickets and crackling of the sea (yes, you may still hear them now and later they become an integral part of the day, evening, silence ...) it’s an ideal place for that initial, and perhaps most difficult part of this journey - to convince your brain that tomorrow is not a working day! Only the last part, when it needs to return to reality, is more difficult.
A view from Lubenice
We already know that every morning our travel map is dependent upon the weather forecast! Sometimes the best plan is … to stay. But most often from this bay, our best route is towards the islands of Cres and Lošinj.
If we are blown by the bura wind, which is not so frequent and strong in this area, but does know how to make waves, we will change the route plan a little and sail east, with the wind to our side, towards Unije, Susak and Lošinj. But in good weather, which is most often the case, we sail with the maestral wind towards the Lubenice route, in fact on course to the beach at the foot of a peculiar place that perched itself high on a cliff. Those who are a little more adventurous and who are willing to take the narrow path to the town, Lubenice, will be rewarded with the ruins of a medieval wall, city gates, narrow winding streets, and above all a beautiful view of Kvarner, Istria, islands…
You may have noticed that I am a fan of sunsets, and I have experienced some of the most beautiful, intense colours and shapes right here from this cliff where Lubenice is located, a place that according to legend started love!
Sail further north along the coast, past beaches where it is not uncommon to find roe deer or fallow deer. Somewhere in the caves this coast abounds in, the Mediterranean bear is reported to have hidden and disappeared, and then, after many years, was found again. A miracle and rarity that, if you see it, you would find yourself extremely privileged. But to meet a good dolphin, from a flock of Westerners, is almost a regular occurrence here. And Cres - sail Cape Pernat and sail towards the east in the bay of Cres.
When sailing into the bay, from a mile away, the view is dominated by masts in the marina. For those who want the comfort of the marina it’s ideal, but then a twenty-minute walk separates you from the town. I prefer to turn to the northern part of the bay into the town itself. You can moor side by side on a long pier, but only on the east side or in a shipyard with 10 berths, showers and toilets. I usually attach to a small western pier where there are several sailboat moorings, but then you find yourself in the centre of the town.
Cres, situated within the ruins of walls, some parts of which still exist, is certainly distinctive in its architecture. The southern, northern and main city gates, the city loggia, the pillar of shame, the Venetian tower, the city clock, the Arsan Palace and so much more located in such a small area, speak, as in the example of Pula, about the turbulent and interesting history of the city.
I would especially emphasize the gastronomy of the island of Cres, not so much because of the restaurants, but because of the worthy islanders who, whilst keeping the traditions of sheep farming, olive growing and fishing alive, are responsible for top quality products made from the widely-known Cres oil and Cres lamb. It’s useful people are mostly talked about by the miles of dry walls and stone walls built all over the island. There is also a bountiful fish market and winery, so it is almost obligatory to prepare a meal on your yacht the next day in one of Valun’s bays accompanied by a sip of a selected wine, this time probably the Istrian Malvasia.
Valun and the Bay of Valun
Special in many ways. Cres is still special in some ways. As it is a little distance away from the classic charter routes, you can still find a beautiful and, unlike the rest of the Adriatic, an incredibly desolate beach on this side of the island. I often remain on this side of Cres and some days, when my itinerary is not too ambitious, i.e. when it is not important for me to see as much as possible, but for me to enjoy nature, then Valun is an essential destination for me - a small indigenous coastal village with first-class restaurants. Their difference in price is dictated by their position and decor, not quality, which one, unfortunately, encounters less often.
Then in the continuation of your trip to Martinščici, or in this case, the port of Ustrine, be sure to spend the day at one of the beaches you noticed yesterday. My favourite is Vela Draga Grabovica, but most often I choose the deserted one!
If you notice a crowd in one of the coves, you are late, but definitely visit it. This is Žanja bay - a beautiful cove and beach, but the main attraction is the cave in the bay. They call it the Blue Cave, and it consists of one tunnel in which you can swim and two galleries, each of which is completely different in its own special way. I'm not even quite sure anymore, but think it's best to be there about 14:00 hours to experience the play of sea and light breaking through the underwater passage into the larger gallery, making the sea intensely blue, sometimes green. I guess then the angle of incidence of the sun's rays is ideal. That is my personal belief, but during other times of the day the experience is unique. Especially if you are planning to spend the night here or somewhere close by, you will stay until all the excursionists and day boaters leave, so you have this beauty all to yourself!
Also, it would be good to have a waterproof lamp - for two reasons! The first, the more basic as there is total darkness in one part of the channel, and the second, more importantly, in the second gallery, which is located when you enter to the left, illuminate the ceiling! It’s made up of large crystals, and now I wonder what colour it is. The last time it seemed purple to me, and it probably depends on the light and angle of your view, but don't miss it. Finally, for the braver ones, it is possible to easily emerge from the large gallery through the underwater passage. It's not demanding, but I still recommend just to dive out of the cave because you're heading towards the light.
Further towards Ustrine we pass by Martinščica, also a beautiful place, with a pier with several berths, but also with beautiful beaches in front of which it is possible to anchor. We chose Ustrine because it has a safe anchorage and we wanted to be close to Osor and the Osor Channel, through which we intended to pass through in order to reach the northern side of the island of Lošinj. When you enter the harbour, i.e. the bay of Ustrina, just choose which branch you prefer. I usually choose the southern one even though the northern arm has better anchorage, is shallower and holds the bottom better, but somehow I prefer to be the only boat in the bay. If you dive into the eastern part of the bay and find a rope tied to a large rock, feel free to use it to tie the stern, of course, if I'm not already tied up there! ☺
Be sure to start early and tie your boat to the Osor waterfront. Take a stroll around the old town, sit down for a morning coffee in the square next to the church, surrounded by sculptures, and breathe in a bit of history because you are in an historically significant place, once the greatest on the island. Always with a full port, anchorage, at the intersection of the mainland road and the famous Amber Sea Route because of which, in ancient times, a canal was dug that you will still use today. The young, somewhat peculiar people you often meet here are not some freaks. Most often they are either archaeologists working on nearby excavations or musicians who are participants in the famous event "Osor Musical Evenings".
The drawbridge across the canal opens at 9am so be sure to be ready. Preference is given to boats coming from the south, so you will have to wait for the last boat on the Kvarnerić side to pass through for your passage through the Amber Route.
Punta Križa, moorage
Punta Križa again! On the route map of Punat-Punat, I mentioned nights at anchor in one of its bays. And what can I do when I love it! As a boy at my grandmother's house in Lošinj, I dreamt of it, because all the parents had boats and everyone went to Punta Kriza on the weekends and everyone came back with an abundant fish catch and a handful of experiences. The fish they caught by trolling (from a slowly moving boat), the spearfishing, those octupuses! What liars! They were not very appealing to me at the time, but today I thank them because my first sailing tourist experience my wife and young son took me on in a not so comfortable racing sailboat, was to … guess where? To Punta Križa.
I simply also had to, because now, even I have a boat. And in Kolorat Bay, anchored and almost completely oblivious to the stormy jugo (south) wind that wears down the rocks on the other side, we enjoyed all those advantages of the sea! Those fish, those crabs, those octopuses! Because of the abundance of underwater reefs, the sea has quite an abundance of fish, so you can often meet dolphins here. So be prepared and, not to repeat, do not chase them. Enjoy them. Sail and wait for them to come to you.
The Privlaka Bridge opens at 6pm. Don’t panic if you are a little late. Boats leaving the harbour have priority.
When you go through the canal, and of course you have observed the distance between the boats and the current that can be quite strong in the canal, steer left towards the town. Even though you are passing two marinas, if you want to experience the town, dock at one of the pontoons on the south side of the port. The town is the largest on the Adriatic islands and everything is here except the sunset! For one of the better sunset experiences, you'll have to walk to Čikat, and it won't be hard to find your way, since all roads seem to lead to Čikat! At Cape Madonna, under the lantern, wait for the sun to disappear and the light of the lighthouse from Susak Island to wink at you. We'll be there tomorrow, but definitely.
Sunčana uvala, Mali Lošinj
Oh yes, for lovers of history and art, the Apoxyomenos Museum is a must! And for lovers of the tradition of sailing, also from this year there is the Lošinj camp "Nerezinac" - an open-air museum. The sailing ship was rebuilt in the shape of the Lošinj camps and moored in front of the museum. So there’s something for everyone. I try not to advertise to anyone, but seeing as you are already here, ask for the "Fragrant Island Garden". The town and its morning rhythm, walk it, feel it.
Susak or Sansegot
When sailing out of the port of Lošinj, already at the very exit of the bay, the dilemma is most often the same – to the beach or to hoist the sails. No matter how much you are attracted to the morning maestral (balmy, nice and refreshing westerly wind), which you feel as soon as you come out of the waves, I recommend the beach. Drop anchor right away in Engleza Bay on the island of Koludarac or sail a little further west to Zabodarski Beach.
Very often the Susak or Unije dilemma is resolved by the maestral wind, the gift of Aelous, the keeper of the winds and the herald of fine weather. Hoist the sails and tack to starboard to the island of Susak. Sandy island, unique in many ways, origin, tradition, wine and especially folk costumes! Sail into Bok Bay - a large, shallow and naturally sandy beach on the northwestern side of the island. Drop anchor, or better yet, tie your boat onto a buoy (daily mooring is still free of charge) and swim or walk to the beach.
There are two paths leading from Bok beach to the village - one beside the sea around the bay of Dragoča, which is so shallow that it mostly only trickles over, and the other, which I prefer, on the path cut deeply into the sand taking you alongside the vineyards and next to the cemetery in Gornje Selo. Be sure to take a peek inside the Church of St. Nicholas, the protector of seafarers, sit on the stone wall and enjoy the view of Donje Selo, the beach and the yachts on the horizon.
Susak, Donje Selo
I have a story, not really related to this route map, but related to one of my first encounters with the island of Susak. We spent the day on the island, myself and Du, then my girlfriend, now for a number of years, so to say, my chain and anchor!
A day like most days on that island, hot, sunny, perfect. At that time the culture, tradition, gastronomy of the island were not so important to me, but wine - yup wine was. I decided to buy wine from an old lady, a lady in her later years albeit in black, but still a mini skirt and thick black wool socks. Yes, the traditional costume of Susak island for girls is a mini skirt of very vibrant colours. We took some wine, a few bottles. Because the dialect is very peculiar, as far as I understood, the lady explained to us how she had been in the fields until a short time ago and how hot it was today, "but not terrible, can be endured". We paid, the amount is irrelevant, but some change was missing, what would today perhaps be to the value of 2 kuna. We didn't have any small change, and the lady couldn't exchange a bigger note. The boat was leaving within minutes and panic broke out for no reason. It might be a good idea to point out that we were very young, and the big note the lady had disappeared with to exchange somewhere, was our last money. She reappeared, with the sound of the boat’s siren announcing its departure. She failed to break the note, returned it and took the bottle from my hand !? She opened the cork of the barrel and poured about a decilitre of wine from the bottle back into the barrel. ☺
We ran, yelled, waved at the ship and made it only because the captain waited for us. We were young, somewhat arrogant, enjoyed the sweet wine and laughed for a long time at what had just happened. We had not yet realised how difficult life was on the sand, an island of scarcity without water, how important every grain … every drop. The old woman is gone, so be it, but we are often there and the memory of her, at that moment in which she enhanced that already awesome day, lives on… and thanks to her.
Dolphin in front of Susak
Bay Maračol, winter, lunch (mussels) was waiting for us at the buoy we were tied to :-)
Let's lift up the anchor, make use of the maestral and sail north. Unije is awaiting us – the village and island. In front of the town is a nice long pebble beach and the bottom is sandy, turquoise, divine. Unije Cove, Enchanted Cove! Don't be another one that this cove, in front of this picturesque place, has seduced. Below the sand is a stone slab and the anchor does not hold! Pulenat, jugo - any wind from the third quadrant and you will end up on the beach like many before you.
Rather continue to Maračol - protected bays where there are buoys. Unfortunately, since last summer the buoys are also in the beautiful anchorage of Podkujni Bay, so that only Vogništa Bay is available for anchoring. All three bays are located side by side on the eastern side of the island. If you choose to stay overnight, from Maračol Bay a 20-minute walk leads you to the town. Stop by the chapel, enjoy the view, but don’t be surprised if a sports aircraft lands on the island because there is a small sports airfield in the fields. Come down to the town, order bread for the next day, pick up a jujube - a rare fruit, especially in the northern part of the Adriatic, yet I couldn't find a bigger or tastier one anywhere.
Make an early start and book your spot in Veli Brijuni well in advance, because before you lies the longest stretch of this trip - approximately 30 miles. A storm might be welcome now, but perhaps even better, a tranquil sea. We can afford a few hours of motoring, just enough to get through the first fifteen miles before the wind blows and lifts the waves. Cape Kamenjak - be careful of the shoals. Yes, they are clearly visible, marked on maps, described in nautical guides, but still every now and then someone ends up on them.
Just a mile north of the cape is Polje Cove. On this day, after three, four hours of sailing - ideal. Drop anchor, enjoy, rest.
I drank the best beer of my life in that cove. Yes, maybe because before that we had had very strong bura winds and waves and a lot of problems with the hoisting of the spinnaker, so finally threw in the anchor and declared the day successfully accomplished.
Further on to Pula, shame on us, we continued running on the engine.
When you reach the port of Brijuni, the berths for the sailboats are on the dock immediately to the right. All the necessary amenities are available, but I recommend that you resort to your boat’s galley. There is no way I can escape the notion that the price / quality ratio at the only restaurant on the island is out of proportion!
Get some brochures and plan your following day. What to write about the history of the island, significant events, the Brijuni declaration and presidents and world-famous actors? Best of all, nothing, and leave you to explore the history of the island on your own so you can discover some amazing information.
There is the possibility of renting a bicycle, go-cart, etc., but do something else. Wake up earlier and take a tour round the island, without much talking and before anyone else. I can't help but get the impression that the creator of Jurassic Park did the same! Because all of a sudden, a peacock will cross your path! With all its gorgeous feathers and a bit of theatrical movement! And then you will see that he is just one of many. If you step off the track and it seems like a rabbit will jump out from under your feet, one more and yet another! Then the patter, growing louder and suddenly a herd of deer run in the meadow in front of you! Then the fish! All fishing is forbidden, so it is not uncommon to see trophy specimens swimming lazily in shallow water.
Whether you are heading west or south, all paths follow the circle of the island and will bring you in front of the gate. Gates - they open automatically later, but now they leave you in doubt as to whether you should be here at all. Press the green button and they will open. You will find yourself in a safari park - ostriches, zebras, antelope, exotic cattle and Lanka, one of the two Indian elephants that arrived in 1970 as a gift to Tito from Indira Gandhi. Sany, the male, sadly died a few years ago.
On the west side of the safari park the path leads through a massive wooden door to the Vrbanj peninsula - forest, coast, sea. Take a better look! You will find dinosaur footprints on the stone shore! I found about 10 of them. They claim that there are about 60 on that cape, and more than two hundred on the whole island. A dinosaur model will also ensure your complete Jurassic Park experience, especially if you are there early in the morning when the mist rises from the sea and if you take the children to first find the tracks and then see the dinosaur through the mist!
Enquire about the unique underwater educational diving circuit in Verige Bay where, alongside the worlds of flora and fauna, you can see ruins of ancient villas, ceramics, amphora fragments…
I often choose Brijuni for the last day, because of the proximity to the marina. Regardless of whether we are returning the boat to ACI Pula, Veruda, Pomer - the same is waiting for us. The crowds, the heat, the anxiety. Just as the mountain is not conquered until you return from it, so this journey is not over until you tie up the boat!
I mention this because I have a notion that this is the moment when the most accidents happen, damage to the ship and then a battle over deposits, which unfortunately can spoil your overall impression. So I would suggest that you do not come at the last moment, fill up at a petrol station early, spend the afternoon in one of the coves near the marina, announce your arrival to the charter company and, in agreement with them, slowly without stress and long manoeuvring in the queue at the fuel pump, sail, secure the boat, close the circle!
Author: skipper Robert Gal