We would be sailing into the wind which wasn’t great for our first sail. We hoped the waves wouldn’t be to big to make it an uncomfortable crossing.
It was 7pm, we had roughly 2 hours to get through the channel of islands and out to open sea before nightfall. We might just make it. We had to go to Italy to pick up Lilly our dog and all of our worldly possessions which were arriving in a van. They were kindly been driven down by my stepson Ben and girlfriend Kat. We had hired a van to make the move and to transport Lilly to our new boat. We were not able to drive a hire van down to Croatia but we could drive to Italy. Hence we were on our way from Croatia to Italy, Sibernik to Ancona, 109 nautical miles.
“We set up the sails with 2 reefs in so that we would be able to cope if the wind got up. We headed due west out of Croatia. Unfortunately we couldn’t get the auto pilot to work. This worried me somewhat as I hadn’t done any steering with the sails up, in the dark it would be quite daunting for me.”
Because this was our first experience of handling TopCat, we wanted to arrive in the port in daylight. We had no idea how fast she would sail, we estimated between 5 and 8 nm per hour. In any other country, we could have checked out of the country, then anchored in a sheltered spot and left early in the morning. But in Croatia you were asked to leave immediately after checking out.
So began our first overnight crossing!
We were now just dying to get on our way. We had had a few false starts in Croatia and it had taken us over 24 hours to complete the check out with the Croatian authorities. We had had an introductory sail down to Sibernik and now we needed to get past the islands while we still had daylight.
We would be sailing into the wind which wasn’t great for our first sail. We hoped the waves wouldn’t be to big to make it an uncomfortable crossing. We soon worked out that if we headed due west it would be a more comfy ride and then we hoped the wind would come around a bit in the morning so we could then head north west into Ancona in the daylight. A few extra miles would be worth it if it meant an easy sail over night.
We had to be cautious. We didn’t know the boat or the rigging. We knew there may be gusts between midnight and two in the morning and we didn’t want to be changing the sails in the dark.
We set up the sails with 2 reefs in so that we would be able to cope if the wind got up. We headed due west out of Croatia. Unfortunately we couldn’t get the auto pilot to work. This worried me somewhat as I hadn’t done any steering with the sails up, in the dark it would be quite daunting for me. Still, it was just one more thing for me to get my head around for this first voyage.
We took turns in helming. This was all new to me, I had had a little experience of navigating to a compass course but it was new for me to be sailing to the wind direction. Because the catamaran doesn’t like sailing close to the wind, you get a much better sail if the wind is between 40 and 150 degrees, this I had to learn as we went along.
Luckily the wind was light and the waves were only half a metre or so, it was a great first experience. As the sun went down and the moon and stars took over we settled into our first “overnighter”.
The great thing about sailing a catamaran is that you can easily cook and wash up as you go along. There is no sudden rolling, although there can be noisy as the waves hit the bridge deck, it did mean we were able to eat well throughout the trip. There was one regret though. When going through all of our belongings … do we need this, do we need that? We had decided to throw away Pauls coffee maker. It was one that sat on the hob and bubbled through the coffee. We hadn’t really used it in Falmouth because to do one cup it was such a waste. It would however, have been really useful to do several cups and save the coffee in a thermos flask!
Never mind, we had what we had, that is, we had what was on the boat when we picked her up and what we had managed to get into our suitcase and flown over with. We had done a quick shop whilst at the marina and we had enough supplies to see us through the night.
It was about 10pm we came across the first of the mini oil rigs on the Croatian borders. It started with the odd light, we realised they weren’t moving so they must be platforms of some kind. Then they multiplied and slowly we realised there were lots for us to navigate through.
In the dark, you have no concept of which ones are the closest and therefore the ones you need to watch. I realised I hadn’t asked Paul about the radar … and right now I needed it. I waited as long as I dared before waking him. It took a few minutes for it to lock on and then I had a map of where I was and where each of the platforms were, and there were lots, probably over a hundred.
Within minutes Paul was asleep again. I was on my own, in the middle of the night with a very small moon and lots of oil platforms. Luckily the wind stayed constant (and not strong) so I was able to keep my course with the odd deviation around the platforms. When Paul woke he took over and I lay down on the sofa in the bridge deck. Neither of us had expected to be able to sleep but actually we both slept easily. That first night I slept for an hour and a half and went out to check on Paul. He however was happy to sleep for three hours so I soon realised we had to set times so that I didn’t get up every time I woke.
I had envisaged us arriving at Port absolutely exhausted but because it was really quite pleasurable sleeping in the warmth of the day we arrived feeling great.
Although we had first spotted the peninsula of Ancona at 6am, we didn’t arrive until 2pm. It is a strange experience traveling at such a slow speed and watching the land mass slowly get closer. Our speed averaged 4 knots over ground. We had the engines running from about 5am as well as the sails as the wind was dying off and our speed had dropped to about 2 knots.
My first big sail had passed without incident. It was a big achievement for me as I am not a sailor, I had always been much happier on a horse than on a boat. I am not the strongest swimmer and had always been fearful of capsizing into a big dark sea. We had been extremely fortunate with the weather and with the performance of our boat. Paul tells me this is not luck, we wouldn’t have attempted it it the weather had not been favourable and the boat not up to the job. Thank you Paul for keeping me safe. We had made our first crossing of the Adriatic Sea.
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