Fighting for Hvar

By: American Sailing Association, Flotillas, Members

Continuing “Croatian Tapestry”

The sail between Komiza and Hvar was a stretch in and out of lulls and wind alleys, which made for an active day at the helm. And rounding the corner as Hvar Town harbor came into view, I thought “it appears it will be an active night as well.” Hvar from seaward looked every bit the chic Euro vacation destination—a waterfront dotted with posh lounges and beds, yachts lining the seawall, and vendors’ shops crowding the sidewalks.

There’s good reason why Hvar is so popular, we came to find out on our evening stroll through town. But before we were able to do that–we first had to fight for a coveted moorage along the main waterfront. We were the second boat in our fleet to arrive; the first boat was sandwiched in a great spot along the seawall, which had already filled up. We quickly spun around to catch the next best alternative–the many moorings floating in the harbor. We found one of the few remaining ones near shore and noted that everyone else in the lineup had stern-tied to shore; we would have to follow suit. But first, picking up the mooring. Now, in my part of the world, most moorings have a pick-up ring. Not so in Hvar–and the combination of high freeboard and short arms made it dang near impossible to get our line through that ball. My skipper did a fantastic job holding the boat in place despite a gusty side wind, and I finally was blessed with a stroke of luck and got us secured to the mooring. (If anyone has a trick to picking up a mooring you can’t reach, by all means share! I suppose getting the dinghy down from the deck would have been one way of doing it.) Anyway.

The real heroism arose over the stern tie–which we had to accomplish rather quickly now that the boat was trickier for the helmsman to handle with the bow tied off. Given that the dinghy wasn’t handy at all, and I was HOT, I decided to swim our stern line to shore (perhaps 50 feet). I put on a big orange horseshoe, some flip flops, and grabbed a 100′ line. Swimming with that was, well . . . attracted attention. I almost turned around when I realized the sea floor was littered with beautiful urchins, but decided with flip flops on I could find a spot big enough for my foot. Finally, I made it up on the rocks and secured us–and blushed when a boat of elderly Norwegian men broke out in applause. A local woman passed by and tried to describe, using her four English words, how I could have done that more easily–and I only wish I spoke more Croatian because I sure would like to know!

It turned out Hvar was well worth the effort we took getting in. As was typical in most towns, we visited the local market to top off our produce, and stopped by a meat market to sample unusual home-smoked morsels. This particular meat shop also stocked a wonderful variety of local wines, of which the owner, Leo, poured numerous samples. After expressing that we loved each one more than the last, he opened his personal unlabeled bottles (you know the unlabeled ones are always the best!). We sipped the special brandy that families in Hvar make only when babies are born and drink only on those babies’ wedding days years later. It wasn’t for sale. However, we did purchase one of Leo’s favorite bottles of Plavac Mali and some wild boar sausage.

After our “cultural appetizer” in Leo’s wine shop, we hiked up the hill to tour the town fortress, where they really did fight for Hvar. Its labyrinth of levels made for spectacular views of the sunset–even the dungeon had five-star vistas out of its slit windows. The islands of Palmizana lay quiet and wooded in the ruffled blue water, stunning megayachts tucked themselves into nearby anchorages, and the huge Croatian fortress flag threw shadows across the large evening sun. By the end of the evening, I decided that I might like to be locked up in Hvar.