Ston, Croatia is a lovely country town, and a welcome break from the construction zone of Porto Montenegro in Tivat. We motored for 12 hours north up the coast overnight, splitting up the journey into 4 hour watches (we are unable to sail, due to the scaffolding that supports the giant puppet heads in the show being a permanent structure on the starboard side of the ship, and would prevent us from tacking to the left).
We were all happy to leave Tivat. After two month of being stationed there, and the intensity of the production period all leading up to this next step, it was our reward to sail away from that harbour! We first went around the corner to Kotor, to gas up the boat, and sign out of Montenegro, then we were on our way by about 10pm.
My watch had the 2am-6am shift, a difficult one for the broken sleep, but magical to be awake on the boat as it moved through the night. The environment was stripped of the usual vibrant spectrum of colours offered by the sun, and presented itself as varying densities of blue/black velvet. Thick, viscous velvet slops against our hull as the boat slips through the water into the darkness. The mounds of velvet to our right represent the shore, its outline visible against the soft velvet of the sky, that stretch up to the gems of stars glowing sweetly above us. Even the air seems velvety, as a slight mist hangs silverish in the night air. This state is suspended for hours, as I sit with fellow watch mate at the bow position with a strong light and a radio to site for obstacles not visible from the stern. We listen to music, chat, and breathe as we glide forward under the stars.
For the next hour I take the job of recording our progress on the chart, and entering the engine stats in the log book. I enjoy this opportunity to practice my chart skills, and to visually track our journey on the map and calculate our speed of travel. Then, in the last hour I take my first turn at the helm.
As the sky begins to lighten to a soft, steely blue, and the water reflects the dawns first pinks, I am proudly standing at the wheel of the Amara Zee, steering her hulking body with all her valuable contents: people sleeping with all their energy and dreams wrapped up in her belly, the story and work of our show, it’s trappings packed neatly and tied to her decks. There is a learning curve with her responsiveness, which keeps me active at the wheel, sharpening my alertness to the approaching day, the unfolding dawn’s light, and the break of promise that comes with a new day.
We arrive to Ston in the late morning through a long fjord. After tieing up, we find ourselves in a peaceful country location with lovely fresh wind sweeping down the valley of the fjord, and green hills rising up on either side. In front of us, at the foot of steep mountain, is the tiny town of Ston. True to its name, the buildings are all made out of stone, and blend into their environment like boulders in a field. Above the town, a large “W” or stone ramparts ascend up the mountainside and around the corner to a turreted fortress on the top topped by a flying flag. Further evidence of the recent upheaval in this area.
We quickly discover that Ston is a small town amongst many along this stretch of Croatian coast. Accessible by car from the capital, Dubrovnik, which is about 2 hours to the south of here, it is visited by tourists on out trips from their hotels in the city. There are lovely markets here, and we enjoy a festival with a lamb roast and live music. We dance as if we know no one, and will never be here again. It’s a liberating and joyful experience.
There is a beautiful beach around the corner from here, with gorgeous sparkling lapis coloured water that turns to an astounding teal colour in the shallows. We bask under the shade of a pine tree, snorkel with the layers of suspended fish, like participants in a living mobile, and pick wild sage on the way back.
Our performance day (Sat. July 23) began with a lot of wind, and roused in us concern as to whether we would be able to run the show. The scaffolding extends upwards about 15 feet above the deck, and there is an extensive aerial component to the show, not to mention and the scrim and backdrop which act like giant sails in the wind. However, by the evening the winds have died down sufficiently for us to continue, and we present our third show to our first Croatian audience.
As with our former two shows, there are bunches of kids, attracted by the big puppet heads on the deck. They arrive up to two hours early, and sit kicking and wriggling on the chairs, or talking in animated groups with they wait with the timeless and unpredictable patience of children. In spite of a run through the day before, it is a new experience to shift into the content and specific demands of the show after the activities of sailing, setting up, and exploring a new location. The show has a few glitches, but carries off well anyway.
The audience is very appreciative, clapping after each scene and staying engaged until the end. Afterwards the performers carry hats through the audience to collect donations, and it is a unusual and pleasant experience to have contact with them directly after they have received the experience of the show and to feel their energy, even if words cannot be exchanged.
I find it an interesting approach to collect the money afterwards, once they have had a chance to see the show and feel its value to them, and for them to assess this value themselves reflected in their contribution. This is different from paying an imposed value ahead of time that stands whether the show was enjoyed or not. As usual, I see benefit in both versions. We make about $150.00 Euro, comparable to what we made in Tivat. Although this is not quite enough to cover expenses, I am optimistic that this will improve.
This afternoon we leave this sweet little town for our next location of Vis, the outermost island in a chain about a 15-17 hour slow motor north of here. We will present our fourth performance there on Weds., July 27th. I will try to update from there, pending internet connection.
All my best and fond thoughts to those of you at home. Keep in touch,