Ploche and Makarska, Croatia

Ploche was a fairly ordinary looking town, which was a welcome relief after the hubbub of Hvar’s tourism. As we approached the inlet, the first thing we saw was a huge industrial dock for aluminum and coal, with loading cranes and a train yard nearby. To my great excitement and pride, it was I at the helm during that approach, and I got to guide the Amara Zee into the narrowing channel that was the approach to Ploche. The excitement continued even after the captain took over the helm from me, as the mooring site was closer than we had expected, and on our starboard (right) side. Since we always dock on the port (left) side, we did a dramatic, high speed basically tail skid into place. Our watch was on ropes, so I was standing at the back of the boat, with the wind blowing into the horrified look of amazement on my face as the back end of the boat careened towards the solid wall of the dock. It was a perfect maneuver, and we landed with aplomb right in our spot.

As with nearly every town, there was a group of old men clustered on the nearby bench all discussing exactly how things should be done, etc. (I think they are following us!), pointing, calling out directions in Croatian. Our crew, and probably every boat’s crew, is under strict instructions to follow only the captain’s commands during docking and leaving, so this would be an unhelpful activity even if they weren’t speaking a language we didn’t understand. However, they were there to witness this magnificent parking job, and the captain received enthusiastic shoulder claps for this fancy driving, and seemed spritely and pleased with himself. It was a great entrance, to arrive skidding up to the dock with a 90ft. sailing vessel. Nicely done ☺

This mainland town had the signature Adriatic inlet, with all manner of small boats tied up Balkan style, front on to the break wall with a line or two to the shore and a line to an anchor at the back. Because of the shape of the inlet, this town also had water bordering it on two other sides as well, with a nice shady swim spot on one, (though its northern exposure made it quite windy), and the other connected by a salt water canal from our inlet to a waterway a little further south along the coast line.

We had a lovely group dinner here, compliments of our sponsors, and every one had fun dressing up to go out. We were served meat platters with pork chops and lamb sausage, fries and salad, with all the wine or beer we could drink. In fact, although I left early, I heard that for those who stayed, the brandy bottle came out, and they were there late enjoying the wonderful hospitality of our host restaurant owner until the responsibility of finishing it had been fulfilled.

The people were the friendliest of anywhere we have been so far. Immediately upon arriving we got the impression that they knew we were coming, and were warmly curious. The locals continually approached us, with none of the usual aversion to stranger, or even respectful distance that you find in many places. And when it came time to do the show, they were a wonderful audience. Warm, accessible, appreciative; they came with their families, and most stayed for the entire thing, coming up afterwards to shake our hands and offer donations. Even though I got sick with food poisoning just before the show, and had the hardest time performing I think I ever have had in over 18 years on the stage, I couldn’t help staying out afterwards just to receive their wonderful energy.

After the show we struck and packed up the boat, doing it in 1.25 hours instead of the 2.5 it took us the first time. We were proud of that. In the morning we sailed for Makarska, which is where I sit now, in the quiet shade of a hilltop sanctuary with a small square stone church dedicated to St. Peter. It rests on a keyhole shaped peninsula that juts out into the Adriatic, gorgeously clear, peacock blue and jade green waters lapping on all sides.

To the right of me, the beaches around the coastline are wall to wall with sunbathers, like pink bacon, they soak in the sun on colourful beach towels or under bright umbrellas. The beaches in that direction must stretch for more than 2 kms, and there are people as far as I can see. Bordering the beach is a temporary village of vendor’s booths selling tourist trinkets, food, t-shirts and cups, small rides, etc.. Ahead of me, in the open waters, there are numerous parasailers , with colourful chutes. In town there is a funny bronze sculpture of a man and a woman, boasting over a hundred years of tourism. The woman’s right breast is polished shiny by all the hands that have touched it after posing for a photo. From what I gather, this place is a destination for more local tourism from other parts of Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia.

On the left, the water dips into a little bay, which borders the old town of Makarska, and forms the shipping port where we are moored. Tour boats come in daily that do runs to the outlying tourist destinations of the island of Hvar, and Bol beach, among others. They moor to each other side by side in a big line; we are literally hemmed in on all sides by boats. The coastline continues to the left around a rocky bluff, and there is an absolutely beautiful nature trail along the cliff top that follows the water through a breezy pine forest. It passes a seaside cave about 40m deep which has been turned into a bar: quite the novelty, then continues on for a good 30min. walk or so, before terminating in a clothing optional beach. This is a secluded clamshell shaped beach with cliffs on all sides and a sweet little shady area for people to retreat to from the sun. The atmosphere is very low key and tolerant.

But in fact, clothing seems fairly optional almost everywhere. On the crowded beaches, it seems to be only topless for girls, but only just around the corner is a spot for those who prefer to be nude, and rather than impose their preferences on each other like they do in N. America, people just seem to choose their locations. It is so nice to be able to swim in these lovely waters au natural.

This town has a reputation for being one of the biggest party towns in Croatia. The streets are noisy until dawn with revelers, and then the sound manufacturing is taken over by the morning buzz of scooters, street sweepers and business traffic. It’s almost cacophonic, and yesterday I had to give up my preference of sleeping on the deck in order to actually get a full night’s sleep. However, as with all things, when taken in their right place and at the right time, most things can be enjoyed.

Yesterday a small group of us went on an absolutely lovely and challenging hike up the coastal mountains that back the town. I am told they are the longest mountain range in Croatia, and a large portion of it is protected park area. Their looming presence behind and above the town reminds me of Vancouver, especially the way the weather catches on them. I love the way you can track the Earth’s formational history and tendencies through them. We journeyed up a well-formed track to a ranger’s hut, where the parkie told us about the botany of the area and where to walk the trails.

We walked up to a fortress built up against a cave in the mountain’s lower with history dating back to the defense against the Turks in the 1700’s. It overlooked a sweet little church, this one dedicated to St. Antony, the landscape below and finally the sea. The windows were reinforced with aging timber, and some of the rock had fossilized wood and plant matter in it, as if it had been made of clay.
We rested in the cool of the fairly small space behind the old rocks of the fortress wall, and tried to imagine what it might have been like to be behind those walls in a defense situation. Were there women and children crouched in the cave that receded into the rock? Did they have supplies? It must have been a very scary time.

Our walk continued on along the foothills of the mountain through various scree terrains, and past many a fortuitous fig tree, upon which we gorged happily until our fingers were sticky with the juices. The plants and trees here are what we would consider exotic back in N. America, with fig, olive, pomegranate, and rosemary and oregano growing wild and plentiful. Finally, after a good 3.5 hours of walking, we ended up at the beach and soothed our aching feet in the luscious water, placing smooth flat stones warmed by the sun between our toes to open them back up after being cramped in our shoes. It was a very satisfying day.

The night before was an Independence Day celebration for Croatia, and they set up a series of bbq’s right in front of our boat. As the evening came they cooked delicious mussels in giant round vats, stirring them with long spoons, and wearing matching striped shirts with traditional beret-style hats. They also cooked squid on the bbq, and whole fish, which were so fresh they were sweet, and tasted of the sea. There was live music and enormous crowds, which were fun to watch from the boat for a time, but then after the fireworks it felt time to choose our own scene for a bit of solidarity, so our group wandered out into the night life of Makarska to find our place in it.

We ended up at a bar, which had patrons sitting in the outside seats, but not a soul inside, so the 20 or so of us moved into the empty bar and took it over. We danced and reveled to our hearts’ content until all hours of the night, with the bar pretty much to ourselves. It was a grand time.

Our first show here, 7th in our tour, was last night and went exceedingly well. Despite not having our usual delivery of chairs for the public to sit on, most of the audience stayed until the end throughout the 1.25 min. show. We are getting stronger and more grounded, and the show is beginning to be fun. It has an excellent flow, with just enough rests and work, and good pacing of fast and slow, and is not too long. People really seem to like it, although there are some potentially challenging political views and quite convoluted language. Although the show is sung in English, there are Croatian subtitles, but I think there is enough to look at without, and people seem to be able to if not get the story from the movement, at least be able to make something up that pleases them.

We do our second show tonight and then tomorrow sail for Trogir.

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