Text and pictures © 2021-2023 Guillaume Dargaud
Last updated on 2022/01/09
"Deep blue sea, tell the world." — From the Croatian national anthem.
Left: Watching the sunset over the sea.
Right: Sea crossing on our tiny inflatable canoe.
So now that we have to take summer vacation instead of going out of season, we were looking for some new activity for the hot months. After playing with an inflatable canoe for a year, going on some lakes, rivers and sea outings, we wanted to try some multi-day sea traverses. It's a cheap canoe, with quite a bit of wind drag, so we can't expect to do anything risky: about 4km/h on average without wind and we don't want to be more than 1km from a shore at any time.
Left: Looking for a spot to climg or rest or fish.
Left: Not too many sandy beaches in Croatia.
So after a bit of training at home, we look for a convenient target. Croatia is full of islands and often they aren't more than 2km away from each other. We first do a crossing towards Krk, but a face wind picks up and we can't quite make it to our objective for the night. We'll be extra careful on the rest of the trip: early starts (7 to 11am) before the wind picks up and careful examination of wind forecast on dedicated apps meant for Kiters.
Right: Our girl and a red starfish.
And yes, for those who don't know, place names in Croatia read like bad jokes. I wonder if they stab people who ask for vowels on game shows...
Left: Kite flying in the evening.
Part of the plan was to travel as light as possible. With 3 people on a canoe, we minimize everything when leaving for 3 days. 14 litres of water (that proved a little short). A tent (we could have done without, but I was afraid of mosquitos... which we never saw fortunately); the tent also doubled as a canoe seat. No sleeping bags but light sheets (it was very warm in July). Sleeping mats. Wind jackets which would double as pillows. Personal equipment was minimal also: sunscreen, sunglasses, hats with strings...
Right: Another rock shore. A small anchor is useful when you can't easily pull the canoe onshore.
Left: Snorkeling in warm water.
So we plan our itineraries carefully: usually the wind picks up from the north-east... so we'll always hop between islands going towards the south-west. And come back... using the ferry from the last islands we reach. That's where the inflatable canoe really shines: pull it ashore, dry it, deflate it, roll it back into its bag and it becomes carry-on. Granted it's still 20Kg to carry, but since you can do all that just a few meters from the ferry, there's no distance to cover. Very convenient. The alternative was to rent real sea kayaks: it would have been a lot more efficient to paddle, but more difficult to carry (albeit not impossible).
Left: Snorkeling in warm water.
Part of the plan was to carry very little food. We leave with just a pack of pasta, a tiny stove... and a harpoon ! So for lunch and dinner I go hunting. There's quite a bit of fish in Croatia and the regulations aren't too bad. You need to purchase a permit though. So how did it work out ? Great ! Although quite inexperienced (it was my first year only) we managed not to starve. Sole, stingray, octopus, black and royal bream, plenty of salema... I saw four listaos but they were way too fast for me.
Right: A view of the Šibenik archipelago from the top of Otok Tijat.
Left: The bay of Tijat, with quite a few boats anchored for the night.
Right: Minimal gear for the night.
I'm not the only one feeding the family. The little monster takes active part and with her net she lands shrimps, crabs and baitfish which we manage to fry and eat as well.
Left: Padling around.
Right: Seven and already knows how to paddle around.
Some places are better than others: Krk was windy and quite peopled. There was also quite a few epole on Brač, but you can put those two to the fact that you can travel with a car on those islands. We really did like the archipelago facing Šibenik. Most of the islets are deserted, with only 3 or 4 with either a single restaurant or a tiny village. There are plenty of mostly secluded bays. I say mostly because the nicest ones fill up with boats for the night.
Left: Changing island.
Right: Spear fishing. Quite a few targets.
At a certain point I discover a buoy floating between waters, a few meters deep. It's loaded with several kg of mussels and oysters, wich I patiently pry off for tonight's dinner. But overall the most common thing to eat were the volet sea urchins (Sphaerechinus granularis), found on every sandy bottom at more than 4 or 5 meters depth. Unlike some other countries, there's no period for picking them, only a daily limit.
Left: Grilled fish on the menu.
Right: Exploring the islands.
So a bit of advice if going on an inflatable canoe for several days: bring several repair kits. And above all, partially deflate the canoe as soon as you pull it out of the water. Even if you inflate it right at the recommended pressure, if the sun warms it up while dry, it'll put too much strain on the seams and weaken them or plain rip them off. Even being careful it happened several times.
Left: Plenty of wild garlic to put on the grilled fishes.
I'm a registered rescuer and as such I have an app on my phone that can alert me if someone nearby needs a rescue (or I can use it to call for help). I've had it a few years with 2 brief alerts back home. While we were on the uninhabited side of one of those islands, the app triggered and called for help on the other side where there were a few houses. I was aghast but quickly put on sandals and grabbed a waterbottle and started running the 10~15 minutes through the shrubs it'd take to get to the other side. Fortunately after a few minutes the app said help wasn't needed anymore. I turned tail and I won't ever know if it was a false alert or if someone nearby was quicker. I didn't even know the app was international.
Left: Arrival in Žirje before we take the ferry back (visible in the background).
Overall the planning was easy enough: we just drove to a shore near a ferry return, left with the canoe in the morning while we left the car for a few days. I only shat my pants once when the car was gone before remembering that we'd moved it before leaving !
Right: Diving for oysters, mussels, sea urchins and more.
Left: Sponge or corals.
Right: Salty hat.
There's no water to be found on the deserted islands, and on the small villages all you can find are bottles in stores. But on the main coast on the more popular beaches there are sometimes showers and/or faucets with drinkable water.
Left: Resting in a hamac, not part of our base canoe equipment.
Left: Beach swing on Brač.
Right: Rocky beach on northern Brač.
There aren't many sandy beaches in Croatia. At best they are pebbles, at worst they are large rocks with very sharp edges covered in sea urchins !
Left: Lifting Anchor.
Right: Eating sea urchins right out of the shell.
As hunting equipment I had a 75cm spear, a light diving suit, 3Kg of lead, the basic visor/tuba/fins and a few accessories, the most important of which were a strong pair of gloves, essential for opening the urchins.
Left: Here our little fisher girl trying to catch enough shrimps for appetizers.