Croatia, Umag - checking out and back in
After having sailed through the outer islands of Croatia and then up the coast of Istria we had now reached the very north of the country’s coast and needed to checkout to head to Trieste, Italy where our new solar panels were going to be delivered in a few days.
The most northern port of entry/exit of the country is Umag, a port surrounded by a big breakwater and resembled very much like a marina break wall.
It was early summer and the movement on the water a bit frantic. The thought of having to go in and med moor to just go to the harbourmaster and immigration police offices was a mood breaker. And despite all we had read about how by the book the officials here were we decided to anchor in the bay just south of the breakwater and dinghy in and try our luck. The worst that could happen was the officials demanding us to go get The Dream and to dock it on the police dock.
We sneaked in fast in our dinghy and tied up on the dock just before the police dock. We went to the office and the distracted officer indicated us where the harbourmaster office was and told us to get back to his office once we were done at the harbourmaster.
We crossed the road, found the right office and dealt with the paperwork easily. We had already paid for the cruising tax for our return so asked a few clarifications on the re-check in process and the guy was very nice, saying he would remember us in 15 days.
We went back to the immigration office to stamp the passports but the officer was not the same one that we had talked to just moments before. This officer was not in a very good mood and while we were filling our paperwork he glanced through his window trying to see which boat was ours to which I immediately gestured in a silly girl moment pretending to be a bit disoriented that our boat was there to the right or maybe the left because the police dock was kind of full.
The officer gave me the annoyed look of some one that has to deal with a silly girl that doesn’t even know very well where exactly her boat is and stamped our passports and rushed us out.
We quickly jumped in the dinghy and sped towards The Dream before we got into any trouble.
The sail to Trieste was an interesting one.
This part of the Croatian coast is heavily patrolled and boats are required to sail straight to the port of entry without detours and likewise supposed to sail from the port of exit without detours to the next country also. Luckily the winds were just perfect for a calm slow paced sail allowing us to appreciate the beautiful coast of Istria without having to do any sail changes, but constantly under the surveillance of a nearby coast guard vessel tucked in the bay as we passed by.
In the distance we could just "see" and feel the presence of Venice!
The return sail to Umag, after having spent a couple of days in Trieste, was a brisk one. We had managed to get all our things sorted just in time of seeing a big weather system forming north of Venice that would come down the Adriatic with extreme violence.
According to the forecast we had just two days to get to the south of Istria to seek protection.
The day we sailed back into Croatia the winds were constantly shifting although not yet strong.
We made way to Umag and motored into the harbour towards the police dock. As we approached there wasn’t much space for a yacht our size to dock at the moment so we picked up the closest mooring ball to the dock and jumped on the dinghy hoping the officials would let us quickly check in. But as soon as we entered the immigration office the official immediately asked where was our vessel and when we showed him we were in the closest mooring ball he had a bit of a panic moment asking us if we had AIS. on our yacht.
When we said yes he told us to rush back to our boat and to move it to the dock because the "bosses" could cause trouble.
We pointed out that the there was no space for us on the dock due to two smaller yachts docked in a way they were taking the space of 4 of the same size.
Looking at that the officer rushed to tell them to move but as he did it a bigger motor boat that was on the "hammerhead" of the pontoon left so we rushed to take its space.
A manoeuvre proved challenging with shifty light winds, no bowthruster and with only one bollard at each end of the dock making the standard manoeuvre of cleating first at amidship impossible. With no one on the dock to assist there was only one option and one attempt, I would have to jump on to the dock and cleat the stern and bow fast while John steered The Dream.
Opposite from the immigration office I could see the crew of the docked Search and Rescue boat looking at us, checking how would we do it.
Lots of fenders out, I prepared for the moment to jump and cleat the stern while already holding a super long line to cleat the bow even if it swung far from the pontoon. As I performed all the necessary shenanigans to tie The Dream by myself a guy from the Rescue boat decided to come and help. The wind was now pushing The Dream off the dock but John and I managed to perform the manoeuvre without hiccups to the surprise of the guy, that simply said "very well done!".
We rushed to the harbourmaster where the official on duty was the same as on the day of our check out and has he had promised he still remembered us and stamped all documents super fast, we then rushed to the immigration office where the official also stamped us very quickly and then gave us a warning regarding the weather.
In his words, a serious Bora was forecasted for the next couple of days so we should seek a good protected place.
As we rushed back to The Dream a 40ft sailboat with 6 people on board was trying to dock on the corner from us, the crew struggling with the idea that they needed to jump off the boat onto the dock to be able to cleat only the bow and stern.
In their case the manoeuvre should have been easier after all they had a bowthruster and enough people onboard to do it calmly, but the thought of jumping to the pontoon seemed daunting to them. We quickly ran over, dropped our documents bag on the floor and grabbed the mooring lines from their hands and secured their yacht.
All of them super thankful our helpful hand.
We jumped on board The Dream, started the engine and the guys that we had just helped looked surprised to see just the two of us slipping a 50ft boat without using a bowthruster and with a slight breeze pushing us now onto the dock, but it was light enough that I could sit on the deck amidship pushing the yacht off the dock while John steered in a very controlled fashion away from the dock.
The skipper of the yacht we had just helped yelled with a surprised look: "No bowthruster?", we signalled NO and he yelled back: "Good on you, great skill!", we waved goodbye and rushed out of the harbour and turned south to find a protected anchorage to bunker down for the big blow.
***In the spirit of sharing our dreams and experiences we have shared this blog post in the NOFOREIGNLAND.COM website sailors community. In this post you can find information regarding check in and out procedures with location for the Harbourmaster and Immigration