Paddling along the Dalmatian Coast

We left the old town of Zadar and its sea organ for the island of Molat.  Molat, Croatia is only a short, one hour catamaran ride from Zadar (three to four hour ferry ride if you take your car which you would not need on Molat).  Molat is a small fishing and farming village with less than 100 inhabitants (the population swells to about 300 during the busy summer months) and so different from most of the tourist spots in Croatia.

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There are no hotels on this Croatian island and only a handful of apartments to rent. The town has three restaurants, a small market (which operates from 9 am-12 pm and 4 pm-7 pm), a post office, a bakery and a few beautiful harbors. The waiter at one of the restaurants (Grill Mare) catches the fish for dinner and can be found out training for marathon swimming in the afternoons. There is no WiFi and only the market takes credit cards. (Pro-tip: the post office gives cash advances with credit or debit cards.)  It is an old-school, old-town, off-the-grid.

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Despite its size and population, it manages to attract a fair amount of boat traffic. Chartered sailboats, bike and boat ships and some pretty nice yachts stop by for a quiet evening or to escape the dreaded southeasterly Jugo wind.

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Ours and theirs

We left our yacht at home because we were on the island for five days of sea kayaking Molat’s coastline as well as the bays, caves, and shipwrecks of the neighboring islands. Molat was our base and Marko from Malik Adventures was our guide. (Marko will set you up for self-guided kayaking trips as well but given dynamic sea and wind conditions as well as the number of local interesting spots off the radar, it makes a lot of sense to hang out with him for a visit even if you are an experienced kayaker.)  We were also joined by a couple, Ana and Ivan, from Zagreb, Croatia who were visiting for a week of sun and paddling.  We were fortunate to spend the week hanging with Ana, Ivan and Marko.  We had a great time paddling and talking about a wide range of interesting topics.

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The kayaking and company were outstanding. We were in the boats for about four to five hours each day exploring secluded coastlines, stopping at a small bar or restaurant for lunch or on a deserted beach for a picnic. One day, we explored a cave which had been built to hide military submarines (and used up until 1991).   Another day, we paddled to a shipwreck (a 150 foot tanker sunk by Italians in the 60’s for insurance money).  And another stop included a visit to a network of military caves with a series of gun turrets used to protect Croatia from the Italians during WWII.

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Rudder? I don’t need a rudder.

Another day, we had a short paddle to the island of Ist for a short hike to a high spot with outstanding views of the surrounding islands and a quick game of bocanje.

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We ran into a bit of everything in terms of sea conditions and weather. On our first day, we found ourselves in a squall with wind, waves, rain and lightening that had us running for a bay and paddling in circles to keep warm and wait for the storm to pass. Another day, we had full-on sun and a sea like glass. Our last day, we encountered the Jugo wind with a forecast of 35 knots. On that day, we spent most of the time in a protected harbor practicing edging and brace strokes before heading out to the open water for some surfing on the chop.

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Molat proved to be a wonderful spot to spend some time. Our apartment was a short walk from town, and the local sisters that hosted us were fantastic cooks. Breakfast included fresh eggs, Croatian cured meats and Marko’s honey (collected from hives just a 100 meters away).  Dinners included fish caught in the morning, and one evening, we were greeted with a steaming bowl of cuttlefish stew that might have been the best thing we have eaten from the sea!

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Our final lunch was at a local bed and breakfast where the guys are known for their BBQ. We enjoyed slow roasted  beef and lamb that was cooked (for many hours) in a konoba which just about every house in Croatian seems to have (we originally thought they were outdoor pizza ovens).

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We are hopping on a boat later in the month for some island hopping and biking and were delighted to learn because of a scheduling oversight that we will be back at Molat harbor for one evening. We cannot wait!  Molat is a special place.  Stay tuned.

 

7 thoughts on “Paddling along the Dalmatian Coast

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  4. Anonymous

    Surfing the chop in 35 kt winds? Wow, I’m impressed. I’m sure you needed the edging and bracing. You’ve obviously developed some serious kayaking skills. Loving the blog. –Karen

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    1. Karen, Great to hear from you. Congrats on the recent milestone. Just to clarify… Chris was out in the chop and winds. I did the drills in the harbor but skipped the paddle when the Jugo winds were blowing. Love, Susan and Chris

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