Night swimming, wind surfing, and speedos, oh my!

Trip Start Jun 15, 2011
Trip End Jun 15, 2012

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Flag of Croatia  , Brac,
Friday, September 2, 2011

I got into my island routine after a day of bugging the kids to get out of bed early so we can go explore things. I decided I needed some daddy time, and the kids needed some non-daddy time. So on the third day in Brac, I began to get up and have a coffee and a breakfast, then grab my goggles and make my way to the harbor. The island of Brac doesn't seem to have mosquitoes; I think that the dryness here makes them drop out of the sky or something. This has given our mosquito bites from a wetter north a chance to heal. The ones around the ankles were especially troublesome in a pleasant kind of way, because that’s where the mosquitoes find the most blood for the least danger, and tend to zap you without turning the episode into a kamikaze mission. As I walked down to the harbor in my sort of gay looking Euro flip flops, the sides of the leather sandals would massage the mosquito bites, turning each step into a sort of small heroin-like ecstasy. This made my morning walk even more pleasant because I could smile and wave and say hello to people and let them stare blankly back at me, wondering what I had for breakfast.

Down at the wharf I would put on my goggles, dive in and begin a morning swim across all the beaches we spent all week, popping up on the reef on the other side, perhaps a half a mile away. There, I would have a look around to try to spot a naked Croatian lady getting an early morning all-body tan. I did this just for the research aspect, you see, so I can report any unusual activity in my blog. But I usually just saw some guys with big white guts hanging over faded speedos and sporting sandals that looked alarmingly like mine. Then I would rinse out my goggles and swim back the way I came. There was rarely any wind or current or wave chop of any kind, and the water depth varied from about ten to thirty feet. I could see the bottom as if I was looking down from the balcony of a second story hotel room through a blue sheet of glass. This unreal visibility, combined with the fact that there is nothing in the Mediterranean capable of eating me, made the swim particularly stress free. Then I went for a fresh water shower at the beach, grabbed a bottle of milk or whatever we needed and walked back up through limestone dust to the apartment. As the week went by I got used to this time apart from the family, and when I returned usually the family was getting ready for the day without any additional prodding. But by the end of the week I found myself craving a trip up north for another fix of mosquito bites.

We pretty much did all we needed to do in Supetar and got to the point where we didn’t need to do much else, just sit on the beach, go for another swim and wander around the wharf area, eating and drinking and making a vacation of it. For the first time we found relaxation begin to overcome us. And not the boring type of relaxation we had in France where we wanted to be somewhere else, but the kind of relaxation that you get when you don’t want to be anywhere else at all. We had a TV in the apartment I never saw come on, and with no internet my kids were confined to playing simple offline games such as minesweeper and some zombie killing highway driving game Mason has become quietly addicted to. We sat and talked a lot, and generally began to enjoy each other’s company. In reality, though, somebody was always driving somebody else crazy. You could switch the names on any particular hour; the driving of craziness pretty much got spread around evenly. I would say that Mason was the all-time winner, though, because he had no full time buddy to be driven crazy by, so he just tormented his sisters full time.

Of course, the kids still had entertainment requirements and I was ready to listen. They wanted to rent a boat and be pulled around all day by a rope while bouncing out of control on an inner tube. Mason wanted to rent a jet ski. So one morning after my swim I looked all around the harbor for somebody who could rent us a boat. I found an 'agent’ with a phone who could hook us up, but all he did was talk to a boat rental place down on a beach I had never seen. So this started our exploration of what the road to the left, away from the harbor, was all about.

Around the headland from the great beaches and activities of Supetar lies a half-mile stretch of beach, broken up by little rocky outcroppings and kiosks and peppered with lounge chairs and umbrellas rentable for about ten bucks a day. The water was stock still and just as clear as everywhere else, but there were a couple of water sport rental kiosks that would give you a pull around the beach area behind one of their boats for ten minutes at a time. They had jet skis (actually sea do’s) to rent for 12 minutes at a time, and windsurfers you could take out when the wind came up. It turns out that to rent a boat that actually gets up to a speed that generates a little bit of adrenaline, you need a license. This was a personal first for me, I had never heard of a boating license before except for those on charter. So renting a boat was out.

Later I brought my family down here, as a small ripple started to creep over the Adriatic. We did more snorkeling and lounging, had lunch where I had a large beer that gave me the courage to try out windsurfing. I looked offshore and could see little white caps, so I figured as long at the sail size was bigger than 6 square meters I could get moving on a small board. The problem was that I haven’t been windsurfing for fifteen years, and it is possible that I may have lost a little bit of skill. But I put on my harness and had the guy attach the sail to the board. I successfully did a beach start and was on my way. The guy who ran the outfit seemed unwilling to offer me anything in the way of suggestions at all, even though I told him I haven’t done this for many years.

The wind was blowing side shore, and the gap in the reef was very small, which meant that I couldn’t dawdle out there, I would need to maintain my upwind position in order to make it back to exactly where I started. I figured that shouldn’t be a problem, but I was dead wrong. When I got out past the buoys and into deep water, the wind died. Well it didn’t exactly die, but on a board the size of the one I rented, I couldn’t keep afloat if the board wasn’t moving forward, so the thing just sank up to my ankles and I couldn’t get it to point in the right direction lacking the proper speed of propulsion. The board didn’t have the floatation to allow uphauling (standing on the board and pulling the sail up), but it required a water start. This is accomplished by lying in the water off the board and under the sail, getting the sail above you and exposed to the wind, then letting it catch enough wind to pull you up onto the board, get your feet in the foot straps, hook the boom into your harness and start moving. I was able to water start about four times, but then with full weight on the board I couldn’t get it to move more than fifty feet before I lost the wind. After a frustrating half hour of this, I just grabbed the board and sail and started to swim the quarter mile or so back to the shore. I found a second path through the reef about a quarter of a mile downwind from the place where I rented the board. I had a heated discussion with the guy who rented the board to me, asking why he never told me there was a wind shadow out there. I shouldn’t have been mad at him, I should have been mad at myself (and I was) for misjudging the wind velocity and for my own lack of ability and general cockiness. Soon enough I will give it another shot, or change to kite surfing like I have been considering for some time. Stay tuned.

Fifteen years ago my brother Ron and I used to go windsurfing all the time, at Cabrillo Beach near San Pedro, California. We spent many frustrating afternoons doing this exact thing, drifting in the water for ten minutes at a time waiting for the wind to develop the strength to get us going again, praying that we wouldn’t get swept past the outer Los Angeles harbor jetty. In five years of windsurfing there, it never once happened to me, but I never failed to worry about it. Then once the wind picked up its strength and we got going, we would hum over the kelp forests at blinding speeds, racing each other, jumping waves and jibing into the troughs of big Pacific swells all afternoon long. Sometimes we would be so beat that we found it difficult to lift our arms up to our steering wheels to drive home. It was one of the most fun things I did regularly. Then I had kids.

Later that night Adriana got the wild urge to go night swimming, so we went down to the wharf and jumped in the jet black water under the lights of the town. We swam for a half hour, just my girls and me. Nothing happened really, nobody got eaten or stung by jellyfish, but it was warm and comfortable and a little bit eerie. We floated on our backs and looked at the stars for a while and talked about silly things. I wouldn’t have gone by myself and neither of my girls would have either, but together we lived a small memory we will share for years to come.

The following day Mason and I rented a jet ski and went out to burn off some complacency. It cost about fifty bucks for twelve minutes (yowza), but overall it was well worth it. I put Mason in control and just held on. Mason is not a speed demon; he gets his little heart rate up by just going a bit faster than he can run. I kept urging him to go a little faster and crank a turn here and there, and he did so reluctantly. He is cautious but knows the meaning of fun. That’s a good world to live inside of.
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