Tag Archive for: sailing

TURKEY IS TOPS! Our 2021 ASA Sailing Trip

After a thirteen-hour long flight from Miami to Istanbul on Turkish Airlines, with screaming kids in the row across the aisle from my seat, we arrived in what I would call the hair implant capital of the Middle East.

Nowhere else have I seen so many men walk around with partially bandaged heads following a hair implant surgery.  They were at the airport and visiting tourist attractions.  They were everywhere. Somehow, I prefer to remain bald…  Bald is beautiful and way less painful…

We took a taxi to our Airbnb in the Taksim Square area.  The house was located in a small alley at the bottom of some streets from the main drag.  It looked a bit like Montmartre in Paris.

Almost Montmartre.

Independence Avenue with all the luxury stores was nearby and, although there was a COVID lockdown in effect with all restaurants closed for sit-down dinners, we found one that let us come in for a delicious dinner.  Someone must have greased the hands of the local lockdown enforcers.

An adorable little red tram runs from one end of Independence Avenue to Taksim Square on the other end.

Taksim Tram.
The “Admiral on Taksim Square.

The following morning, we visited Taksim Square and took a cab to the Fatih neighborhood to visit the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia and the Topkapi museum.  As soon as we got out of the taxi, we were accosted by a nice local guy who showed us to the door of the Blue Mosque.  He insisted that he was not a guide and did not want any payment but, if we could, please, visit his small store in the nearby bazaar.

Seven Hills restaurant with view of the Blue Mosque and of the Bosporus.

The Blue Mosque was a disappointment because they were doing major work inside and we could not see the famous ceilings.  When we left the Mosque, our guide was there to take us to his “small shop” which turned out to be a modern and beautiful oriental carpet store with literally hundreds and hundreds of colorful hand-knotted carpets.  We were invited to sit down, drink a welcome tea and, about one hour of negotiating later, we were the proud new owners of a gorgeous silk carpet.

Next stop, a rooftop restaurant with a view over the Bosporus and with a huge menu of seafood and excellent wine.  After having enjoyed this delicious meal, we headed for the Topkapi palace, historic home of the Ottoman Sultans.  They sure lived in the lap of luxury and surrounded by unbelievable beauty and I don’t necessarily mean the Harem…

Topkapi Palace Fountain.

Last stop of the day was the Hagia Sophia.  This used to be the main cathedral of the Orthodox Church, became a mosque, a museum and, recently again, a mosque.  It is huge and, when it was a church, must have been stunning inside.

That night, we found another restaurant where we could eat inside.  By now, we were getting more familiar with the Mezze or Turkish appetizers, like smoked eggplant bites, marinated seabass, stuffed grape leaves and more.  Not much room left for a main dish but enough to eat a few decadently sweet Baklavas.

The decadent but addictive Turkish Delights and Baklava.

The following morning, we had to get up at 4:30 AM to get our taxi to the other airport of Istanbul, Sabiha Gökçen Airport on the Asian side of the Bosporus for our flight to Dalaman from where we took another cab to Fethiye where our charter base is located.

It was an hour-long drive from Dalaman to our hotel in Fethiye and we were impressed by the modern infrastructure of the roads and bridges.  The road was lined with colorful flowering bushes like Bougainvillea, Hibiscus and Oleander.  No palm trees but lots of Mediterranean pines, olive and citrus trees.

We were booked for one night only at the Unique Boutique Hotel in Fethiye but, next trip, we will make sure to stay longer.  It was absolutely beautiful with super friendly staff and a great restaurant.

The Unique Boutique Hotel in Fethiye with the ECE Marina in the background.

The room was tastefully decorated in a rustic Mediterranean style with an unforgettable view from the balcony of the marina and the bay.

We met our crew for dinner, Arthur and Khristina from Indianapolis, our friends, Casey from Cape Coral and Eric from West Palm Beach.  Our last crew member, Julie from Chicago was arriving the following day late, due to some confusion with the airline bookings.

It became immediately obvious that we were going to have a great week together. We immediately sensed a great chemistry among us.  Many hours later and after many Rakis, the national drink, similar to the Greek Ouzo and the French Pastis, we retired for a well-deserved rest.

Our first crew get-together.

Saturday morning, we went to the marina to do our provisioning and to get checked in on the yacht.

S/V Sail Sirius, Bavaria 50 Cruiser. Our home for the week.

All went smoothly and, in the early afternoon, we sailed to our first overnight stop, Kapi Creek.  Winds were in the 20 knots, and we were flying on board of our chartered Bavaria 50.  Kapi Creek is a well-protected anchorage with a restaurant that, due to the lockdown, was closed.

Med mooring in Kapi Creek.

There was no docking space available, and we had to anchor out with stern lines to the shore.  The dockhands from the restaurant came to help us put the stern lines out and told us that, for around $20.00 per person, they could deliver dinner to the boat.  Thirty minutes later the dinghy reappeared with an unbelievable spread of food that we enjoyed on board with plenty of local wine and Raki.

Let’s splurge.

The following morning, Ismael, one of the employees of the charter base, showed up in a RIB to deliver us our last crew member, Julie, and soon we weighed anchor for a second day of sailing.  Not too much wind to start and we had to motor sail for a few hours, after which we only needed the genoa.

Special delivery of our last crew member, Julie. What a service!

At the end of the day, we sailed to Göcek, the other main city with marinas in the Gulf of Fethiye.  We called on CH 73 and got a dock for the night.  D-Marina is a modern, well-equipped place and host to multi-million yachts of Russian oligarchs and Middle Eastern millionaires.  

Super yacht in Göcek

Göcek is a vibrant small town with a charming tourist shopping area with plenty of restaurants.  As these were still closed, we had again a festive takeout buffet brought to the boat.  Wine and Raki were served abundantly…

Dinner on board.

On Monday morning, after a late and leisurely breakfast, we headed west in the bay of Fethiye again for some brisk sailing and, around lunch, we anchored in the crowded Tomb Bay where we could see antique Lycian tombs carved out from the cliffs.  Holding was bit risky, and we decided to sail to the anchorage of Kucuk Kuyruk.  

Typical anchorage with Med mooring.

The wind was blowing and after several futile attempts to anchor with stern lines to the shore, we started looking for another place to spend the night.  We finally found Cigdem Koyu a tiny bay with a narrow entrance and opted to secure the yacht across the mouth of the bay with a bow line to one side of the shore and the stern line to the opposite shore.  Even though we were mostly out of the wind, it made for a rolling night.  We had dinner on board, courtesy of our lovely female crew members.

Arthur steering the yacht.

Our participants started emerging from their cabins around 08:00 and we enjoyed a nourishing breakfast while watching the goats climbing over the rocks on the shore.  What a peaceful scene.  Breakfast over and dishes washed and stowed away, we started sailing again, enjoying the 15 to 25 knot winds, courtesy of the Meltemi.

Goats roam free.

June 1st and the lockdown in Turkey is officially over.  Restaurants are open again for sit-down service and we voted to spend the night in Wall Creek, home of the waterfront Adaia restaurant. We docked starboard to dock, squeezed in between a Jeanneau 469 and a Lagoon 420.  Capt. Casey expertly docked our Sail Sirius in between these yachts.  We immediately made 8 o’clock reservations for dinner and struck up a conversation with Lola, a Russian crew member on the neighboring Lagoon.  She told us about some submerged ruins on the other side of the bay.  Five of us set off on a discovery expedition to the ruins but I had to give up when my old ankle injury started acting up.  I will try again next year…


Dinner that evening was delicious and the service excellent.  The fusion of Mediterranean and Near Eastern cuisine makes for an interesting but tantalizing gastronomy.

Great sailing with consistent winds.

Wednesday midpoint of our trip. Let us make the most of our sailing as we only have two days left after this.  Fortunately, the Gulf of Fethiye is close to 70 square miles and counts hundreds of small bays, coves, inlets, and islands to make it the perfect sailing playground.  We left Wall Creek for another day of spirited sailing with plenty of tacking and jibing and docked for the night at the restaurant in Sarsala Creek.  It was not as luxurious as the previous place but the view from the hill above the restaurant made up for it.  Spectacular…

That evening we splurged on Mezze and more Mezze and on a delicious lamb dish.

Mezze and more mezze.

We had hoped to have shore power and water at the dock, but the restaurant did not offer these facilities so we opted to spend our Thursday night again in Göcek where we would also have access to Wi-Fi.  The restaurants in town were open, but Eric and Julie offered to cook on board and went shopping for food.  They prepared a delicious meal with, again, generous quantities of wine and Raki.

A local cat climbed on board in the hope of getting some food scraps.  Needless-to-say, after such a great dinner, we spent a blissful night.

Feed me!

Our last day has arrived and we need to be back at the charter base by 16:00 but, first, a hearty breakfast at a local eatery in Göcek with plenty of Turkish coffee and some more, final shopping.  We left the marina and raised the sails but, in between some of the islands and the mainland, the winds were too squirrelly, and we had to wait until we got out in the main Gulf area to really get good winds and off we went towards Fethiye.  It made for a very enjoyable sail, and, with a tinge of sadness, we dropped the sails to enter ECE Marina, our base in Fethiye where we pumped out, refueled and got back to our slip.  An hour later, a male nurse came on board to perform the COVID tests that we needed to be able to fly back to the States.

COVID test… No fun.

A last dinner together is always a bittersweet occasion, but we celebrated it at one of the top seafood restaurants in Fethiye, Hilmi, on the waterfront.  This place was amazing.  They had an unbelievable choice of Mezze, and the fishes in the cooler counter were so fresh that they still seemed alive.  We chose to limit ourselves to a large selection of Mezze and desserts and to skip the main entrees altogether.  From our vantage point, we enjoyed a spectacular sunset.  With dinner over, we crammed into a taxi and returned to our yacht for a last night aboard.

And a stunning sunset for our last dinner together…

The “Admiral” and I had to get up at 03:00 the following morning to catch our flight to Sabiha Gökçen Airport.  From SAW, we had to take a bus for the one-hour long transfer to Istanbul International.

We had to wait to get our negative test results by email before we could check in and get into the duty-free area.  IST is an unbelievably modern and beautiful airport with all the most luxurious duty-free fashion shops.  I do not know of any airport in the USA that could compare to this one.

Fourteen hours later, we landed in Miami, breezed through customs, got our car back and drove three hours to our home in Punta Gorda.  We travelled twenty-four hours, door-to-door…

Exhausted but with unforgettable memories, we crawled in bed. 

Great and fun crew. New and old friends. We will get to sail again with them…

We will return next year!


Several years ago, Mila and I used to own the Yachting Vacations charter company and ASA sailing school in Burnt Store Marina in Punta Gorda, Florida.

Burnt Store Marina is the largest deep water marina on Florida’s west coast and is strategically located on Charlotte Harbor, the second largest bay after Tampa Bay. It is a great place to sail from with many attractive destinations nearby, like Cabbage Key, Useppa Island, Boca Grande, Cayo Costa, and it is an excellent departure point for sailing trips to the Keys, the Ten Thousand Islands in the Everglades, the Dry Tortugas, St, Petersburg and so on. If you ever are in SW Florida, pay a visit to Burnt Store Marina. You will love it. Also, Check out this YouTube video to get a good idea of what a special place Punta Gorda is.

The beautiful Burnt Store Marina

One day, I do not remember the date or the year, an acquaintance called me and told me he had a friend who wanted to learn to sail. The friend’s name was Fred and he was a very wealthy farmer from the Midwest. A few days later, I got a phone call from Fred who interspersed his sentences with quite a few expletives. He told me that he was well in his seventies and that he wanted to buy a sailboat and learn to sail on his boat. Could I help him with that? Well, of course, we could.

We agreed to meet at our base in Burnt Store Marina during the second half of March but, when I did not hear from him around mid-March, I called him and he told me that the reason he could not make it was that there had been a lot of (expletive) flooding in his area and he was building (expletive) levees around his (expletive) farmhouse. He suggested we meet in April.

Sunsets on Charlotte Harbor are spectacular!

On the agreed date in April, Fred showed up in our office in the marina. He was a tiny but wiry guy with a shock of white hair, dressed in a pair of jeans that was two sizes too big for him and a black T-shirt with sweat stains. A pair of suspenders ensured that his jeans would not fall victim to gravity. This is how he was always dressed. In all these years that I have known Fred, I have never seen him wear anything else. If you saw him, you would never have imagined that this guy was a multimillionaire. He was slightly bent over and walked shuffling his feet.

In his very colorful manner of speech, he described his sailing ambitions. He wanted to learn to sail singlehandedly and he wanted to buy a sailboat. We discussed his goals and the options, and he decided that he would like a Catalina 32, and not a used one, please… We made an appointment for that afternoon with the Catalina dealer in Palmetto, north of Sarasota, to look at a brand-new model at their dock.

During the drive to Palmetto, Fred gave me a lot of details of his life. He had a huge farm where he lived with his wife who had no interest whatsoever in sailing or in any of Fred’s other adventures and did he ever have some. He told me about the time that he thought he needed a vacation in Mexico. So, he took his crop duster plane and, basically only with a radio and a compass, he flew south. Just that easy, not complicated, fly by the seat of your (two sizes too large) pants. No big deal.

He also mentioned that the reason he peppers his conversation with lots of colorful expletives is that it was because he was a bit brain damaged. “I was dusting my crops flying my “GD” plane and hit a phone cable. The “GD” plane went down and I got a bad “GD” head injury. Haven’t been the same since”. He also has not flown a plane yet either after that. He sure was an interesting character.

We arrived at the marina in Palmetto and he fell immediately in love with the Catalina 32. When he went inside the main cabin, he stated that it was way nicer and more comfortable than his “GD” combine back at the farm. Yes, it even has air conditioning? The salesman told him this little beauty could be his for a mere $185,000.00. Fred told him that he never liked to haggle with car salespeople, and he was not going to do this with a yacht sales guy either. He told him to inform the owner that he would take the boat for $165,000 or he would go somewhere else. Ten minutes later, Fred was the proud owner of a brand-new Catalina 32 without even knowing what starboard was.

On the way back to Punta Gorda, my new sailing student mentioned that he liked the gated community of Burnt Store Marina and that he would not mind having a vacation home there. Did I know a good realtor by any chance?

Fred’s boat on the portside of the S/V JAVI

One of my neighbors was a realtor and I called him from the car. An appointment was made for that same evening and, after I had dropped Fred off at the marina, he went house hunting with Alan the realtor. Twenty-four hours later, Fred had bought a $250,000.00 small villa near the docks where he would keep his boat. Alan was only too happy to receive an earnest money check for close to fifty percent of the price of the house.

Fred did learn to singlehandedly sail his thirty-two-foot pride and joy and he was actually surprisingly good at it. During the next three years, once the crops at the farm were in, Fred would come down to Burnt Store Marina, stay at his house, shuffle to his yacht, throw off the lines by himself and go out on Charlotte Harbor for a few hours of sailing.

We always knew when he was coming back into the marina. Did I forget to mention that Fred was almost deaf too? When he motored back to his slip, the stereo would be blaring classical music for the whole marina to enjoy. It was mostly Beethoven but, the way he barged back into port, the Ride of The Valkyries would have been way more appropriate.

The original Snow Birds: white pelicans from the Midwest spend their winters here.

Getting the boat back in her slip was always a bumping experience and the poor yacht had the gelcoat and fiberglass scars to show for it.

Fred has passed away since and I have no clue where his yacht ended up, but he certainly was one of the more colorful characters that has ever passed through the doors of our business. He was also the cause of one of our memorable sailing adventures.

After he had bought his boat, we had to wait a few weeks to bring her to her new home in Burnt Store Marina. Some final paperwork needed to be done as well as some finishing touches of the commissioning.

As there still was no dodger or bimini and as the daytime temperatures were very high, I decided that we should make it a night sail from Palmetto, south along the coast, to Boca Grande Pass and from there to Burnt Store Marina. The weather forecast was good and should make for quiet sailing. Alan, the realtor, and Joe, one of our school’s sailing instructors, were going to come along for the ride.

The sun set once we were out of Tampa Bay and we set course, following the coastline, for the Boca Grande Channel. It was smooth sailing, nothing to worry about. I was standing watch when we were a few miles out, abeam of the Venice inlet, and that is also when the weather changed. The wind picked up with gusts around 30 knots, the seas built up, rain came down with thunder and lightning. We had already reefed the sails before the sun went down and we did not have to worry about that for the time being. My two crew members went down into the cabin and this is when, on a brand-new boat, we lost the steering. Suddenly, the wheel turned loose in my hands and the rudder did no longer respond to the wheel. I dug up the emergency tiller from the lazaret, removed the cover plate of the rudder post and, to my relief, saw that the rudder was still there, which meant the it had not fallen off. I put in the emergency tiller and regained control of the yacht.

Venice, FL, inlet. A great sailing destination.

We were still being tossed around and we agreed that it would be very uncomfortable to keep on going to Boca Grande Pass with an emergency tiller in this kind of weather. We called Tow Boat US to come get us and tow us into the Venice inlet. As a Gold Member, it would not cost us a dime, except for a tip for the towboat captain.

We were heading towards the Venice inlet under power, with bare poles, and steering with the emergency tiller while waiting for Tow Boat US to show up. About two hours later, we were solidly attached to the towboat and finally got into the inlet where everything was way quieter. The weather was still bad with thunder and lightning but at least, in the Intracoastal Waterway, the water was more tranquil. Tow Boat USA was going to bring us all the way to Burnt Store Marina. What a deal!

This was now a smooth ride and Joe and Alan took advantage of it to get some shuteye while I stayed at the tiller to help steer the towed yacht.

As long as we were in the ICW, everything was all right, except for the occasional thunder and lightning but, once we emerged into Charlotte Harbor, all hell broke loose again with high waves, heavy winds and the regular thunderclaps.  At one point, I heard this crackling noise on top of the mast followed by a flash of light and a loud bang. I thought we were being hit by lightning, but it was a St. Elmo fire discharge. Still, it was a scary experience.

It was hard work for the towboat captain, and I was exhausted holding the emergency tiller to keep the yacht in sync with the towboat.

When we got close to the Burnt Store Marina channel entrance, I called the office and instructed our yacht technicians to be ready to receive us at the dock. We finally entered the channel and the flat water inside the marina and, before long, we were at the dock. I hopped off the yacht, told the dock hands to secure the boats and bolted towards the bar of the marina for a few beers and a burger, then home for a well-deserved siesta.

As far as the steering failure is concerned, the cables had come off the quadrant and got totally mangled. Catalina ended up sending someone from the factory to have this repaired.

Good old Fred and his yacht will always be one of those memories that make for a good story at the bar with fellow sailors. I hope to see you at a bar soon so we can swap more tall tales.

Stay safe and healthy!

Capt. Jean De Keyser


You always experience something fun and unexpected when sailing.

A few years ago, we were cruising in Croatia during one of our flotillas. We had just visited the moving beach of Zlatni Rat on Brac (pronounced Bratsj), one of the larger islands along the Dalmatian Coast.

Discover Zlatni Rat, most famous beach in Croatia
Zlatni Rat beach, near Bol on Brac Island

Brac is renowned for its white stone and the locals say that stone from their quarries was used for the construction of the White House. I don’t know if it is true, but it makes for a good story.

The beach of Zlatni Rat is a large pebble beach that protrudes from the island into the Hvarski Channel that separates the islands of Brac from Hvar. The beach moves following the tides and currents and basically it sways from East to West with the pebbles rolling back and forth. Quite interesting…

This was Thursday and, the following evening, we had to be back at our base in Kastela, near Split. The flotilla week was almost over. Our plan was to sail along the south coast of Brac through the pass of Splitska Vrata, between the islands of Brac and Solta and then go to the charming small fishing port of Milna on Brac’s west side.

The typical fishing village of Milna
Getting ready for the storm

Unannounced, and not mentioned in the forecast, a storm came up from the northwest and, in a minimum of time, we were heading straight into the wind and the high waves. The three yachts in our flotilla were bucking like broncos. The crew members had donned their foul weather gear and were shivering while we were being pelted by rain and some occasional hail. It was blowing a stink with some gusts exceeding 35 knots.

Squalls are forming

It was getting darker when we fought our way through the Splitska Vrata and we rounded Zaglav point towards Milna where there are three marinas.  We did not have any reservations as, most of the time, you do not need them. You just show up and the dockhands tell you were to dock. Unfortunately, that night, there were no slips available. They had cancelled a sailing race and all the contestants had taken shelter in the three marinas. Anchoring outside was not an option with the weather as the bay in front of the entrance to Milna did not offer any protection.

Google Earth view of Milna, Lucice and Splitzka Vrata pass

A quick look at the charts showed that the closest place with the best protection would be the anchorage of Lucice (pron. Loo-tsjee-tsay). However, to get there, we had to retrace our steps, get back outside in the storm, through Splitska Vrata pass and back in the direction from where we came.  We should see the bay of Lucice on our portside. No way we could miss it and, sure enough, as soon as we turned inside the small bay, the water was flat and we were out of the wind and the storm.

We headed towards the westernmost shore of the bay where we would get the most protection. The charts showed this as a particularly good anchorage but, when we got there, we saw mooring buoys. That would make our lives easier. Our three yachts each picked up a mooring ball and soon a local fisherman came over in his skiff to tell us that we had to pay for the use of the buoys but, if we would eat dinner at the small konoba (restaurant) on-shore, the buoys would be free.

It was already getting late and, after having been cycled and recycled through the Adriatic washing machine, nobody was in the mood to cook on board and soon we headed to shore in our dinghies.

The restaurant was located under the pines and was totally off the grid. An old Cummings generator at the back of the owner’s house was making a racket and provided electricity for the house and the konoba.

The freshest seafood ever…

The kitchen was an open-air grill and all the food was prepared over charcoal. The waiters spoke very little English and there was no menu. They would explain in a mixture of German and English what was available, and it boiled basically down to lamb, fish and scallops. The scallops grilled in their shell on the charcoal were delicious. Unlike in the U.S.A. where you get them cleaned up so that only the white meat remains, in the Mediterranean they serve them with the orange colored corral. It makes a big difference. As far as the fish was concerned, it was still swimming when we picked up our buoys. That fresh…

View over Lucice Bay from the restaurant
It does not get more authentic and rustic…

From what we understood from the waiters, the owner of the restaurant was a retired star soccer player who had his heyday during the Yugoslav Tito years. We were welcome to visit his house and look at all his trophies.

Our host at the Konoba in Lucice

The gentleman, whose name I cannot even recall, met us at the door. He welcomed us in Croatian because he did not speak a word of English of German and, with the help of one of the waiters who could babble a bit in English, he tried to tell his story. We understood that he must have been one of the top players of his times. His house was a shrine to his achievements and there were pictures on the wall of him shaking hands with the likes of Tito and Brezhnev. Too bad we could not communicate better which makes me jump a few years fast forward…

Relaxing the morning after the storm

About three years ago, during another flotilla, and after I had told our participants about this story, we decided to go back to Lucice and show them that same place. It had changed quite a bit. Now they wanted us to pay for the buoys regardless of whether we were going to have dinner at the konoba or not. It seems that the wife of the former star player had taken over the business and she was not exactly customer friendly or, as a matter of fact, not friendly at all. It was a bit of a disappointment but, fortunately, the scenery of the anchorage was still as spectacular as the first time we came here.

We wanted to see the house and the owner again and when I told one of the waiters, who spoke a perfect English, that it had been a pity that we had not been able to communicate with the owner, he told me that he did indeed not speak English or German but was fluent in French. When I met him, I reminded him of our visit a few years ago and we had a good laugh about the fact that, if we had both known at that time, we could have talked in French.

Yep, you should have been there…

Lucice is still one of our favorite anchorages on Brac but, hopefully, the owners of the konoba will get their act together and the business will become again more customer friendly like when we came there the first time.

If it had not been for that storm, we would probably never have discovered its beauty.

Stay safe and healthy!

Capt. Jean De Keyser


Sailing is one of those activities that always let you meet and get to know interesting people. Our friend Dennis and his lovely wife, Bise, in Vis are two of them.

“Admiral” Mila, Dennis, his wife, Bise, and the “Captain”.

We got to know Dennis when we docked for the first time at the island of Vis in Croatia, over eleven years ago.

We brought our chartered Jeanneau 49i sailboat to the quay, stern first, for a Mediterranean mooring and threw Dennis, who was the dock hand on duty, our stern docking lines. He gave us the lazy lines that we would attach to the bow cleats. There was a very short stone finger pier on the port side of the yacht and one of our crew members got in an argument with Dennis because she insisted on having a spring line to that finger pier.

Picturesque Vis Harbor.

Dennis kept on saying that it was not necessary and that with the stern docking lines and the lazy lines at the bow we would be just fine. With the fenders along the side, the yacht was totally secure. No overkill required…

The discussion became more heated and, as captain, I had to tell the crew member, who is a dear friend of mine, to tone it down. Once we were safely docked, I gave Dennis the boat documents, as is customary in Croatia, and apologized for the ruckus. He was very gracious about it and we chatted a bit. He mentioned that he and his wife had started a small Konoba or restaurant in their vineyard in the mountains of the island. Would we be interested in going there?

When it comes to food and wine, you can always count me in and we made arrangements for him to pick us up a bit later.

Bay of Vis at sunset.

About one hour later, we boarded a beaten up van and headed up the mountain. The road zig-zagged up allowing us to have a great view over the harbor and the city below. We arrived at the vineyard and had to hike our way down from the road to the small establishment that they had recently opened and were welcomed by Dennis’ wife, Bise, a jovial Croatian women, and by her little daughter, Marina, who must not have been more than four years old and by Bise’s sister Dinka.

Sampling the homemade brandies of Konoba Magic.

We were treated to a phenomenal traditional Dalmatian meal. Zucchini flowers stuffed with cheese and then deep fried, shark carpaccio, marinated sardine and anchovy fillets, local cheese and more delicious appetizers followed by a fabulous lamb stew dish called Peka. Big chunks of lamb with vegetables and potatoes are put in a deep round dish which is then shoved into a very hot hearth and covered by a heavy steel dome covered with hot ashes. After two hours, one of the most delicious lamb dishes you can imagine is served with a never ending supply of Dennis’ own white and red wines. Let us not forget the home made brandies infused with a variety of herbs…

Peka pots in the open fire.

Over the years, Konoba Magic (pronounced Magitz) has grown and has become one of the more popular restaurants on the island. We return religiously every year with our flotilla crew members. It is an annual gastronomical pilgrimage for us and we are always welcomed with open arms by Bise, Dennis and their parents. The restaurant is family operated and Maika (or grandma) is the Chef in the kitchen. She prepares all the meals from scratch while Juraj tends to the fire in the open hearth and makes sure that the Pekas are kept covered by the hot embers.

The finished product; fall-off-the bone finger-licking delicious with wine from the vineyard!

Dennis and Bise have become very successful and have benefited a lot financially thanks to their hard work. Dennis does not work as a dock hand any longer. We follow them on Facebook and are always very happy for them when we see them spending their winters in exotic places like Thailand and South Beach. When we first met them, their English was quite poor. Nowadays, we hear them discuss their menus in Italian, German and English with their ever increasing number of happy customers.

Tito’s abandoned Cold War secret torpedo boat base. Very James Bond-like.

Dennis is a great guy and he will gladly share his knowledge of the fascinating history of the island. Vis has always been very strategic real estate during its history and especially during WWII and the post-war Tito years, when it was off-limits to outsiders. It is replete with abandoned fortifications, hidden tunnels and a formerly top-secret torpedo boat base. Dennis can tell you all about these places, but the history of Vis goes way back to even before the Greeks and the Phoenicians and you will readily find remnants from Roman and Byzantine times. Vis was also the setting for the “Greek” island in Mama Mia II.

The Wikipedia page is a must-read and is chock-full of interesting facts about this scenic island and its fascinating history.

If you ever go to Croatia, make it a point to go to Vis, either on a sailing yacht or by regular ferry from Split, and go look up Dennis and Bise at Konoba Magic. Tell them that we sent you and not onnly will you be treated like royalty but you will go home with an unforgettable memory of a unique gastronomic experience.

Fair Winds!

Capt. Jean De Keyser




October 24, 2019

So, once a while, I feel inspired to write a blog about whatever…

It does not necessarily have to do with sailing. 

I could share one of my favorite recipes with you (look out for my favorite Paella recipe).  I have plenty from the countries we visited during our flotillas.

I could share my impressions about certain regions where we did sail and write about their history, culture, gastronomy and so on.

I could share with you some of my life experiences, like meeting people that have inspired me or have had a huge impact on my life.

There are lots of subjects that I could touch perhaps.

Maybe, we could even link some of the blog content to a YouTube video?

Here is an idea… In 2018, I enjoyed a truly unique experience.  I had it published on Facebook and on our old website but, with the new website, this trip report got lost.

After we came back from our June 2018 Croatia trip, I had to undergo emergency surgery to reattach my right eye retina. I was not allowed to fly for several months but needed to be in Italy in September for that year’s Tuscany flotilla. The only way for me to get to Italy was by ship.

Some of my followers here have already read this trip report but, for new visitors to our new website, I will publish this as my next blog because it was such a unique experience.

Talking about surgeries, for those of you who hadn’t heard yet, I am stuck at home with my leg propped up after last week’s ankle fusion surgery. It sucks…  I am therefore a bit limited in what I can do, like taking some relevant pictures.  I am on the mend and will be sailing again (a lot!) in 2020.

More news to follow! Captain Jean De Keyser.

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