This morning we finally arrived in Croatia, after having left Ortona and having saill along the Kornati National Park, heading north to reach Zadar. Great sea and many remote bays as far as the eye can see. Once in Zadar the music changed and we have experienced a series of events that could have been part either of a Jerry Lewis movie or ups Jack Nicholson in The Shining.  Once inside the bustling harbor of Zadar, carefully flying our yellow "quarantine" flag (which shall inform  authorities of the fact that we come from across the border and that we need to carry out all entry formalities) we went straight to Port Police office. We were greeted by a very polite cop who asked us where we came from. Here the first blow. The agent informed us that we had broken the law coming from Italy because we would have to make a stop for customs formalities at another port of entry and not Zadra, for which we had sailed in Croatian territorial waters as illegal! News that not only left us dismayed but somewhat perplexed. I sail since over 2 decades and I have never heard such a thing. It 's like saying that flying from Zagreb to Rome, a plane should land first in Trieste to allow passengers to go through customs and then resume the flight to the final destination. As far as I know and and according my experience, what you can not do is to go ashore until you have done all the formalities for a country. In fact, without going ashore you can navigate in the territorial waters of a country. However, I know from experience that in these circumstances it is not worth discussing. So we paid a fine of 75 € and everything was solved. Once left the Port Police office we went to the Coast Guard for the registration of the vessel, the registration of the crew and  the purchase of the famous "vignette", a kind of stamp (like what you buy in order to pass on Swiss motorways). The zealous police officer asked me all the documents (navigation certificate, insurance, crew list) and he also ask for my Skipper license. 

Now friends, you should know that I have achieved my Skipper license, for motor boats, in the 80s. But having been for over 20 years owner of vessels registered in countries where it is not 'required a boating license for the conduct of sailing vessels under 50 tons (England and France), I was never pushed to achieve such a certificate. Beware that in over 20 years of sailing and almost 50.000 miles, this request was ever made to me. This because the rules that govern the handling of a vessel are those of the country of registration. But the Croatian official told me that in Croatia they apply their rules and they do not care about international rules! The outcome being that I could not buy the "vignette" and even not sail back to Italy with my boat since I was already in Croatian territorial waters!  Can you imagine my face?
I did really struggling to hold back a 
epic laugh. Regained control I asked what were the alternatives presented to me. The officer calmly told me that the only possible solution was to take a boat license! I asked if that meant that I had to return to Italy, take exams and then return to Croatia to recover my boat. The conscientious official told me that I could also take the exams in Croatia. He sent me to another office of the Cost Guard where I found out that discovered at 13:00 that exam session would begin. it was 12:30! 

I omit the details on I spent that 1/2 hour but synthetically I prayed on my knees a dozen officials order to be inserted in the group of examinees, I had to go to a post office to pay tuition fees for exams, I had to make 3 passport photos and at 13:15 I finally entered the classroom where two officers were waiting for the Croatian Skipper license exam. The examiners were informed of the exceptional nature of my position and they were much more 'interested in the stories of my journey rather than usual questions. However, I have been asking about navigation lights, rules for preventing collisions at sea, they made me draw a couple of routes (also a lossodromic one). After 23 years of sailing I finally got a Croatian Skipper License

.Of course all this I think it is paradoxical, especially considering that Croatia in less than a month will be an effective member of the Euro zone. But  honestly I have to admit that officials can not avoid to enforce the laws even if they are in direct contradiction with international law. But all the people I met were kind and helpful to me and they all tried to put myself in a position to resolve tragic - comic a situation!
This  Croatian summer promises unforgettable!

Saturday, June 22, 2013 By Giamba