When we awoke Thursday morning, it was a beautiful and bright blue day in Hvar. After enjoying the refreshing views of the sea from Green Lizard’s outdoor kitchen/terrace, the six of us — Mel, Shaun, Chopper, Lauren, Emma and I — headed to grocery in town to pick up food and drink for our beach picnic.
Chopper negotiated the boat rental — a small boat decked with an awning and motor — for around $350 KN (not a bad deal for a full day rental, split among six), and then we all piled into the tiny thing.
I don’t like boats.
I was in one of those teeny tiny things when it almost flipped over in the middle of the St. Lawrence River during a storm. I can clearly recall the white-knuckle-death-grip I had on my friend’s leg as the boat dangled precariously in the air, nearly parallel with the choppy white-capped water; the massive tears of relief that spilled from my eyes when we made it safely to the shore; the hour it took for me to catch my breath and calm down. So yeah, I don’t like little boats where your fingers can touch the rushing water below.
Thankfully, Chopper seemed to know what he was doing. And, this trip was about pushing my comfort levels. Who was I to skip out on some Croatian island hopping because of a nasty boat ride I had nearly nine years ago to the day?
As we motored out of the harbor and towards the break in the islands, nude beaches greeted us. Well, really the nude beaches were large rocks, jutting out into the water, with naked bodies spread atop. We were far enough away where all that could be seen were tan bodies. Luckily.
“OK, get ready,” announced Chopper as we passed between two islands and out into more open water. “We’re heading into the high seas.”
My hear rate quickened momentarily, my grip grew a little tighter on the side of the boat, and my feet planted more firmly to the floor, and we kept on motoring. Nothing bad happened. After a moment, and noticing everyone else on the boat was simply delighted to bump over the wake created from the other crafts on the water, I calmed. Chopper was a great captain. And, even if we were to flip into the water, I could see straight to the bottom and knew there was almost nothing in this crystal clear Adriatic.
Well, nothing except SEA URCHIN.
I hadn’t been aware of those critters until the night before when we were talking about how safe the water was in Croatia. Had I known they existed, I probably would never gone late-night skinny dipping in Split. When I was younger, I had jumped waves Boynton Beach, Fla. when a painful, gross, colorful Man O’War stung the top of my little toe. Since then, anything that touched, swam or floated by me on the water was grounds to head for dry land.
Despite the fact Sea Urchin just hang out on rocks, and knowing they weren’t going to charge at me, I still hated them.
Once we docked the boat and headed to our beach (which was only slightly larger than our boat, but sandy), I carefully surveyed the water. Just a patch of seaweed a few feet out … I’d have to swim over it in case there was a chance a Sea Urchin had accidentally decided to live there. I wasn’t taking chances.
When I say swim, I mean it this time. Earlier, swimming meant more fa-la-la-la-la-look-at-me-I’m-in-the-water, a kick here, an arm movement there, a little treading water. In Hvar, swimming meant actual strokes to move past that patch of seaweed. Granted, because the water is clear, I could see its brown green tangle for what it was. But, you never know. Lurking entangled in the plant could have been my Croatian nemesis, black spiky awfulness, just waiting to stick its needles into the soft arches of my naked feet.
There was no way I was going to let a disgusting (and tasty) Sea Urchin undo me or my fun.
After the entire day on the little beach, we headed back to Hvar to return our boat (which I had actually grown quite fond of … it had proved itself a safe little thing despite my initial worries); gather food for dinner; and enjoy our last night together on the luscious island. The following morning, I was boarding a ferry to whisk me back to Split, then getting on a bus (the RIGHT bus) to Dubrovnik — the last stop in my Croatian vacation.