Boats & Beers in Hvar

Hvar,  Croatia • July 2015 • Length of Read: 5 Minutes

Wandering along Hvar Harbour under the stale 40 degree heat of the mid-afternoon sun we noticed a chalkboard sign that simply read: ‘Rent a Boat, Mate.’ With such a genius piece of informal advertising there was really no choice but to see if the request still stood, so armed with visions of sipping a few cold ones as a pleasant sea breeze rolled through we wandered up to the guy at the kiosk to find out a bit more about this casual offer.

“Alright mate,” I greeted him, “do you happen to have any boats left to rent?”

“Sorry mate,” he responded. “Our last vessel was handed out at 10am this morning and they’re all already booked up until at least tomorrow lunchtime due to the music festival and great weather.”

“Aw that sucks mate, do you know if any of the other tour operators have spare boats?”

“No, unfortunately they don’t mate. Once we’ve rented all of ours my next action is to call around and see who has any boats left. The entire fleet is out on the water at the moment sorry.”

“Ah, no worries mate. Have a good day.”

Unperturbed, we continued along the harbour pathway; well-traveled enough to know that the guy was most likely lying. This meant also meant that we weren’t exactly surprised when stopped by the very next tour operator, a grinning black man perched on his bicycle-driven billboard that had been parked outside of the Carpe Diem bar in the exact spot where I’d been smacked the night before.

“You guys looking to rent a boat?”

“Yeah man, we are actually. What have you got available?”

“For the five of you I can offer this one for 2,500 Kuna” he said, pointing at the picture of a high-speed power boat with turbo engines, leather seats, and elaborate decking.

“Eh, we were thinking of something a little bit more basic and on the cheaper side,” was my carefully worded response.

“Okay, sit tight and I’ll be right back” he said quizzically; and with that started jogging along the pier front until he'd disappeared completely into the bustling crowds. Twenty minutes elapsed in which Nick and Gadams grabbed some lunch, stocked up on beers, and paid way over the odds for a volleyball we would burst before even returning to shore.

“You think he’s coming back?” I asked Endy, not convinced.

“Eh, I’m not too sure, but we’ve got fuck all else to do so let’s just hold on and see.”

True to his words, just a couple of short minutes later our man panted his way back over with the good news that he’d managed to source us a boat. What he neglected to mention however, having spared no time in taking our crisp hundred notes, was that the thing had been brought out of retirement and probably hadn’t been started in over a year. Heading along to the other end of the pier, past ships so large they could only have belonged to Russian oligarchs, we noticed a man standing on what was effectively a plank of wood with an outboard motor attached, ripping aggressively at the chord to the sound of repeated spluttering. When it did eventually kick into life, persistence proving to be key, it coughed like a chain-smoker having an asthma attack as he steered it from the holding pen to the water’s edge.

“You’ve got to be shitting me” said Gadams, letting out his trademark cackle. “That is the sketchiest, most un-seaworthy, boat I have ever seen!”

 “Yeah but when have we ever done anything properly?” I reminded him.

Squeezing into the floating wooden bathtub that looked to have been hammered together by a blind carpenter, Endy took charge of the motor which might have been pinched from a lawnmower and we trundled out into the vast ocean; facing near-capsizing moments each time we drifted into the wave trails left by those actually belonged at sea. Passing a nudist beach, we rounded a large island and scoped two boats filled with hot Spanish girls pulling into a cove where there were dozens of other vessels anchored up.

Having misinformed the tour operator about our experience, none of us having ever actually driven a boat before, we cut the engine a fair distance from the beach next to a similar-sized boat with 5 Aussies on board. The driver, sporting a rather fashionable captain’s hat; swimming shorts; and unbuttoned shirt that revealed his little pot belly, peered out from under his sun-protecting awning as we dropped anchor and let out a chuckle.

“You boys are going to be doing a lot of this out here this afternoon” he joked, rubbing his chest in the lathering motion one would do when applying sun-block. “That thing looks like it came from a scrap yard.”

“Yeah, it was the last boat left available.”

“No shit.”

Slapping the volleyball back-and-forth in the perfectly clear salt water we were soon interrupted by the arrival of yet another boat, this one proudly sporting the Brazilian flag. Speeding into the harbour straight towards the Spanish girls now paddling about, the two boys on board launched the anchor carelessly off the side and released the accelerator whilst still in motion in an attempt to make an impressive, sexy, and masculine entrance. Not going at all to plan, as the anchor failed to catch the ocean floor the pair of morons drifted hopelessly over some channel markers into a 'swimming only' zone, narrowly avoiding a full-on collision and scaring the life out of the beauties.

As the embarrassment levels rose, they then struggled to twist the keel back out to safety under a torrent of hilarious abuse coming from the Aussies, and once they did eventually get back across the markers into suitable waters they couldn't for love nor money get the boat started again. Laughing at their troubles, one of the girls gracefully hopped aboard in her skimpy bikini and with a single pull of the engine chord got the thing back up and running.

“What fucking idiots," concluded The Aussie Captain. "That is the most embarrassing attempt at attracting females I've ever seen in my entire life."