Friday, 2 September 2011


We are so disconnected from the world and from ourselves. Even a sailing holiday presents numerous ways in which we can choose to detach from nature. Here we are, surrounded by the sea, and relying on our own resources for everything at a fairly basic level, and yet we can be tempted all the time to stay detached from it all and this seems to be an English characteristic.

In yesterday’s posting I mentioned the FKK – the nudist beaches. Many different peoples come to Croatia for holidays and bring with them their holiday attitudes to nakedness, and so we have Germans, Croatians, Finns, Danes, Austrians etc. all quite ready to swim in the nude. Not that we have been very close, but we have seen lots and lots of people happily wandering along the beaches and islands with pale bottoms. Here on the boat, our hosts Kate and Andy have encouraged us to shed clothing – and just writing this makes me squirm slightly, as if you will take this to mean something smutty or nudge-nudge. Believe me, I have had to think about this….. and I have wanted to describe the feelings because this discomfort usually means something interesting is going on.

The idea is that when we are far enough away from snoopers, it’s ok to swim or shower on the deck in the nude. That is what I did yesterday as we motored quietly along the coast of Hvar, on a stunningly beautiful quiet morning. There was no wind at all, so the diesel was pushing us along through the calms. We could see for miles. We had the seas to ourselves for at least a couple of hours. The light was soft and everything was quiet. The arrangement is that the diesel is heating the water ‘for free’ so to speak, and so I could take a lovely shower in fresh water by standing at the back of the boat and using a hand-nozzle. Nonetheless this means being naked in front of friends. We are all around about 60 and not anywhere near the glamorous end of things - in fact, I am painfully aware of the sags and bags, the wrinkles and scars, the disfigurements - not that these are particularly dreadful but somehow I am a bit ashamed of it.... Why? I am not vain, nor am I particularly exhibitionist, but I had to really think whether I wanted to be nude in front of friends at my ripe age…. I was wondering why do we wear clothes anyway? Obviously for warmth and physical protection, and for adornment, and for dignity, and these last two reasons have got so overblown and magnified that we English have lost our sense of proportion about it all. Being nude is somehow wrong, or dangerous.

Now, I loved my shower, which was refreshing and elemental, and even better I loved my own decision to strip off and just be myself. Something else to notch up as a little achievement. I wanted to record it here because if there are ways in which we can relax the terrible list of tensions which govern our every day lives, then maybe this could be one of them. Nakedness is not wickedness. It’s natural and normal and how we really are. Nakedness brings us closer to nature, and humility. The things we have created in our society – the exploitation of sex and sexuality for profit on an eye-watering scale alongside the erection of pretty nasty ‘standards of behaviour’, laws, and customs about what is proper and allowable – all this could be undone and relaxed if we chose to do it. Isn’t there a man at the moment who is being sent to prison all the time for taking his clothes off? Why? Here they obviously have ‘time and place’ arrangements, so that it’s ok to be nude on the beach and in the sea. I do not see nude people in the towns or cafes, for instance. There was a nearly-nude man supervising the moorings of boats at Vrboska – just a tiny black cozzie to protect his manhood and a fabulous back and legs, but a massive gut in front. Kate said ‘He’s probably Italian’. He was definitely showing off. La bella figura.

So, a shower in the calm morning, then a long push down to the end of Hvar and into the tiny little ferry-port village of Sucuraj. This is one of those perfect little places which it is hard not to fall in love with. The houses built of shining golden-white stone cluster round the port. The port is filled with small boats and caiques tied up in seemly lines. The water is crystal clear. Shoals of whitebait play hide and seek in the shadows. A ferry boat arrives from the mainland and few cars bang over the gangway onto the sideroad. Cafes are shaded by grapevine canopies. Two little supermarkets sell everything you could possibly need. Lanes and alleys lead you round and through and round again. Families are setting out their lunch tables in the gardens. Perfect.

We bought a few bits and bobs, had a coffee. In the ladies loo I saw a hand-painted sign on the wall which said ‘You are beatuyfull’, the ‘u’ being added in as an afterthought in the wrong place. Croatian is quite a difficult language, I fear, in the Slavic group, but most people we have met speak enough English to get by.

Back to the boat, and out to the bay round the corner, where we dropped anchor and then had a swim… The water is so clear. I could see the sea-cucumbers at the bottom. But I have to report I was wearing my costume this time, and I’m not sure why. It would have been a good place to swim nude which I will do next time.

After lunch as the air heated up, the wind got up too and at last we could get the sails up for the beat back westwards along the southern side of Hvar and around the western point of the Peljesac peninsular. The wind was about 15 knots and we were making about 7 knots, tacking over the dark blue sea with its white horses and sizzling hiss of approval as we swept along. We were heeling over quite a bit, and Andy the skipper reefed to bring us more upright. All these manoeuvres are straightforward enough, but bring me close to my fears again… so that although I am just a passenger, I have to think about my anxieties and calm myself. We are doing what we can, being in nature, with the waves and the wind and the sails to sweep along. It is so exhilarating!

I acquired a bit of a tan too, of course, and was applying various sun blockers to avoid getting burned. ‘My’ Andrew was helmsman for most of the way. At once magic moment, I saw a curving fin break out of the water and there was a dolphin, maybe two of them, lazily showing themselves to us as we passed. Their nakedness has a touch of the divine. It was so easy, so simple. I thought of what we have lost with our clothing….

But everything stayed simple and we made it finally round the shallows of the Peljesac point, and then turned east to the ancient little city of Korcula. Here there are fortresses and more stories of war and attack. The town is built on a rock and is slightly (very slightly) reminiscent of Mont St Michel or Rye, with stone-paved streets and little churches and guardian gateways, now all turned over to the lascivious trades of tourism. So, we wandered, had a drink, peered into churches (precious few icons, no iconostases, lots of Catholic saints), found a lovely place for a meal, wandered around again, listened to the men singing their klapa music in one of the fortified gateways, bought ice creams, and came back to the marina. Here, the air was stifling hot and we were tired. Sleep was difficult, as we were so humid and sticky and rain spatters meant we had to keep the hatches closed…. aaaagh…
Today we are heading south to Mljet across the Lastovski Kanal… so now I will end and we can head off into the town for breakfast. Lucky us.

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