Sunday 9th October

Woken at 6.30 by church bells, horribly early. Back to sleep till the next lot. We wandered the streets bought breakfast at the mlonimar, bakery. Rolls with ham cheese, and a lettuce leaf, no butter or mayo. It varies slightly from town to town but always no butter. And pastries, sweet or savoury, we liked the fruit filled ones. I had a burek sometimes, a meat filled flat coil similar to a croissant. Rolls were the staple lunch too, I had rye where I could.

After collecting brochures for identical evening island cruises, dolphin spotting and meal included, I elected the Vagabond boat, the salesman, big smile in a tanned face, had a deep voice that reminded me of the male voice choir we had heard earlier. It was the right choice. Ticket holders from the other boats all came aboard, it made sense to use one instead of half a dozen.

There was a slight breeze up top but was the best place to be. I noticed a gull flying with us, around the boat , diving to pass in front. Others did too, it had apparently a fish in its beak. To our distress, it was a hook,, which had already ripped an eye out, dried blood streaked its neck. The salesman told us it can’t eat, the hook is stuck. By now a crowd had gathered and the gull had joined us on deck, not able to fly any more. We wanted to help. One woman used her bread roll crumbs to tempt it closer and was able to grasp it in one well aimed grab. The gull got one wing free so I helped hold it in while her daughter , 18 with strong polished nails, gently prise open the beak some more and revealed the hook completely curled around the lower half. I asked a man to get the ships tools, pliers, something and he dashed down the steps.

The awful damage

The bird seemed to resign itself to being handled and maybe knew we were trying to help. It settled and stayed still while she dislodged the hook first, impossible to bend it. She had to slowly drag it forward till it came free, only to reveal a third hook stuck in the feathers. It must have hurt but she freed it too. The bird started to wriggle but we held it for a moment to give it time to recover. It was not about to fly but moved away a metre or so and we threw it bits of fish leftovers from our plates and crumbs. It ate ravenously then retreated to a more sheltered spot. There were smiles and pats on the back and comments in several languages to the young woman on her skilful work. Her mother was so proud and we exchanged a happy hug of words in mangled German and English.

No one cared about only seeing one fin of a solitary dolphin. When I checked at the end of the trip, the gull had gone, hopefully flown to feed and recover. The hook was a grim souvenir for its rescuer.

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