“Sailing in Croatia” has been on my To Do list for more than ten years.
But I waited to find the right boat and the right itinerary and at the right time. So here we are. September 2013 with Luigi on the Good Ship Lotos, spending four weeks cruising the Adriatic from Montenegro to Trieste – covering the length of Croatia, some 600 kilometers.
A country with a rich and fascinating history, thousands of islands and really superb and varied sailing conditions. September is the ideal month to visit – still hot enough to swim happily in the sea and to sunbathe, but not longer so hot as to make sightseeing exhausting and sleep at night stifling. Plus the hordes of tourists visiting Croatia have diminished somewhat by September.
For a sailor, the interest obviously lies mainly in the wonderful sailing; but the coastline is dotted with interesting towns – typically fortified as the land was contested and fought over for centuries. Town walls were built, attacked, over-run, demolished, re-built, bombed re-built, shelled, re-built. Now the only invaders are tourists.
And some of the fortifications are truly massive – for instance, Dubrovnik has an astonishing 4.5 Km of amazingly high walls soaring to the sky: layer after layer of defences. There are lots of tiny alleys with picturesque homes, but the main drags are all 100% tourism oriented – shops and restaurants, fashionable places to be seen & to see the glamour go by. Zadar, again fortified, is calmer and more charming. As elsewhere, the flagstones and cobbles your feet tred were laid many centuries ago. Sibenik is a popular place to use as a base to visit the nearby national park of Krka – kilometers of forest, lakes, impressive waterfalls and interesting nature trails along boardwalks.
Several places boast truly massive marinas – Croatia being a very popular destination for the yacht charter market, and on “change-over” day (Saturday) it is entertaining to watch the army of boat girls cleaning and restocking the flotillas.
But let’s talk about the sailing – it’s why we’re here, after all. We have enjoyed truly excellent sailing. The coastline is ideally suited to day sailing (ie sailing during daylight hours then stopping somewhere overnight) – there are always safe anchorages within a few miles, plus little harbours at interesting villages, as well as the marinas. The chains of islands mean you can pick a destination in a direction most appropriate for the wind that day. Plus the islands give shelter – large waves are rarely seen. Wind conditions do vary more than I had anticipated, and seemingly with little apparent reason. Pretty much every day there has been enough breeze for gentle, easy sailing. Most days have periods exceeding 15 knots, allowing this 45ft Grand Soleil to make brisk progress. And occasionally we have days exceeding 25 knots, when the harnesses and lifejackets get an airing (and sometimes a drenching!) No two days are the same
Other advantages? No rain, no mosquitos, no jellyfish or other stingers, little current to interfere with swimming.
Prices in the tourist spots are higher than I expected – but get away from the main thoroughfares and you can find better value, whether in restaurants or apartments (nice places at under €30). At typically €70, the marinas are no longer cheap (and are usually noisy at night, most boats holding people on a week’s charter holiday so partying, rather than live-aboards with more sedate owners). So look for little harbours instead.
And come soon before increasing crowds spoil it!