Wednesday 17 June 2009

Croatia – A Place For All Sailors?

SC trip

Many people seem to feel that a sailing holiday is beyond their reach, either because they don’t know how to sail, or because they imagine it’s way beyond their budget. This posting aims to dispel a few myths.

Whilst a round the world trip might not be a good idea for a novice and nervous group of sailors, a sailing holiday in Croatia could be just the job. Obviously you have to pay attention to the weather and basic navigational and safety rules, but if you charter a yacht with a skipper you can learn as much or as little as you like about sailing whilst exploring Croatia the way it was meant to be discovered – by sea.

As for budgets, if you do your research carefully you will find plenty of bargains to be had this year. If you compare the total cost of the charter holiday with what it would cost you to stay in a hotel, you could get a pleasant surprise.

Croatia, particularly the Dalmatian Coast and Islands, is particularly friendly to a variety of nautical travellers.  The many islands mostly lie close to the mainland so you are never very far from land if the sea roughs up. Similarly, it’s easy to pick a route to stay in flat water if the weather conditions change. If you happen to be in a group of mixed bravado and tastes then you can leave some of the group in a fascinating historic city while the others go chasing the winds in the nearest channel. If some like to party and some don’t then seek the peace and quiet of the Pakleni Islands and send the party lovers by water taxi to Hvar town. Deserted bays may be the order of the day for romantic couples, and for families perhaps Bol on Brač, or Vodice and Biograd on the mainland, provide the ideal children’s playground for a daytime stop.

Those that haven’t sailed before often aren’t aware that charter yachts are relatively luxurious – the floating equivalent of three star hotels, without the room service but with a good sized kitchen. So if you just want to potter around and enjoy cocktails on the sun deck then you can do that in style too.

We’ve yet to meet any sailors, novice or otherwise, that haven’t had a great time when they’ve sailed with a skipper. The skipper takes all the responsibility, makes himself scarce when necessary, and knows exactly where to go to keep everyone happy. Those that choose a bareboat charter (without a skipper) also can’t fail to have a good time in Croatia if their sailing skills are up to it and they find other means of getting the best of local knowledge.

Below are a selection of  links to charter companies of which we’ve had excellent first hand reports. However the quality in Croatia is very high, as long as you stay with licensed charter companies, so you’re unlikely to go far wrong:

Adriasail Charter

Dalmatia Charter

Sail Croatia

And here are ten tips for making the most of your sailing holiday:

1. Travel light – pack your gear in foldable bags so they stow easily. Include a pair of jelly shoes for the pebble beaches.

2. Beware the sun – make sure a bimini (sun cover) comes as standard on your yacht and that you take a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, etc

3. Embrace the unexpected – don’t be to rigid in your itinerary so you can enjoy the ad hoc experiences which will make your holiday

4. Treat yourself to a bit of luxury half way through – maybe an overnight stop at a marina as a change from the quiet anchorages, see Croatia Cruising Companion - Marinas In Croatia

5. Learn a little Croatian  - it will make the locals happy though most speak good English. For a handy phrasebook link to the Croatian Language School

6. Leave everything except Marmite, Branston Pickle and teabags at home. The local produce is excellent, particularly olive oil, eggs, all fruit and veg, smoked ham (prsut), cheese and of course fish

7. Communications – for a relaxing holiday it’s best to leave the laptop behind but you’ll find WiFi in an increasing number of marinas. Mobile telephone signals are good in most places too.

8. Respect the weather – if you’re skipper suggests shelter to avoid a summer storm then he’ll almost always be able to find you a nearby town with plenty to explore. At worst it will be a sheltered bay with a restaurant and bars.

9. Prepare and do your research so that you can let your skipper know what sort of places you like.

10. Don’t forget to pack your copy of the Croatia Cruising Companion!

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