The Dalmatian Coast is simply breathtaking. It’s a coastline of turquoise waters and the red roofs and bleached stone of the old seaside towns and cities. Have you been inspired by these images to sail Croatia but possibly don’t know where to start? If you’re a sailor and haven’t chartered overseas before, it can seem daunting. Really, it’s not difficult to do, and I’d encourage you to go ahead and book your trip. It’s an exciting place to experience by boat. In this post, I’ll take you through what I think are the better options for bareboat chartering.
Firstly, why go? Apart from the sheer picturesque nature of the coastline and islands, Croatia has a lot to offer in the way of history, architecture and food. There’s nothing better than a day sailing from island to island, a swim in the blue waters in the afternoon, then taking your dinghy to the local konoba for a bite to eat, followed by a peaceful sleep on the anchor. Or if you prefer, simply step off the transom after mooring in an old town and end a day on the water day with a local beer and dinner.
So, here are a few tips to help you get started.
As we prefer to charter as a couple, my thoughts and recommendations will focus more on our style of travel.
Time of year: We usually charter around June – it’s warming up then, the water can be a little fresh, but you can still enjoy a swim or two. Avoid July/August like the plague if you can. It’s European holiday season and can be crazy (the Italians holidaying in August are enthusiastic and exuberant, to say the least). September is another good option – the weather is still warm, and most Europeans have gone back to work.
Charter companies: There are plenty of bareboat charter companies to choose, mostly catering for larger groups. The first time we bareboat chartered in Croatia, we used Candor http://www.candor.hu/. It is a small Hungarian owned company. We found them terrific. I have recommended them to other friends who also had a good experience. The advantage of a smaller company is a more personalised, relaxed service than the larger fleet companies. Also, the smaller companies won’t be checking in/checking out lots of other people and boats at the same time. Candor specialises in Jeanneau yachts in their fleet and operates out of Marina Kastela, north of Split. One advantage of leaving from Kastela is that there is a huge supermarket nearby for provisioning. As a side note, nearby Split is a charming city with a blend of old and new and well worth a visit for a couple of days pre or post charter.
As there are many, many other charter companies options, in making your choice, consider the number of yachts in their fleet and maybe the brand of the boat you want to sail (if you have a preference). If you don’t have sailing experience, there’s always the option of hiring a skipper for your trip.
Size of yacht: For a couple, something like a Jeanneau 409 would be ideal. The size you charter will depend on budget and the number of people sharing you’re holidaying. Bow thrusters are a must on any charter boat in Croatia! They are needed to manage your yacht in congested marinas where boats are squeezed in, fender to fender.
Length of charter time: Saturday’s are the check-in day where you complete your formalities, get oriented on your boat carry your provisioning onboard. Check out is Sunday mornings where you’ll ensure your yacht is clean and tidy, then disembark. On these days, you will lose charter time so plan on getting checked in early if possible and shop quickly to minimise lost sailing time. Charters are booked weekly in most cases. We like hiring for two weeks so we can take our time, stay in places we like for 2-3 days and just enjoy exploring our surroundings. We’re relaxed sailors, if we like a place, we’ll stay.
Places to see: there are many, many wonderful islands, bays and towns to discover – we like Hvar (anchoring in the Pakleni Islands and taking a water taxi to Hvar like a rock star is lots of fun), Vis and Korcula the best. If you sail north, you can experience the unique Kornati Islands. The Ultra-Sailing site is helpful for route planning and helpful sailing hints in Croatia. Your charter company will also have some suggested routes as well. Don’t forget to hire a scooter and investigate the interior of the island as well. If you have a chance during your trip to Croatia take a tour inland to the stunning Plitvice Lakes National Park.
Weather: We’ve been pretty lucky with the weather. We’ve had some very windy days, but the sailing was always manageable. The wind direction will also govern where you travel, so be prepared to be flexible rather than struggling against the wind direction. We’ve learned this the hard way.
Challenges: Med moorings !!!! It takes courage when you first attempt one short-handed. If you approach the marina or dock slowly, you’ll be ok. If I can do it, anyone can. If you have more people on board – easy. It’s the Med mooring where you need those bow thrusters I mentioned earlier.
Also, some of the bays that look like perfect anchorages can be quite deep. You will need to make sure you have lots of anchor chain on board. In areas where there is current, make sure you give neighbouring yachts plenty of swing room and watch for drifting from unsuccessful anchoring of other charter yachts.
Yachting Qualifications and Experience: Your selected charter company will tell you what they require. One of us had completed the International Certificate of Competence (ICC) before we picked up our yacht.
Costs: These vary depending on the size and age of boat, and season. So the most expensive yachts will be the largest, newest ones booked in the high season. We opt to book a smaller boat as a couple and to select the shoulder season to keep the costs manageable.
There’s so much information, I could share but right now I’ll conclude by saying it’s a fantastic holiday and I would highly recommend it. If you have any questions, drop me a line.
photo credit: Conor Rees