Before we bought our own yacht in Europe, we chose to charter yachts for our sailing holidays. Two of these sailing holidays were in Croatia. Why? Simple. The Dalmatian Coast is breathtaking. It’s a coastline of turquoise waters and old seaside towns of red roofs and bleached stone. If you’re considering a sailing holiday in Croatia, I’ll take your through my thoughts and suggestions.
Why Sail Croatia?
Firstly, why consider a sailing holiday in Croatia? 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, an afternoon swim in the blue waters, 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.
Whats the best time for a sailing holiday in Croatia?
We usually charter around June when the weather is warming up. 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 as it is European holiday season and can be crazy. The Italians holidaying in August are enthusiastic and exuberant, to say the least and it’s crowded anchoring in the popular bays. September is another good option, as the weather is still warm, and the peak chartering season tails off as most Europeans have gone back to work.
Which charter company should you use for your sailing holiday in Croatia?
There are many bareboat charter companies to choose, mostly catering for larger groups. The first time we had a sailing holiday 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 which maximises your time on the water. 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, and age 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. Joining a flotilla is also an option.
What’s the best size yacht for a sailing holiday in Croatia?
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.
How long should you book for your sailing holiday?
Saturday is the check-in day where you complete your formalities, get oriented on your boat and 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.
Where should you visit during your sailing holiday?
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. [Post update: since writing this, these areas have become incredibly popular.] 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 is highly recommended.
What’s the weather like in Croatia for sailing?
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.
Are there any challenges to a sailing holiday in Croatia?
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 these moorings where your bow thrusters become invaluable.
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.
What Qualifications and Experience do you need for a sailing holiday in Croatia?
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.
What’s the cost of a sailing holiday in Croatia?
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