I chartered a sailboat in Croatia for 2 weeks – this is what I learned

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By the third day of sailing between the dry and rocky islands of Croatia’s Dalmatian coast, we had learned three important things: the navigation is sublime, all you need is on the Riva, and it’s always a good time. for ice cream.

It was our family’s first trip since the onset of COVID, and we couldn’t wait to reunite our crew and get back on the water. After over a year ashore we would have gone just about anywhere. But Croatia, with its abundance of islands, historic sites, fresh seafood, and clear, cerulean waters, tempted us from the start. And then there were the practical considerations: in late August and early September it is hot – 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit – but not hot, there is reliable wind (essential for sailboats) and the Adriatic Sea is outside the sea. hurricane belt.

We chartered a 43-foot sailboat Black Pearl Charter, one of the six charter companies based in Marina Baotic, 16 km west of Split. A cruise ship is essentially a floating RV. You unpack your luggage once, walk around freely on your own schedule and have everything you need wherever you go. Finding the boat was easy; photos and details are on charter companies’ websites. The sailboat we booked online had enough beds for our eight person crew, two toilets (bathrooms) and a galley (galley).

Our crew ranged from 19 to 82 years old and included friends and family. They have all sailed with us to the San Juan Islands in Washington State and the neighboring Gulf Islands in British Columbia. In many ways, sailing the Dalmatian coast has proven to be easier than the northwest, but my first sailing charter in Croatia has always been a source of challenges and surprises. Here is what I learned.

Sailing to Hvar Island, Croatia (Photo credit: © June Russell-Chamberlin)

Charter in Croatia

If you are not a sailor or prefer to skip some of the paperwork, you can hire a captain with the boat. If you are a sailor, the same charter captain’s certifications (see page 17 of the PDF) you need in the United States also allows you to rent a boat in Croatia. You will also need a FCC Restricted Radio Operator’s License so you can legally use the VHS radio on board. Obtaining the license is simple: complete the online form, pay the fees and you’re done. Rental companies may also require a boating resume or other documents.

Pro tip: At the time of this writing, Croatia requires proof of COVID vaccination and the United States requires a negative COVID test before returning. Big cities have test centers, but we did the necessary tests on the boat using eMed. You will need to register for eMed before you leave the United States and take the test while on a video call. Results take about 15 minutes.

Gelato in Croatia
© June Russell-Chamberlin

Food and supplies

As soon as the charter company gave us access to our boat, we hailed an Uber to go to a large grocery store near Trogir and stock up on provisions. All the rental boats in the area were on the same schedule, so sailors swarmed the store and rushed to fill several carts with everything from pasta to crates of vodka. Adding to the chaos was the fact that none of the packaging was in English. When the food was not visible in the packaging, we chose items based on the image on the front. This led to a few surprises, like a jar of something we thought was mayonnaise, but it wasn’t. Most of the time, however, this approach has proven to be successful. Looking back, Google Translate would have been helpful.

The rest of the food we picked up from fruit stalls and small grocery stores along the way. We have found Konzum markets to have the best choice in island towns. Regardless of the store, the staff at the deli counters rarely speak English, so you can come back with mystery cheese (as we did).

Bakeries are everywhere and offer much more than bread and pastries. We quickly learned that they were the best place for pizza slices, sandwiches, and other take out. Take-out coffee is hard to find, but “coffee” bars are plentiful. These establishments typically serve food and drink throughout the day, starting with coffee and ending with cocktails. Each place we ate had menus translated into English, and many featured large signs with photos of the different dishes. The water is drinkable.

Pro tip: Cash is often preferred in small island towns. The local currency is the kuna (rhymes with tuna). There are many ATMs along the Rivas (the walks around the port).

Moored in Bobovisca Na Moru, island of Brac
Moored in Bobovisca Na Moru, island of Brac (Photo credit: © June Russell-Chamberlin)

Navigation, anchorage and mooring

With 79 relatively close islands, few reefs or rocks and a reliable wind, the Dalmatian coast is a sailor’s paradise. We found winds between 8 and 20 knots and the tides were only 1 to 2 feet. With the exception of mooring areas and areas marked with an upside down anchor, you can anchor almost anywhere. We dropped anchor in secluded coves, crowded coves, and even 100 feet from an underwater tunnel. The peacock blue water is so clear that it is easy to check on the anchor. In the town of Vis and other ports we got a mooring ball for a fee.

We docked ashore when we dropped anchor to counter crosswinds or current and to make room for other yachts. Aft or Mediterranean mooring with “lazy” lines (or what sailors call “mud lines” – bring gloves) is required in marinas and docks. Call ahead to reserve a spot and make sure staff are on hand to help you dock. We were worried about the Med mooring, but the experienced dock staff always made it painless.

Pro tip: Port side konoba (pub-style restaurants) often offer mooring, dockside hookups, and water to fill your tanks. Some even offer showers. Fees vary and may include dinner at the konoba. It’s a great way to experience authentic Croatia.

Le Riva à Vis (Photo credit: © June Russell-Chamberlin)

Adventures on land

The main towns on the Dalmatian coast welcome passing yachts and offer everything from provisions and hot showers to bakeries and bars. Screw, Korcula, and other island towns are small enough to be walkable if you don’t mind the stairs and uneven cobblestone streets. Everything is upstream from the port!

Getting around town and around the islands is easy. Taxis, buses, Uber rides, rental cars, and scooters are available for longer trips. Tours to explore the island’s wine, food, military sites, natural wonders, beaches, and other attractions are easy to find along the harbor fronts. The ferry service between the islands and the mainland is fast and reliable, making it easy for our crew to return to Split mid-cruise to catch a flight. Most of the transportation options appear to be located near the ferry dock.

Most of the time we stranded ashore in the dinghy (a small inflatable boat with an outboard motor) and explored on foot, with an occasional Uber or bus ride. Some of the crew simply swam to shore; the water was about 75 degrees. We also used water taxis to get around when the water was too rough for the dinghy or the town was too far away from where we anchored. This worked particularly well for visiting the city of Hvar on the island of Hvar. We anchored in the nearby islands of Pakleni and took a water taxi into town and back.

Once ashore, we explored the city’s winding streets, visited historic sites, picked up some groceries, did some souvenir shopping, had a bite to eat and tasted ice cream. We visited fortresses, archaeological sites, museums, cathedrals and Roman ruins. The narrow winding streets and alleys of the stairs revealed cafes and shops with holes in the walls. In the Piazza in Hvar, we ate pizza and watched the crowds; in Vis, we sipped wine while the sunset put on its show.

In nature parks and wilderness areas, we hiked, observed wildlife, explored underwater tunnels and ramparts, swam in clear blue water, and savored the unspoiled landscapes and sounds of nature.

Pro tip: The first thing I do in a new city is find the local tourist office. This is where you will find a local map and brochures on various tours, restaurants and attractions. The staff can also answer your questions, such as where to find the best ice cream. Companies that sell tours advertise with signs that say “Tourist Information”. The tourist office is usually located on or near the Riva quay or the ferry.

To learn more about boating and renting your own boat, read these articles:


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