Croatia, and particularly the Dalmatian Islands around Split have been our regular holiday destination for the last three years. In that time we have sat in bars and on harbour walls and watched the immense number of yachts, both chartered and private, come and go, and envied the freedoms such a holiday would offer. Yet Croatia, one of the major Mediterranean cruising destinations along with the Greek Islands and Turkey, seems in the last two years, to have taken frequent beatings in the British yachting press. Endless stories have related tales of poor service, over zealous, unsympathetic officials and generally bad experiences.
Our opportunity to charter ‘bare-boat’ finally presented itself for June this year and after spending the winter refreshing and updating various qualifications (Day Skipper, ICC and SRC (VHF) Certificate) we headed off on a bargain flight from Gatwick to Split. As might be expected our excitement was somewhat tinged with apprehension, never having chartered bare-boat before, or sailed in Adriatic waters and with the recent bad press reverberating through our minds.
What Croatia has to offer
Our land-based familiarity with the area, along with most guidebooks, suggested that cruising the islands would be a relaxing experience. The area is famous for generally regular, light winds, little tidal fall and few difficult currents. The combination of these conditions with hundreds of small harbours, numerous marinas and thousands of small, sheltered anchorages, suggested there would be excellent opportunities for a good weeks cruising.
We decided that chartering with Sunsail would be the safest way to ensure that problems with the boat would be kept to a minimum. All of their Adriatic fleet is less than 3 years old and their reputation is generally good. Bookings were finally made through my Uncle, one of Sunsail’s‘owners’, who arranged us a ‘short-notice’ charter through his time-share scheme with the company.
Sunsail Kremik a yacht passing the local town: Primosten
During the summer months, much of coastal Croatia is organised to provide tourists with the best possible visit. The transport system (buses, taxis and ferries) works well and is cheap. It is possible to find good, clean and well equipped shore-based accommodation on a budget, after you arrive and most towns are weighed down with numerous restaurants offering good local fare, sea food, pasta and pizza.
Despite not taking the full Sunsail package, just the ‘bare-boat’, transfers from the airport and overnight accommodation were not a problem and making our way to Kremik Marina, Sunsail’s now-sole base in the Split area, proved straight forward, especially once some fellow Sunsailors, an Aussie family from Newcastle NSW, bribed the bus’s driver to drop us in the marina rather than 5 kms further on in the local town of Primosten.
We were well briefed by Colin, Sunsail’s chief instructor in Kremik, who filled us in not only on sailing hazards (few and far between) but also on the best restaurants and moorings, then spent the first evening aboard our Beneteau Oceanis 373, Sun Bandit, considering the Admiralty Charts we had bought with us. As the excitement and anticipation finally took hold I resolved to establish once and for all that Croatia is a truly great destination for the cruising sailor to visit and not the land of horrors the press had been suggesting.
Cruising Croatia: Part 1. Can it all be so bad?
Lessons learned for the first time charterer
Wednesday, 1 August 2007