20 Jan Sailing in Croatia: 10 things you should know
1. Does sailing in Croatia suit everyone?
You’ve seen the images of gorgeous yachts and gulets sailing in Croatia; sun-drenched days, turquoise waters, armies of floating zoos… and you want in, only thing is – you aren’t sure whether sailing in Croatia is for you. Is it only for salty seadogs, cashed-up millennials or the rich and famous? Is there a middle-ground? What if you have never been on a boat before?
All great questions and my easy answer is – yes, sailing in Croatia is for everyone even for families with young children! Gone are the days when sailing was reserved only for passionate sailors or the wealthy in their super yachts. Thanks to the boom in nautical tourism over the last decade, there is a boat and cruise that suits most everyone and every budget. No prior sailing or boat experience is required to come sailing in Croatia, as most tours and boats operate with a full-crew.
2. How to sail Croatia – what type of boat, charter, cruise to choose?
Now you know that sailing in Croatia is for everybody, it is time to look at some of the options. With more than 3,000 boats on the charter market in Croatia, there are myriad options when it comes to choosing a boat, charter or cruise in Croatia.
Bareboating: If you have experience sailing and are planning to charter and crew your own yacht, you will need a valid license and VHF license . Depending on the time of year you book, a 40-foot sailing yacht will cost between 2,000€ – 5,000€ for a 7-day charter in Croatia.
Crewed yacht charter: If you don’t have experience sailing or you simply want to relax and be taken care of by an experienced crew, you can charter a yacht, catamaran, gulet or motor yacht. Do a little research beforehand about the pros and cons of different types of yachts – do you really want to sail or are you more interested in comfort, how many people will you be, what is your budget? These are all questions which will help define which type of crewed yacht would best suit you.
Gulets: Deserve their own mention, as they have become increasingly popular over the last 5 years. A gulet is a classic-built Turkish yacht, they are built for style, comfort and luxury. They typically have 4 – 6 cabins and you need to charter the whole boat (a few offer cabin-charter but this is rare), this suits families or large groups of friends. A gulet charters for anything from 12,000€ – 40,000€ for the week.
Cabin Charters and cruisers: If you don’t have the money or friends to charter an entire yacht, then cabin-charters and mini-cruisers are for you. Aussies and kiwis are renowned for loving group travel, it is a good way to see a destination and meet new people. But don’t worry, even though there has been some notoriety around these types of tours, they are not all ‘booze cruises’; many are age-specific
Which region to sail in Croatia?
You’re coming sailing in Croatia, you’ve decided which type of boat you want, now the next question is – which region to sail? Most charters are for 7-days and you will need all 7 to melt into your sailing Croatia holiday.
Croatia’s greatest appeal as a sailing destination lies in the diversity of its coast. With more than 1,000 islands, islets and reefs strung across its coast like an exquisite necklace, it is a sailor’s paradise, vacationer’s dream and the stuff Instagram likes are made of. There is really something for everyone.
When to come sailing in Croatia?
The sailing season in Croatia runs from May until October, though most choose to sail in high-season – July and August. There are a few things to consider when you decide when to come sailing in Croatia.
The climate in Croatia is Mediterranean and summer is characterised by hot, sunny days, balmy evenings and warm seas. The average temperature in July and August sit around 27°C and the sea is almost the same at an average of 24°C . Note, that while the average temperature may be 27°C, it is not uncommon for August temperatures to soar to and remain at 35°C+. Choosing peak-season to sail in Croatia is the obvious choice for most, gorgeous summer weather and all restaurants, bars and activities in full swing. But, with Croatia’s increase in popularity, choosing to sail Croatia in peak-season is also choosing to compete with crowds.
Temperatures in the ‘shoulder season’ (May, September, October) average 24°C and 20°C in the sea. Every year, the tourist and sailing season expands as more people discover the joy in being away from crowds. While the weather may be cooler and some restaurants and businesses closed, sailing the shoulder season has its advantages; fewer crowds, great sailing and cheaper marina prices being some of them. Charter prices are also drastically cheaper in the shoulder season, anything from 20 – 50% cheaper than high-season – especially if you book early.
Sailing the National Parks of Croatia
Croatia has 8 protected National parks and 11 Nature parks; it is possible to visit four of the National parks and two Nature parks on various sailing routes. You can sail the stunning Brijuni archipelago in Istria, the Kornati archipelago, whose area is a protected National Park, visit Telašćica Nature Park, Krka National Park (via Skradin), Mljet National Park and the Lastovo archipelago.
Active Activities while Sailing in Croatia
For some, simply the act of sailing Croatia is enough but for those who want to get a little more active, there are plenty of options. Most every island offers a number of activities from biking, hiking and kayaking, to SUP tours, quad bikes, diving and climbing. Island Šolta has even introduced E-Bikes to make biking the hilly island more accessible to everyone.
Bol on island Brač and the Pelješac Peninsula are both famous for kite and windsurfing and there are schools dotted along the beaches here for those who want to learn.
For something even more unique, how about learning to freedive with world champions or go rock climbing/deep-water soloing from your own yacht with a private guide? What about wellness? Yoga and meditation retreats are also available in Croatia, if you charter privately you can inquire about having a yoga instructor onboard. Basically, your sailing in Croatia holiday is only as limited as your imagination.
Cuisine in Croatia
Anthony Bourdain once said: “I’ve had no idea what Croatian cuisine was. Zero! I’ve had no picture in my mind. This is world-class food, world-class wine, world-class cheese. The next big thing is Croatia! If you haven’t been here yet, you are an idiot! I’m an idiot!” – No Reservations, 2012.
There are many traditional dishes that shouldn’t be missed while sailing in Croatia: brujet, gregada, crni rižot (black risotto), grilled sardines or lešo fish and peka (veal, lamb, octopus slow-cooked under an iron bell for 3 – 4 hours). Don’t forget to order some pršut and Pag cheese for an entree, drowned with award-winning olive oil from Brač, Šolta. Every island has its own delicacy or speciality, and it would be a sin not to try it all; like a humble Viška Pogača from island Vis, lamb on the spit on island Brač, Žrnovski Makaruni from island Korčula, Pag cheese, lobster in Komiža…
Wine in Croatia
Now, we can’t very well speak of food and not mention wine. You may be surprised to know that this tiny, obscure country produces some absolutely world-class wine and has more than 130 indigenous grape varieties. Many of these wineries are available to visit along your sailing Croatia journey – wine tour by boat, what could be better!
As most sailing itineraries focus on Central and Southern Dalmatia, this is what we will focus on but inland and Northern Croatia also produce exceptional wines, particularly whites. Dalmatia is the king of reds and also produces some unique, full-bodied whites.
Do I need prior knowledge about boats if I charter with crew?
Technically, if you charter a boat with crew, you don’t need to know anything about boats as your crew is there to take care of you. This is especially the case with luxury boats, whose crew are there for your every want and need. However, if you are chartering a smaller sailing yacht or are joining a flotilla with only a skipper, it is advisable that you learn some basics. The skipper or crew will no doubt teach you as the week progresses but it would be helpful to learn some basic knots and terminology before boarding.
How much will I spend? What should I tip?
Many make the mistake in thinking that Croatia is a cheap destination, which, perhaps it was 10 years ago but it is certainly not the case now, especially in highlight destinations and peak-season. Croatia is on par with the rest of Europe now when it comes to the basics: accommodation, food and entertainment. Let’s say that you have paid for your sailing in Croatia holiday, on average, I would advise allowing an extra 50 – 70€ per day for dining out, drinks and entertainment or activities. Of course, Croatia can be done on a budget, but this is the average spend that I have seen from those in their 20’s through to 70’s.
Do I need to tip? The short answer is yes. Unless you received abysmal service and care, tipping is expected.
What should I tip? In restaurants the customary 10% is polite. On boats, for cruises with 30 or more passengers, 10 – 15€ per person per day is recommended to cover crew, while guides are often tipped separately on a discretionary basis. On private yacht charter, the MYBA recommends 5 – 15% of the weekly charter fee as the standard rule.
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