Sue Landreville and her husband Mike are enthusiastic sailors from Canada. They joined friends on their boat in the Caribbean and it was such a great experience that they decided to sail in a foreign destination once again. Croatia offered what they were looking for—spectacular coastal scenery, a seemingly endless number of islands, heritage towns and world class marinas. Besides, the country was still affordable and seemed eager to welcome them.
We decided the best way to sail in unfamiliar waters was by being part of a flotilla. Our flotilla in Croatia was organized through a well known British company. It consisted of a lead boat and ten boats of varying sizes chartered by people from around the world. My husband, four friends and I were on one of the charters.
The lead boat had a crew that consisted of a head skipper, mechanic and hostess. All were Croatian, which we appreciated because they knew the water, restaurants and culture so well. Those of us on the chartered boats seemed to have an immediate connection for we share a strong common bond which is ‘love of sailing’.
While sailing in a flotilla is not a follow-the-leader activity, some coordination is necessary. Each morning the skippers would meet to discuss the day’s plans, the water and wind conditions, and places to anchor for lunch and a swim. After that, each boat was on its own, able to sail at its own pace. The only requirement was that everyone arrive at the overnight location by late afternoon.
For the most part, we would dock each night in a designated harbor which was often in the center of town rather than in a secluded bay, which was usually the case in the Caribbean. Some said it felt like we were sailing from restaurant to restaurant but no one objected!
We started in Kremik where the winds were good, the temperatures warm and the skies bright. Over two weeks we sailed to Trogir, Milna (Island of Brac), Palmizana (Pakleni Island), Hvar (Lavender Island), Rogoznica, Opat (Kornat Island), Piskera (Kornati Island), Zirje, Zlarin, Skradin/Krka Falls (a popular tourist destination where you take a tour boat up the river to falls), Jezera (Island of Murter) and Primosten.
While each island has its own unique features there were similarities: stone buildings, orange roofs, a town square, at least one church, a gelato stand, usually a fort, and restaurants offering Mediterranean cuisine.
Overall we found the food to be fresh and tasty with lots of fish, salads of tomato, cucumber, olives and mozzarella, pizza, figs, and prosciutto (heavenly). And it was all accompanied by good local beer and wines. The menus did not vary much but we had no complaints.
Our best dining experience was quite unexpected. We arrived at a remote island in the Kornati chain and docked in front of the only visible building. A man came down to greet us and offered to cook dinner, a John Dory fish cooked on a bed of salt. We knew nothing about the fish or the cooking method, but we readily agreed to dine at his restaurant. Much to our surprise, the entire meal, from an octopus appetizer to dessert, was not only excellent but haute cuisine. Later we were told the restaurant is famous and patrons make reservations months in advance for the summer months.
Eurocup football (soccer) was going on during our stay and the whole country was captivated. As we were all sports enthusiasts, we were keen to join in and became regular observers of the matches. As Croatia advanced the excitement built, and soon everyone was proudly wearing the team’s red and white colours. Games were televised on the side of buildings, bars were packed with fans, parades with fireworks were held in town squares, restaurants provided hopeless service as everyone was consumed with cheering on the national team. When Croatia lost in the quarter-final, disappointment was huge.
Mike and I did not crew this 39 by 13 foot boat alone. Well before leaving home we started the search for sailing companions and we both knew they could not be ‘princesses’ or ‘type-A’ personalities. It all worked out beautifully when we reconnected with friends from the past. The husbands happened to be experienced sailors and their wives said they would be ‘deck ornaments’ but promised to be contented ones.
Mike and I went to Croatia a week early to explore the historic town of Dubrovnik, renting an apartment close to the gates of the old town. We travelled by ferry along the coast to Split to visit Diocletian’s Palace, an inexpensive and easy way to go.
Each day in Croatia brought with it new adventures and all our expectations were filled and then some. I have warm memories of those carefree days when we sailed the beautiful blue waters of the Adriatic.
If sailing appeals to you but you have no experience then I have some suggestions. There are charter companies that offer spaces on the lead boat. Others provide a captain for the boat you charter. Or you can always take a “learn to sail” course in an exotic place. All is possible!
So now that we’ve sailed the Caribbean and Croatia, where should we aquaholics go next? What do you think about New Zealand?
By Sue Landreville
Photo credits Sue Landreville
© Riding the buses 2011