Sailing in the Adriatic
When I was in my 20s and living on Long Island Sound (a wonderful small boat sailing area near New York City), I had an O’Day Mariner and spent many weekends sailing, often overnight. My dream then was to, someday, go sailing in the Mediterranean with a group of friends.
Fast forward almost 60 years and this summer I finally got my wish. It may have taken a while, but the wait was worth it. My wife Helga and I chartered two sailboats, 55ft and 37ft Bavaria Cruisers, and invited our four daughters (ranging in age from 46 to 51), one son-in-law and one partner, six granddaughters (ranging in age from eight to 25) and one boyfriend to join us for a week of sailing in the Croatian archipelago. It was mid-August and the weather (and, importantly, the wind) was sublime.
Our charter company was Albatross Yachting, based in Zadar (a coastal city of about 100,000 located 160km north of Split). Our two skippers were Ante Matkovic and Goran Medenica. Both were in their early 30s, very accomplished sailors, extremely friendly and helpful and proficient in English. The boats were sloop rigged, comfortable, very well appointed (even with Wi-Fi) and easy to sail.
All 15 of us arrived in Zadar on a Saturday afternoon and, after a lovely dinner at Marco Polo on the waterfront, spent our first night aboard in Zadar harbour. From Zadar on Sunday morning, we sailed northwest and, after a couple of swimming stops, we moored in Molat harbour for the night. From Molat, we slowly worked our way south east through the archipelago, stopping at Rava, a very small island with 100 inhabitants and one very good restaurant (Keko), and eventually arriving at Kornati National Park, itself containing 89 islands, islets and reefs (lots of good snorkelling).
In Kornati, we put in to the Core Lounge Bar, the only mooring and eating oasis for miles around. It is a very popular place, not least because it offers really superb food (thanks to famous chef Hrvoje Ciglenec) and wine in its restaurant. Although the “classiest” of the many restaurants we dined in, it still was a polo, shorts and sandals place. No pretence there!
From Kornati we sailed east to Murter, a huge town (by archipelago standards) of 5,200 inhabitants. Our excellent dinner at the Tic Tac harbour restaurant was our last before returning to Zadar on Friday evening to be ready to leave our boat Saturday morning. Friday evening in Zadar we were witness to a magnificent sunset (once described by Alfred Hitchcock as “the most beautiful sunset in the world”).
Our daily routine afloat had us breakfasting and lunching on the boat, sailing most of the day, with several stops for swimming, paddleboarding and snorkelling in the crystal clear and warmish waters of the Adriatic, and then putting in to one or another of the many islands to have dinner in a local restaurant. The restaurants were small and very casual, the food was uniformly fresh and superb (usually seafood, but the lamb is also wonderful), well prepared and not expensive. Surprisingly, Croatia also produces a number of rather good white and red wines and several excellent local beers.
While August is “high season” and there are a huge number of yachts for charter up and down the Croatian coast, we never felt the presence of many other boats and often were quite alone on the water. In fact, one morning just after we had left a swimming spot, we were delighted to have a school of dolphins playing around our boat, several times leaping high out of the water. There were only two other boats anywhere near us to witness this lovely display.
At the end of our week, Helga and I had several hours before our departure to explore Zadar itself (called by The Telegraph “Croatia’s coolest city”). The compact old town is quite scenic. There are many Roman ruins (some dating from 1 BC) and some gorgeous Byzantine churches (the best known is St Donat, dating from the 9th C), but the predominant influence is Italian, because the Venetian Republic ruled over much of Dalmatia for almost 400 years, from 1420 to 1797.
“Chartering a 55 ft yacht” sounds very expensive, but the boat and skipper cost only € 5,500 for the week and provided lodging for 10 people. That’s about €160 per double room per night. Of course the food was extra, but this is really not an expensive way to spend such a memorable and unforgettable week, is it? If this kind of holiday appeals to you, contact Vjeko (the owner) at firstname.lastname@example.org. Do it now for 2019 and you will get a 25% “early booking” discount! No, I don’t get a commission – I was just totally enchanted by this holiday and wish to spread the good news.
By Larry Hampton