Sailing in Croatia: Initial thoughts
What can I say about my latest adventure of sailing holiday in Croatia, except that it was everything I had hoped for and then some…The whole experience was a revelation on so many fronts I had to think twice about how to cover it all, giving it justice and not missing anything out. In this post, I will discuss the logistics of the whole affair, letting you know how the idea came to be and the way it all played out.
So, let’s talk about how this amazing adventure of sailing holiday in Croatia came to be.
I am always on the lookout for new travel apps or websites and pretty much lurk on social media to try to capture it all and see if it ‘fits’ and then work in reverse to plan holidays around that. It was during one of such expeditions on Twitter that I have come across the Luxury Travel Diary website (link here), and have found a way to combine my idling gambling inclinations with my love of travel. The concept of this website is similar to eBay for travelers: you select an item that tickles your fancy, place a bid and monitor to see that nobody sneaks in a last minute call to throw you off your game. The auctions run for long enough time for you to plan everything in your head, so when the notifications of higher bids kick in, your competitive streak will get the best of you, trust me. Having successfully outbid my competition, I was approached by the lovely Claire at Luxury Travel Diary and after a swift payment via PayPal and agreeing the actual travel dates, I was referred to the sailing holiday company, Med Sailing Holidays.
Geoff, who later turned out to be our skipper (or ‘captain’, for those, who like me, do not speak ‘sailing’). Geoff has given me the ‘411’ on the times for check-in and check-out, answered all my questions on the route and potential pitfalls of late arrivals, which never materialized probably largely because of his persuasiveness. Generally, he kept in touch through the months leading up to the trip to make sure we do not forget or omit something (like the paperwork that I would not have known about, for instance). He was always very quick and thorough with his responses, which was a sure sign of professionalism and confidence that he later displayed during the actual sailing holiday trip in Croatia.
Our planned route was to be over 8 days, starting in Dubrovnik and culminating in Split, with an overnight stay at a different destination every time. We embarked not really knowing what to expect but enthusiastic nevertheless.luxury sailing in Croatia
First and foremost, sailing has opened up my eyes to an amazing new way to travel. I am a creature of comfort and there were many warnings from seasoned sailing holiday enthusiasts, listing all the potential pitfalls for someone like myself, including considerations of comfort. I am thrilled that I paid no heed to any of this and took the plunge, as the naysayers couldn’t have been more wrong.
The sailing yacht is a 49-foot vessel, that houses up to 8 people (two being crew). Each cabin has its own bathroom/shower, so it is not a student dormitory situation at all. Despite what I have heard, the beds were not on the floor, so that’s a big bonus right there. On top of that, there was ample ‘living room’ space, which we used only a few times, when we encountered some showers on the way, but it could sit everyone on board comfortably. And the boat is fitted with a kitchen of a size that could rival its equivalent in some of London’s flats (someone with experience has told me that, so I will not disagree). Add on a deck with a retractable roof and I pretty much referred to the ‘Sea Princess’, as ‘home’ on more than one occasion.
I have found out later that Geoff can, in fact, man the whole yacht by himself, so that was reassuring for someone that knows absolutely nothing of sailing (which is not a prerequisite, of course). We were aware that we could get as involved, as we pleased in the process of sailing, so the little lessons along the way were anticipated.
What I did not anticipate is that we will also have a lovely hostess, looking after us and preparing a varied crewed sailing holiday menu for each breakfast and lunch. That was a delightful surprise and I can tell you that you can get used to this life pretty quickly.
In conclusion, comfort was not a concern for me throughout. As further proof, I can let you in on a fact that I took 2-3 naps per day, on average, which is not something I have done since nursery.
Another warning I got from people around is that company is key to a good sailing holiday trip, since you are in close quarters constantly. Since we were only two people to begin with, I was curious to see how this plays out. Armed with numerous books (huge mistake), I approached the boat with suspicion, largely attributed to my own impatience and frequent need for ‘alone time’. As I previously mentioned in an earlier post, our sailing holiday ‘Dream Team’ were probably the best company I could have asked for and were an absolute delight to spend every waking minute with. The books stayed packed away and we all got on like a house on fire. Judging on the amount of fun we have had, I have probably added a good decade to my life, if laughter is indeed the key to prolonging your existence.
Generally speaking, I got to meet some fantastic people along the way, some in passing, striking up a chat with the person sharing a water taxi with us and some that I have spent a blissful week on board with, and forged friendships that I hope to carry with me through life. The best part about travelling (except the food, of course) is breaking out of your usual comfort zone and seeing first hand how different everyone around is. Their unique points of view on things, life experiences, backgrounds, languages and stories is what essentially makes a character of a place and lets you realize how wide the world is and how little of it you have truly seen. The people really do make the places.
The sailing itself was another revelation and I did not anticipate how fun it could be. I am all for working out (in a climate-controlled gym, usually) but am not typically all that much into manual labor. To my surprise, I was enjoying the activity immensely, from being at the helm, to tying knots, to helping in mooring at the marinas, you name it. There were some things I was a little uncomfortable with but the minute I said so, I was ‘taken off duty’ for the particular task. Geoff was keen to share the knowledge, and if you are someone that is shy (or lazy) to ask, he would propose an activity by himself, mixing it up every day and patiently explaining the same thing to you (well, me, really), over and over again. However, should you wish to skip all that and nap (my personal choice on far too many occasions, to my embarrassment), it was good to know that you are in capable hands and you can doze off to the very gentle rocking of the boat.
To my limited knowledge, we covered a lot of ground in a week: motor sailing, sailing into the wind and downwind, trying the respective tacks and jibes, anchoring in tiny bays and mooring in jam-packed marinas. After day 3, terms like ‘starboard’ and ‘port’ start replacing the familiar ‘right’ and ‘left’ and you do not think twice before grabbing a fender, as you spot an approaching boat in a busy marina.
We have encountered a variety of weather, too. It ranged from clear skies, burning sun and a sea so calm, sailing was not an option to a proper storm, with lightning ablaze. I have to admit that I did sleep through most of that storm but I understand the efforts needed to react to this sudden change of weather quickly. In principle…
Another thing I learned about sailing is that unlike your ground travel of city-hopping type, your plans have to be flexible and you should not always dictate where you will go. Part of this is the weather. Another part is that you have the freedom to explore, travelling in a moving ‘house’, essentially. Again, our skipper was very comfortable suggesting small substitutes along the way and we have had 2, I believe, as he has the insider knowledge of what would work best or where there are nicer things to see. Our itinerary was as follows:
Day 1 (Sat) Dubrovnik – Okuklje, Mljet
Day 2 (Sun) Okuklje, Mljet – Polaće, Mljet
Day 3 (Mon) Polaće, Mljet – Korčula
Day 4 (Tue) Korčula – Šćedro
Day 5 (Wed) Šćedro – Hvar / Pakleni Islands
Day 6 (Thu) Hvar / Pakleni Islands – Uvala Lucice (Brac)
Day 7 (Fri) Uvala Lucice (Brac) – Split
Day 8 (Sat) Split
When your substitutes look like this, would you mind changing course?
To top it all off, I have finally realized my longstanding dream of visiting Croatia. Living in Cyprus, I have crossed paths with quite a few expats from the region and they have all contributed to the vision of a country that is breathtakingly beautiful, full of delightful people, delectable food and fun things to do. Split, in particular was singled out for this purpose and we have tried (and failed) to organize a trip for a while. Having seen more than a fair share of gorgeous places around the Dalmatian coast, I have totally changed my perception of Eastern Europe, as a travel destination, from that of a post-Cold War desert to one of a veritable paradise.
I am hard pressed to pick my favorites, as each new spot was glorious in its own way and very different, too. I was absolutely dumbfounded by the beauty of the places and have two cameras with batteries drained to the max to prove it. Separate post with pictures of all places will be coming soon, but I will leave you with a few of my favorites for now.