The last four weeks took Join the Crew to central Dalmatia. Our trip started in Trogir, with its narrow winding streets and beautiful Old Town, from which I didn’t get to see much of since each Saturday we were on land, in our day was jam-packed with greeting new crew and skippers, organizing the shopping for provisions, check-in and planning the upcoming weeks’ tour. At least we had time to enjoy a relaxed dinner and a cocktail or two in some of Trogir’s numerous bars. Saturday evening we cast off with the new crew for a safety briefing, after which, depending on the mood, we either set sail for the next harbor or one of the countless bays.
Speaking of the bays in Croatia, I’m not quite sure what to think since many of them, especially the well-protected ones, are full of buoy fields. On the one hand, this means you don’t have to deal with casting your anchor or turning your motor on since you can just sail to the buoy and cast off in the same way the next morning without having to worry about whether or not the buoy of the charter yacht next door will hold or not. So it’s really more comfortable and you don’t have as much to deal with as when every yacht casts its own anchor at a whim in the bay. But that’s exactly what I miss: the charm of yachts lying at will in the bay, and the feeling of wilderness. It’s like the difference between camping in the wild and going to official campgrounds where everybody gets their allotted plot. And why you have to pay up to 300 Kuna (ca. 40€) per night for a piece of cement with a length of rope attached to it is still a mystery to me. Fortunately we did find some bays that were “filled” with our flotillas of 5 or 6 boats. The harbor fees are also not negligible – you can pay up to 30 times more than in Greece – but at least here you have water, electricity and showers; in Greece you’ll often find a quay wall with zero infrastructure. And admission to the Blue Grotto on Bisevo?? Ridiculously expensive – you’d think the guys built it themselves and were bent on recapturing their investment costs! But the Grotto is a natural beauty, and spectacularly breathtaking.
If you manage to accept the fact that they rip off tourists, and especially yachties, you’ll actually be able to enjoy a fabulous sailing vacation in Dalmatia. Besides the gorgeous semi-secluded bays you’ll find beautiful old port towns like Hvar or Vis, crystal clear, warm water, lots of sun and just enough wind – and all this in well-protected sailing waters thanks to the islands off the coast. Usually. This year the weather was totally unpredictable, with thunderstorms every couple of days accompanied by strong winds and rain showers; the typical high-pressure system simply couldn’t prevail.
For younger crews looking to party, the sailing off of Croatia offers plenty of opportunities, especially since Yachtweek, a party-flotilla, calls the Dalmatians home. Yachtweek flotillas can be spotted more than a mile away by their colossal flags and strict un-use of their sails. Think what you want about them, but they sure know how to throw a party. The founders of Yachtweek even purchased and renovated the castle on the cliffs above the harbor of Vis, turning it into a perfect party location.
Otherwise you just try to keep out of their way, which is less complicated than it sounds considering they have about 50 boats per week out on the water. Thank God they have a fixed itinerary. But even they don’t always stick out in the masses of charter yachts that you’ll find between Trogir, Split and Vis. Friday afternoons, inVeli Drvenik, by Trogir, you can practically walk across the bay – that’s how many yachts you’ll find there. All in all, a wonderful sailing vacation is waiting to be enjoyed in Croatia…given that you can deal with the masses of yachts, harbors that are full by 10am and an occasional rip-off.