We sailed along the Croatian coast for two weeks in September 2009. Our ship was a Bénéteau Oceanis 323 and the entire route can be found below.
We sailed approximately 335 miles in total. Starting in Split via Brač, Korčula and Lastovo, then via the Elaphite Islands to Dubrovnik. Taking it easy, we sailed back via Mljet, Korčula, Hvar and Vis to Trogir, after which we returned to Split. Anchoring for 9 nights, and 4 harbours.
The weather was good, sunshine every day and temperatures up to 30 degrees Celsius and even higher. We had one day with rain and thunderstorms during this trip. The Bura winds gave us a great finale. Most days we had northerly (Bura) and northwesterly winds (Tramontana), and one day we had Jugo winds (southeasterly). Seawater temperature was 24 – 25 degrees Celsius – great for swimming.
Darkness came early (20:00) given that it was already late season. During the night, the temperature dropped to around 20 degrees Celsius. It was still pretty busy in the popular ports and bays.
Croatia: a great holiday destination. But the past is never far away, and you also find extreme poverty here. The average income is now over EUR 600 per month. That’s still not much when you consider that prices in the supermarket do no differ much from the prices in Western Europe. And remember: it is an average. If you are unemployed, or have a pension of EUR 150 per month, life seems no fun to me.
Every year there is a direct confrontation with this. And that is upon returning to the port of Kaštela. Most charters (and that often includes us) have leftover supplies. You buy some extra, you eat out more often than planned, et cetera. Because many crews leave by plane, that excess inventory gets thrown into the dustbin.
Usually it does not stay there for long. Each container is ‘managed’ by one or a few (usually older) Croats. The container park at the main entrance to the Marina even has an entire group with a strict hierarchy. The leader checks the bags and determines who gets what share of each bag. If this would not be so tragic, it would almost make me smile.
At the end of Saturday morning, as old crews have left and new crews trickle in, the collectors leave the port with their share. If your monthly income is EUR 150, then EUR 10 or EUR 20 extra per week is a welcome addition.
What a day! We start normal with breakfast and other necessities. But the wind is blowing in Trogir, and we see a number of ships with problematic departures. Our departure takes some effort as well.. The marina is cramped, and a current runs through it (from Kaštelanski Zaljev to Trogirski Zaljev). We make the turn too slow and hit the mooring of a ship opposite us. With some maneuvering we manage to get out. When inspecting the underwater hull later I fortunately find no damage (except a small dent in my sailors’ ego…).
When leaving the port of Trogir at 09:15 this is quickly forgotten. The sailing conditions are perfect. A north-easterly wind of 12 – 15 knots, and the weather forecast says it will blow all day. With the wind behind and the sails spread we fly out of the bay. Then heading toward Šolta, course 140. Unfortunately the fun ends after two hours, and with varying slight wind we barely manage to anchor in Uvala Nečujam by 13:00. Time for lunch and a round of swimming, including an inspection of the underwater ship after this morning’s experience in Trogir.
By 14:00 hours the wind seems to stabilise from a northeasterly direction, 5 to 7 knots. We lift our anchor, hoist the sails and leave the bay. In calm conditions we sail (course 30) towards Split and the entrance to Kaštelanski Zaljev. But then it happens …
Over our starboard bow, towards Split, I see the sea change in a boiling mass of water with high waves and crests. And that is rapidly approaching our ship. The Bura shows once again why it is a notorious wind that you always have to reckon with.
In less than one minute, the wind increases to 30 knots (Force 7), with gusts up to Force 8 to 9 (40 knots). The sea turns into a boiling mass of water. Just in time I manage to steer the bow into the wind. With heavily flapping sails, on a ship that is tossed around on the waves, we reef the sails. We put the second reef in the mainsail and bring back the jib to 1/3 of its normal size. Thus we have the boat back under our control.
The rest of the afternoon the Bura shows its teeth. Most ships plough back to Marina Kaštela on their engines, but I enjoy a little bit of sailing. And we have no pictures of course: we were just too busy with the ship … In sight of the harbor we lower our sails and join the queue at the Marina. By 18:30 our ship is back in its place. The whole evening and night the Bura sweeps the harbour, still over 30 knots. We don’t feel anything of that, since we are vast asleep.
05:15 am. It is still dark and the port of Vis is vast asleep. But our alarm beeps. We get dressed and go on deck. I take in the power cable and store the ramp. At 05:30 hours, coinciding with the Jadrolinija ferry, we start the engine. We drop the lines and slip out of our mooring. Everything goes smooth and in the wake of the ferry we sail out of Viška Luka. Outside, there is no wind. We change our course to 355, towards the western tip of Šolta island.
Not much later we see a beautiful sunrise over Hvar. At 06:30 a northerly wind (Bura) rises, rapidly increasing to 8 knots. We hoist the sails, switch off our engine, and keep our course of 355.
A large cargo ship passes us about a mile to port. For the rest the sea is empty. It remains empty during the next hours, while we steadily cover the miles between Vis and Šolta. Around ten o’clock we pass Šolta, and half an hour later we drop our anchor in the western arm of Uvala Solinska, a bay on the southside of the island Veli Drvenik. This is a beautiful bay, not too big, and very suitable for swimming. You can anchor deep in the bay. The water is crystal clear, you see the bottom, and there are lots of fish swimming around. We swim and snorkel around the bay and take a nap after our early start this morning. Then we have a big lunch. As usual during the last week, the winds dies down around noon. Since there is not much to do in the open, the conditions are excellent for a long break.
At 13:00 hours the wind rises again, now from a northwesterly direction (10 knots). This is our ‘anchor up’ signal. Outside Uvala Solinska we hoist the sails. With the wind 120 degrees to port we sail along the coast and along Krknjaš Veli and Drvenik Veli. Then we sail straight north towards the rocks and islets in front of Trogirski Zaljev, the bay of Trogir. The wind rose sharply once we left the shelter of Drvenik Veli. A northwesterly wind of 17 – 19 knots is blowing from Venički Kanal. We sail between the rocks Mali Pišćena and Galera (with beacon). Once we pass Rt Okruk we turn to starboard and with wind from behind, we set the mainsail to port and jib to starboard. Course 45, and with a speed of 5.5 knots we soon pass Rt Čubrijan; Trogir is in sight. Way too soon it is time to lower the sails. Since we have to hand over the ship again tomorrow, we fill up the fuel tank at the petrol station in Trogir. Only 19 liters, and that for the entire stretch from Dubrovnik to Trogir.
While refueling, threatening clouds appear over the mountains north of us. An ominous thunder strikes. Luckily refueling does not take long, and at 15:00 hours we moor in ACI Marina Trogir. We did not visit Trogir since 2004, but nothing has changed. Like ACI Marina Korčula it is a somewhat outdated and very cramped port, with the added disadvantage that it is directly under the flightpath of Split airport. But the view of the old town of Trogir compensates that! That evening we eat pizza on the promenade of Trogir.
Vis, that beautiful island about 30 miles south of Split. Last year we spent a night in a bay here, but we did not visit the town of Vis for years. Today we go to visit an old friend. He is a sailing instructor at Ultra Sailing, and is currently training with a group in this area.
We stay in bed until after 09:00 am, too late for the weather forecast. Around 10:30 we lift anchor and sail out of the bay. There is enough wind to hoist the sails immediately. There is a light wind from northwest, 6 knots. We make a number of tacks that bring us slowly toward Rt Pelegrin. During one of these tacks we see a group of dolphins about 100 meters from the boat, but they decide not to come close to our ship.
When rounding Rt Pelegrin around 13:15, it is very crowded with sailboats, motorboats and a ferry. We quickly leave the crowds behind us and slip between the islands Paržanj and Borovac, heading south this time. We see the island of Vis on our bow already. The wind gradually increases to 11 – 12 knots and turns slightly west. Perfect for our course. We do not drop our sails until deep in the bay Viška Luka. The whole day we’ve seen people going around on engine, even though the sailing conditions are excellent.
At 16:00 hours, the quay of Vis is already very crowded. It seems to be operated as a marina, with rates to match. For 300 kuna (about EUR 40) we can moor our 32-footer overnight, and use of the (not very clean) showers will take another 30 kuna. Anyway, a bit later we sit behind huge mugs of beer to catch up and share the latest news and local sailing gossip.
That evening we eat at Bufet Vis on the quay. The restaurant does not look like anything, but the food is delicious. A wonderful lukewarm salata od hobotnica (octopus salad) and a red risotto, complemented by an excellent grilled fresh fish with garlic and fresh parsley. After this we board the Ultra training vessel for some fine wine. At 22:30 (late for our standards) we are in our bunks. And that while we have early plans for tomorrow morning.
We start the day slowly, these are our holidays. At 10:00 we lift anchor. Between Korčula and Trstenik there is already 8 knots of wind from the northeast. So we hoist the sails immediately. We hardly used the engine since Dubrovnik, the batteries are getting low by now.
After passing Trstenik island and upon reaching the open sea, we sail west towards Rt Velo Dance, the southwestern tip of the island Korčula. The wind is north-northwesterly, so we do not manage to sail our desired heading in a northwesterly direction toward Pakleni Otoci, the islands off the southern coast of Hvar. For the time being we follow a more westerly course toward Vis.
During the morning the wind turns gradually to a northeasterly direction, which gradually brings our course to a more northwesterly direction. Early afternoon we sail just off the island of Sveti Klement. It is lovely sailing weather, in winds of around 15 knots. By 14:00, when we come near Sveti Klement, the wind turns back to the northwest.
Sveti Klement is rather frightening. In recent years the vicinity of Hvar became increasingly crowded, one of the reasons why we prefer to avoid that spot. But never before did we find all the bays on the south side of Sveti Klement already overcrowded with ships on anchor by 15:00 in the afternoon. Uvala Tarsće and Uvala Vinogradisče feel like Spanish Costa campsites in the August high season… We take a look at Luka Soline, but did not anchor there. It is too deep (more than 20 meters) and we find the bay not well protected. There are only some buoys at a restaurant, but all were taken already.
After some discussion we decide to sail to Tiha Luka to the north of the island of Hvar in Starogradski Zaljev, the bay of Stari Grad. The wind by now turned directly west and increased to 17 – 18 knots. We motor west along the south coast of Sveti Klement, which solves the problem of drained batteries as well. Near 16 ° 20 ‘E we sail straight north between the islands Paržanj and Borovac through. After this we hoist the sails. We pass Rt Pelegrin and sail in an easterly direction. At 17:00 we reach the entrance of Luka Tiha and take our sails down. Half an hour later we anchor in one of the smaller bays on the west side of Tiha Luka.
A good night of sleep in Korčula marina. We get up at 07:30, shower, shop and have breakfast. Then we visit an internet cafe for weather and wind forecasts for the remaining days of our trip. Most mornings they predict Bura (north / northeast) 3 to 5 Beaufort. During the afternoon Maestral Tramontana (north west). The temperature will be fine again.
This morning we first have a strong northerly wind (Bura), 20 to 25 knots. In those conditions, ACI Korčula is always an exciting port to leave, because it is a bit cramped. You see many people use a spring line. We are lucky that our neighbors on both sides depart fairly early, so that we have more room to maneuver. Without problems we drop our lines and at 10:15 we leave the harbor. Right outside the harbor we hoist the sails, there is now a 15 knots wind from the north. We do not sail east towards Mljet, nor westward via the Peleški Kanal between Korcula and Pelješac. We sail southward, navigating between the islands and along the rocks and shallows on the east side of Korčula, round Rt Rašjnić, the eastern tip of Korčula.
Then we follow the southern coast of Korčula in a westerly direction. Here. we do not suffer the worst bouts of Bura, and the sea is much calmer and friendlier than at the north side of the island. The south side is almost empty, apart from the village of Brna there is little evidence of civilization. Over our port bow we see the island of Lastovo, and the rest is emptiness and silence.
The wind remains favorable for most of the day, although it decreases during the afternoon. All in all it takes us just over 6 hours to cover 30 nautical miles, and at 4:45 p.m. our ship anchors in Tri Luke. Soon we are in the water, cooling off again after a hot day. During the evening there are five other ships at anchor in the bay, and is very quiet. We crawl away as deep as possible inside the bay. Meanwhile, there is virtually no wind…. And from the cockpit, we have a beautiful view of the isllet of Trstenik, in front of Tri Luke.
An intense day today. From 00:00 hours I have anchor watch. During the night I see a large motoryacht and a sailboat drifting and anchoring again. Our 50 meters pf chain in the keep us happily fixed. But I get precious little sleep this night. Quiet periods are interspersed with gusts of 30 to 35 knots. The moon is almost full (it is 1 day after full moon) and the light adds to the spooky weather.
At 08:20 we listen to the weather forecast. Bura in the morning, with gusts to 35 knots. Nevertheless at 09:00 hours we attempt to leave Luka Polače. Halfway through the outward channel we turn around again. Gusts of 30 knots, and the sight of a more than choppy sea full of crests. After anchoring again I go and sleep for a few hours, to make up for last night.
Around noon we make a second attempt. The sky has been wiped clean by the Bura, all the clouds disappeared and have been replaced by a clear blue sky. This remains one of the special features that make this wind so impressive. Visibility has improved considerably. The wind has diminished somewhat, but there are still gusts of up to 25 knots. Yet we try. Near the shore there is a pretty steep swell, which seems logical on a lee shore. Once we are through this, it becomes easier. With a double reefed mainsail and 2/3 jib we set a course of 315 towards Korčula. It only takes a few hours to cover the distance between Mljet and Korčula, and just after 15:00 we moor in the marina. Time for the second shower of the week. At night we walk around Korčula, it remains a beautiful town.
The weather is different today. We found refuge in Luka Polače before, and this protected bay serves us well today. Around midnight a stromg esterly wind appears. Fortunately, we do not run into problems. Some other yachts, however, have to re-anchor during the night.
Things get quiet during the morning, and a number of ships lift anchor and leave. After the 08.20 weather forecast on Dubrovnik Radio we go ahsore for fresh bread, some small groceries and a strong coffee. Polače did not change much: a few restaurants, a small supermarket and a bakery. No Internet-shop anymore: there was an internet connection in one shop in 2007, but the nearest connection is now 2 kilometers away. The weather forecast predicts rain, thundershowers en fierce gusts of wind for later in the day. And the weather forecast is right. Around noon we get a huge rainshower, and during the afternoon a thundershower passes our anchorage The water dripping from our bimini fills a whole bucket in less than 45 minutes, and we use it to clean our cockpit.
We keep quiet for the rest of the day, some reading and between thundershowers also a swim. During the afternoon we stop by a British ship that anchored next to us. Its homebase has been Dubrovnik for the last four years. The heat has gone with the rain, and the weather is lovely.
Early evening, our neighbor comes by to warn that 50 knots squalls are predicted for the night and morning. We make sure our deck is empty and set out some extra anchor chain for security, we now have over 50 meters of chain in the water.
Early in the morning a south-easterly wind starts blowing, about 10 knots. After breakfast we listen to the weather forecast via Dubrovnik Radio. The general weather picture is not so good, as we already saw when checking the long-term weather forecasts in an internet café in Dubrovnik. Today we will have a southeasterly wind of up to 20 knots, and tomorrow will be cloudy with an increasing risk for rain- and thundershowers.
We lift anchor around 08:30 and leave the harbour. Both mainsail and genua go up immediately. By now the wind is 12 – 14 knots, with gusts of 18 knots. Our course is 305 along the islands of Jakljan, Kosmeč, Goleč and Crkvina, then sailing between Tajan and Jakljan via the channel Veli Vratnik along Olipa towards the open sea. Already in the Veli Vratnik channel we have to deal with worsening sea conditions, and waves up to 2 meters. We keep our course of 230 towards the coast of Mljet island, where the sea is more quiet. Then we change our course to 280 and follow the coast of Mljet in a northwesterly direction. The wind varies between 12 and 18 knots from a southeasterly direction, our boat speed is well over 5 knots.
During our trip, dark and threatening clouds drop down on us from the hills and mountains of Mljet. Fortunately we do not get any rain, but it looks impressive. We pass Prožura and Sobra during the next few hours, and around 11:30 we see Hr Kula, the rock with a light on top in front of the southern entrance to Luka Polače. We sail between the mainland of Mljet and the islet of Kobrava, and inside we take our sails down. The last mile is done on engine, and around 13:00 we drop our anchor in the northeastern corner of Uvala Rogač, the cove across from the small village of Polače.
That afternoon the clouds disappear, and we can still enjoy some sunshine. That evening the Parc rangers of Mljet National Parc come by to collect the entrance fee of 90 kuna per person. The evening is hot and humid.