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.
The morning is spent finding provisions, drinking coffee in the harbour restaurant and preparing the boat for departure. The prognosis for today promises 6 – 12 knots of Jugo, wind from the south-east. This is perfect for us, given that we are on the most south-eastern point of our trip.
Around 10:30 we drop our mooring lines and leave ACI Marina Dubrovnik. We follow the Rijeka Dubrovačka downstream. Upon entering the bay of Gruž, we hoist our sails. There is 8 knots of wind from south to southeasterly directions. We sail out of the bay towards the open sea, and change our course to the west. The following hours we sail along the islands Koločep and Lopud. After passing Rt Kuk we sail a more northwesterly course along the island of Šipan. Around 14:00 we sail through Prolaz Harpoti and, after taking our sails down, moor in the harbour of Šipanska Luka. It is very quiet here, especially when the wind dies down later that afternoon. That evening we stay out in the cockpit until late, with some nice food and drinks.
Today will be an easy day. The forecast predicts southwesterly wind, turning to southeasterly (Jugo) later. We lift anchor around 10:30 and motor through Prolaz Harpoti towards open sea. We hoist our sails in 8 knots of wind. First we make a long run on course 210 towards open sea. We take continuous bearings on the island of Lopud (Rt Kuk), and as soon as we clear that cape, we tack and change course to 120. This takes us past Lopud and Koločep. Sailing between Rt Bezdanj and the islet of Grebeni we enter Velika Vrata, and past the island of Daksa we enter the Rijeka Dubrovačka, motoring under the Franjo Tudjman bridge. A few miles upstream we reach ACI Marina Dubrovnik, but we stop for fuel at the gas station first. Around 15:00 we moor our ship in the marina. The rest of the day is spent cleaning up both the ship and ourselves, and that evening we visit Dubrovnik. It seems to get busier every time we come here. With three large cruise ships in front of the Old City and in the harbour, the town is full of tourists.
We took a ‘slightly’ different approach this time. We participated in an offshore cruising trip, organised by Ultra Sailing. The trip brought us from Split (Croatia) via various Italian harbours to La Valletta on Malta (and back). The distance covered was over 1.100 nautical miles in all, 2.000 kilometres.
Sailing the high seas requires a different ship. Our choice was a Bénéteau 50. A good and stable ship, with all the facilities required for a trip like this. Our route can be found here. We had a crew of 9, including a professional skipper with experience on this route. Myself, I was one of the watch leaders. The trip took 2 weeks to complete.
We took hundreds of photos during this trip. It takes me some time to sort them out. For this first version of the story I have just selected a few, more will follow!
Our watch from 0100 – 0300 is extremely quiet. Easy sailing conditions, light shipping traffic, calm sea and a moonlit night (the moon is nearly full by now).
When we come up for our 0700 – 0900 watch, conditions are completely different. The ship has just rounded Capo Santa Maria de Leuca. Waves have increased and are now moderate (4 on the Douglas scale, up to 2,5 meters). The wind has increased to 25 – 35 knots (around 7 Beaufort). Obviously, the predicted storm for the Adriatic Sea has arrived early.
It becomes a day of very hard work. During the day, sea conditions worsen to very rough (6 on the Douglas scale, waves up to 6 meters). The wind increases to 8 Beaufort, with gusts of up to 42 knots (9 Beaufort). We sail under a small jib and without a mainsail. Still we record speeds in the double digits – our average speed during this day is well over 9 knots. Our record speed was 18,4 knots while surfing from a wave. That is just over 34 kilometres per hour, an incredible speed for a boat this size! I do not know whether it was storm related, but we saw dolphins at least ten times during this day. I do not have much time to take notice, however. Not all crew members can take their turn on the rudder in these conditions, and I have to take extra turns which are not physically hard work, but requires constant concentration.
Around 1930 we know we are in the vicinity of Cavtat, the most southern town of Croatia. However, we are unable to find it… There are few beacons along this part of the coast, it is dark and raining, the 6 metre waves make that we do not even see the mainland at all time. We find the situation too risky to enter this rather tricky harbour, and decide to press on for Dubrovnik.
By 2030 we have Dubrovnik in sight. Even here we have to take care to find the right beacons marking the entry to the harbour, which is marked by rocks on all sides. However, by 2000 we enter Velika Vrata and pass between Rat Bezdanj and the island of Grebeni. Some 15 minutes later we pass under the famous bridge.
By 2130 we arrive at ACI Marina Dubrovnik. Nobody responded to our calls via VHF and mobile phone, so we pick our own spot along the quay and moor the boat ourselves. Back on Croatian soil. Time for a quick shower, and then for a long sleep…
It was quite an adventure, our first charter trip, having trained for two years with the sailing school. Very educational indeed. We had some great sailing, despite the not-so-good weather this year. Below you find our route.
Just before 10:00 AM we leave ACI Marina Komolac. Upon leaving the estuary of Rijeka Dubrovacka, which runs between high mountain ranges, we can hoist the sails. The wind is 10 – 15 knots from the north-west. Our choice is to sail along the southern coast of Mljet. Around noon, the wind change to more westerly and strengthens a bit. By now, our speed is well over 7 knots, and we continue tacking westward.
During the afternoon, the wind rose to 20 – 35 knots from the NW. That is a bit more than the predicted 10 – 12 knots! There is a strong swell as well. We put one, later two reefs in the mainsail, and continue the battle against wind and waves. Around 19:30 we arrive in Pomena, on the north-western tip of Mljet. The quay in front of the hotel is already full, but the bay behind the hotel is a superb anchoring ground. We stay out late in the cockpit, and I also sleep there. Out at sea, the only place where you can still see a star-spangled sky!
The day starts fine, with sunny weather and wind from the north-west, around 10 knots. Around 10:00 Am we leave the harbour and zet sail for Dubrovnik (SE). Around 13:00 the wind dies completely. The ‘morning breeze from the north-west comes back around 15:00. We hoist mainsail and blister, making 4 – 5 knots in light seas. However, again it does not last, so in comes the ‘iron sail’ again. Sick and tired of this ‘on-and-off’ sailing, we decide to make it for Dubrovnik still today. Around 19:30 we approach the estuary of the Rijeka Dubrovacka, with its beautiful Coastal Highway bridge. From there, it is another 2 nautical miles to ACI Marina in Komolac. We moor just before dark.