“Republika Hrvatska,” or the Republic of Croatia, is a small country with an area just over 56,000 square kilometers, but nevertheless occupies almost the entire eastern Adriatic Sea coastline across from Italy. This makes up an impressive landscape from the north of the country in the village of Gruda to the south in Dubrovnik, with an astounding 1,244 islands along the way, some inhabited and some not. Given the enormity of the country’s coastline, the sea plays not only an economic role for Croatia, with many sailors and tourists taking advantage of the area’s beauty, but also is a strong cultural and emotional part of the nation for its citizens.
The activities that go along with having an ocean at your back door are not only fun for Croatians, but also a key part in the development and self-perception of the people culturally and emotionally. The ocean plays an important role in the traditions of the Croatian people, so it is a key aspect of the country’s self-image. Not only does the coastline provide areas for boat building, commercial fishing, trading at ports and maritime transport – all of which are important aspects of Croatia’s character and economy – there are also numerous water sports available to experience on the Adriatic. Go for a swim, fish with your children, play water polo, go jet skiing, canoeing, wakeboarding, kayaking, rowing, surfing, water skiing, or sailing on and around the Adriatic Sea. Croatia’s long coastline makes all of these fun activities possible, and all of them are sports that Croatians participate in and are passionate about. The modern, good-quality infrastructure for water sports in Croatia makes participating in any of them a fun experience, which the whole family can join in on.
Seven of Croatia’s twenty counties lie on the Adriatic Sea: Istria, Primorje-Gorski Kotar, Lika-Senj, Zadar, Šibenik-Knin, Split-Dalmatia, and Dubrovnik-Neretva. All of these counties have a wide variety of providers for yacht charters, including renting out sailing boats and houseboats, and also are locations in which to reserve space in a marina or mooring spot. There are also shops, diving areas, places to surf, regatta courses, and saltwater pools, all of which are highly sought after. As one of the 30 most water-rich countries in the world, Croatia also has many navigable inland waters waiting to be explored. One of the largest and most famous of these inland bodies of water is Plitvice Lakes in the county of Karlovac, not far from the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina. Other well-known places are Lake Vrana, between Zadar and Šibenik, Lake Dubrava in the northern area of Međimurje and Varaždin, Lake Peruća in Dalmatia, and Lake Prokljan – where there are locations for abundant fishing – near Šibenik and Skradin.
The exact number of all the operating marinas in Croatia is difficult to calculate, as there is an almost overwhelming abundance of them. The official Croatian National Tourist Board lists more than 50 throughout the country, but insurance company ADAC shows over 1000 possibilities for ports and marinas all over Croatia. The areas with the most marinas are on the west coast of Istria between Novigrad and Rovinj, as well as in Pula and Opatija, west of Rijeka. On the islands of Krk, Cres and Rab in the Kvarner Bay, there are marinas in Punat, Cres and in Supertaska Draga, as well as in Veli Lošinj on the island of Lošinj.
In northern Dalmatia, a popular and very well liked marina is at Šimuni, but the many options in Zadar, the Kronati archipelago, Ugljan, Rava, and Dugi-Otok a bit further upstream also pull interest towards those islands. Further south, the isles of Lavsa, Murter, Sukošan and Biograd also have plenty of marinas available. Enjoy the services of a marina with a favorable reputation around the world by docking at Tribunj, Vodice, Šibenik or Skradin, which lie along the picturesque river Krka.
The ports at Primošten and Rogoznica in central Dalmatia offer marinas and anchoring possibilities scattered around the area’s bays. On the coasts east and west of the island Split are the marinas in Trogir and Kaštela, as well as Brela and Baška Voda and on the islands Brač, Hvar, and Vis. There are also places to anchor off of smaller, sometimes completely uninhabited and otherwise inaccessible islands, like Šolta, Čiovo, Drvenik Veli, Šćedro, Biševo, Svetac, Brusnik, Palagruža and Jabuka. However, sometimes these islands are protected zones or natural landmarks, and therefore you must ask specifically about the possibility of anchoring near them before doing so.
Finally, in particular on the southern Dalmatian islands Korčula, Mljet, and Lastovo, there are beloved and worthwhile day and nighttime accommodations for maritime travelers. You can find accommodation especially in fishing villages and little port towns on the neighboring peninsula Pelješac, where there are also many mooring and marina spots. These villages and islands offer not only accommodation in a range of comfort and price levels, but also a variety of dining options, shops, tourist stores, and many areas also speak English.
Those fluent in the local language can visit the website of the Croatian sailor’s association which is updated daily. The website details the climactic conditions currently prevailing in the various areas of Croatia. Though the Croatian site gives a detailed account of what is going on in the area, general information on the region can be found on many English pages. The Croatian Adriatic Sea is enjoys generally windless weather, especially during the summer high season, making the waters very calm and therefore ideal for sailing, also for beginner sailors.
Though during the night and in the early morning, especially in the areas around the coast, the air is very still, in the high-season summer months, there is a lovely Mistral wind which blows primarily from the northwest. The Mistral is a nice breeze, which you will surely appreciate on the hot summer days Croatia can sometimes experience.
As the cool sea breeze reaches its high point from north and south, reaching 4 to 7 on the Beaufort scale, vertical white clouds form and only rarely form the so-called Maelstrom storm. This cloud formation tends to occur between 2:00 pm and 4:00 pm.
Other commonly occurring winds throughout the Adriatic Sea region are the Scirocco and Jugo winds, which rate between a 2 and 4 on the Beaufort scale. The Scirocco and Jugo winds are softer, tend to blow evenly, and in the spring, summer and early autumn usually bring dust, heat and humidity with them from across the sea.
Another type of unpleasant wind is the katabatic Bora – with wind speeds up to 200 kilometers an hour and wind forces of 75 KN and 110 KN. The dreaded Bora winds can form from low pressures in upper Italy or high ones in the Ukraine, and are then named black or white Bora winds, respectively. The sudden and massive gusts of the Bora from northeast to east can occur throughout the year. In the winter they are longer, but in most cases they usually reach their peak between 7 and 11 in the morning and between 6 and 10 in the evening. The most affected areas are around the Gulf of Trieste, Rijeka and Kvarner, Northern Dalmatia, the Velebitski Canal in Senj, the areas around Sibenik and Split, the northern shores of the Peljesac peninsula, and the seas around Dubrovnik. The warnings from the Croatian radio stations will inform you about the winds so you are always alert. For people unfamiliar with the surroundings and those without a Croatian-speaking skipper, there are further signs for this not non-dangerous wind: If you see rolls of clouds in towers on the hilltops and then disappear and from the east you see nearing crests of clouds, you should anchor at the next possible opportunity.
Far fewer problems occurs to the Adriatic tides; water level changes vary usually only within a meter, and the current along the coast may change slightly to the northwest.
If you travel to Croatia with a chartered boat, you will need a certification from a notary in your starting country as well as a copy of a valid boat registration, the German Sport Boat Driver’s License for Sea, the license for driving a boat along a coast, a license for driving a sport boat at sea, and a license to drive a boat in the far open water. You will also need formal qualifications in order to have the boat recognized under the Croatian flag.
Vehicles intended for water sports, such as jet skis, are only allowed to be used privately and not for commercial use. People with these vehicles must register with the Ministry of Maritime Affairs, Transport and Infrastructure in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. If you are entering the country with a boat trailer or caravan, it is also a good idea to bring the green insurance card. The bottoms are allowed to measure 18.75 meters in length, 2.55 meters in width, and 4 meters in height, without exceptions. The minimum distance of motor and sailboats with less than twelve meters in length to the coast amount to 50 meters, and for longer boats it is 150 meters. There is a maximum speed limit of 4 knots in all bays and ports in Croatia. With its inclusion into the European Union in July 2013, new terms for fees, value-added taxes, and tolls have been created. For the most complete information on these updates, consulting the detailed rules for the transitional period, lasting through March 2014, at the Croatian Tourist Board is the best option.
To anchor is many bays in Croatia requires a fee, but look at the state-certified price list for the special prices for sport boats in the coastal waters of the Brijuni, Kornati, Krka, Mljet, and Telašćica National Parks.
In contrast to Germany and some other countries, a special boating license is required to operate jet skis and motorboats, as well as sailboats over three meters in length. For canoes, kayaks, surfboards and pedal boats, there are no special authorizations required. However, surfboards do need to be registered on shore. Sport fishing does require a permit, which you can obtain for a small fee in travel agencies in almost every coastal town.
Some nice sailing suggestions in Croatia are routes from Split via Starigrad, Biševo to Vis, Sveti Klement to Hvar, and from the island of Korčula and the Bay of Okuklje to Mljet and up to Dubrovnik. An Istrian round-trip would also make a nice sail, going from Veruda by Pula, Mali Losinj, Rab, Cres, Medulin, Brijuni and Vrsar and then back to Veruda. For a trip further south, start from Biograd and travel past the islands of Zut, Dugi Otok, Pag, Silba, Olib, Susak, Losinj, Mali Losinj, Vir and Zadar and then back to Biograd. There are also possibilities to sail the inland waters, to experience the waterfalls, rivers and extremely picturesque shores of the Plitvice Lakes, which were mentioned before.
In view and in spite of the recent admission of Croatia into the EU, there are still bureaucratic hurdles and lengthy planning ahead for the implementation of renting personal boats in the country. There are, however, numerous existing suppliers for yacht charter and boat rental; you can find over 3500 rental boats of all kinds and on all of Croatia’s coasts at YACHTICO.com. Catamarans, canoes, motor- and sailboats as well as yachts of various ages and from a range of well-known builders are conveniently listed and can be arranged according to which harbor they come from, price per week, special equipment, the number of cabins and bunks, as well as price evaluations with and without a skipper and crew. You can sort through in any of these ways, choose a boat, and with just three clicks you can have your yacht booked for between 550 and 19,000 Euros per week, depending on the exact individual wishes and requirements for the yacht. Skippers and weekend sailors can also find practical and helpful checklists on visa requirements, insurance companies, and useful information on the region for your holiday on a sailboat and/or houseboat in Croatia.
Inspiration, article and insider tips: Steffen Bruenn
Tip from editor: While planning for your charter vacation you should know which documents are necessary for your specific destination. If you go on your journey without a skipper or a crew it may be necessary to be in possession of an ICC certificate, "International Certificate of Competence". Additionally, in some destinations it is necessary to own a radio license. Learn more about international boat licenses and certificates here.