In my junior year of high school I worked as a cook at a summer camp in the Sierras. That little gig lead me to a stint in the food service industry as well as lighting a little spark in my love for wind-powered water crafts. While at camp, when I wasn’t mixing up massive batches of macaroni and cheese or clearing plates to put in the industrial-sized dish washer, I went to the alpine lake and did my best to not turtle their Lasers and the Hobie Cat. At 9,000 ft in elevation, the last thing you wanted to do is finding out just how cold that water is first hand. All summer long I sailed across the lake numerous times, explored the coastline and discovered countless alcoves inaccessible by land. That summer led to me owning several sailboats of various sizes in my 20s as well as getting my bareboat chartering certification.
The dream to sail across oceans is one that hasn’t yet been realized. It may happen one day but we are perfectly happy traveling by land for the foreseeable future. However when the stars align just perfectly, I get to use that knowledge of seafaring on other people’s boats.
I’ve made several trips to Croatia in the last 15 years. Each time I am here I find myself staring out into the Adriatic Sea at the islands that dot the Dalmatian coast wishing I was out on a boat exploring the coastline. Well this time it finally happened.
We came across a perfect opportunity to work with Orvas Yachting from Split, Croatia and take out a beautiful 2016 Beneteau Oceanis 38 for a week this past October (2018). October in Split isn’t exactly the perfect time to charter a boat. The high season is between May and September. But if you are lucky, like we were, you can find a beautiful weather window for calm seas and sunny skies. And when you do, you will find very little crowds at all of the beautiful bays and anchorages.
There were a total of 8 of us on this 38 ft boat. It sounds like a lot of people on a smallish boat and it is. However with these modern boats, friendly cabin layouts and wide beams and sterns make it very manageable. Between 4 adults and 5 kids, we did not feel cramped at all. No one had to make any compromises in the sleeping arrangements and there were plenty of places to sit and relax underway as well as at anchor.
We left the marina from Split a little later than we hoped. Getting the boat ready and becoming familiar with all of the mechanics always take longer than you’d expect.
But it does mean we had beautiful afternoon lighting as we motored away from shore and headed towards the islands.
Our first night at sea we didn’t know what to expect. We have not used any of the gear that came with the boat so picking the right place to drop anchor for our first night was critical. We arrived at our first option in complete darkness. It is a little bay called Livke on the island of Šolta about 10 nautical miles from Split. It was tricky since we had never been there before and did not know anything about anchoring in this bay. The moonless skies really threw a large wrench into our plan to overnight at a peaceful bay as we decided to leave and find a safer place to start our journey.
To make it even more difficult, the area we were crossing is heavy with boat traffic. Most of the ferries to shuttle cars and people to and from the islands navigate through a narrow passage between Šolta and Brač islands. Making sure we steered clear of their way in the dark makes the palms a little sweaty.
We managed to find a safe harbor in the town of Milna, Brač and tied to a dock for the night. There may have been a tense moment but we were happy to tie up and have a good night of sleep.
Many of the bays and coves on the Dalmatian islands have mooring balls and concessionaires that offer food and drinks. By this time of the year, many of them have closed for the season. The ones that are open are happy to see some late stragglers like us to make a few bucks. We however came prepared with everything we needed for the week so we made pretty much all of our meals on the boat.
We really had amazing luck with weather on this trip. Being in the middle of October, anything can happen weather wise. What we had was summer like conditions and warm enough to swim in the water every day on our trip.
The kids have never overnighted on a large sailboat. We’ve taking some day charters in the past but this was new to them to take a week long charter. If we are ever going to try living on a sailboat in the future, this trip had to be a positive experience for them.
Luka was hesitant of the boat at first. He was certain that the boat was going to sink and I had to ensure him that we are not gonna allow that to happen.
It took no time for all of them to get right in the rhythm of boat life.
We might move a little slower than we do in other modes of transportation but seeing these islands from the boat was a fascinating experience for all of us.
See Luka, this is totally safe.
Our friends Jason and Angela brought along their inflatable paddle board which made it even more exciting everywhere we went.
For 7 nights, we visited 7 different bays and 5 islands.
The galley was plenty convenient for making meals for all 8 of us. I guess it helps that we are all used to living in vans.
During one of our stays we even had a local fisherman offer us fresh squids that we made into delicious calamaris. We found out that Aunt Jemima’s pancake mix makes the perfect batter for that.
About midway through our trip we sailed into the town of Hvar on the island of Hvar. It is a very popular tourist destination and in the summer time, there are literally hundreds of boats waiting to get inside this harbor. We had no problems at all during this time of year. We even got to tie up to one of the few mooring balls for the night and slept under the lights of the city and the fortress on the hill.
The second half of the trip we visited a few more anchorages. Here is one on the island of Hvar where a concessionaire’s restaurant has already closed for the season.
We dropped an anchor from the bow and tied to one of the mooring lines to the stern and spent a beautiful night here.
The restaurant on the shore is home to 5 kittens that couldn’t have been more than a few months old.
All the kids wanted to do is paddle ashore to feed and pet these little guys.
It took everything to not adopt these cut little fur balls.
The last 2 nights we sailed across to the other side of Šolta island and explored a couple more beautiful spots.
First one is the Blue Lagoon where the water gets to only about 6 feet deep. We had to be careful to not run aground as we maneuvered closer. We dropped anchor at about 10 ft of water and spent an amazing night right at the lagoon.
Sometimes when there are 8 people, the dinghy is the only place to find some peace and quite.
But when your little guy wants to bring you a beer, you row your boat right back to the swim platform.
This was an amazing trip. I still can’t get over how great of weather we had. I may have even wanted a bit more wind to have some more excitement while sailing, but to make sure the kids had a good time, it was more than I could have asked for.
For the last few years we have contemplated moving to a sailboat to continue exploring our world. Ultimately, we decided that there was more to see by land. But after how much fun we had on this trip, we may never know how much longer we can stay away.
Thanks again to Orvas Yachting for working with us on this bareboat charter. I’d highly recommend them for anyone looking to explore the Adriatic Sea and it’s beautiful Dalmatian Islands. If you are interested in seeing more from our charter, check out our Sailing Croatia 2018 playlist on our YouTube channel!