Unless your numbers came up in the lottery or your BFF has a VBB (very big boat), chances are you think a yachting holiday is out of reach. Ah but that was before Intrepid added sailing to its exciting range of Marine adventures. Christian Wolters from Intrepid Canada couldn’t wait to hit the high seas…
“Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha going to do, watcha gonna do when they come for you?
Not exactly a sea shanty, but it worked just as well when we were pulling the lines on our fifty foot sail boat north of Dubrovnik, just off of Croatia’s coastline. We had been sailing all day through a nice gale of over fifty knot winds and three meter high waves. Of the eight passengers, three of us elected to help our German skipper Robin reef the sails and set the boat up for a controlled close hauled tack. Watching the sea break against the rocks on the shore I was amazed to think that this was the same Adriatic Sea that had gently carried us for seven days south down the coast.
Sailing Croatia was a trip I dreamed about for many years. For me this trip was an initial trial run to see what life was like from a small sail boat, a trial which will hopefully lead me to boat ownership one day.
When Intrepid Travel first announced their series of small boat sailing trips, it was not even a question of if, but when. I was also looking forward to this trip as it was a chance to vacation with three friends and get away from the stresses at home. The eight day Sail Croatia trip is designed perfectly to accommodate a variety of passengers: sailors, non-sailors, sunbathers, swimmers, culture lovers, city explorers and all of the above.
Our home on the water was a fifty foot Beneteau Oceanis, built with four double cabins, a bunk cabin and two bathrooms. The Oceanis also had a sizeable common area equipped with a dinner table, benches and a kitchen. Outside near the ship’s wheel was a nice sitting area protected by a canopy, which was perfect for enjoying the outdoors without getting burned by the hot Adriatic sun.
Days are spent exploring the coastline occasionally visiting towns and small cities like Dubrovnik and Split. I could write at length how beautiful Split and the other Croatian cities are, but needless to say they are spectacular and whether by land or by sea are worth exploring. While you have ample time to visit the towns in between, I recommend leaving time on either end of your sailing adventure to explore Dubrovnik and Split further.
The other aspect about small boat sailing is the flexibility to explore. One evening we decided to anchor in a small secluded bay for the night. After picking up supplies and of course some wine, we anchored in a small bay only our skipper knew about. This was my first opportunity to show off my knot tying skills by jumping in the water, swimming to the shore and then securing our boat to a tree on a cliff. Tying the boat in addition to the anchor stops the boat from swinging around the anchor point at night. Something I missed in sailing class that our skipper tipped us off on. I volunteered to do this while the rest of the group bemusedly watched me with cold beers in their hands. That night we cooked and ate fresh seafood paella under the stars… definitely one of the best moments of the trip.
Other evenings were just as magical. In Europe it is common to moor the boat stern (back end) to the dock. You are then just a short hop away from the local restaurants and shops. For those that love nightlife, it’s comforting to know that your bed is sometimes only fifty feet away! Evenings can be spent with the group or on your own. My friends and I often would explore the towns in the afternoon together and join the rest of the group for dinner, which of course was always optional.
Sailing conditions varied incredibly on the trip. Our first two days were entirely motoring days. What people often don’t realise is that there is a powerful inboard motor on sailboats that can carry you at a good clip. You won’t be waterskiing behind the boat, but you can trust you will make it to port for dinner each day regardless of the wind.
As our trip progressed the wind picked up. We spent a few days raising the sails and sometime sailing with the motor on but the real magic happened when we shut the engines down, and enjoyed the quiet as the wind started to fill the sails. What often amazes first time sailors is when a mono hauled boat (like Intrepid uses in Croatia), starts to lean or heel over. Suddenly your level ‘home’ is leaning over at 10-15 degrees or more which is an exhilarating experience!
Intrepid sailing trips do not require experienced sailors, nor do the skippers expect you to crew for them. They are fully trained to handle the craft by themselves, but it is my personal opinion that you will miss out on a fun part of the experience if you don’t at least help raise the sails, drop the anchor and tie-off the boat at port at least once. The skippers love when you can help them out and are only too willing to teach you to become competent crew.
Our last day out was a rarity. The wind started to pick up and eventually hit over fifty knots. We started the day under full sail but then quickly reefed it in. Reefing is a technique where sailors reduce sail so that the strong winds do not overpower the craft. Heeling too much actually makes the boat inefficient and can be dangerous under extreme conditions.
As the day progressed the waves started to grow to about three meters high and the wind continued to get stronger. This is where Robin, our very experienced skipper, really showed his level of ability. A good skipper doesn’t just handle the boat, they inspire confidence and remain calm even if their adopted crew are tripping over each other, which we definitely were!
At the height of the gale Robin got us to sing the popular theme song from the show Cops, which put us at ease and made the experience fun. I love watching the video I took of this moment as we all have such huge smiles on our faces. However the real highlight for me was when we came into port afterwards and an old Croatian skipper on shore gave us a small nod of respect. Ah yes we were definitely sailing bad boys!”
Ahoy there, if you can see yourself relaxing on deck with the wind in your hair, then come aboard our new Intrepid Sailing adventures. Enjoy a cruisey trip that gives you a whole new perspective and act fast to take advantage of our early bird savings!
* Yachting photo by Gary Felton; Dubrovnik photo by Lauren McLean – Intrepid Photography Competition