Sailing in Croatia: 8 Lessons We Can All Learn From Sailors

By 29 May 2018

29th May 2018, the summer sailing season is well and truly underway. After a few sailing trips at sea, here are my musings on ‘why there are sailors and everyone else’, aka some of the lessons we could all do with learning from sailors.

I must admit, for the last few years, I have been working on luxury yachts and gulets as a hostess with a full crew. We had a captain, myself as hostess, a deckhand and a chef, we rarely sailed and to my embarrassment, after 4 years at sea, I had never even tied a fender. My sole focus was the guests, who received my complete attention and silver service, I didn’t have the time or energy to think about how the boat actually functioned as a whole. Plus, any time I did try to step in and help throw a line or something, the deckhand would immediately take over, either because I was female or because he didn’t want me ‘doing his job’. So, learning to sail this year has been a whole new world to me and... – I freakin’ love it!

I did a skipper training just over a month ago and early on the instructor (Mario Kundih) said to us “there are sailors and then there is everyone else”, I didn’t completely understand this at the time but now that I have spent more time actually sailing, I am beginning to understand this sentiment more and more. So, here’s a list of why I think sailors are top-notch humans and the lessons I think we can all take into our day-to-day lives.

  1. Sailors are the definition of teamwork

Last month I took part in the skipper training organised by Nava Boats aboard their gorgeous, performance X Yachts. The training covered everything from reading charts, understanding the yacht, mooring and docking to sailing – naturally. The 3 days covered so much (you can read the full story here) but one of the things that really stood out to me, was how, just after a day, everyone’s clumsy and fumbled movements became more coordinated, fluid and everyone began working together as one. All of a sudden, everyone was looking at what was going on around the boat and working together to get her moving seamlessly across the water. When you are on a yacht, you aren’t just going to stay in your ‘role’ and watch someone else struggling. There is a genuine “we’re in this together” mentality. You have a common goal of sailing and arriving safely to your destination. You learn every aspect of the boat which makes the individual, as well as the whole stronger.

Once I was in a clothing store, where no one was manning the counter, 3 employees stood around frustrated that person A wasn’t at the counter while there was a steadily growing queue, yet no one stepped in to help because it was not their job – not that they didn’t know the job, just that they weren’t scheduled to be on the counter at that moment… You won’t get this on a sailing yacht, if someone is struggling or not where they should be, guaranteed someone else will be there in a second to help pick up the slack. Teamwork makes the dreamwork.

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Credit: Croatia Yachting

  1. Sailors can sit in silence

Is it just me, but I feel like a lot of people struggle with the notion of silence? Not all silence needs to be uncomfortable and too many people feel the need to fill every space with words, just talking for the sake of talking. Maybe I learned this from my father who was a man of few words, he was a practical man, a joker also but he chose his moments, and what he said typically meant something. My husband is the same. I am more of a talker than either of these two men but I can still appreciate silence, particularly in nature. And so too, can most sailors I know or anyone you put on a boat for that matter.

It helps that nature and the sea provides the perfect setting to lose ourselves in, watching the sun sinking into the horizon or the dance of glimmering light across the surface of the Adriatic. Silence is no longer uncomfortable, even for a group of strangers, it becomes contemplative and almost meditative.

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Credit: Tash Pericic

  1. Sailors respect the environment

Sailors have an ingrained respect for nature - they learn quickly to never underestimate the power of mother nature and they also understand their impact on the environment and do their best to take care of the sea. Of course, this could be a generalisation, especially as I have witnessed trash dumped in the sea by a neighbouring mini-cruiser overnight. But, I am talking about true sailors, those with a passion for the sea and sailing; not those who work on a cruiser as a means to an end and have never raised an actual sail in their life. There is a difference. But those who are passionate about their role and the sea are the ones minimising their plastic use, recycling, reusing and doing beach clean-ups whenever they can. They understand that the sea is a great natural resource, the livelihood of many and it is up to us to take care of it.

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Credit: Tash Pericic

  1. Sailors are organised

Ever seen photos of all of the beautifully coloured ropes (lines) on a boat, all tied and in order? This isn’t posed, when they aren’t in use, this is exactly how they look every day. Sailors have it drilled into them to organise their lines and keep their boat in order because they know otherwise, it can lead to chaos. It is not a matter of aesthetics (though of course, we all like our boat to look in order), it is a matter of practicality. If you want to raise your sails or need to tack and your lines are all tangled and a mess, it is really going to screw things up, which can also lead to dangerous situations.

This goes for everything around the boat, before we start sailing, we check that all hatches, portholes, cupboards and doors are closed or locked and all plates, glasses or any other paraphernalia are in their correct place so nothing goes flying en route. My husband and I aren’t always this disciplined at home, but on the boat, we switch into a different mode – I know where everything is at any given time and the second a guest has finished with a cup I have launched myself to take it out of their hands and put it safely in the galley.  

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Credit: Tash Pericic

  1. Sailors know how to go with the flow

This statement seems to be the opposite of what I just wrote above but carry on reading, being organised for practical reasons is one thing but a sailor also needs to be able to go with the flow for a million other reasons. A sailor pays attention to the weather forecast but things can change in the blink of an eye, like summer storms, and you need to be ready to react. We could write a detailed itinerary of where we will sail every day for 7 days but this can and does change given the wind or just the mood and whim of the clients. A good skipper doesn’t force their own agenda on their guests (unless it is a matter of safety) but rather adapts and adjusts day by day. You take the good with the bad and learn to not get too hung up on a ‘plan’, as in life, some of the most spontaneous decisions end up creating some of the best memories.

  1. Sailors appreciate the journey

When travelling, we are normally waiting to get to our destination. Most charter guests come on board with a list of must-see and must-do, which makes sense if it is your first time to a destination. But true sailors, appreciate the journey just as much, if not more so than the actual destination.

For example, last week, we had a group of passionate sailors with us, they didn’t care where we ended up, they just wanted to sail, so we followed the wind and ended up doing a wonderfully ludicrous itinerary: Šolta – Vis – Vela Luka (Korčula) – Šolta – Rogoznica – Komiža – Split. Plot this on a chart and it zig-zags backward and forward, there is no way a captain on a cruiser would do this itinerary because it makes no sense. But that is the way the wind blew, so that’s where we went. As our guest said “we couldn’t care less about where we end up, it’s about the sailing”. They enjoyed the sail and were thrilled and surprised when we pulled into a port they hadn’t been before. It’s not the destination but the journey, right?

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Credit: Tash Pericic

  1. Sailors are handy, a jack-of-all-trades

Again, I am not saying that all are this way but to be efficient as a skipper and sailor, you really need to have a solid knowledge base about how the boat functions and be able to fix whatever comes up. As a hostess, when I give a welcome spiel, I always make a point of explaining to the guests that we are basically a hotel on the water, with a lot more moving parts and opportunities for this to go awry. No matter how organised or what condition the boat is in, there are always things that can and do go wrong; if you are clueless, you will essentially be up shit creek without a paddle.

I have watched my husband in a typical week fix: water pumps, electrical wiring, air-conditioners, re-wire the power board, change the engine’s filters and oil… the list is endless. Thankfully he is a qualified electrical engineer, everything else – like plumbing (on a boat), he is self-trained. You also need to be a bit of a MacGyver because more often than not, you don’t have the exact solution, so you need to fashion a fix from whatever is on-hand.

Believe it or not, this skill also moves into the kitchen. We cook meals onboard, and often, guests will tell us last-minute about a dislike or allergy, meaning you need to be able to think on your feet and create a new menu plan from what you have in store – vegetable risotto it is!

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Credit: Tash Pericic, Captain Mirko, painting the mast

  1. Comradery and Community

This aspect I was already aware of; there is a real sense of comradery and community at sea. From the charter perspective, you get to know other boats and crews, they become your second family or roaming community at sea, it is always nice to pull into port and see a few familiar faces. It’s also good to be able to vent to people who understand the job and industry. And while there is a sport of watching (and laughing) at others docking, if anyone was really in need of help, you can guarantee, all crew in the vicinity would jump to aid. From the sailing, bareboat or regatta angle, the same comradery exists, there is often banter between boats and when you pull into ports and marinas, it is not uncommon to make friends with your neighbours or be invited over for a drink.


These are just a few of the reasons sailors are great humans and I am sure I will discover even more throughout the season. The above aren’t just traits, they are good life lessons for us all. Splash a little vitamin sea in your life and take a leaf from a sailor’s book.

See you on the Adriatic!