Winter Sailing in Croatia: Why the Offseason Has its Perks

January 06, 2022 - Imagine this: The air is sharp and crisp. The sun is bright and brilliant. Looking out over the Adriatic Sea, it feels like you have the entire place to yourself. When the breeze whips up, it is exhilarating learning to harness the power of the wind to get the boat really moving. You can feel it on your face, and the adrenaline pumps through you as the yacht cuts through the waves. IMG 6073 copy min

Way before we came to Croatia, we began sailing just north of Wellington, New Zealand, in a place called Mana. The main sailing that we did was in races that took place in the thick of winter when the rain and the wind would join forces to whip your face raw and do their very best to freeze your fingertips off. The exhilaration of trimming your sails to catch the 25-knot southerlies was unmatched. Sure, the weather was a challenge. A challenge that most local sailors rose to, as long as conditions were safe and allowed us to get out of the harbour! A little cold or rain certainly never stopped us.

 So coming to Croatia, we did find it rather odd that there’s not much sailing to be found in the winter months. Especially with the incredible weather that prevails on the coast! Sure, sailing in summer is relaxing and highly Instagrammable. But let me tell you from personal experience, there is nothing quite like sailing here in Croatia in the winter. 

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Learn to Sail

Many hardy wannabe sailors tough out some pretty gnarly conditions in the UK and on the west coast of France to learn to sail. When those of us here on the Dalmatian Coast are cruising with sunny temps of 12 degrees Celsius during the day right now in December. We taught an American couple for a week at the end of November, and despite a couple of days of rain, the temperatures remained balmy. A little chilly out of the sun but nothing that good wet weather gear and a beanie couldn’t handle. And the comfortable charter boats that are aplenty out here on the coast mean that evenings spent down below in the salon with a warm meal and some local rakija are an ideal way to combat the cooler nights.

The swells in the Adriatic will also be a lot less serious than in more exposed seas, like the North Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean. Because the Adriatic is flanked by Italy and Croatia, with Slovenia right at the top, there isn’t as much distance (or fetch) for the wind to cover, meaning that the swells are smaller and less frequent. This makes tasks like learning to navigate from charts, making a three-point fix, and practicing how to tack and gybe a lot easier than doing these things in large, rolling swells! 

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There are several sailing schools here on the Croatian Coast. And keep in mind that the courses are designed to assess your skills. This is why we also recommend that, if you already have a sailing qualification or you are starting from scratch with sailing and want to work up to a qualification, spending a week on the water with an experienced instructor is recommended. This can either help you consolidate the skills you have already learned OR help you put together the building blocks to gain the qualifications you are working towards. With 45 Degrees Sailing, you can do this in a safe, supportive, constructive, and practical environment. And fun!

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What about a winter sailing holiday?

Most charter boats are booked for their annual haul-out and maintenance during the winter months. This is a pretty intensive process that includes removing the bimini, dodger, sails, and even the floorboards to get into those hard-to-reach places that the maintenance crew needs to access the most! Therefore, it is not easy to find a boat to charter in winter. You need to have a contact within the sailing industry in Croatia to find you a charter company willing to amend their maintenance schedule. 

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And, if you can find a charter company willing to charter a boat for you, then it is definitely possible to have a winter sailing holiday! Of course, with most of the restaurants and shops closed on the islands, it will look a little different from its summer equivalent. Provisioning before departure from the home marina is a must, as many supermarkets and markets on the islands, usually open in summer, are closed in winter. You need to ensure that you have enough for breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. There are still a select few restaurants open, and it is good to have a local liaison to find out where these restaurants are if you want to eat on-shore a few nights in the week. 

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Because the weather systems in winter do bring more challenging conditions, it is vital to have an experienced instructor/skipper who has local knowledge of the area and its many complexities that can often lead to winds that do not show up on the forecast apps! 

We highly recommend hiring a local skipper if you consider chartering a sailing yacht here in the Adriatic during the winter months. Local knowledge of weather systems, sheltered bays, and ports, as well as having contacts on the islands, is invaluable. And being in contact with your local skipper before your trip will enable you to ask questions, communicate your needs and expectations, as well as being able to get to know your skipper beforehand so that you feel more comfortable when you arrive and board your boat.

If you would like more information about sailing in Croatia during the winter months, whether as a learning exercise, a sailing holiday, or maybe a bit of both, feel free to contact 45 Degrees Sailing for more information.

If you want to travel in Croatia, check out our dedicated travel articles here: Travel.

 If you have questions on anything sailing in Croatia, feel free to ask below in the comments or check out Total Croatia, Sailing in Croatia: Your One-Stop-Shop for everything sailing.

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