As detailed in Let’s Sail the Mediterranean, we planned a trip to Croatia to spend a week sailing as part of a flotilla. We decided to go with Activity Yachting after looking into a number of different options; different flotilla companies, different itineraries and locations, different sailboats (brands, sizes, ages, and configurations). You should have seen the spreadsheet!
Activity Yachting is a small company based out of Marina Betina on Murter Island, roughly halfway between Zadar and Split. They run flotillas with a number of different options:
- charter a boat from their fleet, with or without a skipper
- do a Learn to Sail course as part of the flotilla
- charter a third-party boat through them, as part of the flotilla
Through them, we chartered a 2010 Bavaria Holiday 51 with 5 cabins (3 double cabins, 2 bunk cabins) from Marina Hramina, another marina on Murter that is only a 15min walk away from Marina Betina. This made it easy to go to the briefing on the first morning, and allowed us to get exactly the right boat for our needs.
We did the trip with Lindsay’s cousin, her husband, and their 3 kids, which meant 4 adults, and 6 kids (ranging from 7-14). It was a full boat, but the size worked out for our 2 families. The boat was in pretty good condition, but we wouldn’t have wanted anything older, and some of the newer boats we saw offered much roomier cockpits, and fold down swim platforms, which would have been quite nice.
The marina provided us with a checklist to go through, so we initially went through the boat and found all of the various items, and figured out how things worked. We were then able to ask questions of the marina staff, to ensure we knew how everything worked before the left. They were great about showing us every, and sorting out a few minor issues. In hindsight, I’d found this checklist, and we should have used it at the same time. We also should have asked about how to unfurl the mainsail (stay tuned). We got everyone settled, and took a 5 minute walk to the Tommy supermarket to get some provisions for the next few days. Marjana from Activity Yachting also found us, and dropped off the inflatable stand-up paddle boards we’d rented from them.
Day 1 sailing – Hramina to Vgrada to Biograd
The first day was a bit of a mess, as the in-mast furling was different than the boat that we had learned on, and it took us a while to figure out how it worked. Regardless, once we left the marina I was struck by the clear blue water, and rocky hills and islands around. We stopped in a bay off the island of Vgrada, and picked up our first mooring ball! It went pretty smoothly, thanks to various Youtube videos (especially this one). Once moored, it was absolutely magical to dive into the refreshingly cool water.
After swimming and lunch, we headed to north to Biograd. The wind was against us, so after a couple of tacks, we furled the sails and motored up the coast to the city, passing crowded camps and resorts along the shore. We were glad to be on a boat, away from all that chaos.
Entering the marina, we had our first taste of driving a 51′ beast of a boat through a marina. After I made a bit of a mess of the approach, I handed off the helm to Lindsay, and she took us in without much drama.
We joined the flotilla at a restaurant in Biograd along the boardwalk, and started to get to know some of the people in the 11 other boats. After got back to the boat, and were just about settled in for the night when fireworks started over the town. We found out later that apparently we’d arrived in Biograd just in time for Victory Day!
Day 2 sailing – Biograd to Pashman to Zut
We didn’t have far to go today, and we took advantage with a much longer mid-day stop. The kids and adults took turns on the paddle boards (so glad we added them to the charter!), jumped off the boat, and swam for hours. One of the other boats from the flotilla moored next to us, and invited us over for some halyard swinging, and dinghy rides, and we returned the favour with some Aperol Spritzes on our boat.
After our stop for lunch and swimming, we motored over to the island of Zut. When we arrived there weren’t any mooring balls free, but the Activity Yachting staff quickly got us sorted out. Some of the boats rafted up against the small quay and had dinner at Konoba Bain, while we stayed on our boat and ate the sea bass that we’d picked up in Murter.
Day 3 sailing – Zut to Kaprije to Tribunj
The winds ended up better than we thought today, and we got to do some nice sailing. We stopped in a tiny cove off the island of Kaprije. I was quite worried about the tight quarters, but we managed to maneuver the boat onto a mooring ball right next to the shore (our stern ended up about 30 feet off of the rocks).
We all enjoyed snorkelling for a while. There wasn’t much sea life, mostly sea cucumbers, some urchins and small fish.
Then we headed into Tribunj. We were there a bit early, so we picked up a mooring ball across from the marina, and had a glass of champagne and a snack before heading in. The Tribunj marina was lovely, so we had a nice dinner in the marina restaurant.
Day 4 sailing – Tribunj to Kakan to Zaton
This morning the adults decided to go for a run. There was a lovely little church on the hill above the town that we wanted to see. The run up the hill was tough, and it did a number on my calves for the next few days. It was well worth it for the views, and we really enjoyed getting to see a bit of the town.
We did a nice bit of sailing across to the island of Kakan, where there was a lovely large bay that was fairly sheltered from the strong winds. There we anchored for the first time on the trip.
After a few calmer days, since it was quite hot, we left the hatches open. Once we cleared the lee of some of the islands, we quickly realized that was a mistake. We were exposed to the full force of the wind and waves blowing up the Adriatic, and some of the cabins got a bit wet before everything was closed up.
Because there was the potential for quite strong winds overnight, Activity Yachting booked us all into the sheltered town of Zaton, upriver from Šibenik. Heading into Šibenik harbor gave us a view of some fortifications, tunnels used for protecting submarines during the war, and a great view of the city. It took less than an hour to motor upriver, passing alongside mussel and oyster farms, and under a massive bridge that passed over the gorge. Zaton is a nice little town, and has a tiny marina/charter base a 10 min walk outside the town. Lindsay again brought up neatly into the quay without any trouble.
After dinner on the boat, the exhausted adults decided that “we can sleep when we’re dead”, and headed into Zaton for a drink. It was a nice town, but the conversation soon waned, and we headed back for the night.
Day 5 sailing – Zaton to Zmajan to Zlarin
This was probably the most challenging day. We’d been sharing the small space for long enough, and the day itself provided some challenges.
We motored down the river again, and on our way back to the sea we had the treat of seeing someone bungee jump off the bridge after we went through it.
We had arranged to meet up with some other flotilla boats in a cove off Zmajan, but once we got there had trouble getting our anchor to hold in the tiny bays. We headed instead for the Zlarin harbor, and picked up a mooring ball for a couple hours until the lead flotilla boat arrived.
Once we heard some chatter on the radio we proceeded to the quay, only to find that there was already a lineup of boats from our flotilla, and it kept getting longer as some of the boats had trouble mooring in the strong winds. We then spent 30mins milling about waiting for our turn, with lots of chatter on the radio between the flotilla boats. Once our turn came, we kept getting blown away from our spot as we tried to reverse in. The other boat all waiting also got in the way, and after a few unsuccessful tries, we radioed in asking for help. Mark, the lead skipper of the flotilla, paddled out in a dinghy, and we picked him up. He confidently brought us into our berth, and it was a great learning experience. Once in, we promised him a beer, and then he went off to provide the same help to a few other boats.
Once settled in, we fed the kids and walked over to Prslika, a rustic local restaurant that Daniella had found. A lovely three-course meal and a couple bottles of Croatian wine was just what we needed after a crazy day.
Day 6 sailing – Zlarin to Hramina
We decided to head straight back to the marina today, to avoid the pileup that was expected at the fuel dock at the end of the day. After leaving the Zlarin harbor, and clearing the point of Tijet Island, we raised the sails and had a lovely day heading up and around the northern end of Murter Island. It was mostly upwind, so the “crew” got to practice their tacks, and they got sharper and snappier as the day went on. We averaged about 5 knots for the day, and as we bore off around the top of Murter, we sailed into gorgeously shallow aquamarine waters. It would have been a great way to end the trip, but we still had a lineup at the fuel dock to navigate.
As we approached the marina, we saw a couple boats were there ahead of us, so we slowed down as we were coming into the marina. A boat behind us took advantage of that, to barge ahead of us and “butt” in line. We then spent a nerve-wracking 20mins trying to keep a 51’ boat mostly stationary, in an increasingly smaller space as other boats arrived behind us. It was however good practice, and after that nonsense I did feel more comfortable reversing the boat down the aisle and into our slip.
The kids wanted to swim, so we wandered down to the marina beach, and let them tire out.
Overall, I’m really happy with the choices we made. We had a really great time. I’d love to come back to Croatia again, it was a lovely place to sail, prices seemed reasonable, and we were able to get by with mostly just English (and some of Daniella’s Italian).
The area – given that we were in high-season, the area that we went wasn’t too busy. In the future, I’d love to sail around Hvar, Brac, Vis, etc; but not during peak season.
The boat – we weren’t sure how old/cheap we could go with the boat, and still be happy. I do think that we landed in the sweet spot for this trip. Next time I’d love to have something newer, in better condition (and a fold down swim platform would have been really nice). However, for our budget, the boat we had worked out great.
The flotilla company – Activity Yachting did a great job, everything was well organized, and I’d use them again. Mark especially was a great skipper, and a big help. And Jim was so patient with all our questions before the trip.