December 2005


Cruising World Magazine

God must be looking down on all the charter companies in Croatian ports and wondering what took them so long. After all, chartering must be what He made them for. Although the country is less than 300 miles long, its tortuous indentations offer more than a thousands miles of coastline, protected by nearly a thousand islands.

Cruising World MagazineSummer conditions are normally benign, the biggest winds – the north easterly Bora, which blows from the mountains – is rare in high season and in any event is usually well-forecast. Even when strong winds do blow, the string of offshore islands offer protection which prevents large seas building up. Add to this Croatia’s largely undeveloped coastline, and we have all the ingredients for the ideal charter destination. Jeremy Tutt, General Manager of The Moorings, says it’s been the most popular charter destination over the past 3 years and shows little sign of slowing up. “There’s lots of variation, with true charm and character, and there are few natural hazards. Although it can blow a bit outside the season, most of the time it’s quiet.”

The main cruising area is in Dalmatia, in the south of the country, (Croatia actually lies north west/south east, but mentally most people straighten it out to a simple north/south). The high, impassable mountains have always formed a barrier that has separated the coastal people from the interior, and Dubrovnik, down at the southern end, is even further removed and for many hundreds of years was an independent state. Dalmatians have traditionally worked on the sea, not just as fishermen or ship builders, but as seamen and even today the merchant fleets of the world would probably be unable to function without their Dalmatian crew.
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cruising world magazineWhen my Norseman 447 Shakti and I left California in 1997, the Red Sea was the passage I feared most. By 2002, the World Trade Center had been attacked and I realised that when we finally arrived at Salalah, Oman, after our passage from Thailand, in addition to the list of strong winds, hidden reefs and pirates, we would now be sailing directly up “the axis of evil”.
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cruising world magazineFor Mediterranean yachtsmen, the Straights of Bonifacio, separating Corsica from Sardinia, are notorious for their regular appearance in Navtex gale warnings. Winds from the west – especially a Mistral – funnel through the ten-mile gap creating awesome seas. Add to this the profusion of tortured reefs scattered around, and it’s hardly surprising that the seabed is strewn with wrecks. Fortunately for us the strong winds of previous days had subsided, and although it was still fresh, the extensive fetch of the western Mediterranean still carried a significant swell.
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In the early 1970s Mediterranean sailing was considered the privilege of the rich. Few UK boats ventured as far, and the concept of bare-boat chartering still seemed implausible. Against this background the idea of flotilla holidays emerged – economical sailing holidays in locally-berthed boats, where a crew was always on hand to help, and eyeball navigation in warm, tideless waters took away much of the risk.
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GRIB files - what are they?
With the vast amount of information now available from weather satellites, the World Meteorological Organisation set a standard to allow such information to be gridded and referenced to latitude and longitude. Until recently analysis of this information was a very expensive business and the compiled information was only available to heavily sponsored ocean racers with huge budgets. But almost without noticing, this information is now accessible through the Internet at minimal or even no cost.
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Although Israel and Egypt have had a peace agreement for many years, this has been less effective on the ground than on paper and our neighbours, both to the north and south, have been simply out of bounds. But sailing and sailors have different agendas to those of politicians. The MedRedRally was to take us from Tel Aviv into Egypt, down through the Suez Canal and then back up to Eilat in Israel.
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Sea views and property news
Cruising World MagazineOf all the Caribbean islands,Grenada is one of the least commercially developed. So beguiling are its palm fringed islands, turquoise seas, azure skies and tropical air that many are keen to buy into their very own “island in the sun”. The island’s haunting beauty and its welcoming population, has encouraged a sizeable number of foreign nationals, largely from the U.K. and North America to become permanent or part-time residents.
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Oyster Chairman dismasted in ARC
At the end of the first week of this year’s ARC Richard Matthews, owner and chairman of Oyster Marine, was dismasted when taking part in his new 72-foot Oyster, Oystercatcher XXV. He was sailing with a crew of 11 in a confused sea when, at 2.00am, there was “a loud bang, a sound like a thunderclap,” he says. “We could see a massive structural failure. We were reaching in 15 knots of wind and the mast was swaying and we could see that it was going to come down. What we didn’t want was for [it] to come down on the boat with the potential damage to the boat and the crew. We furled the genoa, let go the back-stays clevis pins, cut both sets of shrouds with an angle grinder and let the mast go over the forward port side of the vessel. We did think of trying to save it but it was too dangerous and not necessary. We knew we had enough fuel, so we motored back to the Cape Verde Islands. Fortunately no one was hurt.”
Oystercatcher XXV is still down in the islands and will be shipped to the Caribbean shortly. The carbon mast was made by Formula Spars of Lymington. “The jury is still out on what happened to the mast,” adds Richard Matthews, “but Formula are making a new one which will be shipped out to Antigua and we hope to be sailing again by the end of February.”
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I started sailing myself just fifteen years ago – hitching a ride on yachts was simply a way to travel. Eventually I started employing people, although it’s hard to define exactly at what point it became a business. We’ve now been a limited company for nine years, when we probably had around half a dozen skippers. Four years later we had over a dozen and now I find it incredible to think that, as I write this, we have more than fifty crews at sea in the Mediterranean, Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans – an all-time record.
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Cruising World MagazineIt was the last day on our chartered catamaran in Grenada. Moana Rua lay calmly at anchor just off the palm-fringed beach of Petit Bacaye, and we were sitting among the hibiscus in the garden of this tiny hotel, indulging in the most popular local pastime: doing nothing much in particular. After a week’s energetic navigation around the southern Grenadines, we’d gone local and were simply liming.
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