Articles


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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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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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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Malaysian take-away

The locals call it the ‘war’. From late March to April, the dry season gives way to the wet, and the prevailing winds change from north-easterly to south-westerly. During this period the winds fight each other, often causing sudden changes between the two, until the south-east monsoon finally becomes established in late April to May.
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Sue Grant, head of sales at Berthon, offers a view from the sharp end

It was blowing 40 knots, and the forecast was dire; but the owner was adamant that a sea trial was no problem, so I clambered aboard, trying to look positive. Two-and-a-half hours later we docked – genoa irretrievably ripped, four stanchions sheered, guardwires broken, and impact damage port and starboard. Amazingly the purchasers were very happy, and agreed to survey what remained. The owner, however, left white-faced and shaking, telling me he was “off” yachting. I couldn’t resist replying: “Really? I thought it all went rather well.”
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Andrew Smyth explores the first of the Mediterranean’s three largest islands. To follow Sardinina and Sicily.

Corsica island of contrastsCorsica is a place that relishes contradictions. It’s French, but closer to Italy. It’s fiercely independent, yet utterly reliant upon economic support from the mainland. In the winter its mountains are covered in snow, while in the summer it has coastal deserts where rain is almost unknown. The main body of the island is little bigger than Devon, yet it retains its own language and the narrow 20-mile-long peninsula to its north, appears as a finger raised at the rest of its Mediterranean neighbours. With a challenge like that, how could we resist? Corsica is the Mediterranean’s third largest island, yet there can be few places where such contrasts can be found in so compact an area. The bleak dark cliffs of Cap Corse to the north lead down to the white limestone fjord of Bonifacio in the south. The Edwardian frontages of the Ajaccio boulevards on the southwest contrast with the gritty commercial city of Bastia on the northeast. Every few miles the coastline seems to change character, and even the weather can vary wildly from one place to the next. There can be fresh winds on the west coast, gales on either end of the island at Cap Corse and Bonifacio, while the east coast enjoys a gentle breeze. What more could you ask of a compact summer cruising area?
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