Why this holiday should be on your bucket list
FOR many people, sharing a small yacht with a bunch of strangers is not their idea of a good time.
There is very little privacy, you have to pump the toilet to make it flush and there is no chance to “escape” — but if you don’t do a trip like this once in your life that travel bucket list won’t truly be complete.
I was definitely in the former camp. I had never considered a cruise like the Adventure SailWeek and honestly didn’t know what to expect.
So it was with a little apprehension a friend and I arrived at the Dubrovnik Marina on a day the ancient Croatian city seemed to be melting in Europe’s August summer heatwave.
Our 45-foot Sun Odyssey yacht was moored alongside dozens of others and we met our travelling companions for the next week. Our skipper was an experienced Croatian and our crew were an incredible bunch of Australians and Scots who lived Down Under.
There were seven of us in total — a skipper and six crew — and the first major surprise was how easily everyone got along and just coped with the tight confines we had.
It’s amazing how quickly you adjust to life in the small quarters, where you can barely sit up without bashing your head and you’re sharing a bed with a mate. There is a small amount of storage (tip: do listen to the luggage suggestions), but as they say ‘once it’s gone it’s gone’ and you adjust within minutes to having less space and not getting in your new friends’ way.
Not that you spend a heap of time underneath, when there is ample space on deck to sunbake, read, take in the sights, or just relax as you sail through the ultra-blue Adriatic Sea.
And this lead to another surprise — the time you have to yourself. If you want it, it feels like you’ve got a slice of paradise to yourself. If you can’t fully let go of the ‘real world’, strong Wi-Fi means those epic shots you’re taking are only seconds away from Instagram.
My fears of being restless — I get bored quickly sunbathing or at the beach — were never realised as there was always something around the corner, or more accurately over the horizon.
The amount of sailing a day was no more than about three hours. The rest of the time was spent swimming, exploring secluded bays, paddle boarding, cliff jumping (not for me, but my companions loved it) and checking out the historic cities like Dubrovnik and Korcula.
Even if you aren’t Game of Thrones obsessed, take a tour of the medieval walls made famous on the HBO hit, and Korcula, otherwise known as Marco Polo’s home town.
Croatia is not a once size fits all sort of place. The villages and cities are all very different, from tiny places you explore and meet the friendly locals, to our eventual destination of Split that was heaving with tourists and everything you would expect from an international resort.
It was this mixture of fun and relaxation, adventure and calm that made the days pass super quick, and without that manic feeling you get sometimes get when you pack everything you can into a few days.
The only real drama we had was when an intense storm lashed the coast and our boat. Our skipper had warning it was coming so we were moored while the worst of it passed us by. It didn’t last long and was the only time things got very bumpy — before then and after it was largely smooth sailing
You would not want to attempt a bike riding tour around the stunning Mljet National Park with a hangover, but you do work up a thirst and an appetite while doing it. Most of the restaurants we visited were within a few minutes stroll of the marina. They didn’t look much to from the outside, but locals know what’s good and what isn’t.
There are different cruises depending on your tastes. An “ultra” week is much more focused on partying, while the “adventure” week is definitely more angled towards people who want to see and experience Croatia and be able to remember it.
The nightspots of Hvar are a chance to unwind though and people really do. We spent a big chunk of our night at bar full of Aussies, Brits and Kiwis that spilt out onto the narrow cobbled streets that wind through Hvar.
Vincent Radonich, of SailWeek, said having a smaller flotilla was key to the success of the Adventure SailWeek Croatia cruises.
“It’s a bit more intimate so you get to meet everyone, you have people from all over the world and they end up being friends…In some cases they end up taking more trips together, like skiing trips, in other parts of the world.”
He devised the idea after skippering a boat for a week and seeing the operators didn’t offer the experience he knew people would enjoy.
“I’m all about the wine, food and seeing the places you wouldn’t normally get to see.”
The company wanted people to come away with good memories of Croatia — and sailing.
“It’s something experienced sailors wouldn’t love because it’s more for people who are completely new to it, and just want a taste of sailing and who like the idea of relaxing.”
He said there was a “romance” about a small boat that could get into smaller coves that the bigger “floating hostels” didn’t have or couldn’t access.
That is probably a reason why the luxuries you have on land such as toilets that can be flushed and shower water that doesn’t need to be rationed are quickly forgotten as you lose track of the hours and almost the days.
Swim, sun, sail, repeat. Life really is tough when your only care in the world is wondering what local cuisine to sample that night.
And I promise you, the last thing you will remember is the size of the boat.