It’s DAY 1. of our week-long Sunsail flotilla holiday in Croatia and the ‘Message for you’ on our bottled water sets the tone for the first day of our awesome Adriatic sailing holiday.
Our starting point is the Agana Marina on the Dalmatian Coast just north of Split. It’s 9.30am, 28 degrees and we’re having our first morning briefing from our flotilla skipper Richard. He covers off weather and wind forecasts, our destination, possible routes, and suggested lunch stops.
Then we’re away! Agana to Milna on the western side of the island of Brac is eleven nautical miles and, in the absence of wind, turns into a quiet chug across glassy seas — a relaxing, if somewhat frustrating, start to a sailing holiday. We cut the engine and drift, jumping in for a cooling swim. The water is very clear, very deep. Warm on top and then chilly a foot or two down.
We are last into the marina at Milna, a quietly quaint medieval village offering up two beaches and the excellent ‘number one fish’ on the menu.
DAY 2. Our destination is Stari Grad on the northwestern side of the picturesque, relatively lush, island of Hvar. Stari Grad is the oldest town in Croatia, first settled by the Greeks in 384BC and named Faros. Nowadays, ancient monuments and T-shirt shops lounge comfortably side by side.
Starlings flit overhead as we dine at a long table in a cobbled alleyway, with the harbour at one end and ever-narrowing alleys of houses at the other. Gloriously bustling in high summer with yachties, tourists and locals swarming the quayside, you can still imagine the gloom of an empty winter’s day in the narrow back streets.
DAY 3. We’re in a Turner painting — sky merging with oily sea, not much air — as we motor, sail and then drift a while in the Hvar Channel, south of Brac, on our ’free sail’ day. A swim, a single breaking porpoise in the distant view and the perfect bread, cheese and ham lunch. We see footballs floating everywhere and finally work out they’re marking lobster pots.
We anchor in a sheltered bay on the northern side of Brac. We paddleboard, swim, drink wine, cook dinner, the kids swim again, then we all lie on deck and look at the strange northern hemisphere stars. In the morning, we row over to the island and breakfast on superb ham, eggs and Turkish coffee at the little restaurant built out of Brac stone. Growing out front are huge colourful peppers, tomatoes and herbs destined for the wood-fired pizza oven in the summer kitchen.
DAY 4. Chasing the wind, we cross Brac Channel to the Dalmatian mainland with its soaring mountains and stone-built seaside villages. Everyone whoops as we finally hit eight knots on our boat speedometer and we settle in to six or seven hours of great sailing over to the western side of Brac, completing our circumnavigation. At Bobovisca we reunite with the rest of our flotilla for the blindfolded dinghy race, swimming off the back of the boats and the ubiquitous ‘number one fish’.
DAY 5. We wake up to a decent breeze. We stop for a late lunch and snorkel in a sheltered cove — high, almost fiord-like sides and deep, deep water — before heading to Masalinica on the southern side of Solta. This is the party town of our trip and the band strikes up not 10 metres from our boat on the newly built town quay. A sweaty uphill walk to dinner is worth it for the sensational view and ‘lamb peka’ — slow cooked over an open fire surrounded by vegetables. Divine, and a nice change from first-class fish.
DAY 6. Now it’s a case of ‘be careful what you wish for’ as the wind gets real, we reef the mainsail and fly home to Agana. It’s been a magical week.