7 Days Sailing the Dalmatian Islands

Destinations

Primošten Yacht Charter

In order to give the very best advice to his valued clients, your trusty charter broker Simon thought it best in July 2016 to charter a yacht out of Primošten and spend a gruelling seven days sailing round the Dalmatian Islands. And I, as his loyal girlfriend, was forced to come with him in order to write about the experience. Tough stuff. We went with one other couple: Barney, an experienced sailor and Chloe, who is about as adept with a winch as I am.

Our itinerary was a little atypical as sadly I could not join the charter until the Sunday evening meaning the others needed to stay in the Split area.  So it is more than possible to cover more distance than we did in your seven-day charter. Here’s what we did:

7 Days in the Dalmatian Islands

  • Day 1 - Arrive Primošten
  • Day 2 - Primošten to Krknjasi Bay to Split (25nm)
  • Day 3 - Split to Bol to Hvar (36nm)
  • Day 4 - Hvar (0nm)
  • Day 5 - Hvar to Palmizana (2nm)
  • Day 6 - Palmizana to Vis (9nm)
  • Day 7 - Vis to Drevenik to Primošten (32nm)

We chartered Santa Anastasia, a Salona 44 with four cabins, which was lucky as it meant I had a whole cabin to store my unnecessary items. I never do learn that all you need for a sailing holiday is a bikini, a pair of shorts and a book. The cabins were comfy and the heads were... less so.  We found using the stern shower to be much more appealing than showering on top of the toilet.  The saloon and cockpit were great however which is all that really matters.  I have a very serious cushion pre-requisite and am happy to report that Santa Anastasia did not disappoint.  And boy was she fast. Super sleek and streamlined, Santa Ana sliced through the Adriatic like a warm knife through butter.

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Santeanastasia
Santa Ana

How We Spent Our Week...

Day1Windysailing

A Windy Beginning

Day 1

As previously mentioned, I sadly missed out on Day 1 and it sounds like I missed a howler! My comrades landed in Split airport to be greeted by 40 knots of Bura winds and it was quickly and sensibly agreed that they would stay put in the marina that evening. The 30 minute airport transfer to Marina Kremik in Primošten cost 50 euros and upon arrival they set about provisioning the boat from the marina supermarket and fresh fruit and veg stalls. Galley fridges tend to be a little pokey but there are so many wonderful restaurants and places to re-stock around the Dalmatian Islands, you really don't need to overdo it with the initial shop.

Yacht collection was 5pm and after an informative boat briefing from one of the base staff who gave plenty of itinerary suggestions, it is my understanding that a cork was popped and the holiday began.  

They dined in Primošten old town that evening which is a true delight. Happily one that I got to experience on the final evening of our trip. Surrounded by the bustle of of playing children, happy sunburnt tourists, ice cream parlours and gift shops, they landed a waterfront spot and watched the sun set over the Adriatic. 

 

Setting Sail

Day 2

The next morning, with 25 knots remaining in the dying Bura, the three intrepid travellers set sail for Split where they were to collect me that evening. A riveting 12nm downwind sail at a speed of 13knots took them to Drvenik Island, a midway point, where they dropped anchor in the gorgeous Krknjasi Bay for lunch and a swim. Another 13nm and they were in the Split ACI marina where I was eagerly awaiting them. By all accounts it was a truly brilliant sail and one that still made their eyes sparkle when they told me about it that evening.  We toasted my safe arrival with a prosecco in the cockpit and watched the young, tanned Yacht Week lovelies dancing, drinking and flirting their way along the pontoon as darkness descended. 

That evening we took a quick water taxi over to Split for a late night snack and a few drinks. Afterwards we wandered round the old town and happened upon the stunning 4th Century Diocletian's Palace. With moonlight casting a milky glow on the marble floors and just a few bewildered tourists following the throbbing beat of a nearby open air disco, it felt like our own magical discovery.  With no entry fees, no guided tours and no ropes, we roamed freely around the crumbled ruins, wide-eyed, awestruck  and very, very happy. We finally emerged out of Diocletian's other-worldly sanctuary to be drawn in by the swelling music and hypnotic lights of the aforementioned disco where a turn around the dance-floor and taste of something sweet and vodka-y was the perfect end to the day. 

On A Mission

Day 3

Big Sailing Day.  Following the wind we forewent a mid morning swim, threw out the spinnaker and flew the 22nm all the way to the riotous sand split at Bol. Zlatni Rat is the 600metre Golden Cape located a mile away from the harbour town of Bol on the southern end of the island of  Brac. When we arrived at around 3pm the beach was packed with happy tourists and the waters were alive with swimmers, snorklers, kite surfers and wind surfers. The winds were up, moorings were competitive and we knew we couldn't stay. We gazed awhile, taking in the hive of activity, admiring the acrobatic leaps of the kite surfers, Simon and Barney with the longing, eager eyes of children desperate for a turn with a new toy. But if we were to reach Hvar before sunset we could not afford to linger, and so we reluctantly motored out of the bay dodging the zipping windsurfers, sighed, shrugged and thought: ah well, next time. Well the boys did. Chloe and I thought: get us to Hvar pronto. 

Day 3

We travelled upwind for 14 nm all the way to Hvar and thought we’d take a punt at getting into the glamourous Harbour. Pootling around, we saw the only spare spot was next to a rather mean looking superyacht. We cast our eyes over the faded rust colour of our sunshade and the cheerful comic sans font of our dear Santa Anastasia and thought, sod it, we have as much right to be here as anyone. And our very capable sailors backed us snugly into the spot. Needless to say the superyacht crew looked less than thrilled and started reluctantly fiddling with fenders and furrowing their brows in consternation. We smiled and blithely continued until the Harbour Master unceremoniously sent us packing. Something about our mast being a hazard but we couldn’t help but feel that we had been found wanting. All for the best however because we ended up at anchor in the idyllic Pribnja Bay just a 15-minute tender ride from the Hvar Harbour (there is also a water taxi taking regular trips over if you don’t have a tender), where crystal clear waters and soft breezes more than made up for the missed people watching opportunity.

Day 3

That evening we dined in the utterly charming Macondo restaurant where we feasted on fresh anchovies, octopus salad and Hvarska gregada (authentic Croatian fish stew with potatoes, onions and herbs) washed down with an expertly recommended local white. Try and arrive early enough to bag a table outside in the delightful cobbled alley and be sure to arrive hungry! It was relatively pricey at 1600 kuna for four but with two bottles of wine and enough grade 1 fish to feed two very hungry, hard working sailors and their equally hungry though less hard working girlfriends, it felt more than worth it. 

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Day 4

Hvar Party

A glorious lazy day spent in our glorious lazy bay. Sometimes you are so enthused by just how much there is to see, how many islands to explore, how many nautical miles to be travelled that you forget to just relax into a spot. So this is my top tip, as a relatively inexperienced sailor and as someone who can get a little bit uptight about the itinerary: if you find a place you love, forget the plan, throw out the anchor and just enjoy it. Nowhere to be, nothing to do. Wonderful. At midday we tendered over to Antonio Patak, a restaurant just across the bay from us.  We rented 40 kuna sunbeds right on the green water’s edge, sipped on piña coladas and over the soft swathes of an Ibiza chill mix, toasted to our damn good luck at finding ourselves in such a heavenly idyll. After a lovely light lunch of seafood risotto we went back Santa Ana to get physically and mentally prepared for what the evening would bring.

Day 4

In a fit of enthusiasm and a wanton lack of self-awareness we had bought tickets to Ultra Beach Hvar, a sublimely insane pool party held at the Hotel Amfora Grand Beach Hotel Resort, where headline Djs such as Robin Schulz and Don Diablo urge 5000 revellers to make one hell of a splash. I had imagined sunbeds, cocktails and swaying hips, a kind of Mad Men Hollywood scene with bouffant hair, martini glasses and cigarette holders. I wafted in, hair braided, kimono flowing and found myself smacked in the face by a wall of bottom-jiggling, nipple tassle-wiggling, air-punching, ab-flexing, beside-themselves teenagers. And they were having the time of their lives. And I suddenly felt every one of my 28 years and about three decades more. Quick thinking Simon blagged us an upstairs table where we could watch the madness unfurl while maintaining a half dignified distance. Tables were bottle service so we splashed out on a grey goose and gave in to the madness. The sun set over Hvar and despite my pounding head, beer soaked kimono and VAST age, I knew there were far worse places in the world to be.  

Day 5

Lunch

Day 5 was all about lunch.  Armed with a recommendation from a local friend we motored gently to Palmizana and anchored just outside of Langanini restaurant. By god, do the Croatians know how to do a beachside lounge bar.  Sun loungers, gazebos, plush cushions and flowing curtains, cocktails and music. Super-sexy and relaxed glamour.  It was the height of the season and yet by calling just a few hours ahead we still managed to reserve the most jaw-droppingly stunning table. We all four nearly wept with joy.  We whiled away hours, sipping on Croatian rosé , and marvelling over the joys of truffle macaroni cheese and sea urchin linguini. With full bellies and flushed cheeks we smiled and smiled and smiled and then motored back to the boat for a contented afternoon nap. Nobody felt much like eating that evening so instead we went back over to Langanini, almost deserted by this time and quiet but for the chorus of cicadas. We crawled into the cushioned tree house, had a few sleepy cocktails, and chatted in hushed tones as the light lowered over the bay.  

Day 6

Out of Vis World

With the creeping concern about the approaching end of our holiday, we decided to get going early the next morning. Barney leapt out of bed and had us away at 6am to cruise the 9nm to Vis, while the rest of us snoozed only to awake to the arresting sight of the abandoned submarine pen on Vis. We moored up to the quayside directly in front of the gaping black tunnel and ate our chocolate croissants in the shadow of the mysterious relic of Vis’s military history.  We explored the darkness using only the lights from our phones to find our way through the series of tunnels carved into the hillside,  then scrabbled up the scree slope to stand proudly atop the base. I attempted a tentative yoga pose and Barney briefly considered jumping off the 65 foot drop before seeing our ashen faces and thinking better of it.                                                           

Vis is truly an extraordinary place.  "Out of Vis World", the slogan emblazoned on innumerable shirts, caps and mugs, is not elegant but it is true. Closed to the outside world until Croatia’s independence in 1991, Yugoslavia’s mysterious Forbidden Island was a World War II military base for Marshall Tito and his Yugoslavian Partisans who built an endless maze of caves, tunnels, bunkers and storage facilities.  Now tourists are drawn to this remote island to enjoy the natural undeveloped beauty of the place as well as to explore the secret caves that was were once forbidden to civilians.

Day 6

We secured at spot in Vis harbor (600 kuna a night) and then got mopeds from a rental place on the quayside. A six hour rental cost us only 220 kuna and it was a wonderful way to see the island.  We wound our way up to the 19th Century british built Fort George where there is a restaurant, bar and art gallery. Sadly it was closed for a private event, but it would be well worth booking a dinner here for the glorious historic setting and incomparable view.  We then travelled round to the town of Komiza on the western coast of Vis and explored its pretty little marina and cobbled streets. On the way home we passed any number of exquisite, sleepy, crystal, swimming spots, so if the main beaches near the port busy, it is well worth going for an explore.  

That evening we sat in port watching the world go by with the help of a few Ozujkos and then headed to Kantun, a lovely little authentic Croatian restaurant with harbourside tables, a vine covered garden and a rustic interior of exposed stone. It’s a good idea to book ahead as this place is very popular and after we sat down a number of groups were turned away. Wonderful food - we had the fresh fish and lamb – wonderful service and wonderful ambience. 

Day 7

Day 7

The next morning we made use of the facilities in Vis Harbour (watch out there are only two showers so queues can be long) and then set out on our final voyage back to Primošten.  We stopped just outside of Vis Harbour, in the Bay of Rogacic for a swim in the stillest and clearest of waters, and then sailed the 22nm to Drevenik Island (3.5hrs) for a final lunch on the boat. It was a still morning with only 6 knots of wind but we still managed 5.5 nm under spinnaker. Our dear Santa Anastasia served us well.  A final 10 nm sail and we reluctantly pulled into Primošten Harbour and went for a sunset wander around the old town of Primošten. That languid early evening light glowed silken on the sea and cast a golden hue on freckled, sunburnt skin. We walked up through the old town's steep streets to Panorama restaurant, just below the church of St. George and savoured our final night of seafood and stunning views under the Croatian stars. Our lovely waiter presented us with a complementary round of grappa and we toasted to a magical week and made a solemn vow to return to Croatia.