In 2019 we traveled and sailed in Cuba with friends. We had a great time and when it was done we wondered where do we go next? Cuba had not been on my bucket list, and neither was Croatia. But apparently Croatia is an amazing place to sail and travel, so that became our next destination. We agreed on the location and booked a boat, but then we all know what happened next. Flash forward, finally covid is settled enough to allow travel again, and we’re going to Croatia to sail. But because we had waited and delayed, this trip overlapped the Africa retirement trip for us. So we put it all together into one massive summer. We finished the Africa travels and flew into Zagreb and grabbed a rental car and headed out into the beautiful Croatian countryside. I had done very little planning for this trip, so at the last minute we decided to drive down to the Istrian Peninsula and spend the week before the rest of our crew joined us in Zadar. We left Zagreb on a sunny afternoon and stayed off the highways and drove through several small villages.
We were passing through one village and saw the church off the highway, then heard the bells ringing mid day. We stopped in the parking area and the bell ringer was in the doorway. We asked permission to see the church and he happily gave us a tour. He lived next door and was ringing the bells mid day at the request of a local family whose loved one had died recently in Canada. When the bells finished he showed us around and then invited us to see his home next door.
He and his mother had a small farm in the little village and a barn with a few pigs and cows. They were so happy to see visitors and asked to be photographed. She spoke not a word of English but was delighted to have people come by and see the small farm.
We continued south through the countryside and found a small pizzeria for lunch. Again, being out of the tourist areas meant we ordered more by pictures and guesses than by language. But pizza is pretty easy to get right, and we ended up with good lunches more often than not.
We had a hotel in the tourist town of Rovinj, in an old house that was formerly a mansion owned by a wealthy Italian family. Rovinj is across the Adriatic Sea from Venice, and the Istrian Peninsula remains the summer playground of Italians and Germans.
Rovinj had a very large section of “old town” where we were staying, with tiny cobblestone streets and many little shops and restaurants to explore.
And of course, when in Europe, gelato is a must. We found a few amazing gelato bars in Rovinj that we had to try.
From our base in Rovinj we took drives out to the countryside to explore some of the other towns on the Istrian Peninsula. This is the town of Motovun which dates back to the 14th century when the Venetians built two sets of thick walls to fortify it. We also visited Oprtalj which is an artists enclave in the beautiful Istrian countryside.
And no trip is complete without a visit to the local wine country. Istria makes some lovely wines, namely a white Malvazija, which we enjoyed and hope to find again at home. This is a view from our tasting at the Kozlovic winery.
We headed south from Rovinj but still had two days until we met Kelly and Val in Zadar, so we stopped one night in the town of Opatija. It was a long drive down the Adriatic coast, and the scenery was spectacular. We only stayed one night here and moved on south the next morning.
Finally we arrived in Zadar. Kelly had booked an apartment to share. She was traveling with her father Ken, and we all had so much fun together. This is a pic of the sunset at the Zadar pier the night before we set sail. That day we also met up with Val and her husband Corey, who had been touring Bosnia and Croatia the week before.
Kelly and I bought all of our fresh veggies for the sailing trip from the market in old town Zadar. It was an excellent market that reminded me of Pike Place in Seattle, and getting all we needed from the local vendors was a great start to our provisioning.
Corey and Val still had a car, so we all went to the supermarket while Rob & Ken checked out the boat on Saturday morning. Here we are getting all the fresh water and food for five people for seven days. The pleasant surprise was that the cost of this provisioning was far less than it would have been in the US.
Here we all are on our boat named Lubi. It’s a French built Fountaine-Pajot 41′ catamaran. For a charter boat, this one was in very good shape and a great space for a weeklong party platform.
As was the case in Africa, the sunsets in Croatia continued to deliver. This is the first night on anchor in a beautiful quiet cove north of Zadar.
Val and Kelly and I took the dink in and walked around town in the morning. We wanted to find a few provisions to fill in some gaps before we headed out to the National Park and didn’t have any more stores. It was a cute village and nice walk.
Kelly has been learning to sail on Yohelah when she’s had time for the past couple of years. This week on charter she spent a lot of time at the helm. Here she is with her dad Ken as we passed by a lighthouse on shore. I’m pretty sure they were enjoying the sail.
And of course here is Val’s happy place.
We celebrated Kelly’s birthday with a really nice dinner at a restaurant in Kornati National Park named Konoba on the island of Levrnaka. We literally picked the anchorage for this restaurant and happily they delivered. Kelly and I totally chowed on this feast of fresh shellfish.
After one more quiet night on anchor, a low pressure system was bringing in some big winds. We had positioned ourselves at the south end of the island chain so we would have a downwind sail back to the base when the winds came up. The night before we stopped in at the island or Murter to wait out the winds. The locals were having a rowing regatta that night, and we had a front row seat to watch the races from our spot in the anchorage.
Our last day was the downwind sail we had expected and planned for. We stopped for fuel and then a nice lunch hook, but found the water in the main channel a little too cold for a last swim. So we sailed on back to Zadar to check in the boat.
Our last dinner was back in Old Town Zadar. We had to bring the boat back the night before so we shared one last meal ashore. Rob and I look rightfully tired after 9 continuous weeks of travel, and it is definitely time to go home. It was a great charter and a fabulous visit to Croatia. Next trip for this crew – BVI in February 2024 perhaps?
Here are pics for Croatia.
Here are pics for the Croatia Charter.