By Paul Mason
Have you ever gone for coffee and sat on the Riva somewhere? Of course you have, this is Croatia, and that’s what we do best here!…
Perhaps you’ve sat looking out over the sea, dazzled by the sunlight glistening off the water, as the cool Maestral Wind gently blows all those little sail boats off on their next little adventures, somewhere over the horizon, who knows where? Perhaps you’re wondering what that’s all about and that you’d like to try it for yourself sometime? In which case you’ve come to the right place, read on! Perhaps you’ve already decided that sailing is just something that ‘’other people’’ do, and it’s really not for you? In which case, I urge you to most definitely read on! Because I used to think like that too.
You see, I grew up about as far detached from sailing as I possibly could have. In fact not only had I never been sailing or even stepped foot on a sailboat, I never even knew anybody that had been sailing. I certainly didn’t know anybody that owned a sailboat, or any other kind of boat for that matter. Quite honestly I didn’t want to either, because sailing was expensive, elitist, boring, and something that only ‘’Posh People’’ did anyway. It was for people who grew up on country estates, not housing estates like the one I did, they might like that sort of thing, but not me. It wasn’t for people like me. Oh how little I actually knew.
These days I’m slightly more informed, and amazingly I’m now traveling the world, working as a commercial yacht master – I still like the way that sounds! I know now just how wrong I was and I wish I had been made aware of just how amazing sailing actually is at an earlier age. That’s why I’m writing this article, because I want you all to know what I now know; That sailing is awesome, it’s available to absolutely anybody, at any age, it’s exciting, it’s fun, it’s most definitely affordable, and if I can do it anyone can! How did I ever get into sailing? We’ll it definitely wasn’t planned and to be honest it was more (bad) luck than judgment. A kind of corporate team building week, in the highlands of Scotland, went horribly wrong! There was whisky, Women and the inevitable arguments that come when you combine the two, then I was sent sailing, almost as a kind of punishment – it literally changed my life, but that’s another story…
I’ve been lucky enough to work and sail boats all over the world now, there are so many places and things that I would never have got to see or do if the circumstances had been different. In fact even places and towns that I had visited previously – even my home town actually, just seemed different when I’ve visited them by sail boat. I had the pleasure of mooring alongside one particularly salty, old man in Lagos, Portugal once. He told me in no uncertain terms that ‘’you aint been nowhere, till you been by boat, mate!’’. He was a little bit drunk at the time, and to be honest that’s about the only thing he did say, but I’d be inclined to agree with him anyway.
At the moment I’m in Croatia, The chances are if you’re reading this, then you’re here too, so I’m going to let you into probably the worst kept secret in the whole sailing world right now; Croatia is good. I mean really good. Like, really amazing when it comes to sailing. I don’t know about you, but I love it here, the culture just kind of fits me, you know? I love he fact that there are over 1000 islands, they’re not all inhabited but they’re all a little different in their own special way. Each has its own little personality, but one thing they do have in common is that the people who live and work on them are all super friendly. Quite rightly, they’re extremely proud of their Croatian culture, and if you’re willing to embrace it too you will not be disappointed.
I never even planned on coming here, didn’t really know anything about the place, I just knew I needed a job on a boat, so I took the first one that came up. Then when I got here I didn’t plan on staying, but it’s turned into a standing joke with my friends, that for the last 4 years I’ve been actively trying to leave. I’m not sure I’ll ever actually succeed though, I’m not sure I’ll ever actually want to either. Because honestly, I love it here. I love the weather, the food, the wine and the friends I’ve made here over the last few years, but most of all I love the sailing. Did I mention that Croatia is amazing for sailing and that we have over 1000 islands to explore here? Seriously, if you are in Croatia and you have never been sailing here, you are missing out. I reckon you could sail here your whole life and never get bored of it, and I totally plan on putting that theory to the test.
One slightly better kept secret is that you do actually need some sort of official licence to legally sail or charter a boat in Croatia, and most of Europe and the rest of the world too, for that matter. The good news is that there are lots of opportunities to get some sort of formal training and gain an official licence, right here in Croatia. Some are better than others, and the best, most widely recognised sailing licences throughout the world are those issued by the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) visit www.rya.org.uk for more information. They have courses for everybody, ranging from start yachting and competent crew courses for beginners, right through to ‘Day Skipper’ courses allowing you to charter your own boat and Yachtmaster courses for professionals. Training with these guys ensures you get quality tuition on quality boats and your certificates are recognised worldwide.
Even better news is that there are a small number of RYA accredited Training Centres right here in Croatia, too! My advice when it comes to getting qualified, would be to book with the best, and in Croatia that has to be Sunsail. Visit www.sunsail.co.uk to see for yourselves. There’s a good reason why they have led the market in sailing holidays since the early 70’s, put simply – they are the best at what they do, and their Sail Training Centre in Marina Agana, near Trogir is no exception. Contact the customer service manager Danijela Jakovljevic on [email protected] for more information and a fantastic deal.
And remember, ‘’you aint been nowhere, till you been by boat, mate!’’. So why not give it a go?