The Adriatic Sea was, for me, one of those places that always sounded incredibly far-off and wonderful, not quite real, a magnificent realm that I would probably never get to see. Its waters are steeped in history and legend. Strategically located between Italy and Greece, they were a focal point of the classical world, sailed by everyone from Odysseus to Julius Caesar to Marco Polo.
So even as I packed my bags and prepared to make the long flight to join ASA’s Croatia flotilla, I didn’t quite believe it. Even when I saw the medieval grandeur of Old Town Dubrovnik, hopping with party-goers on a Friday night, I didn’t quite believe it. Not even the first few minutes of motoring over glassy seas could convince me. Was this real life? Could I really be this lucky?
The answer, fortunately for me, was yes. It was real, and in the course of a week we got to taste a variety of sea and weather conditions, become pros at “Med-mooring,” and sail in the wake of history.
The first thing you notice about the Adriatic is how astonishingly clear the water is. Croatia is quickly becoming one of Europe’s top sailing destinations, but it retains its unspoiled qualities. The pristine water is perfect for swimming–cold enough to be refreshing, but you won’t freeze. The hillsides are largely undeveloped, no massive resort hotels blotting out the sun, so as you’re tacking between the steep green islands of the Dalmatian Coast, you get an uninterrupted view of picturesque vineyards and farmhouses, not to mention ruins from a wide swath of history. You’ll not only run across Illyrian and Roman ruins dating back more than 2,000 years, you’ll also find medieval castles, fortresses from the Napoleonic wars, and, on the island of Vis, a secret submarine base from the Cold War!
As we stopped in the bay of Mljet Island, someone remarked that if we could travel back in time 3,000 years, the setting would likely look much the same. The only difference would be that the bay would be full of Greek triremes and Roman galleys instead of charter yachts.
But how was the sailing itself? Like anywhere, conditions in the Adriatic are variable–and the variety is half the fun! The first two days we didn’t have much wind at all, which was good in the sense that it allowed us to get our sea legs and focus on the scenery. That was followed by two days of mind-blowingly perfect sailing: 15 knot winds, light seas, and golden sunshine. All the boats in the flotilla found reasons to delay going ashore simply for the pleasure of getting a little more sailing in. The last two days the weather became more challenging–heavier winds, bigger seas, and intermittent rain. And you know what? We had a blast. Fair weather sailing is lovely, but sometimes there’s nothing like a little action to get the blood pumping. Not to mention that when you reach your next port, you’ve learned a lot, polished your skills, and you really feel like you’ve earned that evening glass of wine.
It was over all too quickly, but it always is when you’re living life to the fullest. Odysseus, Caesar, and Marco Polo. Thanks to ASA, I can now add my own name to the list.