Sailing the Adriatic: A Day Trip from Trogir, Croatia

As our new friend’s sailboat, Jonathan III, powered itself away from the marina, I watched as the city of Trogir faded off into the distance, blending in with the sparkling blue horizon of the Adriatic. With each second, the 2,300 year-old town looked more and more like a tiny, medieval Lego land.

sail boat on Adriatic in front of city of Trogir

Trogir Marina of boats - Croatia

Trogir sailing trip and Kamerlengo Fortress and Downtown
The obligatory pre-sailing trip pictures, with Trogir in the background.

Jonathan sailing boat in Trogir, Croatia

I had never been sailing, but I had long dreamed of doing so. When our new friend here in Trogir, Ivica Buble, generously offered to introduce us to his sailing champion friends and embark on an adventure with them, we simply couldn’t resist. Mother Nature had cooperated for the Saturday excursion, giving us perfectly blue skies, albeit a bit chilly for a Croatian March afternoon.

Man at wheel of sailboat in Croatia
Robert, our host, and owner of the boat, Jonathan III. He once sailed across the Atlantic!

“These winds are called the bura,” explained Sanja, a skilled sailor in her own right, and wife to Darko, a champion sailor that would also be accompanying us for the afternoon. (Bura are strong gusts of winds from the northeast that are common in the wintertime along the Adriatic. Sometimes they’re powerful enough to overturn cars and boats).

lifting the sail on a boat in Trogir, Croatia
Preparing to lift the sail.

“Croatians say that the bura is born in Trieste, marries in Rijeka, and dies in Senj,” elaborated Sanja.

Once out into the open sea, our five sailing companions (Robert the owner, his teenage son and friend, Sanja and Darko) sprang into action. It was a perfectly choreographed dance that surprisingly didn’t require any communication. As they steered the boat Jonathan III, raised its majestic navy-blue sails, and adjusted the sails to harness the wind, it was as if they were one with the wind and the sea. Their love of sailing, evidenced by wide smiles and roaring laughter, was palpable.

Looking at map while sailing

hands winching the sail

A sailor is an artist, whose medium is the wind.

– Webb Chiles

sailing on the adriatic - team preparing to lift the sail

It was their first sailing trip of the season, and we were heading to Primošten, a city that’s about 20 miles (33 km.) from Trogir by car. The five were planning to dock there for the night, before they headed to Vodice the next morning. They were gearing up for Vodice’s annual Easter regatta, which was to take place the following week. It’s a racing event that Darko had won in past years. This year, he would be Jonathan III’s skipper. Robert was the sponsor, and Sanja was one of nine crewmembers.

sailboat: main lifting sail, Croatian seaside town, and sailboat's railing

sail on boat, rope for sailing meter

Despite their maritime achievements, Darko and Robert were humble sailors. It took us a bit of digging to even learn that Robert had once sailed across the Atlantic.

“It took 21 days,” Robert reminisced. “Later, my mother didn’t believe me when I said that there were no islands to stop at during the journey.”

Coming from Croatia, a nation that boasts more than one thousand islands, the mother’s disbelief is understandable.

Adriatic Sea sparkling, woman tightening sail.
A shot of grappa to keep warm, Sanja tightening the sail, and the sparkling Adriatic just before sunset.

lighthouse in Croatia

Croatian seaside town at sunset

As we continued along our way, we passed lush islands, stately lighthouses twinkling in the late afternoon sunlight, and villages dotted with stone homes and centuries-old bell towers. I imagined what it was like approaching these inviting towns after having been at sea for several weeks or months.

sailing trip in Croatia

I was thoroughly enjoying our excursion, however, with the gusting bura causing the sailboat to lean to its side at a 65-degree angle as we cut through the wind and waves, I found myself gripped with a feeling of euphoria and nervousness. Clinging to the railing as the cold wind slapped my face, I started to question my husband’s tales of leisure sailing on the Caribbean. We’d later joke that our sailing adventure with the champion Croatian sailors was a bit like learning to drive on Germany’s Autobahn. We were in the presence of a fleet of talented sailors who loved speed, not moving at a snail’s pace.

Robert's son steering the sailboat - Croatia

At one point, Sanja let out a squeal of delight. “Are those dolphins? I think they’re dolphins!”

Wild dolphin sighting had previously been an elusive happening for me, so I was skeptical. I’d seen them during a Sea World performance as a child, but we missed seeing them on a dolphin-spotting excursion during our honeymoon in the Canary Islands. Sadly, my only glimpse of a wild dolphin was on a beach plagued by pollution in Bali, where fishermen walking the beach seemed perplexed about what to do with the lifeless creature and tapped it with their feet.

Indeed, as we cut through the cold Adriatic water, so did a pair (or trio) of dolphins. They were much larger than those one would typically see at Sea World. They were gracefully beautiful, and I felt a tear of happiness start to roll down my face as I watched them. It was a magical moment, and though I was unable to catch them on film, I will always remember that happy scene of those creatures dancing in the water next to our sailboat. They slipped out of our view just as gracefully as they had entered it.

Even the veteran sailors were surprised. “I’ve never seen them that close to the boat,” Sanja said, still bubbling with enthusiasm. “I was almost able to touch them.”

sunset while sailing on Adriatic, man steering sailboat

The dolphin sighting allowed Shawn and me to forget about our chilled extremities for a moment. Despite our hosts kindly sharing their spare sailing jackets with us, we hadn’t packed proper winter attire when we left for Croatia, and we were shivering as the cold wind hit us. I decided to go into the cabin for a moment to warm up, but as Sanja had warned me, this proved to be a mistake. As the sailboat crashed against the waves, I felt instantly seasick, and returned to the deck.

“It’s better cold up here than sick down there,” Sanja joked.

Darko sailing, rope on sailing boat

sunset on the Adriatic
Darko and Sanja communicating with the dolphins.

The shrimp-colored sun was quickly preparing to slumber, and we still had a bit of a distance to go until we reached Primošten. Like a sailor who had been away at sea for weeks, I started to crave landfall.

It was dark when we reached Primošten’s marina. We celebrated the end of our successful sailing mission with dinner at Antonijo, a cozy restaurant decorated with paintings with seaside subjects that could’ve been inspired from what we saw from the deck of Jonathan III. As we clinked our glasses filled with the town’s signature wine, Babić, we thanked our hosts for an incredible day at sea, and wished them well at next week’s regatta in Vodice. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that they’ll be victorious!

eating dinner at Croatian restaurant

Our Video of This Experience:

Thanks:

Special thanks to Ivica Buble at Dalmatia Charter for introducing us to his childhood friend Robert, so that we could tag along with him on this special journey!

A hearty thank you to Robert for hosting us! It was a day we’ll never forget.

Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved. Video footage is courtesy of my husband, Shawn.

Have you been sailing? Please share the tales of your adventures or favorite sailing spots!

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36 thoughts on “Sailing the Adriatic: A Day Trip from Trogir, Croatia

      1. Yet another reason to return, Andrew. :) We didn’t make it to Pula or Rovinj (yet) but are hoping to do so when we head back towards Germany. Is it true that Rovinj has the essence of Venice?

      2. Well, it doesn’t have any canals but it is very Italianate, especially the bars and the restaurants around the harbour. If you go that way try and call in at the coastal village of Fazana just north of Pula, I promise you that it is well worth a visit.

    1. Jo, technical indeed! I was amazed watching everyone so effortlessly do their part to sail the boat. It seemed to come naturally to them. Guess it’s not a surprise given how many decades they’ve been doing this!

      Someday, I hope to go at just a bit of a slower pace so that I can learn how everything works.

    1. We really were – so fun in that it was an ‘authentic’ adventure with accomplished sailors. We keep watching the news to see how they did in the sailing regatta these past few days (in Vodice). You’re arriving here around Easter, aren’t you? :)

    1. What wonderful memories we have of our day on the Adriatic! Please extend our thanks to Ivica once again for making the day trip possible.

      My husband’s parents’ friends are considering sailing with Dalmatia Charter in the summer, as they’re wanting to explore the Croatian islands. They’re experienced sailors, having sailed around the Caribbean for more than 10 years. What adventurers!

      1. What a wonderful sail. Looks like the wind cooperated and the boat was in the “groove”. That is a tremendous feeling when you move fast and it feels like you’re flying. We did go slow, (having many years to sail) but when everything was working…it’s the best feeling.

      2. Fran, the next time we sail, I’d love to start learning how things work. Will you and Dave be our teachers?

        Must confess that we mention your sailing life chapter to many that we’ve met. I think you’re starting to be a legend in this region. :)

  1. What an incredible sailing excursion, Tricia. You didn’t get seasick???? And your images capture this experience so well. Thank you for sharing. I am looking forward to an Easter post from you, how Croations celebrate Easter, may the good weather be your angel. Cornelia

    1. I did get a bit seasick, Cornelia, when I went into the cabin to escape the cold breeze. One of our sailing ‘mentors’ had warned me against going down there, but I was so chilled, I had to try and warm up. The experienced sailors were as strong as ever though. They were in their element on the sea! Have you tried sailing before?

      Thank you for your wonderful Easter greetings. Do you have anything special planned? So far, I haven’t seen much Easter traditions to photograph here in Trogir. Hopefully tomorrow there will be some Easter action on the streets!

  2. I think sailing is the ultimate. We came close to buying a sailboat at one point in our lives, but opted for the more practical boat.Those who sail are true romantics. Those who crew boats on long crossings are to be commended. So glad you and Shawn had this experience, even if it was cold. I can see where the warmth of a restaurant would be a satisfactory conclusion.

    1. Lynne, you and Ron are such adventurers! Shawn’s parents’ friends sold their home, bought a sailboat and sailed around the Caribbean for more than 10 years. I think they’re now contemplating exploring the Croatian islands, which is something we hoped to do this trip. Yet another reason to return.

      You’re absolutely right about the restaurant offering such comfort food. I enjoyed a fish soup, followed by a shrimp risotto. After a day of sailing and a tasty dinner in our bellies, we slept like babies. :)

    1. Cornelia, it sounds as though you enjoyed three pleasant indulgences! The first hours of Easter were quite rainy in Trogir, so we also stayed inside and watched a movie, enjoying a bit of Easter chocolate. By early evening, the sun had returned, and we went for a walk along the water, feeling rather reflective since we would be leaving the next day.

      I wish I’d seen some of the Croatian Easter egg painting rituals! Here in Dubrovnik, I heard that they had an Easter egg painting fair and market. When the rain subsides, I’ll head down there and take some photos.

      My great grandmother was from Lithuania, and I remember that she used natural ingredients to color the eggs (red onion peels, etc.) I’d like to try this technique sometime.

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