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.
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.
“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).
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.
A sailor is an artist, whose medium is the wind.
– Webb Chiles
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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!
Our Video of This Experience:
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!