Now that we have sailed the entire coastline of Croatia it seems the right time to make some comments about the country, it's people and sailing there. Croatia is a superb sailing ground with an almost limitless list of destinations, stretching from the glitz of Hvar Town to utterly remote bays with not a building in site. The wide choice of islands really does offer great opportunities for sailors and good refuges in bad weather. The sailing is straightforward enough and the charting is generally good. You do need to keep one eye on the weather, especially in Spring and Autumn, but the forecasting is good, especially for the feared Bora winds, which seem to get at least 24 hours notice.
Croatia sometimes gets a bad rap for unfriendliness but we have to say we have found the exact opposite-we have been met with great kindness wherever we have been with people often going out of their way to be helpful to us. Nearly everyone on the coast speaks English. Croatia is more expensive than Greece I think, but is a more developed and westernised country and I'm sure is considerably more expensive in August when the coast is coping with the annual influx of Italians. German and Austrian sailors dominate the northern waters with more Brits down south we found. The main charter areas are around Pula, Zadar, Split and Dubrovnik so the usual rules apply about avoiding marinas on Friday and Saturday nights and watching out for stern-to mooring antics as best one can. Charter boats (in Croatia at least) seem to be getting bigger- 50 foot seems the average size- and that can put more of a strain on some town quay type moorings. Marinas have all been fine, typically €45-55 a night for a 12 metre boat including power and water. Facilities are generally ok and the marinaros helpful. Some town quays are much cheaper, others are edging towards marina prices and there seems to be no logic to some of the pricing. Water and power have been available on all the town quays we visited, but sometimes at extra cost. The annual vignette and lights dues seem to me to be very fair value.
We knew that Croatia was dominated by mooring fields before we arrived and that's part of the deal. Typically we have paid between €20 and €25 a night for moorings. The bugbear for us is that in early season the mooring buoys are often not laid but you can't anchor because the mooring blocks and chains are in place in the best anchorages and you don't want to foul your anchor. That's something that could be a whole lot better. In the southern islands we have noticed a rise in the 'Turkish model', moor here for free but come and eat in my restaurant and we are usually happy to do so, the two of us can eat cheaply for €30-40 so that's in many ways better value than paying €20 just for the mooring. Inevitably this arrangement is very popular with the charter crowd. Every stern-to but one we have used has had lazylines and marinaros on hand. The exception is Cavtat (the southernmost port of entry) which seems to go out of its way to set expectations as low as possible for visitors from the south, whilst ripping off sailors at the same time. We would avoid the place in future.
The food in restaurants is pretty good. It all tends to revolve around fish, steak, pasta and risotto with occasional forays into seafood and lamb. There's always a pizza place in every large village or town. Some the local restaurants haven't worked out that risotto needs risotto rice to work properly but generally the food has been fresh and simply served. Salads can be a bit hit or miss. Our blog highlights the best three places we have eaten in Croatia. If you are going to eat "Peka" - lamb or veal cooked under an iron lid made sure you choose the restaurant with care- we didn't and the results were disappointing. Konzum is the big supermarket chain and they have lots of small supermarkets around the place which are generally very good. We even managed our first trip to Lidl in one place. We haven't really used much in the way of repair services for the boat so I can't really comment on the quality of that but the Volvo servicing we have had done has been thorough and efficient. We had delays getting the boat lifted for pressure washing but that's happened to us in the UK on more than one occasion so it's probably endemic in the world of marinas.
There are two English language pilots- The Thompson Adriatic Pilot and the translation of the Italian 777 Guide to Croatia. We've found that having the two helps although both inevitably need updating and the 777 concentrates on the situations that I imagine one only finds in August. If you are a member of the Cruising Association then their Captain's mate is a good addition, as is the Cruising Wiki
Overall Croatia gets a very big tick in the box from us. The highlight is the diversity of islands we have visited and the welcome we have received.
When putting this adventure together I realised just how difficult it is to find out good information about boats, equipment, locations, electronics, communications, well, just about everything. It's not that there's a shortage of opinions, in fact everyone has an opinion, that's the trouble. Most opinions are expressed forcibly on forums and websites and these opinions often become facts.