Trip on a Bavaria 39 starting 2011-10-02 in BSADec11
A fine holiday, northern Croatia – report by David Brown
In the same week in early October as the recently-reported charter from Dubrovnik by Naomi, Sue and other BSA members, Jenny Balland I also took a private charter with three other friends and family further up the coast. The weather was unusually good for the time of year which provided consistent sunny clear weather for most of the week. This did not make for vigorous sailing, especially in the mornings, so we had to make do with swimming before breakfast every day in the wonderfully clear waters we found everywhere. Not that any of us complained at this and the consistent moderate NW winds in the afternoons gave enough opportunity for good progress and sailing experience for all the crew. This area, around the northern part of the Dalmatian archipelago, is glorious with its delightful island views and coastline. Even without the unusual weather it would be hard not to recommend these waters for an un-crowded end-of-season sailing holiday.
Up to a point….
On our last day we left our overnight port of Sali with the aim of reaching our home port of Biograd by late afternoon in time for return handover early the next day. The forecast indicated a change from the stable weather all week to moderate southerly winds during the day with a risk of strong gusts from the North developing later. On this basis, the passage plan for the day was for a series of close-hauled tacks along the east coast of islands Dugi Otok and Kornati before setting an easterly course home. If the wind forecast was correct, this would give us a lively beam reach before taking a broad reach or run for the remaining few miles. The mainsail and jib were set with one reef each which, although not entirely necessary, would provide a comfortable sail and a margin of safety. Any development of gusts later in the day were expected to be managed by shortening sail as needed in the sheltered waters of the home channel.
The passage was conducted exactly as planned with the expected brisk reach taking us to the Southern entrance to the home channel at about 1600. The sky was now darker and as we looked behind we noticed a flotilla of yachts sailing north from Kornati but otherwise there was little traffic. But the wind kept a consistent 15kts astern when we changed to a northerly course and set the sails ‘goose winged’ with the main to port and the jib to starboard for downwind sailing. After a couple of miles the shape of the channel required a course revision to north-westerly; the mainsail was sheeted in amidships and the preventer re-rigged in preparation for a gybe.
In the time between my finishing re-tying the preventer and returning to the cockpit a very sudden change occurred in wind strength and direction. To put it mildly: 15kts astern changed 180 degrees to become northerly with an increase in speed to over 35kts in, I would estimate, about five seconds. The jib became backwinded pushing the bows sharply to port upon which the sheeted-in main was presented across the path of the squall causing the boat to list heavily to port. As I turned round to take the helm, the scene ahead was transformed with the boat driving into a wall of spray. Our concentration on the rigging has taken our attention from the rapidly-developing squall ahead. To prevent a more severe knock-down and re-gain control, I asked Jenny to uncleat the starboard jib sheet and my mate Jim in the port sheet winch to furl the jib. On becoming uncleated the jib immediately ran to port and flogged violently. This flogging continued for some minutes as Jim struggled to work the furling gear in the high wind. Even though the main sheet was also eased to gain a further measure of control, the windage on the hull and sails proved too great and persistent to bring the boat to windward and the boat’s heading presented a risk of a landfall to port. The engine was started and as the jib, and eventually the main, was furled, steering control was regained and the boat’s heading set into the wind towards the home port.
These squalls are described as developing suddenly. Compared to anything experienced in UK waters, this warning should be read as VERY suddenly. Unlike the Bora, the wind which blows from the North strongly and sometimes consistently, short katabatic squalls are also experienced at various points along the coast where the inland mountain air movements can descend very quickly to the sea. After 30 minutes’ struggle, the wind had eased and within an hour the conditions had calmed sufficiently to tidy up the foredeck. Over the next hour or so the wind eased and the boat reached Biograd safely under motor at approx 1900. Crew shaken but otherwise unscathed. We also had a ragged genoa luff to explain.
A note of caution
Later examination of the jib revealed significant damage to the clew and luff. The owner indicated that the sail would have to be replaced, which we did not contest. On taking the charter we were offered the option of leaving a EU 2,000 security deposit against uninsured damage or paying a premium of EU 140 to insure against any claims not covered by the owner’s insurance. We paid the EU 140. This additional insurance typically excludes damage to the dinghy but not the sails - conditions which are clearly stated in the document of insurance. Despite this, the owner and charter agent approached the crew for a contribution towards the cost of a replacement jib, estimated at EU 2,000. It seems to be normal practice for the premium not to be paid into an insurance fund but to be given to the owner who then accepts that the risk is being underwritten by himself. Having subsequently spoken to acquaintances to whom this type of thing has happened, it is not unusual to have amounts deducted from the security deposit for questionable claims, let alone instances such as this where such a claim would be justified. At any event there is little leverage by the crew to ensure a fair settlement. I would recommend that anyone considering such a charter take the extra cover and ensure that the document is clear on the risks covered.
Area: Northern Dalmatia coast. Much sheltered water landward of outer islands with many small islands separated by mostly deep channels. Very pleasant views, islands not too developed, reportedly less so than further South, and with some containing nature reserves. Main channels are very deep with few isolated rocks making the navigation interesting without being dangerous,
Stopping: a limited number of marinas but some harbours, which tend to be staffed. All moorings we encountered were stern-to but fixed lines are provided so the need for bow anchoring is uncommon (this would be very dangerous in sharp squalls). Sheltered moorings are plentiful, many with guest buoys and some anchorages; plenty of quiet charming places to stop overnight.
Base: Biograd. About 1 hr taxi (Eu90 return) from Zadar airport (Ryanair from Stansted). A pleasant seaside resort, three large marinas with adequate supermarket and services.
Boat: Bavaria 39; a comfortable but not tough boat (eg inadequate cockpit hard points)
Charter Agent: Sailing Holidays, UK based, provided a friendly personal service
Cost: we paid £1100 + Eu140 waiver + Eu90 clean-out charge.
Equipment adequate but not full; lifejackets of the solid type which do not encourage casual wearing.