Kornati in Croatia, idyllic cruising ground

The seas off Dugi Otok, Kornati - Croatia Kornati Yacht Rally
Kornati is sure to be the next hugely popular Croatian cruising ground, to the north of Split, and it is changing rapidly as the Europeans have already discovered the spectacular alternative to the better known islands between Split and Dubrovnik.

Trevor Joyce of Mariner Boating Holidays has recently completed the inaugural Kornati Yacht Rally with a local on board who tested the mood of the group and fine-tuned the rally program to show the way to places they had never heard of and would never have found. Trevor tells the story:

The seas off Dugi Otok, Kornati - Croatia Kornati Yacht Rally

The consensus at the rally’s end was unanimous – Kornati is a rare jewel of wilderness – we hope it can last in its present state

David Buckland from Port Lincoln in South Australia, who in 2011 sailed the Mariner rally between Split and Dubrovnik, put the experience up there with his earlier foray. He added that he would not even consider a charter by himself because as the skipper on his yacht, the responsibility for the day to day running of the program would have fallen upon him. With the rally format he only had to sail the boat – everything else was taken care of.
Zadar city is a pedestrian delight - Croatia Kornati Yacht Rally


Focal point for the rally is the Kornati National Park, which includes nearly 100 islands but with just a few of them populated and then only during the summer. The islands are the exposed jagged tops of a parallel series of ridges so the sea between each line is sheltered, but with the prevailing north westerly Mistral breeze creating absolutely perfect sailing conditions each afternoon.
A two man island of 300 sheep, a couple of donkeys and a "Peka" dinner - Croatia Kornati Yacht Rally


The water is deep and clean and there are too many anchorages to count let alone name. Fresh water is scarce and you could nearly count the trees on two hands but dotted through the park is a hand full of hamlets with restaurants offering berthing at private quays.
Water clarity and depth within a metre of the cliffs - Croatia Kornati Yacht Rally


After a signal to a lay day stop on the island of Kornat the wild sheep population was depleted by one so that we could enjoy slow roasted lamb cooked Peka style and eaten with the waxy yellow local potatoes accompanied by deliciously roasted onions and a salad. This would not be a good stop for a vegetarian because there was nothing else on the menu in fact there was no menu.

There were island stops outside the park and in Sali on Dugi Otok we berthed at the town quay right outside the door of the Maritimo lounge, where the barman-DJ quickly excited our group into action on the dance floor by playing 'Do You Come from the Land Down Under'. A long night followed.
Moonscape Kornat Island has a beauty too - Croatia Kornati Yacht Rally


The bookends for the rally itinerary were Sibenik in the south and Zadar in the north, each different from the other and both in total contrast to the isolated islands off the coast. Historic Sibenik clings precariously to the steep escarpment of a fjord like inlet of the sea, which leads 10 miles inland to Skradin and the Krka National Park, with its world famous waterfalls. Dinner was accompanied by a Hungarian gypsy trio and a few of our more gregarious rally participants did their best to foster healthy diplomatic relationships with a family group from Budapest, who just happened to have a very beautiful Hungarian fashion model in their midst !

Zadar was once the capital of Dalmatia but today she sits majestically and perfectly preserved on a peninsular nearly surrounded by the sea. The enthusiastic inhabitants are ready to share an insight into the architecture and cuisine of this very special city.
Historic city of Sibenik is one of the highlights of the destination - Croatia Kornati Yacht Rally


Tourism provides the life blood of modern day Zadar but it is tourism with care and few souvenir shops. Local artists and small fashion houses discreetly display their wares in tiny shops that line the narrow pedestrian-only streets. At night live music old and new augments a lively atmosphere.

Our introduction to Zadar was gondola style across the harbour entrance from the excellent marina where berthing had been pre-booked and pre-paid so we didn’t even have to think about where we would moor the yachts.

This part of Dalmatia has strong connections with Australia because back in the 50’s many of the locals escaped Tito’s communism and sought refuge there. One of them among many, Davor Tudorovic rowed more than 100 miles across the Adriatic to Italy and eventually made it to Adelaide where he salvaged a tuna fishing boat off a beach near Port Lincoln before starting a successful business building infrastructure for developments like Elizabeth. He has now returned to Croatia to build a successful tourism enterprise in the aftermath of the crippling civil war that ended in the mid 90’s.
The first and second place winners in the one class fleet event - Croatia Kornati Yacht Rally


The Kornati Yacht Rally is not programmed to run again until 2015 but this is under review and it may well be that the event will be repeated in 2014 at the same time as this year when day temperatures did not exceed 28 degrees and the 10 to 15 knot mistral breeze gave us something to sail on. Our two weeks were, however, interrupted by a brief but spectacular thunderstorm, which delayed the start of one of our five fun day-races. .
The cliffs (Strmi) in the National Park in Dugi Otok, Kornati - Croatia Kornati Yacht Rally


The one design fleet used for the rally made for some exciting racing on the water with each of the races followed by a celebration ashore. The best of them was possibly the final night when each crew made a thespian contribution. The popular winner was the crew from ‘Pina Colada’ with a seriously modified version of the Beach Boys hit – California Girls.

For more information about any of the chartered-yacht rallies run by Mariner Boating, www.marinerboating.com!click_here
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