Winds of the Adriatic: a guide to the most common

Winds of the Adriatic: a guide to the most common

When it comes to wind, each location along the coast has its own unique characteristics. So, what winds should you expect to encounter when sailing Croatia and how to deal with them?

The Adriatic Sea is an ever-popular destination for sailors from all over Europe. The conditions are varied, offering leisurely sailing for beginners and families with kids, as well as more challenging conditions for adrenaline-seekers and sailors who want to compete in one of the many regattas that take place year-round. To get the most out of your sailing, it really pays to know what winds occur in this region, where they originate, how Croatians and their neighbours refer to them and how to sail in them.

The Bora: be prepared for strong and gusty winds

If you regularly go on yacht trips to Croatia, you'll have already had the pleasure of experiencing the regularly occurring Bora (or bura). The Bora is a cold, very powerful wind with gusts that can easily reach hurricane force (the highest level on the Beaufort scale, blowing at over 30 m/s). This is a typical wind of the eastern Adriatic and blows from the land to the sea from north to northeast, where it is influenced by the collision with the warm air over the sea.

The direction of the Bora, and therefore the waves it drives across the sea, changes frequently and without warning, making it difficult to navigate and manoeuvre the boat. On the one hand, in the vicinity of the dozens of offshore islands, the Bora has no chance to get going, and while it doesn't produce large waves, it does create waves that are choppy and hard to read.

In the open sea, however, the Bora really demonstrates what it's capable of. Although it causes waves of up to three metres and brings strong wind gusts, sailing in these conditions tends to be a little smoother — but more perilous for less experienced sailors.

The Bora is also tricky in that it often comes out of the blue, with no weather conditions predicting it. This typical Croatian wind originates on the mountain tops as a large mass of cold air that then picks up speed on its way into the valley. When it collides with warmer air in the valley and over the sea, it causes powerful waves. This effect is most dramatic in winter.

Where is the Bora strongest?

The Bora is most powerful in the northern areas of the Adriatic. Specifically in the Velebit Channel (Pag), the Kvarner Gulf (Krk, Cres, Rab, Goli Otok) and the Makarska Riviera. The further you go into the southern part of the Adriatic, the weaker the Bora becomes. The light Bora known as the Burin, usually blows at night and in many ways has similar characteristics to the Mistral.

YACHTING.COM TIP: If you are caught in the Bora at sea, avoid the windward side of islands where waves and wind could drive you aground or onto rocks. Therefore seek shelter on their leeward side. The Bora also brings large amounts of water spray and froth into the air, making visibility difficult. For more details on sailing and anchoring in a Bora, see the article The Bora: the scourge of the Adriatic.

The Sirocco (Jugo): a treacherous wind that can provide great sailing

Another typical wind for the Adriatic and the whole of the Mediterranean is the Sirocco (or Jugo as it's known locally). The weather that the Sirocco brings, its duration and its strength depend, very much like the Bora, on the season. Generally speaking, the Sirocco is associated with high humidity, high salt content in the air, muggy weather, rain and sometimes particles of dust and sand from the Sahara and northern shores of Africa. Such air is beneficial for people with respiratory problems and is also good for all kinds of flora.

When will you encounter the Sirocco?

In summer it usually doesn't blow for more than a few days but in winter it can last for several weeks. Normally it is not a very strong and gusty wind, but especially in winter, it can easily reach gale force, with winds that lift the water into 30-metre-long waves of up to 4 metres in height. In summer, on the other hand, you'll enjoy a pleasant sail in the fresh wind.

Sailing in the wind waves, regatta

Where is Sirocco (Jugo) most common?

The Sirocco is mainly found in the central regions of the Balkan Peninsula, along the shores of the Adriatic Sea and coming in from the southeast. This means that you can expect the strongest waves in the north of the outer islands, where the swell can propel water spray up to 100 metres high and it's not unusual for the wind to carry it up to half a kilometre onshore. Fortunately, the Sirocco can be predicted well by the air pressure, humidity and cloud cover that the dry air from the Sahara picks up as it travels across the sea. This also gives sailors plenty of time to find a safe harbour, a sheltered anchorage, or to adjust their route.

YACHTING.COM TIP: Wondering how to predict the arrival of the Sirocco without using apps and weather charts? How you can sail in it and where's best to take shelter? Check out our tips in The Sirocco winds: connecting the desert and the sea and The Croatian Jugo wind: when and where it occurs and why to be on the lookout!.

The Mistral: a daily breeze for fun sailing and surfing

The Mistral wind (maestral or zmorac) is again dependent on the season. It is not a treacherous wind but can provide a bit of a thrill for water sports enthusiasts. Occurring mainly from spring to autumn, it doesn't last for a long period of time. In winter and early spring, it is relatively strong and cold, but during the summer season, it is a pleasant, refreshing wind that doesn't generate high waves. However, when waves do appear, they are short and biting and can make inexperienced sailors seasick.

It is more intense in the southern parts of the Adriatic, where it flows from the Bay of Biscay on the west coast of France, but beneficially, comes at regular intervals. As its onset can be expected around mid-morning and it weakens as the sun sets, it is also sometimes referred to as a day breeze. When the Mistral is forecast, both experienced seafarers and locals will likely advise you that there is no point in setting sail before 10 am. Usually associated with nice sunny weather, the Mistral creates ideal conditions for sailors and surfers alike.

YACHTING.COM TIP: Wondering how to make the most of sailing during Mistral winds? Check out the advice in our guide — The Mistral: a turbocharger for experienced sailors.

The Libeccio (Lebić): when danger threatens the seemingly tranquil summer

The Libeccio is a north-westerly to westerly wind, which can be encountered all over the Mediterranean and therefore also on the Adriatic. As it is known by many peoples along the Mediterranean coast, you will also hear names such as lebić, leveche, llebeig, lbić, labech or livas. In Croatia, however, the most common name for this unpredictable wind is lebić or garbin. Sailors are not particularly fond of it, because it brings storms and especially unpredictable waves that come from different directions and cross each other (known as a "cross sea").

YACHTING.COM TIP: If it's getting close to sunrise, it's better to shelter in the marina. If you still want to know how to sail safely in this wind, take a look at our tips in — The Libeccio/Lebić: a stubborn, unpredictable wind

Sailing team sets sail

When does the Libeccio or Garbin, occur most often?

The Libeccio is also quite difficult to predict. It often appears as a reverberation of the Sirocco and a precursor to a cold front. On its own, this wind is humid and hot, causing high waves and violent storms that are especially dangerous for smaller boats. At the first sign of a Libeccio, seek a safe and sheltered marina or anchorage on the leeward south to the southeast side of the island. The unpleasant news for anyone planning to sail in Croatia over the summer is that it appears most often from June to August. On the other hand, it never lasts very long.

YACHTING.COM TIP: Thousands of sailors flock to marinas in Croatia, Montenegro, Greece, Italy and Turkey every single year. Some, to enjoy a leisurely sailing holiday, others, to experience the power of the sea and a good dose of adrenaline. The great advantage of the Mediterranean is that there are several predictable winds that blow regularly. By knowing about them, you can predict the weather quite well and adjust your sailing plan accordingly. So, what should you be prepared for in the Mediterranean? Find out in our article — The 7 most common winds you'll find in the Mediterranean,

The Marin: a readable and predictable wind

The Marin is also a typical wind of the Mediterranean Sea, but you'll also encounter it in the Adriatic. Like the Sirocco, it blows from the southeast and generally tends to turn south. As it blows off the sea and from warmer areas, it is warmer and brings with it high humidity and haze. When in contact with colder air over land, the moisture condenses, leading to heavy precipitation and fog associated with the Marin, impairing visibility. The Marin is stronger offshore and weakens as it approaches land.

YACHTING.COM TIP: Fog at sea can be far more treacherous than rough conditions with high winds and large waves, particularly for smaller vessels. Visibility may be almost zero, increasing the risk of colliding with other boats, the shore, or other obstacles. If fog draws in at sea, your first priority should be to ensure the safety of your crew, start using appropriate signals and take steps to make your boat as visible as possible. Discover all you need to know in our guide — How to sail and navigate through fog safely.

The Marin blows all year round. During the high season from spring to autumn, it is rather weak, stable and without gusts. During the winter months, however, it becomes more powerful causing high, surging waves when it contacts the coast, especially in places where the terrain is more rugged. The good news is that the Marin can be predicted well. Depending on your position at sea, you can determine how the low pressure from the Alps and the high pressure over central Europe will affect each other. You can also easily tell by the drop in pressure and increase in humidity.

Now you just need to catch the wind in your sails. Which boat will you choose?

We'll be happy to advise you on the choice of a boat. We're experts on the Adriatic.

FAQ Winds on the Adriatic – everything you need to know