How do you plan a sailing route, so that you get the most out of the voyage? Let’s take a look together at all the factors to consider when choosing a route. You’ll be rewarded with a perfect holiday which the whole crew will remember fondly for years to come.
Before we begin planning the route
The choice of location is crucial to a successful voyage. That’s how you determine all the options available to you when planning the route. A yachtsman’s first step should therefore be to research destinations with regard to weather and sailing dates.
Otherwise, you could easily end up heading to Italy in August, when the whole country is on holiday and spending the whole trip packed like sardines. Likewise, the Meltemi wind blows during July and August in the Aegean, which could turn your holiday sailing trip into a nightmare.
Follow these 10 yachting commandments before booking your boat
Before booking your boat it’s good to ask yourself some questions and choose the route accordingly. This ensures you take away with you only wonderful shared memories and plans of where to go next.
1. What are the expectations of each crew member?
If you want an active, adrenaline-charged voyage, you’ll be fired up by a different destination to someone planning a relaxing cruise with a group of friends.
Is it a diverse crew? It could happen that you’ll have adventurers on board who want to sail every day from morning to night and whose motto is ‘the bigger the wind and waves the better,’ along with those who are looking forward to swimming in deserted bays, snorkelling, hunting for shells and spending nights at anchor far from civilisation. Maybe you’ll even have friends who want to spend all day moored in harbours, going to restaurants, bars and discos.
It’s then obviously very difficult to reconcile everyone’s expectations. The ideal solution is to meet up before you book the boat and try - even if it seems impossible - to reach a compromise which will appeal to everyone.
2. What infrastructure and conditions do I need?
An experienced yachtsman will appreciate a location with more challenging conditions and a brisk wind and won’t mind areas with bad weather and poorer infrastructure. Beginners welcome plenty of safe harbours, high-quality service and stable weather.
That’s why you should also research the yachting infrastructure when making your choice. If you’re used to Croatia’s extensive network of moorings and harbours, then you might be caught off guard in Greece, for example. Look up potential anchorages en route and plan your voyage around them (choose an island with a mooring protected from various sides, for example).
3. What do we want to experience during the voyage?
Do you want to fully immerse yourself in the sailing or do you want to combine it with other activities? Diving enthusiasts will be enamoured with a location teeming with life beneath the waves, others will be charmed by places jam-packed with historical monuments or captivating natural scenery. Choose your ideal location according to the interests and needs of the crew, so there’s something for everyone.
4. How many nautical miles do we want to cover?
You can sail 80 or 400 NM in a week. The first distance promises comfortable, relaxing sailing of two hours a day. The rest of the day you can have your fill of swimming, snorkelling, romance and rest.
The second distance requires 10 hours of sailing a day, long passages motoring or under the sails. You’ll likely have some beautiful yachting, see plenty of places and have plenty of experiences, including sea sickness and struggling to sleep at night on choppy seas. In a fore cabin, that’s about as difficult as trying to fall asleep in a washing machine.
During the planning, you might bump heads with yachting beginners. When they look at the map, they imagine that in one week they’ll cover all the Croatian islands from north to south and back again.
It’s good to remind them that novice yachtsmen must listen to their captain, who has a clear idea of what can be achieved in a week. A little explanation can help. Average sailing speed is 5 to 7 kn (depending on the size of the sails), which is 9 to 13 km/hr. It’s 340 NM from Dubrovnik to Biograd and back, which is approximately 70 hours of motor sailing time (6 days of almost 12 hours’ sailing every day). Probably nobody’s idea of fun.
During preparation and planning you can use the hugely popular Navionics boat navigation app.
5. Will children be sailing?
Families with children value stable weather and calm, warm sea and deserted, sandy bays accessible only by sea. Choose the route so that you can have adequate stops along the way. Daily sailing trips should be kept short, so the kids don’t get bored. Sailing in calm weather is ideal so mums don’t have to worry about the kids’ safety.
Children appreciate activities off the boat as well. Choose a location where kids will be able to explore islands, deserted fortresses and lighthouses, cool down with an ice-cream or have fun with their water toys. If the kids are older, it’s important to find interesting places for snorkelling and exploring.
6. When are we sailing? What will the weather be like?
Choose your destination according to your dates. If you choose well, it will shift your sailing trip into another dimension and you’ll save yourself a lot of worry. Consider the weather and usual wind conditions carefully when making your choice.
- Is it high season in your chosen destination? Be prepared for crowded marinas and higher prices.
- Is there usually unfavourable wind on your chosen dates in the place you’ve selected? If so, it’s better to pick another date, especially if you’re relatively inexperienced.
- Are you travelling with children? Do you love to swim? If so, research air and water temperature as well.
- Do you like to explore inland and enjoy ‘proper’ sailing. Set off in spring. You’ll enjoy proper sailing outside of high season and lower prices.
7. What size boat do I want and what is its draught?
Choose the places you want to visit with the size and draught of the boat in mind. If you love small fishing harbours, then you won’t get into this kind of harbour with a catamaran or 57-foot boat. Even a racing boat with a 2.7-metre draught might not be the right choice. This concerns old harbours in Greece, Spain, France, Turkey and Italy first and foremost.
What else is worth thinking about when planning your sailing route?
8. Sailing off the beaten track
In every sailing region there are standard routes which most boats sail. They take in the most interesting and beautiful places. When you head out on them you’ll be enthralled, but in high season there’ll be boats everywhere, loads of people, occupied harbours and moorings and full restaurants.
If you head off the beaten sailing path, you’ll have a chance of uncovering small bays with neither people nor boats even in high season. It’s unlikely that you’ll ever be completely alone, but it will still be a big difference compared to the main yachting ‘draws’.
9. Location accessibility
A deserted paradise on earth where you can moor the yacht of your dreams will remain just a dream if you can’t fly there or get there by car.
10. Skipper’s licence
It’s the exclusive right of every country to decide whether it wants to accept a licence. Charter companies often decide on the basis of experience and habit. You should therefore also check whether your licence is valid in your chosen country or contact us.
Don’t be afraid to change route and improvise
Don’t set the route in stone, so you can improvise and be flexible depending on the weather. It’s also good to factor in some extra time and a ‘lazy day’.
Route planning does not end with setting sail. At sea you always have to adapt to the weather and wind direction. If your planned route does not work with the weather forecast, just change it.
It doesn’t make sense to fight against strong winds for hours, when half the crew are sea sick and when you could use the tailwind to sail comfortably to another beautiful spot. In short, wind direction is the most important deciding factor when changing your sail route.
For example, you’re planning to sail south from Šibenik to Hvar and Vis. However, a strong Jugo is forecast for the first half of the week followed by a weaker Bura. If you keep to the original plan, you’ll be struggling against strong winds and waves in the first half of the week and again in the second half. The crew - unless they’re a bunch of yachting ‘freaks’ - will definitely not thank you.
However, if you change plans and sail in the direction of Kornati and Dugi Otok, then you’ll sail on a tailwind the first half of the week and your change of tack will be swift and comfortable. In the second half of the week when the wind reverses direction, you’ll be sailing back again comfortably downwind. The crew will be happy, especially when they hear stories from other crews who didn’t change course 😊.
Are you in the planning stages and need advice? We’re happy to help you choose a destination and route, so that it fulfills all of your requirements and expectations. We will even help you pick the most suitable boat. We have many years of yachting experience and know the best spots with all their beauty and challenges.
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