Crossing international waters on a charter boat: 5 route tips

Discover the most beautiful cross-border voyages you can undertake when renting a boat. We have 5 sailing routes for you, including everything you need to know and be aware of when travelling between countries.

Every year, increasing numbers of sailors are looking to visit more than one country on their rented boat. Sailing between countries is possible, but not without proper preparation. We have tips on what to plan and look out for, but also where you can easily sail to. We've picked out 5 of the most popular, tried-and-tested routes for crossing from one sea to another.

5 essential guidelines for crossing borders with a charter boat

What do you need to remember before you set sail? These 5 points are absolutely essential.

Charter company approval

Ideally before booking the boat itself, you should check with the charter company whether your chosen boat can sail abroad. Some charter boats only have insurance for one sailing region which means you can't sail to other countries. Our sales team will be happy to help you with this step.

Documents and formalities

Always prepare the documents for the crew in advance. When crossing borders (even at sea), you will need passports or ID cards of all crew members and a completed crew sheet with crew details. Before and after customs clearance at the port of entry and exit, you should fly the flag of what country or state your boat is in. Take a look at our guide —  What flags to fly and where to put them on your boat.

One week is not enough

If you're planning a longer crossing, one week may not be enough. You certainly don't want to spend the whole week purely sailing without having a chance to stop off and enjoy your destination. So consider taking a two-week sailing holiday. For more benefits of this, check out our article — 10 reasons to go on a 14-day charter

Don't forget about insurance

Make sure you have travel insurance and deposit insurance coverage in your destination country. Some countries are not covered by insurance and it could cost you dearly. Check with our customer service representative who you contacted when you booked your boat. Find out why exactly we recommend deposit insurance to all our clients in our guide — 5 reasons to take out deposit insurance.

Check the territorial validity of your licence

With most of the skipper's licences that our clients have, you can sail abroad. Beware, however, that some recreational boat licences are only valid in inland waters and at sea only within 1 nautical mile of the coast. The Croatian Průkaz Voditelj Brodice is only valid in the Adriatic, although it is sometimes accepted by charter companies elsewhere. If you have a licence that is not legally recognised in that country, you are exposing yourself to big problems in the event of any insurance claim or accident.

YACHTING.COM TIP: We cover all the pitfalls, tips and tricks for crossing different seas and countries in our article — Can you cross national borders with a charter boat?

The most popular crossing routes in Europe

We have selected the most popular sailing routes and where it is really worth crossing. We will limit ourselves here to the Mediterranean.

1. Greece (Athens, Kos) — Turkey (Bodrum)

This route is one of the most popular with our clients. Sailors are simply just tempted to sail across that little bit of sea, to find themselves in a completely different landscape and culture and to experience the Orient. Of course, the route can also be planned in the reverse direction from Turkey to Greece.

If you are a gourmet, gastronaut or foodie, check out our article on what delicacies to sample in Greece. The local cuisine is fabulous and if you know what to order you're in for a real treat.

You can sail out of Greece from Athens or the island of Kos and on the Turkish side, we highly recommend the popular port of Bodrum. Kos is a stone's throw from Bodrum, less than 10 NM, so sailing from there doesn't take too long — count on a several hours (depending on the wind).

View of Bodrum Beach, Aegean Sea, traditional white houses, flowers, marina, sailing boats, yachts in Bodrum Turkey.

Bodrum is a beautiful port town. It is also known as the Turkish Saint Tropez.

YACHTING.COM TIP: Why head to Turkey? Here are 10 reasons to discover this oriental paradise. To find out what the yachting practices there are, what to prepare for and where to go, take a look at — Yachting in Turkey: a comprehensive guide.

2. Croatia (Cavtat) — Montenegro (Tivat)

If you are in the south of Croatia, it is worth considering a visit to the neighbouring country of Montenegro. This relatively small, mountainous country offers a very different experience of circumnavigating the coast, a different culture and, above all, as it's off the beaten track, fewer recreational vessels. We highly recommend cruising across to Montenegro.

The Croatian harbour town of Cavtat offers not only pleasant swimming, charming shops, and a great market with fresh fruit and vegetables, but also an authorised customs point for entry to and exit from Croatia. If it's not windy, you can stay here a day longer, get some water, replenish your supplies and have dinner. Cavtat is a great strategic spot, even in terms of transport with Dubrovnik airport being only 15 minutes away by car.

The town of Cavtat with a colourful view of the Adriatic waterfront, southern Dalmatia, Croatia

Cavtat is very picturesque. We recommend visiting it even if you don't plan to head further afield.

YACHTING.COM TIP: Be aware that if you check out in Cavtat, you can no longer enter the pier or visit nearby Dubrovnik. You should take a direct route to the other country, in this case Montenegro. The Croatian coastguard patrols these waters really closely, stopping boats and handing out hefty fines if you break the law.

Along the coast, you'll get to Montenegro in approximately 4 hours (depending on the wind). Sail into the Bay of Kotor and check in at the customs pier in Tivat.

Then we recommend that you continue on and spend the evening at Marina Montenegro, where you can admire the superyachts (such as the three-masted 106.7-metre Black Pearl), take a dip in the infinity pool, go shopping or visit one of the excellent local restaurants. The next day, head to Kotor, a true historic gem. From here, there are plenty of hiking routes through the local hills. After all, as Montenegro means "black mountain" you have to climb one while you're there!

YACHTING.COM TIP: Why  should you sail to Montenegro and what must you see there?  We've put together 8 reasons to sail in Montenegro and 5 hidden spots you must see.

3. Croatia (Vis) — Italy (Bari)

Are you craving pizza, spaghetti or real Italian coffee? A voyage from Croatia to Italy offers you all of this.

Basically, you can sail from anywhere in Croatia where there is a customs port. For example Pula, Rijeka, Rovinj, Umag, Poreč, Raša Bršica, Mali Lošinj, Zadar, Split, Šibenik, Ploče, Korčula, Ubli or Cavtat. We recommend, for example, the island of Vis and the route around the mythical island of Palagruža. As a destination in Italy, sailors often choose the port town of Bari, which is renowned for its excellent Italian coffee.

If you want to find out more about other places to sail in Italy, check out our article — Sailing in Italy: the 15 most beautiful places to sail. For a guide to the best regions near the Apennine Peninsula for a breathtaking holiday at sea, take a look at — What are the top yachting regions in Italy?

Aerial view of the old town of Bari. On the right is Bari Cathedral (Saint Sabino), on the left is the "Basilica of San Nicola",

The enchanting old town of Bari in Italy

YACHTING.COM TIP: When sailing you will undoubtedly encounter currents. Find out what they are, what causes them and what to do when you are sailing through them in our article — Go with the flow: ocean currents in the Mediterranean Sea.

4. Croatia (island of Vis) — Greece (Gouvia on Corfu or Erikousa)

Tired of the more conventional sailing destinations of Croatia? Try sailing over to Greece. It usually takes two days to sail, you won't encounter weather conditions significantly different from those on the Adriatic, and you'll find yourself immersed in a completely different culture and coastline once you reach Greece. You can decide for yourself where the sailing is best, the Adriatic or on the Greek seas, and whether we were right or not in our article — Croatia vs. Greece: which provides better sailing?.

On the island of Vis, for example, the port town of Komiza is a great spot to leave Croatia. Here you can moor on a jetty and a buoy, have a farewell dinner in the evening in one of its magical restaurants and set sail in the morning.

Watch out when sailing on the Strait of Otranto

In the Strait of Otranto, the narrowest point between the seas, beware of marine traffic. Definitely, someone must be monitoring the radar and surrounding ships, especially at night. As you may even see dolphins or whales, other crew members should also keep an eye out. Fishing enthusiasts may want to try casting out, as the strait is very deep and there are huge fish to be caught in the region, such as tuna.

You may encounter bigger waves than you are used to when sailing directly off the coast in the Strait of Otranto. If you want to learn how to get around without any problems, check out — Riding the waves: how to sail and manoeuvre.

Jastozer's tavern is built on the site of the former town lobster house from 1883. It has tables on platforms on the water and serves delicious fresh fish.

You can enjoy this kind of romance in Komiza before you leave.

YACHTING.COM TIP: Be aware that most boats are not insured for sailing in Albanian waters, where you'll find plenty of minefields on charts and nautical plotters. Avoid Albanian waters at all costs.

Is it better to anchor in Erikousa or Corfu?

Once you arrive in Greece you have several options for where to check in. We recommend the island of Erikousa, where you can grab a well-deserved drink at the beautiful Sunset Bar or Gouvia Marina on Corfu where you can conveniently replenish your water and food supplies and visit the vibrant capital of Kerkyra in the evening.

Learn more about sailing in both the North and South Ionian Seas, destinations you can comfortably reach during your crossing, in our article — Smooth sailing in Greece: 3 easy routes to choose from. If you don't feel like searching for the best anchorage, we've already picked out some for you in our article — Tips for mooring in the Ionian Sea.

5. Portugal (Lisbon, Cascais) — Canary Islands (Lanzarote): for experienced crews only

This crossing is already in the higher league of sailing but we definitely recommend it to all experienced sailors. You'll experience the beauty of the open sea and the Atlantic Ocean, and because it is a longer crossing, you'll definitely be stepping out of your comfort zone but will take away some valuable sailing experience. Despite the final destination being the European Union, it is very much an off-shore cruise. The Canary Islands are part of Spain.

The route is approximately 700 nautical miles and should take roughly a week, but it all depends on the particular chosen port of departure, the strength and direction of the wind, as well as how you sail and the precision of the navigator and helmsman. Therefore, allow yourself a sufficient time margin of two weeks for this voyage. Very often this route is sailed the other way around.

Alternative route from the Balearic Islands

It is also possible to sail directly from Lisbon or the marina of Cascais with the destination being any of the Canary Islands (but we recommend Lanzarote). If you have some time left, you can also head to nearby Madeira. Alternatively, you can also set sail from the popular Balearic Islands which means you'll essentially be sailing from Spain to Spain.

YACHTING.COM TIP: Find out more about sailing in the Canary Islands and their surroundings in our article — Ocean sailing: set course for the Canary Islands!.

Landscape with Papagayo beach at sunset, Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Spain

The sunsets on Lanzarote are simply breathtaking.

What to be on the lookout for?

Watch out for fishing boats off the coast of Portugal, Spain and North Africa. They are plentiful and can lead to a dangerous situation, especially when crossing at night. Some areas are even marked on charts as unsuitable for sailing.

Check weather forecasts carefully and from various sources. Various yachting apps can help, as discussed in our article here. If you want some tips on forecasting the weather yourself while sailing, we recommend reading — Smooth sailing: how to predict the weather by reading the clouds.

Make sure you have all the safety equipment on board and in sufficient numbers for each crew member. Check out our guide to life Jackets to find out everything you need to know. The same goes for finding the appropriate clothing for this type of sailing.

Increased risk of seasickness

Prepare for the possibility of a crew member getting sick on the open sea or ocean. You can find measures you can take against seasickness in our article — How to cope with seasickness. The same applies to first aid and basic treatment for any injuries. For this we recommend reading about how to do first aid on a yacht or the many tips in our article — Yachting accidents and injuries: first aid tips and advice on how to deal with them effectively.

Inform several people about your planned voyage, such as family, friends or even the harbourmaster at the port of departure and at your destination. If something happens, they will at least know you are there.

Which boat will you choose for your crossing?

Let us know your idea of the boat and the destination and we'll take care of the rest. Get in touch.

FAQs: What you should know about crossing international waters