Who wouldn’t mind a nice warm breeze, right? But don't let first impressions fool you. The Sirocco (or Jugo as it's known locally) is a temperamental southerly to southeasterly wind that can easily take you by surprise in Croatia. But at other times it's like an angel, propelling your sailboat in textbook fashion. So what exactly can you expect and how to deal with it at sea?
Holidaying on the Adriatic is increasingly popular and doubly so for those who sail. After all, Croatia is blessed with beautiful scenery and picturesque historical towns, some of which are only accessible by boat (although you could squeeze onto a ferry), including the island towns of Hvar, Korcula and Komiza. Crystal-clear seas dotted with countless islands, charming romantic moorings, well-equipped marinas, and good but stable weather conditions in high season make for a truly attractive sailing destination. Whether you can fully enjoy it all depends very much on whether the Jugo crosses your path.
What is the Jugo/Sirocco?
The Jugo/Sirocco is a warm and humid wind that forms over the Sahara, moving from the south or southeast across the Mediterranean Sea into Europe. It is usually accompanied by dark clouds, thunderstorms and heavy rainfall, arriving to mainland Croatia from the sea via the islands.
Occurring throughout the year, the Jugo can be encountered in summer (especially in August), although this is a relatively rare occurrence which tends to be mild, lasting just a few days. From autumn to spring, it is much more vigorous when, at its worst, it can persist for 3 weeks. For accurate weather forecasts, we highly recommend the Windy app, but it’s approach can also be recognised by rising temperatures, increasing humidity, and a drop in air pressure.
YACHTING.COM TIP: The weather has been changing in recent years around popular sailing destinations. Last summer, a powerful Bora hit Croatian waters, taking many sailors by surprise, something not at all common in the summer months. And we can expect such fluctuations more often. To find out everything you need to know about the Bora, take a look at our article — The Bora: the scourge of the Adriatic. And check out what it looks like from the deck of a sailing boat when it hits.
The Croatian Jugo wind: a criminal advocate
Croatians believe that the wind can not only predict whether it will rain, but also affects your mood, health, taste and can even motivate you to commit a crime. Did you know that according to the legal system of the former Dubrovnik Republic (13th–19th centuries), no major decisions could be made whilst the Jugo was blowing, and criminals, even murderers, could use this wind as a means to defend or mitigate their punishment (which often paid off). The Jugo is said to be responsible for depression, body aches, grumpiness, headaches and migraines. Apparently this is due to the significant drop in pressure that accompanies it. To this day, the word “Jugo” in Dalmatian colloquial speech can be used as a synonym for bad or unpleasant, or for a particular mood or state of mind.
The Sirocco’s many names throughout southern Europe
As we said before in Croatia, the Sirocco is known as the Jugo and is designated according to whether it is a purely southerly or southeasterly.
Jugo-Siroko is the southeasterly wind accompanied by heavy rain which can be dangerous. Reaching up to 12 on the Beaufort scale, which is hurricane force, you’ll encounter wind speeds in excess of 60 knots.
Jugo-Ostro is the southerly wind, which can reach up to force 6 on the Beaufort scale. Lasting for several days, it is most often encountered between May and September with the skies remaining surprisingly cloudless when it blows.
In Croatia, Jugo-Siroko is referred to using just one word, either Jugo or Široko. Jugo-Ostro is most often just referred to as Oštro and is usually the transitional phase between the Sirocco and the Leveche (a southwesterly wind).
Other variations of the name in Mediterranean countries include Scirocco in Italy (responsible for flooding in Venice), Široko in Slovenia and Marin in France.
The Jugo versus the Bora
The Jugo can be just as unpleasant and treacherous as the Bora, but doesn’t appear so suddenly and unlike the Bora, develops and approaches slowly — it reaches maximum strength only on the second and third day, giving sailors time to prepare or adjust their itinerary. In addition, the Jugo usually blows at a steady speed, not in unpredictable gusts like the Bora, which, combined with its relative lack of force, allows sailors to enjoy good sailing with steady waves and at a consistent course.
How to sail in the Jugo?
As already mentioned, the Jugo blows from the sea to the mainland, so is usually at its strongest on the open sea or unprotected coastlines. However, you must also watch out for wind channels between the islands where waves can reach up to five metres, making it more than a challenge for less experienced sailors. Therefore, sailing on one of the outer more open islands, such as Vis, Bisevo or Lastovo, is not recommended in these conditions. While in the narrow channels protected by the islands or closed bays, such as Vela Luka, Stari Grad, Mali Losinj, the waves are not very high, the wind is still powerful. In the wider channels, the Jugo/Sirocco is likely to weaken, but again, unexpected gusts may be more frequent. These are, for example, around the islands of Dugi otok, Ugljan and Pasman.
If the force of the Jugo is around 4 on the Beaufort scale, take advantage of its steady power by treating yourself to a bit of speed sailing.
YACHTING.COM TIP: If you are unsure of the specifics of the Beaufort scale, you can find it in our article on the Greek Meltemi winds.
Can the Jugo put your sailing holiday in jeopardy?
Unfortunately yes, and at the very least can cause delays. Plus, don't forget to consider its after-effects. We once rented a boat in Kremik, but were unable to sail because the Jugo wind was so powerful. As the wind had died down the next day, we decided to sail out towards Pakleni. Everything was, of course, at the captain's discretion, taking into account the capabilities of the crew, and we were still expecting waves. However, the waves we encountered corresponded to around 6 on the Beaufort scale despite the wind already being very mild. This can also occur when the Jugo has been particularly strong.
In such a case, we’d recommend beginners wait one extra day or choose a coastal route where the waves are not so big. For a more experienced crew, however, it shouldn't be much of a problem. For us, it turned out to be one of our best experiences in Croatia, with our boat hidden amongst the waves and rising back up again. Fortunately, during the Jugo, waves are big, but also long and drawn out. In these conditions, it's best to let out the jib or genoa a bit and skip the mainsail altogether as the waves could toss it around unnecessarily and damage the boat. Unless you're racing where everything is taken to the limit, there's no point taking chances.
YACHTING.COM TIP: Bear in mind that after a powerful Jugo weakens, its after-effects, in the form of large waves, won’t subside until some time later. No matter what it is always best to be properly prepared for a storm, so check out our guide on how to handle a yacht in a storm.
How to safely anchor during the Jugo?
It is always best to moor on the leeward side of the island but be prepared that the wind may turn during the night. With the Jugo, it is therefore best to find an anchorage to the west or northwest. In any case, you should definitely avoid southern and southeastern bays, which won’t offer any protection at all, and besides concerns about the boat, it won’t give the crew a very peaceful night’s sleep. On Hvar, for example, it's better to anchor in the well-protected Stari Grad than in the town Hvar itself, where the waves roll in directly from the sea into the harbour. On Korcula, the west coast harbour is safer than the eastern harbour where the Jugo/Sirocco blows in from the side.
To understand it better, let's take an example. Say the forecast is predicting the Jugo in gusts at 6–7 on the Beaufort scale, with winds expected to turn north to northwest overnight. In this situation, it is definitely safer to choose to moor at a harbour rather than just at anchor or a buoy. If you are worried about the effects of waves appearing during the night, try tightening the mooring lines a metre more to get away from the wharf, which could potentially cause damage to the boat. As you are further away from the wharf, this also leaves more depth beneath the boat. The breakwaters at most marinas are also very effective in deflecting swell.
In Croatia, as smaller islands surround the larger ones, many places are well-protected, always providing a choice of where to safely shelter.
YACHTING.COM TIP: Take a look at our guide for more tips on what to do if you're faced with a stormy night at anchor.
Long crossings and how to take advantage of the Jugo
If you’re in search of even more adventure, plan a long crossing, such as to Greece and back. Obviously, apart from the conditions on the sea which is all around (with land in sight), the wind is what really counts. The Jugo is not suitable for sailing to Greece, but absolutely perfect for sailing back to Croatia! Helping you hold a straight course, you’ll be able to smoothly sail to your destination port and with the wind in your sails, you’ll be back in no time.
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