The Mediterranean is one of the most popular sailing destinations in Europe with something for everyone. For families and first-time skippers, there are destinations in the summer months where the sea is typically calm with light winds. More experienced sailors, on the other hand, will relish the harsher conditions and dose of adrenaline that the Sirocco can provide. So, what can you expect from the Sirocco and how to sail in it?
Sirocco, Scirocco or Jugo: what is it and where does it occur?
Every nation has its own way of naming the various winds. The Sirocco is a relatively strong wind typical of the Mediterranean and Adriatic Sea, blowing from the south and usually turning anti-clockwise to the east. In Italian it is also known as sirocco or siroc, in Slovenian široko, in Czech scirocco and in Croatian it is called jugo. In local dialects, sailors may encounter names such as chili, khamsin or simoon.
Regardless of the name, this southerly to south-easterly wind can make for really good sailing, but can still take skippers by surprise and make the voyage more of a challenge. However, with good knowledge of meteorology, monitoring of pressure, temperature, humidity and not least cloud cover, the Sirocco can be well predicted and anticipated. There are also a variety of smartphone weather forecasting apps to aid you.
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For the captain and crew, it is crucial to know how the different types of winds work so they are able to gauge whether it is safe to sail or to expect unpleasant surprises. Generally, wind is the flow of air that is created when the pressure equalises in the atmosphere and it develops due to differing temperature levels, such as between the tropics and polar regions or between bodies of water and land. Air temperature and the rotation of the Earth also play a role but the local meteorological conditions are a major factor in how the Sirocco develops.
The Mediterranean and Adriatic Sea are located between Africa and Europe, continents with quite different climates. The Sirocco originates in the region around the northern coast of Africa as a hot and dry air that primarily swirls up dust. Subsequently, it is gripped by lower pressure (cyclone) which begins to push it across the Mediterranean. Due to the rotation of the Earth, this wind then tends to move eastwards. The tropical air mixed with the humid air over the sea can then reach up to 100 kilometres per hour (almost 30 m/s, 54 knots), providing a real challenge to sailors, especially in spring and autumn.
YACHTING.COM TIP: Every year, thousands of sailors flock to marinas in the Mediterranean Sea in Croatia, Montenegro, Greece, Italy, and Turkey. Some, to enjoy a peaceful 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 — the Bora, Sirocco, Meltemi, Tramontane, Libeccio, Mistral and Marin. Find out how to spot them ahead of time and what to expect from them at sea in our article on the 7 most common winds you'll find in the Mediterranean.
How to recognize and predict the Sirocco wind, and what to do when it picks up
As with any type of wind, it's important to know where and how a sirocco forms and where it travels. This can make planning a voyage much easier. Originating over the Sahara, it is a dry wind swirling up dust as it forms over the African mainland. But as it gradually moves across the sea, it absorbs moisture. As it develops, it can bring with it clouds, rain and is associated with a drop in pressure. Thanks to this, the Sirocco can be predicted several days in advance and the sailing route planned accordingly.
Unlike the Croatian Bora, which appears extremely suddenly without warning, the onset of the Sirocco is much more gradual, making it relatively easy to predict. Experienced sailors can predict it by the incoming clouds with those at sea for the first time always able to rely on weather forecasting apps.
This gradual onset of the Sirocco also gives room to enjoy some good sailing and plenty of time to find a suitable refuge or anchorage. On the first day, there is a moderate wind, providing for pleasantly fast sailing. It is only on the second or third day that the wind really picks up and depending on its intensity, it’s time to find a suitable harbour.
The intensity of the Sirocco depends very much on the season. In the summer months, the temperature difference between land and sea is lower, resulting in lighter winds. In spring and autumn, the Sirocco can get extremely powerful, especially out in the open sea. However, the boat is not always protected in between the islands, as jets of wind can form in the narrow spaces, bringing strong winds and relatively high waves.
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Safe harbours in Croatia when the Sirocco (Jugo) hits
With clouds, changes in pressure, humidity or forecasting weather models, the Sirocco can be predicted well. Therefore, in the vast majority of cases, sailors have a good chance of finding shelter in a suitable harbour or anchoring in an optimal location. If a marina is not available, a simple rule applies. As the Sirocco blows from the south or southeast, it is always advisable to anchor on the north or northwest side of the mainland or island. If you are sailing along the coast and know you will reach a particular marina in time, book the marina online.
ACI Marina Palmižana on the island of Hvar is considered one of the most beautiful marinas on the Adriatic. The pearl of the Dalmatian islands is also one of the safest and most well-protected marinas if you get caught by the Sirocco at sea. In addition to being a safe haven, you will enjoy a wealth of historical, cultural and natural sights.
On the westernmost tip of the island of Brač, you can shelter from the Sirocco at ACI Marina Milna. This refuge offers a number of other options when conditions for sailing are not favourable. Here you can enjoy typical pebble beaches, traditional Croatian cuisine and original souvenirs from local shops.
Marina Mandalina in Šibenik is a very popular refuge for sailors. So much so that it has been awarded the very prestigious British "Five Golden Anchors" award by The Yacht Harbour Association. As well as being a safe spot to anchor and wait it out until the Sirocco passes, you can also take a moment to explore the beautiful nature in the national parks or visit the UNESCO listed historical centre of Šibenik.
The island of Murter and nearby Kornati offer 5 safe anchoring spots. These are the marinas of Hramina, Betina, Jezera, Piškera and Žut. Most of the marinas are located on the north and northeast coasts of the island, offering protection from the Sirocco, and a few in the south, which are suitable when anchoring at a buoy. Favourable wind and the beautiful natural conditions make this a compelling location for sailors.
BIOGRAD NA MORU
Biograd na moru is one of the most important yachting centres in Croatia. It is a popular resort where sailors can shelter from the Sirocco in two marinas. If you are planning to spend your holiday at sea, Marina Kornati is the ideal place to charter a boat with a choice of hundreds of boats, services and the support to do so.
Want to rent a boat for your holiday? Check out boat charter options.
I will be happy to help you choose the right boat as well as the destination and a good timing for your vacation.
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