Charting safe waters: navigating Croatia's sailing challenges

Charting safe waters: navigating Croatia's sailing challenges

You're probably brimming with ideas on where to take your boat in Croatia. But what about places to steer clear of?

We've written plenty about the best places to sail in Croatia, but we haven't really talked about spots you should give a wide berth to. Join us as we explore some known trouble areas where sailors from around the world scratch their keels, bang up their boats, or land in a tight spot. Either avoid these tricky places altogether or make sure to keep an eye out for them. So, take a good look at our list and keep your sailing trip from turning into a real-life Jack Sparrow adventure.

Pasman-Ugljan Bridge

Let's kick things off with the most notorious of the lot. There's this bridge, officially known as Ždrelac, that's a household name among sailors. It links the islands of Pasman and Ugljan, and is known as the Pasman-Ugljan bridge, or more colloquially, "OMG, it's the Pasman bridge!". It's a challenging place for sailboats. The highest clearance under the bridge is a mere 16 metres, so most leisure sailboats, with their lofty masts, can't get under so they have to take a detour! Even if your mast is about 15 metres, we'd say it's not worth chancing it. Local charter companies have got the measure of this bridge, peppering warnings on their boats about the pitfalls of attempting to sail under it. Plus, there's a raft of signs near the bridge itself highlighting the height restriction. But still, every year a few brave souls end up knocking off a wind vane or worse, getting wedged under the bridge. The fallout usually involves a frantic scramble to release their boat, providing a bit of entertainment for the online crowd. The minimum depth under the bridge is 4 metres, so the draft is usually alright for most charter boats. But larger vessels, you've been warned!

If you're not sure if you can sail under the bridge, here are some tips on where to find out:

  • Check the boat's paperwork, which should include the boat's technical specs.
  • Look up the specific type of boat on the internet.
  • Call the charter company and ask.
  • If you've got a boat from, call our customer service team and they'll find out for you.
Pasman-Ugljan Bridge

The bridge may seem harmless, but it's left many a sailboat high and dry underneath it.

YACHTING.COM TIP: We're not entirely sure why everyone's so keen on sailing around Pasman and Ugljan. After all, Croatia's filled with other stunning locations. For some inspiration, check out our magazine articles to discover the perfect sailing route for you, the absolute best of Croatia and the 14 best islands to drop anchor.

Jezera marina fuel station

It might seem odd to some, but the depth at the fuel station in Jezera marina on the island of Murter is just 2 metres. So you need to approach it in a specific way. Don't be shy about calling over a mariner to give you a hand and guide you through the process. But if your boat has a notably deeper draft, say 2.5 metres or more, we'd suggest fuelling up elsewhere. This will help you avoid unnecessary worry and the risk of running aground. There's a host of fuel stations around the island of Murter where you won't face this predicament and you'll have more than the dreaded "barely enough" water under your keel.

Rocks of Kamenica Island

Near the popular island of Tijat, there's a lesser-known neighbour named Kamenica. Let's just say Kamenica isn't the most eye-catching, especially after dark. Without a lighthouse, markers, or buildings, it's pretty much just a low-lying, sizeable rocky mound that can easily slip under the radar —and it often does. Our advice is to give the island a wide berth and don't try to skirt it too closely. Several boats have ended up in a scrape here or got wedged onto the rocks. Sometimes, wind gusts have pushed sailboats onto this island. It doesn't help that this islet is often used as a turning point for sailing regattas, which adds to the risk.

sailing ship accident

A surprisingly large number of boats scrape this islet.

The buoys at Cavtat

A popular pit-stop en route to Dubrovnik is the charming town of Cavtat. It's a vibrant yet not overly touristy spot that offers picture-postcard views. However, troubles can crop up when boats are entering or leaving the bay where Cavtat nestles. Amidst the hustle and bustle of nearing the harbour, managing the chaos on board, and dealing with the fenders, the buoy marking the harbour entrance often gets overlooked. This buoy can be particularly easy to miss in the dark of night.

Treacherous cardinal marks in Art Vela

If you're not entirely clued up on cardinal marks, or if you're someone who finds it nerve-wracking to navigate shallow waters, constantly checking the depth gauge and painstakingly monitoring the navigation, it's best to avoid sailing between the islands of Arta Mala, Arta Vela and the mainland. Within this small triangle, there are two cardinal markers and one isolated hazard. While it's not impossible to sail here, it does require the skipper to keep a sharp lookout.

sign at sea

Often sailors confuse the lateral mark with the cardinal mark, leading to trouble. Instead of seeing the green mark indicating the safe route, they might mistakenly identify dangerous waters, or vice versa.

YACHTING.COM TIP: Still confused about some of the yachting terminology? Check out our glossary of essential terms a sailor should know and if you still don't have a skipper's license, take a look at our skipper courses. They offer hands-on training for everything you need.

What's the deal with Zirje?

Zirje is a stunning island that holds a special place in our hearts. But for sailors, it presents a few challenges. You see, it's surrounded by numerous shoals, rocks, maritime landmarks, and solitary hazards. So, when you're charting a course around this island, we strongly advise keeping a keen eye on the navigation, studying the chart, monitoring the depth sounder, and not sailing too near any marked danger zones.

bay of the island of Zirje

The island of Zirje is a popular destination for sailors looking for a place to stay overnight.

If you've read up to this point, here's to always having at least a splash of water under your keel and a whole lot of nautical miles under your belt. If you're ever in need of inspiration on what to do next in your sailing adventures, give our article on 12 must-try experiences a read.

Set sail! Get in touch and I'll help pick out the perfect boat for you.

FAQs: Safe boating in Croatia