Christmas Sailing Holidays in Croatia and Greece
Although the European Winter does not conjure up images of sailing holidays, Christmas sailing in the Mediterranean can be a unique and memorable experience. While sun seekers may be better off heading for the Caribbean or the Southern hemisphere, those wanting to keep closer to home, avoid crowds, do something uncommon and take advantage of off-season charter rates could consider taking a sailing trip this Christmas.
Kit yourself out
There are a few things to bear in mind when sailing in the Winter. First of all, make sure to charter boat warm and comfortable fitted with dehumidifier. Our sailing boats for Winter charters are kitted out with all the necessary appliances to keep you warm and toasty. Most charters are fitted with front sail, or roll genoa, that can be unfolded as much as needed. The stronger the wind, the less it should be unfolded. Many charters these days also have the roll mainsail that can be adjusted the same way if it gets a little stormy. Checking the weather forecast, however, remains the best way to deal with bad weather! Good foul weather gear is also a must. Waterproofs, fleeces and wetsuits are all handy for the colder weather. Also good to pack are gloves, balaclavas, thermal underwear and socks. Two of everything in case you get wet!
With the wind chill factor on the deck, you will need to stock up on some warm nourishment and good provisions. Hot drinks for the crew, thick soups and your favourite Christmas tipple for warmth are the key to an enjoyable sailing adventure over Christmas.
Without the thermal-inducing effect of the sun, the winds are often far more stable. The type of sailing you do, however, may differ. How about a quick and bracing sail round the bay or to the headland and back to port in plenty of time to warm up and find a cosy corner to sample traditional yuletide fare?
Of course, you have to keep a keen eye on the weather, and be prepared to be stuck for a day or two in port or caught in a bit of rain. Generally stormy days are often followed by a couple of beautiful ones, crisp, clear and invigorating!
Consider renting a skippered charter if you want to avoid any difficult sailing as local knowledge is even more valuable at this time of year.
Cosy up to the Locals
Sailing in Croatia over the Christmas period is a magical adventure. With its many island close together there is little danger in the event of Winter storms and always a port to call into. On the contrary, the sea can be sublime and, though a little chilly, the sun is usually shining. With the Summer rush but a memory, locals are more accessible for those one-of-a-kind experiences. Getting to know them and living authentic experiences is easier than the busy Summer months when everyone is preoccupied with the hordes. Locals will come out to catch the ropes and help you tie up and new friendships may be formed.
Christmas time is especially delightful with medieval cities covered, if you are lucky with snow, and lights, like a Winter fairytale. Just imagine walking the Old City Walls of Dubrovnik almost by yourself! If you are sailing close to Split, be sure to stop off in the old town of Trogir to enjoy the peace, ornate decorations and, perhaps, some Christmas Carols by the Trogir Cathedral.
Another advantage of the cooler weather is that it is bearable to visit places in both Greece and Croatia that can be difficult in the merciless Summer sun. Almost empty ancient sites await to be browsed at your leisure.
Taverns and a traditional coffee shops can be found where you will get to drink coffee and dine with the locals and become truly part of ‘Island culture'. If you are looking for a taste of disappearing authentic cultures, then this is it.
Since Greece is a nation of sailors, many people hold on to an old Christmas tradition of placing lights upon little boats. On the islands especially, these boats decorate the interior of Greek homes or some outdoor areas, rather like the Christmas tree further north. In the past, children would carry small wooden or paper boats, as they went around the neighbourhoods singing carols. The neighbours would then reward the children by placing treats, into their little boats. Although the Christmas tree is ubiquitous these days, lit up boats can still be found in many homes and municipalities.
Similarly in Croatia, since the mid-nineteenth century the decorated Christmas tree is everywhere. In the past Christmas decorations mostly consisted of flowers and winter fruit. Don’t miss out on the Traditional Christmas eve meal of cod fish (bakalar brudent or bianco) to be enjoyed by the yuletide log, or Badnjak. Look out for another tradition, “Christmas wheat’ dating back to ancient agricultural days. Wheat is planted in a dish around St Lucia’s Day (13th) December. The wheat symbolizes prosperity and the taller the wheat by Christmas, the greater the prosperity. The green wheat is tied up in red, white and blue for Christmas Eve Dinner and candles placed around it.
Why not forget the stereotype of a sailing holiday and try something a little different this Christmas.
By Merryn Wainwright