Guidelines for Safe Sailing in Croatia

Posted on October 20, 2014 by Lee under Sailing Regulations Comments Off on Guidelines for Safe Sailing in Croatia

Croatia is one of the best places in the world for sailing but with the peak of tourism which is between July and August, increased sea traffic is experienced and most times a big number of marine accidents recorded.

Most times it is the human factors that cause the accidents or inattention, injury of crew and material damage. All these could be avoided only if Sailors pay attention to some basic safe sailing guidelines.

It is quite interesting that the occurrences happen merely at the same locations from similar causes. In conversation with witnesses we came up with these safety guidelines for Croatian sailors or even vacationers to take note of for their safety while sailing in Croatia.

A Croatian Harbour

Summer Waterspouts

Waterspouts are not a rare phenomenon in the Croatian coasts, however, they are less dangerous than tornadoes but the damage they can cause on the ship can be disastrous.

A few years ago at the scene where waterspouts are mostly seen, a Catamaran with its crew was completely turned upside down. Fortunately there were no victims but a strong wind unwounded the roll in sails and hovered the boat like it was a feather.

As this phenomenon usually happens within a very short period of time, it is advisable to sail a bit far from the shores and other boats. Also hide all the light things below the decks and of cause, sails must be rolled up completely. Listening to whether forecasts can be another helpful way of avoiding predicted waterspouts.

Bridges and shoals

The Zdrelac Bridge on Ugljan Island has been quite a nightmare for many sailors. Most of them don’t know the height of the bridge and often end up stuck in the passage.

The important thing is not knowing the height of the ship or bridge but to look for signs and also official data. Croatia is lucky for its many islands but sailors need to keep in mind that these islands are surrounded by rocks. To avoid these encounters, always check nautical maps and regularly update them.

Watch out for thunders

Most of the sailors escaping from the storms often find themselves entering the harbor or marinas. However, this calls for extra caution.

A crew had found a place from a storm in a nearby restaurant thinking that their boat was safe. While they sheltered, a lightning struck their boat and from the impact, the depth gauge probe broke off. Worse still when they went to check after the storm, water had filled the boat causing a lot of damage. Experts evaluated the situation and apparently it seemed that lightening mostly struck ships that operate on live voltage.

The advice in times of lightening is that you constantly check on the boat and ensure that it is disconnected from the electrical grid.

Tight marinas

Small harbour spaces combined will less experienced captains often cause a number of small marine accidents in the Croatian marinas.

An example is the ACI marina in Korcula town, designed in the eighties when the largest ship was around twenty meters. Due to the inability to adapt to the modern ships and many skippers, modern sailors should avoid tight marinas especially in the summer months when sea traffic is highest.

Night navigation

This is the most risky and most demanding part in navigation. Most boats which don’t have radar as standard equipment mostly rely on captains experience and sea lights.

Waves, fatigue and poor visibility are just some of the night obstacles that sailors really need to check on to safely dock their ships. Unfortunately, night accidents are more dangerous because rescue can prove quite a challenge in that condition.

For inexperienced sailors, the advice is just to wait till morning.

Sailing regulations in Croatia

According to Croatian sailing regulations, at least one person on board must poses valid VHF and nautical licenses in addition to sailing experience. These licenses are issued by the Croatian port authorities and if sailors are from a different country, they should check whether they are valid for Croatian waters. To obtain the licenses, a sailor would be required to take both theoretical and practical exams and pass.

In addition to the licenses, sailors are also required to have a certified list of the crew on board.

If you wish to try some water sports in Croatia, special permits are needed for instance in order to sports dive, you must be a member of the Croatian diving association whose membership is valid for a year.

All sailors in the world are welcome in Croatia and procedures and regulations are simple. Regulation of navigation by foreign sailors in Croatia is done by the Maritime code as well as the regulations.

For foreign sailors, upon entering Croatia, you are to head to the nearest customs checkpoint then to the Harbor masters office to get a sticker permitting you to sail in Croatia for one year. This effectively permits you to sail in Croatia. The sticker is purchases to cater for lighthouse duty, safety duty and the administration duty.

Some of the signals used by sailors in Croatia include:

MAYDAY: This is used when the boat is in serious danger and needs very urgent assistance.

PANPAN: This is used to show that a very urgent message needs to be sent with regard to the safety of the crew and passengers on board.

SECURITE: It is a signal and warning that a coastal radio station is about to transmit a message regarding navigational and meteorological warnings.


Croatian coast have many marinas each located strategically for a purpose. Some of them are:

1.Marina Hvar

This is one of the busiest marinas in Croatia. It attracts ships of all sizes and it is never unusual to find yachts of up to 100 feet moored on the wall. Most of the space is reserved for ferry, passenger and cruising ships.

2. Rijeka marina.

It is located on the Kvarner gulf. Today, it is the largest cargo harbor with a record of 9.4 million tonnes in 2012.

Other Croatian marinas include.

· Marina Punat.

· Cres marina in Cres city

· Marina Zut in Zejera city

· Pomer marina in Pula city

· Marina Umag

· Marina Opatija

· Marina Vodice

Guest Author: This article was contributed by Leon Pireli who is a part of the OSC (Orvas sailing crew). More information about sailing in Croatia such as important numbers and a full list of marinas can be found on the official Orvas sailing website.

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