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Adriatic Sailing

This page describes the Adriatic in general, and leads to more detailed pages about each cruising region. The sea is 420nm long and 100nm wide. The high spot is cruising Croatia, which should not be missed. There is a marked difference between the high standards of food and service in Italy, compared with the more simple standards along the eastern shores. There's more unsettled weather in the Adriatic than in other parts of the Mediterranean - with winter frosts in the north.

Mediterranean - Features Common to all Regions

The Adriatic Weather

Shorter Sunny Season. The North and Central Adriatic are not far enough south to avoid the N European weather systems. Settled weather starts 2  or 3 weeks later than in the Ionian, and dissolves into periods of heavy thunderstorms a couple of weeks earlier. In season, there are more periods of thunderstorms in the north Adriatic. These can be particularly violent, generating tornados where (for brief periods) winds may reach 40kts, reversing direction in a matter of minutes.

The Bora Wind. This very strong NE wind, blasting down the steep mountainsides of Croatia and around Trieste, is an occasional serious threat to navigation in summer (3% chance). It's more frequent and widespread in winter (20%). The bora may last 12 hours, or two days, and may create local gusts of 40 to 60kts (occasionally more). The fine weather bora sometimes arrives with little warning.  Weather Online gives a more detailed description.

Interpreting Forecasts. Forecasts, repeated on Navtex, cover quite large sea areas and usually add an ‘along the coast’ forecast. However, there's a lot of uncertainty in east coasts N of Dubrovnic. This is caused by high terrain, down-blasts from the mountains, strings of islands parallel to the coast, and land and sea breeze effects. Winds resulting from frontal systems and pressure differentials are likely to be as predicted when more than twenty miles off the Dalmatian coast.

Tidal Range

Rare in the Mediterranean, tidal range reaches 1.2m in the northern corners of the Adriatic, and is occasionally modified by weather induced surges.

When to Go

The season for cruising yachts starts at Easter, when things are busy for a couple of weeks. Except along the Croatian coast, which is always busy, cruising is then quieter until peak season. Peak starts mid-July, when hordes of Italian yachts of all shapes, sizes and levels of experience flood along the coast. There are big motor yachts with their skiers and ski boats, and small motor boats with string-and-tooth-pick anchors. During peak season it is often necessary to arrive early to find a berth, and you'll need a back up plan in case your first choice is full. In the third week of August the visitors disappear just as quickly, leaving the area to the Germans and Austrians with their staggered holidays. All is quiet again through September and October.

The Areas, Summarised

Italian shores are strictly coasts of passage, with few anchorages. North of Vieste, approaches to the coast are shallow, with fish farms and offshore installations to avoid. However, day sailing from marina to marina (or port) is possible. Venice is a 'must see', and car hire to to explore Bologna, Modena and other inland cities is strongly recommended. Monfalcone, near Trieste, offers good value wintering compared to many Croatia options. (more)

Slovenia & N Croatia.  Slovenia, with only 10nm of coast, and Croatia are within the EU.  Croatia's holiday playgound of the Istrian peninsula and the rather stark Kvarner Gulf comprise our N Croatia. This is only a moderately interesting cruising ground. Entering Croatia, you must log in to the first available port of entry. (more)

Croatia's Dalmatian coast from Zadar south-eastwards, is the most popular Adriatic cruising ground.  Sheltered by parallel rows of long islands, all of this is flat water cruising, sometimes interrupted by the powerful bora wind, but often needing a motor. The islands form and shelter hundreds of free safe anchorages. Some 50 (good but expensive) marinas serve cruisers and large numbers of charter boats, as do mooring fields in near popular attractions. (more)

Montenegro & Albania form a coast of passage between Greece and Croatia which is outside the EU (so, paperwork). Few boats cruise this coast. Spend time in the spectacular Kotor Fjord of Montenegro. Further south, sandy shores line the 250nm coast of Albania. This can be cruised with longish day sails. Take time to see Butrint, a world heritage architectural site. The Whole Adriatic(more)

Unique charms of the area are Croatia's carefully preserved old towns, a lively café culture, nature reserves with rich scenery, and hundreds of quiet  anchorages. 

Snags are lack of sandy beaches in Dalmatia, crowded high season sailing, many un-predictable charter boats, and a feeling in Croatia that you have to pay every step of the way, even though it is not expensive by Italian standards.  

Getting There

The Dalmatian coast can be reached by day sailing along the Italian coast. This avoids the paperwork inevitable when coasting through Albania and Montenegro. The whole trip along Italy to Venice,in the NW corner, is around 420nm.  However, crossing the Adriatic from Vieste to Ubli (port of entry on Lastovo island) or Korkula (port of entry) is popular, possible in a long day sail. For those in a hurry, an overnight trip to Dubrovnic (port of entry) from Brindisi (120nm), Bari (100nm) or Trani (90nm) is suitable. From Corfu to Cavtat/Dubrovnic direct (180nm) needs two nights at sea for smaller yachts.

Regulations Warning

Non-EU passport holders, before departing from the EU to enter Montenegro or Albania must obtain an exit stamp from EU immigration. This stops the clock on their Schengen visas.

All vessels going to or from any non-EU countries must fly the Q flag and report to the immigration and port authorities at a port of entry. Also, all vessels entering/leaving Croatia must report at the first/last feasible port of entry (from the south after 1 April, that's Cavtat rather than Dubrovnic). This may be subject to change for EU flagged vessels


777 and the Italian "Pagine d'Azzurre Online"  provide good and up to date harbour listings. For anchorages, see Imray's Adriatic Pilot (Trevor and Dinah Thompson, 6th ed - available from our Bookshop ).  Croatia Cruising Companion (Jane Cody and John Nash) covers the attractions of Dalmatia effectively. Croatian nautical maps be viewed at http://www.yachtcharters-croatia.com/croatian-nautical-maps.htm. There are useful Android and Apple apps identifying anchorages and mooring fields in Croatia.


Updated Jan 2017


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