Charter hostess diary

Welcome aboard, Benvenuti a bordo, Dobro dosli na brod - I must have said that sentence hundreds of times in the past ten years, and still it gives me the same pleasure to say it every time I welcome new guests aboard yachts. New guests are friends you haven't met yet - here to enjoy our beautiful Adriatic and experience Croatia. Most of the times those guests have little yachting experience or none at all, but have heard from friends this was the best way to see the beauties of our country, its islands and coast. Some of them choose chartering a yacht for its trendy appear, but forget about appearances the second they step aboard; just relax and enjoy the freedom only boats can give. Those who have already experienced that freedom and mastered the art of sailing are rare, and most of luxury yachts in these waters are chartered by inexperienced tourists who benefit greatly from help of professional crews. Seasoned crews know how to spot newbies - a great tell is the number of suitcases dragged aboard; their type and size - a boxy Samsonite with wheels is hardly sign of an experienced sailor.
Take notice: yacht cabins, no matter how luxurious the yacht may be, are not similar in size to hotel rooms and every item you don`t need aboard becomes an object you'll have to skip over to get around your cabin. The first question crews like to ask is 'is this your first time aboard a yacht?'. The euphorically enthusiastic 'Yes!' usually means trouble for the crew, for first timers cannot provide even basic information on their “maritime personality” - for example, in eight suffers from seasickness without knowing it. Hot summer days always make our guests eager for sailing - and before you know it they'll be asking 'When do we take off?' with "stars" in their eyes. The skipper usually has hard time breaking their hearts explaining sail boats need at least some wind to sail, but the guest wants what he wants and off we go - onto windless sea as calm as oil, So sails are up, the engine is off... the sea is calm, we're not moving, expect for carried away by lazy waves, usually off course. Sails flap like laundry hung in the backyard, guests eagerly await that first gust of wind - after ten minutes their enthusiasm deflates and disappointment sets in. 'What's the deal with sailing?', they wonder, looking in our direction shyly, expecting us to get the engine started without them having to ask for it. Finally, someone musters the courage to admit their mistake and again off we go - this time with the engine doing what windless sails can't. Lesson learned: no wind, no sailing, no matter how badly you want it. The luck of having strong wind blow the second you step aboard also may prove to be no luck at all.
Here comes lesson number two. 'Holiday on boat' sometimes equals 'Seven days of seasickness'. Of course, there is no other way to find out whether or not you suffer from it than to actually try sailing - still, most people only get seasick the first time the boat starts moving. The head and the body have ways of dealing with waves, so the discomfort usually stops some time during the first day. The skipper is always understanding - the route is often changed to accommodate the sick guest: mooring found sooner and time spent at anchor stretched to a whole day if necessary. If a crew member gets sick, they will receive no special treatment; the day goes on and personal problems of the crew must never interfere with the long awaited vacation of our guests. Lesson two, addendum: seasickness can be tamed or eased with medications, patches and bracelets, and doesn't necessarily mean the holiday is ruined. After having conquered these initial problems, it's time to face a real one: as most guests realize only after setting out on their sea adventure, the Croatian Adriatic coast is only small on the map. A yacht chartered in Split may take you to Dubrovnik, Losinj, Skradin, Mljet, Krka Falls and Kornati - just not all in the same week. The skipper will sit down with the guests and plan the route, presenting possibilities and ex - plaining why hours of navigation may not take you where you thought you would end up looking at the map or the distance in miles. Weather conditions may be the best ally or the greatest enemy of navigation - it may allow you to go exactly where you want to go, or force you to change your route.
Lesson three: it's the journey you're here for, not the destination. Sailing is about getting around, seeing things, exploring and relaxing - not tracing your route on the map and counting hours till you get somewhere. Mother Nature has the final word, and if you are smart you'll appreciate what it offers you and enjoy every minute of your vacation.
Lesson four maybe the toughest one yet: you can't always get what you want. No matter how carefully planned the route, no matter how skilled or ready to please the crew, not every guest will have things their way. Spending days sunbathing, swimming, relaxing on a beach, staying 'out there' until the sun starts setting in the west, mooring the boat not before 7 PM, having all their appliances - cell phones, cameras, mp3 players - ready all day long, sightseeing right after dinner - that all takes lot of work, and the crew will certainly do their best to meet your wishes, but magic wands are not part of our equipment and sometimes something will have to be sacrificed. Still, friendly attitude and mutual respect will get us all a long way - sooner or later most guests will realize the advantages and the limitations of sailing. There are guests that can switch to their 'sailing personality' immediately, grasping little everyday things like saving water is a must on yachts, because the tap is connected to a limited capacity tank, while others will take their time de - landing, or might not get into the sailing frame of mind at all. There are but several simple rules to make your sailing vacation a pleasant and simple one.
Let's summarize: pack light, because every extra item you might not even use in the week or two you spend aboard will become nuisance you'll trip over and regret every buying, let alone packing. Limit you clothing choices to light summer pieces and several rough weather items like wind - breaker or fleece vests, you'll spend most of your days in swimming suits, so why bother with extreme fashion? Make sure you pack patches, pills or bracelets that fight seasickness - good crews will have those aboard, but you never know how often you might need to take that pill, or how many members of the guest party might need one. Sunscreen in this day and age is more than desirable - it's a must have, as are insect repellents. The skipper will help you plan the best route if you let him - the crew knows what's worth seeing, so don't make your vacation about crossing the names on your map and rushing from place to place. The skipper knows the weather too, so trust him if he tells you to prepare for a storm. It is our duty to keep you safe, not just entertained; and the sea can be a challenging environment to tackle. Members of the crew are more then just skilled servants. They are ambassadors of their country and here to make sure you spend your vacation enjoying yourselves and live to tell to all your friends about our country, our sea and our hospitality. Boats are not houses, they are weekend homes at best, and as comfortable as they may be they cannot offer the same level of carefree living as a house can. When looking for a boat to charter do your research and don't put blind faith in agencies - your best interest may not be theirs, so ask whatever you need to ask and get informed on every detail you find important. Small boats cannot offer much intimacy and no matter how close you are to your family members or friends, sooner or later small living quarters will make you all jumpy and ready to scream - keep calm if you can, and bear in mind you are on holiday and atmosphere is what it all really is about. One last thing - keep your ears open for weather forecast, for weather is probably the make or break element of your sailing vacation.

Hostess Sanja Galasso