It’s all very well taking the boat out for afternoon excursions to a quiet cove for a swim, but we have plans to go further afield, and we’d like to be safe! To that end, we’ve been studying for our RYA Day Skipper certification, taking the theory part of the course online. Now, distance learning is all very well, but at some point you need to get some practical instruction and experience in different weather situations. So, last week we kitted out the Seawagon for a 6 day trip, and set off for Šibenik. Our destination was NCP Charter, a local RYA training centre, and we were signed up for the motor version of the course.
The route from Vrboska to Šibenik is pretty straightforward, following the south coast of Brač and Šolta, before curving north and into the Sv Ante channel. But given the size of the southerly waves that morning, we opted to turn through the Splitska Vrata (Gates of Split) and go along Šolta’s northern shore. Quite a few sailing boats seemed to have the same idea, and we found ourselves with company going every which way, but mostly heading up and down between the coast and the islands.
Our first stay in an actual marina was an experience. Marina Mandalina presents itself as a luxury yacht marina, and oh boy are there some large and very shiny boats lined up outside the reception! The tender came out to greet us and show us to our berth much further along, as we really don’t need much in the way of depth. We were, I noticed, the smallest boat on the dock, as the charters are all sized to sleep more folks. NCP Charter were lovely and helpful as always, made us comfortable and handed us our first homework – the course book to read before tomorrow! And so it begins…
Day 1 and we meet with our instructor, Eddy, a delightful Belgian with a wealth of experience and a gentle teaching manner. It feels more like he’s simply guiding us as we work things out. He learns the capabilities of our boat, while we learn about mooring in different ways. And we decide that after lunch, we’ll navigate up the Krka river to Skradin and spend the night there. It’s a beautiful trip between high rocky walls, with bridges overhead that we’ve never seen from this angle before! Arriving in Skradin, we discover there’s a regatta and the marina is fully booked. Luckily, they can squeeze us in next to the restaurant – ah, the benefits of being small with no keel! Homework tonight is to plot our return back down the Krka. Thankfully, it’s quite peaceful in the marina, despite all the boats!
Day 2 and it’s another gorgeous sunny day as we head back down the river and out to the open sea through the Sv Ante channel. Lunch is in the beautiful little town of Zlarin, on the island of the same name. It’s shady and peaceful, somewhere I’d like to come back to, and spend more time. We’re heading out to anchor around Zmajan for a sunset picnic, having first plotted our night course home. Absolutely glorious colours as the sun goes down, then a very concentrated couple of hours following our notes as we look carefully for guiding lights. Glass of wine needed before bed!
Day 3 starts with review of our night sail, and what we learned. Well, for a start, how difficult it is to see anything after dark, and how important to read your chart carefully! Great experience, and clearly more practice needed! In the afternoon, we’re off towards the nearby island of Prvić while occasionally circling back to pick up our man/fender overboard and learning more ways to moor.
Day 4 and we’re back in our classroom at the pizzeria (it has bigger tables than the boat). Tides and currents are hardly a big issue in the Adriatic, but we have to know about them anyway. For lunch, we choose to take the boat over to the town harbour at Šibenik for more docking practice. It’s a tricky one, as the waves are higher, and we’re parking right next to another boat. For the rest of the day, it’s even more mooring – with the wind, against the wind, alongside, and finally… reversing into place. Now that’s not easy in our boat as she will always go left in reverse because of propwalk. Eddy disallows use of our bow-thruster as “cheating”, and shows us other ways to compensate. This is advanced stuff, and we feel quite accomplished by the end of it!
And so we are now the proud holders of RYA Day Skipper certificates. It was a pretty concentrated week, and many, many thanks to our wonderful instructor, Eddy Coenen who guided us through it. Thanks also to Vedran Mandura of NCP Charter in Šibenik for arranging everything, and looking after us so well. We highly recommend the effectiveness and professionalism of this RYA Training Centre. And, of course, it’s a beautiful place to sail (or motor).