Charter broker Missy Johnston of Northrop and Johnson Worldwide Yacht Charters has just returned from Croatia, where she checked out the local gulets and sights so that she can help charter clients arrange the best possible itineraries.
Here’s what she had to say about her time in Croatia, which yachts she’s recommending to clients in Croatia, and more.
Where did you cruise in Croatia?
I went to see and to cruise on Croatian gulets, which are similar to Turkish gulets, and in fact there are many Turkish gulets that have relocated to Croatia for this coming summer from Turkey.
Croatian gulets are, of course flagged to Croatia, and have Croatian crew. We cruised onboard the Croatian gulet Alba in company with the Croatian gulet Libra and the Croatian motorsailer Navilux for seven days from Split to Dubrovnik, and visited all of the best islands and ports in this section of Dalmatia.
We visited the islands of Brac, Hvar, Viz, Korcula, Mljet and Sipan, along with the coastline of the Peljesac Peninsula. After, we spent two nights in Dubrovnik Old Town, to really explore and learn this UNESCO World Heritage site and try to recommended restaurants such as Nautika Restaurant, just outside the Old Town gates.
We also drove along the coastline to visit Ston and Mali Ston. Ston was once a famous location for sea salt collection. The area, which is at the head of a long bay with freshwater streams feeding the bay, is excellent for oyster and mussel farms, shellfish that prefer protected, calm, brackish water. The shellfish are plucked right out of the water in Ston and Mali Ston, directly to your plate. It could be called “Sea to Table.”
We spent an additional three days driving around northern Montenegro to see all of the ports on both the northern and southern side of the Bay of Kotor, and of course, Old Town Kotor. Of note to see on a charter pickup in Tivat or Kotor are Old Town Kotor, with the extensive rock fortifications behind the walled Old Town, and the little town of Perast.
Which yachts in Croatia are you are recommending for charter clients this summer?
I am recommending Alba, Navilux and Libra. In addition for great Croatian gulets, I am offering Andjeo, Aurum, Stella Maris, Rosa and the motoryacht Korab.
What was the most surprising thing you learned about Croatia during your recent visit?
The number of boutique wineries producing excellent wines, many of which are consumed right in Croatia, if not right in the area where produced, that are never exported. When visiting any port or island, the extensive amount of really good wines available to be sampled made by grapes grown right on that island or near the port was extraordinary. Many of the boutique wineries are family-owned and have been in production for many generations.
That and the amount of food that is made, gathered or grown in Croatia is terrific. We hunted wild asparagus in the forests, and wild herbs grew everywhere. Citrus and olive groves abound, and alongside each and especially alongside fields of lavender are beehives, for beautiful orange blossom or lavender honey.
Croatia farmers produce many different sorts of cheese, both fresh and aged. Olives for virgin olive oil are pressed throughout Croatia. And in northern Croatia, both white and black truffles are hunted with dogs, and gathered for many different white and black truffle food products. Lavender is a huge crop in Croatia, and lavender sachets, soaps, essential oils, salt (made from Ston sea salt) and culinary lavender are fun souvenirs to bring home. I also brought home black truffle oil, and several small black truffles canned in little jars with olive oil, that were extremely reasonable in cost.
Once we left an island or port, we would look again for certain wines we had from that island or port, and they were not to be found, as great boutique wineries sell only to the locals and local restaurants. Chartering on a winery tour, to visit various wineries and collect fabulous local wines, could certainly be a very interesting and rewarding reason to charter for the wine aficionado, besides the side benefit of the beautiful waters, scenery and fresh foods.
Also, Croatia has not been overfished, as have the waters of many European Union countries, and fresh fish locally caught is readily available, including deep-sea fish such as tuna. And there are many shellfish farms growing oysters, clams and mussels, which are referred to in Croatia as simply “shells.”
How is availability for Croatia yacht charter this summer, and are you recommending that clients start booking for summer 2017 as well?
If a Croatian gulet or motorsailer is of interest, clients should definitely be thinking about summer 2017. All of the gulets that I saw, plus additional gulets that I know and like, are fully booked for summer 2016, except perhaps for weeks in September and October. And weeks have been already booked on certain gulets for summer 2017.
To book a Croatia yacht charter with broker Missy Johnston, visit the Northrop and Johnson Worldwide Yacht Charters website.