It may seem a little perverse in this time of coronavirus, but I have been thinking a lot about Croatia – and in particular about a long held dream I have had of one day exploring that breathtakingly beautiful coastline on a sailing boat or gulet.

I have been to Croatia many times. I have stayed in an apartment overlooking the Adriatic on the Makarska Riviera; I have marvelled at the magnificent palace of the Roman emperor Diocletian that still forms the heart of the city of Split; I have enjoyed family holidays on the beaches of Baska on the northern island of Krk – and watched the sun set, glass of Vrbnicka zlahtina white wine in hand. I have spent a magical week with my wife exploring the lesser visited island of Vis; I have gasped at the extraordinary delight that is Dubrovnik. I have travelled the length and breadth of that incredible coastline by ferry, coach and car. On my very first visit as a bright-eyed 17-year-old I hitch-hiked through what was then Yugoslavia, having spent an evening clinking glasses and swearing eternal friendship with the good folk of Zagreb. But I have never explored those islands by sailing boat or plunged into those crystal clear waters while moored far out to sea. 

Not that I haven’t wanted to. I once floated the idea (sorry!) of a family sailing holiday along the Dalmatian coast in which we would all learn the ropes and I would assume the role of captain. My family and in particular my wife who has suffered many long years being married to someone barely capable of changing a light bulb quickly and firmly vetoed that idea. 

We continued to visit using other forms of transport – there was one especially lovely day on Vis when my wife and I took off to explore on a scooter and felt we were once again in our early twenties before the arrival of children.

I quietly forgot the sailing idea. Until it came up in conversation about a decade ago now with some dear friends of ours, Simon and Meryl. They expressed a huge interest in visiting Croatia – a country they had yet to discover – and particularly in doing so on a sailing vessel.

The four of us toyed with the idea of doing it ourselves – Simon is considerably more practically minded than I am – and possibly of extending it to involve other friends. We thought about sailing ourselves – or doing it more luxuriously in a crewed boat with a seasoned skipper at the helm. We all agreed it would be a lovely thing to do – and then promptly never got round to doing it. Other trips came up, busy lives needed to be lived, perhaps we all got slightly cold feet – what if there were stormy weather? What if it all felt a bit claustrophobic? It all seemed a bit much to organise.

I’ve long dreamed of sailing around Croatia


It became a running joke between us. “Been anywhere nice this summer?” Simon would ask when we’d meet for an autumn stroll in the countryside of Buckinghamshire. “Croatia maybe? Gosh I’ve never known anyone who’s been there.” I always had my answer. “I’d really recommend it, especially if you’re going to sail. Such a nice thing to do with real friends…”

Last year Simon had a quadruple heart bypass. He’s a fit man and seemed to ride it and recover well. But it was an intimation of mortality – a poignant reminder that you can’t postpone things in life indefinitely. 

“So Croatia this summer?” I joked during a get-together on the first day of 2020. “No I think the moment has passed,” said Simon.

Maybe it has. But one of the many things this coronavirus outbreak has enabled is reflection. Have we all done what it is we really want to do in life? Have we all been to the places we really want to go? Have we all made time and enjoyed life’s richness – sailing the Adriatic perhaps – with the people that really matter? 

So as the country and the world went into coronavirus meltdown, I messaged Simon to ask whether he and Meryl were OK. 

And – I just couldn’t resist – I added that we might have to put that Croatia trip on hold.

Bright as a button Simon came back: “Thanks. Never been to Croatia. Do you know anyone who has been?”

I do as a matter of fact. And as I sit here self-isolating (my wife has the cough), I am seriously thinking of a return trip. This time on a sailing holiday. This time with Simon and Meryl.

We may not be able to travel right now; we may not even be able to travel normally this summer. But we can still dream; we can still plan. And when this wretched business is behind us, we can make it happen.

Could 2021 finally be the year?


What is the first holiday you will take after coronavirus? Is there a dream trip you have been putting off for years? Please leave your comments below. 

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