For the sailing lovers the most important fuel is - wind! It makes sailing holidays and total experience completely unforgettable. But it should not be underestimated. Winds are important nautical factor and while they can be favourable to enjoy your sailing, they can also represent certain hazard. Every skipper shall beware weather conditions and winds expectations to cater for smooth and safe sailing. Below you can find more about typical winds in Croatia.
Regional weather conditions - Croatia
Weather in this, central part of the Mediterranean, is influenced by various weather systems and local topography. Quite often, this makes local weather unpredictable with rapid changes requiring sailors to be constantly on watch. There is a whole spectre of various winds, sometimes blowing in opposite directions at the proximate locations. Also, it is not unusual that when cyclone system is dominating central part of the Adriatic, North Adriatic is suffering from heavy Bura (Storm, NE wind), while on the South Adriatic is blowing Jugo (Scirocco, S, SE wind). These conditions sometimes can confuse sailors, because actual weather can substantionally deviate from forecasted, directly influencing safety of navigation.
In general, weather at the Adriatic Sea is mainly influenced by Azores Antycylone and Genoa Cyclone systems. When Azores Antycyclone is dominating Mediterranean, weather at the Adriatic Sea is nice, calm and quite, with occasional morning mist. On the other side, due to Genoa Cyclone, cold air penetrates over Alps resulting in turbulent and diverse local weather conditions that can last for several days.
Here is a wind rose applicable for wind directions at the Adriatic Sea:
Stormy North East (NE) wind, is one of the most frequent winds at the Adriatic Sea, especially in winter months. Sometimes it creates a whole lot of problems in navigation because it appears suddenly and with great strength, even in summer season. Main direction of this wind is vertical to the shore line, which means it's coming from the North East (NE). Depending on the coast line, Bura can change direction to East (E) or even South East (SE) .
When cold air settles down at the continent, it starts overleaping mountains and swoops down the steep hill-sides creating abrupt wind. It blows intermittently off mountains with gusting being main characteristic. Bura is hitting sea surface under large angle which is the reason why it does not create high waves in relation to its strenght and speed. As you go away from the coast, it loses its strenght. During the day, Bura often changes its intensity and is weakest around noon. After sunset it increases its speed. It usually makes you company for 3 days.
Here is a highlight of the most dangerous navigation areas at the Croatian part of the Adriatic Sea, when Bura weather conditions prevail:
- Podvelebitski kanal (Velebit Channel)
- Senjska vrata (Senj Strait)
- Bakarski zaljev (Bakar Bay)
- Vela vrata (Passage between Cres Island and mainland)
Central and South Adriatic
- Šibenik and its vicinity
- Kaštelanski zaljev (Kastela Bay)
- Brački kanal (Brac Channel), especially in Vrulja Bay between Omiš and Makarska
- Pelješac coastline, especially Žuljana Bay
- Zaton (Dubrovnik) and its vicinity
During navigation around these areas under Bura weather conditions, every technical problem like engine failure or ripped sails can lead to a serious accident. Because navigation is close to the shore, the boat is drifting quickly and the crew has limited time to react. Also, falling overboard in these conditions can be fatal due to the phenomena called „Bura Smoke“. This is when wind rises sea droplets, creating unfavourable breathing conditions at the sea level. In extreme winter navigation, these droplets can cause sail and shipboard icing, directly influencing boat stability.
Cold and dry North (N) wind similar to Bura, but it does not change speed and direction and never achieves its strength. Tramontana goes with a clear weather and it instensifies as you go offshore where it creates large waves. In the past Tramontana was almost certain messenger of Bura. Nowdays this rule is applicable fairly less, due to rapidly changing meteorological conditions at the Adriatic.
Maestral is definitely the most pleasant wind of the Adriatic Sea, ideal for sailing. It is mainly coming from North West (NW) and persists during the nice and stable weather i.e. when the Adriatic is under influence of Azores Antycylone. Locally it is the consequence of the heat exchange between the sea and land. Its direction is mainly from the sea towards coast because during the day land is being warmed up more quickly than the sea. Maestral starts in the morning, at some places already around 9:00 am. Coming from the South (S) or South West (SW), it gradually turns to West (W) during the day. In channels between the islands, in the afternoon it turns to Nort West (NW) reaching its peak strength. This wind suddenly loses its strength and finally stops as sun goes down. We can say that Maestral folllows the sun. The sea completely calms down approximately 1 hour after the wind stops. Maestral speed is usually between 7 and 21 knots, rarely reaching 33 knots. Maestral and Burin winds are part of the stable and nice antycyclonal weather system.
Burin (or in some places Terin) is a night mild wind coming from the coast towards sea, directly opposite of Maestral. It is due to the fact that during night time sea is warmer than land. Not to to be mistaken with Bura, this wind is part of the stable antycyclonal system together with Maestral. Regular exchange of Maestral and Burin means that weather will be nice, while absence of Burin (and Maestral) is a sign of coming weather change or even storm.
Jugo (Scirocco) is common name for all winds with prefix S (South), because in cyclone system these winds are coming from its front end - S (South), SE (South East) and on the open sea even from the SW (South West). Locally, in the channels between islands coastal topography influence its direction. Main characteristic of Jugo is that it appears with barometric pressure drop and increase in relative humidity. Jugo brings bad weather and rain and it can last for several days. It blows evenly at around 10 to 20 knots but can reach stormy levels of even 55 knots.
Jugo can be dangerous for navigation due to big waves it creates, sometimes up to 10 m. It can also create powerful sea currents, sometimes of over 2 knots of speed. Luckily, Adriatic Sea due to its fantastic topography allows for numerous natural protection bays against south winds. Jugo is the most powerful on the open sea. Locally it's the most dangerous in the Kvarner Bay and west coast of Istria at the North Adriatic and around Cape Ploce, south of Dubrovnik and in the Lastovo and Mljet Channels at the South Adriatic.
Neverin is a local strom that comes rapidly and very forcefully. It is the most dangerous weather threat for navigation. Luckily it does not last long, sometimes only 15 minutes, but even that is more than enough to create substantial damage to your boat and even human casualties. These storms characterize heavy winds of sometimes more than 60 knots. Local storms of this type (Neverin) are summer speciality and they show up after longer period of very warm days and nights. They used to appear after mid-August, but nowdays they are not unusual occurrence even at the beginning of July.
Neverin comes from the West (W) in the form of terrifying black stratocumulus under which is travelling rain front at the high speeds. At the time this happens if you are not tightly moored in marina or anchored at the protected bay, you better be putting out to the open sea. This is the safest way to avoid damages and problems in given circumstances. Sailors when meeting Neverin on the open sea should do so with lowered sails to overcome first wind blasts which have hurrican power. Already after 10-15 minutes when first front with rain passes, the wind will show its direction allowing for correct sailing tacticts.
Local summer storms are more often at the North Adriatic endangering almost all cities on the Istria's western coast, Westward (W) and North-Westward (NW) ports. Extremely dangerous places during summer storms are Poreč, Mali Lošinj and Hvar.
Pulenat, Lebic and Garbin
Pulant, Lebic and Garbin are common local names for the same winds coming from West (W) or third quadrant, which is often referred to as „ship graveyard“. These winds appear when cyclone system is northern of Adriatic and antycyclone is further south. They are often confused with summer storms (Neverin) but these are not the same.
When Jugo (Scirocco), which is South (S) wind, starts turning to South West (SW), Garbin starts. The sea is even more obscured, bays and shoreline are sea foamed, ports become dangerous places and boats are left to unmerciful Garbin. On the sea crossed waves prevail, creating a conflict between standard wave pattern of the South (S) wind and emerging waves from South West (SW). These kind of waves are usually impossible obstacle for smaller boats.