Sailing in Croatia: Meet Chris, 7 Years Guiding Here

Total Croatia News


We love sharing the experience of others in Croatia, particularly those who love this country just as much as we do. Meet ‘Koda Chris’ he first visited Croatia 11 years ago, has since started a company – Koda Sail and been guiding here for 7 years.

There have been many aspects about writing for Total Croatia News which I have thoroughly enjoyed (all of the amazing events and experiences I have been lucky enough to be a part of sits very high on the list); one element, however, completely took me by surprise – and that is the number of people who reach out to simply say ‘I enjoy your articles, keep doing what you’re doing.’ When you sit on your laptop for hours on end trying to come up with new and creative stories to share, this small message can mean the world.

So, when this popped up in my inbox:

Hey Tash, just a quick one to say I always enjoy your articles on TCN and get a Google alert for every time there is a new article on Croatia Sailing, so I get to see them all. I work the summers in Croatia on a boat also, so it’s nice to see someone writing about their experiences.”

I was pretty chuffed. It would have been easy to say “thanks, man” but the words ‘I work the summers in Croatia’ caught my curiosity, so, I couldn’t help but ask a few questions and I’m glad I did. This message was from a guy called ‘Koda Chris’ and it turns out he first visited Croatia in 2006 (long before it was the ‘must-do’ for all millennials) and has been guiding on boats in Croatia for the last 7 years and even started his own sailing company. You all know where this is going – the joys of technology allowed me to hit Chris with an interview and I have to say now, his answers are on-point. Let’s go.

How did you end up guiding in Croatia?

I was lucky enough to work for a travel company that covered the whole of Europe, which then allowed me to choose an area to specialise in. I had been to visit Croatia back in 2006, so my memories of the crystal blue water, warm weather and the amazing food made it a no-brainer to choose Croatia as my specialist location.


What has kept you coming back?

The friendships I’ve formed over the years with not only the other guides but the locals have kept me coming back. It’s these friendships that helped form Koda Sail which has a very local touch about it. We are all about family and make sure that all our suppliers have a family aspect about them so our passengers can get that authentic Croatian hospitality which I love so much.


Why did you start Koda Sail?

I started Koda Sail after years of working in the travel industry and seeing there was a gap in the ‘young professional’ market. I along with the assistance of my local friends in each town and some very helpful captains, came up with a great itinerary.  The basis of Koda Sail was that we would have passengers that would walk away from their time in Croatia with great memories, and not just drunken party stories. This was especially important to the locals and of course the captains who have to be on the seas for 20+ weeks with these rowdy groups. Koda Sail has been a breath of fresh air for them and they’ve enjoyed having such amazing and respectful guests on board.


What kind of groups do you guide, is it mostly Aussies?

With Koda Sail our groups are a bit more diverse. Of course, we still get the Aussies on board as they are the ones with the most incentive to be here with it being Winter back home and the amount of vacation leave they get. But we do have a good mix of Americans, Canadians and English joining us also to round out the trip and make it a bit more multi-cultural.


What do you love Most about Croatia?

Apart from the amazing weather, crystal blue waters, delicious food and beautiful scenery, it is the people that I’ve met over the years that I love the most. It’s amazing to think I have some of my best friendships formed over these summers as I am lucky enough to continue returning. Last Summer I even had the privilege to be a best man at the wedding of one of my oldest friends here in Croatia. It was amazing.


What are some of your best moments here?

Festivals play a big part of the Croatian Summer and I’d say that my most favourite moments have been when I was lucky enough to cross paths with any while on tour. Last Summer I finally crossed paths with the Pirate festival in Omis which was amazing to see. I got the group to join me in town, dress up like a pirate as the locals do on this fun night and watch the parade and festivities. It was fun to be at something so traditional and local and to be able to take my group along with me. Very memorable!

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Since you have been coming for so many years, you must have seen a lot of changes in tourism, what has changed the most?

I first visited Croatia back in 2006, so in the past 11 years, I’ve seen a lot of changes in tourism. The biggest thing I’ve noticed is that English is so much more widely spoken now. In all my travels across Europe, the Croatians by far have the best English, which has made tourism a lot easier to deal with and no doubt helped with their growth.

I’ve also seen the change in the types of boats, going from the older wooden ones to the deluxe steel ones we see more often today. This has also brought a new breed of traveller, which has been interesting to witness as the expectations of luxury and demands for perfection have definitely increased.

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What are some of the positive changes you have seen in regards to sailing?

I like that there is a bit more control over which boats dock and where they dock. I feel that in the past it was just a bit of free for all, but have noticed a lot more order in the past few years. This has made it a bit easier to deal with as a guide also as you are now docked up with similar boat/tour styles as yours and not next to a party boat.

Party tourism has had a lot of bad press this year, what are your groups like – rowdy, respectful? Koda Sail was formed on the back of the idea that we want to be different from the rest. We specialise in the ‘Young Professional’ age bracket of 25-40 with our average age being 30, so our focus is more on the social aspect rather than the partying.

We set the tone from the beginning and remind everyone what we are about and that we have the utmost respect for this country and that we are visitors here. We also make sure the itinerary is set in a way which allows us to party in the appropriate towns, and then have our relaxed downtime also. It’s a great mix and our passengers love the style of the tours.

Is there a way to mitigate the drunkenness?

I have had amazing tours over the 7 years and had some fantastic groups. I read all these articles about the obnoxious drunks that are here to party, but I have not had them on my tours. Don’t get me wrong, my passengers want to party and have a good time, but it’s my job to set the tone and ask they respect the locals, the tour and their fellow passengers.

It most definitely comes down to the guide on how the groups will behave. I’ve seen some terrible groups over the years and then look at their leader and cringe because they are the ones encouraging that behaviour. It may be fun, but it is totally disrespectful to the locals and those parts I am happy to have tightened up.


Finishing up…

Why was I happy to see these answers? Because, even though I have written about ‘party tourism’ before, I also know there are many sides to this coin, I personally had great experiences as a guide, my groups came here to have a good time but were also respectful and interested in Croatia. So yes, I definitely believe that guides have a huge role to play in the tone and style of tour they set.

I also get asked a lot to recommend tour companies for the ‘young professionals’, they want to come sailing in Croatia but they don’t want to be a part of Yacht Week for example; now I might be able to point them in the direction of Koda Sail.

There is a lot of scope for Croatia to stay the #1 destination that it is, while keeping its ‘integrity’ intact and it all comes down to the type of tourism promoted and the people running the tour companies caring a little more about Croatia and its people. Nice to know there are people like Chris out there, doing their thing year-after-year.


Are you a guide or have you been sailing in Croatia and want to share some of your experiences? Hit us with a message on our Facebook page here or email [email protected]


All photos courtesy of ‘Koda Chris’


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