Ted Barrett is a sportsman who has a passion for the outdoors and exploration. His 20-year resume with leading adventure-travel outfits says it all: Action Quest; Broadreach; Costa Rica Outward Bound; Nautilus Sailing and NOLS. Barrett’s varied career includes stints as a sailboat captain and guide for a variety of outdoor activities, including backcountry skiing, surfing, whitewater rafting, hiking and scuba diving.
From the mountains of Colorado and Vermont, to the Caribbean shoreline of Costa Rica and now his native Richmond, Barrett has lived a life of travel, outdoor education and adventure. MountainSea Exploration, his adventure travel company that offers global, tailored vacation experiences, personifies his passions and pursuits with unique sailing voyages in different parts of the world.
“I believe the draw towards sailing for most people is getting off the grid,” he said. “There’s also the autonomous feeling of it, being able to go into places most people won’t have the opportunity to see from land.”
One of those destinations is Croatia, a country at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe on the Adriatic Sea. Croatia is a paradise naturally blessed with thousands of miles of seafront and more than a thousand islands. The nation’s coastline is Central Europe’s Riviera, and its pebbly beaches, mild summer weather and stunning mountains are treasures.
MountainSea’s inaugural voyage took place there in 2017, when Barrett and his team took an adventurous group from Colorado and Utah on a sailing trip along Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast. The most famous and touristed stretch of Croatia’s 3,600-mile coastline, the Dalmatian Coast is home to dramatic limestone cliffs and scattered islands that dazzle the eyes in the country’s southernmost region.
“Astronauts say the Adriatic is the bluest sea on Earth,” said Barrett, “and there are a lot of locations in this world you can only access from the ocean. Sailing gives you the ability to travel to those spots and see them in a unique way. Croatia is one of the top destinations in the world and offers all the opportunities many people look for in adventure travel.”
Barrett said the group on that maiden voyage loved adrenaline, and that’s what they found in Croatia. MountainSea Exploration customized the trip to include climbing, cliff jumping, deep-water soloing, submarine-bunker exploring, snorkeling, standup paddle boarding and halyard swinging.
“That first sailing adventure in Croatia was a blast. We were caught off guard by the rich night life, historical town visits and the gourmet local cuisine. One of our guests was an avid climber who brought her own gear on the trip. She scaled a 60-foot cliff on the island of Hvar, and we documented the feat from the yacht while motoring below in the Adriatic Sea. For me, that highlight was really something, and it just goes to show how we can tailor these global vacation experiences to meet the needs of our clients.”
Offered June through September, the Croatia voyage involves one week of luxury sailing that begins in the historic city of Trogir with visits to the islands of Vis, Hvar and Šolta. Starting at $2,950 per person, the package includes seven nights in a single or double occupancy cabin with a queen bed and private, en suite lavatory and shower. The package also offers a culinary experience with exquisite meals prepared by Chef Sarah Leone, a Belgian who uses local ingredients and adjusts the menu by season and location.
“One thing that sets the Croatia voyage apart is the meals,” added Barrett. “For the other MountainSea Exploration destinations, which include voyages in the Bahamas, French Polynesia, Grenadines, Italy’s Amalfi Coast, Puerto Rico, St. Martin and Leewards, Sea of Cortez and the U.S. Virgin Islands, meals are typically served on board. But the magical thing about Croatia is the food that is served in local restaurants, which is often paired with the Rakjia liquor that’s popular in the Balkans..”
Guests are in capable, safe hands with Captain Colin Kurcz, director of sailing operations, who is a trained boat captain with expert knowledge of the Dalmatian Coast. He guides tours on shore and on luxury sailing vessels, including monohulls or catamarans. For the Croatia voyage, he captains a comfortable 2019 Fontaine Pajot Saba 50 Sailing Catamaran.
A typical Croatia voyage may look something like this.
Day One: Trogir
Guests meet with the MountainSea Exploration team at the Marina Baotić in Trogir at 5:00 pm. Trogir is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Croatian jewel. Known for its mix of Renaissance, baroque and Romanesque buildings, the historic city is situated on a small island connected to the mainland and the island of Čiovo by bridges. The 13th-century Cathedral of St. Lawrence is home to the Renaissance Chapel of St. John and offers sweeping views from its bell tower. Guests are welcomed with a champagne toast before settling into their cabins. The evening also entails a visit to a local restaurant for dinner.
Day Two: Komiža
MountainSea sails southwest to Komiža, a city on the western side of Vis. Guests can take the helm, learn how to sail or relax and enjoy the day at sea. On the way to Komiža, the catamaran stops at the Blue Lagoon for swimming and snorkeling in crystal-clear water. Once in Komiža, guests can walk along the waterfront and explore the enchanting Mediterranean village. Chef Leonet serves dinner onboard the catamaran and guests can explore the local nightlife.
Day Three: Blue Cave and Vis
The day begins with a visit to the Blue Cave on the island of Biševo. Guests can explore the natural phenomenon on a small boat. The afternoon includes sailing to Vis, which was for many years the military and naval headquarters of Tito’s army and was closed to the public until 1989. While there, MountainSea Exploration stops at a submarine bunker that was used by the Yugoslavian army. The group also explores the tunnel system that cuts through the island. Later, Kurcz moors at the wall in Vis so guests can visit the restaurants, fortress, monastery and wineries. At night, the group dines at Darko’s, a legendary restaurant with only a handful of tables that spends the whole day preparing food for an intimate number of guests.
Day Four: Šcedro
From Vis, MountainSea sails to Šcedro, a protected nature park with hidden coves and superb anchorages. Guests enjoy frequent stops for swims and have the opportunity to hone their sailing skills if they choose. Once moored in the bay, guests can paddleboard, snorkel or sunbathe on the deck. The day ends with a gourmet meal onboard.
Day Five: Hvar
MountainSea sails from Šcedro to Hvar. On the way, the group visits the island of Paklinski Otoci. There, guests can relax, hike or snorkel after lunch. Then the catamaran heads to Hvar for an early afternoon arrival. Hvar is an interesting place where guests can explore a castle, enjoy the town and see the sunset from the Hula Hula Beach Bar.
Day Six: Šolta
After a lazy morning and breakfast, the group heads for a swim in the “third bay from the right” on the south end of Šolta. Later, they sail to the west end of the island to a large natural bay for a Mediterranean Mooring. The bay is 60 feet deep and is the perfect spot for kayaking and snorkeling before dinner and a night under the stars unfiltered by light pollution.
Day Seven: Trogir
Swimming and kayaking are a perfect fit for the morning of the last day. After lunch, MountainSea Exploration sails back to the marina in Trogir. There, guests can explore in the afternoon and visit points of interest they may have missed on the first day. The final dinner at another local restaurant is the perfect opportunity to share stories of a memorable voyage.
“Some people book the trip so their whole family can learn how to sail,” Barrett said. “Others just want to relax, take in the scenery and enjoy local food and drink. We can modify any adventure. Either way, you’ll get an unforgettable education sailing with us along the Dalmatian Coast.”
Visit MountainSeaExploration.com for more information.
Joe Shields is the editor in chief of The Virginia Sportsman. He is a writer and marketing executive based in Charlottesville, Virginia. His writing and photography have appeared in The Virginia Sportsman and other publications. He is also a gallery-represented artist whose work is found in private collections and several galleries in Virginia. Whether fly fishing or surfing, drawing or painting, he celebrates sporting life and culture in his narratives and art.
All photos courtesy of MountainSea