A pri­vate yacht with an all-gay pas­sen­ger list, is­land hop­ping across the Adri­atic… yes, heaven re­ally is a place in Earth!

DNA Magazine - - CONTENT - by John Vi­dovich

A pri­vate yacht with an all-gay pas­sen­ger list, is­land hop­ping across the Adri­atic… yes, heaven re­ally is a place in Earth!

THERE’S A tan­gi­ble sense of ex­cite­ment and en­ergy in the air around the Croa­t­ian port city of Split on the Dal­ma­tian coast.

Hop­ing for a lively sum­mer of sun and ad­ven­ture, thou­sands of tourists from all cor­ners of the globe flock here. It’s the hotright-now spot thanks to its Mediter­ranean al­lure – clear turquoise wa­ters, close prox­im­ity to nu­mer­ous is­lands, mu­sic fes­ti­vals, sen­sa­tional cuisines, cheap drinks, and abun­dant nude beaches.

I’m about to em­bark on the trip of a life­time – is­land-hop­ping across the Adri­atic from Split to Dubrovnik with a group of handsome gays. Or­gan­ised by Med Sail­ing, un­der the um­brella of Pride Sail­ing hol­i­days, the trip is manned by an all-gay team in­clud­ing the skip­per and host.

There’s a grow­ing recog­ni­tion in this re­gion of the need to pro­vide safe, fun and non-judge­men­tal hol­i­days for mem­bers of our com­mu­nity. Only the best gay-friendly beaches, bars and restau­rants have been se­lected for this tour’s itin­er­ary to en­sure a mem­o­rable and pleas­ant ex­pe­ri­ence. There will be plenty of op­por­tu­ni­ties for group ac­tiv­i­ties but also per­sonal free time. On this trip, I’ll be min­gling with fel­low Aus­tralians, along with Amer­i­cans, Brits, Cana­di­ans, Ger­mans, Dutch and South Africans.

The yacht, named Ocea­nis 48, sleeps be­tween 8 and 10 peo­ple and has all the fa­cil­i­ties one would ex­pect on a mod­ern ves­sel. There’s a big gal­ley kitchen, a bath­room with mul­ti­ple show­ers, and su­per­fast 4G in­ter­net, which means be­ing able to stay con­nected while at sea.

Im­por­tantly, the deck of the yacht is spa­cious, with plenty of room for ev­ery­one to lounge in the sun, take in the views or kin­dle some pri­vate ro­mance. There’s also a cou­ple of ca­noes and snorkel sets for off-yacht ex­cur­sions.

But be­fore Ocea­nis 48 sets sail, and be­fore

I get to meet my ship­mates, I have a day to spend in Split. Dubbed the cap­i­tal of Dal­ma­tia, this port city is fas­ci­nat­ing. It’s a happy blend of Ro­man and Ro­manesque with a touch of Ori­en­tal ar­chi­tec­ture. I walk along the riva, a prom­e­nade by the har­bour lined with palm trees and en­joy a cock­tail or three in the sun, watch­ing the world go by. A stroll down the nar­row streets of the Palace Of Dio­cle­tian – a trib­ute to a great Ro­man em­peror – leads me to nu­mer­ous trendy bou­tiques, restau­rants and small bars.

I could eas­ily stay longer but I have a yacht to catch. I make my way to the ma­rina just north­west of Split in nearby Kaštela and there she is, proudly fly­ing the rain­bow flag, The Ocea­nis 48. My gay cruise odyssey is about to be­gin.

As I drop my bags on board, I meet the sail­ing team. Our skip­per is Paul, a rugged daddy with salt-and-pep­per hair and a great sense of hu­mour. He’s English, with years of sail­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and fa­mil­iar with the Croa­t­ian coast­line.

Our host is Marko, an at­trac­tive, slen­der guy from Chile, who en­sures ev­ery­thing runs smoothly. He will also, lov­ingly, pre­pare all the daily breakfasts and lunches on board, or­gan­ise ac­tiv­i­ties and act as a point of ref­er­ence for ad­di­tional trips through­out the week-long sail.

Fi­nally, I get to meet my trav­el­ling com­pan­ions. The group is a cos­mopoli­tan mix of sin­gles and cou­ples. By and large, the ma­jor­ity of guys are from pro­fes­sional back­grounds and are eager to en­joy ev­ery minute of the voy­age. This is definitely a “work

hard and play hard” kind of crowd. They’re up for ad­ven­tures and, along with that, the at­mos­phere is al­ready sex­u­ally charged.

We are wel­comed on board with a glass of prošek – a sweet desert wine tra­di­tion­ally pro­duced in south­ern Dal­ma­tia, but no one needs much en­cour­age­ment to break the ice. Con­ver­sa­tions flow and there’s plenty of curiosity. With all aboard, we are soon cast­ing off to Brac.

This is one of the largest and most pop­u­lated is­lands in Croa­tia. It has a num­ber of vil­lages with small ports, in­clud­ing the quaint town of Milna where we spend our first night. How­ever, be­fore we get there, we di­vert to a nud­ist beach for a cheeky swim where the bond­ing ses­sion con­tin­ues: more frol­ick­ing, sans swimwear, and flirt­ing in ev­ery di­rec­tion.

Next morn­ing, af­ter en­joy­ing our first break­fast to­gether, pre­pared by Marko, we head for Vino­gradisce Bay on the Pak­leni Is­lands. Typ­i­cally, Dal­ma­tian beaches are cov­ered with small peb­bles, but here the sand is white and flanked by a lush for­est of pine, rose­mary and other Dal­ma­tian flora.

One of the most il­lus­tri­ous cock­tail bars is lo­cated here and water taxis pro­vide easy ac­cess to nearby Hvar Is­land. This is ar­guably the gayest is­land in Croa­tia with many re­fer­ring to it as the “Mykonos of Croa­tia” due to its ex­cit­ing nightlife.

Ex­plor­ing the is­land, it be­comes ap­par­ent that Hvar is also the play­ground for Europe’s rich and fa­mous. The vibe is en­er­getic and youth­ful. Many of the bars are framed by large um­brel­las and palm trees over­look­ing the sea with stun­ning har­bour views.

Fi­nally, I get to meet my trav­el­ling com­pan­ions. They’re up for ad­ven­tures and the at­mos­phere is al­ready sex­u­ally charged.

We danced here un­til the early hours of the morn­ing, to ev­ery­thing from pop, to bal­lads and techno.

The fol­low­ing day we ar­rive on the is­land of Vis. It’s the fur­thest out­ly­ing of all the Dal­ma­tian is­lands and one of the most at­trac­tive due to its in­cred­i­bly green forests. The lo­cal wines, meats and cheeses are sim­ply divine – ex­plod­ing with flavour thanks to the for­est.

On the yacht, Marko of­fers us a se­lec­tion of fresh lo­cal fish and lob­ster but I go for a tra­di­tional Croa­t­ian slow-cooked roast called the peka. De­li­cious.

Mamma Mia 2 was re­cently shot on Vis. We watch the film in an open-air cinema that night. Af­ter­wards, some of us ven­ture out to meet the lo­cals in a nearby vil­lage. Croa­t­ian men are typ­i­cally tall with great olive skin and well-built bod­ies. I meet a sweet guy called Ivan who takes me on a ride on his scooter and gives me a per­sonal tour of his beloved is­land.

Kor­cula is our fourth des­ti­na­tion and a his­tor­i­cally sig­nif­i­cant site as the birthplace of Marco Polo – claimed by both Croa­t­ians and Ital­ians. The main town, which shares the name of the is­land, is the per­fect lo­ca­tion for drinks from one of its many bars si­t­u­ated

Bod­ies were thrust and poses struck, and things es­ca­lated – hardly sur­pris­ing when mix­ing testos­terone, cham­pagne, sun­shine and a bunch of re­laxed blokes to­gether.

within its for­ti­fied walls. Ear­lier in the day, skip­per Paul took us to a very spe­cial cove, reach­able only by yacht, and he also gave me the op­por­tu­nity to learn how to sail along the way.

While an­chored here, the ship­mates throw an im­promptu fash­ion show. We take turns strut­ting our best “thongs” with cham­pagne be­ing awarded to the Best-Dressed. It’s quite the spec­ta­cle, with splashes of colour, glit­ter and feath­ers. Imag­ine a scene from Priscilla Queen Of The Desert or a Kyle Minogue video. As bod­ies are thrust and poses struck, things es­ca­late – hardly sur­pris­ing when mix­ing testos­terone, cham­pagne, sun­shine and a bunch of re­laxed blokes to­gether.

Po­lace on Ml­jet Is­land is next. Here we en­joy a swim and snorkel in the wa­ters off the shores of the Na­tional Park. Later, we dock and hire bikes, cy­cling for hours through the re­serve around a stun­ning lake. We end up spend­ing the night here. We pitch tents and, around a fire, be­gin to share the in­ti­mate sto­ries of our lives, as old friends do. It’s a pow­er­ful and ro­man­tic evening of talk­ing and stargazing. Per­haps it was the full moon that may have led to some group de­bauch­ery. This can­not be con­firmed or de­nied.

Be­fore we leave Ml­jet for Dubrovnik, the next morn­ing we sail to the south-east of the is­land to a charm­ing and un­spoilt land­locked cove framed by vivid green moun­tains. The na­ture on Ml­jet is sim­ply in­cred­i­ble and gives so­lace to the mind, body and soul.

Be­fore we know it, we are headed for Dubrovnik, our fi­nal des­ti­na­tion. The old town, with its for­ti­fi­ca­tions, palaces and fine build­ings is with­out ri­val and, as we ap­proach, so many Game Of Thrones scenes come to mind. Know­ing the end is near, we de­cide on one last cheeky swim.

On land in Dubrovnik we soon dis­cov­ered that ev­ery­thing is much more ex­pen­sive than else­where in Croa­tia. Never mind! Our fi­nal drinks must be cel­e­brated in style as the hard­est part of our jour­ney ap­proaches: the good­byes.

We de­cide, as a group, to go out in style and with our danc­ing shoes on. There are many tears as we re­alise we will soon go our sep­a­rate ways. How­ever, we make a com­mit­ment to stay in touch and plan a re­u­nion. It’s a bit­ter sweet mo­ment but, in a way, that’s what you want at the end of a hol­i­day. It means you had an amaz­ing time that you don’t want to end. Our Croa­t­ian ad­ven­ture has given us life-long mem­o­ries and friend­ships.

Cruis­ing Croa­tia on a pri­vate yacht is a won­der­ful ex­pe­ri­ence, ex­plor­ing some of the Adri­atic’s most beau­ti­ful is­lands at a leisurely pace. It gave me the op­por­tu­nity to meet some in­cred­i­ble guys from all over the world in a re­laxed, safe and fun at­mos­phere. I also tried my hand at sail­ing, thanks to skip­per Paul. Ev­ery­thing was well or­gan­ised and well planned. The gay crew were warm and pro­fes­sional. I loved my early morn­ing swims and af­ter­noons laz­ing on the yacht be­fore wan­der­ing the se­cluded vil­lages of the is­lands.

The hard­est part of our jour­ney ap­proaches: the good­byes. But we de­cide to go out in style and with our danc­ing shoes on.

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