“Luff up to close hauling!” Ivan stands at the stern of our Seascape 18 and gives the commands. “And now: Ready to tack? Let’s tack!” Turning the boat is already running smoothly for the new crew. Taja, Ivan’s sister, is sitting at the tiller. She has the tell-tales – the small textile threads that show the wind movement around the sails – firmly in view as she luffs up. My daughter Luzie operates the main sail, I am on the jib.
We luff up, tack, bare away and gybe. Ivan is happy with our manoeuvres and we have a lot of fun. Four days ago my two fellow sailors neither knew which sheet to pull nor from where the winds blow. Now the view of the wriggling threads on the headsail is enough information, and Taja corrects the course.
With his friendly and relaxed attitude Ivan gives the commands in a way that makes the crew feel that they can already do everything. If the manoeuvre doesn’t work out right away, the slightly over 42 years old Croat with wild hair repeats what he said before with a big smile. We learn lessons without effort, each at her own pace.
There is no other way, says Ivan, otherwise the pupils block. The basic sailing course at Free Spirit Sailing consists of five days – with two units per day on the water of two hours each and one hour of theory each morning. We start with the theory lesson at 9:30 a.m. at the sailing school, relaxed after having an espresso and a croissant in the bar at the harbour.
At Free Spirit Sailing we sit in comfortable sofas. Ivan stands at the whiteboard and draws the sailing manoeuvres clockwise on it, adding the english names: Tack, close hauling, reaching, broad reaching, gybe… We get to know the true wind, the right of way rules and the prevailing winds of the Dalmatian region.
Ivan concentrates on the essentials. He asks if everyone understands everything and laughs a lot. We puzzle on sailing knots, until we all can tie a bowline and a clove hitch without even thinking. Easy.
Free Spirit Sailing is located right in the centre of the port of Jezera on the Murter island of the Dalmatian coast. The traditional wooden Gajetas, fishing sailboats, which have been without mast since a long time, are located here. Today they are operated by small diesel engines.
In between there are sailing yachts and motor boats of locals and tourists, both mostly of older date. To one side the harbour ends at the ACI Marina. On the other side is our bar, where we drink our Gemišt, a white wine spritzer, every evening and look at the sea.
Jezera is a little quiet village. The few guests here speak mainly Croatian and Slovenian, some German is heard here also, mostly with an Austrian accent. The atmosphere is “pomalo”, as Barbara from Free Spirit Sailing says – the Dalmatian word for being relaxed. After a few days we come closer and closer to this state. Get up, sail, eat, sail.