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Meet our skippers: Dražen Silić, our skipper and bobsled superstar

In our second skipper interview, we present you Dražen Silić, Northeast's longtime skipper and a professional sportsman.

Dražen is both skipper and pilot: during the summer, he captains sailboats and catamarans in search for new hidden solitary bays and coves. In the winter, he is the pilot of the Croatian bobsled team. He led Croatia to a historical result, as he successfully qualified for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang in both the two- and the four-men disciplines, a success never achieved in Croatian history before that.

Dražen, I’ve heard that your guests often call you Drago. Is that to remember your name more easily?

Yes. When you start a new week, you’re introduced to a new group of people and it’s often hard to remember everyone’s names right on. I’ve noticed that because guests have to remember my name, but they often forget it. Drago seems to work: they remember it more easily and the I’m-sorry-what’s-your-name-again situation comes up only I’m the one asking :)

 

How does it feel having a double, or even a triple life? You’re a skipper, a pilot and a PhD teacher. Do these professions get in the way of each other?

They sometimes do. Thankfully, the school where I work is very understanding and respects my sportsman status, so I wasn’t given a complete full-time job. This allows me to train (since we train in Germany) and to compete during the winter. In the summer, I work as a skipper for up to ten weeks, often taking a week or two off and joining the national team for summer pre-season preparations.  

 

I remember you always telling me that your dream was to reach the Olympics. How hard did you have to work for it? What happens now that you’ve succeeded?

Bobsled is a very specific kind of sport. The better conditions you have, the more successful you are. For Germany or Switzerland, that means complete professionalism, several sledges to choose from, training in your hometown. If you’re from Croatia, you have one sledge and you’re obliged to repair it yourself, you have to do another job and the nearest bobsled track is about 1000 kilometres from you. It’s not like football, where you just need a ball. This unfairness makes you often feel helpless. I was thinking about giving up several times, especially after I’ve entered my thirties.

We managed to qualify when I was 32 years old, so now I’m like: “I’ve got strength for another Olympic”. Jokes aside, my main current task is to find a replacement for my old bones. New young hopes are joining the team and I’m part of this transition, teaching them the perks of driving a bobsled. When a new pilot will be up for the task, I will be happy to step aside and let him take my place.

 

Besides leading a triple life, you’ re also “the funny guy”. I remember laughing at your photos on Facebook long before contemporary “pranks” were popular. You’re always in search of new thrills and adventures. That has also led you to the sea: you actively practice diving, water-skiing and go tuna fishing. Is that how you decided to start sailing and become a skipper?

Certainly. I like new challenges, and being a skipper was the perfect next step. Though you’re not running 200 km/h down a track that’s made of ice, this job surprised me with its complexity. A whole new universe opens up to you and there are a billion things you have to think about all the time. It’s dynamic and never becomes boring.

I bet you’ve got plenty of funny episodes to tell us. Choose one and share it with us!

Hmm...let me think.  It’s not easy to remember when you have to!

Okay, this one time I was snorkelling around while we were anchored in a nice bay. I came across an octopus and decided to catch it so me and my guests could prepare it for dinner. One of the kids (his name was Steven, I still remember!) brought a knife out of the kitchen and I somehow managed to catch the octopus. We made a delicious salad with it.
The next day, my guests started screaming all of a sudden because they were sure they saw some dolphins. Animals were jumping out of the water, but they were not dolphins. It was tunas! As I was watching them jumping out of the sea, someone tapped me on the shoulder. It was Steven, handing me a knife like the day before, thinking I was some kind of Bear Grylls. He made my day.

Let’s move on to our route. Northeast wants to show its guests the best places moving from Zadar/Biograd/Sukošan/Murter/Šibenik. Tells us your perfect route!

As Juraj already mentioned in his interview, it all depends on the kind of guests you have. As we usually have a family, we’ll go with that. So, let’s imagine we start from Zadar.

 

1) Saturday: Zadar - Ugljan

As we’re waiting for our boat to get ready, I would recommend that the guests take a look at Zadar itself. It’s truly a beautiful city, the old town is situated on a peninsula surrounded by the sea. The sea organ (a specific construction in the sea that emits sounds similar to that of an instrument) is really worth seeing. “The Greeting to the Sun” has to be seen at sunset, so we’ll leave that for Friday. Let’s sail out!
Since it’s probably around 6 p.m. already, we move just a bit out and circumnavigate the northern tip of Ugljan, an island close by. There’s a nice bay called Muline that offers buoys and restaurants, so that can be an option for the night. If guests want to anchor for the night and enjoy a beautiful night sky with dinner on board, we pass the bay and anchor just a bit after it. That’s the thing with anchorages: you just have to think a bit outside the box and avoid popular places. There’s a good chance we’ll be the only boat there!

 

2) Sunday: Ugljan – Iž - Sali

 After a good sleep and a morning swim, we bring out the sails and try to catch some wind! As we start heading south, we have multiple bays to choose from for our lunch stop. We drop the anchor in a bay north of the island of Iž and enjoy a calm afternoon. Since we’ve spent the first night on the anchor, a lively little town would be the perfect kind of thing for the second evening. Sali – a small village more south, on the eastern side of Dugi Otok (it literally means Long Island) is just what we’re looking for: we dock in the port, have a stroll around the village, with dinner or board or in one of the many restaurants.

 

3) Monday: Sali – Kornati islands - Žirje

Morning grocery shopping (followed by a quick coffee at a small local bar I really recommend) and we’re ready to go! As we head more south, we enter the Kornati island area, an archipelago that consists of around 150 islands, most of which are grouped together as part of the Kornati National Park. The islands are mostly made of high sharp rocks, deprived of any vegetation whatsoever. They truly stun you with its raw beauty. Though many skippers like to spend several days around them, prices are quite high (restaurant owners don’t have electricity and have great difficulties in bringing the supplies in) and there’s also a daily fee to be paid, so we’ll just anchor somewhere for lunch and then continue south, leaving them for our way back. There are really numerous bays to choose from to anchor for lunch so I usually stop when my guests say: ok, here!
After a quick lunch, we sail out again and reach one of my favourite destinations, the beautiful island of Žirje and its bay called Stupica: it has a beautiful turquoise colour with some buoys you can reserve if you spend the evening at the restaurant. It’s nice to make a call and get the best spot in the bay :)
The restaurant fascinates me: the menu consists of pork chops, daily fish and daily squid, with a salad or boiled potatoes as side dishes. Simple, cheap and delicious!
Guests can also have a walk around and climb up to the top of the island, visiting the old fortress of Gradina, built in the 6th century by the Eastern Roman emperor Justinian I.

 

4) Tuesday: Žirje – Kakan - Prvić

After a morning swim in the crystal clear water of the bay, we depart late, since our next stop is quite close by. Just north of Žirje, two cute islands face off each other: Kaprije and Kakan. Though both attractive, we’ll choose the latter and anchor on the inside of it. It offers numerous buoys which you don’t have to pay for if you just stay for lunch. In the afternoon, we chill a bit more and just enjoy the sun and sea. Guests can snorkel around (there’s a beautiful sandy ground), read or sunbathe on the bow. We leave around 3 p.m. and try to catch a bit of the afternoon breeze. After sailing, we arrive at another of my favourite islands: Prvić. This picturesque little village was home to Faust Vrančić, the inventor of the parachute! There’s a museum in his name which the guests can visit, really worth seeing. We either dock on the peer or grab a buoy for the night, depending on what the guests want. Same goes for dinner – either on board or in an excellent restaurant.

 

5) Wednesday: Prvić – Kornati islands

It’s time to head back! Though Prvić has some nice beaches, guests usually prefer to swim from the boat, so we leave right after breakfast. Heading northwest, we opt for the Kornati again: this time, the Donji Kornati, or the lower islands. We first find a bay to anchor (good thing about the Kornati is that you can always find a solitary bay with no one around) and then move to one of the islands with buoys and restaurants. As prices in the restaurants are a bit high, we can also just switch bay and anchor somewhere else for the night, with dinner on board. A breath-taking night sky without light pollution is a sure thing!

 

6) Thursday: Kornati islands – Murter - Vrgada

We continue north towards Zadar. Our next destination is Murter, an island connected to land by a bridge. Murter has a number of small islands on the northern part of it, perfect for our lunch stop. We move more north in the afternoon, reaching the island of Vrgada. Again, where we sleep depends on what the guests want (if weather conditions allow it, of course): we either grab a buoy on the northern part of it (protected by the small island of Artina), dock in the village or spend the night anchored in a bay.

 

7) Friday: Vrgada – Žižanj - Zadar

After a long morning swim and breakfast, we continue our journey back. The channel between land and the island of Pašman (that will takes us to Zadar) can get pretty crowded on Friday since all the boats are getting back to their place of departure. That’s why we stop before the channel and anchor on the island of Žižanj. Last lunch together and afternoon chill. We fill up the diesel in Zadar and return the boat in the charter (without any damage, of course!). Check out, lots of hugs and “Goodbye Drago, thanks for everything, it was amazing!” :)

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