Anchored in a cove off the southern coast of Croatia, I took a moment to focus on the majestic beauty around me. Night had fallen and dozens of other boats bounced around ours to the beat of the sea, the small bright lights atop their masts dancing in the darkness. Above us, the stars twinkled as if in competition. Together they cast gentle light over the waves and on the mountainous shore that sheltered us. A moment later, loud pulsing house music drowned out the sound of the waves and circulating strobe lights spanned one side of the island’s face. This is Yacht Week.

Yacht Week is not for the weak. I consider myself a formidable partier. I can easily down shots all night and get up for a full day of adventure the next morning. But nothing could have prepared me for this.

My friend Mia said it best. “Just when you think you’re going to die, there is the biggest party of your life.”

I spent days basking in the warm glow of the Mediterranean sun. My skin is salty and moist from dips in the Adriatic and kept so by its splashing waves. At nights I boat-hopped, danced on tables and drank.

And when I say “drank”, it doesn’t capture an ounce of the alcohol consumption culture of Yacht Week. To give you a better idea: When people buy champagne, which happened every night, they buy one to drink and another to shower on the crowd. Cocktails are routinely served out of wine decanters with metre long neon straws sticking out. Shots come in “boom boom” form. You wear a helmet and take a shot while the bartender pounds on your head with a glass. Dizziness and nausea ensues.

Yacht Week is home to some of the most aggressive game I have ever seen. Every night around 3am it was as if a wave of panic swept over every guy in the area. Must. Find. Woman. They would go from girl to girl professing their devotion. The most popular line: “You are the most beautiful girl on Yacht Week.” Creativity was seriously lacking. 

It wasn’t all bad. I met some lovely guys and witnessed some hilarious pick-up strategies. I also learned a bit about the differences in international game laying. This year, Yacht Week had bookings from more than 20 countries. I met people from all over the world, mostly from Europe, South America and Australia.

A completely unscientific sum up:

The Irish: Laid back. They’ll tell you a joke, give you a shot and let you make any advances.

British: Formal. As in, “Hello, I’m so-and-so, pleased to meet you. My friend would like to meet your red-headed friend. Can we arrange that?”

Chilean: Forward. As in, “Hi, I love you. What’s your name?” 

Danish: Hot and cold. They will sweep you off your feet one night and then hump each other on the dance floor while completely ignoring you the next night.

Spanish: Romantic. A double teamed effort, one guy running verbal game, another singing love songs and strumming his guitar.

The Sea

I developed a profound respect for the sea during Yacht Week. It’s beautiful and it carries you to your desired destination. But it can also rock you into seasickness and make you feel like you’re still swaying while stationary. And it’s home to sea urchins.

A fellow Canadian stepped on one of these aquatic porcupines while taking a drunken dip in the sea. Several of its sharp spines lodged deep in his foot. He spent the rest of the week in pain, his friends periodically prying the spines loose from his foot with tweezers as he downed shots of vodka.

But the sea is also home to some beautiful creatures.

One day we had all passed out on deck, including our skipper. I was supposed to be on watch for large boats heading our way but I had started to doze off. A splash woke me and I got up to see what it was. I noticed a grey nose jump out of the water and dive back in just as swiftly. I ran to the bow of our boat to watch a bottlenose dolphin racing us. It swam just in front of us for a few minutes, diving in and out of the water, its grey figure a perfect addition to the turquoise sea.

Yacht week seemed at times like a raging abnoxious party but it’s also a unique platform to soak in Croatia’s overwhelming beauty: From the open sea, at your own pace, with close friends and surrounded by some of the wildest people you will ever meet.

SURVIVAL GUIDE: Four rules to help you make it through

Stay at the Luxe Hotel, Split. The night before you embark, skip the yacht club floor and book a room. You will thank yourself later. This hotel was super trendy, luxurious and a little perverted: Only a clear glass wall separates the bathroom from the bedroom. Their free breakfast included smoked salmon, shrimp, caprese salad and eggs. The solid sleep and sustenance will serve you well.

Bring drugs: The pharmaceutical kind. Anti nausea tablet, headache meds etc. I recommend extra strength Advil liquigels.

Look down. This is key to avoiding sea urchins and boat injuries. You will get bruises everywhere, stubbing your toes and knocking your shins. Sailboats are like moving obstacle courses and if you’re not familiar, get ready to get beat up.

Do not hook up with a skipper. The skippers have a meeting at the beginning of the summer where they’re given the do’s and don’t’s of the job. During the meeting they are told the most important rule of the summer. It’s not “don’t damage the boat,” or “don’t leave anyone behind.” It’s “don’t cock block a fellow skipper.” Our skipper told us his average was three girls a week, and that he was batting low.

~ Morgan Dunlop