We have prepared a short overview of the sailing winds you should be familiar with when sailing across the Adriatic Sea. Be sure to always check the weather forecast several times a day and compare the information from different sources.
TRAMONTANA is a strong northern wind (northwestern in the wider Split area). It is generated by the passage of the cold front, and it lasts briefly before it turns into bura. It is a wind that comes unexpectedly and causes gales and rough seas.
BURA is a dry, very cold, northern wind (usually from the direction N-NE to E-NE). It blows the cold air over the slopes of mountains along the coast. As it comes down, it accelerates, and thus hits the sea with great force. It also changes direction quite quickly.
It weakens around midday but gets stronger again in the afternoon. It is strongest in the early hours of the evening and at dawn. The waves are narrow, but quite high with lots of foam and sea spray. It makes breathing very difficult if a man has fallen overboard. This significantly lessens the chances for survival, especially due to low visibility.
When you see thin white clouds over the tops of coastal mountains, you should know that bura is coming.
Note that the experience of bura varies in different regions. In the Gulf of Trieste, the Kvarner Gulf, Velebit Channel, wider Šibenik area, the Bay of Kaštela, Makarska and Žuljana cove on the Pelješac peninsula, bura is very intense and frequent.
Further bura gets from the coast, it gains in directional regularity and force, and in the Palagruža area it reaches the strength of a storm.
Bura is dramatically weaker along the western Adriatic coast in Italian Manfredonia area to the south of the Gargano peninsula.
Winter bura can last up to two weeks, oscillate in force, and bring cold rainfall or snow.
LEVANT is a cold wind frequent in the last months of winter – February and March. It brings clouds, rainfall and low temperature. At that time, it can reach the force of a storm and last for many days.
While the wind is good for sailing because of the force, sailors don’t prefer it due to the cold weather.
CIROCCO is a strong, warm wind (usually from E-SE to S-SE). It is more frequent in the south Adriatic where it brings abundant rainfall. It’s characterized by strength and very rough seas.
After blowing constantly for two or three days, jugo will reach its maximum strength. It turns stormy and creates the biggest waves in the Adriatic – in the south Adriatic during autumn, and in the north Adriatic during spring.
It usually lasts around three days, but it will stretch out through a whole week during winter.
The area from Dubrovnik to the mouth of the Bay of Boka Kotorska, the wider area of Kamenjak Cape (southern tip of the Istrian peninsula) and the Mid-Adriatic open seas are the most common places to encounter jugo.
CYCLONAL SCIROCCO is a moderate to strong wind (E-SE to SE). It’s caused by a cyclone as it goes from the west Mediterranean and enters the Adriatic. It brings heavy clouds and a lot of rainfall, at times even reaching force of a storm.
Cyclonal jugo is generated by secondary cyclones in the Bay of Genoa from where it reaches north Adriatic and spreads to the south, all the while losing in its strength.
Cyclonal jugo is easy to see coming in the misty horizon, fast progression of the cloud systems, the drop in the air pressure, acceleration of the sea current and high tides.
This is the most frequent variant of the southern wind in the Adriatic.
ANTI-CYCLONAL SCIROCCO is a very rare spring or autumn wind. It’s generated by a deep cyclone over the north and northwest Europe and an anti-cyclone over the east Mediterranean. Rare, high clouds move in fast from W-SW, accompanied by the slightly misty sky, dry air, high temperatures. This wind is far from predictable, as dark bura can hit suddenly and make navigation nearly impossible due to the unpredictable changes of force.
OŠTRO is a moderate southern wind which precedes maestral. Due to the changes in the climate, oštro and its weaker variation, oštrin, can blow all day without turning into maestral.
LIBECCIO is a mostly winter wind of short duration (S-SW to W-SW). It generates exceptionally rough seas and equally exceptional rainfall. Lebić causes poor visibility, and it’s announced by the extremely high tides.
It’s caused by the passage of the eye of the cyclone over the continental Croatia and the progression of the cold front. A deep depression over the north Adriatic then causes a strong SW wind, drop in the air pressure and unstable cloud systems which then quickly turn into a stormy western wind.
This occurrence during the summer season usually causes a very dangerous and unpredictable gale which causes great damage on the boats and the shore. The gale is locally known as garbin or garbinada.
PONENTE is local name for a westerly wind, more prominent in the north Adriatic than in the south. Also known as Pulenat, develops in the following phases:
The western sky is fair with barely any wind, and the sea is calm. Heavy clouds approach from the west and cover the islands on the open sea. After some short gusts of wind, calm, soon interrupted by a strong wind followed by high and long waves. This is very dangerous weather in the longitudinal channels.
MISTRAL is a mostly thermal Adriatic wind, generated by the seasonal NW air streams and local thermal effects. It usually begins as the coastal land gets warm and causes a drop in pressure as the lighter air rises and then the colder air steams above the sea.
It begins to develop around 9 to 10 in the morning as oštrin, and then around noon it vanishes, only to return as a rather strong wind from the W to NW. Having reached its peak around 2 p.m., it will die down gradually with its remaining wisps disappearing around 5 p.m.
Also known as maestral, this wind gets stronger from the Bay of Trieste to the Otranto strait. There it can reach the force of gale and leave high “dead” waves which are entirely unpleasant.
The strong version of this wind is called maestralun and it can last through the whole night. To spot it, look for the white cumulus clouds over the islands and the coastal mountains. If there is a break in its regular appearance, it means that a depression is on the move.
In the west Adriatic, this is an easterly wind which reaches the maximum force somewhat later, around 4 p.m.
BURIN is a thermal wind that blows from the coast to the sea during the night. It compensates for the warm air which lift from the sea during the night. Burin in name comes from bura and it blows in the same direction with a variable force. The wind rarely reaches further than 5-7 miles to the open sea and it is short in duration.