This September we travelled to northern Italy to end the sailing season 2016 on warm waters of Lago di Garda. This was going to be my first lake sailing experience, so at first I was a bit concerned whether this 28 nautical miles long lake would offer enough ’challenges’ and places to see and visit during the week. Fortunately, I was wrong as Lake Garda turned out to be a sailors’ paradise with very steady wind conditions, breathtaking mountainous landscape and beautiful small villages. However, the lack of natural harbours and shortage of good marinas hinder possibilities for cruising.

The wind conditions

There are two dominant winds on Lake Garda. The northerly Pelér wind starts to blow usually at night or early morning and continues to late morning. After that the wind normally veers to south as the afternoon Ora wind takes over around 12:00 and 1:30 and blows until fading away with the sunset. Based on our short experience, the southerly Ora wind works almost like a clock and it is strongest in the northern part of the lake whereas the winds are generally weaker in the middle and southern part of the lake.

The Boat

We sailed the week with an older charter Bavaria 31. Ten years of age is quite a lot for a charter boat and this was also visible in various parts of the boat: the instruments were not working properly and the boat had some other electrical problems: we actually ended up taking the electricity down from the whole marina during the first evening after plugging in to the shore power!

Lake Garda is about 28 nautical miles long and one to six miles wide, and the winds usually blow along the lake to either direction, so you are mostly beating to windward or sailing dead downwind – both of which are not the most pleasant points of sail. Therefore, the most notable problem on the boat was the poor condition of the sails. During the week the winds varied from very light winds to strong winds up to 26 knots. The light wind conditions would have required a larger downwind sail in the garderobe whereas in the strong winds it was impossible to sheet the main sail nowhere near as tight as it should have been.

Harbours and marinas

One thing that bothered me on Lake Garda was the lack of information on marinas and harbours. There are many idyllic looking small towns along the coastline and some of them also have small harbour basins with breakwaters and mooring facilities. However, without a pilot or harbour book, it was impossible to have information whether there are guest berths and more importantly, if there is a sufficient depth for a sailing boat.

On the other hand, there aren’t that many marinas either and some of the few are also quite expensive (we paid up to 85 euros per night in Marina di Bogliaco). Furthermore, they are often located further away from the old town centres and marinas seem to have only some guest berths for visiting boats. The end of September was already an off-season, so we did not have difficulty in finding vacant berths, but I can imagine, that the marinas can get crowded during the high summer.

In the next blog post I will deal with the marinas and harbours that we visited during the week.

Lake Garda is a sailor’s paradise as the wind conditions are predictable. 

Almost all forms of sailing and wind sports could be spotted on the lake

Castle of Malcesine