The Infamous Bura Wind!
Back home in New Zealand, we call wind by the direction that it its blowing from. In Wellington, we often talk about northerlies and southerlies, two winds very common to the area due to the topography of Wellington and other areas surrounding the Cook Strait. Southerlies were often heavy and cold, bringing polar winds up from the southern ocean. Due to Wellington’s hilly topography, strong northerlies are known to be erratic and gusty as they descend down onto the harbour. Wellington harbor often experiences dramatic changes too. It is not unheard of to be sailing in a t-shirt in a ten knot northerly only for the winds to change in as little as ten minutes, and you find yourself in 30 knots of bracingly cold southerly! These kinds of winds are what we cut our teeth on as sailors and racers in the Wellington area of New Zealand. We get to know the southerlies and northerlies (and the awesome changes!) intimately, and Nick likes to boast that he could smell the change in the air.
Wind is also very important here in Dalmatia, and each of the winds have individual names, as well as individual characteristics and personalities! The Bura is our favourite, a dry, katabatic wind blowing from the north-east. Here in Split, that means that it comes barreling down over the Kozjak mountains (also known as Mali Kozjak or Primorski Kozjak) and gusts through Kaštela, before fanning out towards the islands. It is turbulent and gusty, just like our winds in Wellington, and is often dense and heavy. Unpredictable and shifty, we think that Bura is ideal for putting a sailing yacht (and crew!) through her paces. Bura is also know to ‘wash the skies’, referring to the clean fresh feeling and excellent visibility that is left behind after a Bura blows through. Blue skies and sun often follow, adding to the clear fresh feeling. The Bura tends to be very powerful and cold in winter, and the milder version provides a refreshing change to the intense heat of summer in the Dalmatian islands.
Bura is essential to the fabric of Dalmatian culture and gastronomy. I have heard it said that without a good Bura, there is no good pršut (the smoked dry-cured ham that is a staple here on the coast). The unique flavor of Pag cheese is also attributed to the Bura, whipping up salty see water onto the areas where the sheep graze on the island of Pag, resulting in the distinctive flavor profile that this cheese is famous for. Characteristically dry, Croatians use Bura to dry their washing. A walk through the old towns, both here on the mainland and on the islands, you can look up and see colourful laundry lines full of clothes and linens. And local legend says that three good Bura during March is good omen for a hot, stable summer ahead.
Coming into our first March here in Croatia, we are eagerly looking forward to these promised Bura winds. The bracing cold whipping at our faces gives us a taste of home, reminding us of the icy cold southerlies back in Wellington. We love learning about the winds here, through the experiences that locals share with us, as well as through our own first hand encounters.