Sailing travel guide

Sailing vacations travel guide


There is an entire gamut of sailing vacations out there, as suited to those who have an interest in learning to sail as they are to those who get joy from simply being on the water. On some vacations the essence is participation – you’ll be treated as a trainee crew member, learning the ropes (literally) up on deck and helping to keep things ship shape and everyone fed well. On others, your skipper and team will sail for you, leaving you to be as hands on – or off – as you like. But all sailing vacations tend to be sociable affairs.
Typically, you’ll sail for three to four hours daily, dropping anchor as you go to have a swim, snorkel, or dive; explore secluded bays; or kick back with a cold drink. Breakfast and lunch are often taken onboard, and you’ll sleep in double or shared cabins. Frequent stops are factored in, so you can stretch your legs on dry land and experience local food, culture and customs.
Navigate your way through these trips with our sailing vacations travel guide.

Is a sailing vacation for you?

Responsible Travel recommends

Go on a sailing vacation if…

… you’re interested in the age-old history. Sailing has been around long enough to inspire countless words and phrases (‘know the ropes’; ‘pipe down’; ‘three sheets to the wind’). Chat to your skipper and crew, to the locals in fishing villages, and at regattas too – they’ll share all manner of stories with you.
… you want to walk. A sailing vacation is easily paired with ample time to stretch your legs – sailing in the Cyclades, for example, can involve daily hikes along steep paths to hidden villages, among dramatic rock formations, and into atmospheric caves.
… you love good food. Sustainability isn’t a buzzword across many parts of Greece, Turkey and Italy, it is a way of life. Annie Antonatou, from our Greek supplier, Mystic Blue: “In the evening, we go to taverns to try the local dishes. Most tavern owners have their own animals, cultivate vegetables, and make their own wine. The food is amazingly good value and of very good quality – for some of our guests this is the best part of experience. Supper costs around 15 euros per person including local wine.”
… you’re interested in exploring the landscape. You’ll be outside a lot, whether you’re on deck feeling the gentle breeze in your hair, or bounding off in search of loggerhead turtle nesting sites in Turkey. Wherever you dock, there’ll be much more to discover than the beach, so ask for some tips and go for a walk.

Don’t go on a sailing
vacation if…

… you get sea sick. Many people assume they’ll step onboard and come over all Ellen MacArthur, commanding the seas before them, when in reality a few waves and a wobbly horizon send them a bit green around the gills. It is unlikely (you’re not heading out into the North Atlantic), but if you haven’t spent much time on a boat before, try a sailing daytrip to check you’ve got your sea legs. And if you’re prone to motion sickness, bring anti-nausea tablets.
… you’re a stickler for routine. You’ll be given an itinerary which you will follow – roughly. It’s best to push it to the back of your mind and go with the flow – if you come across a patch of water alive with sealife, jump in with a snorkel for a closer look; lunch can wait an hour. Sailing vacations are about relishing the beauty of nature. And on any trip, you’re at the mercy of the weather: if it takes a turn, so will your plans.
…you need luxury living space. Although these boats are by no means cramped and uncomfortable, you won’t be luxuriating on a super yacht, so you need to feel comfortable sharing your space with others. There’ll be plenty of room up on deck, but your sleeping quarters – usually private cabins with en suite facilities, though sometimes shared by four or six passengers, depending on the vessel – are designed for relaxing sleep, and not to hang around in. Most boats have a communal living area too.

When to go on a sailing vacation

Catching the trade winds

In the UK, you are at the mercy of our distinctly dreary climate and boats won’t sail between Oct-Feb. April-Sep are clement and less choppy, however; and the best time to go on a sailing vacation in the UK as you can peg your trip onto one of the many sailing events this country celebrates. Sailing around the Mediterranean generally follows suit, taking advantage of the blue skies and sun of late spring and summer. You can opt to join a whale and dolphin research team in Italy until the end of September, and calm, Croatian waters can be skippered all year round.
Photo credits: [Top box: Alessandro Caproni] [Helpdesk - Little boat red sail boat: Ian Burt] [Best time to go - UK with windmill: Fimb]
Written by: Polly Humphris
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