Sailing in Greece – the Perfect Family Holiday
“Can I steer please?” This is a popular saying over the course of our family holiday. That or “Can you pour me a G&T?” After all, there is no Fortnite, no Facebook and no WiFi on board our Beneteau Oceanis 43 sailing around the Greek Islands writes Sarah Brewer.
My task when choosing our family holiday is to find something that will entertain our three active boys while offering my husband and I some much earned downtime. A sailing holiday I discover, offers the perfect ingredients for this recipe, a unique blend of energy, adventure and relaxation, something for everyone all at the same time.
There are many benefits of a sailing holiday; staying on a boat for a week means taking your accommodation and luggage along with you while you are exploring – so you don’t need to pack and unpack at each stop. There is no waiting for taxis, there are no crowds and no queues. There are food provisions on board for the trip, but the locations we are stopping at are incredibly cheap and the food is so fresh and delicious that we haven’t bothered to cook at all. There’s no washing clothes as we all live in our swimmers. There are no signs of the usual chores and the normality of a busy life back home. In fact my husband and I are lulled into lethargy by the gentle motion of the yacht and the noise of waves lapping against the hull as we sail along drenched in Mediterranean sunshine.
Our electronically-deprived boys are equally calm and blissfully happy. Books, boardgames, card games, rock skimming and rock stacking competitions. It’s old school and it’s fun. More importantly the whole family is involved in most activities because no one is ‘busy’ with anything else.
We have chosen to sail in Greece with another family from Sydney, through a small travel company called Group Sailing Adventures. Group Sailing Adventures organise sailing routes through locations in the Peloponnese islands.
The Peloponnese region is Greece’s most diverse sailing ground. Located on the western edge of the Aegean Sea it provides a taste of everything the Mediterranean has to offer from sandy beaches, rocky coves and blissful sunsets to azure, clear and very swimmable warm waters. The winds are light and the distances between stops are fairly short so the kids don’t get bored. Best of all, it’s off the usual tourist track.
My husband being an experienced sailor, helms our Beneteau Oceanis 43, a cruising yacht providing spacious and comfortable accommodation for our family of five in three cabins (with additional berths in the main cabin). For the males on board with an acute lack of spacial awareness, there is ample internal and external space. The boat is equipped with wheel steering by Raymarine autopilot, roller-furling genoa and a slab-reefed mainsail. There is an inflatable dinghy with outboard for exploring little bays and caves and it is fully decked out with necessary instruments including twin binnacle compasses, chart plotter and twin Raymarine ST70 Tri-data instruments in the cockpit with a GPS, DSC VHF radio and EPIRB. We also have the pleasure of CD/radio player with speakers in the main cabin and external speakers in the cockpit so we can listen to music as we sail.
Our novice sailing friends have a strapping young Greek skipper steering their family in a Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 439. They opted for a four cabin yacht as they need a cabin for the skipper. Their Sun Odyssey has a main saloon, four cabins and two heads. Both heads include a separate shower, hot water and toilet/basin area separated by a folding shower screen. Each cabin has a double berth giving eight berths, plus the main saloon settee and table are convertible to give another large double berth. The galley includes a double sink, top-entry fridge, twin-burner cooker with oven and plenty of storage. Like our Beneteau, it has all the modern instrumentation and includes a dinghy plus a kayak.
Sailing along with another boat adds a layer of fun for the kids (and for us) as we can race to a destination and then explore the area together with friends.
Having a skipper between us means we all benefit from local knowledge of weather and wind, harbours and eating places.
Most days we set sail around 8-9am after buying delicious freshly baked pastries from a local bakery and we sail for around 3-4 hours to our next exciting destination, stopping in at secluded bays along the way for snorkelling and kayaking and perfecting our stern diving.
We moor overnight in a range of picturesque harbour towns and quaint fishing villages, graced by a myriad of local dishes, friendly people and the glorious Greek historical ruins.
A routine of adults sipping gin and tonics at sunset while the kids skim rocks into the nearby water becomes established fairly quickly. A nightly feast of fresh Greek salads, sardines, calamari, charcoal-grilled and spit-roasted meats with lashings of tzatziki ensues, followed by a walk through the local town, a game of soccer with the locals or even a mule ride. When we are ready, we retire to our cabins to be put to sleep by the faint sound of metal halyards clicking against the mast.
The only problem with our sailing holiday is we just didn’t want it to end.
Group Sailing Adventures www.groupsailingadventures.com
A sailing holiday for the uninitiated can seem a daunting prospect – there are quite a few important considerations. Group Sailing Adventures is a boutique Australian business representing local sailing charters in Greece, Italy and the Whitsundays.
They offer these important tips:
- Discuss whether or not you need a skipper? As long as you have the necessary qualifications and experience you can sail by yourself. It is also possible for you and your family to just sit back, relax and enjoy with a skipper on board. Skippers generally cost around 1,500 Euro and need to have a cabin on the boat. A skipper offers the benefits of knowing the local marinas and the sailing area. If you are a group it may be worth having one skipper between you all.
- Look at the time of year you are sailing especially with regard to winds and weather and also the cost of hiring the yacht. Check the finer details of the pricing before you book, such as whether marina fees and fuel are included.
- Get everyone on board involved in the sailing. Teach them to steer, tie knots, feel the wind gusts and navigate.Storage places are limited in a boat so take as little as you can with regard to luggage. If you are traveling before or after the sailing adventure, you may be able to store some luggage at the yacht office while you sail.
- Provision your boat with snacks (especially with kids on board) and a few easy meals for lunch or dinner along the way.
- Bring magnetic games (e.g. magnetic chess, checkers, backgammon) so the pieces don’t fall off the board in wind.
- Take some cash as often smaller villages prefer cash to credit cards.
- Contact Group Sailing Adventures (www.groupsailingadventures) for all your questions.