On Flotilla sailing holidays, you sail and live on your own charter yacht, guided and assisted by a professional Lead Crew on their own Lead Yacht. The Flotilla follows a pre-set route, but otherwise, there’s plenty of flexibility about when and how long you sail each day.
Why join a flotilla
Flotilla sailing saves you working out the best places to go – you have the advantage of the Lead Crew’s local knowledge. There’s no need to read up the pilot books and scrutinise the charts to plan your route.
You’ll get a short briefing each morning about the day’s destination. This covers things to see and do, how to get there, and swim stops en route.
From there you sail at your pace. Set sail immediately or go later. Sail straight there, take a detour or stop for lunch. There’s even the option to sail off on your own. You’re the skipper!
Flotilla sailors don’t have to worry about finding a mooring space. Your Lead Crew will be there to help you in. Then you can mingle with the other crew, swapping stories over dinner, or do your own thing. The Lead Crew organise events from beach parties to sight seeing trips but participation is optional.
Flotilla sailing holidays are a great way to dodge the crowds. Some routes take in places only accessible by sea, where facilities may be fairly basic. Even larger stops may be off the beaten track. But there are flotillas for those who like some night life too.
You’re not forced to socialise on a flotilla holiday but to many that’s part of the pleasure. Your fellow sailors come from all walks of life and in school holidays, flotillas are a great way for the kids to find mates. Many long standing friendships have started on flotilla.
Flotillas give you as much or as little support and involvement as you want and the flexibility to take things at your pace. Stress free sailing in superb settings.
Who goes on flotilla
Everyone! Flotilla sailing attracts all ages, from the young to the more mature (my youngest client was still in nappies, the oldest well into his 80’s).
Crews may be couples, families or groups of friends, the mix changing through the season with more families with children and students during the school holidays.
Flotilla sailors range from complete novices to sailing instructors and round the world yachtsmen. You don’t need a sailing certificate to join a flotilla – more details on the Flotilla Qualifications page. You can even take a sailing course whilst you sail.
Flotilla sailing is a great way to launch your skippering experience. But is also appeals to those who enjoy sailing more than passage planning or appreciate having some local knowledge on tap to guide them to the better restaurants and point them to local places of interest.
Flotillas also provide a ready made social circle. As one client said; “I get 51 weeks to talk to the wife. It’s only fair I let her talk to someone else for a week”!
There are lots of flotilla holidays in the Mediterranean (Greece, Turkey, Croatia, France, Spain and Italy) and a few in the Caribbean, the latter of course somewhat more expensive for UK sailors because of the distance.
Flotilla sailing comes in many flavours. Some routes, notably in parts of Greece and Turkey, are ideal for the less experienced, others are aimed at more experienced sailors. Old hands shouldn’t be put of flotilla sailing by the idea that’s it’s too easy!
Stops vary from bays with just a single basic restaurant to popular tourist spots. Entertainment ashore may range from a book and a beer to a plethora of sights to see.
In picking your flotilla, you may want to think about the getting there if you’re not close to the London airports. Some flotillas are better served by regional flights than others. Note too that many flotilla sailing holidays are available including or without flights.
So it pays to chose your flotilla carefully – read more about choosing you flotilla to get started.
How flotillas work
The first day is arrivals day. The official boarding time is usually 17.00-18.00 though the operators will try to ready your yacht earlier if they can. You can leave your bags at the base and explore the area whilst your yacht is being prepared.
Next day, you’ll get a briefing from your Lead Crew about the week ahead, as well as a briefing on board your yacht. There will be time to get provisions before you set sail for the first destination.
Subsequent days ways will follow a simple pattern. There will be a short briefing from the Lead Crew around 9.00-9.30 to tell you about the day’s destination, covering the route and what’s there in terms of both facilities and things to see and do. You can then leave when you wish and take the day at your own pace, sailing direct or detouring as you wish. The Crew will see many boats out before heading to the destination to start helping everyone in.
Most evenings, the Crew will organise a group dinner (attendance isn’t compulsory) where you can meet your fellow sailors. There are also events such as the Welcome Party, and once a fortnight usually a Beach Party or BBQ.
On the final night, you’ll return to base for a farewell dinner, often featuring prizes for notable achievements during the trip. You’ll disembark the following morning though again, those departing later in the day can leave bags at the base and do some final sight seeing or souvenir shopping.
You don’t have to sail the whole holiday; you can combine your flotilla sailing with a stay ashore at anywhere from a plush hotel to a beach club.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to book a flotilla as a flight inclusive package.You can make your can travel arrangements if you prefer. Even with a flight inclusive package, you don’t have to fly from London – there are options from regional airports.
Flotilla yachts vary in size from around 30ft (2 double cabins) to 50ft (5 cabins) and in age from economy models to brand new boats. Prices of course vary depending on yacht size and age, the number of crew (for flight inclusive packages) and when you go, with prices rising towards summer and falling again towards autumn.
Most operators limit numbers to around 12 yachts per flotilla though at the start and end of the season numbers may be only half this.
Different operators have different ways of pricing their Flotillas which can make it hard to compare. Some price per person, 0thers per yacht. Inclusions also vary, for example some Flotillas include fuel and others don’t. To make comparisons easier, my Flotilla prices show “all in” totals, including all mandatory charges (except visa and tourist tax fees) with notes showing whether fuel and an outboard engine is included or not.
Twenty or thirty years ago, flotillas had a reputation for being sailing boot camps, with yachts sailing line astern to their destination. Depending on your level of cynicism, this was either to make it easier to deal with the many breakdowns, or to reduce the number of boats getting lost.
Flotilla’s were first designed for those that couldn’t really sail, to holiday on yachts that were so old nobody else wanted them! Today the picture is very different with many yachts on a par with Bareboat charter vessels (in fact many come from Bareboat fleets) and many participants are very capable sailors.
There is also much more flexibility which can extend to you leaving the the group for a few days “solo” if you wish. Indeed, many smaller operators build this “free sailing” in to their itineraries.
Sadly, many people are stuck with out of date impressions and rule out a Flotilla Holiday as being beneath them or offering limited freedom. This is a shame as I come across many people on bareboats who would both benefit from the support and enjoy the sociability a Flotilla offers.
So whether you’re old or young, novice or salty sea dog there’s a flotilla to suit you somewhere – why not give it a try.