Whether you’re a complete novice or a salty sea dog, there’s a sailing holiday for you. But which country (or perhaps which continent)? Which sailing area? Which base? What route? There so are many options it can be hard to choose! This section will help you choose where to go, as well as providing additional information to help you plan your time away.
This is very much a work in progress and so at present, the notes on some areas are limited. There’s lots more detail to come and I’ll focus first on the eastern Mediterranean then the central and western areas. Once that’s done I’ll tackle the rest of the world!
It is difficult to avoid some personal opinion creeping in and some views will be a bit subjective. So you may want to check other sources or if you’ve already got experience of an area, read my thoughts and see if you agree. Most important of all, if you find factual errors or just disagree with my views, do email and tell me so. I can’t visit everywhere every year, nor can all my friends who kindly assist with information and I’m keen to keep things as accurate as possible.
If you’re chartering bareboat (the nautical equivalent of car hire) you can hire a yacht from just about anywhere there is half decent sailing. If you prefer to sail in company on a flotilla you choice comes down to the eastern Mediterranean (Greece, Turkey or Croatia) or the Caribbean (BVI’s or Grenadines). Sailing courses are available all over the place, though if you want accreditation from a particular body such as the RYA you will find some countries have only one or two schools. Those wanting yacht based cabin charter, are probably least well served although it depends how you like your cruising as for some, sailing schools’ mile building trips will provide a good alternative.
Either way, it helps if you know what sort of holiday you want as this can dramatically simplify the choice of destination. So if you’re not clear what each type involves, read What holiday type? and for more detail there’s a complete section on Holiday Types so whichever you choose, you know what to expect.
The choice between the Caribbean and the Mediterranean comes down largely to timing and price. If it’s the middle of winter, you are unlikely to find much pleasure in the Med, (though some areas such as Majorca have long season), so most people would head to the Caribbean. Although you can sail much of the year in the Caribbean (depending on how happy you are to risk getting caught in a hurricane), few are prepared to pay the extra cost of going there once the Med season starts. For more on timing issues see When to go.
The differences between the Eastern and Western Mediterranean can be broadly split in to:
- Geography – most of the sailing in the Western Med is coastal, with the associated issues of planning itineraries that don’t make the second half of the holiday a mirror image of the first. By contrast, the islands around Croatia and in particular Greece offer more choice of routes and also serve to provide some more sheltered sailing. True, Turkey isn’t blessed with many islands but the heavily indented coat does make for some interesting sailing.
- Weather – generally, the sailing is a bit harder in the West, partly because there are fewer islands to provide shelter and prevent swell building up, partly because it is more vulnerable to the northern European weather systems making it more prone to changeable weather. Which isn’t to say there isn’t some challenging sailing in the East – ask anyone who’s had to beat into a force 8 heading north up the Cyclades in Greece. And there can be windless spells in the West as those who been becalmed on the French Cote d’Azur. But there are fewer “easy” areas in the West, and the weather is more unpredictable. It’s also a few degrees warmer in Greece and Turkey than on the Western coasts, though Croatia being a bit further north is more on a par.
- Cost – Greece and Turkey are not the budget destinations they once were, at least in the coastal areas where tourists are prevalent, though prices ashore are still generally cheaper than many places in the West. However, for those that like to be tied to something solid at night (and I’m including rickety Turkish jetties in the “solid” category), rather than swinging on an anchor or mooring buoy, the low or non existent mooring fees in Greece and Turkey can make the overall holiday costs significantly cheaper there. Croatia is the exception in this respect with charges more line (or sometimes greater) than the Western Med.
So the Eastern med seems established as the more popular end of the Med for charterers, whether taking a bareboat or opting for Flotilla. For those wanting cabin charter on a yacht, there are also more options here.
Those who don’t need a beginners area and are either happy to either forgo a marina/quayside mooring, or pay for the privilege, should not overlook the Western end. The sailing is not hard, and there are many beautiful areas to visit. If it wasn’t for the multitudinous and superb options in the Eastern Med we’d all be raving about the great sailing further west!