There are so many places to sail (anywhere there’s water)! that it can be hard to choose. In my experience, the decision seems to polarise to one of two extremes, depending on who’s making the choice.
Sailors tend to focus on the sailing conditions, erring towards areas requiring longer sailing distances, or with stronger winds. They forget that many of their party might be more interested in what’s ashore (and how often they’ll be moored up in time to see it)!
Non sailors tend to focus on the sights ashore, and forget about the sailing! This is particularly so for the Mediterranean which is sometimes assumed to be as calm as the lake at the local park. One common request is for a Cyclades cruise in August, the height of Meltemi season which can brings winds of force 8 and more! The reason – it includes the best known Greek islands such as Santorini and Mykonos.
So how about more balanced approach. My guides to the areas indicate the level of sailing difficulty, but also cover the vibe ashore. But consider too things like getting there, and weather, and think about what all your party want, not just what you prefer. After all, it’s awfully easy to fall out in the confines of a yacht – just ask the couple who treated themselves to a week afloat to celebrate a years successful marriage guidance counselling!
Most of all don’t be too ambitious. I find most people don’t want to spend as much time sailing as they think they will. You need time for swim stops and to explore ashore. And yachts don’t go that fast either. The clients I once had who suggested we sail from Turkey to Israel on day 1, on to Egypt on day 2, thence to Morocco, still had a great holiday, even if they didn’t quite see as many countries as they’d planned!
We are fortunate to be within range of a huge range of sailing opportunities. So whether you’re looking for string winds or easy sailing, or sophistication or the simple life ashore, there’s somewhere that’s right for you. But the two questions I’m most often asked is will we be able to find a bay to ourselves, and where’s the best value.
Well, I’m not sure there are any really cheap destinations any more, even in the eastern Mediterranean. Prices in Greece rose markedly with the introduction of the Euro. Even in Turkey, the locals have worked out that if you can afford to fly 3000km for your holiday, you can afford restaurant prices many locals couldn’t dream of paying and prices have risen a fair bit in the last three years.
In broad terms, for sailors, the cheaper spots are slightly cheaper than living in the UK, the expensive ones a bit more, the key factors likely to affect your overall holiday bill being the cost of getting there and the price of moorings. The latter obviously depend on how you take your sailing – it isn’t compulsory to go in to harbour every night. However, for most, this is the preferred option and the low or non existant berthing charges in Greece and Turkey make these countries firm favourites with those watching the budget.
France and Italy are more expensive destinations, due to higher mooring charges and generally higher cost of living. Croatia and Spain (including Majorca) are cheaper options though quite as cheap as Greece and Turkey. Of the popular destinations, the Caribbean tops the price league for European sailors, not least because of the high cost of getting there.
Unless you travel in early or late season, where ever you go, you will find plenty of other yachts sharing the waters, though some areas are busier than others, with the Ionian in Greece probably taking the award for harbour congestion. If you like a quieter life, going in early or late season is probably more important than which country or area you pick.
In high season, you won’t have problems finding space in restaurants but you may find you have to curtail your sailing if you want a place on the quay or in the marina. The good news though is despite the ever increasing number of yachts, even in the busiest areas, you can still have a bay to yourself, although you may have to wait until the evening when everyone else heads in to the nearest port! There can definitely be rewards in spending at least the odd night at anchor, which sadly, many seem reluctant to do these days.
To hone your choice, take a look at the Sailing Areas section which gives you a summary of each country, and for each of the main sailing areas as well as lots more detailed information on individual places and suggested routes.