What sailing holiday type?

On this page: Crewed Charters | Self Sail Holidays | Sailing Courses | Combination Holidays

There are many different types of sailing holiday and just to make it more confusing, you can do a combination of some of these in a single trip!  So if you’re not sure if you want a bareboat, bareback or brokeback holiday, or wonder if it would be better crewed or crude, a quick guide to the terminology (before you embarrass yourself)! You can then read more about each type in the Holiday Types section – follow the related links on the right.

There are many misconceptions about what each type of holiday involves in terms of:

  • how much hands on sailing is involved
  • how much say you will have in the route
  • which are open to all, which require some qualifications or experience
  • which are good for singles, for couples, for famillies, and for groups
A bareboat charter puts you in the driving seat

A bareboat charter puts you in the driving seat

We can divide the options in to:

  1. Crewed holidays, where a professional skipper is responsible for sailing the boat, sometimes with assistance of professional crew, though you may also be able to get involved if you wish. No skills or previous experience required.
  2. Self sail holidays, where you are responsible for sailing the boat. This means you’ll need some skills and usually some qualifications.
  3. Learn to sail holidays, where you have an instructor to provide tuition and take ultimate responsibility for the yacht. No skills or previous experience required unless you want to do the more advanced courses.

Generally, all these holidays explore a single country.  However, there are some holidays where you can see more than one country in a single trip. For those wanting increased variety you can mix different types in a single holiday, or combine them with a stay ashore, sometimes termed Combination holidays.

Crewed Charters

If you're not sailing yourself, you have the option of larger yachts

If you’re not sailing yourself, you have the option of larger yachts

Crewed holidays can be booked:

  • by the cabin or berth, known as Cabin Charter.  These usually follow a set itinerary. Some are little more than attempt to wring extra profit from existing Flotilla or Learn to Sail operations by selling spare berths.  The better choices are dedicated cruises usually run on yachts of around 50-60 feet with a professional skipper and hostess to look after you.
  • giving you exclusive occupancy of the boat and some influence over the itinerary.  These may be described as:
    • Skippered Charters, essentially a yacht from a fleet (bareboat) supplier with a professional skipper.  A Skippered Charter may also be described as Assisted Bareboat.
    • Crewed Charters, where as well as a professional skipper you have at least one other member of crew.  The yacht may be a private boat or from a fleet (bareboat) supplier. The services provided may include everything from basic meals to cordon bleu catering with a wide range of prices to match.

Self Sail Holidays

Flotillas are a great choice for children

Flotillas are a great choice for children

There are two main options:

  • Bareboat charters, where your party sails the yacht alone.  You go where you wish and look after yourself, giving you the chance to travel at your own pace.  In some areas you can come up with a circular route, avoiding revisiting the same places on the way back to base.  Alternatively, you could chose a One Way Charter and drop of the yacht at a different base.
    For those of a competitive bent, there are various rallies and races where you can charter a bareboat. These are usually at the start and end of the season.
  • Flotilla holidays, where each party sails a yacht, but the yachts travel in company lead by a Lead Yacht with professional crew to provide assistance.  Different companies operate these in diferent ways, but in essence you follow fixed route.

Less commonly available but worthy of mention for their attraction to those without sailing companions are so called Pot Luck holidays.  Here a crew of strangers is assembled on a Flotilla yacht (sometimes on the Lead Yacht), to sail together.

Delivery trips, where you accompany and assist a skipper delivering a yacht, are rarely offered through the holiday trade or charter operators (other than Flotilla deliveries which are really just Flotillas running off their normal route to position fleets at the start and end of season).  There are however always skippers looking for crew, so if you want long spells at sea (usually days at a time) this could be for you.

Learn To Sail Holidays – Sailing Courses

Get sailing tuition from a professional, not some bloke with a dodgy captains hat!

Get sailing tuition from a professional, not some bloke with a dodgy captains hat!

Sailing Courses  come in two flavours:

  • Formal courses, accredited by a training organisation, resulting in a recognised qualification.  These follow a set syllabus, so whilst they are not necessarily particularly hard work and need not involve long hours, there is a certain amount to get through. Many courses require no previous experience and some are open to children, though these are only really suitable for teenagers.
  • Informal courses which can be tailored to exactly what you want and your starting level. These can be combined with a Flotilla or Beach Club holiday and are a better option if you have younger children, or want to take the training at your own pace without the strictures of a syllabus.

Most courses are sold by the berth, though if there’s a group of you, you could charter a yacht and instructor to yourself. This can enable an improved the student/teacher ratio, so accelerating the training.

Combination Holidays

Mum had secretly hoped the kids would never be old enough for a yachting holiday!

Mum had secretly hoped the kids would never be old enough for a yachting holiday!

You can mix some of the above options in a single holiday.  This can be an excellent way to widen the appeal of the holiday for those that may be less than enthusiastic about two weeks sailing alone with you!

The two most common combinations are:

  • Course plus Flotilla.  The course can be a separate week before the flotilla but it is sometimes possible to do the two simultaneously.
  • Flotilla plus Bareboat. Spend a week in the supportive environment of a flotilla then head off on your own. Popular with those that wish to brush up their skills before heading off on their own.

You can also mix your sailing with a spell ashore.  Again, there are two common combinations:

  • Sailing plus Beach Club.  This works particularly well if you have youngsters who can learn the rudiments of sailing on dinghies before going on the “big boat”!
  • Sailing plus hotel stay – so called Sail and Stay holidays.

The latter usually consists of a spell ashore either before or after the sailing (or both), useful if the flight days don’t match the usual saturday to saturday charter cycle.  However, I did once have a group who when asked whether they preferred their stay ashore before or after the sailing said “neither, we want them together”.  I re-phrased the question twice more before they patiently explained that the ladies hated sailing and the gents hated beaches.  So they did indeed want the hotel at the same time as the yacht!  There was one caveat as one of the gents explained: “We’ll need to be able to get to the hotel mid week as the ladies won’t let us have enough money to last a whole seven days at one go”!

Now you’ve grasped the basics and so probably narrowed down your options a little, I’d recommend finding out more about what’s involved in the section on Holiday Types.