The Yacht Week: There's Nothing Like The Real World
Proving that sailing holidays aren't just for the super-rich, Nadia El Ferdaoussi takes to the yacht week
The Yacht Week was established in 2006 by a Swedish duo who decided it was time to challenge the yachting market. Usually associated with the retired and rich, the founders, Erik and William, wanted to change all that - making it affordable, fun and accessible for a younger crowd. So, I set off to Greece to find out if a week-long holiday on a yacht, on a budget, and with absolutely zero sailing experience, could even be an option.
By day, the yachts sail as part of a flotilla; at night, events are organised in exclusive private venues across an array of exotic islands. Like-minded, fun-loving professionals from all over the world joining up for a trip of a lifetime - what's not to love?
I hopped on board 'Amelie' (our Bavaria 50ft yacht) in Plaka, Greece. I was greeted with a cold beer (yes, we had our own hostess, Brigit) and an invitation to cool off by jumping into the clear blue sea. Our Australian skipper Nathan asked what we had in mind for our week on the yacht. Answers ranged from learning to tie knots to gaining sailing experience, picking up a few words of another language and then mine: "Nothing but diving lessons and bronzing."
Your skipper doubles as your own private tour guide you see, each of them having a wealth of knowledge on all of TYW's locations (Greece, Italy, Croatia, Thailand, Turkey, Sweden and the British Virgin Islands). Want to go off course to have lunch off the coast of Poseidon's temple ruins, or have a quick dip near uninhabited islands? No problem. They know all the best off-the-beaten-track spots.
Rafting up at Dhokos, where the island's only life is a few bleating goats, I really began to settle in to sea life. A quick dinghy ride over to the rocks for sunset drinks with a view of adrenaline junkie Irish skipper Max's non-stop cliff dives (that's him on the right) and I knew I'd come to the right place.
If planned group itineraries or large gatherings of party-goers were never your thing, or just isn't any more, the clued-in people behind this unique experience have recently launched something that might float your boat (ahem).
Yachts and Friends offers a unique, completely tailored trip - no matter what your level of sailing knowledge is (the skippers and hosts are on board yet again). This bespoke holiday is designed to allow a week of yachting, relaxation, culture and, if you still desire to party 'til the sun comes up, then only your crew will ever know.
Making it possible to bring together groups of friends, families, or just whoever you fancy on a week where the hashtag #probablynever came about by asking people when they were going home.
Before embarking on the trip I found it hard to comprehend the boating life. Will I sleep? Are there showers? Can I charge my phone? The answer is yes to all of the above, but trust me, you really won't care about any of that when your morning view out of the cabin window is clear blue skies and pristine yachts, bobbing on the calm waters in the distance. And if hygiene really is your thing, you'll find showering off the back of the deck strangely liberating.
Annual family trips, romantic breaks, stag/hen parties (be modern and do a sten I say!), I really can't think of a type of holiday or group where this wouldn't work. Whether your focus is on food, drink, activities, relaxing, exploring, or something completely different, the freedom is there to make what you want of it, and mind-bogglingly, at really accessible prices.
I would've thought planning a bespoke trip like this would require an expert travel agent, but it's as easy as just gathering your friends and/or family, choosing a destination that suits and picking from the list of available yachts.
After that, my advice would be to just go with the flow and see where the wind takes you, literally. If you thought visiting hidden bays and historic fishing villages, seeing awe-inspiring scenery and atmospheric coastal towns from the luxury of your own yacht (if only for a week) was out of your reach, or budget, then I dare you to allow yourself to experience Yachts & Friends.
Why waste time trying to find a mediocre, over-priced tourist trap restaurants for lunch, sitting on uncomfortable plastic chairs and eating from the "menu of the day" when you could be floating your worries away while your host prepares meals to your liking from fresh local produce?
Packing up and spending hours in expensive taxis or sweaty buses to get to the next destination isn't really my thing. Tanning en route is however, and I for one am a convert!
Aye aye, sailor!
For more information, see www.yachtsandfriends.com. Prices range from €350-€2000 depending on occupancy - the average is about €450pp. Aer Lingus fly from Dublin to Athens three times a week, twice weekly to Catania and four times a week to Stockholm.