Thinking of new places to take the family on holiday and keep everybody entertained can be hard. Rachael was fed up with the same old hotels and resorts, and decided to charter a yacht for their summer holiday. Read her story, in her own words, below.
We live in the landlocked Midlands, and about 12 months ago started messing about in dinghies at our local sailing club on a small but beautiful lake in the grounds of a stately home. So it was no surprise that my announcement that I wanted to book a yachting holiday was greeted with some trepidation by my husband and three teenage daughters. “It’s on my bucket list, I’ll be 50 in three years, it’s now or never,” I persisted, unmoved by the general lack of enthusiasm. “It’ll cost a fortune,” warned Yorkshire-bred husband; “I’m not coming – I can’t sleep on a boat,” announced the first-born offspring. Undeterred, I began researching online. Charter or flotilla? Greece or Croatia? Mono-hull or catamaran? Bareboat or skippered? To a novice like me, it was a minefield of choices.
That's where Helm came in. We were paired up with Peter, who listened to our likes and dislikes and asked a few questions about what we were looking for, before making some invaluable recommendations on where to go and what to see. we really would have been clueless without him!
On Peter's expert advice, we opted for a skippered private charter sailing out of Rogoznica, Croatia – and insisted that the first-born accompany us on what might be her last family holiday. I still didn’t really know what to expect and, as departure date approached, I admit I was, myself, a little nervous. What if we were sea-sick? What if we didn’t get on with the skipper? What if we didn’t like it?
We left Rogoznica on a sunny Sunday morning with our South African skipper Calvin at the helm of Moderato, our Dufour 430 Grand Large. Calvin suggested we avoid the popular islands of Hvar and Brac, and instead explore the quieter northern Dalmatian coast.
Ahead of us lay a week of new experiences, places and challenges: our very own voyage of discovery.
There are so many moments that will remain etched into our memories. Like the first morning, when Calvin raised the mainsail, unfurled the jib, killed the engine, and we experienced the sensation of sailing a yacht for the very first time, slicing through the white-capped waves, quietly and elegantly, sails filled against cerulean skies.
At Primosten, a picture-postcard town on a small peninsula crowned by a hill-top church, we swam before breakfast, diving off the bathing platform into the warm Adriatic waters, while church bells called the faithful to mass. At the Krka National Park we cooled off in waterfalls cascading over rocks like a champagne tower.
We snorkelled in turquoise bays so clear you could see the sea bed and watched the fish nibbling the sea anemones. There were sunrises when the water was a motionless mirror of the skies and sunsets to rival a Monet painting, and the stars were simply breath taking.
Salty hair, do not care
After two days on board we had totally embraced the ‘salty hair don’t care’ approach to beauty – while the husband maintained his usual ‘not enough hair to care’ policy on male grooming. Our skin was salty and tanned and our wardrobe consisted of swimwear, sunglasses and denim shorts, while shoes were consigned to forays onto land only. (Note to self: pack less in future.)
In Sibenik, a medieval fortress city, approached through a stunning channel with a fort on one side and a lighthouse on the other, we moored on the waterfront (known as the riva) – in the heart of the action. Here we casually posed on deck, listening to music, drinking wine and eating olives while the hoi polloi walked along the promenade. Stepping ashore, (though making sure our ungainly efforts to traverse the gangplank were without an audience so as to preserve the sophisticated posing vibe) we strolled through unhurried streets, narrow passageways and hidden squares lined with cafes. At Calvin’s recommendation we booked a restaurant teeming with locals where we were informed sternly, the table would be held for 15 minutes - “If you are late – no food.” Needless to say we were punctual and the six of us ate a fantastic meal, with a bottle of wine and beer for 490 kuna (£60).
Part of the family
By now Calvin felt like part of the family: teasing the girls, back-flipping into the water, sharing meals with us, joining in with family jokes. Beforehand, I do admit to feeling a little apprehensive at the prospect of living in close proximity with a total stranger: the reality was anything but. Getting to know Calvin was one of the highlights of the holiday. Making ‘holiday friends’ is usually my worst nightmare. But – and here’s a thing – sailing friends are not just friends – they’re your crew. Sailing bonds you. Simple as that.
It hooks you, too. That moment when we were under sail power for the first time in perfect conditions – champagne sailing at its best - that’s when I realised I was hooked. Even wrestling with the washing up in a swaying galley couldn’t dent my ardour. When you’ve caught the wind and conquered the waves, there really is no other way to travel.
And as for the doubters: hard-up husband was a total convert, even getting up at dawn to photograph the sunrise. He was particularly smitten with the on board barbeque complete with mirrored lid so you could enjoy the views while cooking (it’s a man-thing) and decided £800 per person for a yacht for a week with a skipper represented excellent value and was well within the budget of an average family such as us.
And as for the “I can’t sleep on a boat” daughter – well, judge for yourself….