Exploring Greece with MedSailors Part 1: What to Expect from a Week Sailing among Saronic Islands, Sparkling Seas and Stunning Sunsets
I recently saw a fantastic quote in Greece:
“Happy is the man, I thought, who, before dying, has the good fortune to sail the Aegean Sea” – Nikos Kazantzakis
I can wholeheartedly confirm this statement. I literally felt like I was floating on cloud nine for the whole week and a half I spent island-hopping in the Aegean Sea in Greece. Part One of this island adventure was a fantastic week’s sailing around the Saronic Islands with MedSailors and I honestly can’t explain in words how much I loved our week aboard our yacht Joker. The word ‘perfect’ comes to mind. But before I get ahead of myself, let me explain the concept and ins and outs of a MedSailors sailing trip.
What is a MedSailors trip?
Forget monster cruise ships, petrol-smelling ferries or plastic tub motorcruisers – the real way to island hop around the Mediterranean Sea is under sail on a yacht.
I’ve been on a fair few different sailing holidays in my time and I infinitely prefer them to a beach holiday or villa onland. Last year my sister and I passed our RYA Day Skipper qualification in Antigua and we actually chartered a yacht around the Saronic Islands four years ago with our mother and then-boyfriends. So we already knew we loved sailing. The two friends we also took with us, Anna and Ciara, were new to sailing holidays but they loved it just as much as we did.
The idea is you board a 50 foot yacht and spend 7 days living aboard the yacht, sailing from island to island in the daytime and sleeping in cabins onboard the yacht, docked at a different island’s marina each night. MedSailors provide the yacht and a fully qualified Skipper to do the sailing and navigating for you, and your yacht is part of a flotilla of up to 10 yachts who sail separately in the daytime, but who all dock at the same place each night, meaning you can all meet up and party together!
The skipper also prepares breakfast and lunch for you, keeps the place clean and basically thinks of everything so you don’t have to. The Skipper can also teach you a bit about sailing if you’re interested, and you can help out with the anchor, steering, or putting out the sails, etc. We got lucky enough to have two Skippers aboard our yacht, the incredible Sergei and the hilarious heartthrob Charlie. These two literally made our entire week and we girls adored them! All the other skippers we met seemed like great guys too, but of course we had a soft spot for our own two heroes Sergei and Charlie (by far the best!). I have a lot of time for these skippers – they have a hard job but never once let it show.
My one regret is not helping out more with the sailing and forcing myself to remember everything I learned last year on my Day Skipper course. I’d have loved to have done more sailing, to have needed to plot our route for the day and do some navigation. Unfortunately Sergei and Charlie made it all too easy to sit back and relax. The couple of days I really did get stuck in with the sailing were fantastic, and I wish I’d made more of an effort every day. But if you’re not too fussed about doing the actual sailing yourself, then it’s ideal as there’s no need to!
Where can I sail with MedSailors?
MedSailors run sailing holidays in three countries: Croatia, Greece and Turkey. In Croatia they sail three different routes on the Dalmatian coast: around Split, from Split to Dubrovnik and vice versa (visiting the famous islands of Hvar and Korcula). In Greece you set sail from Athens to the nearby Saronic Islands. In Turkey you sail south-east from Fethiye along the coast, stopping at places like Gocek and various bays.
I’ve been sailing in all three countries and coastlines before and I had a particularly great time in Greece, so we chose MedSailors’ Greek route. There’s so much to write about the actual route and everything you can do on the islands, which I’ll save for another blog post, but our route was Athens Alimos marina – Perdika (on Aegina island) – Ermioni (on the mainland) – Spetses island – Poros island – Epidavros (on the mainland) – Agistri island – Athens Alimos marina.
Spetses was my favourite of all our stops, as you can quad bike around this stunning island and beach hop as you go. If the wind is in your favour then you’ll also spend a night at Hydra – whose harbour is just the most beautiful little town you’ve ever seen. We sailed to Hydra four years ago and it’s a real gem if you can visit Hydra, although all the islands you’ll visit are beautiful – you won’t find yourself anywhere other than picture-perfect.
Who else is on the yacht and in the flotilla?
If you have 8-9 people in your group, you can hire out the whole yacht with a skipper. But you can also book berths on a yacht for just a few of you. I went in a group of four girls, which was perfect as we had two front cabins (both with an en-suite “heads”) to ourselves! But in other yachts there were pairs, groups of three and there was even one guy backpacking around Europe on his own who’d booked just for one. MedSailors have an age limit for their guests, between 20 – 35 years old, so there’s no risk you’ll be sharing with any children or people of your parents’ age. The guests are mostly from the UK (mostly London in fact!) with a surprisingly large number of Kiwis too. They try to match you on a yacht with like-minded people, and they ask you beforehand if you’re more into partying or culture and sight-seeing, so you’ll get on with the others aboard your yacht.
MedSailors did a truly excellent job in pairing myself, my sister Olivia and our two friends Anna and Ciara with a hilarious group of five from London and New Zealand: the beautiful Sophie and four very muscular former professional rugby players Hemi, Callum, Ben and Karim. We eleven (nine guests and the two skippers) spent our entire week together, pretty much all our meals and all our trips around the island, all our nights out and it was simply a dream team. Very aptly our yacht was called ‘Joker’ and I don’t think I’ve laughed so much, so often, in a long time!
It was honestly a hilarious week from start to finish and we were two very well paired groups. Which is kind of important, as although a 50ft yacht is big by sailing standards, it’s quite a compact space for 11 people to live on. Everyone in the flotilla was pretty like-minded so I can’t imagine there are ever problems with pairing groups, but as long as you go with an open mind, are keen to meet other people and not overly precious about personal space and “alone time”, then you’ll love it.
What’s included in the price?
The price varies depending on the destination, the week you choose (peak summer costs a bit more) and whether you choose a Premium yacht (built between 2002-06) or a Premium Plus yacht (built between 2007-11). Ours was a Premium yacht and absolutely stunning – no less perfect for being a couple of years older. It honestly felt like brand new and was immaculately clean. As an example, the week in early July that we sailed in Greece on a Premium yacht cost £500 per person, which is a really good price in my opinion!
The price includes 7 days, 6 nights onboard the yacht, including the skipper, all breakfasts and all lunches. The breakfast consists of tea, coffee, cereal, bread and every now and again a big fry-up. Lunch changed everyday, sometimes a homemade pesto pasta, other times a big salad with garlic bread, all prepared by our skipper. Sergei was an excellent cook, and the only fault I could possibly find with the food onboard the yacht was the quantity… 6 men and 5 girls eat a substantial amount, and I’m not sure Sergei always had enough ingredients to feed us all. I sometimes spotted that he and Charlie had tiny portions to ensure there was enough for us guests, which is definitely not ideal. I’d advise you to buy some extra fruit, snacks and nibbles in the harbours you visit.
You’re allowed to take as much alcohol, drinks and food on board as you like though, which was absolutely great! Although the boys would open their first beers of the day around 9am (?!) we girls waited until at least midday before pouring ourselves a gin tonic or vodka juice. Needless to say our yacht was very well topped-up on alcohol, but a dive off the back of the yacht first thing in the morning was the perfect antidote to a hangover, and I actually didn’t suffer anything like the hangovers I normally do when drinking so much every single day!
After some pre-drinks and nibbles on deck, you eat onshore for dinner and the skippers took us to fantastic tavernas and restaurants serving up Mezze sharing plates and yummy Greek food like halloumi, hummus, souvlaki pork and chicken, meatballs, calamari, other bits of seafood, grilled and fried vegetables, Greek salads with cucumber and feta cheese, cheese pastries, the list goes on… Dinners were always a really good price and, including unlimited house wine, it never cost more than €15 per person.
The skipper also gives the yacht and all bathrooms (called “heads” on a yacht) a clean every day so it’s looking spotless. Our two skippers were also great guides to the islands, taking us to the best beaches, finding the secret cave on Spetses you can only reach by jumping off a rock and swimming, helping us hire quad bikes, knowing the best bars and restaurants, and dropping anchor in hidden secluded bays for a swim and delicious lunch.
Important to note that the price doesn’t include a €80 marina tax which you pay upon arrival and which is very standard for a sailing holiday, but they do tell you that before booking.
What can you do on the islands?
I’ll go into more detail in my next blog post, but in short there are lots of different things to do when leaving the yacht. Some are free, like swimming off the yacht, relaxing at a beach bar or swimming pool, exploring a beautiful cobbled street town, or eating endless ice-cream (yummmmm). For a little extra cost you can go scuba diving, snorkelling, parasailing, wakeboarding, waterskiing, paddleboarding, you can visit ancient amphitheatres, ride donkeys or even hire quad bikes or scooters. There’s so much to do that you definitely will not get bored. I took two books with me to read on the yacht… and I couldn’t even finish one as there was so much else to keep me entertained!
My favourite moments
- Lunch in a secluded bay near Agistri, swimming ashore and climbing up the hill to take in the views
- Attempting to dress everyone up in togas like the Ancient Greeks on our last night
- Quad biking around Spetses with the most incredible views
- Sitting in the sunshine, on the bow of the yacht, with a good book, with the wind in my hair every day
- Sailing the boat at 9 knots and scaring the others by heeling over
- Everything about our skippers Sergei and Charlie
- All the sunsets, they seriously never get old do they
My least favourite moments
- Every single shot of Ouzo – a disgusting aniseed Greek spirit to be avoided at all costs! Chios Mastiha (tastes sweet like elderflower) is infinitely nicer
- Leaving the yacht at the end of the week and bidding everyone farewell…
The trip felt like a real escape, a real break from life on the mainland. We weren’t jostling for space on a beach, there were no strangers to have to think about, no decisions to negotiate or map reading to have to do – our yacht was purely ours and MedSailors took care of everything. If any of you have read my blog post about taking a digital detox, then this is one perfect example! You can find wifi onshore if you so wish, but alternatively you can embrace it and disconnect from the outside world. That is truly a rare luxury these days in a world where everywhere on land has wifi. Bliss.
I think I’ve gushed enough for one blog post already. Basically, I wanted to stay out there sailing for the rest of the summer and not come home! As I’d be moving islands every day, I honestly don’t think I’d tire of it.
For now, I’m off daydreaming about living on a yacht… But look out for another blog post soon about the actual route and the islands we visited!