What makes a sailing holiday? So often I get put on the spot to explain what really happens onboard one of my trips, wherever it may be. I’ve pondered this in some detail, as even after all these years each opportunity to get out sailing affords me some different kind of reward. I also see that benefit for those that sail along with me.
Just now, as I sit down to write this - my eldest daughter has discovered something new on a sailing trip. She and her younger sister are currently in the forward cabin tucked into sleeping bags stargazing through an open hatch above. The last embers of this evenings sunset are almost gone, and the heavens revealing themselves in a clear summer evening sky. It’s a new moon, so little gets in the way of a good star show even though we are so close to a major city. I popped up forward for an update, as they’re intent on seeing a shooting star. I know I would have heard all about it already if it had already occurred, but my eldest had spotted something else, a star tracking across the sky passing through the rest as they lay stationery. Of course I immediately thought she’d seen a plane as it departed our nearby international airport, but at seven years old she’d spotted her first satellite.
Maybe its parental exuberance that I get excited by little things, but it reminds me of many experiences I’ve had in the last 12 years of operating sailing holidays on yachts. I get to take people out of their ordinary environments, onto the ocean and into some spectacular locations. Once there, many people experience extraordinary things for the first time and it’s magical to be a part of.
So often a sailing holiday is packed with first time experiences and those well outside of your normal regular comfort zone. These share the trip with so many other rich qualities, that once combined I firmly believe have the ability to ‘stretch time’. Days feel like weeks and weeks like months. Such is the fullness of the adventure that so much more is gained than a regular guided tour, ship cruise or visit to a resort.
Relaxation - how unbelievably relaxing are sailing holidays? Whether it be the lazy start to each morning in a sleepy port watching the world come to life, or diving off the swim platform into crystal clear baptising waters. Things just get started from there, there’s something meditative about watching either a calm or excited ocean as you make your way from one island to the next. Podcasts, Kindles, conversation, Spotify or just a damn good book keep you company as you find a happy place aboard to while away the hours. Arriving by sea differs to a plane or land arrival into a new destination. It slowly develops before you, gradually revealing secrets one by one, each posing a new question to discuss - and time isn’t an issue. Afternoons and evenings blend, from meandering in a new village - to dinner and late evening strolls through tiny alleys interspersed with boutiques, artisan stores and ice cream stalls. No day is the same, yet has the same result - a satisfied exhaustion that sees you sleep astonishingly well, resurfacing to repeat it all again.
Adventure - Few of us are fortunate enough to spend as much time messing around on boats as we’d like. For many its the culmination of dreaming about it for years or finally having the time to actually do it. Sailing is a foreign world - for some it’s unimaginable and somewhat frightening, I feel sorry for them! It’s so hard to communicate to the less open minded about how a sailing holiday can free your spirit. The yacht in its own right becomes a cocoon that nurtures you - guiding you on the journey. The wind and ocean environment clears the clutter of everyday city life breathing new life into your spirit. New discoveries on land, on and beneath the water amaze and enlighten.
Intimacy - Sailing takes people away from the modern world habit of digital dependency. Sure, its hard to completely detox but with so many external stimuli available its certainly easy to go cold turkey on a sailing trip. Your peers, shipmates and skipper also create a network of positivity around you. People talk more, share life experiences and form strong friendships on sailing holidays - bonds which frequently endure well into the future. Sailing crews are close knit, and so is the relationship with your skipper and yacht. It’s not unusual to see tears quayside on departure day accompanied by promises of future reunions. The group galvanises into a team tackling daily tasks as a combined unit, and sharing so many unique experiences along the way. The water is always around you, both in sight and sound. The locals are authentic, the location always superb. These experiences are so very real and far removed from the mainstream alternatives available these days.
Firsts - I’ll never tire of excitement of a new experience. First time sailing, helming or tiring a proper knot. First time seeing bioluminescence, shooting stars or sleeping fireside on a beach. First time snorkeling on a wreck, riding a scooter or diving head first. For some it’s genuinely a novice experience or others it’s a great reconnect.
I’m sure there is more to add! There’s certainly a magic involved and even I personally after spending virtually every working day I have on the water, can’t wait to spend my leisure time on my own boat - ‘stretching time’. If you’ve taken time to read this I’d love to hear your strongest recollections of the experience and how you have or would convey them to others.