The Aegean is paradise for those enjoying sailing in warm and clear waters. There is a huge number of islands throughout the Sea which is located between the Greek mainland and Turkey. Only 22 of the islands, which number around 1,200, are actually inhabited. While yachting fanatics are likely to own their own craft and to keep it in one of the many marinas, sailing in the Aegean either on a sailboat or motor yacht is an increasingly popular activity.
Experienced yachtsmen may well choose to hire a boat and crew it themselves. Others wanting a holiday that is a little different need have no worries about any sailing skills; boats which are fully-crewed are readily available to sail on a variety of itineraries throughout the Sea.
It is worth considering the advantages of hiring boat and crew over manning the yacht yourself, even if you have the skills to do so.
Hiring a boat and crew makes perfect sense. You are buying a service as well as experience without losing much in the way of flexibility. Perhaps it is not as exciting as being in complete charge of the yacht but that is something that is only for seasoned sailors. An experienced crew will understand the yacht’s systems and emergency procedures as second nature. With local knowledge of the itinerary and the best places to anchor, and those for taking on supplies, the whole holiday will run smoothly. Passengers will be able to lie back and enjoy the ride without any responsibilities beyond that enjoyment.
There are few constraints beyond time. With so many beautiful places within the Aegean, it is tempting to stop regularly for swimming or exploring.
If you are to take charge of the yacht yourself, you need to think about your itinerary and not aim to cover too many miles per day. Your experience of sailing, and you should certainly have plenty of that if you head out without local help, should mean you have few difficulties but there may still be some practical issues which require your attention. Facilities at your intended anchorage places, time and buying supplies are just three of them. While most are minor, they are each questions that you will not face if you have a yacht and crew.
Crete is the largest Greek island by some margin and is located at the southern end of the Aegean. There are regular ferries from Pireaus near Athens down to Crete. A ferry under steam takes a minimum of seven hours to complete the trip so you can understand the size of the Sea. From west to east, as an example, it is almost 300 miles between Crete and Rhodes, close to the Turkish mainland. Lovely as sailing the seas may be, you do not want to be on the go all the time so selecting a realistic itinerary is important.
Several sets of islands are grouped together under a common name although it is certainly possible to island-hop from one group to another without a problem other than distance.
The Dodecanese are islands in the south east of the Aegean close to the Turkish mainland. Rhodes and Kos are probably the two most famous of the Islands yet in total there are 50 islands, many uninhabited. If this is the region you select for sailing, think of how many potential places there will be to anchor. It is important to strike a balance between covering too much area with stopping several times a day. Islands like Rhodes deserve some time, especially the Old Town, and you will need to stock up with fresh produce occasionally.
The Cyclades lie south east of the Greek mainland and centre around the Island of Delos which legend says was home to Apollo and Artemis. The main islands today within the group are nearby Mykonos, Naxos, Paros and the very popular Santorini in the south.
The Ionian Islands are almost all west of the Greek mainland in the Ionian Sea, south of the Adriatic. Corfu and Lefkada are the main islands though there are many small inhabited islands in the group despite the name ‘’Heptanese’’, the Seven Islands, also being applied to the group.
The fourth large group are the Saronic Islands within the gulf of the same name, south west of Athens. The main islands in the Group are Salamis, Agristi, Poros and Aegina.
If you select an itinerary that has been devised by an experienced local company, it is likely that it will have struck a fairly good balance. Such itineraries will have been tried, tested and approved.
On balance, certainly for a first experience in the Greek Islands, the case for hiring a yacht with a crew is fairly strong.