Expert advice for planning your first sailing trip

There’s no better way to explore the world’s stunning coastal areas than by boat. Looking to plan your first trip? We tackle the frequently asked questions.

By Samantha Lewis
Published 26 Sept 2022, 15:32 BST
Whether you want to sail with friends or your family, there are plenty of yachts and ...

Whether you want to sail with friends or your family, there are plenty of yachts and itineraries to choose from as well as opportunities to learn new skills.

Photograph by Getty Images

Chartering a yacht with the wind in your sails gives you the freedom of the sea, with all the comforts of a luxury hotel. Hire a skipper so that you can kick back and relax, or enjoy the thrill of being at the helm sailing alongside a fleet of other yachts. Whether you want to sail with friends or your family, there are plenty of yachts and itineraries to choose from as well as opportunities to learn new skills. Sailing enthusiast, Samantha Lewis, answers some common questions. 

What are the options for beginners?
If you’re a complete beginner, you’ll need a skippered charter, which means a skipper will be in charge but you can take the helm under their guidance. Skippered flotilla holidays are also available, and some companies, such as Sunsail, have centres in Greece and Croatia that offer sailors the chance to take a course — such as the Flotilla Starter and RYA Day Skipper Practical courses — while on board.

What qualifications do you need to charter a yacht?
If you want to charter a yacht and sail off into the ocean without hiring a skipper, you’ll need a ‘bareboat’ charter, which requires an RYA Day Skipper qualification or International Certificate of Competence (ICC) plus navigational experience. The RYA [Royal Yachting Association] requires five days’ tuition in a classroom (shore-based) followed by five days practical (on board), plus an exam. 

What destinations are best for bareboat charters?
The options are endless, but in general, Croatia, Greece and the British Virgin Islands are good for calm waters, gentle winds, short hops and ample moorings. However, take care to consider the time of year. Croatia can get windy in June and September but is calmer in July and August, when Meltemi winds can prove challenging for sailors in the Cyclades Islands in Greece. A good sailing operator such as Sunsail can help you choose and provide sample itineraries too.

I have my RYA Day Skipper qualification but I’m rusty, any advice?
One option is to book a flotilla holiday where you sail as part of a mini-fleet. Self-skippered flotilla holidays require the same qualifications as bareboat sailing charters, but the back-up is there if needed.

An experienced sailing operator such as Sunsail can help you choose your destination and provide sample itineraries too.

Photograph by Sunsail

What kind of boat should I charter?
The classic monohull yacht is the norm, as it can perform in a wide variety conditions and is nimble when navigating tight marinas. Small groups and families, however, who want more space and privacy, as well as the ability to explore shallower waters, may want to consider hiring a catamaran. 

Is chartering a yacht expensive?
The cost of having your own private yacht charter with a skipper isn't as expensive as you think. One week with a skipper costs about the same as a week in a four-to-five-star hotel for a family of four.

What should I pack?
Swimsuits, sunglasses, a hat, insect repellent, sunscreen, sailing gloves, deck shoes, quick-drying t-shirts, shorts or sailing trousers, as well as a few outer layers or warm tops for the evenings are essential.  A transparent waterproof case can come in handy to keep phones and important documents dry. Packing your gear in a duffel bag rather than a hard suitcase will be easier to carry and stow when onboard.

Plan your trip

Sunsail has been operating for over 45 years and is a member of ABTA and ATOL. Sailing schools are also available which means travellers can gain qualifications at the same time as having fun in the sun.

For more information, go to sunsail.co.uk/new

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