My husband is a sailor. He loves to sail. He sails competitively. He sails for leisure.
Honestly, I think he would sail in puddles were that possible. I, well, I am of another mind. For years my response to his suggestion to take the family sailing was something like this. “You want me to get on a tiny boat, with no real shower and no actual tub, to take the kids out on to the ocean where I will spend my entire week stressing out about them drowning and developing a case of TMJ while I am at it. Yeah, that sounds fun.” As you have probably gathered, I am not really an outdoors girl. However, after years of persistence, my husband finally sucked me into trying it by showing me pictures of the Greek Islands and making lots of references to mythology. He got the boys by connecting all of it to Percy Jackson. He’s sneaky this way. Anyway, to make a long story short, we decided to go.
I spent weeks looking up yacht charters. After a bit of a search, I discovered one on TripAdvisor that had nothing but stellar reviews. That’s unusual because even the best of places will usually get at least one snarky high maintenance person who gets annoyed because he got constipated on his trip and somehow blames it on whatever vendor. So, I am always a bit suspicious of a company that has nothing but positive reviews. I always assume said reviews are being written by friends, family or people who owe them money. But after a few emails back and forth, I felt a bit more comfortable.
Our sailing adventure began in Poros. From there we sailed to Hydra, Nafplio, Dokos and Astros. Each little island had it’s own personality and ambience. Some islands felt completely Greek; on others there was a strong Italian influence. Some were more touristy, others were less so. But, with the exception of one, I would gladly go back to all of them. But enough rambling…on to the list.
6 reasons to Take Your Kids Sailing In Greece
1) Greece is Kid Friendly: A consistent and wonderful aspect of all the little islands that we visited, as well as Athens itself, was the fact that everyone was very comfortable with children. We live in London, and no matter how well behaved your kids are, people will glare at them in the Tube….just because they are kids. And HEAVEN FORBID that your child happens to be seated when some 20 year old has to stand. Somehow this is considered a deadly sin in London. Go figure. Not so in Greece. At all of the stores, restaurants, and shops people were very warm and kind with the kids. When my youngest got eaten alive by mosquitos one night (my bad for not bringing “Off”) people at restaurants were offering us antihistamine cream. We went to a pharmacy in Poros and they immediately called a doctor to look at him because he had 192 bites. She soothed him about it by saying that was just because his blood was so “sweet” and then tickled him. She then gave us some stronger antihistamine that did the trick. Another example of the “kids are king” Greek attitude came at a restaurant, when the owner overheard my kids asking why there was no pizza on the menu. I explained to them that we were in Greece, not Italy, so they should try to expand their little palates and eat some Greek food. The owner then came over to the table and said “Of course we can make them pizza. I have kids too!”. I must say he gave me a bit of a “how cruel you are” look and immediately went away to whip up a pizza for the boys. Like I said, very high on the kid friendly scale as a country. Probably more than I am.
2) Proving to Your Kids that Mythology is Not Something Only Found in Percy Jackson Books: My boys love Percy Jackson. I love Percy Jackson. But I have to say that it was very rewarding when we sailed to a port that allowed us easy access to Mycenae. The fact that it was supposedly founded by Perseus was a big draw for the boys. But the stories of Agamemnon, the Trojan War, patricide and human sacrifice to the gods quickly outshone the Percy Jackson books…at least for the course of this trip. There is nothing like a story of blood and gore to get a boy’s attention. My youngest still remembers the Mask of Agamemnon. This is probably because Lucas said it looked like someone sat on his face…but we take what we can get.
3) Breakfast in Your Own Private Cove: There is something quite magical about going to bed in a boat under stars… and then waking up in your own private cove with only your family and the fish for company. You just can’t do this unless you are privately wealthy and own your own beach, or you rent a boat. One such morning, we awakened to a cove with water so clear you could see straight to the bottom. My oldest snorkeled all morning in the cove. We eventually had to drag him out of the water to prevent permanent “prunedom”..and he still resisted. As I am writing about swimming, I should also mention that having a skipper around was excellent in that he was as neurotic about kid safety as I was. It’s a relief to know that there is another set of eyes watching to make sure your kids don’t injure themselves. It’s also helpful to have someone on board who understands how to create a makeshift waterproof glove just in case one of you, perhaps the mother, stupidly slices open her finger on the lid of can and has to find out how to swim without oozing blood into the water. One does not want to become an advert for tampons while on vacation. (Yes, that was a reference to the infamous “shark tampon” advert)
4) Making (and Breaking) Your Own Schedule: One doesn’t have many opportunities to just “go with the wind and the weather”, but renting a boat allows you to do that. Renting a boat with an experienced skipper allows you to do this with confidence. We changed our schedules almost daily based on the wind and tide. As a result of this, we ended up in a few places that we hadn’t planned on…but that is the beauty of this type of vacation. It also teaches not just the kids, but the adults, what it was like before there were motors. It helps you imagine what it must have felt like to be vulnerable to the whims of the air. Suddenly that whole human sacrifice thing becomes a little more understandable…not saying it’s good or anything…but understandable.
5) Chartering a Boat in Greece is Less Expensive than Many Large Cruises: The boat with a skipper cost us about 2900 EUROS, that’s euros NOT pounds. A fairly cheap Mediterranean Cruise at the same time of year would cost you 700 pounds per person for a 7 night cruise. When you factor in tipping alone, this comes to around 4300 Euros. You could argue that on the big cruises all your food is paid for. Still, on most big cruise lines you have to pay for bottled water, alcohol and many port activities. For us, the cost of big cruises is usually double the stated cost when all is included. So that means about 8000 Euros. The cost of our entire Greek Sailing vacation was around 5000 Euros. This includes airfare, food and activities. And we were not trying to be tight with the purse strings on this one. We ate out a lot. We bought stuff. We could do it much cheaper with a little restraint on our part. I am in no way against big cruises. For whose who know me, you know I am a huge fan of the Disney cruises. But it is a different experience. You know what you get and you pay for it. There is little surprise or adventure in it. It’s relaxing and really fun, but not very natural. Renting a boat feels more natural. It’s definitely more of an adventure. And, all in all, it turns out cheaper.
6) The Opportunity for Kids to Push Parents from the Boat: How often will your kids get the chance to push you off a boat? Or, perhaps more accurately, how often will they get the chance to push you off a boat without fear of reprisal? This will probably be the only chance. They will love you for this and they won’t forget it. One word of warning, if you throw them from the boat, they will consider it a declaration of war and all loyalties be damned.
As a final note, one of the criteria I set for taking this vacation was being able to have a skipper on board. My husband is a great sailor but I am not. Let’s face it, I still have close to zero knowledge of a boat. So I wanted to make sure that we had an extra pair of hands in case the weather got rough, Julien got tired, or something went wrong. We had friends who were sailing by themselves in the same area and got “caught out” by high winds. No one in the family was hurt and everything was ok, but their nerves were rattled nonetheless. The skill of our skipper meant we didn’t have to deal with this sort of thing. Even if you are an experienced sailor, like my husband, there is a danger if you don’t know the waters or the area. Personally, I prefer my family vacations danger free…or as close as I can get to that and still have fun.
So, this year it is actually me trying to squeeze a week of sailing time into our summer. We were a bit hesitant about this, given the Greece crisis but as things have settled down a bit, we decide to go ahead and try to book it. And let’s be honest, the Greek economy needs all the tourist trade it can get these days!