Lessons Learned from a Two-Week Sailing Odyssey in the Aegean

When stepping aboard the yacht I’d be spending the next two weeks sailing the Aegean, I was flooded with a heady mix of Excitement and trepidation. Having faced a series of challenging events over the past year, the mere thought of being away from land, free and uninhibited, while spending precious time with close family and friends, was just what I needed.

At the same time, I had never spent longer than a day on a boat beforeand was understandably anxious about seasickness, and the lack of personal space and privacy.

I needn’t have worried. The experience turned out to be incredible, a blissful salve for my mind, body and soul, not to mention an adventure that led to a deep and meaningful reconnection with the breathtaking seascapes of the Aegean.

Once you’ve experienced life at sea, you’ll never want to be a landlubber again!

As a passionate thalassophile and Hellenophile, I found the daily combination of swimming in crystal clear waters, viewing wild and rocky islandsbejeweled with pretty little villages, and the feeling in between of sea spray and the wind my hair, purely exhilarating.

Suddenly, the notion of sitting on a beach for hours on end felt unappealing. Never a fan of crowded beaches, the yachting experience gave me the chance to be even further removed from summer’s beachy noise, sweat and nerve-jangling beats. On a yacht it’s just you and the sea. What’s extraordinary is how the water changes colors and textures depending on the light or the colors of rocks nearby. Mesmerizing.

I’m well aware that yachting is not the most accessible or affordable of options, and I will definitely be returning to beach life sooner rather than later, but the experience is something that I’ll never forget.

If you are considering doing the same – hiring or buying a boat, or accepting an invitation to travel on one – here is all you should know before hopping aboard!

Take Boating Etiquette Seriously

Living on a boat may be a fun and adventurous experience, but it also requires that you strictly abide by certain rules. These are:

When crossing the bridge onto the yachtmake sure you go one person at a time, otherwise it’s likely to break.

Take your shoes off before boarding. Shoes destroy the teak flooring of boats, or can be very slippery if you’re on a boat with polyester floors.

Once on board, be respectful of others’ space. I was concerned that I’d find the general lack of space and overwhelming privacy, but found (with huge relief) that everyone knew how to find their own space when they wanted. Of course, there will be moments when that won’t be possible, but again you need to learn to go with the flow.

Use water cautiously. Never forget that water is something everyone needs and that, on land, comes from the onboard tank, which needs to be refilled (and purchased) along the way.

Aye Aye Captain! The most important rule of all is to always listen to the captain, who has the last word on absolutely everything.

When docking, if you aren’t trained in sailing and have not been made an official “crew” member, get out of the way! There is nothing more frustrating – not to mention downright dangerous – for the captain and crew than having someone interrupt their actions.

Go with the flow … and the wind!

Whether you’re traveling on a sail boat or motor boat, the weather and winds are the determining factor for your route. You may end up having to choose a different destination to the one you had planned, or staying somewhere longer than you’d like if the weather turns rough. Adaptability is one of the major elements of boating life And, like the sea you’re traveling on, your ability to go with the flow will determine how happy you’ll be.

Talking of wind, when the waves get a little rough because the Beaufort numbers rise above three or four, if you’re prone to motion sickness, you’re far better off sitting on deck and taking in the fresh air rather than sitting indoors below.

Whether the rocking gets to you or not, you’re likely to find yourself swaying for the first few days, even when you’re having your dinner at the taverna (one of the greatest joys of boating around is trying dishes and products in so many different places). Until you find your “sea legs,” the constant motion can make you feel a little woozy!

Sailing gets you places…

While motorboating can get you places fast, sailing usually takes a lot longer. Yachting is, without a doubt, far more leisurely and environmentally friendly. Motor boaters tend to scoff at sailors, who take many hours or days to reach their destination, but sailors laugh at motorboats for being lazy and missing out on the joy of boating.

As someone who was used to taking ferries to get from A to B, I was astounded how, over the course of several days, we visited Sifnos, Milos, Kimolos, Polyegos and Anti Paros and a handful of stunning islets in between. Variety really is the spice of life when it comes to boating, and it becomes somewhat addictive to want to keep moving on and discover new shores.

Love Thy Neighbor

There is an unspoken code among yachties that makes them somewhat mysterious to a newbie like me. When docking next to another boat, the crew on the other boat will offer to help in the process of coming alongside.

Polite “hellos” will be exchanged but, from that moment on, yachties will generally act like their neighbor is not there. Music may be blasted and conversations conducted for a few short moments, but generally an ongoing awareness that you are not alone (unless you are!) pervades.

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