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Sail Away - Asia- Europe- Caribbean

From gentle river cruisers and narrowboats to zippy catamarans and fully rigged tall ships, James Litston recommends the best boats to charter this summer

Cognac Cruising Le Boat, France

Widely considered one of the prettiest rivers in France, the Charente rises in the Haute-Vienne département and empties into the Atlantic. Along its route – about half of which is navigable – it weaves past gentle hills, pale-stone castles and endless rows of vines. Pick up a self-drive river cruiser, such as Le Boat’s Caprice, from Jarnac (you’ll get instruction before heading out) and take advantage of the spacious sundeck and saloon, and en suite cabins. Go with the flow towards Rochefort, a historic naval town on the estuary; tamed by a series of locks, the waterway is dotted with medieval villages as it travels through one of the country’s most celebrated wine regions. Stop at the Courvoisier factory to sample its world-famous cognac and don’t miss Rochefort’s speciality: shellfish cooked in Charantaise sauce.

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Travel Details

A week’s self-catering charter (sleeps six) departing 29 June costs from £1,818 (or £303pp).

Four Counties via Canal Boat Black Prince Narrowboats, Peak District

Britain’s network of canals may have been built for transporting goods, but these days they are far more suited to messing about in boats. Choose one of Black Prince’s bespoke and comfortable, award-winning narrowboats from nine different locations nationwide. A circular trip from Stoke-on-Trent, for example, might follow waterways threading industrial towns and sleepy villages through four different counties – Staffordshire, Worcestershire, Shropshire and Cheshire – on a gently paced, self-guided immersion into the region’s proud history. Stop at welcoming waterside pubs and bistros or stock up in farmers’ markets for fresh ingredients to prepare in the well-equipped galley (plus quality British ceramics from Emma Bridgewater and Wedgewood). A one-bedroom Princess 2 narrowboat sleeps up to four and comes with pre-departure training to provide full peace of mind.


Travel Details

A week’s self-catering rental in July (sleeps four) costs from £1,304 (or £326pp), excluding fuel.

Fun with an Ionian Flotilla Nautilus Yachting, Greece

Greece is the archetypal destination for island-hopping. With its sheltered waters, gorgeous scenery and plenty of interesting ports of call, it’s also the ideal place for adventurous families to find their sea legs. Joining a flotilla of yachts offers the best of both worlds: the chance to sail independently while enjoying the camaraderie of a group. With the opportunity to add skippers or instructors if desired, budding captains can take the wheel and set their own daily pace. In the Ionian Islands, the agenda might include
eating lunch in a seafront taverna, spotting turtles in Kefalonia, stopping off at less-visited Ithaka and Meganisi or leaping into the sparkling brine from each yacht’s drop-down bathing platform.

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Travel Details

A week’s rental (sleeps eight) costs from £4,653 (or £582pp) departing 21 July. Price includes airport transfers and services of flotilla staff. Fuel extra.

Hebridean Tall Ship Tour St Hilda Sea Adventures, Scotland

The Scottish-built wooden ketch St Hilda was formerly used for sail training until being reconfigured for leisurely cruises around the Hebrides. Generously proportioned, she accommodates six guests along with a skipper and chef (meals are a highlight), and while one of the smaller tall ships provides ample space for relaxing. Comfortable cabins and a roomy saloon add an air of luxury, but it’s outside on deck that she really comes into her own. Step ashore to visit sleepy island villages, imposing castles and whisky distilleries, many of which offer guided tours and tastings of the amber nectar, and of course keep your eyes peeled for sightings of some of the area’s fascinating wildlife. More than 20 species of whales and dolphins have been reported in these parts, alongside puffins, seals, sea eagles and majestic basking sharks.

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Travel Details

A five-night charter (sleeps six) costs from £6,450 (or £1,075pp), full board.

Down the Nile on a Dahabiya Nile Sailing, Egypt

At 6,670km in length, the Nile is one of the world’s most iconic waterways – and there’s no better way to experience it than with a group of friends beneath the sails of a dahabiya. Originally used for ferrying freight, today’s dahabiyas have leisure firmly in mind, coming with en suite cabins, attentive crews and ample deck space for stretching out on the journey from Esna (just south of Luxor) to Aswan. As the traditional, flat-bottomed boats are borne silently upstream on the breeze, their shallow draught ensures a wonderful sense of connection to the water. Days are spent spying local birdlife – ibis, herons, spoonbills, storks – and discovering Upper Egypt’s temples, tombs and ancient heritage before tucking into delicious, market-fresh dinners on deck beneath velvet skies.

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Travel Details

A five-night charter (sleeps 16) costs from £4,500 (or £281pp) all summer. Departs Tuesdays. Price includes full board and pre-cruise transfers.

Ancient Turkey by Gulet Peter Sommer Travels Turkey

Few summer experiences can equal the magic of being at sea aboard a gulet, the elegant wooden sailboat typical of the Turquoise Coast. Turkey’s southern region is blessed with limpid waters, secluded coves, idyllic islands, flavourful local cuisine and a rich ancient history. That history comes alive with Peter Sommer’s specialist archeological crewed charters, which come with up to four hours’ cruising per day, bespoke itineraries, and two expert guides who can walk you through every shrine and temple. The highlight of the historical treasures is without doubt Ephesus, where (with imagination fuelled by the guide’s informative storytelling) the ruins, crumbling columns and fallen masonry become houses, shops and a library connected by secret passage to the brothel.

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Travel Details

A week’s charter (sleeps 12) costs from £23,000 (or £1,917pp) in June, September or October, including full board, specialist guiding, transfers and entrance fees.

Bareboat in the Indian Ocean The Moorings, Seychelles

Emerald forests, turquoise seas and idyllic rock-framed beaches: the Seychelles archipelago is as romantic as it gets. Chartering a yacht here requires expertise, but for confident sailors a choice of 115 castaway isles await discovery across a 388,500 sq km expanse of the Indian Ocean. Go bareboat with The Moorings and you’ll discover plenty of scope for dropping anchor on uninhabited outposts, though most itineraries tend to focus on Mahé, Praslin and La Digue – the main islands. Giant tortoises, coral reefs and Creole cuisine (don’t miss the octopus curry) add plenty of colour and spice to any odyssey – as does the freedom to go wherever your whim (and the wind) may take you, with the comfort of round-the-clock backup should assistance be required.

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Travel Details

A week’s catamaran charter (sleeps four) costs from £4,538 (or £1,135pp) departing in June, including fuel and insurance.

Island-Hop Down the Dalmatian Coast Sunsail, Croatia

With plentiful islands strung along its beautiful Adriatic coastline, Croatia is one of Europe’s most popular destinations for sailing. Take the stress out of things while getting a flavour for the sport by choosing one of Sunsail’s crewed boats – either a swift, sleek monohull yacht or a stable and spacious catamaran. From Roman heritage in Split to the medieval heart of Dubrovnik, Croatia’s hotchpotch of history comes flavoured with the freshest seafood and Dalmatian stew (don’t worry, it isn’t made with spotted dogs). Each of the islands has its own distinct character, from upbeat Hvar and pine-covered Krk to laid-back Korcula. Stop off at Vis to sample local limoncello and, back on the mainland, drop anchor at Mali Ston, on the Pelješac peninsula, for some of the world’s best oysters washed down with a glass of crisp Croatian wine.


Travel Details

A week’s skippered charter (sleeps four) costs from £4,081 (or £1,020pp) in June, including fuel and insurance.

Live the Caribbean Dream Sail Grenadines, Grenadines

When it comes to chartering yachts, you can go full DIY with a bareboat booking or hire a skipper to help you along – but if you’re coming to the Caribbean, you might as well do so in style. Sail Grenadines can organise fully crewed monohulls or catamarans that include a qualified chef to whip up fresh breakfasts on deck or lobster barbecues on the beach. Spend days exploring St Lucia’s Pitons – a pair of mountainous volcanic plugs – or lesser-known isles such as Bequia, snorkel with turtles, hike to jungle waterfalls or stock up on island produce at a colourful local market. With flexible durations, this type of trip suits families, couples or groups looking to let go of the reins and relax in Caribbean style.

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Travel Details

Aseven-nightcharter(sleepsfour)costsfrom £14,756 (or £3,689pp), including full board, drinks, two meals onshore and use of sports equipment.

Learning the Ropes in the Lofotens Rubicon 3, Norway

Hiring a yacht with a skipper and crew is relaxing and indulgent, but those who’d prefer to be more hands-on have exciting options, too. On an expedition-style, learn-to-sail charter in the Lofoten Islands, the skipper and mate will impart such secrets as navigation and helming while exploring this unspoilt archipelago under the midnight sun. As well as mastering figure-of-eight knots and learning how to deploy the mainsail and jib, participants can head ashore to discover traditional fishing villages and Viking heritage. Adventure sailing specialist Rubicon 3 offers sturdy Clipper 60 yachts for charter in the Lofotens this summer for families or friends (be they novices or experts) keen to practise, hone and relish their nautical skills.

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Travel Details

A two-week sailing (sleeps eight) costs from £14,999 (or £1,875pp) in June, July or August, including full board, excursions and expert instruction.

There's an app for that...

Given the success of Airbnb, it was only a matter of time before boat users turned to the sharing economy, too. Among the portals serving this sector are Click & Boat, Samboat and Boat Bookings, but leading the charge is Borrow a Boat, the UK’s first peer-to-peer platform for boat charters. With access to more than 17,000 yachts in over 50 countries, the on-demand (accessed via website or app) allows users to book a skippered, crewed or bareboat rental anywhere, anytime – and by offering late bookings, flexible dates and affordability, it’s changing up the boat-rental industry for the better.

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