At Seafarer we are fast gaining a reputation for offering unique flotilla destinations, and the newest addition to our portfolio is our Côte d’Azur flotilla on the French Riviera. Everyone knows the allure and the glamour associated with this beautiful coast and assumes that this is the exclusive haunt of the rich and famous, particularly if looking seaward towards the Superyachts moored in Saint-Tropez and Cannes. John Connolly, our product manager, has family along the coast in Nice and had sailed in the area since the late eighties. In October 16, he had the opportunity to take our Sales Consultants, Suzie, Nevena and Simos sailing in the region to explore our new flotilla route, to see some of the iconic spots, but also to explore idyllic locations, a nice contrast from the typical image of the region.
Our flotilla holidays start from Port Pin Rolland, located close to Saint-Mandrier-Sur-Mer, a peninsula close to the historic port of Toulon. The marina is accessible from both Marseille and Toulon airports, with many daily flights available, particularly to Marseille, which is approximately 100km from our base. Once in the marina, our routes take you either west or east, depending upon your choice, although we would recommend two weeks to see everything the coast has to offer.
John commented “We arrived a little late, so decided to head east, and out to the island of Porquerolles, around 15 nautical miles from base. It was a great way to start, we got to know our yacht, a lovely Dufour 450, and had a gentle sail across to the island. Arriving at dusk, we secured a berth in the marina and headed out to explore. The main pedestrian street heads out from the marina, with plenty of choice of bars and restaurants before it opens out to the main square, popular with locals for an afternoon game of Pétanque. We rounded off the day with a delicious dinner of moules marinière – a bargain at €10 – before enjoying a peaceful night in the marina.”
The island group of Îles d’Hyères includes the islands of Porquerolles and Port Cros, both recommended stops on our Saint-Tropez flotilla route, heading east. The laid back charm contrasts beautifully with the chic cosmopolitan locations on the coast, such as Saint-Maxime and of course Saint-Tropez. Nevena, a keen photographer, loved Saint-Tropez: “The stylish town is everything you would expect, but for me the old village, sloping away up the hill from the quay is fantastic – beautifully restored old buildings, hidden courtyards and cute little restaurants make for great photo opportunities!”
When it was time to head back towards our home port, we decided on a stop in Le Levandou – not such a well known coastal resort, but, as it turns out, a real gem. Simos, our resident connoisseur of the finer things in life noted “Le Levandou is fantastic – we enjoyed an apéritif – an ice cold pastis overlooking the sea before a great value fish supper on the sea front and a wander through the backstreets. A bright morning followed with a rich coffee before an essential trip to the boulangerie for fresh bread and pastries to set us up for a great day’s sailing”. Suzie, our senior sales consultant, was pleasantly surprised by the prices: “The marinas are cheaper than in Croatia, and the excellent food is good value for such a location – 16 euros for a 3 course dinner is fantastic for anywhere, let alone the South of France!”
John takes up the story after leaving Le Levandou – “We set sail early, as we wanted to get as much sailing in as possible – the Rade d’Hyères is nicely protected – we had a fantastic sail with a 15 knot north-westerly, and explored the big bay under sail. A lovely shelving coast means plenty of places to anchor and swim, and to anchor overnight when the weather is kind. Great islands, a beautiful coast, superb food and good winds – this is a fantastic place to sail.”
After our first season in 2017, we have made a couple of changes to the routes for 2018: Our Cassis route has been altered to offer a fantastic mix of islands and mainland destinations, and now includes Port Miou (one of the Calanques in the National Park) as well as the historic Vieux Port (Old Port) of Marseille. For the foodies (and how can’t you be in the South of France!) Marseille is the place to try the famous bouillabaisse – a fish stew that defines Provencal cooking. On our eastern route, we have includes both Port Cros and Porquerolles islands as regular stops, after great feedback from clients in 2017, as well as Cavalaire sur mer, which offers a better mooring solution to St Maxime, whilst still giving the opportunity to vist the iconic St Tropez.
To find out exactly what our team are so excited about, feel free to give us a call at the office and explore the French Riviera section of our website – we are always happy to talk about our sailing areas and our flotilla destinations.
We can organise the whole package for you, including your flights and transfers, with yachts available from 32 feet up to 50 feet, suitable for parties of 8 or more – explore the fleet here. Yachts are selling fast, so we would certainly recommend booking sooner than later, also meaning that you can save more on your yacht and flights, leaving a few extra euros for that bottle of wine after a great day’s sailing!
For many, a bareboat charter holiday is the ultimate in freedom to do as you please. Go wherever you wish, find that ultimate secluded anchorage with crystal clear turquoise waters, linger for as long as you like or simply get out there and enjoy some real sailing.
For dedicated ‘bareboaters’, a flotilla holiday would outwardly appear to offer the exact opposite to what they are looking for. However there are some real misconceptions about how flotillas work and what advantages they offer.
Certainly if you like the idea of sailing in company, having the opportunity to meet up with other crews in the evening, finding a lead crew on the quay waiting to catch your lines having held a mooring space at your destination of the day, as well as providing a wealth of local knowledge and support, then flotilla is definitely for you. The same applies if you are a relatively new skipper, still building on your experience and confidence where the advice and guidance of the lead crew is invaluable.
A flotilla can certainly be very sociable, which can especially appeal to families with children during school holidays, or couples who enjoy some like-minded company at dinner ashore. Often new friendships are made which endure long after the end of the holiday, whilst some of the activities the lead crew organise can be great fun, as well as ensuring your children make new friends and get the most from their holiday.
However, for us, one of the most important advantages of booking a flotilla is the local knowledge and support of the lead crew. Cruising in unfamiliar waters in a foreign country can be stressful, research can help, but websites and guidebooks can quickly become out of date. Taking some of the guesswork out of the equation will ensure you go to all the best places and experience the very best the area has to offer. At Seafarer we have a policy of trying to promote the history and culture of our destinations, so your lead crew will be knowledgeable and advise you on what to see and do, whilst they can also help with arranging transport or visits to points of interest.
Should you have any difficulties like fowling your anchor or other technical issue the lead crew will be on hand to advise or will do their utmost come to your assistance as quickly as possible. Most issues are solved on the spot quickly, ensuring minimum disruption to your holiday.
Seafarer’s approach to the flotilla concept is different to some other companies in that firstly we keep our flotillas smaller, usually 7-8 yachts and never more than 12. In addition, our approach is more flexible giving you the opportunity to venture off independently if you wish, or stay out longer to enjoy the sailing on any particular day. Indeed it is the usual format that you sail each day and arrive at the planned destination whenever you wish. Whilst the usual flotilla activities are on offer like the welcome punch party, group meals, beach party and farewell dinner, these are entirely optional, so you are always free to do as you please and the daily briefings ensure you have the all info you need to enjoy your day.
Typically one does pay a premium to go on flotilla, however when one factors in that the end cleaning charge, fuel, and things like the outboard engine are all included, the difference in price is actually less than you think, Indeed with early booking and other special offers it can sometimes be next to nothing. So next time you are planning a sailing holiday, don’t rule out a flotilla, especially if you are planning to visit somewhere new.
Crew Wanted! – Seafarer continues to operate flotillas in Croatia, France and Greece, as well as cabin charter in Greece and our RYA training centres in Greece and Croatia, so we are now recruiting for a wide range of positions across all our products.
At Seafarer we pride ourselves in the quality of our crew, and our repeat clients often request them by name, which is a testament to both the quality of our crew, and of the importance of them to our clients’ holidays. As an independent company, our crew make the difference – our role is to ensure that all our clients receive an individual and personal service, something that is often hard to achieve in a larger company. From a crew point of view, this means that you aren’t just another “small cog in a large machine” but an essential part of our “family”. Like our clients, you will be treated as an individual, and have the ability to make your mark – we encourage you to think of new ideas, which can be easily heard by the small management team – good ideas will always be yours, and when practical, can be implemented quickly.
We look for crew of all ages, great for those starting in the industry after a fast track program, and also for those embarking on a new career – it’s all about people, so personable, enthusiastic and confident individuals can thrive with us, whatever their age. If you are new to the industry, then a flotilla first mate or skipper position is a fantastic place to start, whether your long term goal is to remain in the flotilla sector, or broaden your horizons into Skippered charter, instruction, superyachts or management. Like your driving license, your Yachtmaster Offshore means you are ready to learn and gain experience, and looking after a fleet of yachts on flotilla is a fast track in itself. For those looking to try something new after experiencing the fun of flotilla, then our cabin charter program might be for you – a larger yacht, more sailing and guests on board provide another set of challenges and skills to master. Click here for more information on flotilla crew vacancies – crew vacancies
If you are a RYA Cruising Instructor or Yachtmaster Instructor and the thrill of sitting in a damp yacht saloon in Osborne Bay teaching secondary port calculations is wearing a bit thin, then we have full season and freelance instructing opportunities in both Greece and Croatia. This is a chance to teach in warmer waters, and to experience a different side to RYA instruction. Our courses are run over a longer duration, so your students (and you!) get the opportunity to enjoy the social side of Mediterranean yachting, particularly as our tuition yachts generally follow the flotilla, giving students and instructors alike the chance to join in with the fun. Click here for more information – instructor vacancies
For all vacancies, we have our minimum requirements, with a commercially endorsed RYA Yachtmaster being the minimum for skippers, and RYA instructor qualifications for both Sail Cruising and Watersports positions. You can find out all the details on all the positions available here
We are now conducting interviews at our offices in North London, so if you are keen on joining the team for the summer, drop an email, with your CV attached, to me – [email protected]
I look forward to hearing from you, and if it works out for us both, welcoming you to the team for 2019 and beyond.
Product Manager Seafarer Cruising & Sailing Holidays
Chief Instructor, Seafarer Training
Click here for more information on all our current vacancies, job descriptions and how to apply
Yachting and Dinghy Sailing can learn a lot from one another. As Yachting experiences are growing worldwide; cruising holidays and yacht tuition are becoming more affordable. Thus Yachting as a sport is beginning to engage with a wider client base. Over the next few years, I can see a lot of accomplished Dinghy Sailors looking to gain hands-on yacht experience in order to enjoy holidays in the Mediterranean or further afield. Those that do, will take full advantage of exploring beautiful seas and landscapes with the relaxed cruising approach that is paramount to an enjoyable sailing holiday.
However, it is not just the transition from Dinghy Sailing into Yachting that is important for the sport. Yachting can learn a huge amount from the immediate and demanding techniques required to make a boat go as fast as possible. These fundamental skills often begin with Optimists and Toppers and can take you all the way to the Olympics or Americas Cup working on boats being built on the very edge of what is technologically possible.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to be involved in the America’s Cup. I remember when I was a kid sailing Optimists down in Cornwall and there was a British America’s Cup challenge that was training in Falmouth,” —Ben Ainslie
One can often tell when teaching yachting to someone with a background in Dinghy Sailing. They usually have a proficient understanding of the five essentials, but it is the acute sense of wind awareness which makes students stand out. Having these essential sailing skills in their back pocket means they can crack on with a Start Yachting course or Pre-Flotilla training, that suddenly makes that dream holiday an exciting reality.
For those Dinghy Sailors (or Windsurfers) who wish to get into Yacht Sailing, there are a number of options. The best way would be to spend a week on an RYA Training Yacht either with us in the Mediterranean or at any RYA Training Centre in Britain. Seafarer has training yachts based in Greece and Croatia and you can get more details here. Another option is to try one of Seafarers Cabin Charter Holidays in Greece or beyond, more details here.
For those Yacht Sailors who want to gain the gain the experience Dinghy Sailing provides, we recommend a week at Nikiana Beach Club and an RYA Level 1 or Level 2 Course which will teach you all about how to sail a 1 or 2 person Dinghy in the warmth of the Greek sun. This can be combined with a week’s Flotilla or Bareboat from either Lefkas or Kefalonia.
Whichever way you look at it, sailing is the best sport known to man (we are quite biased on this front). But with so many parts it’s hard to remember that whether you sail an Optimist on a small pond or a 100ft Yacht around the world the techniques are the same and you gain the same pure enjoyment from hearing the wind in the sails and the water lashing on the hull.
We wish you fair winds and good seas.
Text by John Chambers & Joe Snowdon
HAVE YOU HAD ENOUGH YET?
With many boat owners already involved in winter lay-ups whilst lamenting the passing of the summer sailing season, many of us are left with that unfulfilled feeling of just not having done enough sailing this summer. The season is of course not over yet, with some really tempting last minute offers in October in places like the Ionian and the Dodecanese including flotillas, but there is a general acceptance amongst holiday sailors that the Med shuts at the end of October and therefore unless one has the budget for places like the Caribbean or Seychelles, so sailing season over..?
There is of course always the choice of undertaking the equivalent of an endurance test with some autumn sailing in the UK, but if you are a fair weather sailor like me, it is probably not very tempting at all.
We have the solution (naturally…) so if you still need to go sailing before Christmas and cannot get away in October, read on! What you need is a place with reasonably priced direct flights, an interesting sailing area that is actually still open as regards shops and restaurants and some sunshine and decent weather virtually guaranteed. Our proposal at this time of year is consider the islands of the Saronic Gulf in Greece. Average temperatures are typically in the low to mid 20’s in October and low 20s to high teens in November. Typically no more than 3-4 rainy days over the entire month with balmy sunny days for all the rest.
There are some great places to visit both on the islands and on the Peloponnese coast. Aegina town on the island of the same name is a relatively short first hop, being just 2-3 hours from our home port in Athens at most. It is popular with Athenians (some of which even commute from here daily by ferry), so the food is really good whilst it has plenty of history and character as well.
Poros is an old favourite of ours, definitely a yachting town that stays open all winter thanks to the naval college and the fact that it is within easy reach of Athens. The one kilometre sea front is busy with yachts even at this time of year and it is the home port of choice for some ‘privateers’ who choose to spend their winter in these parts. That being said, the harbour is large enough for a mooring space to be guaranteed whatever time you arrive. The island of Hydra is a real delight that has featured on many a promotional poster for Greece and is probably one of the most picturesque and photogenic harbours you will find anywhere. What’s more, at this time of year, the small harbour will actually have space for you which is usually not the case in Summer. This was famously Leonard Cohen’s spiritual home and the house he bought here for $1,500 in the 1960’s is still owned and visited by his family. Off season, Hydra is being re-discovered by artists and writers as a place where they find peace and inspiration, so maybe you will too!
Spetses island is about as far south as we recommend at this time of year, still close enough to the capital to warrant some restaurants and cafes staying open and a great island to explore by bicycle or on foot. It’s a holiday island that has managed to retain its traditional architecture and charm. On the nearby Peloponnese coast useful stopping off points are Hermione which reverts to being a fishing village at this time of year and last but not least, historic Epidavros, where a visit to the famous ancient amphitheatre is an absolute must even of you are not usually one for ancient ruins. Firstly this is no ruin, being still in use for performances to this day, whilst its amazing acoustics remaining something of a mystery to the experts who over 2000 years later cannot fully explain how this was achieved. It’s also a stunning setting and a scenic drive, just 25 minutes from the harbour.
In between there are plenty of stunning coves anchorages and something that many overlook is that sea temperatures are actually very acceptable at this time of year so swimming and snorkelling are still very much on the agenda. In October you can expect the sea to be around 22C and in November 19C. Now that is quite a bit higher than Bournemouth beach in August!
The all important final consideration is what will it all cost ? Easyjet and Ryanair have direct daily flights from Gatwick and Stansted to Athens from under £100 return if you are happy to travel with 10kg of hand luggage. The E96 express bus stops just outside Alimos Marina, takes about 45 minutes and costs €6 per person. 7-day charter of an Oceanis 31 (2 cabins / 1 sh/WC) costs just £595 for the yacht plus you will need to allow for fuel and end cleaning costs (say £140 all in). There is even an outboard engine included art that price now that it is quite a bargain in anyone’s book !
Going for something larger like an Oceanis 37 (3 cabins, 1 sh/wc) can still come in under £1000 For a larger party, something like a Sun Odyssey 469 (4 cabins/ 4 sh/wc) would only cost £1275 plus fuel and end cleaning. If you are struggling to get the time off, another possibility is a long weekend. At this time of year, we can charter yachts for just 3 or 4 days so something like Friday though Monday is certainly viable.
So there you have it, bargain prices, decent weather almost guaranteed and uncrowded destinations with lots to see and explore.
No prizes for guessing where I will be sailing this November ….maybe see you there!
A blogster writes: After the storm
Yesterday evening at around 5.30 the sea suddenly changed. Gone was the flat gently swirly millpond of translucent water, replaced by a chop of waves as the wind backed towards the east across the inland sea. People sensibly started leaving the water and the 9-strong Nikiana beach crew, under the direction of beachmaster Rabbie, moved into action like a well-oiled machine.
The beach club prides itself that, should the occasion arise, it has enough craft to put every guest on the water at the same time. Because it attracts a good standard of sailor it also has some pretty hi-spec kit – top of the range Lasers, an RS100 and an ALTO to name but a few. All in all, between dinghies, windsurfers, SUPs and Kayaks, a fleet of 50 or so craft can be afloat.
So last night, as the waterfront closed, everything had to come out of the water. It took some impressive team-work. Sometime after midnight a full moon that had given golden illumination to the white horses topping waves in the bay, vanished behind clouds and the wind got up. It was, by any account, a ‘bit of a blow’.
It meant that, come this morning, many off us awoke to the view of a mast outside our balcony window. Coming down to breakfast we had a most unusual Nikiana scene – an empty bay. But before long the beach crew were back getting boats afloat in the sunshine. With an uncertain forecast however, it will be the same routine tonight.
THE NAUGHTY NIKI
With the Greek weather Gods up to a little mischief it seems to be an appropriate time to introduce you to ‘The Naughty Niki’, this season’s house cocktail. Sci-fi fans have also been known to call it The Red Dwarf.
It’s a G&T pimped-up with strawberry pulp, pomegranate juice and a wedge of lime that makes for a tincture of substantially moreish finesse. The trophy wife suggested it was possibly rude to have dived into one before the sun was over the yardarm – but with pressures of publication deadline looming what other choice has a blogster got! Sharpened the appetite perfectly too. Sadly the measure is not quite as big as it looks in the photo, being foreshortened by Android camera.
QUICK FIX TUESDAY
Mission Kayak successful. Actually, as anybody who has ever tried it knows it’s ridiculously simple. ‘Any tips?’ I asked the guy at the waterfront desk. ‘Left paddle in, left paddle out, right paddle in, right paddle out, repeat,’ he told me wisely. If only all things in life were that straightforward I could soon be advising Theresa May on how to structure Brexit, something the local Greeks seem rather blithe about.
I paddled the length of the bay checking out the other waterfront Tavernas. There’s a wonderful looking place with blue painted chairs and red and white gingham table cloths where you can eat right on the water’s edge. Didn’t go last night as there was a ‘social’ BBQ at our beach club with swordfish, chicken, pork mega-chops and salads a-go-go. But the trophy wife has staked her claim to go there this evening. Who says romance is dead?
All that paddling, and the taste of salt-water, makes a chap incredibly thirsty of course. Luckily Elias the barman has a quick fix for that by taking a frosted glass from the freezer and filling it with a cold foaming beer called Fix. To my mind better even than the Mythos, so from now on a Quick Fix will be the order of the day.
Overall seriously impressed by the Taverna and standard of the catering. For a small kitchen the menu is quite extensive with a classic selection of Greek nibbles and local specialities – tried the Kolokithokeftedes, courgette balls served with the ubiquitous tzatziki, and Melitzanosalata which is a roasted aubergine dip, along with Kalamari and just about the biggest Greek salad you ever did see.
The word Kalamari is almost homophonic to the word Kalimera – which has led several of the company here to make whatever Greek for a faux pas is at breakfast time. Kalimera means good morning, Kalamari means squid. Squid, lovely though it is in all its tentacular glory, is not often something the Greeks start the day with.
Apparently staff serving at the breakfast buffet have become used to being offered an early morning salutation of ‘Squid!’ and smile sweetly in response without rushing to the deep fryer to oblige. Then again I’m very partial to a Sunday morning breakfast kipper – could this be an acceptable substitute?
Off now to demonstrate my new-found translucent water paddling skills to the trophy wife in a double kayak, she regally sitting up front like Cleopatra as I provide the muscle from behind. Then another languid lunch. The trophy wife is angling for a Stiffado – and what’s not to like about that?
We arrived well after dark with a sensible o’clock flight timing that obviated early morning trauma. As the plane came into land at Preveza we could see the lights strung along the shoreline like fireflies. Gatwick can obviously learn a lot from Greek baggage handlers and within an hour or so of landing we were rolling our cases into the grounds of Nikiana.
Let me ‘fess up right at the start. I love old school Greek islands. 5 star luxury may have its place, but in Greece I want little more than the sand between my toes, a comfy bed with a shower and loo en suite, and a bar that stays open until the last guest has had the last drink of the night.
Such delight to discover that the bar acts as a front for a taverna that was able to produce a bowl of fall-apart stewed beef for me, a plate of green beans and potatoes for the trophy wife, cold beer and a carafe of local red wine that might not win many Parker Points but which perfectly complemented the meal. This was the sort of Greece I remembered from student island hopping days when Jimi Hendrix was top of the charts and Joni Mitchell sang ‘The wind is in from Africa…’ about Crete.
Major learning points from Sunday night – the barman is called Elias, and the draught beer is called Mythos. Looking forward to a Mythosophical Monday.
Monday breakfast was an interesting combination. Thick Greek yoghurt with honey and fresh watermelon at one end of the buffet, scrambled eggs, bacon and baked beans the other. Thought it would be rude not to try both – bacon excellent.
Welcome meeting at 9.30 courtesy of Joe the manager. All very relaxed but with a wonderful focus on ‘being green’ – so try not to use too much plastic, don’t leave the tap turned on as water is a valuable resource, generally sail power is better than engine power. Lots of head nodding from the assembled company.
Then the waterfront briefing from Robbie. As he’s Scottish I wonder if it should be Rabbie. Major safety talk after a description of a myriad of sailing and water activities. Not planning to sail (may kayak and SUP (stand up paddle board) a bit but feel we’re all in very safe hands.
Lots to do but started at the shop stocking the fridge in the en suite kitchenette with water, fruit, snacks, beer and retsina. Sorted – whatever the Greek is for Rock and Roll me and the trophy wife are jumping to jive.
Read More About The Beach Club Here
JOIN US IN SOUTHAMPTON
As ever, we will be attending the Southampton Boat Show and we will be delighted to see you all and to have a chat!
If you’d like to join us at stand J040, then here’s how to get in FOR 40% LESS, CLICK THIS LINK.
We’ll see you there!
At every boat show, we are asked what we can propose as a flotilla holiday for those that don’t like to fly. Our Cote D’Azur flotilla on the South of France is the answer with a range of travel options available for the non- flyer.
This is our second year in this area and whilst still not quite as well known as our flotillas in Greece and Croatia, we are having a good season and receiving some really good feedback from guests.
The area is of course stunningly beautiful with some great natural attractions such as the Callanques coastal national park and the idyllic offshore islands of Porquerolles and Port Cros, but also lovely harbour towns and villages offering fabulous food and good facilities all along this coast.
For those that prefer to fly, there is an excellent choice of flights from around the UK to Marseille Toulon and Nice, all within easy reach of our base, but what are the options for non- flyers ?
Self Drive – Combining a flotilla holiday with a driving holiday through France certainly has its attractions. The road network is excellent and one is spoilt for choice on routings and attractions on the way. Whether visiting the sights in historic cities as you travel through the country, a change of scenery with a visit to the Alps or sampling the delights of one of the many coastal resorts with a hotel or villa stay, there is something for everyone. In a straght line, you can drive the distance in a day, but if you are exploring, you can take as long as you like.
TGV – France boasts arguably the best rail network in Europe and their iconic TGV high speed trains are a safe, comfortable and efficient way to reach your destination.
Boarding Eurostar at St Pancras at 09:22 on a Saturday morning, you can be in Toulon, just across the bay from our base by 18:16 on the same day. This does involve changing stations in Paris, between Gare Du Nord where Eurostar terminates and Gare De Lyon to board the TGV . This can be either by taxi or by using the Metro. This was enough of an incentive for some of our clients to use this as an excuse to spend a day or two in Paris either on the way out or on the way back. However, even as a straight journey, it can be a reasonable comparison to a flight when one factors in travel time to airports, check in, clearing security and so on, all of which are simpler and quicker by train.
From Toulon’s station, it is a ten minute walk or two minute taxi ride to the port and ferry pier for the short ride across the bay to Les Sablettes with the pier being just 350 metres from our base at Port Pin Rolland.
Whether you favour the self drive touring option or you are a rail enthusiast, both options work really well and are the perfect addition to your week or two on flotilla with Seafarer in the Med.
We still have some availability this summer and some great special offers, so if travelling without taking to the air is your choice, give us a call and we will be happy to guide you through the options.