Chartering a sailboat in the Greek Isles is a breeze with the help of the Internet.
Many yacht charter companies have Web sites that let you view boats, plan your ports of call, view prices and exchange information via e-mail.
We sealed our charter in less than a week without a single overseas phone call or excessive trips to the post office. If you prefer the old-fashioned route, Fodor's Fifth Edition travel guide of Greece also offers an extensive list of outfitters and yacht associations, many with U.S.-based brokers.
But exercise caution.
When you board a sailboat, your life could depend on the skill of the skipper and how well the boat has been maintained.
My husband, Joe, and I selected Athens-based Fyly Yachting (www.fyly.gr) after a review of offers from a half-dozen companies.
We requested online price quotes, compared packages, read customer reviews and consulted an independent Web site, www.sailingissues.com. (The author of this site also provides personal recommendations and helps folks stay away from disreputable charter operations.)
Our one-week charter cost us $2,900, plus a $250 tip for the skipper and minor marina and fuel charges. If that sounds expensive, consider what it would cost for hotels, eating out every meal, a car rental and ferry tickets.
Sailboat charters come in three basic colors: bareboat, flotilla and crewed.
In a bareboat deal, a person with proven sailing experience, often called a sailing resumé, may rent a sailboat. It's the most private option because you don't share the boat with strangers.
A flotilla charter also requires a sailing resumé but you travel with other sailboats, a nice option for a skipper who doesn't quite feel comfortable going it alone.
Variations of these options include numerous sailing cruises on ships of every size. Sailing in Greece is as common as wine-tasting in California.
But we wanted to come and go as we pleased, sleep when we wanted and hang our underwear to dry on the rigging without embarrassment.
Neither of us possesses sailing experience, so we opted for a crewed charter. It included an English-speaking skipper and a 32-foot sailboat with two cabins, or bedrooms. (We could have hired a cook, too, but that seemed a bit much.)
We're by no means experts, having chartered a sailboat just once, but here are some tips based on our experience and some research.
Compare carefully. Some charters will include amenities that others charge extra for such as linens or outboard motor. Don't forget transportation to and from the marina, which can be expensive. The most important extra, however, is the end cleaning. The last thing you want to do at the end of your vacation is clean a boat.
Don't forget fuel. Yes, it's a sailboat, but unless you want to spend eight-plus hours a day traveling from island to islandit depends on the windsyou will run the motor. (Plus, you need to charge the marine batteries in order to run the lights and equipment.) But it won't be too bad. It cost us $60 for the week.
Love the one you're with. Even on an 80-foot yacht, sailboat quarters are tight.
About getting seasick. When you're in choppy water for three hours, even the most hale can succumb to queasiness. Unless you are absolutely certain of your equilibrium, ask your doctor for a scopolamine prescription, an anti-motion sickness drug. We used the three-day patch, and it worked fabulously.
No smoking? Many Greeks smoke like chimneys, including skippers. If you need a non-smoking skipper, be sure to ask for one.
BYOM. Unless you want to listen to Greek radio stations, which is another story, pack a few of your own CDs.