Greece & Turkey
Flotillas are the ideal compromise between bareboat and a crewed charter vacations. With a flotilla you will skipper your own boat, together with a fleet of several other yachts. Yet, an experienced skipper (flotilla leader) – onboard one of the leading yachts – will guide you and the rest of the flotilla fleet from port to port.
- With crewed charters & gulets cruises on one side and bareboat sailing on the other side, flotillas comprise the best of both worlds since the flotilla leader will help you skipper the yacht yourself.
- The lead yacht, skippered by the flotilla leader, serves as a crewed charter yacht where singles or couples can rent a berth charter or cabin charter, respectively.
- Flotilla sailing holidays are ideal for families with young children, who will then have the opportunity to play with other kids.
- Yacht charter holidays may seem expensive, but compared with normal hotel prices and ferries fees, flotilla holidays are actually quite cheap. Moreover, you have your own kitchen and you will not be limited to the major ports (read: expensive tourist traps) as with cruise liners.
- In the Ionian your average daily sail of 10 – 20 nautical miles gives you enough time to swim, snorkel, anchor at remote bays, or explore the ports and villages on the islands.
Here is the whole list (NM):
Ionian 10 – 20 Northern Sporades 10 – 20 Saronic Gulf 10 – 25 Argolic Gulf 15 – 30 Dodecanese 25 – 35 Cyclades 25 – 40
- You can choice yachts from 29 to 60 ft, but for the more demanding areas like the Cyclades a 32 feet yacht is considered a minimum → choosing charter yachts.
- The flotilla fleets can vary from 5 to 10 yachts supervised by at least one leading yacht that will help and advise you.
- Though not necessarily, flotilla yachts are usually monohulls, since catamarans do take up even more space in the already crowded ports.
- Flotilla leaders will help you with issues like mediterranean mooring & anchoring or navigation and will decide whether a certain anchorage is safe for the night. If desired you can request constant VHF contact or even visual contact during the sailing hours.
Also every morning there is a skippers meeting, where you will be briefed on the day ahead, the next port, weather forecasts, possible lunchtime anchorages, etc.
- Nearly all flotillas are 7 or 14 days, while holidays of 10 or 21 days are more difficult to find.
- Starts and ends on Saturdays, yet ABC rotates on Sundays.
- To sail a flotilla, at least one crew member should have an ICC and sufficient offshore or coastal sailing experience. An RYA Day Skipper Practical Certificate or equivalent or the real ICC (international certificate of competence) is required.
(Possible) downsides of Flotilla cruises
- In Greece one requires proper bareboat certification (like a RYA day skipper or an ICC), since sailing without a hired skipper on a flotilla yacht it still means going bareboat. Fortunately, rules are less strict in Turkey!
- It isn't possible to sail your own route! Yet, sometimes there are “free” sailing days included.
- Flotillas trace the standard, crowded “milk run” routes if you want peace and quiet, a flotilla is clearly not something for you.
- A flotilla sailing holiday is more expensive than a bareboat, and only slightly cheaper than a crewed charter; both will give you much more freedom.
- While on the lead boat you could get some sailing instruction, the flotilla leader is mainly busy with the other yachts. Therefore, a crewed charter makes much more sense if you want to learn how to sail, since you will have your own private and dedicated instructor on board.
- The majority of flotillas start from Athens and Lefkas. So, there are less options to join a flotilla in the south Cyclades, the Dodecanese, the Sporades and other must-see sailing areas in Greece.
- No one-way charters possible and especially in the Aegean this would often be an interesting enhancement.
- Due to the size of the fleet (5 or more yachts) you won't be able to visit the smaller ports, yet these are often the most interesting ones
- Lastly, there is an increasing amount of charter reports on “2 weeks flotillas” consisting of two consecutive and identical one-week itineraries visiting everything twice! :-(
If you opt for a reliable flotilla company, most of these downsides won't apply
Assisted bareboat charters
Likewise, the downsides can be avoided via assisted bareboat charters (ABC), the ideal compromise between a regular flotilla and a real bareboat charter.
On an assisted bareboat charter you will have a lot more freedom, but the lead crew will still serve as a safety net.
More details via my yacht charter page and request ABC.
The best served areas by far are the Ionian Sea and the Saronic Gulf.
The Ionian Sea offers bright green sceneries and crystal clear waters. The architecture is eclectic, revealing the complex history of so many influences, notably the Venetian Occupation.
The sailing distances between the hundreds of beautiful anchorages and ports are the smallest of the whole Mediterranean and especially in the area east of Lefkas and Kefalonia tourist facilities are everywhere. This so-called “Inland Ionian Sea” suffers the most flotilla fleets in Greece because of its secluded character and gentle winds to match.
Yet, during the main sailing season in Greece the various flotilla fleets are more and more considered a nuisance by the regular cruising yachts and even by the native Greeks, despite the money these tourists bring to their islands.
However, the Inland Sea is absolutely worth visiting, especially outside the main season, with its beautiful islands of Meganisi, Kastos, Kalamos and Ithaca.
Most standard flotilla routes in the Ionian will start out of Lefkas / Preveza and will resemble itineraries A, B or G. In the main season it therefore pays to look for flotillas elsewhere!
The Saronic near Athens (and in the 14-day itineraries also the adjacent and even more lovely Argolic gulf adjacent to the east coast of the Peloponnese) is rich in culture. You will find a plethora of must-see archaeological sites such as the ancient temples of Poseidon at cape Sounion, Aphaia on Aegina island, the most beautiful preserved amphitheatre near Epidavros and legendary cities like Mycenae, Argos, Corinth and Navplion. Moreover, you will visit the picturesque ports of Methana, Hydra and Poros.
There are a lot of possible itineraries in the Saronic and Argolic. A 7-day flotilla will take usually take route A probably leaving out Methana and including Epidavros. On 14-day holiday you will likely sail a route comparable to G.
For unbiased advice on flotilla cruises and reliable flotilla companies please visit my yacht charter page.
Indispensable books about (sailing in) Greece and Turkey.