Sunday, July 05, 2009

Review: Bareboat Sailing with Sunsail in the Greek Aegean

After the last sailing blog group exercise of thinking up sailor-changing-light-bulb jokes (to which my answers were none, none, and none) - its on to the next which is to write a review. Pretty much any post can be made into a review (e.g. the sunset here tonight gets ***** i.e. 3 stars out a possible 5) however that is not much use to the general reader.

But having just got back from a Sunsail bareboat charter in the Aegean, that might be of interest to those who are thinking of doing the same. So here it goes, looking at flight out, the boat, water and wildlife, islands and towns, the weather, and an overall score.

1. Flight Out *****

The flight was with Thompson and was pretty awful. Firstly there's the lack of leg room which means that anyone over 6 feet are forced to sit bolt upright to avoid grazing their knees on the seat in front. At which point the head rest is pretty irrelevant and so you'll end up dozing with a crick in your neck.

Also there is a proper meal for some but they don't tell you if it's you until it arrives towards the end of the flight - after they've gone around selling sandwiches. So you can take pot luck and hope you are one of the "lucky" ones with a microwaved in-flight reconstructed meat or play it safe and buy some of their sandwiches or do as we do and buy a sandwich and regret it as to full to do more than poke at the unwanted plastic tray afterwards.

You arrive at the tiny airport at Skiathos where there is only room to park 3 aircraft and the island is only just big enough for the runway so take off and landing are interesting (the pic above is of another charter company that took and landed at London Gatwick with 15 minutes of us).


2. The Boat *****

We had a Oceanis 423 which was very comfy with three large double cabins and three heads so that was pretty much en-suite. There was a good bimini, huge fridge and well stocked kitchen (ok, it had the most important thing which was a cafetiere). No choice of sails - just main with 3 reefs and furling headsail. There was a single reasonable sized wheel with throttle nicely placed on pedestal so could easily manoeuvre her forward and backwards. The on deck chart plotter was rather cool though to be honest rather unnecessary given the distances sailed.

There was one big failing, which was that the anchor chain was not the right size for the windlass which was totally rubbish as meant couldn't get the anchor in as the chain kept slipping and had to resort to manually pulling it up. We guessed that someone had lost the anchor and chain and Sunsail had just put one on that was close but that's really not acceptable given how important an anchor is, hence the one star less.

There were some minor things which bugged me but everyone else just shrugged there shoulders:
- If you have GPS and DSC it makes sense to connect them up - after all it is a lot more useful if you hit the DSC button if people know where you are rather than just "there is a boat in trouble somewhere in VHF range". However the Sunsail rep and my two ex flot sailing friends didn't seem that bothered
- The instruments didn't have a lot of the numbers needed while racing like true wind angle & speed let alone VMG. Ok, this is a relaxing cruising holiday but it can be fun to play around with trim...... ok it is fun for an ex-racer!


3. Water and Wildlife *****

Again pretty good: the water was lovely and crystal clear and we were treated to dolphins playing around the bow. If you looked under the water at the harbour you could almost always see lots of fish of a range of sizes.

The one star is taken off as didn't see a huge amount, though maybe if we'd gone further into the national park we'd have seen more. For example we saw a hut where we could learn more about seals - but alas it was closed and we didn't see any.


4. Islands and Towns *****

It was lovely sailing - a number of islands with pretty little Greek villages, all white painted with Greek Orthodox churches scattered around like pebbles and rows of tavernas along the water front with fresh local food. You'd see fishermen out catching the dinner for tomorrow, and go behind the counter with the taverna owner to select your fish and haggle over price.

There were antiquities if you are interested (though not that many) and clubs for those of that nature (well is Skiathos anyhow). And unlike the Ionian it wasn't crowded out - we could always get into which ever harbour we wanted.

Lovely - really can really recommend it as a sailing area.


5. Wind and Weather *****

Mostly ok. The pattern was for no wind first thing in the morning, then gentle, then around 4 - 5 ish in the afternoon it would really blow for an hour or so, sometimes with exciting storms with thunder and lightening (some on our boat used words other than exciting).

After the blow it would settle down and by late evening it would be quiet again. However we learnt that mooring up time was often "interesting" and it can be useful to get in earlier or wait outside till the wind drops (which it will).

We did once put in a reef when it was F5 or something but to be honest if anything felt we could have done with a bit more wind, though again it might depend upon temperament.

The only annoying time was the day we had a nice blow but it was directly on our nose all day long and it was a very long leg so we couldn't afford to tack tack tack hence motored. Boring.


6. Overall *****

There were some niggles - the flight and the anchor / windlass problem springs to mind - but there were minor. The price off season was particularly good, so we paid about half what the Sunsail web site is currently quoting for August. Though of course you with children at school will probably be muttering at this point, so what can I say but sorry.

In general very happy with the package and would be happy to sail with them again.

2 comments:

Tillerman said...

Thanks JP. Great review. I love all those star ratings and hope some other participants in the group writing project will follow your lead. Hell. I might even do it myself.

JP said...

Thanks Tillerman.

Of course now I'm wondering if they are the right number of stars.... should that bad anchor chain/windlass problem mean the boat should have got 3* or maybe a 3.5 (3)??

I'm thinking might do similar thing with the places we stopped at like a mini pilot.