We have sailed for a few years, but then the children came along, and since then our sailing adventures had been curtailed some what, limited to mainly day sails with the occasional overnight stop. But with our youngest, now aged 3 and his brother and sister a heady 5 and 6 years old, we thought it was the right time to get sailing again!
We flew from Birmingham with Flybe to Preveza. A lovely plane, with excellent service. For the children this was the perfect start to the holiday - what could be better than getting up in the middle of the night and travelling to an airport and getting on an aeroplane!? Their enthusiasm and excitement even rubbed off on mum and dad at 4am!
We were met at Preveza airport by Ciara and after a lovely warm welcome, boarded the mini coach to Perigiali (a 40 minute bus ride - again what could be better!)
Our yacht for the week "Iona" - a lovely Bavaria 39 Cruiser
After some lunch in the beautiful Hotel Vaya garden and a quick trip to the shop for initial provisioning, we boarded Iona - a lovely Bavaria 39 Cruiser, built in 2007. She was exceptionally clean and after a personal yacht briefing we set sail on the Sunday afternoon for Little Vathi on Meganassi Island. The children spent the first hour down below, making their cabins their own, unpacking (ie emptying) their bags into the cabin wardrobes and getting their swim suites on. We all pretty much lived in our swimming costumes the whole week after that!
Our first stop was Georges taverna on the right on the way in to Little Vathi. They have lazy lines here so it is a good first nights stop. There is also a delightful little beach, so perfect for the children to swim from. Here we met up with some other boats with children on, and they were soon all off swimming with their new "best friends" and the language barriers (Dutch and French) didn't seem to matter!. We were all pretty tired after our long day, but it felt so good to be on the boat and to have left base. Harry (our youngest) didn't see out the evening meal, but hey, this is Greece, it doesn't matter - the waitress made him his own bed at the table!
Harry on his makeshift bed....
Day two we headed for Kalamos Island, with a lunch stop in a bay on the north coast of Kalamos. With the anchor down, the protected Ionian waters were perfect for the kids to mess around in the dinghy and canoe. We even tried our luck at fishing but with limited (no) success. We then had a lovely gentle sail (10 to 12 knots of wind) around the north of the island and entered Kalamos Port, under the watchful eye of George (yes another!). He helped us anchor up. Mindful that Iona had about 70m of chain on her, I thought wise to get as much out as possible. Better to be prepared!
Amelie, our eldest in Kalamos
Once again, the kids swam off the little beach in Kalamos, had the ritual ice cream and made new friends, this time with the local kittens, whilst we relaxed onboard with a drink and a book!
That evening we ate in Georges taverna which was excellent, before all retiring to another peaceful nights sleep. It is amazing how quickly the children conk out after a busy day on the water.
Next morning, was again clear blue skies and mill pond water. We slipper our lines earlier than most, only to realise that my cautious approach with the anchor chain, had resulted in 4 crossed anchors with boats that had come in later that evening. No panic! With the kids and my wife on the windlass, I was in and out of the dinghy passing the rope up to the bow and releasing the snagged anchors. A job well done, no dramas and with a glowing sense of achievement and pride we left the harbour. We then returned ten minutes later to retrieve the dinghy which little Harry had untied whilst I wasn't looking......! Not quite such a proud moment.......
A wonderful lunch stop in Port Leone, the deserted village on the south of Kalamos, was followed by a fantastic sail in 15-20 knots of wind up to Desimi Bay on Lefkas Island. We sailed all afternoon around the bottom of Meganissi and up the straights, before motoring slowly into the bay. The kids loved the sailing, spending half the time up in the cockpit and the other half, playing the "washing machine game" down below (the water passing over the hull port holes looks like the water spinning around inside a washing machine when viewed through the door!).
Fantastic safe sailing...
We anchored off in Dessimi Bay and went ashore to the taverna in the dinghy for a wonderful evening meal on the beach. Perfect.
We were in no hurry to leave this little paradise the next day, and instead spent the morning canoeing, snorkelling and exploring the nearby caves. After another simple lunch on board, we pulled up the anchor and had a gentle sail around the corner into Nidri. We moored up on the Nielsen pontoon for euros 10, refilled water tanks and plugged into the shore power. We then spent a lovely afternoon and evening at the Athos hotel and Tree bar, with the kids swimming (again) in the pool. It was a good time to give the kids a little break off the boat.
Amelie off exploring in the canoe at Desimi Bay
Caught up by the rest of us with Honda power!
Next day we departed Nidri for Sivota on the bottom of Lefkas. For lunch we stopped off at Skorpios Island, the former private island of the Onassis family (it has just been sold to a rather wealthy Russian). This is where we were glad to have so much anchor chain on board, as you are not allowed to anchor too close to the island, and we had to anchor in 40m of depth. We then took the canoes and dinghy to the beach, where we met a lovely family and the children made new "best friends!"
Getting a tow...
Day 5, saw us sail south to Kioni on Ithica, with a lunch time stop in the almost too perfect to be true Cliff Bay on Atokos Island. What a perfect place. Kioni was fairly busy and windy, but we managed to find a nice spot to moor up in and by releasing the anchor chain manually, managed to go astern at better speed to help negate the cross winds. Once in we made our dinner on board and played cards and read before turning in for the night - again kids were out like a light.
The following morning we headed back north to Meganissi and moored up on the town quay in Little Vathi. The kids love this place as it has a great swing park and lots of safe space to run around. We had drinks aboard another Nisos boat (Numero Uno) that was also moored up there for their last night. It was great not to have to be back in base on that last night!
We ate at the Rose Garden where Effie looked after us royally. When nearly all charter boats and flotillas are back in base, that last Saturday night is extra special and oh so quiet outside of Nidri, Sivota and Lefkas Town.
It was with great reluctance that we returned back to the Nisos base on the following morning, and we all tumbled off the boat at 9am, so as to let the cleaners on (we were very embarrassed with the state we left Iona in, compared to what she was like when we picked her up initially!).
It was our first weeks sailing with the children and it was a huge success for my wife and I and our 3 children.
Here are our tips if you are considering sailing with your young children:
- plan short days with good lunch time stops;
- build into your itinerary a day off the boat - maybe at a hotel with pool, or some dinghy sailing or a day on the beach;
- know your limitations so as not to panic the children - they pick up on parents moods very easily!;
- plan to anchor off over night in one of the many beautiful coves and have a bbq on a beach - could it be more of a perfect adventure for a child (and dad!)?
- give each child a job to do on the boat (doesn't matter how young they are!). For example: fenders (teach them the simple knot); stern lines; windlass operation; moving the dinghy; tidying warps etc etc. There are so many jobs that can be done at all ages with a bit of help and it really gives them a sense of responsibility.
- make sure you pack/acquire all sorts of games, blow up inflatables, fishing line, floats, snorkels etc.
All in all, we had a wonderful holiday. The kids loved every minute of it, as because of that, we as parents loved it. Keep it relaxed and enjoy everything this stunning area has to offer.
Roll on 2014!
Harry on the winch.
Kids sorting out fenders for arrival.
What better way to travel?
Submitted by Rowan Carver