07:15 EST, 12 Août 2012
07:15 EST, 12 Août 2012
A sailing holiday wasn’t perhaps the very best of ideas – at least not with our track record. The last time my husband Mark and I ventured out on a boat together was on our honeymoon.
Mark had never sailed before but figured it couldn’t be that hard. I’d sailed a lot as a child, but had managed to forget anything I’d ever been taught.
We set sail feeling confident, but things soon went quickly downhill, and much to our shame we managed to capsize the boat – and ended up having to be rescued.
Lady in red: Charlotte Hawkins looks glamorous for her evening out visiting the bars and restaurants in Paleros
But we decided to give boats another go – and this time we chose to book a whole sailing week to give us plenty of time to master the waves. Heureusement, we were in safe hands with our instructors at Vounaki in Greece.
Whether you’re a complete novice or a bit of a salty old seadog, they are always on hand to help you out. You can have as much or as little sailing instruction as you like.
We started off with a private lesson in a Wayfarer but soon progressed to going out on our own in the small and nippy Topaz boats.
There’s a supervised sailing area, so luckily we didn’t have to worry about taking a wrong turn and drifting miles out to sea.
Natural talent: Charlotte has her first attempt at waterskiing, with brilliant results
And when you finally return to shore after a hard day’s sailing, the staff are standing by to catch the boat and de-rig it for you – meaning you can head straight up the steps to the bar for a much-needed Alfa beer or two, beautifully chilled and served in glasses kept in the freezer.
There was nothing like sitting back, taking in the stunning view of the bay and watching in amusement everyone else’s antics on the water.
Our accommodation may have been basic but it was clean and had everything we needed, so certainly didn’t detract from our holiday.
We spent so much time outside that we were hardly in the room, as the sun was blissfully hot until well after 7pm. We quite often stayed around the pool until late, had a quick shower, then headed out to the bar.
It was a great discovery to find our favourites there, and not the usual unknown substitutes. So it was a Tanqueray and tonic for me and a Havana Club rum for Mark, after which we’d choose something from the decent wine list, which had a mixture of local and New World offerings.
At the base of the Acarnanian Mountains, the sun was scorching most days as temperatures headed towards 104F (40C).
It made the prospect of watersports even more appealing, and we tried windsurfing (without much success…which I’m putting down to lack of wind at the time), and two-man kayaking.
My plan for this was, cependant, foiled when Mark insisted I sat in the front so he could check my paddling!
I was glad I was persuaded to try waterskiing as well, as it was amazing. The surprise was that I managed to stay on my feet. We had timed our week to make sure we were there before the schools broke up to avoid the stampede of too many little feet – but it was fascinating to see the children’s clubs in action.
Meet the fleet: Sunsail’s dinghies on the beach at Vounaki in mainland Greece
Throughout the day you’d witness a steady stream of kids doing various activities, whether it was three-year-olds in lifejackets learning how to star-jump into the pool, six-year-olds dressed up as pirates doing a treasure hunt, or 12-year-olds taking part in a canoe race.
The family pool was good for swimming lengths but there was also an adults-only one for those wanting to escape (or parents wanting to hide).
One thing it was hard to hide from was the aqua aerobics as the music would belt out, shattering the peace and quiet.
We were gently persuaded to join in and actually had great fun as the endlessly energetic fitness coordinator Tebow led us in what I can only describe as ‘rave’ aerobics – it had to be seen to be believed.
The staff were a big part of creating the friendly atmosphere that worked so well, and they were all happy to help whenever they could.
Tiller girl: Charlotte takes control
of one of Sunsail’s brightly coloured topaz dinghies
At breakfast they’d stop and chat, asking us what we had planned for the day and suggesting ideas if we hadn’t made up our minds. In the evening they went above and beyond their job description by leading the way in the Greek dancing – something we decided it was safer to watch from afar.
The town of Lefkas is only a short trip away for those wanting somewhere larger to visit, but as we had been there on a previous holiday we decided to walk the few minutes along the coast to the local town of Paleros instead.
It may be small but there are several waterside restaurants to choose from, including the Yacht Club. We popped in there to have a gin and tonic and enjoy the sunset, planning to eat some Greek food later.
Cependant, once we spotted the wood oven we decided pizza was in order, accompanied by a chilled bottle of rose. We kept it local by opting for their speciality Greek pizza, and sat and watched the sunset to the sound of gently clinking halyards from nearby yachts.
We had wondered how noticeable the effects of the economic turmoil in the country would be. When I told everyone where we were going, they warned of cash machines running out of money, or joked about taking drachmas as a back-up.
But as a tourist you’re shielded from the reality. You might notice the increased tax of 23 per cent on anything you buy, and there may be extra urgency from the restaurant owners as they try to cajole you to have a meal.
But despite the hardships, the Greek people were as friendly as ever. We were really glad to have opted for an active holiday. Getting up at 3.15am every day for work means my holidays are usually ultra-chilled to recharge the batteries.
But the sailing break offered a perfect combination of being able to do something physical when I wanted and lounge by the pool when I didn’t.
We came back feeling relaxed but also invigorated, and now have the sailing bug. So much so we’re planning to get our skipper qualification, and here’s hoping we’ve now firmly left our capsizing days behind us.
Faits de voyage
Sunsail (0845 868 7456, www.sunsail.co.uk) offers seven nights at the Sunsail Club Vounaki from £499
y compris les vols de Gatwick, transfers and half board plus free activities, watersports and kids’ clubs.
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