TRAVEL Q&A

For Sailors, It's All Greek

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By Andrea Sachs
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 11, 2007

Q. My family of five wants to rent a sailboat in the Greek islands. Any suggestions for an itinerary and where to rent a boat?

Laura Zaim, Bethesda

A. You don't have to be an America's Cup captain to sail around the Greek islands; the waters are open to everyone with a taste for ouzo and adventure. "Greece is a throwback in time," says Jim Araiza, co-owner of SailAway Yacht Charter Consultants in Miami, which organizes charter sailing vacations. "The history dominates the sailing."

Greek charters are like water taxis, Araiza explains. "In Greece, you pull into a marina and eat at a taverna." Most likely, you'll be spending more time exploring the islands' land attractions, such as museums and archaeological sites, than sailing.

If you're an experienced sailor and solid navigator, you can bareboat, or captain your own ship. The Moorings, a charter company, quoted a starting price of $280 a day to rent a boat comfortable for five.

Newbies, or those who'd rather relax than steer, should charter a boat with a captain, first mate and chef. "You own the boat," Araiza says, "and the crew is there to serve you." The most common vessel in Greece is the gulet, a motor yacht with sails. Araiza recommends a 75-foot boat for a family of five, starting at $2,000 a day (includes crew, food, etc.), and suggests that first-time sailors fly into Athens and follow the Ionian route, which wends around Poros, Santorini and Hydra. Because the islands are so close together, you should be able to hit at least 15 in a week.

The Greek sailing season is short, from June to September, when the weather is warm with little rain. In September, there can be high winds. Regardless of the month, you won't have to fend off the cruise hordes: The big ships can anchor only in deep waters, leaving the small inlets and harbors to private yachters.

For charters, check out SailAway Yacht Charter (800-724-5292, http://www.1800sailaway.com/), Valef Yachts (800-223-3845, http://www.valefyachts.com/) in Pennsylvania and Aris Drivas Yachting (011-30-210-411-3194, http://www.greekyachts.gr/), based in Piraeus, Greece. For bareboats: the Moorings (888-952-8420, http://www.moorings.com/) or Sunsail (888-350-3568, http://www.sunsail.com/).

I want to buy two tickets to Spain. My son is staying for a week; I'm staying for three. Can I book it online?

J. Cidre, Sharpsburg

Online travel sites are not equipped to process complex itineraries, such as two tickets with different return dates. However, your chances of booking the same outgoing flight minutes apart are high. "It's not likely that the plane will sell out before he can type in his son's information," says Mike Putman, founder of Team Travel Consultants, a South Carolina firm that advises travel businesses. "The possibility is negligible."

If you're concerned about booking online, call the airline or a travel agent, who often has access to the same Web fares and specials. However, a travel agent usually charges a nominal fee for the service. If you book it yourself, select a seat with an empty place next to it for your son. Another strategy: If you are a two-computer family, book one reservation while your son commandeers the other machine.

Send queries by e-mail (travelqa@washpost.com) or U.S. mail (Travel Q&A, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071).

Please include your name and town.


© 2007 The Washington Post Company


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