Sailing to Byzantium, and beyond

From the Caribbean to the Arctic, there's a ship to suit the novice or expert sailor
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The Independent Culture
HEBRIDES

Lorne Leader is a 100ft, vintage Brixham trawler that voyages round the Hebrides in the summer. The ship can take 12 passengers, who don't need to be experienced sailors, merely enthusiasts prepared to 1end a hand - it takes eight people to raise a mainsail for example.

In between hauling the halyards and stowing the sails, there are daily visits ashore by fast inflatables, to explore Rhum, Skye and other anchorages. On some of the voyages there are guest ornithologists, folk musicians and artists, on others there is extra emphasis on seamanship.

The prices range from pounds 310-pounds 395 for six days, fully-catered, for each of the 12 passengers.

Lorne Leader: 01852 500212.

FLOTILLA

The Greek islands and Turkish coastline are the favourite itneraries for flotilla holidays, made up of a small armada of yachts, usually between 28ft and 35ft long, and sleeping from four to eight people. They sail under the guidance of the lead boat, crewed by professionals. As holidaymakers become more experienced, they often do more independent sailing, though remaining in touch by radio and meeting up with the rest of the fleet each evening. Most organisers require at least one member of the crew to have some sailing experience, and grade their itineraries accordingly.

The Ionian sea, with its sheltered anchorages, is ideal for modest sailors, while the brisk winds around the Peloponnese and Turkish coast are rather more challenging.

For complete beginners, Sovereign Sailing offers two-week villa/flotilla packages, with the option of learning to sail a yacht or a dinghy in the first week. The company also offers "bareboat charters", independent holidays for which participants need recognised yachting qualifications and considerable experience.

A two-week Ionian cruise in August in a 28ft yacht costs pounds 1,067 for each of two sharing, pounds 747 for each of four, including air fares. From experience, I'd beware of overcrowding.

Sovereign Sailing: 01273 626 284.

Sunsail: 01705 219847.

Top Yacht: 01753 646636.

TURKISH GULETS

These attractive wooden yachts built in the traditional style of the sponge fishermen's boats offer simple accommodation for six-12 people, and lazy sailing round the bays, beaches and islets of the Turk-ish coast. They're fully crewed, usually carry a cook, and most have windsurfing, snorkelling and fishing equipment.

They sail mainly from Bod-rum and Marmaris, with the advantage of flexible itineraries to parts that others cannot reach. Accommodation can be cramped, however, and they're not for the anti-social.

A week in high season with flights and full board from Simply Turkey costs pounds 628 for each of six, pounds 477 for each of 12.

Inspirations: 01293 822244.

Savile Row: 0171-625 3001.

Simply Turkey: 0181-747 1011.

WINDJAMMING

Osprey Holidays' New Eng-land Windjammer Cruises appeal to people who want "soft adventures", exploring the creeks, harbours, uninhabited islets and wildlife of Maine's 3,500-mile coastline.

Windjammers, double-masted, wooden schooners, are still built in Maine, where every summer there is a spectacular festival at Boothbay Harbour when antique sloops and yachts beat around the coast. Osprey's windjammer The Heritage can accommodate 33 passengers in simple cabins, with dinner in the oil lamp-lit galley and a lobster bake ashore. The price of pounds 999- pounds 1,119 for a week includes flights, car hire, five nights full-board afloat and a night in a Boston hotel.

Osprey Holidays: 0131-557 1555.

CARIBBEAN

Loading up in the Caribbean means rum, tropical fruits, snorkels and sun cream, rather than oilskins, wellies and baked beans; most yachts come complete with crew and cook, and itineraries and menus are discussed daily. Vessels from specialist operators such as Elegant Resorts and Caribbean Connections range from 40ft to 240ft, and take between two and 20 guests, rates depending on the yachts and number of passengers. Some are extremely luxurious and priced accordingly.

The salon of Elegant Resorts' 66ft Imagine, which sleeps six, is described as like a British stately home and costs pounds 525 for each of six people for a four-night cruise, pounds 835 for a week. The 46ft Gipsy Wind takes just two guests, has a queen-sized bed, bath tub and a captain with a degree in marine biology. Prices are from pounds 1,055 each for four nights, pounds 1,675 for a week. This includes some diving and the bar. None of these charter prices includes air fares.

Among the cruising areas, the British Virgins are recommended for first- time sailors, with 600 islands and cays, short reaches and excellent diving grounds, though the Grenadines are the yachtsman's favourites.

Elegant Resorts: 01244 329 671.

Caribbean Connections: 01244 329556.

JUNKS

Four-day adventures around the Andaman Sea on board a traditionally crafted junk cost pounds 319 per person from Magic of the Orient. The five-berth Suwan Macha, with a professional skipper and crew, sails around Phangnga Bay, Phi Phi Island and Phuket's sea gipsy village, anchoring each day for snorkelling and windsurfing. The trip, usually taken along with other Thai holidays which the firm can arrange, costs from pounds 643-pounds 733 for five nights in self-catering accommodation, including flights.

Magic of the Orient: 01293 537700.

TALL SHIPS

A variety of sailing holidays is available from Explore Worldwide. The Soren Larsen, a 19th-century brigantine operating in the South Pacific throughout 1995 and accommodating 24 guests and 12 crew, offers a hands- on experience involving navigation, taking watch, working the sails and climbing the rigging - the masts are 98ft high - although it is not compulsory. For relaxation, there are visits to several islands, and fishing, snorkell- ing equipment, dinghies and windsurfers are provided. A 19-day trip, including flights to and from the UK, costs pounds 2,615.

A 19-day voyage aboard a traditional schooner dropping anchor at Bali, Lambok, Sumbawa, Komodo and Flores demands less participation from its 20 passengers and costs pounds 1,690 fully inclusive.

Explore Worldwide also offers sailing holidays in the Arctic, costing from pounds 1,735 fully inclusive, with comfortable accommodation for 36 passengers aboard the Dutch sailing ship, the Rembrandt. Sails are used in open waters, but a motor is used when navigating ice floes and coastline.

Explore Worldwide: 01252 319448. JC

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