From sailing lessons to secret coves, cruising the Aegean with Salamander Voyages is a serene experience, even with a toddler on board, as Andrew Dent recently discovered.
Whether you want to laze on plump sun loungers sipping cool drinks which appear at your side as if by magic or you’re up for giving the Aegean a run for its money on the activity front; four days aboard a classic wooden gulet off the south coast of Turkey is quite possibly as close to heaven as it gets, without making the ultimate sacrifice.
For a start, apart from the very slight effort of deciding where to go, practically everything on board is done for you. A private chef rustles up breakfast, lunch and dinner, then throws in afternoon tea for good measure. And banish all thoughts of ship’s rations. Every meal was a feast, from eggs any-way-you-like in the morning to sunset BBQs on-deck.
The cheerful crew charmed our toddler, whistling up games, coaxing her out of the crankiest moments and generally being her very own little party boat. And as for the aforementioned ‘slight effort’ of charting our course? Perusing nautical maps with the captain definitely felt more Vasco da Gama than deckhand. Although, unlike 15th century navigators, if we didn’t like a destination, we could simply choose to go somewhere else.
So, with all the mundane practicalities of life taken care of, we were left with only one pressing concern: how to fill our long, sunny days at sea.
Brush up on your sailing skills
Happily, there were toys for all aboard, from pre-requisite SUPs to an on-deck paddling pool which took seconds to put up and provided hours of fun for the under twos. Who needs that big old sea nonsense?
For those of us less content to sit around in a swim nappy, The Salamander came up trumps with private sailing lessons.
It’s the only charter gulet out of Bodrum equipped with RS Zest dinghies and our May trip turned out to be their maiden voyage, so Captain Zeki was understandably keen to get us out on the water and skilled-up first chance he had. Lessons are complimentary for both adults and children and cover everything from mastering a bowline and tacking basics to righting the occasional (or inevitable) capsize. Fear not, The Salamander is fully equipped with life-vests, and our calm captain kept the atmosphere light, good humoured and admirably relaxed.
Did we end up experts by the end of four days? Let’s just say, some of us were naturals, others, not so much.
Go places only true sailors go
Of course, fun as it is to mess around in boats, the real beauty of this type of holiday is taking off into the wide, blue yonder and pitching up in places only sailors ever see. We were amazed at how many tucked away bays lie hidden around Bodrum, known only to the crew of The Salamander, apparently.
That’s probably not strictly true, but it certainly felt that way, paddleboarding around perfectly silent coves in the late afternoon sun, with nothing on the horizon but a heat haze. Although, there was a little more noise involved during any snorkelling trips. Seems it’s almost impossible to keep quiet when shoals of silvery fish shimmer past your mask and the visibility is so good, you’re almost certain you’ve glimpsed some of the ocean’s more sinister creatures lurking on the seabed.
The romance of a gentler era
Despite this being very much a family trip, there is no denying the romance of sailing the Aegean on a traditional gulet. Especially when the crew switched off the engines and hoisted the sails. Huge, white sheets billowing in the wind, the gentle clink of ropes on handsome masts and us, blithely imagining ourselves the cast of a significantly more elegant era where this type of nonchalant behaviour was almost commonplace.
It goes without saying that these imaginings are ably abetted by the Turkish Riviera’s endless sunshine, remarkable sunsets and star-filled night skies. Even our pretty, wooden cabins harked back to an age where craftsmanship was taken for granted – although you might want to pack a sleep-mask to avoid the early morning light.
Special thanks to the crew
That said, it’s perfectly possible the superb crew could conjure up any type of shade you needed on request. They seemed quite capable of all sorts of miracles, right down to calmly producing a thermometer when our youngest suddenly spiked a temperature. Turns out she was a little warm for comfort, but all it took was a swift change of direction to supply us with baby paracetamol from an onshore pharmacy, then we were just as quickly back on course: disaster neatly averted, and all in time for dinner.
On a practical note, The Salamander sleeps up to 12 in six double and twin cabins, all with ensuite bathrooms and surprisingly good showers – not a given on any sailing holiday. Safety netting is installed around the deck if younger kids are on board, and both cots and bed barriers are available too.
Our verdict? We’d set sail with Salamander Voyages again in a heartbeat, in fact we’re not entirely sure young Freya didn’t leave her hat on board intentionally. Don’t send it to us Captain Zeki, we’ll come collect.
How to sail with Salamander Voyages
How to get there
Direct UK flights to Bodrum take from 3 hours, 50 minutes.
Salamander Voyages 7-night private charter aboard The Salamander (up to 12 guests) from £16,950
Price includes breakfast, lunch and afternoon daily; 5 dinners on-board; all house drinks; full crew; four dinghy sailing lessons; water sports equipment; local airport transfers; harbour dues; fuel and water.