Month: March 2023

Discover La Maddalena: The Hidden Gem of Sardinia

Italy Sardinia Madallena archipelago

Close your eyes and imagine an idyllic island paradise – turquoise waters, secluded beaches, and spectacular views. Welcome to La Maddalena, a stunning Italian archipelago located off the Northern Coast of Sardinia. This tiny chain of islands are dwarfed by their larger neighbours of Sardinia and Corsica, and can often be overlooked by visitors to the region. Although they may be small geographically, these islands certainly pack a punch when it comes to authentic Italian culture, cuisine and breathtaking scenery. La Maddalena is a highlight of our sailing holidays to Southern Italy – keep reading to discover why.

The La Maddalena Islands

The La Maddalena archipelago is made up of seven individual islands, the largest being La Maddalena itself. Other islands include Caprera, Santo Stefano, Spargi, Budelli, Razzoli and Santa Maria – as well as many other small islets. Discover the islands with classic yacht Chronos for a luxury holiday with 5* service, gourmet cuisine, and onboard water sports. Or visit with luxury catamaran Agave for a wellness experience complete with a professional guide and an onboard nutritionist!

Natural Wonders

La Maddalena is perhaps best known for its rugged natural beauty, carefully protected and preserved by its status as a natural park. From powder-soft beaches backed by pink granite cliffs to lush pine forests surrounded by verdant vegetation, this archipelago is undoubtedly one of mother nature’s finest Italian creations. Head to uninhabited Spargi to lose yourself in one of the last untouched landscapes in the Mediterranean. A protected nature reserve, Spargi offers the chance to dust off your hiking boots. Here you can get up close with some remarkable wildlife, including dolphins, turtles, ospreys and even the odd wild boar! The entire island chain is home to some incredible geological formations and picturesque grottos. Explore these ancient rock formations carved by waves, wind, and time, and pay a visit to the Capella della Madonetta, where a tiny church clings to the granite rock overlooking the sea.

Authentic Italy

Although La Maddalena is a top spot for those in the know, it has not experienced the same rapid increase in tourism as Sardinia and Corsica, meaning you can still find the most authentic Italian lifestyle and cuisine. Whilst the large majority of the islands are uninhabited, the main island has a vibrant cultural scene. Unique dining experiences abound here, with fresh fish and seafood in abundance, caught locally that very day! The many smaller harbours and fishing villages around the islands showcase the very best of Italian hospitality. Here you can wander through charming winding streets, chatting with locals and enjoying gelato and espresso at every turn.

Underwater Delights

La Maddalena is known for having some of Europe’s most pristine underwater ecosystems, untouched by pollution and mass overcrowding. Both Chronos and Agave carry a range of water toys, including snorkel gear and paddleboards, meaning you can truly immerse yourself in this underwater paradise. Spiaggia Di Cala Coticcio is a favourite anchorage of Agave. The waters here are so clear that you get a glimpse of the hidden delights below before even stepping foot off the boat. Dive straight in to discover an underwater paradise teeming with vibrant coral and shoals of fish darting beneath the waves. Perhaps you’ll even spot some of the local turtles, dolphins or whales on your underwater adventures in Italy.

Why you should visit La Maddalena on a sailing holiday

Undoubtedly the best way to take advantage of all that La Maddalena has to offer is on a sailing holiday! Not only will you be able to see the archipelago from a unique perspective on the water, you’ll also reach some of the most remote parts of the archipelago that are only accessible by boat. As you sail around the islands, you’ll be able to soak in the stunning scenery without having to worry about overcrowding or noise pollution from other tourists. You’ll have time to swim, snorkel, and even fish on the way to each anchorage each day. From exploring sweeping bays dotted with ancient villages to encountering playful dolphins just off the bow – a voyage around these islands will be an unforgettable experience. You’ll quickly see why this archipelago is referred to as the ‘Pearl of the Mediterranean’.

So if you’re looking for an unforgettable escape from everyday life, set sail to La Maddalena. Join us on a sailing holiday with classic yacht Chronos or luxury catamaran Agave.

Our top 5 places to visit in Denmark on a sailing holiday 

Copenhagen Denmark colourful houses on the Nyhavn

With over 444 islands, and 368 of them uninhabited, sailing in Denmark is undoubtedly the best way to experience the country’s hidden gems. There are countless reasons to love sailing in Denmark; the incredible soft and gentle landscape, emerald islands, rolling hills, quintessential fishing villages and fairytale castles. Not to mention over 1300 beaches in Denmark, meaning you’re never far away from white sands, secluded anchorages and hidden bays!

All our trips run within the Danish summer season, with low waves and moderate wind speeds to be expected. This temperate weather makes it an ideal sailing destination for a relaxing, skippered sailing holiday. Although it’s impossible to list all our favourite destinations in Denmark, we’ve rounded up our top 5 picks to make your Danish sailing holiday one to remember!

1. Fairytale city of Copenhagen

A must-see destination for any adventure traveller, the vibrant city of Copenhagen is where a number of our sailing holidays in Denmark begin. Meander through old narrow cobbled streets lined with colourful houses, quirky coffee shops and vintage boutiques. Be sure to visit the 17th-century street of Nyhavn – the oldest and most colourful street in the city of Copenhagen. Nyhavn is bursting with architectural delights where cafes line the leafy canal replete with old wooden sailing ships. 

Copenhagen is also home to some of the best Michelin-starred restaurants in the world making it a perfect stop off the boat to enjoy some world-class cuisine! As your vessel departs Copenhagen, be inspired by the world-famous sculpture of the Little Mermaid. For more than 100 years, Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale figure has been sitting on its rock at the Kastellet, a former fortress guarding the entrance to the city.


2. The Cultural delights of Bornholm

Situated east of Denmark, the island of Bornholm is known as “solskinsøen” which beautifully translates to sunshine island. The island’s landscape is unusual by Danish standards, with towering rock formations overlooking sandy beaches paired with lush green forests. A must visit destination when sailing in Denmark, Bornholm is known for its long and varied history and culture. Art lovers will enjoy the local crafts – with its artisan history, the island became the first place in Europe to become a designated World Craft Region. Once you’ve found an anchorage for the day, why not visit some of the sweet artist’s studios.  

History buffs will fall in love with the rich medieval history that permeates through the island of Bornholm. The castle ruins of Hammerhus showcase the largest medieval fortress in northern Europe, well worth a visit after a morning of sailing. The island is also home to 15 medieval churches, with four unique round churches. The island showcases the fascinating medieval history just waiting to be discovered on your holiday sailing in Denmark. 

Danish boat Aron of Svendborg sails to and from Bornholm as part of her sailing season in Denmark. 


3. Explore the maritime history of Ærø 

Part of Southern Denmark, the island of Ærø is only accessible from the water, making it the perfect place to explore on a holiday sailing in Denmark! This sweet seaport has well earned its reputation as the sailing hub of Denmark. Throughout history, the island has been home to fleets of working ships with a busy marine heritage – with many still active today.

Ærø is also home to the magical Ærøskøbing – nicknamed ‘the fairytale town’. Soak in some mythical Danish history in the best preserved 18th century town in Denmark. Unchanged for hundreds of years, guests can admire the colourful Danish architecture on a visit from the boat. 

The harbour of Marstal sits on the East coast and is home to the renowned Maritime Museum, housing over 200 model ships and exhibits from all seven seas. It’s a time capsule of local maritime history, from the very first wooden cargo ships built in Marstal quay to the advance of steam power and evolving cargo trade history. The entire curation has been done by retired seaman and their families and is still run by a team of volunteers. It’s a beautifully put together display of artefacts, photos and paintings with a large collection of Jens Erik Carl Rasmussen, a popular 19th century Danish maritime painter.

Visit Aero on our schooner Aron of Svendborg who was actually built on the harbour edge of Marstal back in 1906!


4. Enjoy star gazing on Møn

An island in South East Denmark that is best known for its sweeping stretches of white chalk cliffs named Møns Klint. The island is crowned by deep-green forest, surrounded by beautiful beaches and small secret coves. Møn is a paradise for nature lovers and has received international recognition for its unique flora and fauna. The island has in fact been designated by UNESCO as Denmark’s first Biosphere reserve.

After a busy day exploring the natural wonders ashore, spend an evening relaxing and stargazing on the boat as you experience the magic of Scandinavia’s first Dark Sky Park. This makes it officially one of the best places in Denmark to experience the majestic beauty of the night sky. Step back in time on your traditional boat, take in shooting stars and marvel as galaxies pass by without the light pollution of the modern world. 

Visit Møn on a Baltic Sea sailing holiday with tall ship with Eye of the Wind as she sails from Germany to Copenhagen.

Als, Denmark – View of Sonderborg Castle


5. History, tranquility and wildlife on the island of Als

Lying close to the German-Danish border, the island of Als is home to the town of Sonderborg. Explore ashore on this typical Danish island oozing with history, tranquillity, and nature! A major attraction is the Sonderborg castle with its beautiful gardens in clear sight of our anchorage. Wander the historic merchant’s houses lining the harbour as you stroll through the Old Town boasting typical Danish tranquillity.

Danish wildlife is waiting in abundance on the island of Als. Rare breeds of amphibians and tree frogs inhabit the damp woodlands found on the island. Als lies at the migration route of birds travelling from southern Europe to Sweden – so bring your binoculars for some Danish wildlife spotting at sea!


Ready to start sailing in Denmark?

If you’re feeling inspired and ready to start your adventure sailing in Denmark, read more about the destination here! Find out more about traditional schooner Aron of Svendborg or historic windjammer Eye of the Wind as they sail and explore Denmark and the Baltic Sea. 

The History of Indonesian Pinisi Boats

Indonesia Sumbawa boat builders

Elegantly curvaceous with a reclining aft deck, Indonesian Pinisi boats almost feel like they were made for sunny sailing holidays in Indonesia. However, they were originally designed as cargo vessels, and their history forms an interesting chapter in the ancient Ausroneasian tradition of maritime exploration.  Here, we uncover the fascinating history of pinisi boats, as well as highlighting the role of modern pinisi boats in Indonesia.

What is a Pinisi boat?

The word ‘pinisi’ describes a traditional gaff-ketch sailing rig used on ships originating from Sulawesi, the fourth-largest Indonesian island. It’s important to note here that ‘pinisi’ refers only technically to the rigging. The boat to which these rigs are attached are usually palari boats. Palari boats have distinctively shaped hulls and are built traditionally from ironwood, a common timber grown on Sulawesi. For clarity, we’ll refer to the entire structure including the hull as ‘pinisi boats’. This is conventional, despite the literal meaning being only to do with the mast and sails. 

Pinisi boats are easily recognisable by billowing sails spread over two masts and a bowsprit, plus a large, towering hull with accommodation at the stern. Pinsi rigged ships were – and still are – used for both fishing and transporting important cargo such as rice, sugar and spices. At between 50-70 feet long, their size means they are large enough to carry plenty of goods, but nimble enough to navigate through narrow ports and unpredictable waters. 


The history of Indonesian boatbuilding

The pinsi boat has relatively recent origins in contrast to Indonesian boat-building, a pioneering legacy stretching back millenia. Despite being built and launched by hand, the sail design is over a hundred years old. The first pinisi-rigged boat was built in 1906, with the earliest recorded use of the term ‘pinisi’ appearing in 1917. Sulawesian sailors took influence from a European rigging style – specifically Dutch schooners. But rather than using a halyard to hoist a movable spar as in the western tradition, the sails are pulled out from gaffs which are fixed at points along the mast. Soon the palari hull design was swapped in, as it was faster, longer and more suited to the ketch rig. 

The pinsi design was commercially successful – in the 1970s, the fleet was the largest of its kind in the world, with over 1000 ships in commission. Although that number has declined with the advent of modern shipping, there is still a thriving community in Sulawesi designing and building pinisi boats. In 2011, the largest pinisi boat ever to be built was launched in south Sulawesi – it’s over 50 metres long and can carry 500 tonnes of cargo. And like the majority of pinisi built after 1980, it’s also fitted with an engine, the only real change in design for the last century. Today, most pinisi have both sails and a motor, meaning the boats can deliver cargo upwind should the need arise. 

The standard or blueprint for the pinisi boat has only recently been codified. Before the 1990s, boat builders in Sulawesi used oral tradition to pass down knowledge of how to construct these ships. Originally they were built using only the local ironwood, without any form of metal used in the construction whatsoever. This traditional practice has been recognised by UNESCO, who state that “the construction and deployment of such vessels stand in the millennia-long tradition of Austronesian boatbuilding and navigation”, and therefore deserve a place on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. 

The continuation of the Sulwesian boatbuilding tradition is partially because pinisi boats are now being used in another sector alongside trade and fishing: maritime tourism. Their large holding capacity, powerful rig and relatively shallow drafts means that pinisi boats are easily converted into luxury sailing vessels. Pinisi boats hold a unique ability to explore every nook and cranny of these 17,000 islands, visiting destinations far from the tourist hotspots.

VentureSail is delighted to offer sailing holidays on Sister boats Katharina and Ombak Putih, both built in the traditional style in Sulawesi. You’ll get to experience the magnificent skill in Indonesian boatbuilding for yourself as you step aboard these beautiful ships and appreciate their heritage, which makes them so suited for a luxury sailing holiday in this stunning tropical archipelago. 

Low Carbon Luxury Travel

Aerial View of Petit St Vincent in the Caribbean

With the environment firmly pushed to the forefront of our consumer conscience, more and more of us are seeking sustainable holidays. At VentureSail Holidays we are proud that each of our sailing holidays offers low-impact travel. Combine this with our luxury sailing fleet, Chronos, Rhea, Kairos, and Stella Oceana all weave in high-end, stylish sophistication to holidays at sea.

Explore some of the world’s most beautiful destinations under sail without any compromise on comfort – welcome to low carbon luxury travel.

Zero-emission miles

The pure joy of being on deck of a beautiful ship with the wind in your hair and sun on your face is undeniable. This wonderful form of travel has the added benefit of being largely emission-free, with all our vessels operating under sail as much as possible. Our skippers are true mariners and avoid turning the ships engines on unless they really have to! Certain weather/tidal conditions can make it necessary, as well as safely entering some ports/harbours but otherwise, all ventures are predominantly under sail. In addition, the destinations and routes are chosen for their favourable sailing conditions allowing guests to drink in the fresh sea air far away from exhaust fumes emitted by larger vessels. The gentle swish of the wind in the sails is a far more comfortable experience than the constant chug of a diesel engine.

Sustainable, locally sourced produce

A day at sea is guaranteed to work up an appetite and all our guests enjoy fabulous food whilst sailing with us. As our vessels operate with small guest numbers, they are able to easily source local produce along the way having formed strong relationships with various suppliers over the years. Guests will regularly see the onboard chefs buying fish or lobster straight off the local fishing boats as they come alongside – from sea to boat to plate in less than a day.

Sometimes, local farms will deliver to the dockside dropping off eggs, milks and meats ready for our onboard chefs to whip up mouthwatering meals and tasty treats served by the maitre’d. Good food is something we pride ourselves on and there is little to no food waste either!

Working with local communities

Our boats pride themselves on ensuring they work closely with local communities wherever they sail. This is particularly true in Indonesia where our pinisi boats Katharina and Ombak Putih visit island communities far off the beaten track. The owners have spent many years forging good connections and relationships with local villages. Mindful not to arrive en-masse, all visits are planned ahead with the local villages so they can be ready to show small groups around without disturbing the environment – these guided tour fees are paid directly back to the community.

Small ships sailing with less than 20 passengers are always far less disrupting to both the local communities as well as the natural environment. Something which is particularly notable in destinations such as the Caribbean and Svalbard where even smaller cruise ships loom like skyscrapers with over 200 guests descending into a small remote location. 

Reef-safe products

Each boat uses sustainable products with all guests are also encouraged to bring reef-safe sunscreen and toiletries. Each skipper is a passionate advocate of the environment taking pure pleasure from talking with guests about any impactful changes they can make to their lives to continue their low-carbon mission back at home.

Impactful Changes

The magic of travelling under sail is captivating, enabling guests to switch off and feel at one with the world around them. This in itself automatically builds a connection with the natural environment and we see a positive shift in guests psyches. We love hearing how much the ventures have left guests being mindful about their life choices and effects on the environment.

We know that our ventures offer low-carbon luxury but don’t just take our word for it. We recently hosted Chris Haslam, the Chief Writer for The Sunday Times Travel having enticed him to experience the Caribbean under sail. As he concludes;
But we’ve travelled close to 200 zero-emission miles under sail, spent time and money in communities otherwise cut off from the mainstream tourist trade and swum off some awfully pretty, awfully empty beaches. So if you consider long-haul flights to be a sin, Captain van Middelkoop can offer absolution.

You can learn more and read his article here or select your low-carbon luxury holiday today >