Tag: sailing holiday

Why you should choose a sailing holiday in Norway

Norway Fjord Stranda

With over 1000Nm of unbelievably stunning coastline, Norway is one of our best adventure sailing destinations with so much to offer for both the Salty seadog and the first time sailor.

Steep green fjords and Arctic tundra make for stunning landscapes, but it’s also the clarity of light and the feeling of freedom at sea that makes revisiting this unique country a fresh experience every time.

Skipper Nikki shares her love for sailing in Norway with some of her best coastal towns to visit.

Lysefjord and Pulpit rock
Traditional white wooden houses line the streets of Stavanger where the narrow and majestic Lysefjord begins. The sheer silvery rockface rises from the mysterious deep blue and it is Pulpit rock that has made this fjord so famous.  Looking up, rising high above us from the deck, you can just make out the figures of brave souls standing perilously on the high rock taking in the majestic view.  Such is the vastness of the landscape here, it makes this one of my favourite places to sail in all of Norway.  

Bergen
Bryggen is one of the most beautiful waterfronts in the world. It is everything you imagine Scandinavia to be with painted pine-log houses fronting onto the sea against a pine forest backdrop. Streets twist between old merchant houses reformed into cosy candlelit cafes drawing you in with smells of rich coffee mingled with scents of pine resin.

It is nearly essential to arrive into Bergen by sea as maritime skill and tradition run thick through the veins of many who live here. 200 years ago, so important was the trade and shipbuilding to the town, they named a type of vessel, Hardangar Jakt after the strong and seaworthy cargo vessels that traded from here throughout Europe.

Sailing in from the coast,  the sprinkling of rocky islets topped off with tiny red and white painted cabins, transforms into a wide-open bay surrounded by this idyllic town.  Bergen is the perfect stop off after a good day of sailing so do take time to explore for yourself this charming place. The outdoor market in the summer has everything from fresh berries to locally caught fish and wonderful cheeses.  Make sure you try the Fiskebolle soup, a fine traditional hearty soup made from local cod and potato.

Lofoten
Above the arctic circle lies a real gem that is definitely on my bucket list to explore. Lofoten is a chain of islands lying close to the coastline of Norway offering some of the best sailing holidays in Norway. Our expedition vessel Narwhal will be visiting here this summer.

These islands are so fairytale-like, you somehow expect trolls and goblins to inhabit this place. Realistically, the islands are home long lines of fishing families, working a trade that has sustained the islands for centuries due to the rich waters. Throughout Europe and Africa, Stockfisk, a dry, salted cod, became an important staple diet and Lofoten’s position in the cod trade rose to create charming villages and harbours. 

With such a dramatic landscape from uninhabited islands to sheer cliffs to mountains, you can’t help but be excited. Wildlife is in abundance here with moose, otter, whales and eagles very much part of the landscape so take the time to explore every hidden part. 

For me, one of my favourite pastimes while sailing in Norway is fishing for cod during the warm summer nights when the sun never sets but perches elegantly on the horizon. What better way to end a day of sailing than to hop into the dinghy with a line and hook. No phones, no noise just drifting on the tide, soaking up the peace and wondering at this incredible landscape, you nearly have to pinch yourself to see if it is real!

Food
Norway mixes traditional recipes focused on utilising local ingredients. The land is rich in wild food and the locals are certainly resourceful with their gathering. Berries and wild mushrooms grow abundantly in the early autumn and small coastal farms produce wonderful cheeses and flavoursome lamb. The seas are rich in wonderful fish and shellfish with fresh produce available to buy in all the coastal towns.  My top foodie things to try are Brunost, a rich, slightly sweet soft cheese; Fiskebolle Soup, a creamy fish soup with white fish balls; and of course as in all of Scandanavia everyone must try Herring with Schnapps.

Stop dreaming and start planning!
Take a look at our sailing schedule and start planning your sailing holiday in Norway today, and get one step closer to ticking it off your bucket list.

Sailing adventures and foodie experiences in the Firth of Clyde, Scotland

Scotland Isle of Bute

The owner, Dónal Boyle, of Crofters’ Music Bar & Bistro on the Isle of Arran, has taken his bistro concept afloat on tall ship Lady of Avenel to offer guests a gourmet sailing holiday experience on the West coast of Scotland in the Hebrides.

Dónal moved from the North of England to the Isle of Arran in the Firth of Clyde in 1986 at the age of 14. His father’s family being Irish, he quickly adapted to life on a Scottish Island and became immersed in the culture, which included smallholding, sailing and music; all of which, he developed a passion for. Read why Dónal loves to live, work and sail on the Firth of Clyde.

Lady of Avenel Donal Boyle Crofters
Dónal Boyle

“A sailing holiday in the Firth of Clyde really does have a little bit of everything; stunning islands and lochs, with plenty of deep water anchorages and harbours, fishing villages & Victorian holiday towns.

There are breweries, famous distilleries and plenty of live music in pubs and festivals throughout the year. On my home island of Arran, situated in the Lochranza Bay, the Lochranza Distillery is famous for its Scottish whisky and is well worth a visit.

Along with sailing this beautiful part of Scotland, I love the music life here. Celtic music is in our roots and I really try to capture this within my Bistro on the Isle of Arran. I am really looking forward to bringing the hospitality and music of my Bistro onboard Lady of Avenel with my Crofters’ Cruises.

Lady of Avenel anchored in Scotland

We are really lucky with the wildlife in the Firth of Clyde. It’s a nature lovers’ dream with massive diversity. From dolphins swimming in the wake of Lady of Avenel’s bow to common seals basking in the sun, we also have spottings of humpback and killer whales!

From a practical sailing point of view, there are very few tidal constraints in the Clyde and most importantly for novices, it is well sheltered from the Atlantic. There is always somewhere to explore and enjoy, amongst the islands and lochs, even in bad weather. Pilotage is straightforward and there’s relatively little commercial traffic, so it makes for a really relaxing, enjoyable cruising holiday.”

Lady of Avenel Crofters food table
Crofters’ Gourmet Sailing Holidays

Crofters’ Cruises on the Lady of Avenel are the fulfilment of Dónal’s ambition to combine all three of his passions into an extraordinary project, made possible by Stefan Fritz, owner of Lady of Avenel, with whom Dónal has sailed extensively and run a very successful first Crofters’ Cruise from Oban to Donegal last summer.

Lady of Avenel scotland sailing
Lady of Avenel tall ship
Lady of Avenel bunks
Lady of Avenel berths
Lady of Avenel saloon eating
Lady of Avenel saloon

First time Sailing in Devon

Escape sails up

Adam recounts his sea tales from his first time sailing experience on Escape exploring the South Devon Coast.

Having never sailed before I was expectant of my first sailing experience but not really sure what for! A fully crewed Devon sailing holiday seemed the perfect start to my non-existent experience.

The full English breakfast from the Sloping deck in Dartmouth, had done little to settle the nervous energy in my stomach. We were standing on the edge of the harbour wall in Devon when we first caught sight of what would become our floating home for the next three nights; Escape, a stunning Norwegian classic wooden yacht.

With everyone and their luggage safely aboard, introductions were made and safety briefings given. The plan, according to the Skipper Andy, was to sail southwest, stop off in Salcombe to explore and continue onto Yealm before heading back to Dartmouth. Once the bunks had been settled and everyone had familiarised themselves with the boat and her rigging, we were off.

Fortunately, we were blessed with one of the best weekends of sunshine this year so shorts, t-shirts and plenty of sun cream were the order of the day.

We had soon rounded Dartmouth castle, clear of the mouth of the River Dart and were now out in the ocean making for Salcombe, my nervous energy and the harbour left behind us. Not knowing how I would fair at sea, and not knowing the least about ropes, sails and charts was something I needn’t have concerned myself with. Andy was our laid-back guide on this fully chartered boat and with his help, I was soon hoisting sails and ‘making off’ ropes.

We gently bobbed toward Salcombe taking in the views of Devon from the sea. As the water ebbed away, so did the time, with the phrase ‘lost’ at sea beginning to take on a new meaning. Over the next few days, this feeling became more profound and the checking of digital gadgets gave way to the intriguing sights provided by the binoculars; wildlife, mesmerising scenery, and the other ‘sailors’ travelling through the lenses.

Tacking and jibing up and down the Devon coastline for the first time was equally as fun as it was enlightening. When we had used up all of the available wind, sails were dropped, ropes were tidied and we entered into Salcombe town via the mouth of the Kingsbridge estuary.

Devon Coast gorse

Salcombe was incredibly picturesque, with a relaxed and carefree spirit reminiscent of being back home in certain towns of Cornwall. Only to be reminded of the difference when the cream teas were brought up on deck and the debate over cream or jam first ensued!

Anchoring at dusk in the tranquillity of Yealm we were welcomed by the clearest of skies to observe the stars. Being woken by the gentle lull of the hull in the morning, I was now familiar with the smell of warm pastries and coffee simmering throughout the saloon and climbing above deck to appreciate our totally unspoiled surroundings, has to be the best way to wake up!

The final stretch of our day sail back up the coast allowed us more time to relax, sample more cooked on-board delicacies (including full English breakfast), and for me to learn some more about sailing aboard this Classic yacht. Andy happily fielded all of my questions and took the time to show me some basic chart reading and navigation.

It was during this stretch back up the coast we were joined by an inquisitive pod of Dolphins playfully ducking and diving under the bow of the boat. With the final highlight for me, helming the boat back into Dartmouth harbour affording me the opportunity to revel in the pride of piloting such a vessel. Something I had never expected to do on my first sailing holiday in Devon.

After a night in Dartmouth, the usual selection of pastries, cereals, yoghurts and fruit followed in the morning and with heavy hearts, we packed our bags and made our way above deck to say our final goodbyes.

Setting foot back on dry land and searching for what day and time it was confirmed we had in fact only been aboard for three nights. It certainly felt longer; confirming my suspicions that she isn’t just Escape by name, but also by nature.

Sailing Devon’s beautiful creeks & bays

Devon coast

Niki Alford, skipper of Bessie Ellen and co-owner of Venturesail gives her insight into her favourite sailing grounds around the beautiful South Devon Coast.

If there is one goal for 2020 it should be getting out on the water for a long weekend right here at home in the UK. Even if you have never sailed or stepped foot on a boat, there is just so much to explore along our shores and rivers that will delight and inspire you no matter what the weather. And the best thing is – you don’t even have to know how to sail.

I’m going to take you on a tour of the South Devon coast, exploring secret coves, bustling harbours and quiet estuaries on board our fleet of Devon-based traditional craft. Along with their welcoming and knowledgable, the captains and crew are there to give you the very best of times, both onboard and whilst exploring the shore and feeding you wonderful food!

DEVON CREEKS AND BAYS

Protected on both shores by two dominating castles is the historic merchant port of Dartmouth is by far the most picturesque in the whole of Devon. The old town overlooks the Rover Dart, tumbling picturesque timber-framed houses line narrow cobbled street housing delightful; independent shops and galleries. The wide River Dart winds through rural Devon farms and woodland before arriving at the very hip town of Totnes. If you are joining Escape or Our Daddy in Dartmouth, it is well worth starting in Totnes (better parking and train links) and taking the River Ferry down the River Dart. Both boats run coastal exploration weekends and day sails from Dartmouth so it is worth taking time to wander the streets to discover some 600 years of history.

I prefer to anchor than berth overnight in the harbour. It’s a real chance to “get away from it all” and Devon has two of my favourite beaches to drop anchor. The long sweep of the golden beach at Blackpool Sands is a perfect backdrop to watch the sunset with the boat murmuring at her anchor. Further up the coast to the South of Berry Head is St Mary’s Bay and no doubt a favourite of our third Devon-based boat, traditional trawler Pilgrim of Brixham. With clear waters of crystal blue, St Mary’s is a marvellous spot to dive over the side and explore ashore.

As always the British summer is never always sunshine and sparkling seas, but what we do have are sheltered secret places away from rougher seas. Our Devon harbours, rivers and creeks just scream “Explore me”, with each bend opening to another seemingly new world to discover. Old oaks bow down to the river’s edge, Herons like statues stare in dark water while families of ducks and swans cruise in the tranquillity of river life. Even as a beginner to boats, it’s a wonderful feeling to take the tiller, gently potter along under sail and enjoy the calm and quiet.

Of course with all this activity and fresh air, food is an absolute high point and what better county in England produces such fine fare. Sharpham, up the River Dart, produces some outstanding cheeses of course best washed down with local apple juice or ciders from nearby villages. Stoke Gabriel is surrounded by organic orchards and of course, must absolutely finish with a Devon Cream Tea.

Whichever boat you choose, whether sailing up the River or out to sea, this coast really is perfect for those wanting to try something new or simply see Devon from a different view.

View our Devon sailing experiences >

10 Reasons to sail in the Caribbean

Caribbean beach

The Caribbean is regarded by many as the Best Place in the World to holiday. Home to thousands of islands and perfect sailing winds (out of hurricane season of course!) we would have to agree with this… Here are our top ten reasons for choosing a sailing holiday in the Caribbean!

1. Warm Weather
Temperatures in the Caribbean sit between 23ºC to 30ºC all year long both day and night – so you can ditch those woolly jumpers but don’t forget the suncream!

2. Perfect Sailing Winds
We obviously make sure that our holidays occur outside of the hurricane season! The Caribbean has constant trade winds, averagely blowing at about 15 – 25 knots from the East, most of the year. Dream sailing conditions making island hopping a dream to navigate for our skippers on Twister, Eye of the Wind, Chronos and Rhea.

3. Beautiful Beaches
We have all seen the photos of the pure white beaches hugging the islands providing the perfect holiday backdrop. But our boats can take you to so many “off the beaten track” beaches you won’t know where to look!

4. Wonderful Wildlife
From Flamingoes to Sea Turtles, Marmut Monkeys to rare Butterflies, the Caribbean is home to a rich and diverse abundance of fascinating wildlife and rare species. From our boats, you can swim with dolphins and sea turtles, snorkel with tropical fish in beautiful coral bays or even rent a diving suit at a local village and explore the shipwrecks. Whatever island you visit, rest assured you won’t be short of wildlife spotting opportunities.

Carribean-turtle-diver
Swimming with Sea Turtles

5. Crystal Clear Waters
Low water density and lack of industry make for fantastically clear waters so swimming and snorkelling are top of the list for activities! And not only are they crystal clear but the average water temperature is also 27ºC – it’s like swimming in a lovely bath!

6. Thousands of Islands
The Caribbean is made up of thousands of islands and with so much to explore, you’ll be longing to return for more from the moment you arrive. You will never see the same place twice (unless you really want to!) and our boats know the best islands to see with each mainland wonderfully culturally different from the next.

7. Fabulous Food
Traditional Caribbean food is a fabulous fusion between African, European, East Indian and Chinese cuisine. Our chefs will certainly make sure that they are hopping ashore to grab the local delicacies to cook up a feast for your dinner. The seafood is especially fresh and the spices available will be like nothing you have tasted before. And of course, you must try the Caribbean rum!

8. Colourful Caribbean Culture
From the beautiful timber buildings to the local festivals to the wildlife, there are so many ways in which the Caribbean is full of colour. The festivals reflect the rich and cultural diversity of the islands and if you catch one, you will be in for a once in a lifetime experience!

caribbean house
Caribbean house

9. Interesting History
The Caribbean is steeped in colonial history with each island seemingly worlds apart from the next. The BVI is home to many pirate stories and shipwrecks while the Dominican Republic, Antigua and Barbuda are full of historical and archaeological places of interest for those who love to sniff out a bit of history.

10. The Caribbean People
Whatever island you visit, you will find the (majority!) of locals to be friendly, happy-go-lucky and amazingly laid back. They really do make the holiday experience a relaxed one!

Take a look at our sailing holidays in the beautiful Caribbean.

Delightful Devon Sailing

ESCAPE dartmouth

Naomi from the VentureSail booking team discovers the delights of sailing in Devon .

Growing up in Cornwall I thought coastlines couldn’t get any better. I’ve travelled a lot internationally and always came home to the Cornish Coast with a sigh of relief. Then I went sailing along the Devon coast and realised, perhaps, just quite how bias I had been! I am not saying they are “better” (loyally Cornish!) but I would say a happy extension of the Cornish coastline and more dramatic. Higher cliff lines loom, with a lot more greenery, gently giving way to quaint inlets and harbour towns, with crystal blue waters – almost like the Scillies. There are many more coastal features here than in Cornwall with arches and stacks forming fascinating headlands.

Brixham itself is such a dear little harbour town. With its colourful houses and quaint cottages, it’s definitely a scene for a postcard! I had a wander here before I boarded and all the locals are really friendly. There is a sense of “lost-in-time’ here, a relaxed atmosphere that seems to be getting lost in this increasingly modern world.

Sailing alongside Berry Head near Brixham sees a dramatic limestone headland which has been designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural beauty. With my binoculars at the ready, I couldn’t believe the birdlife that called these sheer cliffs home! Colonies of kittiwakes are something I’d been dying to see and I was certainly not disappointed. I had read that the Lighthouse on Berry Head was on one of the highest points on the British Isles; I was not prepared for the size and scale of this cliff line – totally breathtaking.

Sailing into Dartmouth and Kingsbridge you are greeted with the silhouettes of their Castles marking each side of the river mouth. Totally picturesque on both sides of the river, each town spills down onto the waterfront, dotted with colourful houses. We stopped in Dartmouth for the night and what a lovely town it is. We walked through with the skipper and had a drink at the yacht club, before going onto have a cream tea in a 16th-century building now cafe – The Sloping Deck.

Next we were headed for Salcombe. Dolphins swam with us for a good hour or so as we continued our sailing down the coast and we were lucky with good weather so it made for perfect sailing! Arriving into Salcombe was really stunning. The town is tucked in and around the inlet, with local fishing boats lining the shore. This little inlet was a paradise for “life on the water” from SUP’s to children practising in dingy, kayaking to classic boats.
Everyone’s waves and sails by beaming from ear to ear – a really great atmosphere. We stayed here for another night before heading back up the coast the next day. There wasn’t as much wind on this day but it made for the perfect opportunity to learn how to read charts and plot positions. Andy the Skipper is a great guide who has a lot of experience!

With a tiny taste of what the Devon coast has to offer from the sea, I will be sure to return for a longer sailing passage with hope to stop at more the beautiful anchorages. My trip was aboard Escape, but Our Daddy and Pilgrim of Brixham also sail around these waters.

Take a look at our sailing breaks in Devon >