Blue is everywhere, differing shades of sky, sea, the blues aboard the boat and ashore. With a cool drink in my hand, a novel on my lap and the golden hues of a sinking Mediterranean sun, it’s an idyllic picture.
Sailing past islands that have inspired myths and legends, yachting is the perfect way to do the Greek Islands and Turkish coast.
Our host for the holiday are Tussock Cruising, a small company which employs Turkish sailors with cooking expertise. Tussock have a fleet of nine vessels and all of them, from the six man to the 16, are designed to sail the seas. Our seven-day trip includes tours of two Greek Islands, sailing and visits to small Turkish harbours.
Most of the wooden yachts you see these days in Turkish harbours have had their sails stripped off and run on noisy petrol motors. But Tussock pride themselves on the fact they sail and have indeed won the Bodrum Cup on a number of occasions, including that of 2007.
On arrival at Marmaris, where our group board the Grande yacht, we are introduced to the Captain (Ali who led the crew to victory at the Bodrum Cup). Our itinerary for the week is discussed, drinks in hand, and routes are negotiated.
One of the unique points of Tussock is you can choose your route and stop off points with your fellow passengers as long as you are all in agreement.
After a delicious meal and plenty of wine we enter our cabins. They are small but comfortable. If you are expecting luxury you need to look elsewhere but if you’re happy with a bed to sleep in and your own shower, hand-basin and toilet these cabins will do just fine.
After a good night’s sleep – the gentle rocking obviously did the trick – we have a great breakfast of boiled eggs, fruit, cheese, olives, bread and honey, tea and coffee – and set sail for Rhodes.
It takes a few of our group a while to find their sea legs once the sails are up and the course set (my husband included) but luckily anti-seasickness tablets and wristbands are stocked onboard. But it is beautiful sailing with the sails up and a breeze calming down the Mediterranean sun as you sail past cove after cove, craggy rocks and small fishing villages.
Coming into Rhodes it is hard not to be impressed by grand medieval city walls which have housed the Knights Templar, the Ottomans and, more recently, the Italians.
As we come into harbour there is much debate about where the Colossus may have stood but, hungrily, we are more concerned with where to eat.
My husband and I stop at a fish restaurant where we eat delicious sea bass with Greek salad and bread, followed by chocolate cake (not very Greek but very nice) all washed down with local wine and Ouzo.
Wandering around the old town is a magical experience, thousands of people still live in Rhodes old town and it is filled with nooks and crannies, archways over alleyways, all within the city walls. We stop off for a coffee at the music bar and then stroll back to the yacht.
Next morning we get up for a tour of Rhodes, organised by Tussock.
The old town and Lindos are easily the best sights on the island, we take in the old town on the tour, the residents of the Knights Templar are pointed out, and the magnificent walls of the old city, a mix of Eastern and Western architecture, evoke centuries gone by.
Rhodes’ history has been chequered by conquests by the Ottomans and Italians among others, and all have made their mark on the city’s architecture.
After our historical tour we stop for a delicious meal at a taverna in Anthony Quinn Bay (where the actor filmed The Guns of Navarone). Mezze starters lead to a delicious swordfish main course.
Tired but satisfied we head back to the boat and set sail to a secluded cove (back in Turkey) where there is a tiny church built in the shadows of mighty cliffs. After dropping anchor there are plenty of diving opportunities for people to show off their skills and a fabulous area to watch the sun set.
Small swimming bays are an essential part of the Tussock experience and, having sailed these seas for years, the crew know them well. People come here to relax as well as to sight-see and plenty of opportunity is given.
Symi is the next island on our itinerary. The small harbour of Yialos with brightly-coloured houses clustered around the surrounding hills is picture-postcard perfect.
After docking, my husband and I take a stroll, checking out the menus at seafood restaurants we pass, as we make our way to a harbour-side hotel.
The hotel wouldn’t look out of place on Brighton seafront and we decide to sit a while, eat an ice-cream and listen to the sea lapping on the shore.
As the evening follows on, with an aperitif back on the ship to watch the sun setting we then stroll back to one of the restaurants we passed earlier.
We dine in a typical taverna, and have a very pleasant meal with fresh fish, stuffed vine leaves and a tasty aubergine dish in a tangy tomato sauce.
Next day we go on a tour of Symi. One hundred years ago this was one of Greece’s most prosperous islands. There has been virtually no modern concrete construction here, conserving its character.
We travel via bus from Yialos to the Monastery of the Archangel Michael at Panormitis. The interior of Panormitis, which still houses Greek Orthodox priests, is fabulously ornate.
After the dose of culture there follows a trip to another beachfront taverna for a wonderful lunch – plate after plate of fried shrimps, octopus, fish, lamb and salad keep on coming out as our enthusiastic party tuck in.
The next day we visit a Turkish bath on the mainland for the first time. It is definitely a “traditional” experience and, as someone whose only real experiences of massage are being lightly rubbed by immaculately coiffured women, a full on lathering and then rub-down by a hairy Turkish guy and his son is a quick education in real massage. It also sees the end of all of my fake tan.
Our final day is spent swimming in a cove and then a stroll through the culture shock of Marmaris, after all of those quiet bays, before settling down to a final dinner on the boat.
A Tussock holiday is not suitable if you need your own space or if you’re less than enthusiastic about mixing with other people. It is a lesson in communal living which, for some people is fantastic, but which some may find exhausting.
Families hire out individual yachts for reunions, get-togethers and special occasions, as do groups of friends. But Tussock also specialise in themed holidays from cooking trips with celebrity chefs, to painting tours and wine-tasting, in addition to a few cruises for people travelling alone.
If its a proper Mediterranean sailing holiday you’re after, without any of the hassle, Tussock Cruising is ideal.
by Hannah Davies