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A Greek Sailing Adventure

Laura and Alex Kohl in the Greek islands. Photo Alex Kohl.

By Brian E. Clark

For Alex and Laura Kohl’s first sailboat charter, they wanted a vessel they could depend on and that would be fun to sail.

The San Diego couple found it in the Cyclades archipelago of Greece earlier this summer.  Their boat, the Orsalia, was a one-year-old, 39-foot DuFour Grand Large that they sailed for a week from the island of Paros to Athens, with stops that included Santorini, Mikonos, and other less visited spots.

“It was an amazing trip,” said Alex, a Navy veteran who now sells commercial real estate.

“We liked it so much that when we got back, we started planning our next trip, which will be to the British Virgin Islands,” added Laura, an insurance broker. “We’d heard Greek Islands were amazing and they exceeded our expectations.”

The beautiful, blue and turquoise sea of Moni at Aegina island, close to Athens, Greece, with sailing boats and people enjoying the summer. Photo Click&Boat.

Alex compared the experience to “an Air  BnB for boats.”  But in this case, the lodging moved with them as they sailed from idyllic island to island.

“We’ve done plenty of Air BnB vacations,” said Alex. “We even describe it that way to our friends who are interested in bareboat chartering.

“The check-in process is more in-depth because there are so many moving parts (to a sailboat), but the platform itself seemed to us to be intentionally mimicking AirBnB, which made finding the boat just as easy.”

The Kohls, who belong to the Seaforth Sailing Club in San Diego and began sailing around a decade ago, said they chose the Click&Boat company after doing research and comparing prices.

Click&Boat was significantly less expensive, he said.

Aerial view of Navagio beach Shipwreck view in Zakynthos (Zante) island. Photo Click&Boat.

“They still offered the same services and protections, but I think with them you’re avoiding a lot of the broker fees,” he added.

Alex said the couple sailed in late May after attending a friend’s wedding on Malta, another island in the Mediterranean that is less than two hours from Athens by air.

“As I said, the Orsalia was wonderful to cruise with,” Alex explained. “We wanted a new boat and this one even had three heads (sailor’s lingo for bathrooms).

“We wanted at least two heads, so a third was a plus. Another couple joined us for three days and there was plenty of room for everyone.”

He said the cost of the charter was around $3,500, including insurance, which was well under other charter companies’ rates. They stocked the boat with food and drink themselves, but skipped cooking meals onboard most nights and instead dined at small island restaurants – which they said was a delight.

Alex Kohl at the helm. Photo Laura Kohl.

“But provisioning the boat ourselves was easy to do,” he said. “The food at little restaurants that we found was great, too. We spent $200 at first for provisions and bought little things here and there, so all totaled, our food costs were maybe $300 for the week.”

The couple made an easygoing one-way trip from Paros through the Cyclades – a collection of around 30-plus islands – and sailed north to Athens about 40 miles away.

Laura said the best thing about the trip was the secluded beaches they visited.

Aerial view of a sailing boat moored in a secluded by with pristine, turquoise waters in the Aegean Sea, Greece. Photo Click&Boat.

“Every day we’d wake up and find a little cove and then have breakfast and sail to another one and have lunch and go swimming,” she said.  “Some of the beaches had no boats or houses or people at all, just us. And the water was so clear, you’d drop your anchor in 30 feet and see it hit the bottom. We certainly don’t have anything like that here in San Diego.”

The Kohls said Click&Boat connected them directly with the Greek owner of the Orsalia, who helped them with possible itineraries.

“We spoke with her often and she was very responsive,” Laura said. “She even hooked us up with people to arrange provisions. She also let us take the boat out early.

On board the Orsalia. Photo Alex Kohl.

“Because we didn’t have experience with chartering, we wanted a new one because we’d been told that something always breaks with older sailboats.  But everything worked perfectly on the Orsalia.

“And at the end, the crew from Click&Boat hopped onboard and tied us up. The Checkout process was smooth. They looked over everything and we were off. It was a wonderful trip.”

That praise is music to the ears of Steve Laundau, a spokesman for Click&Boat.

He said the company was founded in 2014 by a pair of Frenchmen who knew that few of the million boats in France were used for more than 10 days a year.

They figured the owners of those vessels might want to rent them to defray the cost of insurance, maintenance, and mooring, which can run roughly 10 percent of the price of the boat annually.

They began on a small scale on the Atlantic coast, expanded to the Mediterranean, and have since grown to a network of 40,000 boats around the globe, including more than 1,200 in the United States and around 80 in Southern California, and many more in the Miami area.

Docked at a Greek Island. Photo Alex Kohl.

“The concept was like Air BnB and the sharing economy, matching owners and sailors with proper resumes who would be good tenants because our owners are very particular about who they want to take their boats out for an afternoon, a few days, or a week,” he said.

Landau said costs could range from several hundred dollars to rent a small motorboat for an afternoon up to $3,000 a day for a 60-foot sailboat with a captain and a chef.

“With our platform, someone can go online, link up with the owner and have a conversation about renting the boat, very much like getting an inexpensive room in a house or renting out an entire luxury penthouse,” noted Landau, who said the business has done well during the pandemic because it allows sailors and small groups of friends to get out into the fresh air by themselves.

Landau said the platform also benefits owners because it allows them to create a free listing for their boat by adding pictures, a description, a price, and some advice about the sailing area.

One of the Cyclades. Photo Click&Boat.

Renters can then contact them directly with the Click&Boat messaging service to ask any questions. Owners can access the sailing CV of the renter and then can confidently choose the right sailors for their boats, he said.

Renters often can choose between several hundred sail and power boats in within an area, benefiting from comments from previous renters and can contact the owner to ensure that their planned sailing trip will go off without a hitch, he explained.

“In a nutshell, we make it easy to have a wonderful boating experience,” he said.

Go to Click&Boat for more information.

 

Brian E. Clark

Brian E. Clark is a Madison, Wisconsin-based writer and photographer who contributes to the Chicago Tribune and LA Times on a regular basis.  A native of Iowa, Clark is a University of Colorado, Boulder, graduate who focuses on adventure travel. He’s a veteran whitewater kayaker and skier who has lived in Norway, Sweden, Brazil and Bolivia. He worked for newspapers in Washington State and California for 25 years, including the San Diego Union-Tribune, before returning to the Midwest. He manages to head back West several times a year when he’s not off in other corners of the globe. Or poking around Wisconsin.

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