Seeing as how I escaped this year’s The Yacht Week Croatia unscathed, I feel like I’m in a slightly better position than last year to give you the low-down on all things TYW. It’s a miracle, really. The land sickness only lasted a day, and my bruises were minimal kind of sort of.
My decision to join The Yacht Week this time around was pretty spontaneous. My friend Shaun said he wanted to do a sailing trip around Croatia, and I recommended TYW. I did such a good job of convincing him to sail that I convinced myself in the process. (Hey The Yacht Week – you hiring?) A quick look at my bank account confirmed that yes, I could do it! (If only I had the foresight to see the financial shitstorm ahead of me.) Therefore I jumped on a random catamaran with some random people and had a random, roaring good time.
Here’s my exclusive guide, because I am now a veteran. Sort of kind of.
WHAT IS THE YACHT WEEK?
The Yacht Week is a yachting trip taking place at various weeklong intervals throughout the year. You sign up for a boat – either by booking with friends, booking a cabin, or using The Crew Finder – and then sail in a flotilla with dozens of other yachts. Throughout the day you do all kinds of fun activities, whether it’s touring around islands, swimming, or checking out hidden caves. In the evenings, you party like you’ve never partied before.
That’s my first disclaimer. If you’re not into partying, this is NOT the trip for you. Your week will be filled with ridiculous costumes, loud techno music, and half-naked men and women. To be fair, even if this isn’t your usual sort of scene, TYW is NOTHING like the real world. I’d rarely hang out with 20-something frat boys but TYW seems to be the exception with everything. Everyone is open-minded, fun loving, and just downright wonderful. I cannot rave about TYW enough.
WHERE DO I SAIL
You’ve got all kinds of options! I’ve done Croatia twice now (there are two different routes), and both trips were spectacular. There are also British Virgin Islands, Thailand, Greece, Italy, and Turkey. TYW in Croatia and Greece takes place all summer long. Italy and Turkey have limited weeks (for now). Thailand and BVI take place during North America’s coldest months, making for a good mid-winter escape. Both destinations do epic New Year’s sails.
Something I noticed this year: I sailed on the second last week of the season, Week 35, at the end of August. The age range for participants was MUCH higher than last year’s when I joined TYW for the very first sailing week. I don’t know why that is, but my friend Laura and I speculated it was because perhaps the younger college kids were preparing to go back to college by the end of August. Either way, everyone partied just as hard as they did last year, but I preferred this year’s mishmash of people.
HOW DO I FIND A CREW TO SAIL WITH?
Last year five of my friends and I booked a small racing yacht. We were trying to be budget minded. Filling a boat with friends only can be sometimes complicated, as TYW has a strict guy-to-girl ratio quota, assumedly because they don’t want dudes broing out all over the place. So you might be able to fill your boat with your entire group of friends, but you might also be lacking a girl or dude.
If you don’t have a large group of friends to sail with, you can rent an individual berth on a yacht with other randoms renting individual berths. Keep in mind it’s still a two person room, though, and if you don’t have a friend to share with you’ll have to pay the price for two people.
Random crew members sometimes make the best crew members. Martina and I, for example! You can also use The Yacht Week’s Crew Finder, which is what I did for this year’s trip. Often people will drop out of a trip, or a crew will have to add a girl to balance the ratio, and so they’ll advertise here. You email the leader to learn more info. If you’re REALLY flexible with dates, chances are you can find a heavily reduced price to hop on with a crew last minute.
I highly advise Skyping or setting up a chat with your crew leader, or potential individual crew members. If you’re good at reading people, you’ll know pretty quick whether or not you’ll click with the other crew. I had several offers to join various yachts, but went with my Starfish gang because my Skype chat went so well, and because everyone was in their late twenties/early thirties, and was all working professionals. I figured I’d mesh best with them. On the other hand I met a girl who sailed with a bunch of Brits who spent most of the time doing drugs, which isn’t really my scene at all.
WHAT KIND OF YACHTS ARE AVAILABLE?
Everything! From tiny racing yachts, to large mono-hulls, to full-sized catamarans. I’ve gotta say though, the difference between splurging on a large and comfy catamaran instead of being budget-minded and opting for a smaller yacht is just all kinds of crazy. I will NEVER do a small yacht ever again! Having all that extra space and comfort on a catamaran is so unbelievably valuable. Plus NOTHING beats lounging in a hammock over the Adriatic as you’re sailing.
You can also splurge on a hostess to join your boat. She or he will take care of two meals a day, plus will always ensure that the cabin area stays clean and tidy. Unless you have a really hands-on, responsible crew, a hostess is SO worth the money.
PREPARING TO SAIL
I’m going to do a complete The Yacht Week packing list on a separate blog post because I believe it’s a crazy valuable asset to have. Half of my crew that packed massive suitcases barely used half their stuff.
The same goes with stocking up on provisions before you sail. In some cases (BVI and maybe Thailand), you plan beforehand and the provisions are delivered to you on the day that you sail. In Europe, however, this is something you must do yourself. It’s important to sit down and think about everything you’ll need…while considering how much fridge space and storage space is available on the yacht (not a lot). Pro tip: You can literally never have enough booze, especially if you’re hosting boat parties, and the best place for stocking up is at a supermarket near the marina before you sail. This part sucks, not gonna lie. But once all your stuff is tidily packed away and loaded, you’re FREE to enjoy vacation!
Prepare a massive music list before you arrive. I mean 100+ hours of music. You’ll mostly want to listen to techno, house, and pop…but some alternative stuff does help when you’re chilling. It helps to bring a back-up battery pack as well, for charging iPhones, etc. Our USB port didn’t work, and if you’re not connected to shore power, you’re not able to charge your goods.
Figure out what events are happening before you leave your home country! For example, before sailing in Croatia this year, my crew knew that we had to have outfits for the White Party, costumes for the regatta, etc. Showing up at the White Party not wearing white is a big NO NO. It’s pretty much the most fun event all week. Also, don’t forget your country flags! My crew was divided between Americans, Swedes, and Canadians. We Canadians forgot our flag, of course. Bummer. When it comes to inflatables and fun water equipment, pack anything that you especially want along for the ride (i.e. goofy giant inflatables, massive water guns, etc.). The rest you can pick up around the marina or in the port town. Pack as light as possible.
GET TRAVEL INSURANCE!!!! Going on a seven-day boozy cruise in the Mediterranean without travel insurance is a huge no-no. World Nomads is always my go-to travel insurance.
A lesson I also learned from last year: everyone has to pool his or her money in a kitty. Honestly, there is no easier way to manage your money than to do it this way. Fortunately one of our crew members, Brian, is the kind of person who’s responsible as fuck, so we let him handle it and he handled it perfectly. That money can be dipped into when it’s time to pay for group meals, stocking up on provisions, paying for dock fees, etc. If you have one reliable, trustworthy crew member willing to take this on, let them.
Do not be tight with your money on The Yacht Week. If there’s one week a year where you let yourself go, forget about spending, and absolutely, 100% live in the moment…make it The Yacht Week. I fell into the budget trap a little again this year and stressed out quite a bit by the end of the week. If you want to do it RIGHT (big boat, hostess, big spending), I recommend saving somewhere between $2500 – $3500 CAD for the week in Europe.
We had some really memorable meals on our trip! Also take into account that you’ll be feeding your skip and tipping him at the end of the trip.
One of the most important rules of The Yacht Week: Take good care of your skipper! He or she is responsible for everything, and likely knows all the best places to book reservations for dinners, drinks, etc. It’s not an easy job, and it’s the responsibility of the crew to make sure he or she is well fed, hydrated, and content. Skippers also tend to get their own rooms on the yacht, so keep that in mind as well.
If you don’t have a hostess, plan your meals in advance. Generally, the easiest meals to put together are pasta dishes, salads, hamburgers/hotdogs, sandwiches, etc. Fortunately my crew was REALLY well balanced – I don’t like cooking, but I don’t mind cleaning up afterwards. Often two of the girls would prepare food for the crew and then the others and myself would help clean up afterwards. We worked really well together! And you MUST ensure a tidy cabin, because sooner or later flies start becoming a problem and you will want to murder everything.
Take good care of your boat. I can’t stress this one enough. Any damages could mean a WHOPPING fine, and who has time for that?
Appreciate your surroundings. Take it all in. You’ll see some unbelievably beautiful sights…unless you’re blind drunk the whole time.
Make friends. Don’t be shy; hop from boat to boat. I’ve never come across a boat that wasn’t welcoming. We had an epic catamaran party one evening and we kept some liquor out to share with guests. We earned quite a favourable reputation for ourselves (we kept running into a group of Spaniards who told us repeatedly we were their favourite crew!).
And, take good care of YOURSELF. Getting blackout drunk is not a fantastic idea when you’re on a yacht. There are too many risks involved. Look out for your other crew members as well.
The final night’s party is usually an epic party that goes on until the last person leaves the dance floor, but then you have to be off the yacht at 9 AM with all your stuff ready to go. It sucks. There’s no way around it – it SUCKS.
Consider you’ll maybe have three hours of sleep, and how sucky that is if you’re flying out of the port city that afternoon or night. I ended up being in the airport for close to six hours before I could leave Split, and it was a nightmare. I’ve never been so tired in my life. Plus Split’s airport is nowhere near capable of handling large crowds, and I couldn’t even find a place to sit down. If I had my time back, I would have stayed at the Airbnb with the rest of my crew for the night, just to catch up a little on sleep.
Also, don’t forget to tip your skip and hostess! For some reason, my crew didn’t do this last year. We were completely ignorant about it, although or skip was incredible. Our skipper this year, Anders, was also amazing and totally deserved every penny he earned. Skippers don’t generally make a lot of money sailing, so let them know how much you value their time and effort. (Same goes for hostesses.)
Eventually The Yacht Week becomes a sort of cult. Many people are repeat customers, and there are a whole slew of FB groups dedicated to keeping TYW vibes fresh year-round. TYW Withdrawals is a fun one, and typically there will be private groups per your week number so that you can connect with people you met while sailing.
What did I miss? Do you have anything to add? Any questions? Leave a comment!