The High Life
A Luxury Crewed Yacht Charter in Sardinia offers a very special holiday experience, as Helen Fretter, deputy editor of Yachting World magazine, and her family found out.
The Costa Smerelda is a millionaire’s playground and superyachts roar past with impressive regularity. But on our first morning out of Olbia, we glided out under sail and were treated to a send-off by a pod of dolphins before heading out into the swell.
diYachting offer luxurious crewed charters on yachts over 60ft. The company is founded and run by Matt and Lizzie Abbiss, a former captain and chef team themselves, and they know what truly works – for the crew, guests and owners. Nothing compares to the Olympic-level indulgence of a crewed charter: we genuinely never had to lift a finger.
Our Yacht was run by a highly experienced South African couple. Three times a day the table was beautifully laid, a spectacular meal served, then magicked away, while all we had to do was decide if we’d prefer to wakeboard or snorkel or sail on next.
The paddleboards found their way to the stern before we’d decided to use them, a basket of towels would appear on deck even before we’d climbed out of the sea, while iced water and fruit plates would be waiting to refresh us. The cabins were stealthily made perfect, boat maintenance carried out so unobtrusively it was barely noticeable.
Every crew works differently, and how they interact with each group of guests very much depends on individual personalities (diYachting offer a very informative guide to everything from crew tips to onboard etiquette on their website) but being served our meals on the aft deck was closest to a private dining experience.
Our accommodation was impossibly luxurious. The master cabin had a king-size bed, a study/ dressing area, and then a glorious en-suite complete with twin sinks, separate WC and enormous shower, plus private access to the aft deck.
From bed to Med in half a dozen steps: a pre-breakfast swim has to be the most idyllic start to any day (especially when breakfast is eggs cooked to order or freshly baked banana muffins).
There were also two double guest cabins both with en-suite. The saloon was modern, subtly finished and incredibly spacious, but we spent most of our time pottering between the various outside spaces – the covered aft deck, complete with metres of seating, outside dining space and wet bar; the flybridge, covered by a sunshade and with swathes of cushions including a popular sunken lounging spot tucked just behind the mast, and the foredeck, with yet more recliners and the perfect dolphin-spotting vantage point.
After leaving Olbia we first popped into Porto Rotondo, a much-smartened former fishing village that now welcomes an eclectic selection of yachts and well-heeled visitors. We made a beeline for Bar del Molo, a traditional gelateria that’s been serving home-made ice cream from a tiled kitchen since the ’50s, before reaching up to Caprera.
Caprera, a small island in the Bonifacio Straits, is a nature reserve and popular cruising spot. The butterfly-shaped inlet of Cala Coticcio offered a sheltered spot for the night, while the morning revealed a sandy cove hidden deep between rocky outcrops for idyllic swimming and paddleboarding expeditions. But Coticco’s beauty is well known and by lunchtime, dozens of small motorboats had poured into the bay, so we set off for a gentle sail to La Maddalena. La Maddalena is the larger of the seven islands that make up the Maddalena archipelago off the north-east tip of Sardinia, and connected to Caprera by road bridge. This forces yachts on a pleasant circular route around – rather than between – the island group. We dropped anchor in Monte D’Arena, where the shore was dotted with small hotels and campervans, but the water was much quieter.
My husband took the yacht’s windsurfer out for a spin, while my daughter and I explored some of the miniature rock islands and tiny sand pockets scattered around the bay that were accessible only by paddleboard.
The characteristic boulders that decorate the shoreline also litter the seabed off Sardinia’s coast. Fortunately, while some spots were very busy during the afternoons, the majority of visitors were dayboats that returned to port by early evening, leaving our anchorages relatively uncrowded overnight.
As the wind swung more to the south, there was little incentive to leave Monte D’Arena and we stayed on to enjoy the water for longer before motoring back down the eastern coast of Sardinia. Besides swim steps on each hull, one of the yacht’s most impressive features was a hydraulic semi-submergible platform which lifted to house the 4.3m tender when underway and provided an aft swim deck and handy water toy launching point that was in constant use from the moment we dropped the anchor every day.
Later we passed Porto Cervo, we spent an afternoon off Cala Petra Ruja, listening to the Balearic beats drifting from Nikki Beach, before continuing south.
A tiny kingdom
The run towards Capo Figari proved to be the best sail of the trip, eating up some 16 miles easily, we cruised under towering cliffs and continued our sail toward the imposing island of Tavolara, it’s summit hidden by a frosting of candyfloss white clouds.
We found a spot in the shade of Tavolara on its south-western edge, the bay rapidly emptying of day-trippers to reveal what must be one of the most spectacular anchorages in the Med. There is a single restaurant on the island, but its other draws are the walking and climbing trails up its 1,800ft limestone rock faces.
Tavolara, at 5km by just 1km wide, is known as the smallest inhabited kingdom in the world and is technically ruled by the Tonino family, who lord over just 11 subjects and a herd of wild goats. However, at anchor that night it was us who lived like kings, as our chef produced a show-stopping lobster dinner.
We rescheduled our final day to spend a memorable morning watching bottlenose dolphins play as the sun rose over Tavolara’s dramatic silhouette, before paddling over to a sandy isthmus that offered good snorkelling grounds – the island is part of a marine protected area and rich with sea life.
Tavolara might be the smallest realm in all the land, but it’s a powerful little place and we struggled to tear ourselves away. Coming back down to earth would be a wrench.
A crewed charter is a truly indulgent luxury holiday, we were blown away by just how impressive the whole experience was. Meals were restaurant quality, the living accommodation as comfortable as a high-end hotel, the crew warm and professional.
There was also the water toys available; windsurfer, two SUPs, waterskis, wakeboard, and towable banana boat (which I suspect was the highlight of my children’s entire summer, the grins were plastered on their faces for so long afterwards).
diYachting offer luxury crewed yacht charter holidays on their fleet of monohulls and catamarans all over 60 feet specified and maintained to the highest standards and ready to cruise some of the most beautiful destinations in the Mediterranean and Caribbean. Visit www.diyachting.co.uk/SWM to find out more and learn about how we are ensuring all yachts are kept regularly sanitised to keep you and your family safe during your charter holiday.