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Classic holidays abroad to the sun-filled beaches of Spain and Greece are sadly not a given in 2021.
Many of us have made our peace with having a staycation summer, and luckily, here in England there are plenty of beautiful places to explore – and arguably one of the best ways to see them is by boat.
Sailing is a great staycation option, but many of us aren’t lucky enough to have access to a boat.
Luckily Borrow A Boat, which is essentially the “Airbnb of boats”, has vessels available throughout the UK, which can be hired with or without a skipper depending on the sailor’s experience.
One of the country’s most popular boating hubs is Portsmouth, where myself and three others boarded one of Sunsail’s Sun Odyssey 41 yachts on a sunny June morning to see how easy it is to “borrow a boat”.
The 12 metre yacht we would be sailing was new in 2020 is perfect for trips in the Solent, and has three cabins that can accommodate up to nine guests.
Borrow A Boat boasts over 35,000 boat rentals and yacht charters such as this, in more than 65 countries, so it’s easy to find one to suit your taste.
Onboard our home for the next two days we were given an important safety briefing by skipper David Parker, who accompanied us on the trip with first mate Nicole Ames, who both work for Sunsail, a yacht charter company that list their boats on the Borrow A Boat website.
With our life vests on, we set off out from Port Solent in the most glorious weather, and after about 30 seconds I was given the wheel to steer the yacht myself.
It didn’t take long for the initial shock to wear off, and after a while we were all getting involved in steering and taking the main sail and jib up and down.
Always under the watchful eye of David, who made us feel included, comfortable and relaxed, but always felt like he was in control should anything unexpected happen.
After a wonderful morning sailing and passing sights like Porchester Castle, we dropped anchor in Osborne Bay for lunch onboard, with views of Osborne House, former holiday home of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.
Before setting sail again, we let our feet hang off the boat in the (very cold!) water, which definitely put us off going for a swim, but was very refreshing.
After our lunch had settled, we were thrown into the “deep end”, and we got involved in some more intense sailing – mainly learning how to tack.
Those who are wanting to book a trip through Borrow A Boat will be able to choose the sort of trip they want – and if you just want to relax and do some more chilled sailing, you can.
The company wants to make boating more accessible, affordable, flexible and inclusive – meaning you’ll be able to find the exact trip you’re looking for, no matter what your experience.
But we were all for getting involved, and we ended up doing seven knots wind speed – which felt very fast to us!
Importantly, David showed us that even when everything is going really fast, you can also “heave to”, which involves slowing everything down and coming back down to a comfortable speed.
After an afternoon tacking and gybing, we moored in the peaceful town of Cowes, home to the oldest and biggest sailing regatta in the world, on the Isle of Wight.
We were surprised at how early the shops shut in the sleepy seaport town, so by the time we had moored, most places had already closed – but luckily we managed to buy an ice cream by the beach and go for a nice walk.
We also enjoyed a well-earned drink at the Royal Ocean Racing Club, offering brilliant views of the sea we had just spent the day on.
Later we tucked into a delicious meal at Gastronomy, a restaurant located on the High Street which serves up exciting dishes with global influences.
You’ll find mouth-watering small dishes as well as salads, burgers and other large plates – and I’d definitely recommend trying one of the Bao Buns.
After a day of fresh sea air it’s safe to say we were ready to go to sleep – an interesting experience if you’ve never slept on a boat before.
The harbour in Cowes feels safe and peaceful – but if you’re not used to all the sounds the boats makes while moored it can be a little bit of an adjustment.
The next morning, after breakfast on the boat, we enjoyed more sailing – including a trip past HMS Alliance – the only remaining World War 2 submarine.
With plenty of other beautiful sights on the way back to Port Solent, day two was just as enjoyable – although with slightly worse weather.
After safely mooring at Port Solent once again, we thanked David and Nicole for such a smooth and exciting experience before heading to the Boardwalk, where there are plenty of lunch options, before driving back to London.
Those wishing to rent through Borrow A Boat will find that all boats meet stringent safety and insurance codes, standings and regulations for yacht chartering in their respective locations.
Boat rentals start from just £40 per day, sailing yachts from £1,000 per week, and luxury motorboats and superyachts, under Borrow A Boat Plus, from approximately £10,000 per week.
For more information, or to make a booking, visit the website www.borrowaboat.com.
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