Summer is officially over. The kids are back at school, the days are getting shorter, Halloween is fast approaching and there will soon even be murmurings about Christmas. Time to batten down the hatches, hibernate for the winter and hope that next summer is not such a damp squib, right?
Wrong! Winter getaways may be most associated with skiing or snowboarding, but there are a number of destinations where it is the perfect time to go sailing. Most of Europe isn’t a very attractive proposition, with rougher seas and cooler temperatures, but look further afield and you could spend some time in the summer we never had. You could be sunbathing on a boat on Christmas Day, or celebrating the New Year on your very own floating palace.
Here are our top picks of the best places to sail away and escape the winter gloom this year.
Winter is without doubt the best time to visit The Bahamas. The high humidity of the summer is gone, the hurricane season, which lasts from June to the end of November, is finished, and you’ll avoid the hordes of Spring Break students who descend on the islands in March and April. However, the islands are enormously popular with American sailors during the winter, so you can expect a buzzing atmosphere onshore. The Bahamas are paradise for both sailors and sun worshippers, with almost 700 islands to idle through. Conception Island, an uninhabited protected area, is a must-visit for divers, with its huge variety of fish, turtles, and other marine life.
British Virgin Islands
The British Virgin Islands enjoy great weather all year round, but high season and the best weather runs from December to April. If 80F temperatures are just too hot for you, remember that humidity on the Islands is kept down by the trade winds wafting over from the African coast, which are at their most reliable in winter. December and January have low rainfall, and the hurricane season finishes in November, making Christmas in the British Virgin Islands a calm, sun-kissed and idyllic possibility. The Islands are also a popular destination for flotilla sailing holidays-imagine ringing in the New Year with a group of new friends! Alternatively, going solo is an ideal way to explore the more than 35 islands that are uninhabited, and to jump off into the clear, calm and warm waters to snorkel or dive.
Tonga doesn’t experience many seasonal swings- temperatures are an average of 26C all year round. While the wet season runs from November to April, most of the rain falls in February and March and temperatures remain steady. Calm seas and a large number of safe anchorages make Tonga popular among sailors wishing to hire a bareboat charter yacht. Of the 176 islands that make up Tonga, only 36 are inhabited, and they have a large population of parrots, bats and lorikeets. Divers and snorkelers will be pleased to learn that its marine life is much more varied. The coral reefs are home to a spectacular array of fish, and it is also known as a sanctuary for the humpback whale.
The most favoured sailing season in New Zealand is between November and April, when air temperatures in the 30s. January is New Zealand’s second warmest month, and December is the third warmest. The Bay of Islands region on the North Island of New Zealand is one of the most popular sailing destinations and is driest and warmest in December, January and February. It’s also a diver’s haven- As well as a large variety of marine life, the adventurous can dive to the wreck of the Rainbow Warrior, a Greenpeace boat that was blown up by the French in 1985.
If you’re craving winter sailing but don’t fancy travelling far, then Greece is one of the best options in Europe. ‘Alkyonidis’ is a period from December 15 to January 15 when the weather can be so good around the islands that they are almost like summer. The Greek islands enjoy much milder winters than the mainland, and the strong summer wind, known as ‘Meltemi’, is gone. In addition, if you’re stopping off to do some sight-seeing, the endless queues and overpowering heat that characterize the summer won’t be a problem. However, you are more likely to get caught in a storm, so keeping up to date with the weather is a must.
Laura wants to sail around the world on a bareboat charter yacht- but must earn proper sea legs first.