Yacht Charter Sicily
A yacht charter around Sicily is a truly magical experience that you are unlikely to forget! With its stunning beauty and relaxed sailing, this is a yachting holiday that won't be forgotten any time soon - all under the distant gaze of Mt Etna.
The largest island on the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Southern Italy, Sicily has been a major hub for human and trade movements for at least the last 10,000 years.
Ruled by a number of different empires from the Phoenicians to the Romans and even Arabs and Normans before entering the United Kingdom of Italy in the 1800s, the Mediterranean island of Sicily has a very wide and deep cultural heritage that marks the island nation today.
Now an autonomous region of Italy, the island and its smaller neighbours now have a complex economy of natural gas, sulphur, trade, fisheries and agriculture. Yes, tourists enjoy the sandy beaches but there is so much more to enjoy than that!
For those on a charter holiday, you will find Sicily has a depth and breadth of pleasures to enjoy. This is no small Greek island that utterly depends on the tourist dollar - you are visiting a complex and independent nation that you will come to love and enjoy that will function whether you pay into the economy or not. Come and taste it - it is not a caricature for tourists but a living, breathing culture with a heartbeat of its own!
Hiring A Yacht In Sicily
A Sicily yacht charter is simple to arrange. You don't even need sailing qualifications if you take on a skippered yacht charter for a more relaxed sailing holiday.
On booking the charter you will need to pay a 50% deposit upfront for the week or two you wish to use the boat. On arrival, you present your sailing qualifications (if on a bareboat yacht charter) and a damage deposit on the credit card or present specially bought yacht charter insurance.
Upon inspecting the vessel you can then go on your way. If on a skippered yacht charter you will be given guidance and make your decisions as to where you want to go - with a bareboat yacht charter you make your own mind up.
You will often have a choice between anchorages and marinas every night. You can enjoy the great natural heritage of the Sicilian coastline and volcanic islands or human heritage or both. Sicilian cuisine is among the best on the Mediterranean, and some of the nightspots are up there among the very best too. You can explore the religious and cultural history of the island. On a Sicilian yacht charter it really is down to what floats your boat!
Getting to Sicily
There are direct flights from several airports in the UK. Let's look at the two main Sicilian airports:
Palermo : For sailing on the north and west of the island. Palermo is served by flights from several airports in the UK, with many flights only in the summer season.
Catania : Catania is on the east coast of Sicily and is served with several daily direct flights from Northern Europe and the UK.
Ferries: Palermo and Catania are also the only major ferry ports from mainland Italy. Depending on where you fly into on mainland Italy, you can take a ferry from Genoa, Civitavecchia, Naples, Salerno and Tunis to the three main ferry ports on Sicily.
Best Areas To Charter
When sailing Sicily, there are two main areas you're likely to explore - the volcanic Aeolian archipelago (Stromboli, Vulcano, Filicudi and more) and the Egadi islands off the west coast. Charters in the Aeolian/Lipari islands usually start from Portorosa, while the main hubs for Egadian charters are Marsala and Trapani.
Aeolian Island Hopping
As we indicated above, Sicily isn't just one island but several. The seven volcanic Aeolian Islands are one such archipelago. A volcanic island group off the north coast of Sicily, they are a UNESCO World Heritage site and on arrival, you will soon appreciate why, with their black sand beaches and rugged appeal. Bring your walking boots as you can climb extinct (and even live) volcanoes. Bask on a hot black sand beach. Enjoy the local food washed down with Malvasia wine of the islands. Pick lemons bigger than your fist, perhaps to garnish a fish caught from the rich seas...
The three Egadi Islands (also know as the Aegadian Islands) have been the centre of human history at times, with the Romans agreeing on a pact with the Carthaginians and taking Sicily after the Punic wars. The islands had seen humanity long before - just look at the pre-historic cave paintings depicting tuna fishing and even dancing. Off the west coast of Sicily, the Aegadian islands are a world away from the hustle and bustle of Palermo, the city you may have likely passed through at the beginning of your yacht charter. The Egadi island chain of Favignana, Levanzo and Marettimo all have their charms but all share the commonality of being so laid back you'll hardly feel a pulse. That's no bad thing in this high paced world! As with the Aeolian Islands, bring your walking boots to explore inland.
Unlike many other Sicilian ports, Portorosa is an extremely modern development, and the primary yacht rental hub for the Aeolian volcanic archipelago. It has a 700 berth marina - the largest in Sicily - so you will likely start and finish your sailing holiday there. No ancient palazzos or piazzas here - this was built entirely in the 20th and 21st Centuries. Modern hotels, spas and restaurants are the name of the game. Perhaps take a last gulp of modern life before you dive into the ancient wonders of old Sicily as you sail onward!
Capo dOrlando was first inhabited during the Trojan Wars, over 3,000 years ago. There are remnants of the different civilisations that have swept through ever since from castles to religious buildings and archaeological museums. At the base of the Nebrodi mountains on the north coast of Sicily it is still considered an important fishing village and as ever with this island nation is what it is for what it is - not for you the tourist. Explore, taste and drink in what you see - and remember it for years to come!
For a city to be considered one of the most romantic in Italy, Trapani is up there among the most romantic in the world! Enjoy sunset at dinner on the beachfront with your favourite other. The beach should just be the way you complete your day in the town - explore its narrow streets with their monuments and palaces. Wonder at the lush countryside and windmills nearby. Feel overwhelmed with romance as you go about this jaw droopingly beautiful town. Chartering from Trapani, you can also do a coastal sail, visiting San Vito Lo Capo, and even going around to Mount Etna itself.
Castellammare del Golfo
This historic fishing town between Palermo and Trapani on the NW coast of Sicily is one of the island's major yacht charter hubs. You will be able to eat well and drown in the culture of Castellammare del Golfo before you head off on your sailing holiday to the north of Sicily. Palermo airport/ferry port are the main island entry points for this town.
Types Of Yachts To Hire
There are three broad types of charter - bareboat charter, flotilla charters, and skippered yacht charter. Where it comes to chartering a boat you can hire a motorboat, a monohull sailing yacht, catamaran , Superyacht or luxury yacht charter and RIBs or day boats. Each has their benefits.
Coming in all shapes and sizes from 7 metres to 70+ metres, motorboats are as different as their uses. A seven-metre RIB will be a great day boat and can be hired for as little as €110 a day for fishing trips or just blasting about the bay. The 15 metres plus size of the motor yacht will have cabins and often en suite heads and cost upwards of €400 a day.
Starting at as 'little' as €10,000 a day a superyacht will come with skipper and crew as part of the package. On the crewed motor yacht or sailboat you will be treated like kings and queens on your personal mini-cruise-ship that will often come with tenders and toys such as jet skis and even sailing yachts!
Luxury Yacht Charter
Coming with or without skipper and/or crew, a luxury yacht charter will cost upwards of €700 a day and will come fully fitted out with all the modern conveniences and comforts of the very best sailing craft afloat. Expect en suite heads and comfortable staterooms but also a lot of fun under sail!
Starting at €450 a day, catamarans are luxury yachts that offer lots of space, a fair lick of speed on a reach and a shallow draft for mooring close into shore. They have twin engines in the hulls so while large they are incredibly manoeuvrable when in marinas and so forth.
Monohull Sailing Yacht
Ranging in size from 10 metres up to 20 or so, monohull sailboat form the backbone of the Sicily yacht charter industry. Very good to windward, you will find yourself chewing up the miles at all points of sail without relying on the engines. Costing as little as €120 a day you will enjoy comfort and fun for a good budget price.
Skippered Yacht charter or Bareboat?
Where it comes to a Sicilian yacht charter you have two choices - bareboat hire or skippered yacht charter. Both have their own advantages.
No sailing qualifications or not confident enough to bareboat charter yourself? That's no problem when it comes to yacht charter - you can take on a skipper for the week or two touring Sicilian waters! With a skippered yacht charter you have someone aboard who knows the ropes and the best places to visit on your sailing holiday. They will know the best spots for what you want, be it hideaway restaurants or the best wine on the island! Costing as little as €100 a day (depending on the size and type of vessel) you will get the very best from your yacht charter holiday with one aboard. Don't forget the tip at the end of the week!
Bareboat yacht charter
A competent sailor? Have the qualifications required? Dreaming all year of casting off and exploring the Sicilian coastline and islands with just you and your friends? A bareboat yacht charter is just the thing for you. This is cheaper than a skippered yacht charter but you also get the privacy of being in your chosen group without a stranger in your midst. You get to choose your own adventure and go at your own pace - not a bad thing for a holiday to recharge your batteries ahead of rejoining the rat race...
Do you need a licence to charter in Sicily?
If you want to bareboat charter you will need an approved boating qualification, below is a list of relevant qualifications:
International Certificate of Competence (ICC): Standard European Qualification for bareboat sailing
ASA 104 Bareboat sailing certificate : The American Sailing Associations skipper minimum qualification for hiring bareboat yachts
RYA: The Royal Yachting Association's qualifications (minimum day skipper level) is necessary for bareboat charter hire, it's also worthwhile seeing do you need to have done a VHF radio course, as well as some boat owners, will require this.
There are also many other European national boating qualifications that are accepted here too, it's worthwhile checking these details before hiring.
If you want a skippered boat rental as a charter yacht then you don't need any sailing certification at all, you just turn up and off you go.
Best Times To Hire
As a subtropical archipelago of islands, Sicily is good for sailing between March and October. Choosing the time to charter a yacht is very much down to your tastes. Some like the hurly-burly of fighting for mooring space in a marina and the buzz of a holiday town at full blast. If that's to your taste then do the trip in the fierce heat of July and August. Remember though that as with all other Italian marinas you will find that the prices go up at this time of year.
September and October can be a little cooler but the seas remain warm. You may get a bit of rain and even the odd gale but it's still warmer than in Northern Europe or New England. The towns are quieter too and the locals perhaps less busy enough to spend more time with you, helping you deepen your appreciation of the nation.
If you can get to Sicily during school term time - in May perhaps - you will get the warmth without the crowds.
It does rain in Sicily but largely at higher altitudes on the mountainous interior. At lower levels - sea level - the islands often see drought come summer. Autumn and winter see the most rainfall.
What about the winds? Two of them dominate the Sicily climate:
Sirocco: This is a hot southerly wind that brings fierce heat from Africa. Recently temperatures have topped 40 degrees C fairly regularly, even in seaside towns like Trapani. Having crossed the Med it often bears humidity too.
Mistral: This is the northerly mountain wind from the Rhone Valley in France that often catches sailors unawares throughout the year. It can get quite strong at any time of the year but there is one advantage - it is a cool wind that will be a blessed relief from the Sirocco!
How much does it cost for a Sicily Yacht Charter?
A bareboat monohull sailing boat charter can cost as little as €120 a day - for four adults over a week you could be paying €210 per head for the trip. Most people don't earn enough in a year for two days on a €30,000 a day, 50-metre superyacht but there's a big industry catering for those types.
As well as the costs of hiring a yacht you will pay a fully refundable security deposit on your credit card at the beginning of the week. You can buy insurance to cover that instead (non-refundable). You will need fuel for the yacht and marina fees (that vary according to the time of year) as well as victualling costs - a case of Marsala is cheaper than a few nights quaffing it in restaurants. You may be paying for a skipper (€100 a day and up) as well as tipping them at the end of the trip (€200 isn't horrendous).
On top you will want entertainment expenses. On a typical Sicilian yacht charter, you won't be hitting vast arrays of nightclubs and drinking beer like your liver needs it. You can however find the odd Michelin starred restaurant and spend a fair few Euros eating the very best of Sicilian cuisine. You may also end up with a case of good booze too from a winery!
Explore Sicily By Renting A Yacht
The north and west coasts of Sicily are among the best yacht charter destinations in the west Mediterranean. Probably more of a sailing holiday for the family/older group who aren't hell-bent on partying every day but that's not to say you will be in complete isolation on your Sicily yacht charter. This is a wonderful way to get under the skin of a complex island region that has had a global impact with its eccentricities and exports.