The best way to sail the Mediterranean
Aboard a charter yacht with vintage silverware and not one but two chefs.
Words by Ute Junker
Jean-Michel is making me wait. After a leisurely lunch of sea bream ceviche, fried calamari, lobster risotto and a small glass of tiramisu, all washed down with a delicate rose, I’m ready to refresh myself with a swim in the pretty bay where our boat, Satori, has anchored. Jean-Michel is going to join me as soon as he has put on his swimmers, which he’d taken off after our morning dip.
I give him another five minutes before the lure of the translucent blue-green water is too strong and I plunge in. Although it’s mid-October, the water temperature still surprisingly warm. I’m floating on my back when Jean-Michel swims over. Turns out his bathers weren’t where he left them; the boat’s staff had already taken them away and dried them.
And that’s the moment I decide that in future, the only way I want to sail the Mediterranean is aboard Satori.
In some ways, this graceful schooner couldn’t be more different from the fleets of super-sized mega yachts – and the even larger cruise ships – that ply the Mediterranean every summer. From the polished mahogany panelling to the elegant masts that rise 41 metres into the sky, Satori is a minnow compared to some of the bulkier vessels that occasionally loom like icebergs on the horizon.
In fact, the boat’s seemingly-compact contours are surprisingly spacious. Each of the five cabins, one of which can be converted into a floating spa, is more like a hotel room than a typical cabin, while the master suite, which has its own wooden bathtub, is even more generously-sized.
There is also plenty of room for everyone to find their own place to relax on deck, with two shaded lounging areas at the back of the boat, two more mid-boat, a top deck and a front deck. The latter, we discover to our delight, can be turned into an outdoor cinema in the evenings, complete with fresh popcorn.
Then there is the eight-strong crew. Our stewardesses, Antonia and Larissa, are always at hand with coffees, G&Ts or anything else we require. Our two chefs, Bruno and Onder – who work in an open kitchen on deck – deliver one mouthwatering meal after another, from Italian feasts to Turkish repasts featuring zesty vegetable salads and fresh-grilled lahmacun, all served by candlelight and eaten with vintage silver cutlery.
Our captain, Ali, manoeuvres his ship dextrously, bringing us safely into shallow bays and taking time to position the ship so that we are always moored in the clearest, greenest patch of water.
“It’s about going back to a simpler, more elegant way of travelling,” says Danish entrepreneur Claus Thottrup, who owns Satori together with his wife Jeannette. Inspired by childhood sailing holidays, Satori was conceived of as an extension of their acclaimed boutique Tuscan retreat, Borgo Santo Pietro, Thottrup, who was actively involved in the design of Satori, wants to give guests a more intimate Mediterranean experience, whether they are sailing in Greek, Turkish or Italian waters.
“When you see dolphins jumping through the waves, it’s very different if you see it from a few metres away or from five decks above the water,” Thottrup says. A smaller ship doesn’t just let you explore smaller bays and ports that larger vessels can’t access, he explains, it also allows guests to connect with local communities in a more meaningful way.
“Because we only have five cabins we can replenish stock as we go, sourcing produce from local fishermen and helping the local economy,” Thottrup says. “You realise that beyond the Amalfis and Positanos, these areas are home to lots of little local communities, where life is always focused on the water.”
Life aboard Satori unfolds at a leisurely pace as we explore some of the islands closest to Athens, often starting the day with a swim in a deserted bay. Sailing late in the season, we are spared the heavy traffic of the summer months. “I love to come here at the beginning or the end of the season, in May or October,” Thottrup says. “The weather is still warm but the experience is much more pleasant.”
I’m delighted with the collapsible stairway that extends from the rear of the boat almost to the waterline, making it easy for even the less-mobile to go for a swim, but the longer I stay on board the more clever design touches I discover, such as the downlights built into the boom that bring extra lighting to the midship area.
Perhaps the most enchanting thing about Satori is that no matter where you are you are always looking out at sea – even if you are brushing your teeth. I discover that when you pull the handle on the bathroom mirror it swings open to reveal a window that gives you a view across the waves.
A longer version of the story originally appeared in the Australian Financial Review.