By far the youngest sailor on the flotilla, five month-old Oli was considered an Olympic hopeful for learning the ropes so young. Well, he chewed the ropes at least, and used the tiller as a prop for getting to his feet. “I’ve only just dared bring my baby onboard at this age,” the woman on the neighbouring yacht nodded towards her ten year-old daughter. She may have been amongst those who thought us foolhardy to take a baby on a week’s sailing trip in the Greek Islands, but when infants are so portable and not moving around under their own steam, it’s the perfect age for such an adventure. And propped up in the horseshoe buoy wearing his little lifejacket, Oli not only looked safe, he also looked incredibly content.
Sailing in the Southern Ionian Islands can be akin to caravanning on water at its most tame. No complicated pilotage, no tides to worry about and so little wind you might have to blow the sails yourself or simply motor from island to island. In fact, it can be so undemanding that I was happy to have the distraction of a baby to feed and fend for, otherwise there might have been moments when the trip verged on boring. Even with all those paradise bays to moor in, unspoilt islands to explore and lunchtime dips in aquamarine waters worthy of a bikini in early November.
But as it was there was never a dull moment. Two pairs of hands were always needed: one in charge of the boat, one in charge of the baby. And when three pairs of hands would have been useful – casting off, dropping anchor, hoisting sails– the baby was strapped to my chest or asleep in the fore cabin.
The week had a few fraught moments: Sailing in the dark with no navigation lights. A close shave between baby and jelly fish when we dropped him into an inflatable ring in a deserted bay and went for a swim. The wind picking up suddenly and the boat heeling over while the baby was unsecured and breastfeeding, so all I could do was hold on tight to him and the tiller, and watch the cushions and clothing strewn on deck take off into the water.
But on the whole it was a blissful week of travel with a baby. Being on the water soothed him to sleep (though dropping the anchor woke him up with a start). At night we either took him into local restaurants sleeping soundly in the buggy (borrowed from the operator) or sat onboard sipping red wine under the moonlight. And I certainly hadn’t considered romance was going to be a big part of our first big trip away with a baby.
Baby sailing essentials: A hands free baby carrier (I’d recommend a Baby Bjorn or Ergo Baby), baby reins or something to attach them to you or a lifebuoy, a baby life jacket and a waterproof baby suit.
Where we went: Sailing from Nidri we cruised around the Southern Ionian Islands including Cephalonia, Ithaka and Meganisi
Who we went with: Neilson: www.neilson.co.uk/yacht
Although we opted to go on a flotilla holiday for safety reasons, in hindsight a bareboat charter would have given us more freedom on our route and you still have contact with a lead boat at all times in case of emergency.