With a husband who is ex Merchant Navy and a son who builds boats , it probably should have occurred to me earlier that a boat might be a very good way of getting around, being disabled as I am. It’s just that with having nine boats outside our house in various stages of development makes it easy to ignore the obvious ! It wasn’t till I was up in Dublin seeing my Rheumatologist and reading the glossy magazines in reception, that the idea of going on a Gulet ( a 26- metre Turkish wooden 2-masted sailing boat ) around the Greek Islands for our 40th Wedding Anniversary suddenly pinged my consciousness !
I have had both feet operated on in the last four years, so my walking ability is not brilliant, but I can sit on a luxury sailing boat with the wind in my hair and the sun beating down till the cows come home, so we did just that and it was mind blowingly easy.
Our Gulet departed from Bodrum in Turkey and the first time we went we explored the islands of The Knights of St. Sebastian. Magical places such as Kos, Knidos, Symi and Rhodes, to name a few. Our Gulet had a crew of four, including the Captain who were unfailingly obliging and the Turkish food was to die for ! We had a double cabin with shower, etc en suite and before you get ideas of us being on a tilt for sailing, most of the time we used the powerful diesel engines and it stayed upright but I made quite sure I was sitting down when the boat was moving between islands nevertheless ! It was quite interesting getting from our berth up to the deck, which involved going upstairs, but as shoes were forbidden on board, I managed quite well with my bare feet and there were luxury areas , in sun or shade, full of deep cushions that one could laze about on and read or paint. Also one of the advantages of a boat is that it has loads of grab rails in all the necessary places. I think that the nicest thing of all was absolutely no phones, iPads or anything that required internet or WIFI. The various islands had cafes that did have it, but by the time we went ashore, we were so laid back that it wasn’t necessary. It took Pat a while to get used to the lack of phones, etc. after being a Drilling Superintendent in Tunisia and available 24 hours a day, but he quickly got used to the silence !
The tour company did need to know in advance about my RA and what medication I was on, but there were fridges to keep my injections in and nothing was a problem. Getting up and down the gangplank was interesting as it swayed a bit and I get dizzy standing on a milk crate, but the lovely crew helped me in any way they could and Pat went in front to block my view of the drop ! We could go on the various expeditions around the islands if we wished and had great fun doing so. If the distance to the ruins was too far, then a mini bus was provided. Each afternoon at tea time over tea and cake, we had a talk on what we would be seeing the next day and plenty of opportunity to ask questions. Most islands had excellent museums and disabled access toilets and the Greeks are such wonderful people and always willing to help in any way.
Swimming off the boat was not possible for me. They did have sturdy metal steps down into the water alongside the boat, but I wasn’t prepared to risk my feet and if I got too hot and bothered, I just went and stood in the cold freshwater shower !! Pat, of course, leapt off the boat at every opportunity and I must say it did look rather nice and cool, but it was fun to watch him as he is a powerful swimmer. Snorkelling gear and canoes were also provided ! The other 10 guests were all about our age, some younger and some older and 3 doctors amongst them ! The tour company provided Jeremy who was our Leader and confidante and spoke Turkish and Greek so no problems there. It was the best, most fascinating and most relaxing holiday we have had in a long while and I found I could manage really rather well, although I was a bit slow on the walking bits !
Did we go again ? Of course we did ! Setting out from Bodrum again in a slightly larger boat called The Aegean Clipper and this time in May we toured the Cycladic Islands, ending up with 3 nights in Athens with James McKay, our lecturer and tour leader. James is a classics teacher, a poet and a comedian, so you can imagine the fun we had !
I have never been on a large cruise ship, but I gather they have wheelchair access, whereas our Gulet did not, but for anybody who can get around, even slowly like me, then this is the nearest to heaven you will get !