Sailing: Welcome to nappy valley
We discover that rare thing: a baby-friendly break where parents really can relax
The jetty bar at Club Javelin, one of Sunsail’s child-friendly properties in Bodrum, Turkey
I have to take it on the chin. If God decided to have another go with that flood thing, He wouldn’t pick me as Noah. I don’t think that it is so much because of my moral failings, which are many. It is more that he would correctly calculate that I would be rubbish at the helm of the Ark.
I’ve always admired Noah. All those hours at sea with the animals fighting like cats and dogs in the back.
He made it to dry land without going mad, even though the entire time he had an otter and a chimp on the seat behind, constantly asking “are we nearly there yet?”. He must have been some sailor. And I — I may as well tell you — am not.
Which may make you wonder how I found myself at Sunsail Club Javelin on the Bodrum Pensinsula in Turkey, settling in with my wife and three young boys. How, and why.
Plain sailing: the beach at Sunsail’s Club Vounaki resort
My visit to Club Javelin wasn’t my first visit to a Sunsail. It was my fifth. My fifth. That’s five separate times. And I’ve hardly been on the water. But that’s not the point, because Sunsail offers something very few other venues offer.
The first is something for my wife, Nicky, to do. Nicky loves sailing and windsurfing. Sunsail provides a limitless supply of equipment, and almost all free at the point of use (you have to pay for some lessons). Because there is something for Nicky to do, the number of times we have to hire a hot Hertz rental car and trek to an ethnic sock-weaving factory is reduced to a minimum. This is a plus.
It is also a plus that Sunsail provides, at a reasonable cost, childcare for very young children.
Now, I believe in capitalism. I find it hard to accept that a gap in the market can remain open for a long time without someone cleverly filling it. Which is why I am baffled by the scarce provision of holidays with childcare for very young children.
It isn’t too hard to find a company that provides kid’s clubs for children aged four and over. But by the time the children are four, you don’t really need it. You can go swimming with them, play football with them, chase them along the beach, whatever. Slightly older and they find their own friends to go off with.
The children you need a kid’s club for are the very young ones.
Here’s what happens when you are with a very young child in a hotel by the pool. Obviously, you start with all the glorious things you have a young baby for. You take them swimming, you let them get covered in sand from head to toe, you read to them about Spot At The Beach, or Upsy Daisy Takes A Holiday From The Night Garden.
You cuddle them on your lap for a while. They wriggle and you put them down. They begin crawling towards the pool. You let them. They continue crawling towards the pool. You realise they are going to fall into the pool. You run after them, pick them up, return to your seat and cuddle them on your lap for a while. They wriggle and you put them down. They begin crawling towards the pool. You let them. They continue crawling towards the pool. You run after them… and so on.
After about 15 iterations of this, you are about as relaxed as Japanese banking executive. You are ready for a holiday even though you are supposed to be on one.
There are very few holiday companies indeed that provide for these very young children. And Sunsail does.
That, then, is how and why I — together with my wife — found myself at Sunsail Club Javelin.
There has, until now, always been a problem with Sunsail clubs. Actually two problems.
First, for all their tremendous virtues, they have had a slightly student-union-rag-week feel to them. It is never entirely clear whether you on a holiday planned by them or for them.
On a previous Sunsail holiday, the staff held an Elvis night. Well, I don’t know about anyone else but I usually leave my Elvis costume at home before setting off for the airport. I had a strong feeling that the event wasn’t really for the guests.
And the second problem was that the accommodation was pleasant and acceptable but not always absolutely tip-top.
At Club Javelin, Sunsail have put this right.
They’ve had the place refurbished and it is now managed locally as a proper hotel. The Sunsail team just look after the sailing. One or two guests expressed mild disappointment that this gave the joint less atmosphere, but I thought the transformation was easily worthwhile.
There was the lovely big pool, the excellent buffet meals on the open terrace, the bar with notably friendly service, and drinking in a wonderful bar on the jetty — Sunsail has grown up and gone into the hotel business.
Sunsail is fantastic for babies. But there was one strange lapse. Who thought that it would be a top class idea to put families with buggies at the top of a hill?
We’re not talking about a small incline either. We’re talking about the sort of hill that Cheryl Cole climbs for charity. We got (how can I put this nicely) moderately fed up climbing this hill. It was not our finest memory of the week.
At the top of the hill, there were then 30 steps (30 uneven steps) to pull the buggy up in order to reach our room. I do not think that Sunsail should advertise the hill or the steps in their brochure.
The sailing was excellent. So I am told. The wind was good and strong — if anything too strong. The equipment was first rate. And from my point of view, the ratio of people actually sailing to strangers I was forced to talk to about the boring injuries they picked up while sailing was acceptable.
The Kid’s clubs? They were terrific. On the first day, my middle son went off to the Urchins club for six year olds with a show of reluctance. The next day he was standing outside the club door 20 minutes before opening time impatiently waiting for it to get started. And my older son dipped in and out of his club, sensibly joining them when they were colouring, and coming to see me when they went canoeing, or whatever.
Listen. We’ve been to India and Botswana and Egypt and so on. And this isn’t them. It’s a beach. A nice beach, with camels on and stuff but a beach is a beach is a beach. Yet if you have very young children, and you want to combine baby care, a relaxing, safe, place to go and something to do with all that time then Sunsail is it.
Sunsail Clubs (0844 463 6578; www.sunsail.co.uk/club) operate in Turkey, Antigua and Greece. However, Club Javelin in Bodrum will not be open for summer 2009. Club Vounaki in Greece offers a superb alternative. Prices start at £659 per person for one week, based on May 3 departure for two adults sharing a standard room. It includes all inclusive watersports, kid’s club for 2-17yrs, half-board meal plan, flights, transfers and accommodation.
Kid’s clubs are free for 2-17yrs. For children 4mths-2yrs cost £240 per child per week. There are free sailing clinics and RYA Start Sailing course. Other courses start at £40 per person.