Sailing along the French Riviera coast makes a tantalizing alternative to renting a flat/house/hotel on the coast.
- You slice through open water to reach your spot for the afternoon rather than play bumper cars on coastal streets.
- You access beaches and creeks otherwise difficult to reach.
- You island-hop: to the islands Lérins close to Cannes or the islands of Hyères further west. Or if you have enough time in front of you and good sailing skills, Corsica.
- You fish to eat... well, provided to troll at the right speed, at the right location, at the right time, with the right lure, you might catch a few tasty makerels.
- You sleep onboard.
What's needed to charter a sailboat on the French Riviera?
Not much, other than a large chunk of change. Don't assume the worst however, and ask for current promotional deals. For a family or a group of friends, a simple smaller catamaran (not the above photo!) may cost you the same as a flat rental.
Unlike motor boats, no license is needed to rent a sailboat here on the French Riviera for sailboats up to 55 ft. Clearly, you need to be 100% comfortable maneuvering a sail boat, including berthing it, rigging it, respecting rights of way, communicating with the host ports etc. So come prepared with your sailing CV. If you're interested in bareboat chartering, it's up to the chartering company to decide if you're fit to charter without a skipper.
Of course, you're also in closed salty quarters for hours on end. So you need patience. Plus, you're at the mercy of the weather. If the Mistral picks up, as it can especially on the western French Riviera, you will be staying put, docked safely at a sheltered port. Plans rest in the hands of nature. So you also need a flexible & adaptive frame of mind.
Where can I charter a sail boat on the French Riviera?
There are many, many boat chartering outfits on the French Riviera. If you can, visit them in person and tour the available boats on hand before booking.
Antibes is probably the best known of the Riviera yacht chartering towns. After all, it has the largest yacht marina on the Côte d'Azur. You'll quickly notice that it also berths some of the largest luxury yachts, both chartered and private. Tucked away in the port, you'll also find human-sized charter boats too!
Cannes is also a magnet for luxury yachts, with its two harbors and its islands in front of the bay. During the Cannes Film Festival in May, you'll find a number of yachts dotting the bay and acting as luxurious floating hotels.
Lesser known but expanding, St Raphael is currently the third largest yaching port on the French Riviera. Seaways Yachting (Thomas Godin) charters sailboats from the port of Santa Lucia in Saint-Raphael - tel 04.94.51.42.27 as well as in Golfe-Juan. They do offer human-sized yachts that are kinder to the wallet than the luxury type. Take a look.
An interesting online outfit aggregates boats for charter across the globe: http://en.bemyboat.com/. They don't own the boats, but simply act as an agency between owners who are looking to place their yachts for charter and clients looking to rent. We've never used them, or have we (yet) received feedback from users. They are gaining in popularity on the French Riviera, so they're worth a closer look.