As the slow-moving tram rattled across Athens towards the marina – sweat covering every inch of my body – I kept asking myself, “Why am I doing this?”
I was embarking on a naked gay sailing cruise through the Greek islands.
Looking at the online brochure, it had seemed compelling. But as I approached the meeting point for this small group trip, all my questions were about to be answered and my anxiety was off the charts.
This was a trip organised by Saltyboys – a 7-day expedition, beginning in Athens and ending in Mykonos.
The day before departure, we’d all been added to the WhatsApp group-chat for the trip. There were a lot of excited messages being exchanged – it seemed clear that a number of people on this trip already knew each other, I knew no one. That didn’t make me feel any more relaxed.
The meeting point was at Skipper’s – the bar on the Athens marina. Judging by the messages on the WhatsApp group, there were a number of people already there before me. It was a really busy bar so it took me a few moments to figure out which group I was going to walk up to and say – are you the gays? Luckily, I guessed right.
My first emotion was relief. Jan – the man behind Saltyboys and the skipper of the boat I was on – was warm and welcoming. It was a mixed group of guys from various countries. Age range, I’m guessing 30-50. There was no one there that immediately struck me as the type of person that I’d have a hard time putting up with on a small boat for seven days. I was also relieved that I wasn’t going to be on a boat-load of underwear models. Everyone just seemed relaxed and friendly.
The first task was to stock up on groceries. There were four of us from our boat in charge of the shopping. We had some cash and some vague guidance. The local grocery – a small and busy store – provided cars that picked us up from the marina, took us to the store, and then drove us back to the marina with all of our purchases. Trying to shop with three other people is a challenge at the best of times, but this was truly chaotic. We came away really not sure what we’d bought. When we got back to the boat, Lee – one of the guys on our boat – was interrogating our purchases. “Did you get chicken?” No. “What about garlic?” No. “What exactly are we going to eat?” It was a question that we really didn’t have an answer to.
One of the things I was uncertain about was the sleeping arrangements – it had been one of my main anxieties ahead of the trip. I knew that the berths on board were going to be small, but – unsurprisingly – they were really small. There were various configurations of rooms. Fully booked, this boat could take ten, but we were only eight.
“There’s two very small rooms with bunk beds…” announced Jan, our skipper. “So, maybe if someone wants to take one of those then they don’t have to share?”
“I guess I’d be happy to take one of the small bunk rooms…” I said quickly.
The cabin was small and difficult to do anything in, but I was relieved to have it to myself – I’m not good at sharing.
Dinner that night was in a restaurant near the marina. The food was good and the conversation and the drinks flowed easily. I was getting more confident with everyone’s name. I was feeling good. I was ready. I was looking forward to getting started on this naked adventure.
The next morning, after getting the last of the boat charter admin sorted, we were off.
As we motored through the marina, I was feeling excited and ready for whatever adventures lay ahead. I stood at the side of the boat, feeling the wind in my face. I looked over my shoulder at my boat-mates – they were already naked.
“Well, that didn’t take long…” I smiled to myself.
I haven’t done a lot of sailing, and what we were doing was obviously not very challenging, but I was pleased to feel that I was finding my sea-legs. As skipper, Jan took charge of all the technical aspects of the boat and we were each assigned various tasks and responsibilities – mine was raising and lowering the anchor. Being anchor-boy is not a difficult job but I needed constant reassurances from Jan that I was doing it correctly.
Our first day of sailing was along the southeast coast of the mainland. We stopped for a swim in a small cove before mooring for the evening near a temple to Poseidon. We took our dinghy into shore for dinner at a taverna – we feasted on a big grilled Snapper that we shared, delicious.
What’s the vibe like on a gay naked cruising trip around the Greek islands? I guess this is really shaped by the people on the boat. On this trip, it was surprisingly not hyper-sexual. Sure, everyone was pretty much naked most of the time, but you didn’t have to be if you didn’t want to be. It was all very relaxed and laid back – a lot of snoozing and tanning and occasional conversations.
People seemed to naturally gravitate to various roles on the boat. Some were happy to cook and prepare food, others took charge of the dishes and the cleaning. Everyone pulled their weight.
This whole experience would be less fun if you were on a boat with someone that you didn’t get on with, or had to share a room with someone that you found difficult to share space with. It would be ideal to do this with a friend, or maybe to organise a group of friends to take over a whole boat.
In terms of nationalities, it was a diverse group – countries represented were South Africa, the Netherlands, Lebanon, the US, Russia, Germany, the UK, and Australia.
There seems to be a high rate of returning visitors – out of the seven guests on our boat, three had travelled before with Saltyboys.
Our days developed a fairly familiar routine. The early risers got up and made coffee. The late risers got up when breakfast was under way. We sailed during the day, often stopping somewhere for a swim. Breakfast and lunch on the boat, dinner at the nearest taverna wherever we moored.
Showering was also part of our routine. To shower, you jumped off the back of the boat into the sea, then climbed back up onto the boat, soaped yourself up, jumped back into the sea to rinse off, then climbed back up onto the boat to rinse off with the fresh-water hose. It was a process, but kind of fun.
Mohammad – a first time cruiser from Beirut – was the most anxious of the group. He was having trouble sleeping.
“Morning, Mohammad!” I smiled, emerging from my cabin when I smelt the coffee he’d made.
“Day 3…” he sighed. “Still no sleep.”
He assured me that he was enjoying himself.
While the harbours each evening were busy with boats, the seas felt relatively quiet as we sailed each day – we weren’t traversing busy shipping lanes.
“That’s one of the reasons I love sailing in Greece…” explained Jan. “There’s so much space. It’s different to somewhere like Croatia where everyone is following a similar route – here, you can go anywhere.”
The coves where we stopped for the night was where we came into contact with other yachts – happily manoeuvring around each other as we found a space to anchor for the night. At most, everyone seemed to find our nakedness amusing – no one seemed offended.
There is a practical side to it being a naked cruise. When you’re sharing such close quarters with a group of people, a lack of inhibitions makes everything easier and more relaxed.
Being able to swim naked is incredibly liberating. Jumping off the boat into the clear blue waters of the Mediterranean is joyous.
The days blended into each other. Serifos was a highlight – a postcard-perfect island with an old town high up on the mountain overlooking the harbour.
Overall, I feel like I coped fairly well. It was Day 6 when I had a bit of a wobble. I was a little hungover, and couldn’t find a comfortable spot anywhere on the boat. When we reached the naked beach on the island of Paros, the group was taking its time and thinking about having some lunch on the boat before heading to the beach. I couldn’t face any more discussions about anything and just needed to get to land, so I jumped in the water and swam ashore. After a bit of alone-time to recharge my introvert batteries, I was ready to rejoin the group.
The night of Day 6 was Naoussa – a bustling little holiday harbour on Paros with a multitude of restaurants and bars. Easily a place where you could spend a couple of days exploring.
Our final night was on Mykonos – the ultimate Greek party island. We kicked things off with drinks at the 180º Sunset Bar, and then wandered down into town for more drinks at Lola and then on for a quick dance at Jackie O’s.
As I boarded my flight back to London, I felt quite pleased with myself. I’d not only survived a gay naked sailing trip, but I’d really enjoyed it. I was rocking a killer all-over tan, and I was eager to tackle more naked adventures.