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Between battles with the Spanish Armada, Sir Francis Drake mused: “It is not that life ashore is distasteful to me, but life at sea is better.” With placid waters, sun-drenched days and quiet bays, we rather agree that few things beat floating around Europe on a boat come summer. Here are 10 sailing routes that are more suave than swashbuckle, and suitable for everyone from regatta-winning experts to those who think “port” is just a drink goes well with cheese.

Croatia

With some 1,200 islands dotted along Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast and water reaching bath-like temperatures from May through to September, sailing the Adriatic offers the chance to explore the coastline from the comfort of your top deck. Sail from Hvar’s hedonistic shores to Vis, a firm foodie favourite thanks to some of the richest fisheries in the Adriatic. For lunch, try the local delicacy “pogača od srdele” (anchovy pastry); come dinner, dine on lobster among towering palms at Villa Kaliopa. Seek seclusion in the sleepy village of Stormorska on Šolta, which has moorings for just 15 boats. Closer to the coast, explore the rich flora and fauna of Mljet and its verdant national park. Further afield but worth the daybreak departure is the fairest isle of them all, Rab. Its wild blonde shores are a rarity among Croatia’s pebbly beaches. Dare to bare at Sahara beach, a bay frequented by naturists. Those seeking a little more modesty can scuttle along to the next bay.

Aeolian Islands

Named after the Roman demi-god of the winds, Aeolus, the volcanic archipelago off the Sicilian Coast is linked by a vast 200km ridge stretching from Mount Etna to Mount Vesuvius. An adventurous expedition, alight at the commercial port of Portorosa before drifting along the aquamarine Tyrrhenian Sea. After stops in Vulcano (for the mud baths), take a morning dip in the translucent waters at Spiaggia Bianca (“white beach”) just off Lipari. Cruise up to the active Stromboli volcano, pour yourself a glass of chilled Chianti and keep your fingers crossed that on this occasion it’s smoke without fire. Continue to live the good life with a trip to Signum’s spa, where you can indulge in a Malvasia treatment inspired by the folk traditions of the Aeolian isles, involving smothering yourself in a rich, antioxidant sweet wine before heading back to your water chariot to ingest some more.

Cote d’Azur

Starting at the border with Italy and extending to Toulon, the Côte d’Azur is a place to sail and be seen. Those who are keen to avoid the glare should head to the western island of Porquerolles instead. Part of the Îles d’Hyères and just a gust of wind away from the chaos of St Tropez, moor outside the crescent-shaped Plage de Notre Dame. Swim ashore for a picnic beneath ripe fig trees and evergreen pines. At sunrise, meander across to Port Cros. Historically plagued with a sea of pirate attacks, the leafy national park now conceals its own hidden treasure; bejewelled peacock-blue waters brimming with exotic marine life.

Corsica

This French island basking in the Italian sunshine provides one of the most idyllic sailing routes in Europe. Serious yachties will want to take part in the 15-day Corsica Classic regatta, while land lovers should embark on a port-hopping expedition along the L’Ile de Beaute. Begin in the bustling port of Bastia, then after a few days of vigorous sailing you’ll reach the capital Ajaccio. Encircled by rugged mountains, disembark to delve into the life of Napoléon Bonaparte. Keen to share their claim to fame, tour the famed Frenchman’s childhood home that now serves as a museum to his memory. End in the spectacular Maddalena archipelago and dock outside the island of Razzoli to act out castaway fantasies.

Ionian Islands

Nicknamed “nursery slopes” of sailing, the Ionian Islands are an easy introduction for those who are happy lying horizontal on the stern deck. Tried and tested itineraries float out of Gulf of Patras towards Zakynthos; keep your eyes peeled for rare loggerhead turtles making their way to  Zante’s southern beaches to lay their eggs. Just north of Kefalonia is Ithaca, shrouded in mythological tales, twinkling waters and secluded bays. Approach the island via Kioni Bay where boats are now met with an amphitheatre of stony houses and overgrown bougainvillea replace the Cyclops and lotus eaters of Odysseus’ kingdom. Feast on fried fish at Mills before signing off with sundowners at neighbouring bar Spavento.

Malta

Void of large cruise liners, Malta is considered pirate gold in the eyes of experienced seamen. The islands of Gozo, Comino and Cominotto are most frequently visited, as even in high season there’s ample room for anchorage. Dive in at first light to shake off cobwebs, then spend your day lazily paddling between pristine shoreline and expansive caves. Plot a stop at the picturesque fishing harbour of Marsaxlokk in the southeast to dine at Ir-Rizzu. The family-run taverna’s menu is dictated by the fishermen and their catch of the day; make your pick then watch it being prepared in an open kitchen. Regularly touted as one of Malta’s best beaches, head to St Peter’s Pool for sunset. With 300 days of sunshine and placid waters year round, you can sail all the way into December.

 

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