Gliding alongside 20 other yachts, smooth jazz floating out of an on-deck speaker, we make our way through turquoise waters that hug a verdant coastline.
Hosting up to 300 guests each week, with seven-day itineraries that cover the Caribbean, Montenegro, Croatia, Greece and Italy, The Yacht Week runs from June to September in the Mediterranean and from December to March in the Caribbean. It combines a festival feel with the opportunity to explore multiple destinations along one coastline, including secret swim spots and hard-to-reach islands that you might never come across on a typical holiday.
The journey starts in Kotor, a bay on the coast of Montenegro that is the site of a Unesco-listed medieval town. I head straight to the marina and check into my home for the week: a sizeable yacht called Twist, which sits alongside 20 others, each adorned with flags representing the various nationalities of the crew members on board.
Rose, our hostess, shows me to my cabin before I join the rest of the crew up on deck for a feast that’s comparable to any hotel buffet breakfast I have ever had. Rose has thought of everything. Chia bowls, homemade vegan muffins, baked eggs, avocados so daintily sliced and presented I feel bad diving in, and platters with fresh fruit in every conceivable colour. It’s a good start.
We spend an afternoon exploring the stonewalled old town before joining Rose and Sophia, our skipper, for a sunset hike. We climb the 1,600 steps of Kotor’s old fortress until we are way above town, at the medieval remains of the Castle of San Giovanni, which looks down over the inky bay and pretty red-tiled roofs. One of the skippers from another boat has hiked with a hefty Soundboks speaker strapped to his back, in 30-degree heat, just to ensure that we have the perfect soundtrack as we watch the sun dipping below the mountains on either side of the bay.
“We tend to do things as a team on The Yacht Week, so skippers and hostesses always head out on adventures with their crew,” says Sophia, who is not only responsible for manning the yacht and getting us from A to B, but also for “rallying the troops” and showing us a good time on land.
The Yacht Week has a knack for finding exclusive venues in each destination it stops at. Back in town, we eat fresh seafood on an open terrazza overlooking an old fort and meet our fellow yacht weekers at an opening party, the sounds of funk and soul floating out over the old town as we dance into the night.
The next morning, we get a lesson in sailing from Sophia, who is enthusiastic about getting all hands on deck. After we master some basic knot-tying techniques, we're entrusted with hoisting the sail as a team, and begin cruising along the bay of Kotor towards Herceg Novi, learning how to tack according to the direction of the wind. Unlike a standard yacht charter, this trip is all about getting involved, combining a sailing adventure with on-land activities and the feel-good atmosphere of a festival. Dropping anchor, mooring up and setting sail is a group activity.
In a single day, we energise with morning yoga, explore an abandoned submarine cave (last used during the Second World War and only accessible via the water), hike up the coastline to a decadent but crumbling Austro-Hungarian mansion, swim in turquoise waters and dance on a floating platform to beats by international DJs.
"When I'm making music and I close my eyes, I picture this," says the Boston-born DJ Goldroom, who has flown in from LA to play at The Yacht Week. "I was raised on boats, and most of my formative childhood memories were sailing with my dad, so I actually started doing day parties on boats for people that wanted to listen to my style of music, which is a slower, more tropical, easy-going sound."
Seeing an alignment between his own music, which lends itself to relaxing days spent out on the water, and The Yacht Week's easy-going vibe, the DJ is a big fan of this new kind of floating festival. "I like having the freedom to travel to interesting places and do unusual and fun things that I wouldn't usually get to do," he says.
Our days end with fresh fish feasts at restaurants like Ribarsko Selo, an ideal spot for watching the sunset on a rocky outcrop at Zanjic Beach, or with wind-down yoga sessions on the water’s edge. More than just a seven-day escape, The Yacht Week pushes the boundaries of the festival concept, opening up a world of sailing, travel, wellness and music to those looking for just the right balance of each. Where do I sign up for the next one?