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Why naturist sailing is the most stress free holiday you will ever experience

Why naturist sailing is the most stress free holiday you will ever experience

Have you ever wanted to try naturist sailing? It's not exactly a go-to holiday idea, but Chris Moore makes the case for rocking the boat with a nude vacation

I was leaning against the rail watching the sun lift above the horizon. A warm westerly breeze tousled my hair and filled the vast, white polyester sails above me, pushing us gently south eastwards. I turned to the lady standing a few feet away and raised my coffee cup in an early morning toast. “To the start of another perfect day.”

She smiled and nodded. “Cheers.”

We were both naked.

Setting sail

We weren’t sleep walking, hadn’t forgotten to get dressed, nor were we on a schoolboy dare. We were, after all, in our sixties and double dare days were long over. We were sailing in the Adriatic on the world’s largest clipper, a graceful five masted ship with 42 sails with another 200 or so fellow naturists, most of whom were still snoring away in their cabins.

I turned to my fellow nudie and wished her a cheery “Good morning.” Her name was Amy and she was from Australia. I was pleased with myself for remembering her name; well, you try remembering the names of 200 naked strangers. Actually, I have to confess to having some help. Each of us was given a lanyard upon boarding which had our first name printed on the front and a pocket to keep our room key card. Although it felt as though we were attending a business conference, for people with no pockets these things were a godsend. After all, just where are naturists supposed to keep their room key?

Relaxing on the Royal Clipper

Relaxing on the Royal Clipper © Chris Moore

After a couple of days on board, I became proficient at surreptitiously glancing somewhere between neck and tummy button to impressively remember someone’s name without coming across as a gawker. If it had been an Olympic sport, I would have been on the podium. 

On a steamy Saturday afternoon in late June, my wife and I joined a couple of hundred undercover naturists who had been drawn to Venice’s San Basilio dock like moths to a 60w light bulb. We greeted friends old and new like excited school children on the first day of term. We had migrated from all over the world—Canada, Germany, Australia, USA, South Africa and the UK—and in the Venetian heat, we definitely felt over-dressed. However, the queue to be processed and allowed on board was not the place to strip off. Finally, with paperwork completed and negative COVID tests in hand, we were allowed to head up the gangplank. 

"You try remembering the names of 200 naked strangers!"

By early evening, we had been successfully reunited with our luggage (yes, even naturists have to bring some clothes, though why some need two large cases for a two-week nude cruise still beats me) and joined the rest of the passengers on deck as we readied to head out into the Adriatic Sea.

“Sailaway”—that magic moment when the captain gives the nod to weigh the anchor and set the sails—is a grand occasion. As the crew set the sails (somewhat disappointingly with a push of a button rather than a hearty heave-ho) and assisted by a couple of tugs to guide us down the Grand Canal, we processed gracefully towards the open water, tourists in St Mark’s Square momentarily turning their cameras on this unexpected floating attraction. Losing the tugs, we turned south and headed to Ravenna.  

What's the fuss all about?

Many of the passengers were return sailors. In fact, according to Bare Necessities—the US travel company that has been chartering ships and organizing nude cruises for over 25 years—the passenger return rate is almost 80 per cent. A staggering number given the industry average is nearer 30 per cent. There’s a reason people keep on returning.  

As the tugs left us, the captain announced the pilot had left the ship, which was code for “OK, you can get undressed now.” 

Royal Clipper main deck

The Royal Clipper main deck © Chris Moore

Before he had finished the announcement, shirts, bras, pants, even a prosthetic arm, were lying abandoned on the deck (though I think the latter just got caught got up in the moment) and we all breathed a collective sigh of relief that sounded very much like “Freeeedom.” 

And that’s what naturism is all about. Losing one’s clothes is a very liberating feeling. As our clothes fell to the floor, so did our inhibitions and many of our life’s stresses. You really have nothing to hide and without the entrapment of clothing it’s very difficult to judge people or peg them into a certain box. It doesn’t matter what title you have (we’ve met doctors, professors and reverends), what job you do (there were anesthetists, an actress, IT and financial professionals, a former ballet dancer to name a few) or how much money you have—we are all the same.

"Shirts, bras, pants, even a prosthetic arm, were lying abandoned on the deck"

Removing our prejudices along with our underpants makes for a much more open, tolerant and respectful environment, which is why everyone is so easy to get on with and by the end of the cruise, we had met everyone else on board. Thank goodness for the name tags—all bums look pretty much the same to me. 

Meals were dressed affairs—after all, no one needs to see your nipples dipping into the salad bowl at the self-service buffet—and dinner often went late into the evening with good conversation and laughter. Groaning as we lumbered from the dining room to the bar—strangely, all paths seemed to lead to the bar—we worked off our dessert each night with dancing.

The journey through Croatia

We headed to Pula on Croatia’s Istrian Peninsula, famous for its impressive and wonderfully preserved Roman amphitheater, before hop-scotching down the coast to Game of Thrones fans’ favorite Dubrovnik and popping into Krk, Zadar, Split and Korcula along the way. Each stop offered Instagram-ready photos of colourful harbours, ancient ruins, magnificent churches and impressive walled cities.  

Shore excursions were available at every port of call for those keen to walk like sheep behind a flag carrying guide. Not our thing, so we wandered off to explore on our own. In a number of places, the ship was unable to enter the small town harbours so we were tendered to shore. The tenders shuttled back and forth to the ship, giving us enormous flexibility.

Tours to local nude beaches or naturist resorts were also offered for those who wished to feel the sand between their toes. The beaches are beautiful, though much of the Croatian coastline is pebbly and sand is only to be found at the bottom of the sea some yards away.

Adriatic

Adriatic odyssey © Chris Moore

My wife and I hired a local guide from WithLocals in Dubrovnik for a personal tour—a much more intimate, fun and rewarding way to see a new place and well worth an extra few euros. We met Anastasia the cat (google: Anastasia Dubrovnik Cat), met a local couple still living within the walls of the Old City selling an array of herbs and spices, and walked the route of Cersei’s Walk of Shame (sadly my wife declined to re-enact it). Game of Thrones fans will know what I’m talking about. 

Returning hot and sweaty from one of the excursions, we approached the ship on the tender and could see the marina platform at the back of the ship was open for passengers to swim, kayak, float or paddle.

"It’s amazing how quickly you can remove your clothing almost without breaking stride"

We boarded the ship and immediately made our way straight to the back. It’s amazing how quickly you can remove your clothing almost without breaking stride and we were on the marina deck and ready to skinny dip in the warm, aquamarine Adriatic in seconds. Our eagle-eyed crew were on hand to look out for our safety. Now this is the way to cool off after a very hot and sticky morning of plodding around historic, picturesque towns.

We climbed out of the water, toweled off, stopped off at the “we never close” bar before collapsing on our sun loungers.

“Where did we leave our clothes?” I asked my wife.

“Can’t remember,” she shrugged. Never mind. 

Parting thoughts

On the way back to Venice, we ticked off another “country visited”—San Marino. I had always associated San Marino with an easy England win in Euro qualifiers (though that’s no longer a given) and knew very little about it. What a delightful place. The charming medieval walled old town and quaint, narrow cobblestone streets set on a mountain top from where you can see for miles is worth the effort of a short hilly climb.

You can also get your passport stamped here from one of the world’s oldest—and smallest—republics, though strictly speaking it’s a tourist stamp, and some killjoy governments will tell you it’s illegal to “deface” a passport. We paid our 5 Euros for ours. 

Steering the Royal Clipper

Steering the Royal Clipper © Chris Moore

Sailing on this beautiful tall ship is a truly unique experience whether you are clothed or not. We ate delicious food, visited interesting places and enjoyed the company of like-minded people. The ability to do this sans clothes gave us a tremendous sense of freedom, relaxation and wellbeing. Our favorite location was at the stern of the ship where we would watch land slip away or the sun dip below the horizon.

We sipped rainbow colored drinks with names like “Hugo” and “Yellowbird”, not knowing exactly what was in them but remembering that too many made you forget how your legs worked. We would exchange war stories with new friends and put the world to rights. We stretched out like cats in front of the hearth and didn’t want the sun to go down—ever.

The sky was cloudless and we hadn’t a care in the world. 

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