Sarah Playforth: What makes the best holiday for a deaf woman who needs a rest?

Posted on January 31, 2014

What makes the best holiday for a deaf woman who needs a rest? Definitely my Turkish gulet trip with sailing, walking and swimming and easy communication!

During my 60th year, I decided I would treat myself to three different trips away. What to do?

Barcelona for a long weekend with my daughters?

Lovely company and conversation, beautiful buildings, scrummy food – but it was a city break and I love the countryside.

New Forest cottage with my husband?

Great company again, very relaxing and gorgeous countryside – but I wanted to go abroad too.

Something just for me?

A week with two interpreter friends staying on a traditional Turkish gulet and walking around the Aegean coast and islands with the company Walking Women.

Now that sounded just right!

I travelled on the Turkish gulet, East meets West, with Meridian travel and this is the holiday I had:

No housework or cooking with evening drinks served on request – blissful.

Sumptuous meals on board with local produce and freshly caught fish – yummy.

Wonderful long walks among fields of spring flowers, peaceful shaded woods, dramatic hills and valleys by seas of turquoise and viridian – exhilarating.

Turtles and tortoises, snakes, crickets, praying mantises, butterflies, goats, turkeys (!) and storks nesting on mosques – natural wonders.

Excursions to Byzantine and Roman ruins, including the baths where Cleopatra frolicked with Mark Antony – fascinating.

Mud bath, river trip (on the river where they filmed the African Queen with Bogart & Hepburn) and a session in a Turkish hammam – relaxing.

Sunrises, sunsets, moonrises, moonsets over the sea – amazing.


But – I was the only deaf woman there and was patronised, ignored and “studied” like some weird zoo creature by some of the hearing women. Not easy to use my usual tactic of walking away on a boat, not having any miraculous abilities. The lovely memories were mixed up with not so lovely ones. What to do?

The answer was obvious – the only way to make this holiday total perfection for me was to organise it with only women who could sign. In 2012 the first Sarah’s Signing Sail was arranged, a second trip followed the year after and next May 2014 will be the third – will it be the last?

It’s not easy to describe the effect this holiday has on the women who come but they describe it to me in words and phrases like “bliss” “total relaxation” “a real escape” “lovely company” “my best holiday ever” “can I come again” or just “wow”. For me, it is all of these and more.

The flight from Gatwick to Dalaman is just over four hours and the minibus that takes us to Fethiye to the gulet is about two hours more – all in all less time than it takes to travel between Sussex and Cumbria.

Fethiye harbour is full of boats of all sizes and ours is very easy to spot, with its brilliant yellow sails and awnings.


Anne (from Wigan) co-owns the boat with Adil (from Turkey) and they have an all male crew of first mate, chef and cabin boy.

Before the first Signing Sail, several emails went between Anne and me to explain how communication would work, how the deaf women coming would be alerted in case of alarm (no there is no need for a hearing interpreter to share with each deaf woman – and there were only three interpreters anyway).

There was still some apprehension, but all the concerns had disappeared by the second day and communication flowed smoothly. The crew looked after us with care and courtesy, learnt how to get our attention and soon began to try the odd sign with us.

Anne is a delightful hostess and led all the walks with knowledge and care, she worked so hard to make sure we would all have a good time.

The cabins are comfortable and all ensuite and the deck has all you need for relaxation in or out of the sun.


Yes, there are holidays arranged for deaf people but this one is for women only. There is something very special about the combination of stress free communication, and being completely free of work, domestic, social and caring responsibilities.

That fatigue from using up our “communication energy” in our lives melts away and the memories are unforgettable.

sarah2-wSarah Playforth is the Chair of East Sussex Disability Association (ESDA) and the Director of the Deaf Cultural Outreach Group (DeafCOG). Click here to read her blog.

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