Follow the Fun: Best August Festivals for Yacht Crew

14 July 2022 By Sara Ventiera
Burning Man 2015
Credit: BLM Nevada

Sara Ventiera is a contributing writer and former stewardess who covers food, travel, and other topics. Her work has appeared in a wide range of publications, including the New York Times, Food & Wine, NPR, Eating Well, and BBC Travel.

Although summer is considered by many professions to be the season of relaxation with short summer Fridays, long weekends, and multi-week holidays, in yachting, it’s one of the busiest, most tiring times of the year. No matter where a vessel is, chances are the guest trips are frequent and days are long, stretching from the predawn hours to well after sunset — especially in the Mediterranean Sea.

For some boats, August is the beginning of the end of the season as boss trips and charters start winding down toward cross-ocean deliveries, yard periods, and boat shows. Late summer and early fall probably aren’t the ideal times for taking a vacation; however, for crew who might get a handful of days off as a thank you for a hard-worked season, it is prime festival season all across the globe. From chowing down on lobster in Maine and burning down the Playa in the Nevada desert to watching world-class comedies at a historic live theater festival, here are the best festivals around Europe and the United States to explore this month and beyond.

Credit: Maine Lobster Festival

Maine Lobster Festival

Rockland’s Harbor Park, Maine, USA | August 3–7

Maine offers stunning views of its islands and wildlife, gorgeous lighthouses, and beautiful fog — which is much easier to appreciate when not underway. However, one of the greatest aspects of sailing Maine during the summer is the abundance of sweet, coldwater lobster. Rockland Harbor locals have been celebrating those coveted crustaceans since 1947 when the Maine Lobster Festival was founded. During its five-day celebration, attendees will eat their way through 20,000–25,000 pounds of lobster, all freshly caught by local lobstermen. While the food is certainly the focus of the blowout, when visitors are not stuffing their faces, they spend time checking out maritime displays and demonstrations, perusing arts-and-crafts vendors, taking a harbor cruise, cheering on competitors in the lobster crate race in the harbor, and listening to live entertainment. And on opening night, the fest gets its start with the crowning of the Maine Sea Goddess, a kitschy local tradition that can certainly make for some killer Insta content.

How to get there: Concord Coach offers bus service to Rockland from Boston, Portland, and other New England cities twice daily. Cape Air offers frequent flights to Knox County Regional Airport (RKD), which is about five miles from downtown Rockland.

iStock/Bob Douglas

Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Edinburgh, Scotland | August 5–29

Most frequently referred to as Fringe, this annual summer festival in Scotland that has been running since 1947 is one of its most popular and coveted live theater events on the planet. The nearly month-long event, which has branched out to other major cities — including New York City and Los Angeles — features more than 50,000 performances and shows in more than 300 venues throughout the city of Edinburgh. These performances include circuses, cabarets, musicals, exhibitions, and more. Critically acclaimed dramatic comedy Fleabag got its start at Fringe as creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s one-woman show. Well-known actors like Alan Rickman, Russell Brand, Steven Coogan, Rachel Weisz, Robin Williams, and dozens more have been discovered in its iconic comedies over the decades.

When former stewardess Joanna Jessica Zuczkiewicz, who studied theater in high school and university, found herself with some time off in Europe after leaving a job toward the end of season, she flew to Edinburgh just to go to Fringe. “I wanted to see the festival because it’s renowned for having a lot of amazing artists,” she says. “It was inspiring and thought-provoking.”

Zuczkiewicz visited the city for three days and tried to pack in as many shows as she could. Two of the three days she was in town, she studied the calendar and picked the shows she wanted to see most. “Just like any festival, you pick what you want to see and work around it, running from place to place,” she says. “You’re sticking to a schedule.”

She checked out a cool art installation, a movie about ice climbing, and saw a lot of comedy, one of the biggest draws of the famous festival.

Like every other Edinburgh Fringe Fest, this year brings a wide range of hotly anticipated performances such as nu-cabaret “La Clique;” “Liz Kingsman: One-Woman Show,” described by The Guardian as a “whip-smart” take on the genre, and “Nish Kumar: Your Power, Your Control” that comedically explores the comedian’s struggles with mental health after having a bread roll thrown at him, getting booed off-stage, and receiving death threats because of an onstage Brexit joke.

How to get there: There is a large range of low-cost airlines that fly from numerous destinations across Europe including easyJet, Jet2, Ryanair, and Norwegian. The city is also easy to reach via National Rail.

Credit: Zelie Noreda

Festival Rock en Seine

Paris, France | August 25–30

Marking the end of summer vacation for many Parisians, this annual music festival at the gorgeous Domaine de Saint-Cloud has been one of the largest European festivals for nearly 20 years. Every day, nearly 40,000 festivalgoers, from kids to grandparents, head out to see photo and poster exhibitions, a mini children’s fest, conferences, debates, great food, and, of course, world-class musical acts. This year, the lineup includes big names such as Arctic Monkeys, James Blake, Tame Impala, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Stromae, Kraftwerk, Jamie xx, La Femme, The Blaze plus FKJ, Aurora, DIIV, Los Bitchos, Malik Djoudi, Jehnny Beth, The Limiñanas, and much more.

But the biggest news for the festival’s much-anticipated post-pandemic return is that Rage Against The Machine will make their long-awaited return to Rock en Seine on Tuesday August 30 — 30 years after their start. “Once again, Rage Against The Machine has chosen Rock en Seine for their national exclusive show…” Matthieu Ducos, GM of Rock en Seine Festival, said in a release. “It’s been 14 years since their last performance at the festival in 2008 and so the anticipation for them to return back to France couldn’t be greater. We are so excited that this legendary band is now joining the already amazing Rock en Seine 2022 line up.”

How to get there: The festival is easily accessible by public transport from across Paris via the Metro Line 1 to Pont de Saint-Cloud or Tram Line T2 to Parc de Saint-Cloud. As one of the biggest transportation hubs in Western Europe, Paris is easily accessible by plane, train, and bus from around Europe.

Credit: Jayson Barangan, BLM Arizona

Burning Man

Black Rock Desert, Nevada, USA |  August 28 – September 5

Originating in 1986, Burning Man has garnered a following of ardent devotees. Self-proclaimed “Burners” often don futuristic-styled Mad Max-esque outfits during the event and frequently make the pilgrimage-like trek to the festival’s home Black Rock Desert. Every year, around 70,000 paid participants head toward the temporary city known as Black Rock City, which is erected on the eponymous semi-arid alkali flats located a three-hour drive north of Reno.

What is essentially a festival in the middle of nowhere is known as a celebration of art, self-expression, and creativity. The summer tradition features music and art, ranging from sculptures to towers, along with the building of an entire city. Participants are told to bring everything they need and enough to share — many of its 10 principals focus on “radical self-reliance,” “decommodification,” and “civic responsibility.”

Yacht crew are especially adept at these sorts of skills from long owner trips at sea and charter, according to the “Smart-Ass Yacht Stewardess” behind blog Aft Decks & Anchors in an a post titled “The Burner Yachtie: Why Yacht Crew Excel at Burning Man.” She says:

“Peek inside all of your hatches, cabinets, and under-bed storage. Are they filled with every ounce of crap you could ever need while you’re away from shore? Most likely. Never get caught with your pants down in front of guests. They pay you to think of everything.

Just as you are limited by the [number] of hidey-holes you have on board, you’re limited to your duffle bags and mode of transportation out to the Playa. When you’re stumbling around in the dark and trip over that unlit rebar, you’ll be glad you packed those extra-large Band-Aids and tube of ointment.”

At the end of every Burning Man festival, “the man” — a large wood effigy — is burned to the ground, as well as the rest of the event grounds.

How to get there: It takes nearly 65 hours to reach Black Rock City from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. While Burners arrive by creative modes of transportation, from bicycle to private jet, the easiest way to get there is to fly to Reno, rent a car, and make the three-hour trip to the Playa. Because it’s so busy, it’s advised to book a car earlier and arrive far in advance to set up your camp.

Credit: Flydime

La Tomatina

Buñol, Spain | August 31

Have you ever dreamed of getting involved in a citywide food fight? Probably not. But on the last Wednesday of every August, tens of thousands of people from across the globe pack themselves into the tiny city of Buñol (on the outskirts of Valencia) to hurl more than 100 metric tons of over-ripe tomatoes in the streets in what’s been dubbed the “World’s Biggest Food Fight.”

The tradition has been taking place since the mid-1940s in the center of town at Plaza del Pueblo and has been banned off and on over the years, but that has never stopped locals from participating in the event. This year, it’s back after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic with the fight starting right around 11 a.m. when trucks bring in the fruit and water cannons signaling the start of the fight fire. While the festival is not supposed to start until someone has climbed to the top of a two-story high, greased up pole to reach the coveted ham at the top (which starts at 9 a.m.), most people ignore that part of the day because it’s rare that anyone actually gets the ham. The every-man-for-himself fight usually stops after an hour.

Most visitors come just for the day from Valencia, but those who want the full experience should stay in Buñol, a medieval town of about 9,000 residents, for the week-long celebration that includes music, dancing, parades, fireworks, and more. The night before the fight, there’s a paella cooking competition where women traditionally dress in white, and men go out bare chested.

Although it sounds very wasteful — and in many ways is — the tomatoes used for this battle are grown specifically for the event, not for food, and are brought in from all over the country from farmers who need income. “If there was no La Tomatina, tomatoes would not be planted,” María Vallés, councilor for tourism and La Tomatina, told Lonely Planet. “The production and purchase of these tomatoes translates into jobs in agriculture.”

How to get there: Fly or take a train or bus to Valencia, then take the nearly 40-kilometer train ride west to Buñol. Joining a tour is one of the most affordable ways to partake in the celebrations. Dozens of companies cover every detail from transport and entrance tickets to the multi-day party.

Time to start planning that long weekend trip.

For crew who can’t take time off in August, here are some top-notch international festivals to explore this fall:

The Oxford Wine Festival, September 9–10, Oxford, United Kingdom: Experience more than 40 wine merchants and producers under one historic roof with tastings of wines from regions as varied as Champagne and Georgia.

Oktoberfest, September 17–October 3, Munich, Germany: This infamous beer festival is celebrated all over the world, but nothing compares to the original, which is celebrated at biergartens, pubs, and restaurants all across the city.

La Mercè, September 23–26, Barcelona, Spain: Originating in the Middle Ages, this fall street festival that honors the Roman Catholic feast day of Our Lady of Mercy boasts street parades, live music, fireworks, and human towers along with giant, human-operated wooden puppets.

New York City Wine & Food Festival, October 13–16, New York, USA: Over four days, 500 chefs, ranging from Daniel Boulud and Alain Ducasse to Scott Conant and Carla Hall, participate in more than 80 culinary events for 45,000 attendees.


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