(published March 2014)
Sailing on other peoples’ boats (chartering) for a summer vacation somewhere you have always dreamed of exploring is a great way to experience something new. Even if you have your own boat at home, chartering opens up doors to experiences that you may never have otherwise.
In the summertime, the charter companies in the Caribbean and Mexico offer off-season rates that can make a week or 10-day vacation very affordable. Even though the summer is hurricane season, tropical activity is usually light and sporadic through the end of July and only really starts to get active in late August and September. Also, plane fares to and from the tropics in summer are the lowest of the year.
The Bahamas are wonderful in the summer since the weather is always mild and the trade winds tend to blow steadily from the east. The charter bases are in the Abacos, which are easily reached by plane from south Florida.
The summer is the time to charter in Europe. There are bases all over the the Med and you can spend a lovely week or two exploring Croatia, Turkey, Greece, Italy, France or the coast of Spain. Seeing Europe from the water is cruising at its best.
Or if you want something truly exotic, then chartering in French Polynesia in July puts you in the islands during the festival season and you will be enchanted by the dance, music and sporting competitions that take place between the islands.
For most of us, chartering closer to home makes more sense and you will find that charter companies around America have great boats and great programs to offer. How about taking the kids to Washington DC to visit the capitol and then take a few days to cruise the Chesapeake? Or, fly to Seattle to explore the city and then take a week on Puget Sound where the eagles and whales will take your breath away. Or, you can head to Lake Huron’s North Channel for wild, freshwater cruising on one of the most pristine cruising grounds in the world.
Charter vacations in unique locations are a great way to get the family together to build memories that will last forever.
LEARN TO SAIL BETTER
Summertime is also the season for building sailing skills so you can expand your sailing horizons. There are two tracks in the U.S. for sailing education, one is provided by the American Sailing Association that has affiliated schools all over the country and in the Caribbean. The ASA program is oriented toward beginners and cruisers.
U.S Sailing offers a sailing curriculum that is used by many of the country’s larger schools such as the Offshore Sailing School and J World. The courses go from introductory to advanced and can lead you on a cruising or a racing track. If you are thinking of heading to Europe for a charter, then having a certificate from a U.S. Sailing certified school and U.S. Sailing overseas insurance is a great way to go.
Sailing schools can provide great family vacations since they offer different courses for a variety of skill levels. You may already be a competent sailor and only need to brush up on some skills. Or your partner or children may need to start at a more basic level, so you can choose courses that fit everyone’s needs.
It is a good idea for couples to take courses separately so they can learn without distraction and then compare notes at the end of the day.
Getting your children enthusiastic about sailing can really help with family sailing adventures and will give them access to a sport and a lifestyle that can last a lifetime. Community sailing and boating centers can be found all over America where young people can join month long programs that will teach them to sail and teach them many important life skills. Also, many private yacht clubs open their doors to non-members for the summer sailing programs to build their numbers and defray their costs.
Whether you are chartering near or far with family and friends or building skills by attending a sailing school or a community sailing program, summertime is sailing time and we hope you GO AWAY, sailing, that is.
To learn more about sailing school programs or programs that will help you build the specific cruising or racing skills log on to: www.ussailing.org or www.asa.com
To find a sailing school or community sailing program near you log onto: www.ussailing.org