Looking for something new and exciting oudoor activity (lifestyle actually) to learn? Swimming and spending some time under the sun can be fun, but it could get old rather quickly. And you can do both at the same time if you’re willing to explore the great sport/hobby/lifestyle of the sailboat cruiser.
Sailing has increased in popularity over the years, and it’s a fun activity you can do with your whole family. The sailboat charter business in the Caribbean has exploded in the past 10-20 years. My first charter down there was about 30 years ago. Oh, how I wish it were that way again. But it will never be. Sailing is just too darn much fun.
If you want to get a taste of what all these new sailboat cruisers are loving, you’ll need to learn to sail (or hire a captain to run your chartered sailboat). Chartering sailboats without a captain is known as a “bareboat charter”. But obviusy these charter companies won’t just hand you the keys and off you go. They want to know your level of experience and what classes you may have taken. Signing up for sailing classes and learning the basics of sailing is a great start. You’ll still need experience on the bigger boats that are typically chartered in the Caribbean, but you have to start somewhere.
Sailing isn’t just a hobby. It’s also a rewarding experience, allowing you the unique opportunity to control a sailboat and travel to places most people will never see. This is particularly true if you choose to sail alone. The thought of traveling in the middle of the ocean single-handed can seem intimidating, and it is. But single-handed ocean sailing is way down the road in your sailing journey. First you’ll want to take family and friends with you, which makes for a very memorable sailing experience.
As mentioned, it is important that you get the needed experience to charter. Taking sailing lessons before you set sail is a solid way to get started. I can tell you from first-hand experience that the level of sailing skills of the charter fleet in the Caribbean has decreased dramatically as more people take up the sport. And I don’t mean to sound elitist by saying that. It’s an observation I’ve seen first-hand (you can find some of the stories elsewhere on this site) and I think it’s accurate.
It is important to understand that there are separate lessons for adults and kids. The classes normally take several weeks to complete. If you plan on taking your kids with you, be sure to find a sailing school that offers lessons for kids so they can be properly educated.
To find a sailing school near you, just load up Google and search “sailing schools [type your area]”. When finding a school, your first order of business is to ensure that it is accredited. There may be a lot of sailing schools in your area, but not all of them are created equal. Visit some marinas, look for online reviews and best of all, talk to people who’ve been to the school you’re considering. The American Sailing Association (ASA) can also provide you a list of accredited schools in your area.
It is also important to keep in mind that there’s an age and height requirement in order to enroll in a sailing school. If your kids are under the age of three, then you shouldn’t even consider taking them with you. They are too young and probably too small to do the necessary tasks involved in sailing. Children must be able to reach the sailboat’s handles and the foot landing as well. Of course, they should also know how to swim.
If you want your next vacation to be unforgettable, then you should definitely consider a sailboat charter. It does’n’t have to be the Caribbean. You can find charters pretty much near any large body of water, including the Great Lakes and the east and west coasts.
Give it a shot and come back and share your story.