Summer is a-coming in

Eventually. But now, as this issue of SAIL is arriving in your mailbox, is the time to start making plans for Summer ’09 if you’re thinking about a charter cruise in southern New England. The cruising grounds range from Massachusetts to Rhode Island to Connecticut, and the waters are chockablock with iconic destinations: the big, inhabited islands (Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, and Block Island) and the smaller ones (Cuttyhunk and the Elizabeth Islands), the towns of Cape Cod and the Connecticut shore, and the many attractions of Narragansett Bay.

There are a number of good reasons why, generally speaking, most cruising here isn’t suitable for beginners. Many of the popular destinations involve open-water passages of some length (though with plenty of attractive stopping places in between, depending on your route); fortunately, there are plenty of options that will keep you closer to the coast and covering shorter distances. Then there are the inevitable New England challenges: rocks and shoals, big tides and currents, the possibility of fog, and plenty of other cruisers competing for moorings.

And then there’s the good news. Sailors have been cruising these waters for centuries. There are plenty of good cruising guides to help keep you out of trouble, among them Maptech’s Embassy Guide (New England Coast) and the Waterway Guide (Northern). If you’re looking for inspiration, track down a copy of Anthony Bailey’s lovely memoir, The Coast of Summer. And if you’re looking for shelter, cruise Narragansett Bay.

Good news #2: Although there aren’t that many charterboats in southern New England, you’re starting early enough to find one. Plan to make your calls in January or early February; Brian Blank of Bareboat Sailing Charters says he is 80 percent booked by the end of February. Contacts: Bareboat Sailing Charters, Newport, RI (; Sailboat Charter, Bristol, RI (; Sail the Sounds, Mystic, CT (; Sound Sailing Center, Norwalk, CT (

An option: Hope Swift is a charter broker who represents privately owned boats that can be chartered without a skipper, if your credentials are approved; they range in size from 32 to 46 feet (the fleet changes annually) and are usually located in the harbor of the owner’s choice; sometimes the boat can be delivered to the harbor of your choice. Hope grew up sailing in the area (and still does), so she’s familiar with all the fine points.

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