Charter

Oh, the Places You Can Go

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With daily news about the increasing awfulness of the economy, this seems the wrong time to be planning an exotic charter vacation in a far-away place. But it’s not the wrong time to think about it in a recreational sort of way. I like to think about particularly successful or unusual charters of the past, hoping that at some happier moment they will turn into charters of the future. Meanwhile, there’s my kayak, that most frugal form of boating.

South Funen (Fyn) Archipelago, Denmark

“You should have been here last week” was the recurring comment from every local we ran into. But “last week” wouldn’t have included the summer solstice, or Sankt Hans aften (St. John’s Eve), which includes bonfires and cheerfully alcoholic celebrations by families, teenagers, new high school graduates, and just about everyone else. Well, we weren’t there last week, when apparently the weather was more promising, but our chartered boat had electric heat that quickly dried our soggy foulies (this was before miracle fabrics) and warmed the beds.

We sailed in quite protected waters among the islands of the archipelago and between mainland towns and followed a routine that was easy to take. In the morning someone would walk into town to pick up Danish (of course) pastries at the local bakery, and everywhere we stopped there were hot showers nearby. Bicycles were readily available, and on one island we (the only boat) tied up at the dock and found bikes and a basket in which to put the small fee requested.

Our evening stops were planned for their proximity to attractive inns that offered dinner. It would take careful planning and a good travel guide to reproduce this scheme, but it could be done. The nights at this latitude (55N, about the equivalent of southern Alaska) are bright enough for photography, and the days on the water are like sailing in a landscape painting. A Web search will turn up plenty of charter companies serving Denmark’s several cruising grounds.

Southeast Alaska

Sailing in Southeast Alaska is a combination of whale watching and bear avoidance. I sailed on the 92-foot schooner Maple Leaf (built 1904), owned by Kevin and Maureen Smith, on a cruise that began in Juneau and ended in Prince Rupert, British Columbia. A naturalist is always part of the crew, and hikes (and bear avoidance) are always part of the itinerary. We were lucky to have particularly benign weather that opened up a number of possibilities outside the protected passages. Did I mention eating? It takes a good amount of fuel to stay warm this far north and, for me, a heavy fleece suit to wear almost all the time. Fortunately, food is important on Maple Leaf, and excellent too.

Maple Leaf offers a number of itineraries during the season as she sails from the Gulf Islands up the Inside Passage to Juneau and back. www.mapleleafadventures.com

Options: If there are any bareboats in Alaska, they are few and far between. There are some crewed boats that work in the area. Query “bareboat charters Alaska” and you may just come up with something. Or contact Ocean Voyages (www.oceanvoyages.com), a broker that works with a number of crewed sailboats in Alaska.

Croatia

Croatia has earned its popularity by offering spectacular architecture, good food, and islands galore—and by taking care of its waters. Those waters are actually the Adriatic Sea, though for sailing purposes Croatia is usually lumped into the Mediterranean, whose climate and sailing conditions it shares. For planning purposes, keep in mind that seemingly half of Croatia is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the other half ought to be. There are many places you’ll want to explore.

It was hot when I sailed there in June a number of years ago, but heat couldn’t keep us from walking the walls of Dubrovnik or searching for ice cream and Marco Polo on Korcula, his probable birthplace. The antidote was the Kornati National Park, an archipelago of about 150 islands that remain mostly denuded since the Venetians cut down the trees to build ships. The swimming is wonderful.

June remains a good time to cruise in Croatia; it is less crowded early in the summer than later. Many European companies offer bareboats in Croatia; more familiar names to U.S. sailors include The Moorings, Sunsail, and Kiriacoulis Mediterranean.

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