Sail Away - March 2007
Where in the World…should you look for a summer sailing vacation away from home? Summer is a great time to explore many top cruising grounds
If I knew whether this winter’s distinctly peculiar weather in much of North America is predictive of a peculiar summer to come, by now I’d be rich, or famous, or both. What I can predict without consulting an oracle is that the extension of daylight savings time in North America (March 11 through November 4, 2007) may well extend the sailing/chartering season—at least in places where short days rather than weather issues at the beginning and end of the season discourage charterers and encourage company owners to put their boats away for the season. If you’re planning an “away” sailing vacation this summer, here are some good summer places to sail. Of course, keep in mind the year-round destinations: Florida, the Gulf Coast, and Southern California.
The Caribbean has long since come into its own as a year-round sailing destination. Charter in the summer to take advantage of the lower prices and fewer tourists; look for SAIL’s annual list of Caribbean/Bahamas summer specials in the May issue.
Northern Europe Chartering is popular in northern Europe; boats are available in England, Ireland, Scotland, France, the Netherlands, Germany, and throughout Scandinavia. If I had my druthers, I’d charter around the time of the summer solstice to experience the long days and the incredible evening light. It was distinctly chilly when I sailed in Denmark in early June, and it may be warmer later in the summer, but you’re not here to get a tan.
Mediterranean Mediterranean summers are by definition hot and in many places are notable for a mix of little wind and a strong katabatic wind from the north; nonetheless, this is when Europeans take their vacations, so book early to get ahead of the crowds. It’s cooler in June (and the water may be almost cold) and September (with warm water) and far fewer people.
Australia The Northern Hemisphere summer is winter (the drier months of May through September) in Australia’s most popular cruising ground, the tropical Whitsunday Islands. Among the benefits of chartering during the austral winter are: warm days/cool nights, brisk trade winds (a little brisker than in late September–early November), and the lack of nasty jellyfish. Cyclone season runs February through March.
French Polynesia The dry season in the tropical Pacific is roughly April through November, with stronger winds and cooler temperatures during the July–August winter. The wind moderates during April–June and September–October. The warmer, wetter summer (it’s also when there’s a risk of tropical cyclones) runs November through April.
- It’s as wintry as it gets from May through October in New Zealand’s subtropical Bay of Islands; this can mean cold nights, but the days can be delightful.
- The Phuket area of Thailand is warm, sunny, and dry from December through March/April; November and May can be somewhat showery and squally, but is fine for sheltered sailing.
- The Seychelles, located near the equator in the Indian Ocean, are a year-round destination. The driest season is May–September; the rainier season runs December through April.
You’ll find SAIL’s annual listing of U.S. and Canadian charter companies on sail magazine.com, with links to the companies’ Web sites. These are the best sources of information on the cruising grounds as well as available boats and prices. If you have unanswered questions about the sailing conditions, local attractions, special events, and just about anything else, you’ll find the companies knowledgeable and helpful. If you’re looking for a particular time slot, call sooner rather than later.
New England The usual charter season in Penobscot Bay, where most of the Maine charter companies are located, runs from mid-June to mid-September; in southern New England, it’s more like mid-May into October.
Mid-Atlantic The typical Chesapeake Bay charter season is April 1 through mid-October. Farther south—say, in the Carolinas—you’ll find boats available throughout the spring and fall.
Great Lakes In southern parts of the region, the season typically runs from the end of May through October. Farther north in U.S. and Canadian destinations, plan on mid-June through early September.
Pacific Northwest You can find a charter here from June through mid-September, sometimes May through October, weather permitting. Expect long days in early summer, especially if you head up north to Desolation Sound, and light winds in mid-summer. You’re more likely to find flotillas going to interesting places in the Pacific Northwest than in other parts of the country; cruise the Web sites if you’re interested in this kind of exploration.
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