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If you’re in the thinking-about stage of planning a charter vacation, you’re probably in the process of collecting information about the cruising ground(s) on your must-do-sometime list. How do you find out about the weather, the sailing conditions, the best itineraries? Tourist guides won’t be much help, and your local library probably doesn’t stock cruising guides.

For me, step one is visiting the Web sites of companies that have boats in areas I’m interested in; most post the kind of information I’m looking for. Check all the companies in that area; there’s plenty of info on Caribbean and U.S./Canada destinations. Save time by using the links on the lists of charter companies on sailmagazine.com. If you’re looking farther afield, try The Moorings and Sunsail for destinations worldwide, Voyage (Spain), and TMM (Belize).

Here are some other useful sites I’ve found in my cruises on the Web:
• sailonline.com has a wealth of information on all things relating to chartering, mostly bareboating: advice for first-time charterers, cruising logs from around the world, difficulty ratings for charter areas—whatever. • I’ve mentioned sailing-adviser.com in this column before. Check here for information about bare and crewed boats, booking tips, destinations, sailing licenses (if you’re thinking about Europe), and more. • charterwave.com is the Web site of Kim Kavin, an experienced journalist who is currently the charter/cruising editor of Power & Motoryacht. Not surprisingly, she focuses more on crewed charters and powerboats, but she still has useful information on bareboats in various destinations around the world. The site is well organized, the blog is interesting, and she’s not afraid to express her opinions. • Ed Hamilton is an experienced charter broker who books both bareboats and crewed boats around the world. Try his Web site, ed-hamilton.com, for basic information on both types of chartering (including costs) and on charter areas worldwide.

While I was getting ready for a charter in Greece, I started by studying the suggested itineraries on the company’s Web site. A Google search turned up sailingissues.com, which has almost everything you need to know to cruise Greek and Turkish waters, starting with figuring out which of the numerous cruising grounds is the best for you. Once I narrowed down the choices to the Ionian Sea, I supplemented my information by reading blogs on Ionian cruises (moderately helpful) and Lonely Planet’s Greek Islands volume to help me decide which islands to visit and what to do when I get there. There will, of course, be a chart briefing before we take off, so I expect there will be further refining based on unbeatable local knowledge.

I think it’s best to come to a chart briefing with your homework done and some questions in mind. Unless you’re chartering for more than a week (and even if you are), it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to see it all, and the distances you’re considering as a day’s sail may be something else entirely.

If you’ve come up with other Web sites you’ve found helpful in planning a charter vacation, please share them with other SAIL readers. Send your ideas to sailmail@sailmagazine.com, and I’ll pass them along.

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