A warm breeze across the deck and an azure sea are enough for me, and it’s what I remember most when I’m not on the water. But for many sailors, a long-awaited vacation had better include more than tropical isles and quiet anchorages. That’s why charter companies have been experimenting with new twists on weeklong adventures to cater to a variety of guests’ other interests. Whether it’s food, wine tasting, athletic activities or sailing with the purpose of learning, you and your group can probably find a tailored charter packed to the gills with stuff to do both all day and into the night.
Many companies specialize in flotillas that combine the fun and safety of sailing with a group and the excitement of exploring new places while running your own boat. Some companies offer a lead boat (with a captain, a mechanic and a hostess) that guides up to 12 vessels on an itinerary developed with the help of their extensive local knowledge. Other companies like Zescapes put a captain on every vessel, set an itinerary and help new sailors learn what cruising is all about.
For an additional twist, Sunsail recently launched a “rum flotilla” in the British Virgin Islands, an eight-day cruise that visits such renowned rum hotspots as the Callwood distillery in Cane Garden Bay and arranges rum-pairing dinners at Ocean’s 7 Beach Club on Cooper Island and the Bitter End Yacht Club on Virgin Gorda. Five flotillas are planned in 2017, with departure dates in June, July, November and December.
If on the other hand, sangria is more your speed, during the months of July, August and September, Sunsail is also offering flotillas in Mallorca in the Balearic Islands. Cathedrals, stern-to mooring, caves and paella will be served up in spirited sailing conditions in the Mediterranean.
Oenophiles, Foodies and Athletes
Everyone likes to eat, and some foodies can think of nothing else but sampling local cuisines while on charter. Again, Sunsail is serving up ways to get the local scoop on food and wine for a memorable cruise that will satisfy the palate. Two tours in Croatia (Dubrovnik and the Dalmatian Coast) and one along the Neapolitan coast of Italy offer visits to vineyards and wineries with tastings of almonds, olives, grapes, figs and handcrafted meals. Supplements to regular flotilla pricing apply.
On a more active note, other companies now offer learn-to-dive or kiteboard lessons as part of their charter itineraries. Call to ask about these kinds of combination sails and look for more of these offers as younger charterers seek ways to burn energy.
Learning and Racing
Most charter companies offer crewed charters and sailing instruction. Many others, like LTD Sailing in Grenada, also offer on-the-water classrooms with instruction and ASA certification by the week’s end. However, if you’re not looking for certification and just want to see if chartering is for you, Horizon Yacht Charters in Antigua now offers what it calls a “gentle introduction” to sailing, a three-day charter that allows you and a friend to spend two days and two nights aboard with a “coach.” For newbies and those who are curious about sailing but not entirely committed to the idea, this is a great starting point.
Speaking of Antigua, Dream Yacht Charter is now the official sponsor of the island’s annual Sailing Week, and while it may be too late for this year’s 50th anniversary event, you still have plenty of time to charter a boat for next year’s festivities to race or just spectate as serious rock stars blast by. The parties alone are renowned and the mix of professional and newbie sailors is like no other on Earth.
Finally, The Moorings has the America’s Cup wrapped up with crewed charters providing front-row seating in Bermuda. From mid-May to early July you can book a cabin aboard a Moorings 4800 or 5800 for an all-inclusive luxury charter. You can also buy tickets to various land-based spectator experiences including the Louis Vuitton qualifiers.
It’s tempting to pack as much into your hard-earned time off as possible, and specialty charters are a great way to maximize your time away. Just remember that the view across the deck is what you’ll miss most once back at your desk, so take the time to savor the quiet times as well.
Dream Yacht Charter Antigua Sailing Week dreamyachtcharter.com
Sunsail Rum cruises, foodie flotillas, Mallorca flotilla sailing sunsail.com
The Moorings Crewed charters for America’s Cup moorings.com
Horizon Yacht Charters Three-day introduction to sailing horizonyachtcharters.com
LTD Sailing Full instruction in Grenada and the Grenadines ltdsailing.com
Zescapes Charter fleet sailing zescapes.com