The Great Recession birthed a new concept, the “staycation,” in which you enjoyed a mini-vacation without venturing far from home. Hotels loved it because they filled empty weekend rooms, and local businesses benefited too. Today, expanding the concept a little, a staycation can also make for a great excuse to hook up with a nearby charter company and do a little sailing.
The benefits are many. First, if you drive to your sailing destination, presumably you won’t need a passport. Second, driving is usually cheaper than flying. And even if you do fly, the fare should be minimal. Beyond that, you won’t need foreign currency or knowledge of another language; the packing is bound to be lighter; you’ll be able to spend more of your vacation time sailing rather than traveling to the destination; and road-tripping, in particular, can be a great way to explore more of the United States on your way to and from your charter destination. Finally, with a little luck, you may be able to talk some otherwise reluctant friends into joining you and sharing expenses. You may even be able to bring a pet.
Of course, one obvious way to “staycate” (OK, I may be taking this too far) is to hop on your own boat. However, if you don’t have one, or want a change of scenery, think about chartering. Finding bareboat charter organizations is easy on Google. And although it may be a little harder to get the necessary word-of-mouth about a smaller company’s personnel or fleet quality, you may be surprised at what you can find out by asking friends or fellow yacht club members. Same thing with the merits of a particular cruising destination.
The good news is that there are plenty of bareboat outfits out there to choose from, including in such locales as Maine, the Upper and Lower Great Lakes, the Chesapeake Bay or the Pacific Northwest. For spring charters, you might also want to consider Miami or Southwest Florida in the Fort Myers area. As a side note, one of the nice things about small private companies is their focus on personalized service and the fact they often have boats of all sizes, which in turn can make for a great experience.
Of course, you can also go with a tried-and-true large company, like Sunsail, the Moorings or Dream Yacht Charters. For those in the Pacific Northwest, for example, Sunsail has a base in Vancouver, British Columbia. Yes, it will require a government ID and different dollars. But at least the language is the same (sort of), and sailing with orcas and feasting on salmon sounds like a good choice to me. Similarly, Dream has a base in Annapolis if crab cakes are your fancy. Or you can also opt for a trip out of the company’s base in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, for a more tropical feel and some city cruising.
Yet another way to enjoy local sailing is to join a club. You can become a member with SailTime, for example, for far less than the cost of actual boat ownership, and its bases are currently in the process of upgrading to the latest Beneteau models. It also now has catamarans as well, and with the SailTime Plus program, you can reserve a boat outside your local area and home base. Along these same lines, Freedom Boat Club has 145 locations around the country. Freedom focuses heavily on small powerboats, but since they’re franchises, some now have sailboats available, and you can charter at their other locations as well.
Finally, why not try a learn-and-sail vacation? American Sailing Association schools, for example, offer three- to five-day classes around the country, in which you charter a boat with a captain and then learn while sailing, at the same time earning various different technical certifications. Another option is Colgate’s Offshore Sailing School, which focuses on performance sailing so you can hone your racing skills.
Bottom line: whatever kind of sailing you’re in to, staycations can be a great way to get out on the water without having to spend a lot of money or burn through tons of vacation time. What’s not to like about that? s
American Sailing Association – asa.com
Offshore Sailing School – offshoresailing.com
Dream Yacht Charters – dreamyachtcharter.com
Freedom Boat Club – freedomboatclub.com
SailTime – sailtime.com
Sunsail – sunsail.com
The Moorings – moorings.com