If your goal is to be able to charter a boat in your dream destination, nothing will prepare you better than a sailing course taught on a charter boat. Working on a charter boat, your instructor can walk you through the entire charter process, from chart briefing and provisioning to the final return. And who’s to say your class can’t be in that dream locale?
“We use charter boats to teach on because it gives us flexibility to teach in many different locations,” says Carol Cuddyer, co-owner of Sea Sense, a boating school for women. “Chartering gives us the opportunity to teach in places where we all dream of sailing, like Tahiti, Greece, the Pacific Northwest, the south of France and all over the Caribbean.”
Offshore Sailing School has been teaching out of The Moorings’s base in the British Virgin Islands for over 37 years. “Our students gain familiarity with the British Virgin Islands, which is probably the most popular charter area. This gives them that extra confidence when coming back to charter in the same area,” says Doris Colgate, CEO and president of Offshore Sailing School in Ft. Myers, Florida.
When I took Sea Sense’s course in the BVIs, in addition to the regular instruction, we also enjoyed fabulous snorkeling, wonderful local cuisine and beautiful weather. Having first learned to sail on my father’s 26-footer with an outboard motor, sailing a Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 45 was a great way to gain confidence dealing with an inboard motor and the other systems found on larger boats. By the time I returned to the BVIs the following year, handling a charter boat was second nature and navigating the area was a piece of cake.
“Over 90 percent of our customers say they intend to charter within the next two years, and most in the next 12 months,” Colgate says. “This is largely due to the fact that they feel comfortable with the area where they learned, the boats they learned on and the culture of the charter company.”
Even for boat owners, chartering can be challenging. The boats are often bigger, the cruising grounds unfamiliar and the process alien. This is where a sailing course can make all the difference.
“There is no question that courses taught on charter boats are definitely ‘pre-charter prep’ courses,” Cuddyer adds. “We teach students how to go over the boat with the charter company representative. Our instructors teach what to be aware of and what information is critical, including questions that the charter company rep might ask the charterer. We talk about what to look for equipment-wise and what questions to ask the charter company. During the course we get into what the charter company is responsible for, what they provide, and what happens if something breaks.”
Colgate agrees: “Our students are exposed to the charter process from the moment they arrive to their departure date. They are given a boat check-out, attend the chart briefing or go through a one-on-one chart briefing with our instructors, learn about provisioning and stowing, where they can and cannot anchor, how to be self-sufficient while out cruising, and the responsibilities of bringing the boat back clean and neat before going through the final check-out.”
Courses on charter boats can also prepare you for sailing on a bigger boat than you might otherwise sail in class. “We teach on 43-51 foot boats with three to four cabins,” Colgate explains, “so students leave knowing how to handle the type and size boat they will likely charter with family and friends in the future.”
Many sailing schools offer courses aboard charter boats. If you’ve always hesitated to charter a boat, consider a sailing course aboard a charter boat for your next vacation and see your cruising grounds expand. The possible destinations are endless.