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The Best Of Times Page 7

Charter a boat, sail your own boat; stay near home or cross the country to sample the waters. Summer is a good time to do it“To every thing there is a season,” said the writer of Ecclesiastes. If you’re reading this, you’re probably a sailor, and you don’t need me to tell you that this statement should be needlepointed on a pillow in the saloon of every sailboat. Generally,

Florida

CHARTER BASES

East Coast: Coconut Grove, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Key West, Islamorada

West Coast: St. Petersburg, Ft. Myers, Punta Gorda

Being There: Southeast Florida

Over the years, I’ve spent enough time in the state of Florida—alas, not sailing, but visiting family and friends—to have experienced the soggy temperatures and daily afternoon thunderstorms of summer and to have, on occasion, worn a wool coat in winter. Sailing may be an every-day, year-round activity in the southern part of the state, but I’ve always thought of Florida as a springtime kind of place. The truth of this was proved to me during a week’s cruise from Miami to Key West in late April.

There we found all the elements that make it a joy to charter: Sunshine, all day, every day. Easterly winds every day, but lively enough to keep us moving smartly. Water of a spectacular color—not the aquamarine of the tropics, but the deeper blue of the subtropics—and a temperature that only a Florida native could think was chilly. Clear skies at night without so much as a tinge of ambient light to interfere with the twinkling. Miles and miles of reef. Fish to catch. On our route, it was almost all seascape, bridges, and the occasional uninhabited key. Last but not least, not another boat in sight most of the time.

Sailing down the Hawk Channel, which runs between the keys on the west and the reefs to the east, reminded me of sailing in Belize, where a barrier reef similarly protects the cruising waters from the open sea. Those same reefs—another essential contributor to the joy of chartering—make an excellent playground for snorkelers and divers. Another time, perhaps, we’ll take another route and go ashore to visit the towns of the keys. We barely scratched the surface. Amy Ullrich

LOCAL KNOWLEDGE

East Coast: I like sailing in the fall, when the crowds are down, though the best sailing here is in the winter and spring. The wind is usually from the southeast, averaging 10 to 15 knots. Our winter temperatures are warm, 78 to 80; in summer it’s pretty warm and humid and can be very calm, but great for snorkeling and diving. In the course of a week, you’ll no doubt get perfect weather for everything. Pam Anderson, Treasure Harbor Marine, Islamorada

West Coast: The best time here is between November and June, when we have good weather (and not many afternoon thunderstorms), not too much rain, and good winds—usually from 10 up to 25 knots, and there’s normally an afternoon sea breeze. Charlotte Harbor is well protected by barrier islands, so there’s good sailing even when the Gulf is stormy, and there are plenty of gunkholes to explore. John de Keyser, Yachting Vacations, Punta Gorda

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