The Family Way - Sail Magazine

The Family Way

Before I actually took my family on a flotilla vacation, I couldn’t understand why anyone would take their family on a flotilla vacation. The mere thought of sailing along in a group of a dozen boats, being herded like sheep into marinas by some officious lead skipper, not to mention the forced jollity with total strangers, filled me with horror. After all, one of the reasons I go sailing is to
Author:
Updated:
Original:

Before I actually took my family on a flotilla vacation, I couldn’t understand why anyone would take their family on a flotilla vacation. The mere thought of sailing along in a group of a dozen boats, being herded like sheep into marinas by some officious lead skipper, not to mention the forced jollity with total strangers, filled me with horror. After all, one of the reasons I go sailing is to get away from stuff like that. A bareboat and the freedom to go where I like, when I like—now that’s what I call a charter vacation.

But sometimes you have to sacrifice your own preferences for the greater good. The children—then aged 4 and 6—viewed sailing as a means of transport from one beach to the next, and were vocal in their dislike of the passages between anchorages. They missed their playmates and keeping them entertained while sailing the boat wasn’t much fun for the adults either. As any parent knows, if the children aren’t having fun, neither are the adults. There had to be a better way, and perhaps a flotilla was it.

About three days into our first flotilla vacation in Greece’s Ionian Sea, I was wondering what had taken us so long. The kids were playing happily with some new friends and we were exchanging war stories with their parents, who had gone flotilla sailing for much the same reasons as us. It was the beginning of a family tradition that continued for the next five years, through more flotillas in the Greek islands and Croatia.

That first charter laid to rest my preconceptions about flotilla sailing.

#1 — Flotillas are for the nautically challenged. In fact, skill levels varied as much as you’d find in any group of a dozen boats, anywhere. Boathandling caused some initial grief for small-boat sailors who had never docked a big sailboat under power, but with the guidance of the lead crew they were soon backing up to quays like old hands.

#2 — You have to sail in a pack. Not so. Flotilla skippers are completely okay with you wanting to spend the night in a different anchorage or head off on your own for a few days.

#3 — You have to spend shore time with people you don’t know. This is up to you. Apart from briefings, there are no forced get-togethers. You can join in the parties and meet other people, or keep to yourself.

#4 — You’re told when you have be in a harbor. Aside from the usual charter rule of not sailing after sunset, I’ve never found this to be the case.

There’s no doubt that many first-time charterers find the presence of an ever-cheerful lead crew—skipper, engineer and hostess—to be reassuring. Having someone on hand to help you into or out of a gnarly spot, take your lines, reset your anchor, unwind an errant dinghy painter from your propeller or unblock your toilet is a luxury that I am not ashamed to enjoy.

Knowing that local experience has gone into organizing the itinerary is also a good thing if you want to concentrate on sailing rather than route planning. No lead crew is going to take you anywhere not worth going to.

But my overriding memories of those long-ago flotilla vacations are of groups of laughing children splashing in the shallows; passing cocktails around the cockpits of three or four boats during impromptu raft-ups; and meeting good sailors who became good friends. They were great times, and proof indeed that preconceptions are often dead wrong.


Ready for a family flotilla of your own? From June 10-17, join SAIL and Sunsail on a Family Fun Flotilla in the BVIs. We’ll island hop with a Sunsail lead boat hosted by SAIL’s charter editor Meredith Laitos. In addition to hands-on sailing for kids and families, you can expect a week of family fun, including dinghy races at the Bitter End Yacht Club, paddleboarding in the Baths and treasure hunts. If you crave spectacular island scenery and sailing camaraderie for kids from 1 to 92, this is your ideal summer vacation.

To learn more about Flotilla Adventures from SAIL and Sunsail, call 800-736-9539, or click here.

Related

PICTON CASTLE under sail with stunsls WV7 compressed

Picton Castle Seeks Crew

The Picton Castle is set to begin its eighth circumnavigation this spring under the command of Captain Daniel Moreland. A professional crew of 12 will guide up to 40 trainees at a time as they learn about all aspects of sailing the bark, from steering to lookout, ...read more

DSC_0013

Ask Sail: Keel Attachments

Q: I have an early ‘70s Catalina 27. The keel bolts look pretty good. My question is, why not glass over the keel to bond to the hull rather than changing the bolts if, or when the bolts are too far gone? I haven’t seen anything on this, so could you discuss? Full-keels are ...read more

04-GOPR0511

Book Review: Sailing Into Oblivion

Sailing Into Oblivion by Jerome Rand $15.99, available through Amazon As refreshing and inspiring as Jerome Rand’s 2017-18 solo-circumnavigation may have been, his account of the voyage in the book Sailing Into Oblivion: The Solo Non-Stop Voyage of the Mighty Sparrow may be even ...read more

01-1970-Dec

50 Years of SAIL

Back in early 1970, Bernie Goldhirsh and the recently founded “Institute for the Advancement of Sailing,” publisher of an annual sailboat and gear guide, launched something called SAIL. A half-century later, a look back at the magazine’s first few years provides a glimpse into a ...read more

Photo-by-Adobe-Stockpics721-2048x

Webinar: Navigating Post-Dorian Abaco

On Thursday, October 22 at 6 pm ET, Navigare Yachting presents a webinar on what to expect from Abaco post-Dorian. The event will feature the authors of The Cruising Guide to Abaco, Steve Dodge and his sons Jon and Jeff.Hurricane Dorian hit Abaco in early September of 2019 and ...read more

LunaRossaBoat2

Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Christens “Boat 2”

Hot on the heels of the UK’s Britannia and the United States’ Patriot, Italy’s new AC75 Luna Rossa, formerly known as Boat 2, was christened in Auckland, New Zealand, this morning. As the moniker suggests, it was Team Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli’s second design. In his christening ...read more

m7803_DSCF6698-1

Challengers Christen Britannia and Patriot

October 16 proved an exciting day for America’s Cup fans with the christening of both the UK’s Britannia and America’s Patriot. Britannia will be helmed by four-time Olympic gold medalist and America’s Cup winner Sir Ben Ainslie. Olympic Gold medalist Giles Scott will serve as ...read more

HookPromo

Defender Product Spotlight: Lowrance Hook Reveal

Defender product expert Alex Lyons explains the benefits of HOOK Reveal’s new FishReveal technology: “DownScan sonar uses high frequencies to provide a picture-like image of the sea floor. The traditional sonar’s lower frequencies are best suited for locating fish in the water ...read more