Tips for Beating the Winter Blues

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Just as southern sailors are donning light jackets and embarking on their winter racing and cruising programs, those up north are finishing winterizing their boats and contemplating the bleak prospect of swallowing the anchor for six months. This is, of course, an untenable situation for many of us, but fortunately there are a number of ways to keep the connection alive during the long, cold, boatless winter months. Check out this lot, and feel free to add your own suggestions, either by sending an email to sailmail@sailmagazine.com or on our Facebook page.

WAYS TO GET ACTIVE

Frostbiting

Go Frostbiting

Yep, even in the frozen North it’s possible to go sailing when Jack Frost has his frigid grip on the country. Many clubs and community sailing centers run frostbiting programs, so hit up Google for the one nearest you, suit up, and go for it. You’ll enjoy it, really. And the apres-sail will be just like the apres-ski, minus broken limbs.

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Go Iceboating

If you’ve never “sailed” an iceboat, you haven’t really lived. The racket of those blades clattering across the ice is the soundtrack to a quick dose of winter adrenaline, and the friendly iceboating fraternity will welcome you with open arms. There’s competition on lakes from the Midwest to New England.

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Go Landsailing

Yes, there is such a thing, and it’s especially popular in the winter. As with iceboating, there are various classes, and some of these three-wheelers can reach speeds of over 100mph. Try the North American Land Sailing Association (nalsa.org) or blokart.com for clubs and events near you.

Find a Pond

Model-yacht racing is a winter staple in many states, especially those where it’s too cold to sail but too warm to freeze. All you need is a pond, a radio-controlled yacht and some likeminded folks, and it’s regatta time. Check out the American Model Yachting Association (theamya.org) for action near you.

WAYS TO EDUCATE YOURSELF

Use the cold months to improve your knowledge of all things nautical.

Take an Online Sailing Course

Nauticed (nauticed.com), the American Sailing Association (asa.com) and US Sailing (ussailing.org) all offer online sailing courses that take you through the theory of sailing and navigation. These are a great way to start the season sharpened up and ready for anything.

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Get Knotted

Can’t tell a hitch from a bend? All you need is an armchair, a tumbler of your favorite tipple, a short length of line and a copy of The Ashley Book of Knots. You’ll soon be amazing your crew with your knot-tying prowess.

Learn to Love Your Engine

Take an in-depth online course in diesel engine know-how with Boaters University (boatersuniversity.com). You’ll learn how to maintain your engine and troubleshoot common problems. Heck, you may never have to call for a tow again.

Sew What?

Price out the cost of replacement cushions and covers for your boat, and when you’ve picked yourself off the floor, check out Sailrite’s (sailrite.com) inventory of do-it-yourself projects and kits, complete with excellent instructions. Save money and learn a valuable new skill—what could be better?

Get a Six-Pack

Sorry, not that kind. Take a classroom or online course for the OUPV/6-Pack Captain’s License, and you’ll be able to take out up to six paying passengers. Plus you’ll have learned a lot.

PLACES TO CHARTER A BOAT

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Can’t stand the snow any longer? Banish the winter blues by flying off to one of these fantastic winter charter destinations.

The Virgin Islands

Yes, the U.S. and British Virgins took a hammering from hurricanes Irma and Maria, but many charter bases are now open again, the beach bars are back in business, and it’s a great time to experience the islands minus mass tourism. Plus, the island economies depend heavily on the charter trade.

St. Vincent & the Grenadines

If you haven’t snorkeled with the turtles at the Tobago Cays, you need to remedy that. One of the Caribbean’s true gems.

Antigua

We used to mention Antigua and Barbuda in the same breath, until Irma’s eye wall went right over the latter. Antigua, though, was untouched, and there’s great sailing to be had there. Barbuda? Next year.

Belize

Mayan ruins, rainforests, amazing snorkeling on the world’s biggest barrier reef: you’ll find it all in Belize.

Thailand

Want a taste of the exotic East from the deck of your charter boat? Look no further than Thailand: the northeast monsoon winds bring dry, hot conditions from December through May.

Find out more about these destinations and more on sailmagazine.com/charter

COOL DOCUMENTARIES

Maidentrip

Tired of watching fictional sailors doing fictional things? Get back into real life with these sailing docos.

Deep Water 2006

The sad, stranger-than-fiction story of British sailor Donald Crowhurst, who lost his mind and his life during the 1968 Golden Globe race.

Maidentrip 2013

Is it possible to sail around the world alone at the age of 14? Just ask courageous Dutch sailor Laura Dekker.

Hold Fast 2010

A funny, anarchic odyssey through the process of finding and “fixing” a fixer-upper, then sailing the aptly named Pestilence from Florida to the Caribbean.

Blakey 2011

The life story of Sir Peter Blake, one of the greatest sailors of all time, who was tragically killed on the Amazon river in 2002.

Vanishing Sail 2015

A touching, beautifully filmed tribute to the once-great boatbuilding tradition of the Caribbean islands, and Carriacou in particular.

WAYS TO SAIL ONLINE

Jonesing for some competition, or just the challenge of passagemaking? Either one is just a few clicks away.

Virtual Regatta virtualregatta.com

Be your own captain and pit your skills against thousands of other players in the Volvo Ocean Race, Sydney-Hobart, Clipper Round-The-World race and other famous races. Warning: this sailing simulator can be addictive!

Naval Action navalaction.com

Take your square-rigged warship into battle, or explore and chart new shores in this complex game set in the 19th century Caribbean.

Sailaway sailawaysimulator.com

Sail your virtual cruiser across oceans in real-time, adjusting course and trimming sails to suit actual weather conditions.

Pirates of the Burning Sea portalusgames.com

Beware—you are just one of thousands of pirates out for pillage and plunder in this swashbuckling game.

Sail-X sailx.com

3 Sailing Board Games

Sharpen your sailing skills and tactics against other sailors, including many real-life sailing stars. 

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Nautical Trivia nauticaltrivia.com

Test your knowledge of boats and sailing scenarios with this fun game. It’s tricky enough to keep everyone engaged, but by no means for experts only.

Sail Away shop.mattel.com

You’re a Caribbean captain trying to keep one step ahead of pirates and shipwreck, amass as much treasure as you can and bring your cargo home safely. Roll the dice…

Yachting Sailing Board Game 1890 tintoyarcade.com

Get kids as young as 3 involved in this easy, fun game. Take your classic yacht around the bay by spinning the wheel.

10 TERRIFIC SAILING BOOKS

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Salty reads for winter evenings

Desperate Voyage by John Caldwell

Non-sailing merchant seaman trapped in Panama at the end of WWII buys a sailboat and heads for Australia to find his true love, surviving storms and starvation.

South Sea Vagabonds by John Wray

Youngster scrounges up materials from New Zealand beaches, builds a boat in his yard, sails off into the sunset. Inspirational adventure tale.

Wanderer by Sterling Hayden

Troubled movie star escapes Hollywood to sail the South Seas with his four children. A candid autobiography.

Mischief in Patagonia by H.W. Tilman

Middle-aged climber sails to the mountains of Chile on an elderly wooden boat lives to tell the tale. A study in triumph over adversity.

The Boat Who Wouldn’t Float by Farley Mowat

Man buys a boat hoping to sail the world, is trapped by never-ending refit instead. Luckily, he has a sense of humor.

Down Channel by R.T. McMullen

Vivid evocations of 19th-century cruising in small boats around the English coast, by a fine writer who literally died at the tiller, doing what he loved best.

The Lonely Sea and the Sky by Sir Francis Chichester

Solo sailor, solo flyer, cancer survivor and one hell of a tough guy, the iconic British sailor lays out his life story in this engrossing read. They don’t make ‘em like that anymore.

Ice Bird by David Lewis

Want to sail around Antarctica alone in a 30ft steel boat with minimal heating, a fickle engine and no instruments? Me neither, but Lewis did, crazy Kiwi that he was.

Tamata and the Alliance by Bernard Moitessier

Probably the least-known of the great sailor/philosopher’s books, this is a reminiscence of a life lived without boundaries.

The Proving Ground by G. Bruce Knecht

Harrowing story of the ill-fated 1979 Sydney-Hobart race, sailing’s “perfect storm;” reads like a page-turning thriller. 

December 2017

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