Resort-based programs and offshore learn-to-sail schools make this sport newly popular with families, kids and landlubbers.
Families everywhere attest that sailing is a great bonding experience. According to Dave Ellis, a past participant in the Offshore Sailing School, “My teenage daughter would rather hang out with her friends than spend any time with us—except when it comes to sailing. Our family looks forward to time on the water whenever we get the chance.” With the extensive variety of learning programs available through the Offshore Sailing School and the American Sailing Association, among other groups, younger kids, too, can get in on the breezy fun.
Resort-Based Learn To Sail Programs
Both of these organizations offer learning opportunities for different ages each summer. For kids between ages 7 and 11 who stay at the Pink Shell Beach Resort & Spa (888/222-7465) in Ft. Meyers Beach, Florida with their families, Offshore Sailing School (800/221-4326) offers a “Junior Captain’s” course. The course is taught by US Sailing certified instructors, and involves practice on safe, stable Hunter 90’s (9’6″ dinghies) that emphasizes building skills and confidence and having fun. The Junior Captain’s course coincides with an adult learn-to-sail course, during which teens and adults learn on Colgate 26 sport boats.
The Offshore Sailing School has been offering instruction since 1964 and has over 100,000 graduates. Notes Doris Colgate, CEO of both the Sail and Power Cruise Schools, “In less than three days a non-sailor or boater can be qualified to handle and navigate boats up to 30 feet with confidence, and if cruising is their dream, the next step on 36-49 foot yachts can be accomplished in less than a week.” In addition to its Ft. Myers location, there are also locations in the Florida Keys and St. Petersburg, Florida; New Jersey; New York City or Upstate; Newport; the British Virgin Islands; and Abaco in the Bahamas.
If your family’s interest in sailing is strong enough to take you even further, you may want to check out the annual “American Sailing Week;” in 2006 it took place from June 16-23 in Antigua. This week-long sailing instructional gathering includes opportunities for both novice and experienced sailors. American Sailing Association (310/822-7171) staff and instructors lead casual day sails, afternoon fun races, and comprehensive clinics.
The event is offered in conjunction with Sunsail Colonna Sailing Resort in Antigua, a Sunsail property on the island’s northern tip. The British-based Sunsail (888/350-3568) is the world’s largest sailing and watersports vacation company, and Club Colonna (866/786-7370) is known for its tropical gardens, great views of the Caribbean, and alternative recreation including PADI diving, mountain biking, volleyball, and tennis.
There’s also a Kid’s Club, with activities sectioned by ages from 4 months to 17 years (no additional cost for kids 2 and up). For children 5 and older, these activities include chances to try sailing, windsurfing, and other watersports in age-appropriate rigs. As an all-inclusive resort, their prices are usually reasonable, because rates include a seven-night stay, unlimited use of sailing and watersports equipment (a big expense elsewhere), sailing instruction, meals, the kids club for ages 2-17, and hotel transfers.
Offshore Learn To Sail Programs
The remote island chain of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is an idyllic setting for another type of family sailing adventure, one in which all ages learn together. In a typical one-week learning program afloat from Barefoot Yacht Charters (784/456-9526), families will cover approximately 90 miles of cruising with distances between islands ranging from 2 to 5 hours. Anchorages on the Grenadines’ eight inhabited islands (St. Vincent, Mustique, Bequia, Canouan, Mayreau, Union, Palm Island and Petit St. Vincent) offer charming towns, villages and beaches for exploring ashore and superb restaurants for nightly dinners. Families can also spend time in the beautiful Tobago Cays, a protected marine park of five small islands on a horseshoe reef offering some of the Caribbean’s best snorkeling.
Professional skippers and ASA certified instructors work with guests to fit course work in between snorkeling, swimming, exploring and enjoying their vacation. Yachts are in the 40-foot range and offer single and double staterooms, a minimum of two bathrooms with showers and a fully equipped galley. The six-day/six-night Learn to Sail packages are available for a family of four and include: a fully-equipped yacht; the services of a professional captain/ASA certified instructor; ASA syllabus book, log book, examination & certification; provisioning for breakfast & lunch on board, ice and water; fuel, cruising taxes, mooring and dockage charges. A private chef can be hired at a cost of $90/day.
For more information about St. Vincent and the Grenadines, visit www.svgtourism.com.
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