We are a family of five with three small children. Is chartering a valuable way to learn to sail as a family, or are there better methods? I have contacted a couple of charter companies who have tried to talk me out of it. What do you think?
Dan Dickison responds:
Sailing vacations are a great way to share time with your family--if you're a capable sailor. Imagine you and your wife trying to keep track of three small children while you attempt to navigate an unfamiliar vessel through a difficult seaway. Is this the vacation you want? I suspect not. When you give it that kind of spin, it's understandable that some charter companies would want to discourage you from choosing their services as a means of becoming acquainted with the sport.
Chartering a sailboat by yourself isn't the safest way to learn to sail. You'd be much better off starting with lessons the first year and then planning a charter after you have a little sailing experience under your belt. Or, if you're dead-set on chartering, why not sign up for a crewed or captained charter? This way you can enjoy yourself with your family and get a little instruction if you want it without any of the headaches of minding someone else's $600,000 possession.
The other option would be to consider vacationing at a place where you can get some instruction early in your stay, and then, if you prove capable, you can take a boat out overnight just to get a taste of the chartering experience. Places like the Bitter End Yacht Club in the British Virgin Islands will teach you to sail on small boats for the first few days of your stay, after which you retire to on shore accommodations. Then, on one of your last days there, they'll put you aboard a 30-footer and let you take it out for the night. There are numerous resorts like this that offer stay-and-sail packages, you just need to let the proprietors know that you need instruction first. Here's hoping you find a good outlet for your familial interest in the sport.