Your family can sail the seven seas -- or at least one of them -- and you don't have to be rich and famous to afford it. Parents with children of all ages can experience the joy of sailing as a family either with a bareboat charter (if you have sufficient sailing expertise), a charter with an experienced captain/skipper, or, on the pricier end of the scale, an all-inclusive charter with crew and chef. There are sailing options to suit most budgets, so find you sea legs and jump aboard.
Maine Adventure Sails (tel. 800/759-9250; www.maineadventuresails.com) operates two schooners, the J & E Riggin and the Timberwind and they run a series of family focused sailing vacations out of Maine's Penobscot Bay in the spring and summer seasons. The historic windjammers offer cozy double and triple cabins with fresh linens, electric lamps, fresh water, and basins (hot and cold water showers are available on deck). Meals are cooked on board by the owners with traditional New England fare served daily. With no set itinerary or destination, the captain's route will focus on experiencing breathtaking scenery and chance encounters with marine wildlife like osprey, seals, porpoise and an occasional whale. You can help haul the anchor, set the sails, steer and navigate, or exercise the option to do nothing at all. In the evenings, the vessels will dock at quaint coastal villages or uninhabited islands so there will a chance to explore on foot or take a swim in the cool but clear waters of the Atlantic.
The three-day Kids and Family cruise from June 25-27 and again August 10- 12, 2009 will make your children forget all about television, video games, cell phones, and their fast-paced life back on land. Priced at $562 and $679 per person (adult or child) respectively, kids can help sail the boat, play old-fashioned games on deck, swim, fish, and hike on shore excursions. Their four-day Lighthouses and Lobster trip runs July 12-15 and again from July 17-20 and is priced at $765 per person. Visit up to a dozen of Penobscot Bay's 60 plus historic lighthouses, including Fort Point, Curtis Island, Pumpkin Island, Saddleback Ledge, Marshall Point, Tenants Harbor, and Owls Head. One evening, go ashore and enjoy a traditional Maine Lobster bake with all-you-can-eat lobster with all the fixings.
Cross Wind Charters (tel. 250/218-2318; www.crosswindscharters.com), located in Vancouver Island, British Columbia has a two-day overnight sailing cruise aboard The Providence, a historic tall ship, across the Gulf of Georgia from Comox to Mitlenatch Island, Lund, and Savary Island. The price tag for this adventure is C$3,675 for up to six people, which includes all onboard meals, non-alcoholic drinks, taxes, and berth accommodation. Participants are encouraged to lend a hand with sailing the ship. Visit the Mitlenatch Island Nature Preserve in the middle of Georgia Strait, the largest seabird nesting colony in the region and often referred to as "The Galapagos of the North" because of its bounty of marine and bird life. Families will likely encounter sea lions, harbor seals, and even killer whales. Next stop is Lund, a quaint harbor and picturesque historic village where the ship will anchor overnight before setting sail for Savary Island with its miles of white sandy beach and waters warm enough for a swim.
Still want to sail but are not sure that living aboard is exactly right for you and your family? Then Offshore Sailing Club (tel. 800/221-4326; www.offshoresailing.com) in Fort Myers, FL may have the perfect compromise. Book by May 1, 2009 and enjoy a five-day Florida getaway and "Kids and Teens Sail Free" course for the whole family at up to 60% off the regular price for select weeks now through September 27, 2009 staying at Hawk's Cay Resort on Duck's Key. Offshore's signature five-day Learn to Sail course provides comprehensive training on Colgate 26 sailboats in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of the Keys, and normally tuition for this course is $1,295 per person with accommodations extra.
The current special package for a family of up to six staying in a two-bedroom Conch Villa at Hawk's Cay starts including five sailing sessions for two adults and up to four children aged seven to 17 is priced at $4,070 taxes included. The course is taught in half-day sessions with time to enjoy other activities at the resort like a sandy beach lagoon, Camp Hawk for five to 12 year olds, The Cove for Tweens, an on-site dolphin experience, beautiful pools, scuba diving, snorkeling, fishing, tennis, bicycling, and a complete spa and fitness center.
If sailing the warm waters of the Aegean and exploring ancient villages whilst giving back to local communities is more your desire, then U.K.-based Responsible Travel (www.responsibletravel.com) has a family friendly sailing option that may be the perfect summer getaway. Just spring for a round-trip airfare to London and they will take care of the rest on their Cycladic Family Sailing holiday, priced from £795 to £835 per person adult or child for an eight-day adventure with departures on May 23, July 25, and August 1, 8 and 22, 2009. This price includes round-trip flights from London to Athens (£545-£575 excluding flights); ground transportation; seven nights aboard a traditional Greek caique sailing boat in cabins with private bathrooms and breakfast daily. The boat tours various islands. visiting Panagia via Niborio Bay and Kavaliani island, Eretria via Amarynthos and Pezonisia islands, ancient Eritrea, Buffalo Bay, Nea Styra; Kapsala Valley, medieval Styra, Bouros Bay; Karystos and Petali island. There's also plenty of time for swimming, snorkeling, relaxing, and dining in local tavernas. The sailing trip starts and finishes in the port town of Rafina. A maximum of 16 people can participate in this trip and it is generally suited towards families with children aged between seven and 15 (minimum age is usually five).
The Virgin Islands, (both British and American) are known as the bareboat charter vacation capital of the Caribbean and it is here that most people embark on their sailing vacations. Between St. Thomas in the west and Anegada in the east with St. John, Tortola, and Virgin Gorda on the way, in this small stretch of some 35 nautical miles, there are dozens of pristine islands, secluded beaches, and protected coves where sailing boats can anchor. What makes this area so attractive is that in general, sailors can navigate by sight as the islands lie close enough together to see several at a time. Families can spend their days swimming and snorkeling in warm Caribbean waters and sleeping under the stars aboard their vessels. Bareboat charters here generally start from around $6,000 per week for a family of up to four people including a captain and about $7,000 with a captain and chef.
Sailing Yacht Vacation (tel. 340/690-4315; www.sailingyachtvacation.com) can take your family out on a charter aboard its yacht Billy Jean with itineraries starting either in St. Thomas or Tortola, visiting the US Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands, or in St. Thomas cruising through the Spanish Virgin Islands ending in Puerto Rico. Packages include breakfasts, lunches, two-course dinners, standard wines and liquors, use of water toys, and digital photo album of your trip on CD. A seven-night trip is priced at $6,950 for four people and $7,050 for five people. If you choose to sail exclusively within the US Virgin Islands, the price is slightly lower. Visit St. Thomas, St. John, Great St. James, Buck Island, and Water Island for $6,700 for a family of four or $6,800 for a family of five. Their most affordable options are also last minute deals with fixed itineraries through the US and British Virgin Islands departing from St Thomas regularly for $5,678 for four guests, all-inclusive.
Sail With Terry (tel. 888/679-7245; www.sailwithterry.com) lets you charter the yacht Mañana Maybe with Terry as your captain and sail the tranquil waters of the British Virgin Islands. The "captain-only" is a less structured approach than a fully crewed boat. You can help choose your itinerary and do as much or as little hands-on sailing as you like, a popular option for families who may want to gain seamanship skills. The cost for a captain-only charter for a seven day and seven night sail is $5,500 for a family of four or $6,600 for a family of six. Up to eight people can be accommodated. Included in these prices are the yacht and captain; fuel for the boat and the dinghy; water; linens and towels; water toys and snorkeling equipment; cooking and dining equipment; taxes and permits (British Virgin Islands Cruising Tax and National Parks Mooring Buoy fees). Provisions (which the captain can purchase on your behalf) ice, and three or four overnight mooring buoys at $25 per night are additional. With a fully crewed charter you will have a captain, chef and crew, with all breakfast and lunch meals included plus five dinners.
The price for a crewed vessel with a captain and chef for seven days and seven nights is $8,500. A sample itinerary includes visiting Norman Island, home of the caves and the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson's novel Treasure Island; Salt Island and snorkeling the wreck of the Royal Mail Steamship Rhone (featured in the movie The Deep); Anegada, famous for fresh lobster, iguanas and flamingoes; Cane Garden Bay on Tortola's lush north shore; Jost Van Dyke and Little Jost Van Dyke Islands; and Soper's Hole Wharf (where Blackbeard the pirate once lived).
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