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Bareboat Charter Essentials: Book It Right!

Category : American Sailing Association, Charter, Sailboats

sailboat in beautiful settingThis feature originally appeared in the July 2010 issue of ‘Sailing with Style,’ the e-newsletter of the American Sailing Association. To subscribe for free, click here.

By Lisa Batchelor Frailey

Your bareboat charter should be the vacation of a lifetime – even if you take one every year! Booking a charter isn’t always straightforward, and if done incorrectly, the stakes (financial and relationships) can be high. Presented here is a professional insight into the charter booking process. The more you know and prepare before talking with a charter broker, the smoother your booking process will be. Booking the right charter is the critical first step to a fabulous sailing vacation!

Location, Location, Location. As in real estate, location drives everything. When you choose your chartering location, consider these aspects:

  1. Sailing skill and experience level required. Mother Nature makes some chartering destinations more challenging than others. Are the legs between sheltered bays short or long? Will you berth at marinas, moorings, anchorages? Will you be sailing open-ocean, or in the lee of islands? How does your skill level compare?
  2. Features for the crew. Sailing occupies only part of your chartering day; is your crew interested in secluded anchorages, beach-bars, restaurants, snorkeling, shopping, castles, cathedrals, or cricket matches?
  3. Travel logistics. Your vacation time is precious; factor in the ease and expense of getting to your charter destination – flights, ferries, ground transportation. You may want to sleep aboard the night before your charter to be acclimated and fresh for your first charter day.

Make a Date. Are you escaping mid-winter blues or working around the kids’ school vacations? The timing of your charter can have a big impact. Rates generally vary throughout the season – for good reason! A holiday charter can be magical, but realize that rates peak at holidays, and so do the crowds in the anchorages. Rates plummet off-season, but the tradeoff may be hurricane season, or unfavorable temperatures or winds. If you have lots of flexibility, you can secure great last-minute deals.
charter boat in croatia
The Boat. So many options! Your first decision is typically between a monohull and a multihull. There are many advantages to each – enough for another entire article! Next, decide the number of cabins and heads you’ll need to comfortably accommodate your crew while maintaining friendships. Choose an appropriate size boat for the number onboard, your experience level, and your budget. In more challenging sailing conditions, you may need a larger (or heavier) boat for stability. The age of the boat matters, but not so much as how well it’s been maintained. Without prior experience with a particular charter company, you may have no way of determining the latter. List non-standard features that you may consider requirements – dodger and bimini for protection from the elements, air-conditioning, generator, TV? Some sailors enjoy the familiar and charter the same type boat each time – perhaps in a new location. Others like to try the latest model, a different layout, or new technology. Maybe you’re considering a future yacht purchase – chartering for a week can really help refine your choices.

Cost Matters. If you have unlimited resources, you can skip this paragraph. But for most of us the cost of a bareboat charter is a significant factor. The basic charter price may well dictate the size and/or age of the boat you choose. As in most purchases “You get what you pay for.” If you find a bargain boat during the normal charter season, you should ask why… there IS a reason why the company has discounted that boat. When you’re working out your charter budget, be sure to include the extra essential costs: insurance, security deposit, sales tax, cruising tax, park permits, fuel. These are fairly standard within a cruising location, but may vary with size of boat and number of crew onboard. Then consider these expenses: provisions, beverages, transportation to/from your charter base, mooring fees, meals ashore, excursions, and souvenirs.

A Word about Brokers. Virtually all bareboat charters are sold by charter brokers working on commission. Some work directly for a specific charter company; others are independent and access many companies. Broker commissions are paid by the charter company as a percentage of the basic charter fee; so whether you call an independent broker or call the charter company directly, you’ll still work with a broker and still pay a commission. Many brokers are based at a company headquarters or even at home, and are not located at the actual charter base. Nonetheless, a good broker knows the companies, boats, and the basic cruising area, and can save you a lot of time and effort researching to find the right match.

Choosing the Charter Company. Charter companies range from global mega-companies to mom and pop operators; there are advantages and disadvantages to each. If you’ve already chartered with a particular company and you’re happy with the boats and services, you may want to stay with that company and take advantage of common “return client” discounts. Otherwise, consider these factors, and work with your broker accordingly:

  1. Learn a company’s reputation by talking with other experienced charterers or independent brokers. Meet with company representatives – onsite or at boat shows. If it feels right, great. If you’re not comfortable, find another.
  2. Very large companies give you lots of options – bases worldwide, large fleets, service networks. If the boat you chartered becomes unavailable, a large company is likely to have a comparable replacement. Because of their volume, service is often less personal. Smaller companies may not have the vast selection of boats, but may have exactly what you want. You’re likely to get more personal attention and more flexibility.
  3. Check the composition of the charter fleet. Larger companies are generally aligned with one or two yacht manufacturers (e.g. Beneteau, Jeanneau, Leopard, etc.) and are exclusive to those lines. You can see the fleet online or pick up a company catalog.
  4. Consider the fleet age. Some large charter companies deal exclusively with new boats sold by that company; after 5 years, the boat moves on to the next echelon fleet where it spends another 5 years. Unlike fine wine, charter boats do not improve with age. They take a lot of wear and tear, even with the best maintenance plans. You’ll find some boats in their fourth charter fleet at rock-bottom prices. Value? Maybe not… consider these fleets the “Rent-a-Wrecks” of the sea.
  5. That said, beware the budget charter company! You may be better off to economize by choosing an off-peak time, last-minute special, or a smaller boat. If you have limited opportunities to charter, be sure to choose a reliable company and boat.

What to Expect When Booking. Once you’ve selected your charter boat and verified your dates, you’ll be sent a contract for your review. Read it carefully to be sure you understand the parameters – ask questions if you’re unclear. Be sure required fees and payment schedules are detailed in writing. To confirm your reservation, expect to put down a 50% deposit, with the balance due 30 to 60 days prior to the charter. The company will want a Skipper’s Resume; you may have your own, or you can complete their form. Include your qualifications, including a copy of your ASA logbook seals. If you have no skippering experience beyond your courses, expect the company to require a captain for a day or so. Don’t take this as a slight; instead, take full advantage of the skipper’s knowledge of the boat and the local area. You’ll be far more comfortable and confident after the skipper departs. Upon booking, you may receive a list of company policies and/or client responsibilities, emphasizing aspects of your charter contract. As the time for charter approaches, you’ll need to submit a crew list and flight information, as well as any requests for ground transportation. Many companies have these forms available online, so you can browse before you book.
red and purple sunset
Extras. There are a number of optional extras and special amenities you may want to arrange for your charter. Most charter companies offer a provisioning service, with varying degrees of meal flexibility. This service can save you lots of valuable time, but you pay extra for the service. Ask what about options you have, and the location of local groceries. Most charter boats come with a dinghy and outboard, but you may want to add a kayak or windsurfer – be sure to reserve these well in advance. Snorkeling gear may be gratis or available to rent locally. The charter company may offer (or require) a locally-operable cell phone for your use onboard. Verify the yacht’s electrical system (110V, 220V, 12V?) and order any inverters or adapters you may need to play your favorite music or charge your phone or camera. You won’t want to miss the photo opportunities!

Countdown. As your charter date approaches, stay in touch with your charter broker. Verify that all your “extras” have been ordered, and that ground transportation is arranged. Determine what cash payments you may need at the charter base (many bases charge a fee for credit card use onsite). Make a copy of your charter contract to bring, along with the base phone number, in the event you are delayed and need to arrive after-hours. Make a list and check it twice. Then pack for your adventure!

Bareboat chartering opens up oceans of opportunities, allowing you to literally sail around the world, one destination at a time! You spent a lot of time and effort to achieve your Bareboat Charter qualifications and build your sailing expertise. Now, go the extra mile – follow these tips to ensure you book your charter right!

About the Author: Capt Lisa Batchelor Frailey is an ASA Instructor and co-owner of Sail Solomons Sailing School & Yacht Charters. Lisa is also an independent charter broker with extensive sailing experience in the Caribbean, Mediterranean, and Chesapeake Bay. lisa@sailsi.com

Copyright Lisa Batchelor Frailey, 2011

Featured Charter Destination: British Virgin Islands

Category : American Sailing Association, Charter, Sailboats

bviThis article originally appeared in the March 2011 issue of ASA’s Sailing With Style.

by Captain Valerie Weingrad, ASA Certified Instructor

(For a list of ASA affiliated sailing schools and charter companies in the BVIs, click here.)

The British Virgin Islands (or BVIs) are located at the high point of the curving archipelago that swings from Florida to Trinidad. With their steady trade winds and numerous sheltered harbors they are a center for sea routes to every point of the compass, providing a great stopping off point in the trade lines between Europe and the riches of South America. They have been described as “the place on the way to everywhere.”

With their location providing a trade and military advantage, the Virgin Islands have been visited and occupied by various seafaring countries, privateers and indigenous populations throughout history. Spaniards sailed through regularly back in the day, hauling their Aztec loot to Spain. The US paid $25 million to Denmark to buy what is now known as the USVI in order to protect our southern doorstep. The island chain was once inhabited by the Ciboney Indians back in the stone ages, later in 100 B.C. the peaceful Arawaks arrived only to be wiped out or eaten by the aggressive and cannibalistic Carib Indians in the 1300’s. Columbus showed up in 1493, driven by an unfavorable wind to Virgin Gorda. Upon arriving and seeing the many islands he named them “the Virgins” in honor of St. Ursula and the 11,000 virgins who sacrificed their lives rather than submit to a fate worse than death at the hands of the Huns in 4th century Germany. But I digress!

The BVI is a sailor’s paradise and a great place for trying out your hand at bareboat chartering. Within the protection of the Sir Francis Drake channel the sailing is relatively easy and the navigation is line of sight. The trade winds blow from the northeast at 15-20 knots, except for the Christmas winds in December and January which can blow 25-35 knots for several days. By February they start to move around to the east and by June they drop down to 10-15k and move southeast. There is a nominal tidal range of about 12 inches. Mooring balls are installed in most harbors so you don’t have to worry about anchoring, just make sure you’re in the harbor early enough in the afternoon to snag one.

A Google search will reveal a myriad of boats available from numerous charter companies and brokers. Do your homework, or work with a reputable broker to make sure you aren’t disappointed when you walk down the dock and see your “home” for the week! Many ASA schools also charter boats, so try checking with them!

Planning your Sail in Paradise:

You can reach the BVI directly by flight into Beef Island, Tortola or by ferry from St Thomas. All of the charter companies’ boats are located on Tortola. Taxis, provisioning, restaurants and bars abound on this island so you are sure to find everything you need for your trip. Most charter companies will take care of pre-provisioning the boat for you as well as making arrangements for all of the various paperwork, cruising taxes and permits you will need to start your sail. The dollar is the standard currency and most, but not all, places accept credit cards, so have some cash on hand for when “the machine is not working.” Prices in the BVI have crept up over the years so be prepared for that when you visit. Most mooring balls are still $25 to $30 per night, but on a recent sail to Anegada, the drowned island, I found the lobster dinner is up to $50+, although still worth it in my opinion!

Let’s Go Sailing!
When you plan your route keep in mind that when you are heading northeast up the Sir Francis Drake Channel you will be against the wind, so allow time for tacking up the channel. I typically like to start my sail on a downwind run; it gives the crew time to learn the boat and makes for a pleasant first day as everyone is adjusting to island time.

From the south side of Tortola you can head west around West End and cut across to Jost Van Dyke, named for another privateer. Once at Jost you have several options of where to moor or anchor for the night. Great Harbor has added mooring balls as of this year. This is the location of the famous Foxy’s bar and others, such as Corsair’s owned by my friends Vinny and Alibabas. You can also choose White Bay, home of the Soggy Dollar. It gets very shallow in there so watch your depths! Little Harbor is nice as well. Check out Sidney’s Peace and Love while you are there. From Jost you can do a short sail to Cane Garden Bay and tour the Callwood Distillery where they still make rum the old fashioned way, in copper kettles. Next it’s on to Guano Island and Monkey Point for snorkeling. From there you can continue to Marina Cay for the night. If you anchor close to the island you may have a late afternoon visit from “Barry Cuda.” He is huge old barracuda that lives under the dock. Never fear, he’s relatively tame. One of the (crazy) guys on my last sail had him eating smoked turkey right out of his hand! Better him than me!

An early morning start will take you to Virgin Gorda and the opportunity to anchor in front of the “Baths.” This is a must-see, a spectacular formation of huge granite boulders precariously teetering on each other since the ice age. The sea washes in between create pools; you’ll be climbing ladders and walking through water so wear your water shoes. The snorkeling at Devil’s cave on the other side is great, but be aware of the current that can be strong at times. After lunch, set sail and tack north to Gorda Sound. Choose the Bitter End Yacht club, Saba Rock or Leverick Bay for your overnight. You can also pick up additional provisions and water for the boat here. Michael Bean’s one-man band plays nightly at Leverick for happy arrrr. Brush up on your pirate trivia and conch shell blowing and join the fun!

Weather (and charter company) permitting you can leave early for Anegada, the island for lobster! This will be the day you need to pay attention to your navigation, set your DR and hold your compass course. Anegada, though only 13 miles away, is a flat coral atoll and not visible until you are a few miles out. It’s surrounded by reef and over 400 shipwrecks. When I was there last month we watched a yacht under full sail come to an abrupt stop. Once you make it through the channel that marks the entrance through the reef pick up a mooring ball or anchor in the shallow sandy bottom. Dinghy ashore and take a taxi to Loblolly Bay for amazing beaches and good snorkeling. The best place to watch the sunset is Cow Wreck beach which also offers great food, a bar and the occasional band. The Anegada Reef Hotel is also an old stand-by for dinner. Make sure to try the rum infused Anegada Smoothy! The next day, leave if you must or spend a second day. This is a great two-day island!

Set sail and make your way down the channel, time permitting make a stop at the Dogs for snorkeling and lunch. Choose Cooper Island for your over night anchorage, it’s a nice stop as long as there is not a north swell. They recently reopened the resort there and it’s getting rave reviews. Alternatively choose Peter Island or Norman as your last stop and visit the world famous Willy T, a re-commissioned lumber boat, now a restaurant and bar. You never know what you’ll see there; better leave the kids on board your boat! The next morning do some snorkeling at the Caves (of Treasure Island fame) and make your way back to Tortola where you will end your week in paradise.

The week has passed. You’re relaxed and just getting into the rhythm of life on board. It’s bittersweet, but don’t worry…you can always come back!

About the Author: Valerie Weingrad is an ASA instructor, charter broker and owner of Custom Sailing Worldwide, Inc. Contact her at Valerie@customsailing.net or www.customsailing.net for information on sailing vacations both bareboat and crewed in the Caribbean and Mediterranean.

Sailing Destination: Italy’s Amalfi Coast

Category : American Sailing Association, Charter

positanoIt’s a hard job, but somebody’s got to do it. I’ve just returned from a week of cruising on the Amalfi Coast, a region of southern Italy known for its stunning views of the Tyrrhenian Sea, delicious seafood and the local speciality liquer–Limoncello. Though my trip was in late March, the tourist (and sailing) season doesn’t really get cranked up until mid-April. However, from my base in the cliffside town of Positano (pictured at left) I got to experience first-hand the rich maritime history of this region, and scout out the must-see destinations for a cruiser or charterer.

Positano’s relationship with the sea goes back to its founding. According to local legend, Byzantine pirates were sailing by with a stolen Madonna icon when a terrible storm whipped up. They heard a mysterious voice shouting, “Posa, posa!” which means “Put down! Put down!” They landed at Positano, then a tiny fishing village of the Amalfi Republic, and that icon can still be seen in the town’s cathedral today. One of Positano’s most famous native sons was the sailor Flavio Gioja, who invented the modern compass. Though some scholars doubt he even actually existed, this hasn’t stopped the people of Positano from naming nearly everything after him.
positano opposite view
For a while in the 15th and 16th centuries Positano was a major medieval port, under constant attack by Saracen pirates, but by the 20th century it had become a poor fishing village once again. It wasn’t until after WWII, when John Steinbeck visited and wrote an essay describing it as a “dream place” that Positano became what it is today–a charming sightseer’s destination.

Most Amalfi coast sailboat charters (both skippered and bareboat) are based out of the major cities of Naples to the north and Salerno to the south. Positano and Amalfi Town have a few of their own charter companies as well.

For the visiting sailor, Positano is a delight. Just a few miles off the coast, and clearly visible, are the famous Islands of the Sirens from The Odyssey. Unlike Ulysses, you won’t have to plug your crews’ ears with wax and lash yourself to the mast as you sail by. There is no marina in Positano, but the harbor is calm. Several excellent restaurants and cafes line the beach, so you won’t have to walk far to get a great meal. I recommend Chez Black for great mussels and clams and friendly waiters who will always bring the dessert cart by.
If you need to stretch your legs after being onboard, you will find no shortage of paths, alleys, staircases and piazzas to explore. Positano is full of boutique stores and cafes, so pace yourself. The town is built into a cliff, and that’s all the excuse you need to stop for a cappuccino or a beer and admire the view. It’s not a big place and you can see most of it in a few hours. Nevertheless, it would take months to discover all of the little nooks and crannies Positano has to offer.

There are many other excellent places to see on the Amalfi coast between Naples and Salerno. Amalfi and its neighbor Ravello are also cliffside towns home to spectacular gardens and churches, while Sorrento and Vico Equense on the Bay of Naples are more like normal Italian towns, grids of narrow streets full of vibrant foot traffic. Sorrento does have a proper marina, though a small one. Naples itself is a teeming metropolis full of history and beauty, but watch out–it has a very depressed economy and can be a rough place for the visitor who doesn’t know their way around. Many people also stop at the island of Capri, a very touristy locale but one with stunning views. The very brave can even ride the rickety chairlift to the top of the mountain!
pompeii and vesuvius
If you have a day to devote to it, the astonishingly preserved Roman city of Pompeii is a worthwhile experience. We all learned about the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in school, but seeing the place firsthand is amazing. Nowhere else on earth can you find such a clear example of how ancient people lived their daily lives. Hire one of the expert Campania region tour guides to explain what you’re looking at. These guys are pros, and there are very few signs or plaques at Pompeii.

The most important thing to remember about visiting this part of Italy is just to relax and go with the flow. Don’t try to do everything, just go where the wind takes you. It’s very hard to have a bad time here. Spend hours over dinner, sit and ponder the view, strike up conversations with local shopkeepers. You’re living la dolce vita.
satyr and positano

Pag Cheese, Please

Category : American Sailing Association, Charter, Flotillas, Members

Continuing “Croatian Tapestry”

I rather dread the process of provisioning. Some people might enjoy it, but I’m so finicky about what I eat at any given moment that I dislike having to decide and plan for it in advance. Croatia was the antidote to my provisioning ills–in fact we didn’t have to provision at all, due to the fact that in every island town, no matter how small, local markets abounded with fresh produce, meats, cheeses, wines, and everything else you’d want to nibble on while sailing the Adriatic.

The market in Trogir, our port of departure, was the most bustling and plentiful of them all. We stocked up on home-pressed olive oil (bottled in unmarked recycled water bottles), herbed goat cheese and sharp “Pag” cheese, paper-thin Dalmatian prsut (proscuitto), round loaves of fresh bread, and bags of “figgys.” We bought fresh cantaloupes and a glass jar of honey (with the comb still in it), and a pound of sweet carrots. Then we piled onto our group bus, which was pleasantly fragranced with market-fresh basil, and arrived at Marina Kastela.

The marina was huge and busy, with dock workers scurrying about and boats coming in and out, changing hands for the next week’s charter group. We found our five–Ziva, Hedda Gabler, Mari, Lejla, and Leto–checked out, and were sent off by the dockhand with a hearty “Have fun sailing in Croatian!” We pushed off under a picturesque sunset and reached across the deep blue water toward our first port, Milna, on Brac Island. In the sunset breeze, I felt the hubbub of the marina being swept away with the wind. We dined on our market fare, under quiet sail.

After a couple hours, Milna harbor came into view, casting a warm orange glow across the water as we approached. It was dark as we Med-moored for the first time under the warm lights of the medieval waterfront, but we had plenty of room and a still night to maneuver in. Croatian Med-mooring is simpler than traditional Med-mooring too–dockhands hand over a bow line that’s already anchored to the bottom, so there’s no need to monkey with the boat’s anchor while backing in.

Morning broke with a chorus of cathedral bells, and I poked my head out of the companionway to see the sleepy little town of Milna for the first time. Having chosen not to stock our galley with instant coffee, we strolled down the stone waterfront to a caffe for what was to become a daily routine–frothy hot bijela kavas. I’m normally a drip coffee kind of girl (hailing from Seattle), but they don’t really offer that sludge in Europe. So I ordered lattes, the Croatian “white coffee”–and they were fantastic with a warm chocolate croissant on the side. (I may have gained like 5 pounds over their breakfasts, but who’s checking.) And in Milna, they serve the lattes with kittens on the side–little strays who stay well fed by being so dang cute. I was very close to making this one our stowaway for the week. But we packed up and sailed off to the next island without her. (Of course when we came back a week later, she was still there, dining on tuna, but that’s a later story!)

Find Your Flotilla

Category : American Sailing Association, Charter, Flotillas

At this moment, Brenda from the ASA’s Education Department is attending the Pine Island Sound flotilla in the turquoise Gulf of Mexico. I just received an email from her titled: Welcome Party at Burnt Store Marina Tiki Hut with fresh local seafood including stone crab claws and shrimp.


ASA flotillas are amazing sun-drenched sailing parties, and I’m counting the days until I take off to blog our ultra-adventurous Bahamas trip in April. The fantastic thing about joining an ASA flotilla is that most of the logistical planning is taken care of for you, and of course pirate parties are complimentary. And for lack of a better metaphor, my mouth is watering over the flotilla fare offered in 2010. Here’s a snapshot of the different flavors:

Super-salty adventure seafaring: April 24-May 1 in the Exuma Islands, Bahamas, this flotilla takes place on traditional wooden 21-foot Sea Pearls. Rustic beach camping, cave swimming, and spearfishing punctuate the palate of this swashbucklers’ paradise.

Fresh-caught wild week: June 18-25 in the San Juan Islands, Washington, this flotilla explores the salmon-rich waters of the Pacific Northwest’s famous archipelago. Bald eagles, Dahl’s porpoises, and wooded island hiking trails characterize the lush natural beauty of this trip.

Sweet and secluded sailing: June 25-July 2 in Canada’s Gulf Islands, this flotilla reaches north from the San Juans into the grand straits of British Columbia. Tucked-away villages, craggy headlands, grazing deer, and abundant bird life encircle the waters you’ll be sailing this week.

Floating cosmopolitan cuisine: September 2-12 in Croatia’s Dalmatian Islands, this flotilla captures warm mediterranean winds in the Adriatic’s sapphire seas. Abundant ancient history, fresh-pressed olive oil, homemade local wine, and some of the best sailing in the world awaits you in this world-class destination.

Sailors’ backyard barbecue: September 10-17 in Clearwater Beach, Florida, this flotilla has all the best features of Gulf of Mexico sailing without international travel hassles. With eco tours, day sails, educational clinics, and pirate parties, this shore-based sailing week will be fun for your whole family.

So what do you crave?

See http://asa.com/news/news2010.html for signup information. Fair winds!

Announcing Croatia 2010 Flotilla

Category : American Sailing Association, Charter, Flotillas, Members

Warm breeze, cerulean seas, fig trees… Yes Please!

ASA just announced our Fall 2010 Flotilla — a vacation in the unparalleled Dalmatian Islands of Croatia. This is one you won’t want to miss: the Adriatic Sea is a color unlike anywhere else in the world, the breeze is constant and tantalizing, the food is Mediterranean-fresh world-class cuisine, and the culture abounds with ancient history and generous hospitality.

Joining a fleet of other ASA members, you will enjoy tiny fishing villages, stunning ancient sites, an abundance of home-pressed olive oil and local wines, and cruising in one of the world’s most desirable sailing destinations.

A few highlights from the itinerary include:

  • Anchorage in a cove on the tiny island of Vis, near an old secret submarine pen
  • Mountaintop evening dining at a local winery
  • Exploration of the otherworldly Blue Cave on the island of Bisevo
  • A night in Korcula, the birthplace of Marco Polo
  • Lunch or overnight anchorages on more than five unique isles in Dalmatia

Visit asa.com for more details and to reserve your spot early–this trip is sure to fill fast.


Bareboat Chartering Standard (ASA 104)

Category : Charter

An advanced cruising Standard for individuals with cruising experience. The individual can act as skipper or crew of a 30 – 50 foot boat sailing by day in coastal waters. The Standard includes knowledge of boat systems and maintenance procedures.

Bareboat Chartering