Chesapeake Bay Dreaming

by Captain Lisa Batchelor Frailey

Immortalized by writers, naturalists and artists, the Chesapeake Bay is America’s ultimate cruising destination.  Explorer Captain John Smith described it as “a faire bay encompassed but for the mouth with fruitful and delightsome land” when he created the first maps of the Chesapeake in 1608. A visit to the Chesapeake includes history, beautiful scenery, wildlife and plenty of action.

Origins and History

The Chesapeake Bay formed over 10,000 years ago when melting glaciers effectively “drowned” the Susquehanna River valley. It is the largest estuary in North America, extending 200 miles from Havre de Grace MD to Virginia Beach VA, and measuring 30 miles across at its widest.  Its 11,600 miles of shoreline exceed that of the entire US West coast – a gunkholer’s dream come true.

Chesapeake Bay is steeped in history, perhaps best captured in James Michener’s epic novel “Chesapeake.” The Chesapeake and most of the rivers feeding it carry names from the original Native American residents. English colonists seeking land and opportunity arrived in the Chesapeake region during the early 1600s.

Many towns along the Chesapeake played crucial roles in the War of Independence, the War of 1812 and the American Civil War. Privateers and pirates (including William Kidd and Edward Teach / Blackbeard) also played a big role in shaping the Bay.

Visitors can step back in time and explore the nation’s history in many museums and historic settlements throughout the Bay. Shoreline villages still host shipwrights, crab shanties, bascule bridges and scenic lighthouses. Classic oyster skipjacks, crab scrapers and oyster tongers ply the Bay as they did a century ago.

Seafood Nirvana

The Bay’s estuarine nature (the combination of tidal waters and freshwater influx) makes seafood fresh and plentiful; over 500 million pounds of seafood are harvested each year.  Savor the best crab dishes ever in the Chesapeake – known as the blue crab capital of the world. Try your hand at “chicken-necking” and catch crabs from your sailboat! Oysters are one of the Bay’s most valuable commercial fisheries, and you’ll find oysters served every way imaginable.  Another favorite is Rockfish – not only excellent sport for recreational and commercial fishermen, but also great eating.

Planning your Sail

You can reach the Chesapeake Bay by plane, train, car or boat.  Baltimore’s airport and rail station are most convenient for the northern reaches, and Norfolk for those starting south. Cruisers enter the Bay through the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal, or from the Atlantic at Cape Henry. The predominance of bareboat charter companies is located in Annapolis, but you’ll find ASA sailing schools and charter bases along the 200 mile length of the Bay. This distribution is ideal, as the Bay’s size and variety allows you to explore on many visits without ever repeating a destination.

Most charter bases operate from mid-April through October. While mid-summer weather is typically hot and humid, you’ll find good sailing winds throughout the season. Early Summer and Fall are favorites, and holiday weekends are in high demand. Prevailing winds are not distinct, but Southerly to Westerly winds are most common in the summer, heavily modified by sea breeze and local topography. Thunderstorms can be wild, so be sure to keep a weather eye and plan accordingly. Tides and currents are easy to manage, since the tidal range for most of the Bay is only about 1.5 feet.

Provisioning is simple; most charter bases have well-stocked grocery stores nearby. Be sure to plan for a few meals ashore to experience the local flavors and specialties.  Fuel, water, ice and pumpout stations are conveniently located throughout the Bay. Sailors can berth in marinas ranging from luxury resort to “mom ‘n pop”, anchorages or moorings in major harbors with water taxis, or secluded anchorages where herons are your closest companions.

Notable Cruising Destinations

The Chesapeake offers remote, unspoiled beauty in close proximity to cosmopolitan city centers. The variety is so diverse that it’s impossible to capture it all in a lifetime of cruising, much less to describe it in a single article. From north to south, here is a sampling of notable destinations to whet your appetite.

* Sail the Patapsco River into Baltimore Inner Harbor, featuring museums, shopping, dining, arts and major league sports in a waterfront urban setting.

* On the Eastern Shore, Rock Hall features the annual “Pirates and Wenches Fantasy Weekend”.

* Annapolis visitors can enjoy a bustling port town, state capital and the home of the US Naval Academy. Known for the National Sailing Hall of Fame and US Sailboat shows, Annapolis features the largest selection of bareboat charter yachts on the Chesapeake.

* “The Town that Fooled the British”, St Michaels is one of the most charming colonial towns on the Bay’s Eastern Shore. Visit the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum and wander the brick-paved sidewalks to browse shops and galleries.

* Glide through the bascule bridge at Kent Narrows, lined with workboats and skipjacks. Continue up the Choptank River to find abundant snug anchorages off the meandering tributaries of Broad Creek. Watch soaring osprey dive for fish, and keep your eyes open for celebrity estates!

* From the Choptank, follow the Tred Avon to the beautiful waterfront town of Oxford.  Marinas and restaurants nestle among tree-lined streets; don’t miss the iconic Cutts & Case Shipyard. If Oxford seems familiar, perhaps you’ve seen one of the many films set there.

* At the mouth of the Patuxent River, Solomons offers sailors a host of fine marinas and the world-famous Tiki Bar. Climb the Drum Point Screwpile lighthouse, take a cruise on a Skipjack, or wander through a sculpture garden featuring works from the Smithsonian.

* Enjoy a pile of steamed crabs in Crisfield, the “Crab Capital of the World”. Crisfield’s National Hard Crab Derby features feisty crabs racing on a track, and the largest boat-docking completion on the Chesapeake. Nearby Deal Island hosts the annual Skipjack race.

* Step back in time on Tangier Island, one of two island communities of watermen in the Chesapeake. You’ll hear a relic Elizabethan dialect still intact from the island’s original Cornish settlers. Distinctive crab shanties line the channel to the harbor; bikes and golf carts are the principal transportation ashore.

From cosmopolitan Baltimore to the time capsule of Tangier, the Chesapeake Bay is a cruiser’s dream. Capt John Smith’s words still ring true: “heaven and earth never agreed better to frame a place for man’s habitation.” Or, man’s sailing!

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Destination: Solomons for Screwpile!

by Lisa Batchelor Frailey

Securely berthed on a tee-head in Solomons, Maryland, you savor a mug of fresh-brewed coffee in the cockpit of your well-appointed bareboat charter yacht. You relax in the sunny warmth while you plan your day’s sail on the Chesapeake Bay. Suddenly, a blast of music breaks your reverie, and you watch in awe as a hundred race boats parade past you –  battle flags flying – headed for the Patuxent River. It’s Screwpile in Solomons!

The Screwpile Lighthouse Challenge is a regional sailboat regatta, drawing over 120 boats (and their crews and enthusiastic supporters) each year from across the country. The event features three days of round-the-buoys racing and three nights of rip-roaring parties. A point-to-point race from Annapolis to Solomons on Friday night, July 19th, brings many of the fleet contenders to town. After a Saturday of rest, relaxation and rum, this year’s Screwpile begins on Sunday, July 21 and ends on Tuesday, July 23. One-design and PHRF classes compete three races per day across courses set at the mouth of the Patuxent. Each morning features a 9 am Harbor-Start parade, and camaraderie prevails at the post-race parties hosted at the waterfront Solomons Holiday Inn.

Screwpile has been a Solomons institution since 1993, when the Southern Maryland Sailing Association (SMSA) took over the efforts of the (departed) Yachting Magazine Race Week.  The regatta is named for the screwpile-style lighthouse that once guarded the mouth of the Patuxent at Drum Point, and now stands proudly at the Calvert Marine Museum.

Whether you’re racing Screwpile, cruising the Bay or exploring by car, Solomons is a fabulous place to visit. This historic maritime community was recently named one of America’s “15 Happiest Seaside Towns” by Coastal Living Magazine, and deservedly so. Located just 50 miles south of Annapolis, Solomons is an easy reach for cruisers and bareboat charterers.

Several full-service marinas cater to visiting boaters, offering secure berths, hot showers, restaurants, swimming pools, bicycles and marine services. You’ll also find a sailing school and bareboat charter base (Sail Solomons), as well as fishing tours. Rent a kayak or SUP to explore the harbor from a new perspective. For those who prefer seclusion, snug anchorages are available in Solomons harbor and surrounding creeks. Solomons offers a number of hotels and gracious B&Bs for those not staying onboard.

Most marinas are an easy walk or bike ride from town, which boasts a wealth of activities for visitors. At the Calvert Marine Museum, visitors can explore how the prehistoric past, natural environment and maritime heritage blend to tell a unique story of the Chesapeake. Climb through the Drum Point “Screwpile” lighthouse, watch the sea otters at play, and enjoy a river cruise on a historic oyster “buy-boat”. CMM’s waterside concerts include classic favorites like Bad Company and ZZ Top.

Annmarie Sculpture Garden and Arts Center is an oasis for the art lovers. Weave your way along the wooded walking path and feast your eyes on sculpture, including many on loan from the Smithsonian Institution and National Gallery of Art. The ship-inspired Arts Building includes rotating exhibition space, so each visit is a new adventure.

Solomons is home to the University of Maryland’s Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, where visitors can learn about the natural environment of the Chesapeake Bay.  CBL’s location at the mouth of the harbor makes it a perfect spot to watch the Screwpile Harbor-Start parade and returning racers.

Savor a meal at one of the many Solomons waterfront restaurants, featuring fresh local seafood. Stroll along the Riverwalk and enjoy the fabulous view of the Patuxent River. Shoppers will appreciate the galleries, antiques, gift shops and boutiques in the heart of town. A spa treatment is just the thing after a hard day of sailing (or shopping).

Solomons’ summer-time events include a July 4th fireworks extravaganza and boat parade, the Offshore Grand Prix powerboat races, Arts Fest, and Watermen’s Festival.  You may have come for Screwpile, but Solomons offers so much more. Discover the magic of Solomons, and you’ll return again and again.

For more information, see and


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“Outstanding School & Instructors” for 2012

Sail Solomons has been named “Outstanding School for 2012” by the American Sailing Association (ASA). The award recognizes the top 20 of over 300 ASA sailing schools worldwide, and is based upon responses from 2012 student surveys regarding the quality of service, boats and instruction.

Sail Solomons co-owners and instructors Andy Batchelor and Lisa Batchelor Frailey were each named “Outstanding Instructor for 2012”, an award that recognizes the top 1% of over 2000 ASA sailing instructors.

Sail Solomons Sailing School opened in 2007, and has received the Outstanding School award every year from 2008 through 2012. Their instructors have been awarded each year since 2007, making Sail Solomons the most recognized sailing school on the Chesapeake Bay.  Lisa notes “We’re more than just a sailing school. We believe sailing is a lifestyle, and we offer a continuum of sailing activities for all levels – from summer on the Chesapeake to winter flotillas and courses in the Caribbean.”

Andy indicates that the success of Sail Solomons is largely due to the small class size and personal attention each student receives. “We strive to give our students an exceptional sailing experience. Our boats are well maintained, and our instructors are all USCG licensed Captains and ASA-certified instructors. We want our students to love sailing as much as we do.” Lisa notes “We thank all our students for taking time to complete the surveys. We try hard to accommodate each student’s learning preferences, and we’re pleased that our efforts have been recognized. Seeing our students enjoy sailing is our greatest reward.”

The school is located at Zahniser’s Yachting Center in Solomons Maryland. Sail Solomons offers courses on their fleet of five daysailers and three cruising yachts for all sailing levels, from novice to advanced. Private instruction is also available. On Your Own Boat courses are very popular for sailors wishing to develop more expertise in specific areas on their own sailboats.

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New Chesapeake Bay Charts

By Capt Lisa Batchelor Frailey

Attention all US boaters!  If you’re looking for nautical charts, there’s a whole new game in town – “nv-charts”.   I’ve been using nv-charts’ Caribbean charts for years, and have always been impressed by their practicality, accuracy of data and clarity of presentation.  Whether a chart kit or a waterproof folding chart, nv-charts (formerly marketed as CYC) was an easy choice when cruising Caribbean waters. I met with nv-charts owners Hasko and Connie Scheidt last Fall, and was thrilled to learn that nv-charts has expanded their coverage to US East Coast waters. They released the Chesapeake Bay regions –  just in time for the 2012 boating season.  I showed my first set to our dock neighbors and sailing students who really loved the product; now I can barely keep them in stock!  Read on to see why nv-charts are the hottest items of the season.

The Chesapeake Bay series is divided into two regions, North and South, for easy handling.  The North region (5.1) includes Delaware Bay and the C&D Canal, and covers from Cape May, NJ to the Potomac River. The South region (5.2) overlaps at the Patuxent, and continues in detail from the Potomac down to Norfolk, including Tangier Sound and the Delmarva coast.  Together, the region provides all the coverage you need for cruising the Chesapeake or Delaware Bays and a Delmarva circumnavigation.

What’s included:   The spiral-bound chart books are 23.5” x 16.5”, designed to fit conveniently on most chart tables, and protected with a clear vinyl waterproof cover.  Each chart set comes with a Harbor & Anchorage Pilot Book with comprehensive navigation and cruising information and regional descriptions, weather and tide information, cruising destinations, harbors, moorings, and anchorages from entries referenced on the charts. Each chart set also includes a CD containing the entire chart set in digital format, for use on PCs with navigation software and GPS input. Free navigation software is available to download from the nv-charts website.

Key Features. At first glance, you’ll notice some differences between nv-charts presentation and that used by NOAA and commercial competitors. With a little examination, you’ll find the nv-charts presentation to be more intuitive than other charts; regardless, a complete and easily understood legend is included in the pilot book.  Key features of the nv-charts US charts and pilot books:

  • Charts are based on NOAA data with a new layout, clear cartography and international chart standards using WGS-84 datum;
  • Seaworthy chart layout – easy flow from one chart to the next;
  • Standardized chart scales:  passage charts 1:340,000;  coastal charts 1:100,000 and 1:45,000;  detail charts 1:25,000 or less;
  • Pre-plotted GPS lat/lon waypoints; tracks and distances between waypoints for easy planning
  • Depths and heights are charted in feet; referenced to MLLW and MHW, respectively
  • Unique color differences:  dark blue less than 18’ deep, light blue 18-30’ deep, green for exposed tidal areas;
  • Contour lines for 6’ (red), 12’ and 30’ depths;
  • Channel markers (day shapes and lighted markers) are depicted in red and green; buoys have realistic symbology
  • Arrow-symbols show buoyage direction;
  • Enhanced Lighthouse symbology  for better identification and light characteristics;
  • Illustrations of lighthouses (sea level view) are depicted on the chart margin
  • Tide and current information depicted on each chart, where data is available.
  • Grocery,  Marine Services and West Marine stores  indicated for convenience


Who is nv-charts?  This global supplier of precision charting products began producing navigation charts over 30 years ago in Germany, and their charts are used by cruisers, racers, the US Coast Guard  (for Bahamas and Caribbean) and the Baltic-Kiel-Pilots.  nv-charts’ parent company is Nautical Publications, with offices in Newport and Germany. They produce about 600 charts and over 1000 details & harbor plans, derived from government data and  confirmed and/or revised through nv-charts’ own survey vessels and aerial images. nv-charts now offers charting products for the U.S. East Coast from New England to Key West, Europe, the Bahamas, Puerto Rico and the entire Caribbean, including Cuba.

Where can you get nv-charts?  At Sail Solomons, of course!  Call Lisa at 410-326-4917 or email info@sailsibackup to order.  For best value and more diverse cruising options, buy the Chesapeake Bay Box set including both North and South regions.  Happy Cruising!

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Winter Courses for Sailors & Powerboaters

What skills benefit sailors and powerboaters alike? Weather and Navigation!

These 4-day courses are applicable for both sailors and power-boaters, and there are no pre-requisites. Price per course is $395, and includes books and certification materials. Register now to reserve your spot; you’ll get your course materials early so you can get started! Call 410-326-4917 or email info@sailsibackup

Marine Weather Sailing CourseMarine Weather Sailing Course

Take the mystery out of marine weather forecasts; understand the principles, learn how to apply the information for local and passage-making voyages. From traditional maritime forecasting skills to the latest technological tools, this course will help make your time on the water as safe and efficient as possible. Taught by a marine meteorologist and sailing passagemaker.

Course: Marine Weather (ASA 119)
Date/Time: Feb 11, 12, 18, 19 from 0900-1600
Location: Zahniser’s Yachting Center, Solomons MD
Cost: $395 (includes text, workbook, certification materials)

Coastal Navigation Sailing CourseCoastal Navigation Sailing Course

Plot your course to success! Learn the theory and skills to safely navigate in coastal or inland waters. Sail Solomons’ 4-day Coastal Navigation course is taught by a retired Navy navigator and ocean passagemaker.

Course: Coastal Navigation (ASA 105)
Date/Time: Mar 3, 4, 17, 18 from 0900-1600
Location: Zahniser’s Yachting Center, Solomons MD
Cost: $395 (includes books, charts, certification materials)
Navigation Tools available at Sail Solomons discount
Note: This course is also available by correspondence; cost is $300

Enquire Now

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Sailaway Chefs

Sailaway Chefs

Sailaway Chefs

Eric and Christina Case experienced the dinner cruise of a lifetime on Saturday, August 1st.  It was a picture-perfect evening as the party departed from Solomons onboard S/Y Zingaro for a sunset sail on the Patuxent, then anchored in Solomons harbor for an exquisite and memorable dinner on deck. Eric Case (Valrhona Chocolates, NYC), and his wife Christina MacNamara won the high bid for the “Chesapeake Bay Dinner Cruise for Six”, the top prize in an auction held last September to support the US Coupe du Monde de la Patisserie team. Eric and Christina hosted two other couples for this spectacular dinner event.

The festivities began with a pierside champagne and hors d’oeuvres reception on Chef Mark Ramsdell’s Jeanneau 39i Friandise, followed by a multi-course, multi wine dinner cruise on the Passport 47 Zingaro. The hors d’oeuvres and dinner were prepared by Francois Dionot, founder (in 1976) and director of L’Academie de Cuisine, Gaithersburg. The dessert was prepared and served by Roland Mesnier, former White House Pastry chef to five presidents during a 25 year career.  Chef Mark Ramsdell, former director of the Professional Pastry Arts Program at L’Academie, prepared the after-dinner friandise. S/Y Zingaro was provided by Sail Solomons, and sailed by Captains and American Sailing Association (ASA) Instructors Lisa and Andy Batchelor. Following the dinner cruise, guests repaired to Friandise for a pierside party featuring the yacht’s namesake “friandise”. After sleeping aboard Friandise, and awoke Sunday morning breakfast onboard.

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Flotilla Fantastic!

BVI Flotilla 2012

What is a Flotilla?

By Capt Lisa Batchelor Frailey.

    When social networks go sailing, you get… a flotilla!  Simply stated, a flotilla is a small fleet of similar vessels operating together for a common purpose. While historical purposes have included military operations, law enforcement or commerce, the modern purpose for sailboat flotillas is a bit different. These flotillas offer a balance between independence, support, and social sailing. Essentially, a flotilla allows one to “cruise in company.”  As kids, our annual summer vacation was spent onboard the family boat on the “Commander’s Cruise” – a weeklong flotilla on the Chesapeake, hosted by the US Sail & Power Squadron. We’d cast off each morning to our new destination, meeting up in the afternoon at a marina or anchorage for a social evening together. Kids and adults met new and long-lasting friends. Local sailing clubs frequently sponsor weekend flotillas, allowing new and experienced sailors to sail independently by day, and raft up at night.  Bareboat chartering allows sailors of all levels to experience the world of flotilla sailing, in local waters or across the globe. Read on to see how it works, hear testimonials from flotilla veterans, and learn why flotillas might be right for you!

Flotilla Primer

Bareboat charter flotillas combine the essence of bareboating with the benefits of a flotilla. Boats are chartered from a company, and those onboard are the captain and crew. The cost of the boat and operating expenses are shared amongst those onboard.  You may have pre-selected your shipmates and boat, or perhaps you’ve just signed on and will be matched up with a cabin-mate by captain or the Flotilla Organizer. Sounds like a regular bareboat charter so far, doesn’t it?

The big difference is the Flotilla Leader (FL), who typically sails the lead boat. The FL has local knowledge and experience, and will suggest a flexible itinerary for the group. The FL holds regular captain’s meetings, advising on best routes to the selected destination. The FL provides a safety net, and is the “go-to” person for problems and troubleshooting. Enroute, the FL is accessible to answer questions, or you might simply sail “follow the leader” if you choose. At your destination, the FL can assist in finding a good anchorage, help with the mooring, and coordinate the flotilla’s social activities.  Bottom line – each boat sails independently, but is secure in the knowledge that help from a trusted Flotilla Leader is close by. Social activities extend beyond your own boat to an entire flotilla of like-minded sailors.

Bareboat Chartering

Independence is a key feature of bareboat chartering – you cast off the lines and become self-sufficient afloat. The more sailing experience you gain, the more independent you can become. In a bareboat flotilla, each boat has its own captain and crew, and is able to cruise independently. This allows each crew to discover and explore on its own. Flotilla may have different policies on “tethering”; some like to cruise independently for days before a rendezvous, others meet up each day. Departures from the group are fine, so long as everyone is clear on destinations and timing. Flotilla veteran Kris advises “… let each boat wander and explore as they please and meet up every couple of days.”

Flotillas are an ideal part of the sail training continuum. Mark, an experienced captain and boat owner, notes “The flotilla allows risk taking with support.  As a captain, it’s a safe way to get a check on your own skills, and a tremendous opportunity to test your navigation and sailing skills in unfamiliar waters.” 

For new captains, one school owner adds “Our members love flotillas! We use them as a ‘rite of passage’ around here.”  Crewmembers at all sailing levels have a great opportunity to see the full spectrum of a bareboat charter, while contributing and learning.  Having sailed on a charter, a crewmember’s next sailing course will take on far more relevance. It’s quite likely that their next course will be with new-found flotilla friends!

Sailing Support

Support is one of the primary reasons that new captains choose flotillas for their first charter.  The logistic support comes first. The Flotilla Organizer (FO) charters the boats, helps to organize crews, gathers payments, and advises and assists with travel and individual boat logistics. That advice is invaluable to new charter captains, and saves time and effort for all involved. For those captains who aren’t able to pull together a full crew on their own, or for crew with no captain, the FO Organizer can fill in the right sailors to round out the crew and help share the cost.  Depending on who sponsors the flotilla, the FO may also arrange planning parties and seminars where you’ll meet the flotilla members, talk about itineraries, provisioning, crew coordination and receive great information on your upcoming charter.

As Mark points out:

“You not only have the support of the Flotilla Leader, but also the support of the other captains.  On the BVI flotilla, Kal and I compared notes every day. It’s a chance to try out a new boat, and to test your skills on a bigger boat.  You could do this alone, but I’d rather do it in a flotilla where someone else may be figuring out the same boat.”

This allows captains and crew to push their envelopes and build confidence, with the reassurance of nearby support and local knowledge. “It allows you to experience new places with direct recommendations of people you know.” Some flotillas allow for crewmembers to swap boats for a day; this can enhance training and put additional experience onboard for more challenging passages.

Benefits of Flotillas

Social benefits are paramount in flotillas. Sailors cruise with old and new friends and meet people with similar interests. When you rendezvous at your agreed destination, you can join the group for sundowners, dinner, shore excursions, parties or even regattas. You’ll have the opportunity to re-live that fabulous sail with like-minded sailors who will appreciate your perfect jibe! No matter how much you enjoy your crew, you’ll likely appreciate the opportunity to get off the boat for some private time, or to mingle with other crews during a flotilla.  Kal says:

“The flotilla is a great ice breaker that allows you to go over to other boats and say hi or share a drink. It’s a very fun and social event.”

Flotillas forge new friendships which you can continue to build while sailing at home base. If you are chartering with children, flotillas allow kids to meet other kids and parents to engage in adult conversation.

Finding your perfect flotilla is easy.  ASA offers flotillas year-round and across the globe; simply pick a location you like and a time that works for you. Flotillas are the perfect compliment to good training!

Charter companies also offer flotillas – sometimes by the boat, and sometimes by the cabin or berth. Anyone who’s sailed the BVI has seen the Sunsail “flagship” carrying the Flotilla Lead and Hostess – you can’t miss it.

Check with your sailing club or sailing school; if you’re a member, you’ll probably get advance notification of flotilla opportunities. You may even be able to take a course during the flotilla, getting maximum benefit from your sailing week.  If your club doesn’t offer a flotilla, look for other clubs or schools who do; listen up for referrals, and check references!

Before signing on for any flotilla, ask a few questions. Is there a theme or special demographic? Pirates, families, singles, accountants, politics? What costs are included, and what will you need to pay out-of-pocket?  Will you be sharing a cabin or head?  Will you have an opportunity to meet your crew before the flotilla? When you find a flotilla that fits the bill, jump in – you’ll be glad you did!

Pam, an ASA 103 graduate and sailing club member who participated in her first flotilla with Sail Solomons last winter sums it up beautifully:

“As a relative newcomer to sailing, I thought the flotilla provided an excellent opportunity to gain hands-on experience under the tutelage of a skilled captain in a beautiful setting.  I enjoyed the daily routine of waking up to the sunrise in the harbor, checking the weather, planning our course, setting sail, executing perfect tacks and jibes to the next destination, attaching to a mooring ball and celebrating the wonderful day with a swim and a sundowner!   You can experience all of these things in a single sailing excursion, however a flotilla allows you to practice several days in a row and learn from the previous day’s experience.  There is a real sense of accomplishment and satisfaction gained from the teamwork of a great sail.  As an added bonus, it was a lot of fun during the course of the week to gain new friends with like-minded interests.”

Enquire now about Flotillas
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Bareboat Chartering with the Kids

Bareboat Chartering with Kids

by Capt Lisa Batchelor Frailey

Families and boating go together like peanut butter and jelly. My family boating experience started when I was 2 months old; Dad had converted a Navy-surplus 36’ wooden landing craft into our family cruising boat.

As a kid, I spent virtually every summer weekend and vacation boating, and I am ever grateful for the experience. Shared family time, learning new skills, seeing new ports, swimming off the boat, fishing and “sleeping out” can bring a family together like nothing else. As a cruiser and charter operator, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing families literally grow up sailing together – whether on their own boats, or on charter vacations. In this article, I draw from the tips offered by seasoned sailing parents to make chartering with kids a memorable and enjoyable vacation.

Preparing to sail with children

As in all aspects of chartering, preparation is key. Talk with your kids so they’ll know what to expect regarding getting wet, moving around the boat, sharing with siblings, and safety onboard. Since so many chartering activities are based around water, it’s best if kids can swim, and are not afraid of water. If your kids aren’t boaters yet, try to visit a local marina before your charter to get them familiar with boats. Do some research using books, movies or the internet on the local history and sights at your charter destination. The exciting Caribbean pirate culture is bound to be a hit; make a treasure map to go with your itinerary! Many sailing areas in the US are rich in the history of Native Americans, early settlers and watermen. Laminated fish identification cards give a special goal for new snorkelers. Help your kids keep a journal or log, to which they can add photos and postcards; in addition to keeping the memories fresh, they’ll have all kinds of material for school reports or show-and-tell. Make your own, or purchase one of the excellent kids’ nautical logs and journals on the market.

Kids sailing safety

Sailing gear and life jackets. To keep kids safe and to fully integrate them into the crew, they should have the same sailing gear as the adults onboard. This includes non-slip shoes, sailing gloves, hat, sunglasses, sun protective clothing and plenty of sunscreen. Explain why it’s important, and set a good example by wearing this gear yourself! Children’s life jackets are great safety gear and legally required in most charter areas. Shop with your kids to pick out appropriate life jackets that are safe and comfortable (perhaps adorned with a favorite cartoon character). Take a tip from these sailing parents: Sue and Mark set clear guidelines for wearing life jackets (or “boat coats”) – on the dock, onboard on deck, underway, etc. Sara and Chris’ children wear new life jackets at home to “break them in” and make them more comfortable. Parents can identify and fix any hotspots before the vacation. Even the family dog has a (broken in) life jacket!

Food and snacks

Food and drink are important aspects of any yacht charter. Whether you provision in advance or onsite, be sure to include plenty of nutritious foods that you know your kids will enjoy. They WILL be hungry from all the activity and fresh air, so meals and snacks are crucial. Remember to pack saltines for occasional motion sickness or tummy-aches. You’ll likely have many meals onboard; why not take a blanket to the foredeck, and picnic in the sea breeze? Travelling gives you a chance to explore new foods, and you may be surprised at what your kids will eat when introduced on vacation.

Drinks and hydration

Hydration is extremely important while boating. Be sure everyone has a no-spill water bottle with their name on it, and keep track of consumption to be sure they are well-hydrated. A little bit of powdered drink mix can make water more interesting, without adding too much sugar. When the adults sit back to enjoy tropical sundowners, the kids will love virgin daiquiris or coladas as a special treat.

Gettings kids involved with sailing

Involvement onboard is the key to energized sailing families. Kids of all ages can actively participate in the boat handling and sailing; with duties expanding as their skills and interests grow. Be sure to give plenty of opportunity to take the helm, pull a halyard or sheet, place a fender, and call out “Hard A-Lee!” Teach the kids a few basic knots before your charter, and have them tie the knots “for real” while onboard – fenders, cleats, stopper knots. Supervise and assist as needed, and give lots of praise. They’ll love to help, and to be part of the crew. Consider crew tee-shirts!

Kids also love to push buttons, and in this age of technology, they’re very good at it. But the onboard environment is very different from home video games, and pushing the wrong button can cause big problems. You’ll need to lay out the rules before any trouble occurs. Captain Andy (immediately re-named “Cotton Candy” by a set of 4-year old triplets on charter) told his charges that pushing the wrong button could sink the boat, so if they wanted to push anything, they must first come to him to ask permission. Many buttons were pushed, but all under supervision. Happily, the boat did not sink.

Delegate responsibilities

Consider delegating some specific responsibilities to your kids, so they’ll have something of their own to be proud of. I was the “Flag Lieutenant” on our family boat when I was 8, responsible for hoisting and lowering the flags; it probably influenced my joining the Navy! Dinghy Captain, Forward Lookout, Keeper of the Ship’s Log are all duties that kids might handle. Jim & Hedy have been chartering as a family for several years; they designate a “Captain of the Day” who calls out orders and delegates duties. The kids are now so proficient that they can take their parents for a sail!

Most charter boats have dinghies; many have kayaks, as well. Alex and Avi love seeing the absolute delight in their eldest son’s eyes when he’s in charge of driving the dinghy, and the autonomy and independence their boys feel when paddling the kayaks around the anchorage.

Kids sailing entertainment

There will be times onboard when you’re not underway, or when kids are not actively participating in the sailing. Be sure to have activities to keep them engaged – books, games, portable electronics, waterproof playing cards, logbooks. If feasible, designate an area of the cabin for each child to keep their things, where they can retreat when they need some private time. I can’t think of any kid on our boats who hasn’t created a blanket fort in a cabin. Take advantage of quiet family time to read or play games together. Avi notes that his favorite times onboard are early morning chess games with his sons; Alex loves reading stories with the boys on the catamaran trampoline at sunset.

Itineraries and Activities Ashore

Most kids will enjoy time ashore more than time underway. Many consider the voyage as a necessary means to an end (getting to the beach), so try to keep passages short. All charter itineraries should be flexible enough to accommodate inclement weather (or maintenance issues), or to linger in a favorite spot – this is especially true when chartering with kids. For a week-long charter, Hedy & Jim recommend building in a land day where the boat stays put, so you can dedicate time to shore excursions. Your kids will have ample opportunity to swim, snorkel, build sand castles, go fishing, clamber over rocks and explore pirate caves, hike to lookouts, chase chickens and goats, and search for seashells. What’s not to love?

When anchored or moored, expect your boat to become a diving and jumping platform. I once watched two young live-aboard kids entertain themselves for three hours by jumping off the bow and climbing back up the anchor line. I wish I had that energy! A moored charter boat is perfect for staging dinghies and kayaks, as well as noodle-raft flotillas. It’s also an excellent base for a natural science class – watch the fish swim around your swim platform, and use the onboard binoculars to study the wildlife along the shoreline.

Chartering with Kids – Overview

Chartering with kids can be a rewarding and magical experience for all, and a way to create family memories to last a lifetime. It’s a completely different experience than an adults-only charter; you will rediscover the joys of boating through a child’s eyes. Don’t try to pack every activity and destination into the first charter. Families are over-scheduled as it is; give yours a chance to relax and play together. Involve your kids completely, and plan for activities afloat and ashore. It’s vacation – have fun!

Find out more about Sail Solomons Sailing Courses

Acknowledgements: Special thanks to those whose ideas, suggestions and photos are pivotal to this article – Hedy & Jim, Alex & Avi, Sue & Mark, Sara & Chris, Captain Andy, and my parents, who instilled in me the love of boating!

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Money Matters – The Bareboat Charter Kitty

(by Capt Lisa Batchelor Frailey)

Why are all-inclusive vacations so popular? Because the majority of the expenses are paid up front, so you can fully relax on vacation and not worry about constantly shelling out money for daily expenses. If you’ve already paid for it, then it feels free!

How to budget on a bareboat charter

This is especially true when you’re sharing expenses on a vacation, whether ashore or afloat. Even the best of friends have different spending styles and priorities, and nothing dampens the vacation atmosphere more quickly than constant questions of “Who’s paying for what?” On a bareboat charter, the cost of the boat itself comprises the largest shared expense, and is paid well in advance. Nonetheless, how you handle the collective daily running expenses onboard can make a big difference in your crew morale. Whether you’re a group of friends sharing expenses, or a couple wanting to maintain financial harmony onboard, a Charter Kitty makes sense. This is not a euphemism for Poker Night or a feline mascot, but a method of pre-paying shared expenses during your charter. Successful bareboat charter crews keep spending issues to a minimum and achieve that “all-inclusive” feeling by establishing a well-organized Charter Kitty.

As in most aspects of a smooth bareboat charter, a little advance planning goes a long way. Be sure to include the Kitty as a topic in your crew’s charter planning discussions; buy-in (pun intended) is important. The actual mechanics of running a Charter Kitty are pretty simple. If you can balance a checkbook, you can manage the Kitty!  Every crew will find their own way to “skin the cat”, but here are some tips we’ve found useful on our charters.

How much is enough?

Estimate the cost of your charter’s running expenses. Consider provisions, beverages, fuel, ice, water, moorings, dockage, customs fees. Discuss what additional expenses you’d like to share; your crew might choose to use the Kitty for cocktails or a meal ashore. Try to decide this in advance, so you’ll have enough cash to cover. It’s better to overestimate and splurge a bit at the end, rather than ask for top-ups midway through the charter. Crewmembers should still carry cash or cards for personal expenses, with cash in reserve to contribute in the event a Kitty top-up is necessary.

Nominate a Purser

Remember “Gopher” from The Love Boat? He was the ship’s Purser – the one responsible for handling the money onboard. Your charter Purser will handle the day-to-day management of the Kitty. The Purser should be organized, and good at making change. The only tools needed are a separate wallet or envelope (to keep Kitty cash separate), perhaps a small calculator, and a tally sheet or ledger. We use a sheet that resembles a check register; hand-entries are simple to make, and it’s easy to decipher where the cash is going and how much remains.

Feed the Kitty!

Once you’ve estimated your cost, split that cost amongst the crew, and have each crewmember contribute their share. If you’re chartering in a country that uses US dollars, it’s often best if crew members bring cash, and pay the Purser once onboard. If a different currency is used at your charter destination, it may be best to pay the Purser in advance, have the Purser deposit the cash/checks to a debit account, and use the debit card to withdraw local currency at an ATM. You’ll get a better exchange rate than using most currency exchange offices. Just be sure the debit card is programmed to work at your destination! Alternatively, each crew member could independently withdraw at your destination, and feed the Kitty with local currency.  A cash Kitty is generally easiest to work with onboard, however you choose to feed it.

Onboard Mechanics

The daily mechanics are quite simple. The Purser starts with a full Kitty kept in a separate envelope or wallet, and records the balance on the ledger. Whoever is charged with buying a service or product gets cash from the Purser, pays the bill, obtains the receipt, and gives the change and receipt to the Purser. If the buyer uses his own money (perhaps the Purser is off snorkeling!), he later presents the Purser with the receipt, and is reimbursed from the Kitty. The Purser records the item purchased and its cost, and calculates the balance remaining in the Kitty. It’s a good idea to keep the receipts for reference.

Top-Ups and Rollovers

The Purser should keep the Captain and crew apprised of the “State of the Kitty,” so you’ll know if you’re making ends meet – or if you need to modify the Kitty’s spending patterns. The ledger will point out where the money is going, so you’ll know what to target. In the event that expenses exceed your estimates, you’ll need to top up the Kitty enroute. This is the time to call upon the crewmembers’ cash reserves (see above “How Much is Enough”). If you’ve got Kitty cash left over at the end of your charter – great! There are lots of fun options for the extra cash. Splurge on your last evening, divvy up the money, buy a lottery ticket, or donate to a charity of the crew’s choice!  Remember, since you’ve pre-paid, it feels free!

Family Plan

For families or couples not sharing expenses, running a charter kitty may still be a great idea – even if the cash is from your joint account. The pre-pay aspect helps you achieve that all-inclusive atmosphere, so you don’t feel like you’re being “nickel-and-dimed” each time an expense arises. For many charter expenses, using a cash Kitty is often the easiest option. Credit card companies often charge fees if the purchase involves a foreign currency. Some vendors charge additional fees to cover credit card processing, and others simply won’t accept credit cards, so be sure to have plenty of cash.

Bonus Points

The greatest advantage to a Charter Kitty is minimizing onboard spending issues for a more enjoyable vacation and preserved crew friendships. But the advantage continues well after your charter. Keeping a good record allows you to review your expenses, targeting specific categories to help you streamline future costs. Apply your “lessons learned” to make the next charter even better. If you’re lucky, that winning lottery ticket purchased with leftover Kitty cash will pay for your next trip!

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