It is February and there is ICE out there on our Great Lakes, but that doesn’t mean we cannot begin to think about the 2019 sailing season. If you own a boat you’ve probably been to the yard to take a look and see how she is faring over the winter and are dreaming the winter dreams of the upcoming sailing season. If you don’t own a boat, you may be considering making a change. The December issue had a summary of things to look for in buying a used sailboat. This month will take a look at some other options for sailing on the Great Lakes. Just what is it that you want to do? There are several great ways to get sailing, whether you are an experienced sailor or just a beginner. One option for those who don’t want the responsibilities of actually owning a boat, but want a little more access to opportunities to sail is Fractional Boating.
Fractional or shared ownership is different than a boat club or chartering a boat. With this option you actually own part of the boat being used. This helps keep initial costs lower for a newer boat while possibly leaving the maintenance and support to a management company. Disadvantages include that you must share the boat, and it may not be customized or personalized as can be done on an individually owned boat. You will also be sharing the boat with some specified number of others so there may be limitations on those last minute weekend sails or a beautiful day when the weather is perfect. This is, however, an excellent option for those with limited time who want to know the boat they will sail.
Another option to consider is something of a hybrid known as Fractional Membership. This is where a boat is owned by a person or company and there are a specified number of memberships sold in the particular boat. One advantage of this model is that the boat on which you become a member is the boat you will be sailing. Also, given the limited number of members on a boat you will, most likely, have greater access to the boat.
Chartering a boat is a fantastic option. There are charter companies throughout the region offering a variety of boats with opportunities to sail just about any place on the Great Lakes. From Duluth or Thunder Bay on Lake Superior to the 1000 Islands of Lake Ontario, you can find a sailboat charter to suit your needs. From the wilderness of the Apostle Islands, the North Channel and Georgian Bay to urban destinations like Chicago, Milwaukee, Cleveland or Toronto, you can choose between crewed or bareboat charters. All you need to do is decide where in the Great Lakes you want to charter and find the boat that suits your needs. You can charter by the day, weekend or week. A great aspect of the charter option is that when your sailing trip is finished you can leave the boat and take home the memories…without the maintenance.
Finally, take a look at sailing schools. Most people think of sailing schools as a place for beginners. While this to a large extent is true, spending some time with a sailing instructor can be a good way to refresh and enhance your sailing skills. There are plenty of sailing schools around the Great Lakes offering opportunities to learn sailing basics and beyond. Many offer introductory “experience sailing” events that allow you to see if sailing is something you want to explore further through formal classes.
Once you have decided to take sailing classes, how do you find the school that will suit your needs? What are your goals and expectations? Most sailing programs offer courses from the introductory basic keelboat through advanced cruising and navigation classes. Most schools offer classes that combine sailing theory with plenty of time on the water. The learning experiences on a sailboat never end and you can certainly find a school on the Great Lakes that will suit your needs. Taking classes with a school and instructor certified by a national organization, such as US Sailing or American Sailing Association indicates that they have gone through an accreditation process and the instructors have been vetted and certified. The curriculums of schools affiliated with US Sailing and the American Sailing Association are very similar. The good thing is that schools affiliated with US Sailing and ASA are teaching to a specific standard at each level of certification so the quality and experience of the individual instructors is certainly one of the keys to the success of any sailing class. Another positive about taking certification classes through a school affiliated with a national organization is that the certification will be recognized by those schools around the Great Lakes (as well as the US and Caribbean) who have the same accreditation. This means you can complete different levels of certification at different locations if you choose – this is also a great way to experience sailing on different parts of the Great Lakes. The key to all of this is to get out on the water as often as possible, learn from each experience, practice safe boating and have fun sailing the Great Lakes!