If you thought that sailing holidays were only for families with salt water running in their veins, it's time to broaden your horizons.
Sailing is a "brilliant", healthy and affordable way of spending your summer holidays in BC's pristine coastal wilderness or exploring a Caribbean tropical paradise on a well needed winter break.
Sailors will tell you it is safe, physical, mentally stimulating and relaxing ... all at the same time! It's also a great activity to meet new friends and see a familiar place (like Vancouver Island) from a different perspective.
In these days of busy individuals, in busy families, in busy communities, we need to slow down for a week or two and turn our collective attention to the excitement, peace and tranquility offered by the ocean and wind.
You can’t however, just turn up and sail a yacht without personal preparation and experience. You’re going to need to invest some time and money learning how to do it. Don't worry, most will say it's one of the very best investments you are likely to make in your lifetime! Most new sailors agree there is something so . . . "wicked" about walking away with Skipper qualifications after enjoying the wind, sand and sea on a luxury sailboat on a 7-day Cruise & Learn in paradise.
If you aim to skipper your own boat, most bareboat charter companies will ask for a “Day Skipper” certification as qualifications for the more sheltered destinations like the British Virgin Islands or BC's Gulf Islands.
"Bareboat Charter Master" certification is qualifications for sailing in more remote destinations that require more experience like the Carribbean's Grenadines and BC's Desolation Sound. Twenty days on-the-water experience aboard a similar sized sailboat as skipper or crew are also required by the major charter companies like Dream Charters, Sunsail and MOORINGS.
In Canada and the US you are required to pass the Pleasure Craft Operators Card and the VHF Radio Restricted Operators Certificate (known as ROCM) and to have this documentation with you when you are the skipper of a boat.
If your plans are to visit the Mediterranean and countries in the European Union (EU) you will require a International Certificate of Competence (ICC) through the Royal Yachting Association (RYA).
One option is to learn to sail before you go on holiday is on weekends. When you choose this route, your first port of call if you live in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta or British Columbia should be the Vancouver Sailing Club (VSC) based on FalseCreek in downtown Vancouver.
VSC students and Members will tell you that it is an excellent sailing school offering sailing courses, casual cruising, adventure sailing/ mileage builders, racing and rental sailboats.
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VSC Instructors recommend 3 steps, or foundation courses, for newbee sailors:
- Qualified Crew- 2-Day weekend or the first part of a 7- day Cruise & Learn in Gulf Islands or Desolation Sound
- Day Skipper- 3-Day long weekend or part of a 7- day Cruise & Learn in Gulf Islands or Desolation Sound
- Bareboat Charter Master- 3-Day long weekend or part of a 7- Day Cruise & Learn in Gulf Islands or Desolation Sound
Following completion of the Day Skipper course, you can charter popular J/24 and Beneteau First 36.7 sailboats at VSC's reasonable rates.
If you have never been on the water and would like to try sailing instead of signing up for a course, VSC will recommend a 1-day Introduction to Sailing that will provide a fun day of discovery aboard one of their 36 foot cruisers in English Bay. Don't forget to bring your lunch. You will stop in in the middle of the 'Bay - surrounded by the mountains, harbor seals, Dalls Porpoise and if you are lucky killer or gray whales. This is usually a WOW moment for future sailors.
If BC's winter is too cold for you these same courses are offered in the British Virgin Islands in the Caribbean in December and March as Cruise & Learn Adventures. VSC also has been known to Cruise & Learn in the Grenadines and Antigua. It's best to VSC's website calendar for dates and details.
If you are unable to own a boat joining a Sailing Club is a flexible and inexpensive way to get out on the water and meet people that enjoy sailing- people just like you!
So don't procastinate. Launch the beginning of your sailing lifestyle this year today.