Sailing in Style

By Hannah Wallace June 30, 2008

Equal Opportunity Sailing

The Sarasota Sailing Squadron has promoted the sport, the science and the spirit of sailing since 1947. It hosts races and regattas for serious sailors and offers beginners a wealth of learning opportunities, including crewing during weekly informal races. The Squadron also hosts Red Cross sailing classes for kids and adults, as well as the acclaimed Sarasota Youth Sailing Program. Its headquarters (including storage and launching facilities and a convivial clubhouse) is perched on the tip of Ken Thompson Park, near Mote Aquarium. Bottom line? “We’re here for everyone,” says educational coordinator Stuart Gilfillen. “There’s no prerequisite and no experience required. Even if you don’t own your own boat, there’s a place for you on the water.” Don’t miss the Squadron’s 2008 Labor Day Regatta, Aug. 30 and 31—a Sarasota tradition since 1946. Club membership is $112.35 for city residents; $172.21 for county residents. Sarasota Sailing Squadron;

1717 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota
(941) 388-2355.

Learning the Basics

Let’s say your only sailing experience was with your tub toy as a child. No worries. Sara-bay Sailing School will make a sailor out of you yet. Its Basic Keelboat Certification is a 12-hour, two-day introductory sailing course that’s open to all—just bring sailing gloves, boat shoes, sunglasses, sunscreen, a hat and a “let's-have-fun-and-learn-to-sail” attitude. You’ll get plenty of personal attention since your classroom is a Cal 24-foot or a Catalina 22-foot, which limits the class size to three or four students. The curriculum for Basic Keelboat Certification ($350) includes boating safety, sailing theory and terminology, points of sail, tacking and jibing, man-overboard recovery, basic knots, basic rules of the road, and meeting United States Coast Guard safe boating course requirements. At voyage end, you’ll take a one-hour test on dry land. If you pass, you can move up to Basic Coastal Cruising Certification ($250) and Bareboat Chartering ($500). Sara-bay Sailing School (941) 914-5132;

Bareboating it in the Caribbean

Maybe you’re a sailing pro who wants to bareboat it (sailor talk for skippering your own boat) at your own pace. Perhaps the crystal-clear Caribbean is your dream. Virgin Island Sailing, a Nokomis-based charter broker company, will hook you up with the finest sailing vessels (100 feet and under) afloat, with or without crew. Its expert team will get every detail of your trip squared away, providing as much help as you ask for—or as little. Cost depends on boat size, length of sail time, and season. But why not dream big? A 51-foot, state-of-the-art catamaran with berth space for 11 costs between $9,000 and $12,000 per week, depending on season. The British Virgin Islands are celebrated for their sheltered, clear blue waters and mountainous island peaks. “It’s a sailor’s paradise,” says Dennis Lang, a company spokesperson. “You’re in the middle of the Caribbean, with open water to the north and south, but protected by a ring of sheltering islands. There’s a constant trade wind blowing from the east, predictable conditions and the islands are perfect for land excursions.” What are you waiting for? Virgin Island Sailing (800) 382-9666;

Luxury Sailing

If you’re more interested in experiencing sailing as an extravagant pastime, set your sights on a luxury charter. Seven Seas Charters specializes in luxury mega-yacht vacations—“mega” as in the Mirabella V, a 245-foot vessel that accommodates 12 guests. She boasts seven grandly appointed staterooms, a main salon complete with surround-sound projection, a dip pool, gymnasium and sauna, as well as 13 crew members skilled in the arts of seamanship and pampering. This particular vessel sails the Mediterranean and will set you back $350,000 per week, but Seven Seas can arrange for a charter yachting adventure pretty much anywhere in the world on any size yacht and budget. Seven Seas (941) 966-6017;

Think global, sail local

Janet Hamel Solomon grew up here in the 1960s and has sailed local waters since childhood. She and her husband, U.S. Coast Guard Master Captain Tim Solomon, are the owners of Key Sailing, a charter sailing company. Their boat is a 41-foot Morgan Classic II, which comfortably accommodates six people. You can book it by the hour (a four-hour cruise is $384; it’s $100 an hour after that) or choose one of their charter packages. The Dolphin excursion is an eight-hour tour around Siesta, Longboat and Lido keys ($150 per person). Solomon recently returned to Sarasota after sailing the globe, a voyage she chronicled in her book, Life’s a Breeze. Happily back home, she just completed her second book, Love’s a Breeze, which recounts tales of love she’s heard while sailing. “I came back after traveling the world to find the world here—on my sailboat,” she says. Key Sailing, docked at Marina Jack's (941) 346-7245;

Yachting tradition—old school

Sailboats either make you less civilized (think pirates) or vastly more so (think William F. Buckley).The Sarasota Yacht Club, founded in 1926, is a venerable Sarasota institution, anchored in all things civilized. This private yacht club—membership is by invitation only—is rich in history and tradition. Located in a sheltered inlet on the subtropical waters of Sarasota Bay, it’s the perfect spot to cast off for a day cruise, or to sit back and enjoy a chat and a sip in the clubhouse. That clubhouse, by the way, is due for demolition this summer. A new 27,000-square-foot building is slated for completion in 2009. New traditions will begin. Sarasota Yacht Club;

1100 John Ringling Blvd., Sarasota
(941) 365-4191.

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