MAINE WINDJAMMER ASSOC / FRED LeBLANC
Looking for something different this summer — that won't break the bank — consider a coastal cruise aboard a Maine windjammer.
LATITUDE / ANDY
like Greece, Turkey and the British Virgin Islands, many charter operators offer scheduled 'flotilla' charters, where a group of boats travels on more or less the same route and schedule. If you like to make new friends — especially those from other nations — flotillas can be great fun. Europeans seem to love them, so you'll probably find yourself in the company of Scandinavians, Germans, Brits and/or Frenchmen. There is always a lead boat with a group leader aboard who's intimately familiar with the area. The lead boat (and sometimes others also) is generally booked by the berth. A related alternative is to book a cabin or berth aboard an instructional cruise. Most Bay Area sailing schools (or 'clubs') offer a variety of instructional flotilla trips throughout the year, as do schools in the Caribbean, San Juan Islands, Florida and elsewhere. There are also all sorts of bookedby-the-berth options aboard tall ships
and traditional schooners. For example, during the summer months, the Maine coast is a veritable celebration of sail, as a picturesque fleet of both replicas and restored historic schooners ply the protected waters of the Penobscot Bay region. All aboard are encouraged to
pitch in with the sailing chores, such as hauling lines, trimming sails and taking a turn at the helm. And every cruise includes a traditional New England lobster bake which, in itself, is worth making the trek across the country. To our way of thinking the best of these cruises are timed with one of a wide variety of schooner races and festivals that take place throughout the summer, where dozens of schooners rendezvous. As you can imagine, such gatherings are a snapshooter's dream. Okay, so you can economize on provisions, and you can share boat expenses or find by-the-berth sailing options, but how do find affordable airfares? That issue, we realize, can be a deal-breaker, especially for families on a tight budget. These days there seems to be more variation with flight pricing than with any other commodity we can think of — on any given flight similar seats will have sold for wildly different amounts. Generally, booking way in advance will get you the best deal, but not always. If you're super-flexible you can sometimes pick up a last-minute midweek fare for a song. That said, it may have a horrendous schedule with multiple stops, but it will get you there. Combine that with a last-minute boat or berth reservation and your in! Frequent flyer miles are best used far in advance also, but here again, you can sometimes get lucky late in the game on mid-week flight with wacky itineraries. For this sort of bargain-hunting, though, we strongly advise you to enlist the help of a real live reservation agent, even if Tahiti is certainly not what you'd call a bargain destination. But bareboat prices and provisioning are similar to many other venues.
The May 2010 issue of the West's premier sailing and marine magazine.