CW Adventure Charters
Having refit his 42-foot Van de Stadt ketch, Fidelius, for bluewater cruising, Roger Morgan set out in 2000 from the Canary Islands with the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers.
Meanwhile, Gunter and Lois Hofmann were having a custom Catana 431 catamaran built in France. The couple's hearts were set on a leisurely, far-ranging circumnavigation.
Then there's Joanne and Gary Wollenberg. Little did they know that one day, not only would they be the owners of Bozo Cinque, a luxurious Amel 54, but that they'd do an Atlantic crossing on her, the precursor to living aboard and cruising full-time in retirement. They weren't even sailors back then. They were powerboaters.
Varied as their stories may be, what the Wollenbergs, the Hofmanns, Morgan, and many others have in common is that a Cruising World Adventure Charter trip kick-started their cruising careers. And these sailors are, according to charter broker and retired international banker Peter King, merely the tip of the iceberg. King and his wife, Carol, own King Yacht Charters; they're the exclusive agents for the magazine's sailing-vacation program. Started in 1989 by CW editors, the success of the voyages stems from their authenticity.
"We wanted to create a way for readers to sail to exotic places," says project founder Bernadette Bernon, now a CW editor at large. "The trips are a little more out there-more of a real cruising experience."
The Adventure Charter e-mail inbox is constantly filled with missives from afar. The sailors mentioned above, Peter King says, "are just the ones who come to the surface. They send us an e-mail saying 'We're off and doing it.'"
As they tick off the nautical miles, accomplished cruising sailors touch base with the editors with whom they sailed and with the Kings for a deceptively simple reason: The CW Adventure Charter experience has had a profound and lasting sentimental influence on their lives and their cruising goals. It's also helped them maintain a unique variation on the Coconut Telegraph. During those sailing vacations, charterers gain confidence, form lasting friendships, find inspiration in the experiences of their crewmates, and test-drive a variety of boat designs and hulls in countries all around the world. "They use the CW Adventure Charter as an opportunity to take a peek and see what it's like," Peter King adds. "They get to kick the tires and meet other cruisers."
Charles Springett learned to sail at home in the United Kingdom. He chartered there, as well as in California and the Caribbean, and he participated in CW Adventure Charters in Seychelles in 1997 and Tonga in 2003. "Chartering gives you the opportunity to gain experience and confidence," he says. "It also gives you access to boats and parts of the world you wouldn't otherwise get to unless you bought a boat and got there all on your own."
Among the models Springett tested via chartering were Catalinas, Morgans, Beneteaus, Island Packets, and Gib'Seas. "We chartered a wide variety of boats," he says. "It's all good experience. I knew I didn't want a run-of-the-mill production boat. I wanted something a little more traditional."
In the fall of 2007, Springett completed the Caribbean 1500 aboard Ariel, his Bristol 43.3, after spending two years preparing the Ted Hood-designed center-cockpit sloop for an extended cruise. "I wouldn't have done the 1500 or any of the other things I've done without first chartering," he says. "A boat purchase is a major expense, and before you do that, you want the self-confidence to know you'll be able to manage it." Even now, after extensive cruising through the Caribbean island chain with his wife, Sue, Springett says he's game for another CW Adventure Charter. "At one point, I had an ambition to cross the Atlantic Ocean, but I don't think we're going to do that. If you want to sail in other places, chartering is really the way to do it."
Phil and Mary Ann Von Stade had already roamed far and wide-via airplane-to seek out the catamaran that fit with their cruising plans. They'd conducted test sails of cats in the United States, South Africa, the Caribbean, and Malaysia. But time was running out: They'd sold their house, but they were still pretty inexperienced sailors, though they'd taken liveaboard courses. Then, in 2006, they stumbled on the CW ad for the annual Sail-a-Cat flotilla in the British Virgin Islands and signed on, figuring that they'd have the chance to try out even more catamarans.
"We had a fantastic vacation and learning experience with 35 like-minded folks, several of whom already had had many interesting cruising experiences," says Phil. "This is really what cruising is all about: sharing experiences in new, often exotic environments, and learning and growing in ways that no land-based experience can quite match. Sail-a-Cat was extraordinary in that it combined so many important variables-a variety of boats to try, a wealth of collective cruising knowledge, and a wonderful group of people to learn and party with, all deftly facilitated and orchestrated by Carol and Peter King. The experience certainly increased our confidence to carry out our long-term plan." Aboard Calypso, a Manta 42 Mark IV, the Von Stades have completed Year Two of a five-year sabbatical.
Sharon and Larry Duhaime unabashedly declare that the CW Adventure Charter program changed their lives. It all happened in the Maldives from December 27, 1999, to January 11, 2000, where CW and the Kings had organized a millennium-celebration flotilla. "It showed us that we wanted that lifestyle," Larry recalls. "It was proof that cruising was for us. I'd been sailing for 25 years, and we had a boat in mind. After the charter, we put the paperwork in order and went cruising."
Eight years on, the Duhaimes are part of the annual fleet migration from the United States to the Bahamas aboard their PDQ catamaran, Lead Free Too. Larry, who survived a bout with polio and now uses a wheelchair, says the tropics provide a nice contrast with the Great Lakes, where he did a lot of cruising. "The warm weather, warm water, and snorkeling are a health benefit for me. My special circumstances present certain obstacles, but they don't prevent me from going cruising. We enjoy this way of living so much. We plan to continue cruising until we can't."
Elaine Lembo is Cruising World's managing editor and Chartering News columnist.