I remember quite clearly that first waltz with trade winds. Five of us left Canouan on a Beneteau chartered from The Moorings to explore St. Vincent and the Grenadines. A day out, we snaked our way up the channel just north of Mayreau and anchored behind the reef at Tobago Cays, where all afternoon we snorkeled, overwhelmed by the endless coral formations and the dizzying clouds of swirling fish. Well
into the evening we lounged on the foredeck, entranced by the tropical sky as we searched for a first glimpse of the Southern Cross. What I remember most, though, was the roar of the surf a few hundred yards off our bow as waves crashed from the open ocean onto the horseshoe-shaped reef, the nearly calm waters where we sat anchored, and the wind. It howled all night. Though I was more than ready for sleep, I found myself climbing topside again and again to check our anchor. Finally, I remained there, in the cockpit, listening to the wind and dozing until dawn.
In the morning, we set sail for Bequia, the wind still strong, still steady. Once we were out of the lee of the islands, the breeze was on our beam, and we raced northward over the swells for a few hours of some of the best sailing I've been lucky enough to taste, though some of my motion-challenged crewmates may not quite remember it that way.
But as good as that sail was, they set the agenda the next day, and we spent it ashore. We explored Port Elizabeth, paid a visit to Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary, then stretched our legs on the long walk over the hills back to the boat. Since this was technically a sailing trip, I suppose we should've felt remorse at missing a day bashing through the waves. To be honest, it was just the opposite. Though the getting there had been outstanding, the being there-the hike through the hills, the harbor, an afternoon whistle-wetter in a little bar, the carnival parade we stumbled upon-were all just as tantalizing.
And to me, that's what's so intriguing about the whole chartering thing, the focus of this month's Cruising World. We're calling it our "Chartering Plus" issue because these getaways we take from our land-bound lives usually turn out to be about a whole lot more than going for a sail, though it's that desire to go for a sail that leads to all sorts of adventures in the first place. Some exploits, such as those covered in the features written by three of my colleagues, are planned; others, like that night in the Tobago Cays, come about totally by happenstance. They're all good.
For a lot of us, chartering is a way to enjoy destinations that our own boats aren't likely to see. If we lack a boat, it's a chance to experience what it's like to spend a few days and nights aboard. For the monohull sailor, a trip to the Caribbean can be an opportunity to see if two hulls are, perhaps, a roomier liveaboard option for the escape to come. For a family or young crew on a budget, an older boat will still deliver a vacation they can afford.
Trade-wind sailing, diving, racing, surfing-there are all sorts of good reasons to head off on a charter. Pick one and start planning.