If you lack enough sailing friends to make a crew, or don’t have someone qualified to skipper your yacht, you have several options:
- So called Share a Sail or Pot Luck holidays enable you to a share a yacht on a Flotilla holiday. More on these below.
- Joining a Flotilla Lead Yacht, sailing along with the professional crew as they run their Flotilla. More on this below.
- Cabin Charter, booking a cabin on a professionally crewed yacht. Some of these enable you to take part in the sailing if you wish, with others you sit back and watch the crew take the strain. There’s more about these cruises on the Cabin Charter page.
- Skippered or Crewed charter, where you charter a yacht for you sole use with a skipper or skipper and crew. You can read more about these on the pages on Skippered Yacht Charter and Crewed Yacht Charter.
- Take a sailing course. These take many forms, from informal training to internationally recognised qualifications for everyone from novices to the much more experienced. There’s more about the many options on the Sailing Courses pages.
Share a Sail or Pot Luck is charter by the cabin or berth on a Flotilla yacht. It enables singles or friends and couples who either can’t afford a yacht to themselves or lack necessary sailing experience, to join a Flotilla. It’s called Pot Luck because you don’t know who you’ll be sharing the yacht with, nor who the skipper will be (unless it’s you)! Whoever is the most competent sailor is usually persuaded to be skipper.
This can be a great way to make new friends whilst having a sailing holiday at a very reasonable price. However, I have some reservations about such arrangements from both legal and practical viewpoints.
Skippers should of course have the necessary sailing qualifications to sail the yacht, but these may fall short of a professional skipper’s qualification. In the event of an accident, is the skipper covered against legal action by his crew? Are the crew covered for any negligence by the skipper? In mitigation, I should say I’ve never heard of such a holiday ending up in the courts.
Legalities aside, does it work? Well, I had a number of Share a Sail boats in my days working on Flotillas, and two, just two, worked brilliantly. Everyone got on with each other, the skipper was capable, the others followed their instructions.
Others had more mixed results. We had skippers who couldn’t communicate (it can be hard telling folk you don’t know from Adam what to do), crew who refused to help sail the boat, and a few personality clashes.
Much comes down to everyone’s attitude. You need to remember you are not the only person on board. Even within a Flotilla, there is a fair amount of flexibility about how long you sail each day and the ability compromise is essential, as is a willingness to muck in a share the less glamorous tasks such as washing the coffee cups!
The good news is you’re unlikely to do as badly as one group of four Yachtmasters we once had out. In retrospect, it was quite comical and at least most of the participants claimed to have enjoyed it, even if myself and my team were reduced to wrecks!
The problem became evident the very first evening – we had four theoretical skippers busy arguing how the mooring should be tackled, no crew to actually do anything, and their boat heading (quite fast) towards the quay. Predictably, the debate didn’t reach the small matter of how to stop the yacht before it hit the quay!
After some polite “guidance” we were disappointed when the second night turned out much the same. And night three. By now the “guidance” we were giving was getting quite, er, forceful and included a rota we’d drawn up and made them agree to, nominating one person as skipper each day with the rest to follow the skippers instruction without question!
It made no difference and whilst their moorings were now a recognised part of the evenings entertainment for other clients, our nerves had about had it! So at the end of week one, after a council of war with head office, we split them on to two boats. It made not a jot of difference, except we now needed twice as many emergency fenders and the stress at mooring time was doubled!
So if you’re thinking of Share a Sail, yes it is a cheap way to go sailing but there is a bit of a gamble about it and I would certainly consider the other options, A cabin charter on a bigger yacht with a professional skipper may cost a little more (but could even be cheaper) and gives you a skipper you can trust, and who can keep any wayward fellow passengers in check.
If you are thinking of a Share a Sail holiday, there are some things to bear in mind:
- Be as flexible as you can about dates and sailing areas – this increases the chance of being able to match you up with other individuals
- Get in touch with me as early as you can – most such trips run on demand and it gives more chance of finding others to sail with you.
- Be aware that these holidays are rarer in high season as other sharers may be less keen to pay premium rates and operators will prefer to sell holidays to families and parties which take less co-ordination and administration than dealing with several individuals
- Check the Singles Sailing Holiday Prices page for current availability.
It is possible to take berths on a Flotilla Lead Yacht and sail along with the Lead Crew. This can be an economical option and eliminates any concerns about the competence of your skipper. It can also be quite interesting to see what goes on behind the scenes running a Flotilla – there’s more to it than many people realise.
Most crews will be happy for you to take part in sailing the yacht though it’s important to appreciate they are not there as instructors and their prime task is to look after the rest of the Flotilla. So for example if they are in a hurry to get moored up to assist another yacht in, you may be politely asked to take a back seat. This may also mean if winds are light there’s a bit more motoring and a bit less sailing than the rest of the Flotilla do
On the other hand, by the time they are a few weeks in to the season, most Lead Crews have had quite enough of helming, and appreciate any chance to get sailing, especially if they have willing volunteers to help with the work!
The other advantage of this option over Share a Sail or Pot Luck sailing is the Lead Yacht is in action every week, so availability is a lot better – you can go any week of the season. Check the Singles Sailing Holiday Prices page for current availability.