ALL HANDS ON DECK
CRUISES where you sit back, take in the scenery and enjoy the food and wine are fine for some travellers. But many of us like to get more involved in the sailing. If you’re in the second category, consider these trips where volunteering with the sails is always welcome.
Sunsail offers cruises around Queensland’s Whitsundays (the company also has a base in Thailand) where you can take a crewed trip on a 15m catamaran. Book one of four double cabins or charter the vessel as a house party. Meals are prepared by the crew of two and you can get involved in the sailing, or do nothing. From $1400 a person for a three-night cruise out of Hamilton Island; windsurfers, kayaks and snorkelling equipment included. More: 1800 803 988; www.sunsail.com.au.
Sailing on Maxi Ragamuffin is an experience not quickly forgotten. This three-time Sydney to Hobart winner, the fastest maxi in the world in 1981, runs day trips out of Shute Harbour in the Whitsundays. We work up a sweat raising the sails, then dangle our feet over the edge as the 24m maxi takes on a 20-degree tilt. Passengers can even steer if conditions are good. Ragamuffin sails either to Blue Pearl Bay for snorkelling or to pristine Whitehaven Beach. From $116 a person. More: 1800 454 777; www.maxiaction.com.au.
Onthe 22m gaff-rigged schooner Windjammer, built in Brisbane in 1993, I learn the mysteries of mainsails, foresails, staysails and the flying jib. With all 166sq mof sail on display, it’s a magnificent sight. A maximum of nine passengers (with three crew) are encouraged to take the wheel, raise the sails or even clamber up the rigging, 23m above the deck. Windjammer runs a choice of two three-night cruises from Airlie Beach and Shute Harbour. From $885 a person. More: (07) 4946 1777; www.barefootcruises.com.au.
The three Star Clippers sailing ships, which ply the Mediterranean between June and October, offer a hands-on experience that can include cracking a bottle of champagne high up in the crow’s nest. Passengers can steer the ship and help raise the sails, though the latter can also be done at the push of a button. More: 1300 362 599; www.starclippers.com. Barry Oliver