Bare es­sen­tials

There are plenty of op­tions across Aus­tralia to learn how to sail, re­ports Barry Oliver

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Front Page -

T was tough say­ing farewell to Su­per­fish. The gleam­ing 13m cata­ma­ran had been our float­ing home for five glo­ri­ous days as we gen­tly made our way around Queens­land’s Whit­sun­days. The weather was kind and Su­per­fish pa­tiently coped with our clumsy at­tempts at sea­man­ship.

Nights were spent in quiet in­lets un­der star­lit skies; days were filled with snorkelling, swim­ming, shore ex­plo­ration and long, long lunches. For­tu­nately, two of our party were rea­son­ably ex­pe­ri­enced sailors and a Sun­sail in­struc­tor came along for the first 24 hours to make sure we knew our port from our star­board.

For bare­boat char­ters — where you’re in charge of the boat — Sun­sail re­quires the cho­sen cap­tain to have a min­i­mum of five days’ sail­ing ex­pe­ri­ence on a sim­i­lar ves­sel and the first mate at least three days. Oth­er­wise you can take a sail­ing course or, and this ob­vi­ously costs more, hire a skip­per for the cruise. For the ul­ti­mate in lux­ury, splash out on a host­ess as well and for­get about cook­ing for a while.

Bare­boat­ing isn’t as scary as you may think. Af­ter an anx­ious first day we quickly got the hang of the sails — there’s al­ways the en­gine if the go­ing gets tough — and 100 Magic Miles , the sailor’s bi­ble that comes with ev­ery Sun­sail char­ter boat, was a god­send when it came to find­ing our way around. Well, ex­cept for the time we nearly ran aground while drop­ping in on Hay­man Is­land; but nearly doesn’t count in my book.

We had to re­port to base morn­ing and night to let the bosses know we — and the pre­cious cata­ma­ran — were still afloat and to check on the lat­est weather fore­cast.

Sun­sail’s Aus­tralian head­quar­ters is in the Whit­sun­days but it also of­fers char­ters from 35 bases spread across Tahiti, Tonga, Thai­land, Malaysia, the Sey­chelles, Mediter­ranean and Caribbean. www.sun­sail.com.au.

Still in Queens­land, no ex­pe­ri­ence is needed for a bare­boat rental with Fraser Is­land Es­cape Yacht Char­ters, which pro­vides a pre-sail brief­ing and sup­port. Choose from yachts and sail­ing cata­ma­rans to pow­ered cata­ma­rans and cruis­ers. Boats are avail­able year-round from Tin Can Bay to the south of Fraser Is­land or Her­vey Bay to the north (the com­pany claims the scenery and wa­ter­ways ri­val the Whit­sun­days). From $650 a night (for six to seven nights) for a sail­ing cata­ma­ran that sleeps up to eight. www.fraserescape.com.au.

In Syd­ney, the Big Blue Sail­ing School in Manly of­fers bare­boat and skip­pered char­ters on Syd­ney Har­bour as well as a va­ri­ety of cour­ses. Its seven-hour in­tro­duc­tion to sail­ing course is $170 a per­son; chil­dren’s lessons are $30 for two hours. There’s a spe­cial three-night course ($299 a per­son) for any­one in­tend­ing to char­ter a yacht. www.the­big­blue.com.au.

On the NSW Cen­tral Coast near Kill­care Beach, Hardys Bay Yacht Char­ters of­fers reg­u­lar three-hour learn-to-sail trips for small groups (usu­ally six to eight peo­ple). Priced at $75 a per­son with cheese plat­ter and snacks; BYO drinks. Skip­pered char­ters also avail­able ($750 a day for up to eight peo­ple) sail­ing Bris­bane Wa­ter, Bro­ken Bay, Pittwa­ter and the Hawkes­bury River. Three-day skip­per-your­self pack­ages are $165O mid­week. Overnight Berth and Break­fast deals from $725 a cou­ple with din­ner and a three-hour sail. www.hbyc.com.au.

Lake Mac­quarie Sail­ing Char­ters, 20 min­utes south of New­cas­tle in NSW, runs a range of learn-to-sail pro­grams, all ac­cred­ited un­der the Aus­tralian Yacht­ing Fed­er­a­tion, on its 17m cruis­ing yacht Mar­garita. The pro­grams cover ev­ery­thing from be­gin­ners to bare­boat ba­sics for any­one plan­ning a char­ter. For those want­ing to just kick back and en­joy the ride, there are sight­see­ing trips from two to four hours on Mac­quarie, the coun­try’s big­gest salt­wa­ter lake.

Or Wet ’ n’ Wild char­ters com­bine crew­ing a racing yacht with other wa­ter-based ac­tiv­i­ties such as kayak­ing. www.lakemac­quar­ie­sail­ingchar­ters.com.au.

EastSail, based at Syd­ney’s Rush­cut­ters Bay, of­fers a wide range of cour­ses as well as bare­boat yacht char­ters on Syd­ney Har­bour for ex­pe­ri­enced sailors. More than 25 yachts, from 9.8m to 14.5m, are avail­able. EastSail also runs har­bour trips: its lat­est is an Earth Hour Stargaz­ing Sail on March 28, tak­ing ad­van­tage of a dimly lit CBD. www.eastsail.com.au.

Tas­ma­nia of­fers the op­por­tu­nity to sail a replica of a tra­di­tional square-rigged ship. The Tas­ma­nian Sail Train­ing As­so­ci­a­tion’s Lady Nel­son sails the River Der­went from Ho­bart on week­ends; pas­sen­gers get a chance to set the sails or take a turn at the helm. For

Des­ti­na­tion

His­tory un­der sail: The Lady Nel­son cap­tures that 19th-cen­tury square-rig­ger feel­ing, in­clud­ing work­ing aloft furl­ing the sails

Happy hearties: On­board dress-ups lighten the load

Travel&In­dul­gence. youngsters there are spe­cial events — pi­rate sails, young stow­aways — and taste of sail­ing trips give older seadogs the chance to join the crew aloft and learn how to han­dle the sails.

Week­end es­capes of­fer a more com­plete sail­ing ex­pe­ri­ence: the next, along the D’En­tre­casteaux Chan­nel in the state’s south­east, is on May 1-3. www.la­dynel­son.org.au.

In West­ern Aus­tralia, South West Yacht Char­ters at Bun­bury on the Mar­garet River, two hours south of Perth, of­fers bare­boat char­ters and skip­pered sail­ing hol­i­days in Geographe Bay. Yachts sleep up to eight and sail from Bus­sel­ton to an­chor­ages off Duns­bor­ough or leave from Bun­bury, 40km to the north. The area is renowned for clear wa­ter and great snorkelling, and the com­pany has moor­ings at the most pop­u­lar spots for overnight stays. One-day sail­ing cour­ses are also on of­fer. With South West Yacht Char­ters’ learn-to-sail hol­i­days, would-be nau­ti­cal types can gain a qual­i­fi­ca­tion recog­nised in­ter­na­tion­ally. Cour­ses range from one, two or five-day live-aboard pro­grams with ac­com­mo­da­tion on the yacht (meals pro­vided).

‘‘ While you gain new skills you also make new friends and en­joy an ex­pe­ri­ence that is un­for­get­table,’’ says owner He­len Punch.

Cour­ses in­clude Com­pe­tent Crew, Day Skip­per and, for the ad­ven­tur­ous, Coastal Skip­per, which in­cludes ex­ten­sive night sail­ing. Bare­boat hire starts at $590 a day and sail train­ing cour­ses start at $245. www.swy­achtchar­ters.com.au.

Vic­to­rian Yacht Char­ters of­fers bare­boat or skip­pered trips out of Mel­bourne’s Port Phillip Bay. It also runs bed-and-break­fast cruises, which in­clude a two-hour sail with a skip­per, an overnight stay on the yacht and break­fast ashore. From $650 a cou­ple. www.vic­to­ri­any­achtchar­ters.com.au.

South Aus­tralia’s Ade­laide-based The Academy of Sail, which in­cor­po­rates Ad­ven­ture Char­ters, of­fers train­ing cour­ses us­ing a 13m two-masted yacht that has cir­cum­nav­i­gated the world. Its in­tro­duc­tion to sail­ing course of one six-hour les­son is $220 a per­son or the more ad­vanced two-day Com­pe­tent Crew course is $440. On skip­pered char­ters — half-day, full day or twi­light — pas­sen­gers can lend a hand with the sails, though it’s not oblig­a­tory. An­other pop­u­lar char­ter is the two-day sail to Port Vin­cent on the Yorke Penin­sula. Overnight ac­com­mo­da­tion is on­board or at a B & B in the town. www.acade­my­sail.com.au.

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