January 27, 2017
The benefits of bareboat sailing in flotilla
By Robert Cross
The flotilla concept, sailing in convoy following a locally-skippered lead boat, became popular in the 1970s when chartering was in its infancy. Shore services were limited, navigation was by line of sight or dead reckoning, and in many places maritime tourism was foreign to the communities being visited. Local knowledge was necessary to ensure a good time and safe holiday was had by all.
Flotillas made boating holidays accessible to sailors at all levels of proficiency, and had a positive influence on the industry’s development. They are still a popular form of sailing holiday. Scheduled flotilla charters operate In-season in most of the world’s popular sailing destinations. Where they do not, opportunities periodically exist to join one-off or annual events.
The benefits of flotilla charters are significant. Opting into the company of others can enrich your party’s total sailing experience, while minimising any concerns that separation from the crowd may cause.
Modern-day flotillas benefit from a wide set of fabulous leisure experiences travelling on the best-equipped boats. Your holiday will start with boat familiarisation, and introduction to your fellow flotilla sailors, usually over dinner. This get-together will include a full rundown on what’s in store and activities planned during your cruise. That doesn’t mean you are tied to a rigid programme. Activities are optional so your crew has full sailing and vacationing independence between nightly stopovers.
Your lead boat will be fully crewed by skipper, cook and often engineer, so there is always professional support close at hand.
Flotilla itineraries are designed to make the most of group dynamics. Rather than having to seek out your own evening entertainment, you may find a cultural night is planned in a town along the way, or there’s to be a group barbecue on some idyllic secluded beach. Dive or fishing trips can be prearranged in many locations, subject to availability and of course the weather. But all the time, you are free to do your own thing, even sail a slightly different daily course if what’s planned is not for your crew.
The flotilla concept effectively just requires everyone to be in the same bay or marina overnight. Important group briefings occur each morning, covering weather, places of special interest and things to look out for before meeting up at the predetermined end-of-day anchorage. Next morning, the lead boat will generally see you off the anchor, then sail ahead to the next port of call to help guide you in.
Flotillas often operate on seven-day itineraries from base to furthest point then a seven-day reverse journey. This scheduling structure provides the perfect opportunity for either a one or two-week sailing holiday, enjoying the company of others but largely free to follow your own interests along the way.
One-off and Occasional Flotillas
Scheduled flotilla operations are not available everywhere you can charter bareboat. But if there’s a market, there is always someone willing to step in and meet it.
Independently-run sailing tours become available from time to time, often in some of the very best niche destinations. The top charter boat brokers have access to some great flotilla sailing holiday initiatives operated by maritime tourism professionals. As a formula less structured than scheduled flotillas, one-off custom flotillas are always rich in adventure and spontaneity.
As with regular flotillas, the lead boat or boats always have the space aboard to offer cabin charters. So not only do flotillas accommodate full crews seeking to charter in company, but individuals and couples looking to join in.
Chartering a boat as part of an organised flotilla gives you all the freedom of a sailing holiday with family and friends, but with the added comfort of knowing you are part of a group led by professional sailors. On top of that, you are in the good company of like-minded people. You are bound to make new friends and have experiences that aren’t so easy to come by on a fully independent charter in unfamiliar surroundings.
If joining a flotilla sounds like your way of participating in the great adventure of bareboat charter in an exotic location, talk to a broker who knows what the market has on offer to suit your time and place.
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