By: Shayne Benowitz
Head the bow into the wind, switch the engine off, raise the mainsail, and unfurl the jib. Now, sit back and listen to the quiet lapping of salty water splash against the hull. Luxuriate in the sunshine and enjoy the fresh sea breeze as the sails catch wind and your boat sets out through Biscayne Bay on its first tack. With only the wind propelling you forward, there’s perhaps nothing more peaceful—and exhilarating—than an afternoon spent sailing in Miami.
With the calm, aquamarine Atlantic Ocean, the protected waters of Biscayne Bay, stunning views of the downtown skyline, and islands and causeways to navigate, it’s no wonder Miami’s considered a world-class sailing destination all year long.
Sailing is not exactly an inexpensive hobby and you need some know-how before you’re ready to skipper your own sloop. This is where sailing lessons, sailing clubs, as well as boat rentals and charters come into play. Whether you’re looking for a few hours on the water or a live aboard sailing vacation and everything in between, Miami is ripe with options.
If you’re serious about learning to sail, then enrolling in an American Sailing Association (ASA) certificate course is the first step towards mastery. Once you’ve earned your Basic Keelboat Certification, you’ll have the confidence and freedom to charter a boat for a day sail almost anywhere in the world. Advanced courses will teach you navigational and bareboat charter skills. In Miami, Florida Yacht Group is a reliable and efficient source for certification.
Their Basic Keelboat course can be completed in a long weekend (Friday through Sunday) and includes ASA exam and certificate. You’ll spend two full days on the water learning hands-on skills aboard a 20’ sailboat, as well as time onshore with classroom instruction. You can also choose to combine your Basic Keelboat course with Coastal Cruising and Bareboat Chartering for an accelerated study that’s more time and cost effective in the long run. A single three-day course is $850 per person and the three-course combination package is $2,000 per person for a total of six days of instruction. Florida Yacht Group also offers day sail charters where a captain is provided, as well as bareboat overnight charters, which means you’re on your own.
For a slightly less rigorous and more tailor-made sailing experience, Island Dreamer Sailing School run by Harold and Margie Ochstein is a great option. While they offer ASA certificate courses, they can also create an itinerary to meet your interests whether it’s a family fun day on the water, a couples sailing course, or a six-day charter to the Keys. Their two 41’ Morgan Out Island sloops are on Watson Island just off the MacArthur Causeway between South Beach and downtown. Day sail rates start at $695 and can accommodate up to 6 passengers with lunch included. The Ochstein’s recommend exploring the waters surrounding Biscayne National Park including Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park and Boca Chita Key, and they’re happy to create a custom itinerary for you.
Sailing clubs are another great way to get on the water and learn to sail. While membership is a great option for those who live in Miami, most sailing clubs offer activities and lessons to visiting non-members, as well. These clubs typically offer summer camp youth programs, as well as options for friendly racing in club regattas.
Located at the Dinner Key Marina in Coconut Grove, The Miami Sailing Club offers a wide variety of sailing lesson options from beginner to advanced, including an eight-week extensive course, as well as weekend intensive classes. They also offer a great charter program including day sails, sunset sails, and moonlight cruises. Nearby, the Coconut Grove Sailing Club offers similar programs for lessons, charters, and rentals.
If you’re civic minded and want to support a wonderful program, look no further than Shake-A-Leg Miami whose mission is to provide water sport activities to those with physical, developmental, and economic challenges. Aside from sailing lessons and charters, Shake-A-Leg also offers opportunities for kayaking, powerboating, and even scuba diving classes. Starting on the first Saturday of every month and continuing for four consecutive Saturdays, beginner and intermediate sailing classes take place. While membership is required with rates starting at $60 annually, class costs are relatively low ranging from $201 to $335 for the four-week course. If your time in Miami is limited, and you’d like to get out on the water for an afternoon, opt for their private sailing classes, which costs $45 per hour for 2-4 students.
While a sailing vacation requires a little extra planning and budgeting, opportunities in Miami are virtually limitless. Many companies that offer boat charters and sailing lessons have the flexibility to work around your budget, timeframe, and sailing goals in order to tailor make a package perfect for you. A sailing lesson can result in an enriching lifelong pastime. If it’s something you’ve always wanted to try, Miami is the perfect place to get your feet wet!
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