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How to plan your next summer sailing trip

The end of winter is finally in sight, which means it’s time to look forward to what another year on the water has in store. Whether island hopping across the Ionian or a shorter break closer to home, this is the right time of year to start putting together your plans for this year’s summer trip. Where do you want to go in 2016? What should you do right now to make it happen? Here’s a guide to make sure it’s a summer to remember…

Get inspired

A summer sailing trip opens up lots of possibilities. It could mean exploring a whole new area of coastline or a UK inland waterway with your own boat. Or it could mean a complete change of scene with a chartered boat in a dream destination. Will the boat be your home from home, or will you ‘stay & sail’, dividing your time between land and sea? Will you take full control yourself, or have someone there to show you the ropes?

To help you narrow down your options, check out new destinations and track down reputable trip organisers, British Marine Leisure Boating is a useful port of call. This is the trade association for the marine training charter and holiday industry. Its members are all required to adhere to the Association's code of conduct and you can browse via its website for trip providers both in the UK and abroad.

Decide on bareboat, skippered or crewed charter

If you are veering towards chartering a boat rather than taking your own, you should decide at an early stage what level of charter you require. For this, you need to be realistic about your own capabilities.

On a bareboat charter, you (or someone else in the trip party) are the nominated skipper. As such you’ll need to be experienced in all aspects of handling and navigation. You set the itinerary and route and you’re also usually responsible for food and other essential provisions.

With a skippered service, you hire the boat along with the services of an experienced skipper. It’s usually a requirement that at least one member of the trip party has sailing knowledge as you’re likely to be called upon for boat handling duties. This makes a skippered service an attractive option if you’re looking for hands-on sailing aren’t yet experienced enough to go it alone completely.

Finally there’s a crewed charter to consider. This allows you to sit back completely and let a qualified skipper and crew take care of everything.

Boost your sailing skill-set before summer arrives

As a motivator, there’s nothing quite like having an event on the horizon for encouraging you to finally get those useful training certificates under your belt.

For instance, if your proposed trip involves taking your boat out to explore new coastal passages, this is probably an ideal time for some advanced instruction on passage planning and pilotage. If you’re going down the charter route, showing formal evidence of your competency is often a necessity (a day skipper certificate for a bareboat arrangement, for instance).

Get familiar with your destination before you set off

Especially if you are the skipper, you should familiarise yourself with the route well in advance. This requires getting hold of charts for the relevant area. At the early planning stages, things to take into account include the length of passage, availability of daylight hours, likely tidal heights and streams, permanent hazards and navigational marks. Rather than starting from scratch just before sailing, you should plot a provisional route well in advance. You can then update this by factoring in any new considerations and the prevailing conditions shortly before setting off.

Get the essential paperwork together

If you are heading beyond the UK, is your passport in date? Do you have the right level and type of boat insurance from a marine insurance specialist? If Europe is your destination and you don’t yet have a European Health Insurance Card, you should apply for one online (something that’s quick and easy to do).

Be aware, however, that the EHIC card gives you access to state-provided healthcare, but it doesn’t cover private medical costs - and neither does it cover the cost of getting you back to the UK if you’re too badly injured to board your planned flight. For the right type of insurance cover tailored specifically for the sailing community, browse our travel insurance options.

Essential preparation at this stage means you can take to the water in confidence once summer comes.