Wednesday, August 5, 2015

What experience do I need?

I plan to have frequently asked questions answered on this page soon, when further explanation comes in handy. We had someone recently ask us on Instagram the following:
"What kind of experience would be beneficial to have to do some of the tours?"
 First, we have a few types of tours:

1) Guided Kayaking (multi-day and half day)
2) Guided Sailing
3) Self-Guided Rentals

I will link and suggest places to get training and experience at the bottom of this post.
Guided Trips:

For starters, if you are going on one of our guided kayak trips, then you need very little experience. Kayaks are pretty easy to learn on the fly, and we will be right beside you to help with all aspects of the trips from packing, paddling, navigation and more.

Guided sailing trips are a little different. We design them so that you will be sailing your own sailboat, and we go along in the powerboat. To do this kind of trip you need at least one person on each sailboat with Skipper experience. You need a Skipper to:

-be the boss on the boat, this person calls the shots and should be able to single-handedly sail the boat or be able to give clear and direct instructions for the rest of the crew to assist them in sailing the boat

-man the tiller, you are responsible for knowing how to steer the boat, when & how to tack or jibe, when to reef the sails, when to raise and lower the leeboards, where to point the boat based on the wind, how to safely navigate the seas to avoid collision with rocks, boats, strong currents, docks, reefs, & other unforeseeable objects

-anchor the boat safely and securely at camp each night; the last thing you want is to wake up with a boat that is dragging into rocks or out to sea

If you really want to learn how to sail on a guided trip, then we will need to restructure the trip so that you have a guide with you in the sailboat. This kind of trip may vary slightly from a regular trip.
Self-Guided Rentals: 
Whether you are going out paddling or sailing for a few hours, or going out for a week or longer, if you are doing a self-guided rental, you need a little more experience. You will be responsible for the safety of the gear, securing it at the beaches, navigating safely, and so forth. If you break it due to misuse then you are responsible for paying the cost of replacement.  And just FYI, to get things to the island we pay:

the cost of the item + shipping to the boat (in FL)+ shipping on the boat (or plane) + a brokerage fee + a customs fee + a duty tax= the big fat total

So you are pretty much guaranteed to pay double the retail cost of anything you buy in the States or Canada. Example double kayak, about $4,000 {yikes}.

More importantly, however, is the safety of YOURSELF and YOUR GROUP! You need to be able to paddle or sail safely, navigate areas (read the chartbooks and/or compass), make smart decisions on areas to avoid and waters that are unsafe, and be able to use your head out there. For instance, if there's a big crossing on the chart that you know is coming up, and there's no where to get out of your kayak along the way, you need to judge the weather, tide, and currents accurately to insure the safety of your group. Or if you get out there, and it's too rough, be smart enough to know that maybe you should turn around and head back instead of pressing onward, just to be safe!

Most areas that you are paddling and sailing in are pretty mild and easy going, however, there are some areas that you can get in trouble really quickly if you aren't smart. We will do our best to go over all these areas with you on the chartbooks before you head out, but it is your job to listen and make the calls out there. And there will be some instances that we cannot foresee that you need to be prepared for. Your safety is the most important thing out there to us. Gear can be replaced, it may be expensive and it may cost you extra if you damage things, but it can be replaced. You obviously can't! Be comfortable with your responsibility and have confidence in your skills so that you have one less hurdle to overcome out there.

On a physical note however, if you're signing up for a week long kayak, sailing and/or camping trip, it might be a good idea to put some time in on the water. Loosen up those muscles and make sure you won't be too sore while you're out there. A little soreness is a sign of a good trip ;)

For training and instruction, you can always go to a local outfitter and get some time paddling, familiarizing yourself with being in a kayak and floating around. A loaded kayak will be a lot less tipsy than an empty one... so keep that in mind. We can also recommend organizations such as ACA (American Canoe Association) for training and certification--if you want to go that route, or ASA (American Sailing Association) for sailing.

If you know of a great paddling or sailing club in your area, could you please leave notes for others in the comments here?

I hope this helps to explain what kind of experience you need to do one of our trips! If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to comment, email ( or call us (242-336-2246)!

No comments: