When you think of yachting, you probably think of boats the length of a football field, owned by wealthy people who live in multiple places and are crewed by a full complement of sailors and servants. Perhaps you even imagine beautiful girls in Bikinis lounging on the bow, while a man wearing a captain’s cap — who wouldn’t be able to read a nautical chart if his life depended on it — sits on the deck, sipping Martinis and reading the financial news.
Well, yes. That is one kind of yachting.
Actually, yachting simply means a boat used for leisure activities, as opposed to working boats, such as fishing boats and crabbers. There are two major types of yachts: sailboats and motorized craft.
Men and women have been sailing for millennia on waterborne crafts used for transportation, food gathering, and war. No one ever thought of a leisurely sail down the Nile for fun. Except maybe Cleopatra. The very idea of an afternoon’s fishing or a romantic rendezvous in a dinghy didn’t occur until the Renaissance or later. People were too busy, just trying to survive.
But once the concept arose, it went viral. The Dutch started using small yachts for picnics and pleasure jaunts in the 1300s. In the mid-1600s, Charles II of England spent his exile in Holland and became enamored of yachting. When he returned to England, he sailed his 60-foot yacht up and down the Thames for fun.
The practice caught on, and pretty soon, the Thames was full of racing yachts. By the 1800s, yacht clubs were forming in England, on the continent, and in America. International racing started up and continues today.
But while yacht racing is another form of yachting, it tends to be a pricey sport, and one that is taken very seriously.
True yachting is just a man or a woman and the boat. It doesn’t matter whether the boat is a dinghy with nothing but a mainsail or a 40-foot sloop with a crew of five. A sailboat is not just a creation of wood and fiberglass and steel. When you hoist the mainsail, and the boat jumps to catch the wind, when it heels over, and you’re practically riding on the hull, when the wind and the spray are flung back in your face, and you feel so very alive, you know then that the boat, too, is alive. And the two of you are partners for a time, joyfully riding the wind.
Small boats, powered by internal combustion engines, came into existence in the late 1800s, and people have had a love affair with them ever since. From little, open boats with outboard motors to cabin cruisers with the engines inboard, these vessels are usually used for pleasure. They are enjoyed by fishermen, hunters, swimmers, SCUBA divers, and water skiers. And, of course, they are pitted against each other in races.
Real relaxation is sitting in a runabout with a small outboard engine, leaning over the side to watch the fish, or staring at a red and white bobber with a line down to a hook and a worm, or just exploring the inlets of a lake. The gentle movement of the boat, the slightly fishy smell of the lake or river, the sparkle of the sun on the water are the best stress reducers you’ll ever find.
Size and price
Boats come in all sizes, from one-person runabouts to palatial cabin cruisers. The smallest boats will usually accommodate about three people. If you have a large family, you will have to invest in a larger craft.
They don’t have to cost much. There are many used craft on the market. If all that you want is a small, open boat for fishing, you will probably spend a few thousand dollars for the boat, the motor and the trailer. The price goes up from there.
Before you buy a boat, you should rent several different types and become familiar with them. This type of research, as opposed to computer searches, gives you hands-on experience and a lot of pleasure.
Piloting a motorboat isn’t as easy as it seems. If you’re a novice, take along a knowledgeable friend. Boating is a lot of fun, but it can be dangerous. You need to learn about the rules and regulations governing the use of watercraft, and you need to be able to read charts. Handling the craft is a skill taught by experience and a good sailor. You have to pay attention to currents and weather. Try to avoid getting caught out in open water by a squall. Don’t go out on the water by yourself until you can handle the boat safely.
Sailing is a skill that requires even more experience. Getting a sailboat to go where you want it to go, calls for at least a minimum level of training and knowledge. You have to learn how to use the wind to power your vessel. But as in all cases with boats, learning is fun.
So what is it like to go yachting? The experience will vary, from peaceful and relaxing to wild, windy and wet. Every time will be different. Yet every time will be remembered as one of the best days of your life.
Going Yachting Soon? Check Out These Items!
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