It turns out that winter opens the door to some real adventures in floating fiberglass fun—if you know where to look. From plying slow southern waters to skidding across frozen northern lakes, here’s what boating lovers do in the “off” season. The clock may say Standard Time, but some of the season’s snowy playgrounds are decidedly nonstandard.
SLOW IT DOWN
Cruise the Intracoastal
The 3,000-mile waterway, which runs along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, is not just a means to an end—it’s a destination. Explore historic towns like Wilmington,
Savannah and St. Augustine; sample local cuisine, from Low Country to Cajun and Creole; and savor the changing scenery.
Try Charter Fishing
During their winter migration down the East Coast toward South Florida, sailfish favor the Gulf Stream’s warm waters and may be found less than 10 miles offshore. It’s the perfect time for novices and families with younger children to cast away. Consider a half-day charter to get your feet wet.
Learn to Sail
Yes, you can become an accomplished sailor while enjoying a much-needed vacation. Several sailing schools offer opportunities for individuals, couples and families to fine-tune their skills and earn certifications that will allow them to charter a boat and go cruising.
SPEED IT UP
Go Winter Water-skiing
Don a dry suit for this fast-paced take on the Polar Bear Club. Some northern rivers and lakes remain ice-free, and their safe navigation sets the stage for never-say-quit skiers to enjoy thrilling (if chilly) rides. Questions on the proper conditions? Consult a local water-skiing club, which may have inside information.
Sail an Iceboat
Frozen water is no excuse to stay indoors. Midwestern inland lakes with smooth, stable, snow-free ice and wind are prime ground for iceboats—sailing craft that can reach speeds up to around 100 miles per hour on their three skates, or runners. To give this a try, contact a local iceboat club for lessons and advice.
Try a Snow Kayak
Why put your kayak away when rivers turn icy? Obsessed paddlers can careen down snow-covered mountainsides, navigating trees and deep powder just like skiers. Today, experienced “snow-yakers” usually play in the backcountry, though it’s possible to find in-bounds opportunities at a handful of ski resorts.
By Heather Steinberger