Have you ever dreamt of throwing off the shackles of the usual two-week beach vacation, boldly casting off from a shoreline of identikit beach bars and restaurants and making for the open waves on a sailing vacation?
If you have, you may be surprised to learn that this fantasy is not only possible, but actually pretty easy to achieve. Yacht charter is increasingly becoming a viable option for vacationers looking for something a bit different, and is no longer strictly the preserve of tanned movie producers with a 3rd wife hanging off one arm and a pastel colored sweater draped round their shoulders.
However, despite it being unfailingly obvious to you that any sort of boating vacation will provide endless enjoyment for the whole family, the family in question may not be quite so sold on the idea. Sadly, kids no longer seem quite so fascinated by maritime exploits or the incredible voyages of naval explorers like Cook, Columbus and Ferdinand Magellan, preoccupied as they are with Twilight, Xbox games and the relative merits of the new Lady Gaga single. With this in mind, here are three iconic ships that have shaped history, united nations and serve as an inspiring reminder of what can be achieved on the open seas.
Nicknamed ‘Old Ironsides’, the USS Constitution first set sail in 1797 and is to this day an officially commissioned warship with its own sixty man crew. Initially built under instruction from George Washington to protect US trade ships after a series of attacks by pirates, the Constitution had an incredible naval career spanning over 200 years and distinguished herself in the War of 1812 by defeating five British warships and capturing numerous merchant ships.
This was no mean feat at a time when the British Navy was hailed as the greatest in the world, and the feat was enough to secure her legend in US military history. The Constitution became the flagship of the US military and sailed around the world in 1843, before becoming a museum ship in 1907. The Constitution was later used to train the next generation of American naval recruits, and amazingly, in 1997 sailed out under her own steam in celebration of her 200th birthday.
The Cosmic Muffin
It may sound like a key component of hippy’s brunch, but the origins of the Cosmic Muffin are possibly even more mind-blowing. The main body is made from a Boeing 307 Stratoliner airplane which is rare enough, but when you consider that the 307 was the first pressurized commercial aircraft ever made, and there were only ever ten built, it becomes even more improbable.
The plane in question was acquired by aviation legend Howard Hughes in 1939 on his purchase of Trans World Airlines, but eventually fell into the hands of Joseph MacCaughtry, who took out a loan of $40,000 to restore the plane to its former glory, and promptly defaulted. At this point, the bank stripped the plane of anything of value including the doors, windows, flight controls and engines before leaving it abandoned, and crucially, unlocked. At this point, pilot Ken London took ownership of the vessel and, in a stroke of genius, removed the wings and turned it into a motoryacht that is still in operation today. It has even inspired a song, Jimmy Buffet’s ‘Desdemona’s Building A Rocket Ship’.
The Mayflower is one of the most famous and historically significant ships ever constructed, and remains a symbol of the European colonization of what would later become the United States. Constructed in England, and initially used as a cargo ship trading goods with nearby European countries, the Mayflower’s mundane existence was transformed when she was chosen as one of two vessels selected to take 102 passengers to settle in the ‘new world’ in 1620.
The pilgrims (as they became known) were protestant dissenters who felt compelled to leave England due to increased religious persecution, and this theme of a struggle for religious tolerance is one that would later help form the American constitution. The voyage itself was long, hard and riddled with disease and bad weather, but the Mayflower finally reached Plymouth, Massachusetts 66 days after leaving Plymouth, England (how’s that for a coincidence?) and a new chapter in the history of western civilization had begun.
Hopefully your family will feel inspired to join you on a sailing trip, and experience the amazing sense of freedom and adventure they provide. Whether it’s your first time taking a fully crewed boat out on the open waves, or you’re an experienced sailor on a bareboat charter, sailing vacations are a fantastic way to explore some of the world’s greatest destinations.
Dan is a passionate traveler, with an interest in photography, writing and sharing his experiences from around the globe.