South Florida tends to greet the New Year with sunshine and steady breezes, making January a perfect time to immerse yourself in the unique ecosystems of the Everglades and the Florida Keys. There is no better way to explore this marine environment than living aboard a 30-foot open sailboat. This exploration will not be classroom based. You will get to know the course environment—its ecology, human history, and current challenges—by learning and living in it. As you learn the technical and interpersonal skills of wilderness travel, you will refine the art of working together as an expedition team.
Your course will begin at Big Pine Key in the Lower Keys of Florida. Here you will get your first introduction to your boat, essential briefings on emergency procedures, and then you will cast off lines and begin your adventure on the water. All courses are “expedition-based,” which means that you will leave the marina on the first day of your course and not return to it until the end of your course. You will row or sail nearly every day, developing skills as you travel along your planned route. On board you will carry all you need: stoves, shelters, food and water, etc. Bathing occurs daily with an ocean swim. No boating experience is necessary. We will teach you everything you need to know: sail handling, steering, anchoring, navigating using chart and compass, and living comfortably aboard a small open boat. Arriving physically fit will enhance your experience and ability to do well on the course and ultimately allow you to take full advantage of the expedition.
The Florida Keys and Everglades are the historical home of the Calusa and Seminole peoples, and then fortune seekers and pioneers from Europe and elsewhere. Today, much of the area is protected as National Marine Sanctuaries. Sailing courses will cruise in three general areas. The back country offers challenging shoal draft navigation and the opportunity to explore mangrove keys, tidal flats and coral patch reefs. The Atlantic side offers excellent open water sailing and, in calm weather, amazing snorkeling at the outer reefs. The course area extends to the Everglades with beautiful sand beaches and a maze of rivers and bays to explore. The turquoise waters, warm temperatures and prevailing easterly winds provide exceptional sailing, both day and night! Actual itineraries are based on weather, currents and length of course. The Keys host a rare variety of birds, and marine life is abundant due to the rich confluence of fresh water flowing out of the Everglades into the shallows of inner Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. These rich waters provide an exciting cruising area for Outward Bound’s sailing boats.
- Sailing – The 30-foot open sailboat is your home and classroom. These seaworthy boats are rigged to take full advantage of the power of the subtropical trade winds, and when the winds do not cooperate, the boats can be rowed by two or four people pulling on oars. At night the boat can be configured as a sleeping platform and you and your watch mates will take turns at anchor watch under brilliant night skies. Underway, you will learn to set your sails properly for sailing at different angles to the wind, and to anticipate and respond to changes in weather. As you practice rowing, you will discover that by coordinating all of the rower’s movements so that the oars splash as one, you halve the effort it takes to travel on windless days. You will learn to navigate using a chart and compass across open water and among the thick mangrove islands, concentrating on the environment around you.
- Environmental Immersion- In addition to learning the skills necessary for a sailing expedition, throughout this course your Outward Bound instructors will assign readings, present lessons, and lead discussions on the ecosystems you are travelling through. You should expect to spend 1-2 hours per day learning about weather, navigation, Leave No Trace, native plants and animals, and ecosystems found all around your boat. Lessons may include bird identification and behavior, ecology of coral reefs, predicting tides, environmental dangers facing the Everglades, and the history of the Miccosukee and Seminole people. This Outward Bound course will hone your teamwork, leadership, and communication skills, as well of knowledge and understanding of the natural world.
- Service – Service is an integral part of the Outward Bound curriculum. We encourage service to the environment by practicing Leave No Traceâ ethics throughout the course. We coordinate service projects with local land managers (US Forest Service, Bureau of Public Lands, Dept. of Conservation, local land trusts, etc.) as well as with select social service agencies (nursing homes, hospitals, etc.). On 8-day courses, you and your crewmates may have the opportunity to participate in a coordinated service project as well as the multitude of opportunities to serve those in your immediate expedition community.
- Solo – The solo experience is a standard element of Outward Bound courses. The solitude and break from the fast pace of your expedition allows for rest and reflection. With sufficient food and equipment, you will set up your own camp for one to three nights. Your solo site is chosen to offer as much solitude as possible, yet be within hearing distance of other group members. You will not travel during this time and will be mostly alone, though your instructors will check onyou occasionally.
- Personal Challenge Event –Our courses end with a Personal Challenge Event, an individual final physical push. These events might take the form of a swim or run, or it may be a combination of the two.
College Courses (18-22)
Come learn in a different environment. School busy, often filled with pressures and expectations that it’s difficult to find time to do things for personal growth. Our three-week College courses are the perfect opportunity to unplug, get a fresh perspective, learn by doing and challenge yourself in new ways, discover new strengths, and forge new friendships. No previous experience is necessary—all wilderness skills are taught from the beginning. You will only need to be physically fit and motivated to live, learn and work in a team.