This expedition is all about overcoming challenges in the subtropical marine wilderness of Florida Bay, the Gulf of Mexico and the remote reaches of the Everglades. In a phased teaching progression, instructors introduce beginning, intermediate and advanced skills in chart and compass navigation, small boat seamanship, weather observation and anchoring. Regular group discussions allow for reflection on each day’s progress, and ensure that leadership and onboard responsibilities are shared so that every crewmember is integral to planning the next day. As participants live and work closely together, they practice more than seamanship. Veterans return home to families, careers and communities with valuable skills, renewed confidence and a fresh sense of purpose.
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Outward Bound Veterans expeditions build on camaraderie and the challenge of the natural world as a pathway to healing. These expeditions encourage participants to connect with existing strengths and bond with fellow veterans in a safe, positive, mission-driven environment. As they harness the power of wartime experiences like carrying heavy packs, moving fatigued muscles and sleeping outside, these courses help build the self-confidence and sense of purpose veterans need to continue serving as leaders in their families, communities and the nation.
Traditional 30-foot sailboats encourage teamwork and leadership like no other classroom. On an open boat with no cabin and no engine, participants live closely together, using only wind and oars as propulsion. As they rotate responsibilities, participants learn the crafts of maneuvering under sail, coastal navigation, rowing and living aboard a small open boat. At night, the group sleeps on deck under a tarp, taking turns at anchor watch under brilliant night skies.
Participants will learn to:
Home to numerous birds and abundant marine life, the Florida Keys are rich with the confluence of water flowing out of the Everglades into inner Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. The waterways are shallow and intricate, providing an exciting cruising area for our nimble sailboats. Winding channels through the backcountry offer challenging shoal draft navigation and the opportunity to explore mangrove keys, grassy tidal flats and coral "patch" reefs. The Atlantic side offers open water sailing and, in calm weather, excellent snorkeling at the outer reefs. Turquoise waters, warm temperatures and prevailing easterly winds provide exceptional sailing, both day and night.
"The course was a great way to help me connect with other veterans and overcome some of the daily struggles that creep up on you when you let your guard down. As a result of the course, I feel compelled to minimize distractions and focus on what is most important to me—my family."
— Andrew, 2016 Florida Keys Sailing for Veterans alumni