Sailing in South Florida

Known for its subtropical climate and warm, turquoise waters, South Florida is a boat enthusiast’s paradise. Fort Lauderdale itself has previously been called the yachting capital of the world for its stellar boat shows, waterways, and 3,000 hours of yearly sunlight.

If you’re looking to take part in one of the region’s most cherished outdoor activities, here are a few tips on how to prepare to take on Florida’s waters by storm and seize the region’s beauty through the joy of sailing.

1) How to Operate a Boat in South Florida

The first step in your South Florida sailing journey is acquiring permission to operate a boat.

The good news for those born before 1988 is that you are not required to maintain any kind of license. Those born on or after the year, however, are obliged to complete a boating education course and possess a boating education ID along with a regular photo ID to operate any vessel of 10 horsepower or more within the state of Florida.

For those required to take the course, it is readily available online at an affordable price.

2) Your Must-Have Equipment When Sailing in Miami


Now that you’re ready to command your newly-acquired vessel, it is time to shop for all the essential boating materials.

Dress the Part

Comfortable, wet weather clothes are key when sailing. You will also need a PFD (personal flotation device) and harness with which to secure yourself to the boat and prevent you from falling overboard.

Because of the scorching weather, which can reach a heat index of up to the 100s in the peak humid months of summer, sunscreen is a must when exposing yourself to Florida’s temperatures while sailing.

Protect Your Skin

The American Cancer Society recommends you pick one that is “broad spectrum” with at least 30 SPF.  Sunglasses are also recommended to combat the sun’s rays.

Gather Some Accessories

Have a compass on you at all times to identify your boat’s location and pack a water-resistant watch to keep track of the time. 

A compact rigging knife with a strong grip and a sharp blade will be crucial when cutting through rope or sailing line. A buoyant device, sound signal, and navigational lights should also be on board for your safety.

3) Visiting South Florida’s Best Sailing Spots

South Florida’s Best Sailing Spots

With its two pristine shorelines and about 1,700 islands making up the Florida Keys, picking a point in which to start sailing in South Florida can be a tad overwhelming.

Here are some of the most attractive and approachable sailing locations in South Florida:

Biscayne Bay

Located at the heart of Miami and home to No Name and Boca Chita harbors, Biscayne Bay offers breathtaking views of the city’s downtown skyline. Fish or dive for lobster and even go snorkeling at Biscayne National Park.

Dry Tortugas 

Somewhere at the very end of the Florida Keys, you can find the Dry Tortugas. Enjoy some fishing, visit the iconic Fort Richardson in Garden Key and marvel at the collection of reefs and shoals in this group of charming islands.

Bimini Island

Craving a Bahamian getaway? At 49 miles from Ft. Lauderdale, this island is the nation’s nearest point to the Caribbean nation. Known for its warm waters and abundant sea life, this is a sailing destination you won’t want to skip.

4) Caring for Your Boat  

boat repair

One of the most critical aspects of owning and operating any fleet is keeping it running smoothly. That means finding the right place to perform monthly maintenance on your boat.

Located in Dania Beach, minutes away from Fort Lauderdale, Galvez Yachts USA, a leader in boat repairs and yacht management, offers quality services to the South Florida sailing community.

Their services include bottom jobs for barnacle and coral removals, protective epoxy barrier coating, and application of premium underwater primer for your boat.

Other repair shops to check out in South Florida include Boat Works Miami, located near the North Beach Marina, and VooDoo Marine in Coconut Grove, which specializes in engine diagnostics.

Insure your boat

Boating insurance is not required in the state of Florida; however, it is often recommended given the potential risk of damage due to hurricanes.

If you would like to protect your boat, major insurance companies offer coverage for your vessel in the case of an accident requiring towing, liability coverage, or medical expenses. The price of coverage will depend on the boat’s value and size.

5) Sailing Safety Precautions to Consider in South Florida

Sailing Safety

There are many potential risks to take into account when deciding to take on the pastime of sailing. Here are a few tips on how to make your experience as safe as possible in Florida.

Be Prepared

Practice sailing in areas with low traffic and light winds before taking on more in-depth trips.

Starting off with a smaller boat will also ease your way into sailing as you grow more confident in your handling your vessel and help prevent capsizing. Remember to wear your harness and personal floatation device in case of an emergency.

Become an Expert

Acquaint yourself with basic sailing terms like port (left-hand side of the boat), starboard ( right-hand side), and leeward (the direction opposing the wind). Learn navigation rules through books or join a local community in which to take classes, like the Miami Yacht Club or South Florida Sailors and Boaters club.

Anticipate Unpredictable Weather

Prepare yourself, particularly in the humid months of hurricane season, for rainy days and turbulent waters. Always make sure to research the week’s weather before partaking on a boating trip of any kind.

So, what are you waiting for? The ocean, blue skies, and warm winds await your arrival. Now is the time to commence your sailing journey, equipped with all the knowledge you need to safely navigate your way into a life of leisure in one of the country’s most remarkable sailing regions.

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