This year marks Fairwind Sail Charters’ 40th anniversary and my 20th anniversary as owner/operator. When I bought Fairwind in 1998 I started what has now been a twenty-year experiment. Could you run a sailing business based on the principles of seamanship instead of maximizing profit? Could a business model based on the best of the mariner’s tradition make it in a world increasingly dominated by “take the money and run”? As a captain and sailing instructor, I felt strongly that a sailing business should reflect and encourage the kind of decisions that good seamanship requires. With that in mind, I started with three principles: safety, quality maintenance, and personal service.
The first thing I did was implement a make-up policy where sailors could get a replacement sail if they were unable to go sailing because of bad or iffy weather. Some of the worst situations in sailing happen when a sailor tries to impose his or her schedule on Mother Nature, and I never wanted a sailor to have economic pressure to go out in questionable conditions. My next step was to personally take over the maintenance of Fairwind’s fleet. The most important guarantee of a reliable vessel is consistent and high-quality maintenance. To that end, I personally take care of our fleet and am on our boats every day to make sure things are up to Fairwind’s exacting standards. My third decision was to reject online scheduling schemes that treat sailors as fungible items. There is no substitute for person-to-person communication. People’s lives are busy and subject to change, and I knew that the only way to truly maximize scheduling flexibility was for me to work personally with our skippers. I have been told over and over by our skippers how much they appreciate being able to contact me directly when they have questions about our boats or need help with scheduling.
I am happy to say that after twenty years Fairwind’s experiment is a success! Last year Fairwind Sail Charters had a 95% renewal rate and we have skippers who have been with Fairwind since I took the helm in 1998. Thank you to the many students and sailors who have made the last twenty years such a wonderful cruise! I look forward to many more summers to come here in beautiful Key Midwest and pledge that so long as I am blessed to be in charge of the Dragon Fleet we will always put safety, quality maintenance, and our skippers first. That’s been the Fairwind Difference from the start and if the sea gods are willing it will still be true when we celebrate our 50th anniversary in 2028!
Capt. Ben Sells