If you are planning an idyllic holiday sailing overseas, it may well be the case that you are keen to get in a little practice before setting off. After all, it is crucial to ensure you possess all the right skills, and many countries now require sailors to have official qualifications before entering their waters. So, why not take a short break in the UK to prepare for your trip?
Whether you intend to go sailing in the Mediterranean or even further afield, it is essential to make sure you have plenty of experience on the waves prior to departing. However, it isn't always possible to find the time to head abroad each time you want to practice and improve your abilities.
That's part of what makes sailing in the UK so attractive. By heading to the Solent on the south coast of England, not only can you find somewhere challenging to sail close to home, but you can also enjoy setting off in internationally renowned waters.
Indeed, the sailing grounds here are largely regarded as some of the best in the world, offering a variety of conditions that can test seafarers' skills - and, of course, provide excellent experience for those learning a little more about the pastime.
Just to the north of Portsmouth Harbour is Port Solent, the location of an excellent sailing school where you can do everything from learn to sail from scratch to gaining internationally recognised qualifications.
Of course, if you are planning an overseas sailing getaway, it's likely that you have a fair amount of experience in the water already. If this is the case, you might want to take the RYA Day Skipper course - a practical programme that will leave you qualified to skipper short coastal routes during the daytime.
This is a five-day practical course that will teach you fundamental skills like passage making and navigation, as well as deck work and good decision-making. To qualify for the programme, you will need plenty of previous experience, including a sound understanding of sailing theory, 100 miles logged, four hours' night sailing and have spent a minimum of five days sailing while living onboard the vessel.
There is a wide range of other courses you can take at Port Solent, including introductory programmes for beginners, theory courses and advanced itineraries for those with extensive experience. What's more, you'll even find there are special schemes, such as ladies only and family programmes. So, you're bound to find something that'll suit you.
And taking a course is not the only way to prepare for longer sailing holidays. For example, you could choose to take a mini break in the form of a yacht charter in the United Kingdom. This will not only provide you with a fabulous short holiday, but will also give you time to re-familiarise yourself with the ropes if it's been a while since you last set sail.
The Solent, with its varied sailing conditions and beautiful surroundings, is an excellent place to embark on this kind of trip. By basing yourself in Port Solent, you can enjoy all the splendid amenities and waterside restaurants it is home to, while being within easy sailing distance of some other attractive locations.
For example, among the places you could visit is the pretty, historic town of Lymington - a Solent destination that was once a haven for smugglers. Nowadays, it is a popular spot for sailors to stop off at, so you could find you meet some likeminded people while exploring here.
The town is awash with beautiful architecture - particularly Georgian and Victorian - while also being home to some fantastic restaurants serving up delicious, fresh seafood, making it an attractive place to visit during your short getaway.
You could also take a trip to the vibrant town of Cowes - another destination famous for its sailing opportunities - or sail down the Medina River to experience gentler cruising. Taking this route, which runs between Cowes and Newport, you will enjoy a four-mile stretch of tranquil sailing, dotted with great pubs and pretty scenery. There are also some historic sites to be spotted, including Carisbrooke Castle, which once imprisoned King Charles I.
Whether you choose to book yourself onto a course or simply to enjoy a yacht charter, the Solent is the ideal destination for perfecting your sailing skills prior to heading abroad.