Many WindCheck readers will know Andrew Burton’s name from his excellent articles in Cruising World. A longtime contributor to that fine publication, Andy has logged more than 350,000 offshore miles. As the owner of Adventure Sailing (burtonsailing.com), he relishes helping coastal sailors become confident, competent skippers who can keep their crew safe and comfortable – and having fun – at sea.
“I grew up in Victoria, British Columbia,” says Andy, who now resides in Middletown, RI. “My father started taking the family cruising on his gorgeous 23-foot Cub class one-design when I was 5. We eventually ended up with a Haida 26 and then a C&C 27, both of which he used for his sailing school, where I started teaching when I was 14. In addition to being a brilliant teacher, my father was a terrific seaman. He passed on a love of doing things right, just for their own sake (the definition of ‘yachting’ in my book), and instilled in me the knowledge of how his lessons related to the safe operation of a boat and her crew’s safety.”
Andy raced FJs, OK dinghies, Lasers and Fireballs out of the Royal Victoria Yacht Club and the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club, and made his first offshore passage from Victoria to San Diego, CA at 16. “In retrospect, that was a hell trip,” he chuckles. “The boat was an old wooden 42-foot Hilliard-designed ketch. I was violently ill the entire first three days…it may have had something to do with overindulging in the owner’s homemade beer the night before departure! But I still stood my watch, often alone, steering with the wheel between my knees, a quarter turn of play in the steering, hunched over the binnacle compass, trying to keep her on course in quartering seas. The owner, an old Cunard captain, would sometimes come up and watch my course as he chain-smoked next to me. I apparently passed muster. I woke on the fourth day hungry and feeling on top of the world. It’s no exaggeration to say that it was almost worth being that seasick to feel that good! The sun was shining, the sea was that incredible shade of blue you find offshore, and there was a large pod of dolphins playing all around the boat. I was in heaven!”
Recalling another voyage, Andy says, “I was in the worst storm of my life on a delivery to Antigua with WindCheck co-founder Chris Gill. It may have been his first offshore sail, and he had a habit of whistling while he worked. No matter how often he was reminded, he’d forget and break into a cheery whistle. We left Newport with a crew of six aboard a beautiful Alden yawl built in the 1950s. We had a good forecast…or at least as good as you could get in those days. A day out, not quite to the Gulf Stream, the forecast changed: we’d experience quite heavy northwesterlies within a day. We couldn’t turn around and make it to shelter in time, so we piled on sail to get south of the Stream before it hit. We saw more than 80 knots on the anemometer as we ran under bare poles, towing a drogue at better than 8 knots. The seas were huge and the skies were perfectly clear. The scenery was incredible, as was the experience of steering down those waves while literally lashed to the mizzenmast. I never want to do anything like that again…and I bet Chris has given up whistling altogether.”
“I started Adventure Sailing [in the 1990s] for two reasons,” Any explains. “I wanted to deliver the Swan Charter fleet back and forth between St. Martin and Newport (and who wouldn’t want to sail a Swan offshore?), but they didn’t want to pay my rate. More importantly was the news reports of cruisers – offshore on their own boats for the first time – getting into trouble and calling the Coast Guard for rescue in conditions that in no way justified abandoning their boats. It pained me to see nice people giving up on their dreams when a few easy skills and a little more experience would see them to the Caribbean and well on their way to realizing those dreams.”
“As a delivery skipper, I’ve always passed on my skills to my deckies, helping them along the way to eventually becoming skippers themselves. Transitioning to teaching aspiring cruisers wasn’t too much of a stretch…and a side benefit was making many new friends along the way. One client came up to me on the dock in Bermuda, shook my hand and exclaimed, ‘Thanks, Andy. I really hated that. Offshore sailing is definitely not for me! You just saved me $500,000.’ Many more clients went on to buy their own boats and take off on successful cruises.”
Andy has relaunched Adventure Sailing with his Baltic 47 Masquerade. “She’s a performance cruising sloop designed by Judel/Vrolijk,” he says. “I can take up to six crew in comfort. In private instruction, I mostly sail with couples. Puzzlingly, it doesn’t work that way much on Adventure Sailing cruises, but it should. Men and women tend to absorb different aspects of sailing offshore. It may sound sexist, but on average, women pick up the trick of steering in waves quicker than men. A couple learning together will bring a better understanding of the process than one person alone.”
“I love the fact that when you’re sailing offshore you’re living in the moment,” says Andy, who’s member of Ida Lewis Yacht Club, Storm Trysail Club and Royal Ocean Racing Club. “You’re treated to sights, sounds and experiences that no matter how many hours of film you expend or how many words you write, you just can’t adequately describe to those who’ve never been out of sight of land on a small boat.”