Whatâs your definition of family time? For many parents and kids who visit the Florida Keys, it means sharing a soft-adventure learning vacation with the ocean as their classroom. The Keys are a great place for families to try new watersports â acquiring skills in as little as two days or embracing the ultimate experience on a weeklong adventure.
For example, parents and kids can learn (or improve upon) angling skills by teaming up with a professional fishing captain for a private charter. Or they can join a group for a party-boat fishing experience, where almost everyone scores a food fish or two.
Grandmas, moms and daughters can enjoy friendly mentoring together during the annual Ladies, Letâs Go Fishing! seminar and tournament in the Upper Keys. The hands-on weekend introduces female anglers to offshore, inshore, bottom and fly-fishing tackle and techniques in a nonintimidating atmosphere. (Itâs been dubbed the âno yelling school of fishingâ for its supportive philosophy.)
Female anglers of all ages train with fishing tackle and tools â practicing spincasting, throwing a cast net, tying knots, boat handling, backing a trailer and even gaffing a grapefruit. One of the most popular experiences is learning to reel against pressure â with an unsuspecting male playing the role of a hooked fish.
The 2012 Keys session just took place, so itâs a great time to book a spot for 2013.
More interested in catching a breeze than catching a fish? Then chart a course for family sailing lessons â many targeting novices who want to experience on-the-water training. Basic through advanced cruising, live-aboard cruises and charters are offered in Keys waters.
For example, consider training aboard the Cour Volant, a 2002 Jeanneau SO40 built in France, at Islamoradaâs Florida Keys Sailing Academy. Offerings range from one-day mate classes to weekend cruising refresher courses and three-day basic keelboat classes that explore sail theory and safety at sea.
After completing the course, students can safely and comfortably take a 25- to 30-foot boat out day sailing. Also popular among “maiden” voyagers are the academyâs classes taught by women for women.
Want to be IN the water instead of ON it? Learning to scuba dive is increasingly popular among family groups. The calm, clear waters surrounding the Keys, which parallel the continental United Statesâ only living coral barrier reef, provide the perfect learning environment for parents and kids â as well as a lifetime of diving fun, adventure and memories.
Believe it or not, kids as young as 10 years old can learn to be junior scuba divers. And getting your scuba certification opens the door to fascinating pursuits like discovering underwater photography or treasure hunting â or even career choices like marine biology or underwater archeology.
You can dive into everything from introductory one-day courses through open-water certification classes with three to five days of training covering concepts such as basic physics and physiology, ocean waves, marine life and monitoring time and depth during a dive. Thatâs followed by pool and open-water dives at the reef, where youâll be immersed in bright colors and surrounded by a variety of reef fish and marine life.
No matter what watersports pursuit piques your interest, learning new skills or expanding your knowledge can be fun when the ocean is your classroom. Why not bring your family down to the Keys and see for yourself?