How Sunsail Owners Became Full-Time Sailors

Without fail, you will learn something new every time you meet a Sunsail Yacht Owner. This year at Strictly Sail Miami we had the opportunity to meet with some owners who were willing to chat with us as their time in the Sunsail Yacht Ownership Program comes to an end.

And what did we learn? We discovered a way for owners to use the Yacht Ownership Program as a means to becoming full-time cruisiers.

Discovering Cruising

Rodney and Diane Hayes are the proud owners of a Sunsail 44i in St. Lucia. Their boat goes by the name “Baraka". As Diane explains, “Our daughter spent time as a missionary in Uganda, where they speak Swahili. We named our boat ‘Baraka’ because it means ‘Blessing’ in Swahili.”

The Hayes’ have dreamed of sailing for a LONG time. They attended boat shows, they enjoy their subscription to Cruising World Magazine, and they have become passionate about being on the water, specifically on the water in the Windward Islands. It only makes sense that eventually their paths would cross with the Sunsail Yacht Ownership Program. But, what makes their story especially unique is their approach to the Sunsail Yacht Ownership Program, as well as their goals and what they accomplished as owners.

Rod reveals how the pieces fell into place, “What we wanted to do was practice for long term cruising. We looked into buying a boat to gain experience, but we wanted to own a boat and gain experience in an affordable way. When Sunsail and the Moorings dominated the market in 2008, we were interested and we had to ask ourselves, ‘What will this take?’ ”

Choosing Sunsail

Considering their eagerness to sail and their desire to learn more about sailboats, Sunsail could not have been a better fit.

The Hayes’ were able to spend their time in the Sunsail Yacht Ownership Program gaining the confidence to become full-time cruisers. Rod explains, “Being a Sunsail owner was the perfect transition into the cruising lifestyle. We may be an exception to the rule, but we never did a charter that was shorter than three weeks.” Rod and Diane went on to explain that their love for sailing and the practice of long term cruising were what attracted them to the longer charters, “Sailing 8 to 10 hours is not a big deal for us, we wanted to make the most of our time and gain experience. Open passages and weeks on our own were exactly what we wanted to do.”

What had started out as a good way for Rod and Diane to learn more about the cruising lifestyle, soon turned into an opportunity for them to sail multiple vessels and really get a feel for the kind of boat they would like to live aboard full-time. “The program provided us with the opportunity to sail different sized boats and different types of boats. This gave us a good idea of what kind of boat we would want to live on full-time, because we spent a lot of time on a lot of different boats, in a lot of different conditions.”

Considering the amount of time Rod and Diane spent sailing the Windwards, the Leewards and the rest of the Caribbean, it would only seem fitting that we prompted them for some of their favorite spots. “Our two favorite destinations would be a tossup between Antigua and Belize. Our favorite islands are Les Saintes—the southern islands of Guadeloupe. We enjoy the solitude, and you can easily find a deserted tropical island to have all to yourself. Another favorite spot is Chatham Bay on Union Island. For snorkeling, the BVI is the best because you have Benures Bay, the caves and the Indians. Cooper Island has good snorkeling if it is settled, and snorkeling at Sandy spit can be really nice too,” Rod and Diane revealed.

Becoming full-time sailors

In 2015, after four years in the Yacht Ownership Program, Rod and Diane could not wait any longer to become full-time cruisers. They purchased a 47’ Beneteau and two months later they were living aboard. Rod discloses, “Our new boat is in Key West right now, we sailed her from the Chesapeake. Being a Sunsail owner gave us the confidence to do that. All in all, it put us ahead of the game with experience.”

“Baraka” is currently being phased out of the Sunsail fleet. We will certainly miss having Rod and Diane as Sunsail owners, but it was a pleasure for Sunsail’s Yacht Ownership Program to be able to provide a stepping stone towards their ultimate dream of being full-time sailors. At the end of the day, that is what it is all about—the pursuit of sailing.


Katie Campbell

As a Marketing Manager for yacht sales, I have found my passion in promoting the catamaran cruising lifestyle. With a love for sailing and a deep understanding of the industry, I am committed to helping others discover the freedom and adventure of life on the water.