From High Altitude to High Seas

06 Jun 2024

Nautilus Sailing’s epic 3,000-mile trans-Atlantic route

By Mary Beth Skylis


One wouldn’t think of land-locked Colorado as a hot spot for some of the world’s best sailors, but it is. Beginning in May of this year Colorado-based Nautilus Sailing is offering a new route that travels about 3,000 miles and seventeen legs from Europe, across the Atlantic Ocean, to the Caribbean.

Best known for its live aboard sailing certification courses, Nautilus Sailing offers week-long trips to show participants how to safely sail. Crested Butte-based Tim Geisler, the company’s founder and lead instructor, recently realized that people who sought out his school were eager to find new ways to capitalize on their skills. “The week-long live aboard course is just the start, and then they have access to all these other amazing adventures afterwards…they’re not just signing up for a sailing course, but they’re becoming part of this amazing community.” 

As a result, Nautilus started offering “flotillas” and adventure trips, where an instructor and alumni could join forces to further develop skills and create more adept sailors. Flotillas have proven helpful in scenarios where those with a sailing certification are not quite ready to take the helm but who want to continue practicing their nautical skills. The latest iteration of the company’s flotilla trips is this route, which takes sailors to places like Mallorca, Corsica, Sardinia, Naples and the Azores before heading to the Caribbean. This new route would take between six and seven months to complete. 

The longest and most technical leg of the new route takes about three weeks to cover: “That’s the Atlantic Crossing,” says Geisler. By itself, the Atlantic crossing is a burly and challenging section to undertake for any sailor. It is known for windy conditions, rough seas and weather that can change on a dime, making it challenging for most sailors. This particular section of Nautilus’s new route travels 2,000 miles from Cape Verde to the Caribbean.

Sailing across the Atlantic Ocean involves higher levels of preparation than some routes, since it involves being days away from safety. The level of skill that is required for such an undertaking requires a deep understanding of emergency procedures as well as heightened navigation skills and comfort surrounding forecasting. Recognizing the difficulty of such ventures, Nautilus Sailing decided to begin offering a trip where alumni could work with a highly experienced Nautilus instructor to provide guidance and support while enhancing the skillsets that are required for more advanced routes like the crossing. 

Nautilus sailing adventures involve a collaboration between the crew and the instructor, who plan day-to-day routes as well as stops of interest along the route. “Each instructor will have a chance with the alumni on those legs to create their own adventure and what they want to do. And the only parameters are the starting and ending date.” Participants receive upgrades to the sailing certification like the ASA 105 Coastal Navigating and the ASA 106 Advanced Coastal Cruising certification. 

Geisler shared that offering a more extensive route seemed like the natural progression for the company after sailors who graduated from a Nautilus course expressed continued interest in more challenging trips. “Everybody really liked the longer offshore opportunities as well,” says Geisler.

What’s more is that the enthusiasm surrounding the longer sailing sections has continuously surprised Geisler. In fact, the three-week trans-Atlantic trip was the first trip to sell out this season, “It was interesting. [The trips] that sold out the quickest were the Atlantic crossing. That one went really fast, and then the 14-day legs.” 

The Europe to the Caribbean route is unique in that it takes sailors to more remote destinations, while helping sailors level up their skills: “What’s neat about this is we’re going to places that we’ve never gone before and that don’t even have charter companies nearby…I mean, we’ve got legs sailing from Spain, all the way up the coast of Portugal to Lisbon. That’s going to be an amazing one. And from there, sailing out to the Azores. And we’re going to have a whole month exploring the Azores and a couple different lakes out there. We’re excited to go to brand new places where our alumni have never gone before,” says Geisler.   

While Nautilus Alumni are equipped to charter a boat on their own, one of the advantages of continuing to work with the company is the educational guidance that it provides. 

In order to join Nautilus on the new route, participants have to get certified through Nautilus Sailing School. Nautilus instructors typically ask crew members if they’ve spent time sailing prior to longer trips, “And then, they have to get the recommendation of their instructor.” Since some of the trips are as long as three weeks, Nautilus attempts to create the right chemistry for a fun trip, which is why candidates go through a short vetting process. 

The newest sailing adventure is the company’s most exciting endeavor in addition to acquiring a high-performance catamaran that is being built in France this spring. However, if the Nautilus community continues to show interest in longer trips, Geisler’s plan would be to expand its routes to extend to even more remote places, “My dream has always been to buy a bigger boat, like a 60-foot catamaran with six cabins and have it loaded up with all the toys, dive equipment and fishing gear and just go around the world. We could end up in some really crazy remote places.”

Overall, Geisler is most excited to continue supporting adventurous sailing trips while fostering community. “Our goal with something like this is to show people that sailing is an amazing platform for adventure and discovery and getting off the beaten track, right? This is just a great opportunity to expose more people to what fun sailing can be.” 

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