This week Escape Under Sail officially launched SailSearch, a free online search tool that helps match sailors and future sailors with charter companies and brokers around the world.

Here’s a QA session with Founder Lea Maxwell to explain what SailSearch is all about.

Q – First of all, what exactly is SailSearch?

A – It is a desktop and mobile-enabled search tool with a variety of check-boxes and drop-down-lists that allow sailors to search a database of charter service providers and narrow the results based on exactly where, how, and when they want to sail. It helps match your sailing needs with the service providers that can meet them.

Q – Outstanding! So, where did the idea come from?

A – My “day job” is designing, building, and maintaining databases, so if I run across a situation where there isn’t a data set that I need, I find myself wanting to build it. SailSearch falls into that category.

In 2016 I had a “use it or lose it” week of vacation that had rolled over from the prior year. My husband and I wanted to sail in a new location, but we had to sail before mid-February. Google search after Google search left me feeling like there had to be a better way to figure out where to go and who to charter with. It was so time consuming and all I could think was “I wish there was a way to just type in February and all of the locations and service providers would just appear”.

Since that time, my husband and I have run across this “need to search” every time we’ve sailed. Who should we sail with? Where can we sail? What are the dates for charter in each area? Sure, you can Google search yourself to death, but I knew the easier way was to build a searchable database.

The other main reason was our affinity for small service providers who won’t necessarily show up on Page 1 of a Google Search. Some of these small providers are outstanding, but they just can’t compete from a digital perspective with the bigger companies. SailSearch allows companies of all sizes to participate in the search criteria on equal footing.

Q – Do you need to have your sailing certification to use it?

A – No, and that may be my favorite thing! One of the search options is “How do you want to Sail?” Certainly, if you have your sailing credentials you can choose “Without a Captain” and sail your own boat, but if you have never sailed before, there is a “With Captain” option showing charter companies that will help you hire a captain to sail the boat for you. We also have a “By-the-Cabin” option which is growing in popularity! I am hoping to get more service providers added to the database soon that support this new way of sailing.

Q – So, you aren’t selling the services? How do you make money?

A – Great question! We don’t! The goal of Escape Under Sail is to be a hub of information for charter sailors and those who are curious about sailing, and SailSearch is part of that. I think there is a bit of confusion out there that we are a broker. We are not.

While we do have great relationships with many service providers and we do have our favorites, we want to include all qualified charter companies and brokers in SailSearch to give individuals using the search tool the most options to choose from. We are happy to provide, maintain, and grow this resource for the sailing community.

That said, we have recently started offering advertising on our website to sailing companies that might want to sponsor the search page or one of the other pages on our site.

Q – Where do I find SailSearch?

A – You can access SailSearch directly at https://escapeundersail.com/SailSearch, or select from the Search Tools menu item on our database home page. Plus, any time you see the SailSearch logo, just click on it and you’ll go straight to the page.

Q – Ok, great! So, how does it work? How can I use SailSearch?

A – It is easy! Just read the descriptions about each search category then select what you are looking for. If you know you want to sail in the Bahamas or the Caribbean, for example, you can choose that as your Region and start from there. Or, if you know you want to sail out of Athens Greece, you can go directly to the City/Location option. Of course, if you just know when you want to sail, skip down to the “When do you want to sail” section. You can check as many items as you like, and you can search then narrow your search as many times as you need!

Q – Any search tips?

A – Yes! Your best bet is to start with just a couple of criteria for a broad search and narrow from there. For example, if you choose Europe and Mediterranean as your Region and December as your month, you probably won’t get any results. My advice would be to create a broad search, look at the options, then narrow your search based on what you’ve learned about specific locations or service providers.

Q – So what happens when you’ve identified the service providers that meet your criteria?

A – From there, it is up to you! We have provided links back to company websites for convenience, but to book travel, you’ll want to work directly with the charter brokers, charter companies, and peer-to-peer service providers who can help you plan and book your sailing vacation.

Q – Right now you have 29 service providers. Are you looking for more?

A – Absolutely! SailSearch only works if it is a comprehensive resource, so right now we are trying to reach out to as many companies as possible so they can be included. The process is very easy. We just sent you a simple form that takes just a couple of minutes to fill out with the location, season start and end dates, skippered and “by the cabin” options, and information about whether flotillas and sailing schools are offered. It is very simple and we take care of the rest. To be included, just email crew@escapeundersail.com with the subject line SailSearch and we’ll connect.

Q – So what’s next?

A – Well, building out SailSearch with new providers is our number one goal. And just getting the word out that there is an easy tool for sailors and future sailors to use. But…in the background we are also working on SchoolSearch which we are extremely excited about!

Q – SchoolSearch? What’s that?

A – It is exactly what you think! It is the ability to search for Sailing Schools by the courses they offer when and where they are provided. Like SailSearch, this concept was born out of personal frustration. We live in Denver, so we travel for our sailing certifications. My husband and I also juggle pretty busy calendars, so our need to schedule at very specific times is important for us. Last January we wanted to schedule our catamaran certification and we found ourselves doing an unreasonable number of Google searches that more often than not didn’t result in what we needed. Reaching out directly to schools to find out when their classes were available was very time consuming. We wanted a simple way to search and it wasn’t available. So, we are building it.

Q – Sounds like you are busy over there at Escape Under Sail…

A – You nailed it! We are very busy! But we love it, it so all is good. Sailing then writing about sailing to help others is fun for us. When my husband and I first started sailing we had so many questions…and we still do. Questions about how to sail, where to begin, and where to go were at the top of our list, so anything we can do to help others who need that same information is what we want to be able to provide. Sailing is an incredible way to have an active yet relaxing vacation, to unplug, to explore, and most importantly to reconnect. We just want to support others in experiencing it for themselves.