Got questions? Over the years we have answered thousands, so here are the answers to some of the most common ones.
To help you find what you're looking for, we've split them up into some broader categories but if you don't see your question, or you would rather speak to us directly, call us any time on 800.317.6789 (+1.941.924.6789)
ActionQuest is the oldest and largest program offering these types of adventures for teens. We have been around over forty years and, during this time we have taught thousands to sail and scuba dive. We have a great reputation - in fact, 7 out of 10 shipmates join us because they know someone, or have talked with someone who has done one of our programs. Each year, over 500 teens join us from all over the globe for both ActionQuest and Lifeworks
, our community service program. During the remainder of the year, we operate Sea|mester
, our academic, college-level study abroad program for college students and high school graduates.
Safety is paramount and comes first in everything that we do. Our programs are adventurous, so there is an element of risk in some of the activities that we do. However, when you are aware of the risk, you can better control it and, in many cases, use it in your favor as many learn best when they are slightly outside of their comfort zone. Risk management is a key part of operating our programs and at ActionQuest we do this in through specific training and procedures.
PFDs (Personal Flotation Devices): The US Sailing Association, the national governing body for sailing, requires all crew to wear US Coast Guard approved life vests whenever training vessels for youth are in motion. ActionQuest instituted this procedure years before the regulation went into effect, and with good reason. Whether aboard our larger vessels or our smaller boats, one soul, one PFD is the only safe way to move.
Small Groups within a Flotilla: For those new to sailing, we typically recommend our BVI programs, as the flotilla concept offers the unparalleled safety advantage of having backup support if and when necessary. Unique to ActionQuest is that our larger voyages include the presence of the Director. Always.
For more information on safety and training, please view the FAQs specific to the ActionQuest staff as well as our risk management
A flotilla is a group of boats that voyage together. There are many reasons why sailing in this way is preferable for both the novice and more seasoned sailor... We've outlined a couple below and more specific details on the flotilla concept in that section of the FAQs.
Group Dynamics: Most students prefer to sail as part of a larger group, where they can interact with as many as 120 teens and 40 staff from just about anywhere. Aboard your own boat, your crew is always co-ed and small (8-12 teens), and grouped based by age and grade. About ninety percent of all activities are done together with this tight-knit team, yet it's a lot of fun to go ashore and be part of a larger group for a beach BBQ or party night! Plus, we'll get some friendly competition going between all the boats on our race days, too!
Safety: Sailing as part of a larger group of vessels offers the unparalleled safety advantage of having backup support if necessary. It allows us to have medical staff, trained to a higher level than would otherwise be possible, to be on site, traveling with the group full-time. It also allows our directors to interact with all of our students and staff, maintaining our high level of professionalism, teaching and safety standards throughout the entire program.
See more specific details on the flotilla concept in that section of the FAQs.
Absolutely. We spend a lot of time matching our crews together based upon both age and grade. In many cases we can group you with other teens within 6 months of your own age. This is another great feature of sailing as part of a flotilla. If you have a special consideration with ages or grouping, please call us.
No problem! Our biggest and broadest program, the Vega Voyage, in the British Virgin Islands, is designed specifically for those who have limited or no previous experience in sailing or diving. This is the place to start for 80% of teens and, during the voyage, all have the opportunity to become a PADI certified Open Water Diver and IYT International Crew.
Many of our other programs, such as the Leewards, Tahiti and Galapagos programs are also perfect for beginners. Check the pages of the website specific to these programs for more information.
ActionQuest is not a traditional teen summer camp and is far from a teen tour. We are a training program first and foremost, and our programs have always been grounded in experiential education. We offer programs specializing in sailing and scuba diving, as well as many other adventure sports and activities. Accredited marine science, tropical marine biology and oceanography are also offered, specifically for those interested in learning more about the underwater world.
Self-reliance and confidence come from achieving new skills and certifications, plus shipmates have a greater feeling of accomplishment from having done it themselves. This includes all aspects of living aboard a moving vessel, such as the cooking, cleaning, navigation, basic engineering and, yes, even taking the leadership role of skipper and running the entire vessel and crew for a day. Through this daily rotation of roles and responsibilities aboard, when our students throw the lines on the dock at the end of a three-week experience, they truly have a sence of achievement. It is the students who make their own adventure happen.
A lot of this has to do with you as a person... your interests, likes and goals. Most teens with limited experience in sailing and diving choose to join us in the British Virgin Islands for their first year aboard. Others may head straight for the tropical south seas or Australia. If you have your heart set on a voyage but don't have the prerequisite certification level necessary just yet, call us. Often we can make suggestions as to how to achieve that before the summer, thus allowing you to join us for the desired program. For example, many students who are not yet certified scuba divers join us for an advanced scuba course by completing a diving referral at home prior to the summer.
Over a quarter of our students return each year and our record for a single shipmate returning to date is 5 summers (and counting!) ActionQuest offers programs that not only span the globe but also range in certification training from entry level through to the first professional level. Counting Sea-mester
, we offer over twenty unique programs, so there are always plenty of new experiences to choose from!
While we guard our parents' privacy, 95% of them volunteer to act as references for new, interested parents. We do not publish a list so parents are not subjected to solicitation calls. Upon request, we will be happy to pass along names of past shipmates who are of a similar age and have participated in the same voyage that you are considering. Please contact us to request references, and also read through the reactions pages of our website for comments written about our programs by past shipmates and their parents.
Depends on who's cooking! We send a container of dry goods to the islands each year with wholesome foods, which we supplement with fresh vegetables and fruit. Still, we can't claim gourmet cuisine as the chef of the day makes all the difference. The instructions are very simple on our seagoing meals so that anyone can easily prepare them. (Download a sample menu HERE
if you like.) We must admit, however, a few kids got worried when a grocery company accidentally delivered two cases of dog food... old sea dogs maybe?
The weather varies according to the destination you choose, so check the FAQs specific to the program that interests you for more detailed information.
Whichever destination you choose, we routinely monitor the weather and stay in touch with the yacht base so that, in the unlikely event of a storm passing through, we will have two or three days' notice and will be in absolute shelter. When "island hopping" in the BVI, we are never out of sight of, or more than a few miles from land.
All of AQ's vessels are chartered through Sunsail, the world's largest charter operation. Sunsail is the number one choice for a yacht charter and has more than 1200 yachts at 36 bases in 23 countries around the world.
Over the past 30 years, Sunsail has gained a strong reputation for reliability and quality. Offering more choices than any other charter company, in-depth knowledge, a wealth of experience and an unrivalled reputation for professionalism, this brings ActionQuest a service that is second to none.
All of the yachts that ActionQuest charters are "bareboat", meaning that Sunsail provides the equipment and ActionQuest provides the staff and crew. The yachts we use are built and fitted by the world's leading manufacturers and maintained to the highest standards. All come fully equipped with domestic essentials, as well as safety and navigational equipment.
For more information on specific vessels, check the FAQ's within each program.
In spite of the higher cost, ActionQuest uses the finest equipment available. Safety, quality and "trainability" come first in our choice of equipment. Our sophisticated scuba equipment with 10 compressors, 150 tanks, and over 100 BCDs and regulator sets are new to ensure reliability. In addition to our Mistral windsurfers and Laser Pico sailboats, we have 9 ski boats and dinghies in tow!
ActionQuest provides almost all equipment necessary for our activities. This includes all scuba diving equipment (except for wetsuits, if needed). We will send a clothing list of general items to bring and information on minor spending money needed for stamps, ice cream and souvenirs. We do require that all participants join DAN (the Divers Alert Network) for their membership benefits. Those enrolling in certain scuba courses are required to purchase the necessary PADI books and materials for their use after the program (est. $35 per book.)
Yes. Give us a call, or email our office with your name and address and we will be happy to send you our DVD, filled with footage that we took in the BVI and other global locations. The DVD is great as it adds another dimension and allows you to really see what it's like to sail aboard with us. Also, check out our Vimeo channel
which has multiple clips from our programs.
Many major US cellular carriers now have fairly broad coverage in our locations. For this reason we actively encourage students to bring their cell phones as this is likely to be the most dependable method of communication. Check with your carrier for rates and coverage before the program, as many plans require international roaming to be activated in advance of travelling outside of the country. Additionally, users of smart phones such as Blackberries and iPhones should be aware that their Roaming Data Usage Fees can be HUGE if they do not disable the internet roaming capabilities on the device before entering the BVI. One year, we took a very distressed call from a parent who had received a bill for several thousand dollars! Roaming in our locations can still be expensive so expect charges as high as $4.50 per minute. Talk to your student about your wishes on this form of communication in regard to calling friends etc., as ActionQuest cannot be responsible for monitoring phone usage of our students.
Having said that, when on program we follow strict guidelines as to when students may use their cell phones. The environment we strive to create aboard relies heavily on each individual remaining focused on the group and our experience. Being tied to the modern world of "instant communications" can, in certain circumstances, be a hindrance to the personal and group processes aboard. We feel that there is ample opportunity to make call during personal time ashore. Please be aware the ALL cell phones (this includes iPhones, Blackberries, camera phones etc.) will be collected upon arrival to the program and held in safekeeping. Cel phones will be made available to students at times designated for making phone calls when we are ashore.
No. For both health and safety reasons, any use, possession or association with tobacco products may be cause for immediate dismissal from the program, without refund
At ActionQuest, we prefer to call these "agreements" rather than rules. Our agreements provide a framework for living in community and are something that we all live up to. We agree to be respectful of others, their property and beliefs and, in the case of our staff, their responsibility. We agree to hold our level of language to a high standard. We also agree to abide by our smoking, drinking and substances policy. ActionQuest is strictly a no smoking or drinking program, and any use or association with any tobacco product, alcoholic beverage or controlled substance, including misuse of prescription medication, may result in immediate dismissal from the program, without refund. Please read the previous FAQ on tobacco usage for further information or click HERE
to download a copy of our Shipmate Agreement Contract.
If you are prone to motion sickness, there is a chance that you may feel a little seasick in the first day or so of the voyage. However, most of our cruising areas, especially the BVI, are very calm and in all but a very few cases, students get their sea legs and never experience it again.
If you are concerned about motion sickness, there are a number of over the counter and prescription medications available in addition to natural remedies noted for reducing or eliminating seasickness. Feel free to call our office for more information.
During our programs, we spend a lot of time outdoors and, for the most part, the weather is warm and sunny. There are awnings (biminis) on all of our vessels, yet sun protection is still a concern, and something that we take very seriously. We strongly recommend that all shipmates take precautions to protect themselves from the sun and this includes the following:
- Regular application of a dermatologist-recommended sunscreen.
- Wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.
- Wearing a long or short-sleeved SPF UV filtering surfer-style rash guard.
As our students fly from all points of the compass, the ActionQuest tuition does not include the cost of travel to and from the program. We work directly with a travel coordinator to assist parents in obtaining low cost flights to our program locations. Please click HERE
for further information on travel and also see the FAQ sections specific to the program that interests you for more destination specific travel information.
A flotilla is defined as a group of yachts that voyage together and there are many reasons why sailing in this way may be preferable for both a novice and more seasoned sailor. Sailing as part of a larger group of vessels enhances our shipmates' experience and also offers the unparalleled safety advantage of having backup support if necessary. It allows us to have medical staff, trained to a higher level than would otherwise be possible, to be on site, traveling with the group full-time. It also allows our directors to interact with all of our students and staff, maintaining our high level of professionalism, teaching and safety standards throughout the entire program.
Yes. You'll be living aboard your own yacht within a small group of between 10 and 13 shipmates your own age and grade yet, sailing as part of the flotilla, you'll have the opportunity to meet and interact with as many as 120 teens and 40 staff from just about anywhere.
No, not at all. 90% of all activities are done with your tight knit team of 10 to 13 aboard, yet it's a lot of fun to go ashore and be part of a larger group for a beach BBQ or party night! Plus, we'll get some friendly competition going between all the boats on our race days too!
No, not at all. If you are going to get the most from our program, it must be organized in such a way that you can maximize your time and achieve the absolute most during your three weeks aboard. Whether sailing as part of a flotilla or as a single yacht, you'll get to do all of the above water, below water and on-the-water activities, in addition to earning certifications. Any ActionQuest voyage has a schedule so we know where we are going to be on any given day and what the best activities are to do in those locations. In our experience, this means that you won't miss out on a thing.
There's really no such thing as a typical ActionQuest shipmate. Most summers, we have shipmates join us from about 38 states and 15 foreign countries, so there is naturally a lot of geographical diversity throughout our shipmate population. Most students come to us with limited or no previous experience of sailing and scuba, yet have an interest in learning these and other watersports.
Definitely. We know that your experience will be better if you sail within a group of similar aged teens. In most cases, we berth shipmates aboard within one year and one grade of each other. In many cases, you may be aboard with teens exclusively your age and grade. This is something unique to the flotilla concept, the way in which we operate our BVI programs. Some of our single boat programs may have a larger age range aboard, so please call us directly if this is of particular concern.
Yes, life is coed and so is ActionQuest. We always aim to have a good mix of boys and girls together, and this goes for our staff as well. Boys and girls live in different cabins aboard and bathroom facilities are separate too. Privacy is thus maintained. As a rule, we find that our advanced diving voyages tend to attract more boys than girls and vice versa for our community service programs.
Sure you can, but don't feel like you are going to be left out if you don't, as around 80% of our students come on their own. We are very cognizant of the fact that "two's company and three's a crowd," so we do limit the number of teens who know each other aboard the same boat.
Like our students, our staff comes from all over the globe with all sorts of different backgrounds. In the BVI, we can have as many as 40 staff in one place at the same time. This is a huge advantage over a program that runs as a single vessel since our students can interact and learn from a far greater number of fantastic teachers and role models. Any ActionQuest staff member who operates one of our smaller programs has a minimum of two years' experience teaching with us in the BVI, this way ActionQuest can provide first class staff and a first class experience.
The qualifications and experience of our professional staff are diverse. Every member of our team is multi-talented, combining the practical skills essential to the operation of a mobile live-aboard program while covering their particular area of expertise. They include U.S. Coast Guard licensed captains, RYA Yachtmasters, PADI staff instructors, marine scientists, oceanographers and Emergency Medical Technicians.
The average age of an ActionQuest staff member is 27. Some are a little older and some a little younger, as we tend to select staff on the basis of their professional qualifications and experience working with teens, rather than age.
All ActionQuest staff members are trained first aid responders. Additionally, in the BVI, an Emergency Medical Technician sails full time with each flotilla of boats. Since we stay within the same island group for the entire duration of the program, good medical care is always close at hand. This is another safety advantage of our BVI Flotilla programs.
Many of our staff work with us as full-time educators aboard with our Sea|mester programs. Others are traditional teachers during the rest of the year and join us each summer. Typically, we have in excess of 75% returning staff year after year and we feel that this says a lot about ActionQuest as a program. If our staff are having fun, our shipmates are having fun.
PADI is the acronym for the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, the world's leader in scuba training courses. There are PADI diving schools all over the world and a PADI certification is universally recognized. ActionQuest has been rated as a PADI Five Star Gold Palm facility, the highest rating that PADI awards based on our experience, safety standards and commitment to continuing education.
When taught correctly, scuba diving is a safe sport. Like any adventure sport, there are potential hazards, which is why you need proper training and certification.
Scuba diving is fun and easy to learn. It's probably easier than you imagine -- especially if you're already comfortable in the water. PADI's entry-level course consists of pool diving, knowledge development and open water dives. The course is performance based, meaning that you progress as you learn and demonstrate knowledge and skill.
No. Wearing soft contact lenses shouldn't be a problem while you dive. However, if you wear hard contacts, you'll want to dive with gas permeable lenses. See your eye doctor for more information. Another option is to have prescription lenses put into your mask.
Our dive programs seek to surpass standards set by PADI. All dive equipment is provided for any BVI voyage. The PADI Open Water certification program is part of the Vega voyages. Shipmates complete academic classes, confined water and open water training sessions as part of this course. Shipmates begin training in shallow water (much like a swimming pool). Once this is complete, they continue on to open water training between 20 and 40 feet, always with an instructor. PADI courses are performance-based rather than time-based. This means that if a student is having difficulty with any particular skill, our instructors will work one-on-one with that shipmate until the skill is mastered.
Dive publications regularly feature the BVI for their exceptional diversity of diving environments, marine life, water quality and visibility. The close proximity of dive sites allows us to maximize our time for all in-water and associated activities. For any specific questions regarding scuba diving, please contact our Florida office.
We have a range of voyages for shipmates who already hold a dive certification and this includes the Advanced Open Water, Rescue Diver, numerous PADI specialties and Divemaster, the first professional level. For any certified diver who joins us, we conduct a scuba review quiz and a skills checkout dive in shallow water before starting more advanced training.
Every year, we have a number of students who are not yet certified divers but want to join us for an advanced scuba course where certification is a prerequisite. In this instance, we suggest contacting your local PADI school and inquiring what it might take to obtain a PADI referral. With a PADI referral, you can join us for any program in which a basic scuba certification is a prerequisite. For more information on PADI referrals, please refer to the next FAQ.
A PADI referral can be obtained by completing all of the confined water diving (typically in a swimming pool) and all of the academic sessions (including the quizzes and exam) prior to arriving for your advanced-level ActionQuest voyage. In the first two days of the program, we complete the referral by taking you on your four open water dives. This is a great option for those who are not certified divers but want to join us for advanced-level scuba courses. It also allows those who live in colder climes to finish their certifications in the warm Caribbean Sea rather than a cold lake in the northern USA. Brrrrrrrr!!
ActionQuest provides absolutely all scuba gear necessary for our courses. This includes masks, fins, BCDs and regulators. Shipmates joining us for any advanced-level scuba course have a complete set of equipment loaned to them for the duration of the program. Students learning to dive for the very first time have their equipment stored and taken care of by the instructors in between dives. Wetsuits are not needed for the basic scuba training courses, however we do recommend that any advanced divers bring their own wetsuit.
If you are already a certified diver and have your own equipment, you should feel free to bring your gear with you. For those who would rather leave their gear at home and use ours, that's fine too. Due to the limited amount of fresh water stored aboard our vessels, those bringing their own gear should be aware that they will not be able to rinse their gear after every dive.
Unfortunately, there are certain medical issues such as asthma and ear problems that can be a contraindication to diving. We are not medical experts, so it is difficult to give a definite answer to this question. Prior to any program where scuba is a desired activity, we send out the PADI diving medical form that must be signed by a doctor if you have to answer 'yes' to any of the questions regarding medical history. A doctor unfamiliar with diving medicine may be unwilling to sign the form without referring you to a specialist. The bottom line is "safety first." If your doctor feels it unwise that you try diving, then there are plenty of other ActionQuest programs to choose from.