GULFPORT, Mississippi - When you're ready for an escape on the water, there's an all-star sailing instructor waiting for you in the Gulfport Municipal Harbor. It's a 90-minute drive from New Orleans, and the reward is a sense of calm that you can only find on the water.
The award-winning instructor is Captain Jim King, and he's the man in charge of North Star Sailing Charters. The American Sailing Association dubbed him an "Outstanding Instructor" for two years in a row, and he teaches a roster of sailing courses on his two sailboats, the Kashmir and the Polaris.
There are a lot of folks who prefer leisure trips to learning, and Captain Jim has you covered there as well. Sometimes clients go to see for special occasions, such as to "pop the question." Captain Jim says he has witnessed nearly a dozen proposals at sea and so far, they've all been successful.
Most of his clients come from Louisiana, with a big Mississippi crowd as well.
It seems that dolphin sightings are an almost-guaranteed highlight of every outing on the Mississippi Sound. Other common sightings include pelicans, herons and of course, gulls.
"I think dolphins are just the epitome of happiness. You see a dolphin and you can't not be happy. It brings a smile to your face," says Jim, who says that despite his many trips the graceful creatures still make him smile, every time.
This captain-for-hire says the most popular charter is the two-and-a-half-hour sunset cruise, which costs $190 per couple. He can take families or other groups too, up to six passengers in all (each additional person is $15).
People often sign up for the 3-day 'Sailing 101' course with big vacation plans in their future, such as the type of sailing adventure where you rent a boat and chart your own course island-hopping in various places around the world.
In the meantime, cruising the Mississippi coast with a full sail can set your soul free, at least for a few hours.