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Old 12-09-2009, 14:43   #1
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ASA Certification: Is it Really Necessary

I see thread after thread about people taking ASA Certification courses.
Why?
Is this because they don't have friends who sail and need someone to teach them the basics? If you simply own your own boat and go sailing every weekend with friends and family what is the advantage of "Certification?" Do some states require it now?

When I learned (nearly 40 years ago), I just hung out where the Wednesday night racers went and offered to crew. Always had a boat to go on. After a season, I bought my own boat, read a bunch of books, and tried to figure out why that fellow in a similar boat was going faster than me. Now, I hope, there are those who wonder why I am going faster than them. Learn by doing. Learn from your own mistakes.
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Old 12-09-2009, 14:49   #2
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Not everyone is able to learn in the same way. Lessons do start you out on the right foot, and help you avoiding bad habits. Not all of us have friends that are good teachers no matter what their sailing skills are. Just another way to skin the cat so to speak.......i2f
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Old 12-09-2009, 14:49   #3
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I have been going to sea most of my life. Wife and I are about to sign up for a sailing course, but the reason is that we want to be able to have some documentation to help us bareboat charter catamarans in various places around the world. We plan to buy a Gemini to keep here in the Turks and Caicos with us, but we would like to fly to, say, Greece, or New Zealand, or Croatia, and charter a 40 footer for a week or two.

I am evaluating various schools right now, looking at the ASA and the RYA courses. I think I will sign us up for one called "Instant Bareboater + Catamaran" by a group called Fairwinds Sailing. Any of you ever heard of them? The course is in the USVI, south of us.
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Old 12-09-2009, 14:59   #4
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While I had been sailing for 30 years my wife had wanted to learn. We took a Chapman offshore 10day class to the Bahamas while picking up a couple of certs. We got a great vacation, learned some new stuff, and it got us a discount on our boat insurance!
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Old 12-09-2009, 16:04   #5
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Quote:
I see thread after thread about people taking ASA Certification courses.
Why?
If you can take a sail class and you had experience and you actually learn something new or your partner becomes excited then you are a fool not to have done it. Starting out right is a plus. It counts as a certification but it counts for starting out right.

Certification proves you are minimally competent. OK, so that was not the real goal. It's the fast track to getting better than minimal. Learning the things you don't know at the beginning is everything toward being really good at anything. The positive experience will make you want to do more. No one gets good at this without wanting to do it and loving it. A few bad trips and you are off the radar - you will give up and buy an RV. Land yachts do sort of the same thing but they really would rather be sailing!
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Old 12-09-2009, 16:59   #6
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My wife and I did ASA 101, 103, 104, & 114 with Fairwinds in USVI. Learned a lot and it was a interesting, if exhausting, "vacation". 6 days 24/7. We were on a 42 foot cat. VERY hands on intensive learning experience. Total immersion experience. And while there is no substitute for experience there is a lot of technical information to get hands around as well. Buoys will make you crazy for example. My wife and I are fairly new to sailing but we went with a couple who are life long sailors. They loved it and learned a lot. I beat them on a few of the tests much to their chagrin. If you want to hear more about our experience with it send me a private email and I will expound upon it.

But in a word...... do it!!! I wish I was back in school right now.
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Old 12-09-2009, 18:16   #7
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If what you learn on your own and through other people who sail is enough for you, then there may be no reason to spend the money on an ASA certification course.

I've been teaching a sailing class for about 10 years, but just recently too the ASA instructor's course. I learned several new ideas and enjoyed networking with others in the class. When I took the keelboat and bareboat course years ago, I found it had the structure to be more comprehensive than what I learned from others. The price of a live aboard course, was no more expensive than chartering with a friend would have been. I was able to learn from my mistakes without the worry of paying for them. Learning about scope by mistakingly dragging into another boat for example, can be an expensive lesson.
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Old 12-09-2009, 19:32   #8
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I dunno, seems to me that Chapman, Dutton and The Annapolis Book of Seamanship say it all. Little Pardey thrown in for spice. Those, a boat and a little wind......
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Old 12-09-2009, 20:06   #9
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I didnt know anyone with a big sailboat. I didnt even know if I would like it. I thought I would but romantic dreams and reality arent always the same. So I went and took a course - I had the most fun I could remember in many years so I took another one. And then another one. Still being obsessed with sailboats I chartered one. And then another and then another. And then I went and bought a sailboat.

I dont think my history is all that uncommon. And I never would have had the confidence to go charter a large boat without the course. Nor would I EVER have bought a sailboat without the experience of chartering. Your life may have given you different options but the courses worked very well for me. Great instructors who were willing to answer any conceivable question I had. And though I am very good at reading books and doing homework, sailing is very much a learning-by-doing kind of thing. Without time on the water I may have thought I knew a lot but I didnt really KNOW it yet.
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Old 14-09-2009, 13:34   #10
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ASA positives

I guess it is the classic, "different strokes for different folks", and I2f has a great point about not acquiring "bad habits".

Like you, I learned from others (wanting to date a beautiful sailing woman is a great motivator!) - racing also teaches you a lot, quickly!

At the same time, I have also seen couples where one wants to sail and the other isn't so sure ("isn't it dangerous/the boat is going to tip over and we are going to drown?", etc). Too often, these couples end up in divergent camps and their boats lead sad, solitary lives, tethered to chafing docklines. The ASA courses, especially in the hands of a good teacher, can get couples sailing together, talking, laughing and enjoying this wonderful water life.

If you are retired like a friend of mine, you might look into taking the ASA Instructor course, or see if a local school like J-Boats Annapolis will let you take the "final exam" and certify you for a reduced fee. He now teaches others and gets a lot of personal satisfaction from it.

Fair Winds,
Mike
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Old 14-09-2009, 13:38   #11
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ASA? Not necessary at all. But certainly nothing wrong with it or any form of learning either.
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Old 14-09-2009, 14:03   #12
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I guess I go along with the crowd here. I took a couple of sailing courses when I first got into to it. A Red Cross course in sunfish, a couple of Annapolis Sailing school classes, i.e., intro and intermediate and then spent a year crewing on someone else's boat for weekend yacht club races. I learned from all, I especially learned I don't like racing. A bad heart, at the time, and getting t-boned was a bit too much.

Most of my education since then has been from the high tuition college called the "school of hard knocks".. works real well. After all, that which doesn't kill us makes us stronger... or something like that.

After all this rambling, no you don't need the classes. They will help if you go to charter as a lot of companies seem to like having clients pre-approved so to speak. They will also help if you don't charter. If you have the opportunity, and can afford them, they will considerably help in building self confidence either for yourself or your mate. I can remember one session when we took a 30 Newport out in 35 kt on Tampa Bay. Double reefed and still rounding up in the gusts. What I remember most is the feeling of relief from having an experienced instructor there to show me it wasn't as bad as I thought and keep me from doing anything too stupid. To be caught out without experience would have been much more traumatic. Like the first time caught out in 50 kt.

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Old 14-09-2009, 15:03   #13
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Well, hope you guys are right. I just committed the wife and I to the course in St. Thomas in early December.

Imagine that, a pair of island dwelling, confirmed stinkpot owners ( on our fourth powerboat in five years) voluntarily becoming ragboaters.

Will this mean I need all new t-shirts? Do I have to like Tofu and wear Birkenstocks?
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Old 14-09-2009, 15:04   #14
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While we often don't like to think about it... as things are going now, almost any future sailor will probably be required to show documentation of some level of competency. Presently in Florida, the operator must have some nominal level of training just to rent a boat for a few hours. It really isn't anything significant but is probably the start of a full requirement for documentation of competency even if your not going to charter.

I knew I was going to charter in more distant places and took the ASA classes and they were both fun and informative. Had a great instructor and he put everyone through the paces and was a stickler for having good communications and knowledge of boat handling and emergency situations such as MOB practice at times the crews were not really expecting it... we all grew to expect it and to watch for "Fred the Dummy" to fall/ be pushed overboard while we were in the middle of doing some other maneuver. With those I've never had a problem making charter arrangements anywhere I've tried. I have had to fax copies of my cert sheets with the little logo stickers on several occasions.

I now have my USCG license and it serves most often, however it does not convey the knowledge of sailboat use that the ASA classes do. Both together are a great combo and both were fun to work on. By far the ASA classes provided better training and information and used a nice range of boats for training.

Personally I don't think anyone would find the classes useless even if you do have many years of sailing under your belt. You may be surprised how much new information and new possibly better methods are available.
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Old 14-09-2009, 16:27   #15
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Will this mean I need all new t-shirts? Do I have to like Tofu and wear Birkenstocks?
Once you start wearing the Birkenstocks the Tofu tastes better. I would hold off on the pink T shirts for the first year at least. You need to make the transition smooth.

St Thomas in December sounds like a great idea in any case. Could be worse - you might really like it too.

As for footwear I try not to look at feet. You can smack your head on a boom - so don't. I was just kidding about the Tofu - it won't ever taste better. I wasn't kidding about the T shirts.
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