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Old 27-07-2016, 05:56   #1
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How necessary is ASA

Here's the deal. I've been sailing since I was a kid, mostly day sailors. About a year ago I finally got a cruiser and I love it. I'm a relatively experienced sailor, I by no means think I have it all figured out. Sailing is an art with a life long learning curve.

My question is this. How necessary are ASA certificates? Although I would love to be able to learn more, ASA is terribly expensive. I have no intention of chartering or making it a business. Is ASA necessary for travel in certain countries (Caribbean mainly)? Has anyone ever had a problem because they didn't have ASA certification?
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Old 27-07-2016, 06:01   #2
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Re: How necessary is ASA

It's not necessary. At all.
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Old 27-07-2016, 06:04   #3
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Re: How necessary is ASA

I think you may be surprised at how many of us, like you have no formal sailing education.
I would have thought insurance would have required it, or at least would have given a good price break, but it was never mentioned, just experience was all that was asked, and again surprisingly all they wanted was "big boat" experience, they were OK that I had never had a sailboat before.

I'm sure I would learn a lot if I took the classes, but like you I can spend the money elsewhere at this point, although I plan on sending the wife to classes if she will go.
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Old 27-07-2016, 06:11   #4
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Re: How necessary is ASA

Awesome. Thanks.
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Old 27-07-2016, 08:35   #5
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Re: How necessary is ASA

I think the short answer is NO. ASA is not a government document which may be why insurers are unimpressed.
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Old 27-07-2016, 09:20   #6
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Re: How necessary is ASA

You can always take the certification tests, without taking the courses. The fee is much less than the courses. Definitely need certification outside the U.S. for chartering.
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Old 27-07-2016, 09:28   #7
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Re: How necessary is ASA

While I agree that ASA certification is not necessary for the type of sailing you intend to do, it is one way to gain valuable knowledge and experience. I, too, grew up in a sailing family and have crewed on countless boats on both coasts and in Europe. But when I came to the SF Bay area about 10 years ago with the intention of owning my own cruising sail boat I took the first three ASA levels at the Modern Sailing School in Sausalito. The first level I "passed" by taking just the written test and had a one hour sailing tour. The others I took the full weekend courses on the water. Cruising is more than just sailing and it's the non-sailing areas of boat ownership and operation (safety, emergency (eg MOB), docking, anchoring, etc) which make the ASA courses valuable. Of course there are other ways to gain such knowledge. The Coast Guard offers good classroom courses and there are countless books and videos. Good luck what ever you decide.
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Old 27-07-2016, 09:39   #8
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Re: How necessary is ASA

The only "certificate" we carried was an "all oceans, all conditions" Lloyd's of London policy certificate. Seemed to impress most port captains when asked about our experience and the boat's seaworthiness.
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Old 27-07-2016, 14:03   #9
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Re: How necessary is ASA

Taught ASA for more than a decade. All learning is good but ASA not necessary. Read the books. They are OK but there are much better books on sailing.
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Old 27-07-2016, 14:21   #10
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Re: How necessary is ASA

I think ASA certification classes began sometime in the late 1980's. I did not hear of them until sometime later. They are not an old standard, but relatively new.

I'm all for learning and safety, but there's nothing about ASA that makes it unique or sanctioned in any special way. Many long term sailors are far more established than ASA instruction.

If money is disposable, take the ASA courses, but there is nothing they have to teach that can't be found without cost for a competent researcher.
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Old 27-07-2016, 15:42   #11
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Re: How necessary is ASA

Not necessary. You can charter a bare boat anywhere in the Caribbean without certifications. You would need to fill out a sailing resume detailing your experience. This is true of bare boating in Thailand as well as a few other places. Europe you need and ICC or RYC certificates. If your experience is up to 26 foot sailboats, don't expect to get approval for a 50 foot sloop. Experience on a 26 foot boat would probably get you a 36 footer. Once you charter that you then leg your way up to larger sailboats.
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Old 27-07-2016, 15:50   #12
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Re: How necessary is ASA

The OP said Caribbean "mainly." In the med it can be different. Some countries require a recognized certificate to charter. If you take the correct ASA courses, they will then issue you some sort of certificate, that I have read (don't know from experience, maybe others do) that will be accepted in the med.
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Old 27-07-2016, 16:14   #13
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Re: How necessary is ASA

I don't know much about the program, but this may be a less expensive route, especially if you are an United States Power Squadron, (USPS),member.
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Old 27-07-2016, 17:49   #14
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Re: How necessary is ASA

I had a similar situation and did not bother to get an ASA certificate either. I feel like ASA is gouging the consumer by charging such high fees even if you just want to do the test out. I chartered a couple times and it was not an issue in the US or Carribean. However, Europe now requires all captains (charter and private) to have certificates of competency. You can get an international sailing competence certificate from ASA if you complete ASA 101 - 104 (and pay another fee).
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Old 27-07-2016, 19:48   #15
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Re: How necessary is ASA

I really believe in learning as much as possible about sailing, seamanship, coastal navigation and piloting, marine weather, signal lights an day shapes, etc. The list never seems to end. There is so much to learn, that most of us old salts are still learning. We will never know it all. Impossible.

35 or more years ago, long before ASA came on the scene, I joined a sailing club that required you to take lessons. The instruction and instructors were excellent. The courses were organized and comprehensive.

It was no nonsense and demanding.

Basic lessons: 3 lessons total 9 hours, plus a written test.
Those lessons were on 30 foot vessels that included departing the docks
under sail, and docking under sail. No engine running. The attitude was that you should be able to sail a sailing vessel in most any conditions, or situation.


If you passed the written, you went in to the

Intermediate .
3 lessons, 3 hrs each...9 hours. plus the written

then more on boat systems, attending an In depth systems class, that included emergencies and fire fighting.



The above were in very busy Newport Harbor, Ca., lots of traffic, and right of way rules as well as collision bearings.

30 foot check ride: 3 hrs, on board, Single Handing. Instructor on board
grading your performance. Rig vessel, including tying in a reef, systems checks, stowing gear, departing under sail, everything that you learned in basic , Intermediate and systems classes. Return to docks, docking under sail single handed, handling the helm, main sheet, and dock lines.


Of course docking under power, bow and stern first, As well.


Advanced lessons, up to 45 foot vessels at sea.


4 each, 6 hr lessons. ( 24 hrs total ) Anchoring methods, man overboard at sea, reefing and sail changes ( before roller snarlers ), fog procedures and nav by depth soundings, before GPS, night sailing, etc. Plus everything that you all ready had learned.

Plus passing the written.

Alas, you are not done...


Coastal Piloting and navigation: 18 hrs class room. Pass that long written.

Then you had to work your way up from the 30 footers and increase your area of cruising, and different harbors. Build sea time.


Catalina: After so much time coastal sailing, you had to go on a Catalina Flotilla Certification cruise, with other vessels, and one or two instructor boats. Three days, with some rum and jimmy buffet time ashore tossed in.


This is just a small part of the training, but you learned and became proficient or you did not qualify to take the boats out. Our fleet ranged on
up to 55 foot sailing vessels, and then we added on the motor vessels,
40 to 55 feet and you had to go thru additional power boat safety at sea
courses, on board and class room.


Our instructors were USCG Licensed masters ( 100) tons. ( 720 days documented sea time to sit for that license )

The point being, I do believe in getting professional instruction, and I know that I am in the minority . Also, I have great respect for other sailors like the experts who post on this cruisng forum. Their wealth of knowledge is amazing. As far as I am aware, there is no other forum like this.


That is a huge unforgiving mother ocean, and we all need to put as much
in our favor as possible, and never treat her with indifference.


With all of that said, it still comes down to the individual, and their
personal sailing professionalism, abilities, good sea sense, and overall good attitude.


As to the original question, you do not need to go thru an ASA
certified school. It may get you some recognition in some of the charter companies, but you still have to fill out those resumes. And prove your ability to skipper their boats.

Fair winds and following seas.
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