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Old 26-10-2012, 03:31   #16
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Re: ASA Vs "Old Salts"

As a current Yachtmaster and having been involved in training. I think courses are great, provided you come with an open mind and pick courses that are obviously in your case not outright beginners. Shore based Nav courses are useful as refreshers and on the water ones give you a chance to see others do it ( maybe differently).

It can all be good fun too.

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Old 26-10-2012, 04:35   #17
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Re: ASA Vs "old salts"

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Well, I guess I mean of the sailors I know there are a lot of basics missing. You see the discussions on here a lot. I know guys who don't even have compasses anymore because they just use the GPS. So whether it's the sun traveling through a degree every four minutes (if memory serves) or the pivot point of a vessel in reverse vs one going forward, there are just a lot of basics that I don't think people know about.
......
Yes, your memory serves you correctly (15 degrees per hour sticks in my mind), but in a few decades of sailing have I ever actually needed to use this "basic" information? No.
I also learned how to use a sextant 20+ years ago as well, but with no practice, this skill has been forgotten, although I suppose it would be easy to pick up again.
Probably have forgotten more than I still remember

Extra knowledge and skills never go astray, and I am sure even from the simplest of courses useful bits can be picked up, but is it worth pursuing course after course and spending hundreds or thousands to achieve this? I find the best thing is to get a little practical experience and every time something comes up that wasn't handled well or is puzzling, go look it up, learn from it and practice it. Far easier to remember things when they they have reinforced by practical experience. Starting small (dinghies or small trailerable yachts) and building the knowledge and experience base works very well in my opinion.
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Old 26-10-2012, 06:39   #18
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Re: ASA Vs "Old Salts"

I stepped aboard a sailboat for the first time in 1978. I bought my first sailboat in 1982. I took my most recent ASA course just about a year ago.

Honestly, I didn't learn anything about sail handling, tacking, gybing, or how to steer a course. On the other hand, our diesel over-heated at a most inopportune time, and I learned a lot by helping the instructor burp the cooling system to get us going again. I also learned a bit about how the propane system is set up on a modern boat. For me it was well worth the cost.

Of course, I approached the whole thing with the pre-conceived notion that I was going to enjoy myself and learn something. And I did. As Ex-Calif said, if you go into it with the idea that you aren't going to learn much then you are pretty well guaranteed not to learn much.

Instructors vary. Some are good and some not so much. Beyond that, though, if you look at the course material and syllabus you should be able to easily determine if they are going to be covering anything that you don't already know. But mostly, if you believe it is going to be a waste of money then it most definitely will be.
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Old 26-10-2012, 11:06   #19
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Re: ASA Vs "Old Salts"

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Instructors vary. Some are good and some not so much. Beyond that, though, if you look at the course material and syllabus you should be able to easily determine if they are going to be covering anything that you don't already know. But mostly, if you believe it is going to be a waste of money then it most definitely will be.
I have heard the same line applied to divers. Folks ask which is better, NAUI or PADI and the response is "the instructor."

I have had a few instructor candidates who imply did not have the experience to attain the level they were seeking. One had never skippered a boat on tidal waters. I did not certify them.

The instructor does have a mandate to ensure that courses standards are met. They need to know that material and know how to apply it. They also need to know how to teach it to others. Some times very experienced sailors make crappy instructors because everything is now second nature to them and they cannot reflective on their practice.
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Old 26-10-2012, 11:17   #20
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Re: ASA Vs "old salts"

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Aristotle also said, We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is a process not an event.
What he actually wrote--perhaps just a better translation--was, "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit."
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Old 26-10-2012, 11:35   #21
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Re: ASA Vs "Old Salts"

If you can't get a detailed enough syllabus to determine whether a course is of value to you, then another option is to buy the text book, though I fully agree that the instructor is far more important than the book. I know Amazon has the US Sailing books for $20, or less for used. I would imagine that ASA books are readily available also.
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Old 26-10-2012, 11:46   #22
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Re: ASA Vs "Old Salts"

Here's my perspective as an ASA Instructor, ASA Instructor Evaluator, and old salt...certainly the "old" part.

One advantage of a structured curriculum, whether ASA's or other, is that it provides a comprehensive and structured knowledge base for a given subject area. Something I have observed in totally self taught sailors is that there are often gaps in their knowledge because they only learned what they needed to at the time. And, learning by experience alone is a slow process (I know a number of people who have been sailing for decades, but still have relatively weak skills).

The most common situation where I run into this is when conducting an IQC (Instructor Qualification Clinic). It is quite common for experienced sailors to show up without preparing properly (despite many advanced suggestions to do so) because they think they already know it all, only to discover that their sailing knowledge and skills were not quite as comprehensive as they thought. The second time around they are usually much better prepared.

In order to evaluate which, if any, classes would do you good, go to the ASA site and review the detailed (not the summary) standards for each class. If the answer is "none" then you might consider becoming an instructor (if you are so inclined).
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Old 26-10-2012, 11:49   #23
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Re: ASA Vs "Old Salts"

As one of the old fish munchers that Rebelheart referred to, I wholeheartedly agree with him. Starting at an early age (14) commercial fishing, I progressed through the school of hard knocks somehow getting enough book learning to pass the certification for a Mates ticket for Inland Coastal Waters in Canada and progressed to a USCG 100 Ton Masters with Sail and Tow endorsements in the US. I've attended a few yachty type courses like Gordon Wests' school of instant radio licensing and a couple of ASA sponsored courses. While I felt that I had a pretty good grasp of things in the marine environment, I never failed to learn something of value in each course I took. It doesn't seem to matter what background, experience or book learning you have, there is aways something to be learned about the water whether it be hands on or theoretical. I applaud those who think they have a good knowledge of a subject signing up for a seemingly redundant course, only to come away with a 'wow, I didn't know that' experience. There is also the advantage of bringing some practical knowledge to a course and imparting it to the rest of the class as part of the learning experience. Phil
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Old 26-10-2012, 11:52   #24
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Re: ASA Vs "Old Salts"

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Originally Posted by azsailor12 View Post
If you can't get a detailed enough syllabus to determine whether a course is of value to you, then another option is to buy the text book, though I fully agree that the instructor is far more important than the book. I know Amazon has the US Sailing books for $20, or less for used. I would imagine that ASA books are readily available also.
ASA standards for each class are published on the ASA web site at:

Advanced Sail Training Courses - Endorsements from American Sailing Association

This page lists summary standards for each class. Click on the class title to view the detailed standard.

ASA texts are available via Amazon or directly from ASA. However, availability on Amazon is a bit spotty right now because ASA is in the process of publishing new texts some classes.
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Old 26-10-2012, 12:17   #25
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Re: ASA Vs "Old Salts"

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.... there is aways something to be learned about the water whether it be hands on or theoretical. ....come away with a 'wow, I didn't know that' experience. There is also the advantage of bringing some practical knowledge to a course and imparting it to the rest of the class as part of the learning experience. Phil
An experience I have had several times which relates to your comment: At several schools in the past, when we've been short of boats for classes we've approached private owners about chartering their boat for the class. Often times the owner has wanted to come along to keep an eye on his boat. They usually emphasize that they do NOT intend to participate in the class of course....then a funny thing happens...on the first day I notice them paying attention to a few subjects (while pretending not to of course)...and by last day of class they are full on participating. Some of this participation is just because it is fun, like sailing drills, but by then end of the class they have actually learned a few things.

And, as you point out, there is always something more to learn about the sea and boats. This is part of what keeps sailing interesting. For example, a number of years ago I signed up as crew on the tall ship ELISSA (Galveston, TX). At the time, I had a lot of sailing experience, certifications, licenses, etc, but had never done any traditional vessel sailing. I thought "No big deal -- its just another boat". Wow, the learning experience was almost overwhelming....it took about 6 months of training to become something other than totally useless on deck.
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Old 26-10-2012, 13:03   #26
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Re: ASA Vs "Old Salts"

The quality and the standards of the sailing school makes all the difference in the world. Some sailing schools only care about getting people to charter their sailboats where they make the majority of their revenue. Other schools are true schools with high standards that require their students to pass with a high degree of knowledge. I worked for one of the latter in Berkeley back in the 80's and they were serious about their students learning. Back then they were an ASA school and I was an ASA certified instructor. I flunked a number of students because they had not learned the skills required to take command of a sailboat.

I wouldn't bother with the schools that only care about getting their boats chartered out.
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Old 26-10-2012, 14:20   #27
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Re: ASA Vs "Old Salts"

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... Some sailing schools only care about getting people to charter their sailboats where they make the majority of their revenue...
Yes, that is a perennial conflict between sailing instruction and chartering (more so an issue with "charter companies" than "sailing schools" per se).

For many charter companies sailing instruction is just a means to book charters and they really could care less about the quality of instruction. I once had a charter company book me to teach ASA 101 (Basic Keelboat) aboard a Beneteau 50' charter boat. I did not find out until the day of the charter, with the guests already aboard, or I would have refused.
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Old 26-10-2012, 16:36   #28
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Re: ASA Vs "old salts"

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What he actually wrote--perhaps just a better translation--was, "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit."
How about, "You don't need a brain Scarecrow. You need a diploma" - LOL...

There are two major annoyances for experienced learners.

- The old salt who is pedantic and so stuck in his ways he won't turn on the GPS
- The young guys so inexperienced he really doesn't have practical experience.

Learning is also about finding the right institutional values and the right instructor.

For example - I have been tying fenders off forever. The last checkout I took the instructor insisted there is only one way to tie a fender and it was his way. Either method was fine. I shut up and did it his way for 2 hours.

He also insisted on stopping the jibe turn upon reaching DDW. Really bizarre, maybe safe but totally impractical.
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Old 26-10-2012, 19:52   #29
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Re: ASA Vs "old salts"

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He also insisted on stopping the jibe turn upon reaching DDW. Really bizarre, maybe safe but totally impractical.
I've seen some instructors do that move. Seems like something that works terrific in the bay.
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Old 26-10-2012, 20:37   #30
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Re: ASA Vs "old salts"

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I've seen some instructors do that move. Seems like something that works terrific in the bay.
I don't disagree and would not advocate against it, especially for those new to boats or who don't sheet the main properly while gybing, short handed, etc.
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