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Old 05-04-2011, 20:38   #1
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Sailing Classes Help

Hello. I know this has probably been asked several times, and I will go do a search, but in the meantime I will ask the question.

I will tell you right up front I know near nothing about sailing. I want to learn though and eventually in the not so distant future, be able to comfortably sail, skipper, or crew a 45-50 ft sailboat. Why that size? Because it is what I would want to buy anyway.

Now, to the meat of my question. Although I do know a couple of people with sailboats that could "teach me here and there", I have started to look around for sailing schools. I live in South East FL. I have found so far a few schools that seem to offer pretty much the same with very large differences in cost. On the low end is one offering ASA 101/103/104 - 6 days $ 1,095 and the other extreme is another for about $3300. The others are in the middle. All in the same time of the year. The only thing I see different from the cheaper ones to the more expensive one is that they use about 30 ft boats vs a 46 ft boat in the top end. However, the top end one requires another $200 or so to be ASA certified for those classes while the other cheaper ones offer it as part of the fee. They are all "live abord courses". Given all schools have websites, I will put a few names below of the ones I am looking at the most.

smartersail
sta-sail
offshoresailing
bwss

-Has anyone heard anything bad or good about any of these schools?
-Has anyone here used any of these schools or know anyone that has? Opinions?
-Are they worth the money or should I be going about this in a different way? Suggestions?

Thanks for taking the time to answer my first post.
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Old 05-04-2011, 20:51   #2
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Re: Sailing classes help

Go for the less expensive ASA ones and try to work on boats that are smaller without engines. It will make you a better sailor and you'll learn important stuff first before getting caught up in all that's going on with a bigger boat.

Once you have that you'll have learned a bunch, and you can branch out past that. The folks I know who've taken their ASA courses generally feel pretty confident on the water and if you're starting from zero that would be my vote.

$3K for a week's instruction is more about you funding some guy's charter business.
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Old 05-04-2011, 22:45   #3
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Re: Sailing classes help

Those courses, often called cruising combo courses, lump a ton of learning into a very short time. Make sure that you get somewhat familiar with some basic vocabulary before you take the class. It will help you to retain more of the information. The biggest difference that the higher priced courses offer are newer, larger and more modern boats, as well as smaller class sizes. It if is worth the extra money to you, then check it out. I agree with rebel, check out the less expensive one, get your bareboat certification (104) and then you will have saved enough money to do a nice bareboat charter in the BVI's
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Old 05-04-2011, 23:07   #4
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Re: Sailing classes help

My Girlfriend and I attended Offshore Sailing school and had a blast. It was far more expensive than the other options, but the instruction was perfect for a newcomer and someone with experience as well. Our instructor cruises as well with his wife so it was great to have instruction that was orientated around that rather than just running down a list of "Things you need to know". Learned a ton of cruising and liveaboard tips along the way.

The "Fast track to cruising" course had us out on a 45' Hunter for 6 days and we left very confident with our newfound skills. You can also do all of the US Sailing certifications during the course, we did those as well and passed with flying colors.

A few months later we were in the BVI just to two of us on a 39' Bene and had zero issues. We did everything by the book and it was nice to be the greenest but most drama free folks come mooring pick up time.

Whatever you choose for instruction, do a bit of prep work by reading everything you can, it saves a ton of time being able to identify everything you see rather than having to waste time to learn its name and use.

Pick up a pack of "Sail Cards" from your local WestMarine and go through them for a few weeks prior to your course.
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Old 06-04-2011, 00:17   #5
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Re: Sailing classes help

My $0.02 worth

From my observation, the best sailors are those who started as a kid on their family yacht and did some dingy sailing just for fun. They learn really fast. However, I started when I was 45 and I was unable to wind the clock back and become a kid again. In the absence of youth I have gone and got the best training I could afford. It has been many week ends of practical training and several weeks of pure theory and it has been worth every cent both in the confidence and competence achieved. That's what I'd advise anyone in my situation. A good training school will teach you a lot better than what your mates will. The only downside is that those pesky kids are still better sailors than me.

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Old 06-04-2011, 01:16   #6
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Re: Sailing Classes Help

Welcome aboard!

Myself, I learnt more by going sailing with beach cat sailors than I did in the few lessons I had as a kid... And I agree with Rebel Heart that learning on a small boat keeps things simple.

My foray onto yachts started with a massive forty footer, with ropes all over and different roles for different crew. It wasn't until I went out on a little Westerly GK24 in a storm with just the SKipper for company that I clicked as to how all the spinnaker lines worked.... and the rest of the boat in fact!!

But after that, the odd RYA / ASA course an be useful insight to gain further tips and insights - as well as quals for those who want.

But, I will say: I pick up loads from being on CF....
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Old 06-04-2011, 03:18   #7
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Re: Sailing Classes Help

Its a big question how to learn to comfortably skipper a 50 footer.

1 You need to learn how to sail. you can do this on sailing dingys. Dingy racing also speeds this and helps with the rules of the road.
2 The International regulations for prevention of collitions at sea(Coll Regs)/Navigation/tides/weather. Either home study/computer course/Night School.
3 Boat maintance, If it breaks you need to be able to fix, patch it up or work round. RYA engine course, Night school, Sailing with your eyes open,they all help.
4 Practical skills. Your ASA course is a must. I dont know the USA system but at least 1000Nm and two weeks minimum practical training before skippering any Yatch without instructor.
5 Boat handling. a big boat and small marina is scary but you learn fast. If you have an Instructor on board You dont have to pay for the dammage..He has to
6 More practical experiance crew for anyone. A bad Skipper will teach you what not to do (if you survive) A good skipper much more.
7 Read this forum find out both sides to the arguments.Rarely they are just bigoted Usualy there are reasons on both sides...


That is the begining. Why such a long list to start?

Because a good skipper takes years to develop and Never stops learing until to old to sail.

Remember to invest in Your skills to become a good skipper it saves time and money and perhaps youn neck
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Old 06-04-2011, 08:46   #8
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Re: Sailing Classes Help

Thanks for all the useful info so far.

Like someone above, I can't turn the clock back to being a kid, nor would I want to if I had the chance either! I understand and goes without saying that sailing is like many other things and skills in life. You may master the commonly encountered every day, but you always have room for improvement and never stop learning. That is, unless you belong to that select group of idiots that think they know it all!!

While I said I wanted to comfortably skipper/crew an approx. 45-50 ft boat as it is what ultimately I would get, it is not something I expect to do next week. However, of all the boats I've been in, that size seems to be the right compromise (for me personally) in comfort, room, speed, ability to live aboard with family, etc. There may be a few steps between now and there, but that is ultimately the goal at some point down the road.

Again, thanks for the replies.
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Old 06-04-2011, 09:19   #9
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Re: Sailing Classes Help

Take the inexpensive classes, and if your goal is not to leave in the next couple of years. Then buy something small, and spend several thousand dollars to hone your skills. You will always get your money back, and access to your own boat can not be beat. Not to mention it will not have to depend on anyone else. Those 45-50 ftrs will be there when you are ready........i2f
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Old 06-04-2011, 10:34   #10
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Re: Sailing Classes Help

Quote:
Originally Posted by dgasmd View Post
Thanks for all the useful info so far.

Like someone above, I can't turn the clock back to being a kid, nor would I want to if I had the chance either! I understand and goes without saying that sailing is like many other things and skills in life. You may master the commonly encountered every day, but you always have room for improvement and never stop learning. That is, unless you belong to that select group of idiots that think they know it all!!

While I said I wanted to comfortably skipper/crew an approx. 45-50 ft boat as it is what ultimately I would get, it is not something I expect to do next week. However, of all the boats I've been in, that size seems to be the right compromise (for me personally) in comfort, room, speed, ability to live aboard with family, etc. There may be a few steps between now and there, but that is ultimately the goal at some point down the road.

Again, thanks for the replies.
You've posted the same question on SN too. At first you make it sound as though you go to a sailing school next week and buy your big boat the week after that. It would help if we knew your general location.

Sailing is like golf. Learn fundamentals, practice, practice, practice and eventually get pretty good. Also, like golf, sailing isn't something you do just once or twice a year if you want to maintain your skills. So begin with the end in mind.

I got into sailing late in life. The local university has an active sailing club. I learned the basics there, worked my way up from sailing dinghies to small sloops and eventually small keelboats. The sailing club afforded me access to their fleet and I could sail all I wanted.

Also signed on as crew at a local yacht club and did quite a bit of club racing. This gave me a chance to practice in a team setting, sail regularly with people that knew what they were doing (for the most part) and I didn't have to own a boat (yet).

I bought a small sailboat and got my family involved. Then my wife and I did a week-long ASA 101/103/104 live aboard. It confirmed we enjoyed extended trips on a boat and didn't need to be in a marina every night. It gave my wife a chance to "learn" from a disinterested third party and she gained the confidence needed to handle things if I went over the side. It also helped us figure out the largest boat we felt we could comfortably handle by ourselves on a regular basis.

My point .... selecting a school isn't as important as prep before and what you plan to do after you finish the school. What is your plan for maintaining your skills as you move forward toward that big boat with family living aboard?

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Old 06-04-2011, 11:41   #11
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Re: Sailing Classes Help

Yes, I've posted the same question in 3 forums. I figured the more I ask the same question the more chances of finding concensus in the answers

Not to be argumentative, especially in my first post and after you all have graciously taken the time to answer, but I never intend to make it sound like I am doing it all next week. Maybe that is how YOU interpreted?

Quote:
I want to learn though and eventually in the not so distant future, be able to comfortably sail, skipper, or crew a 45-50 ft sailboat.
My ultimate goal is what I said in the original post: to be able to sail, skipper, and crew comfortably a 45-50 ft boat. From the answers I've gathered and from what I've read so far, it seems the classes are worth the effort. Like I also said, I know a few people with sailboats, so this may be a good time to call them up and "entice them" to go out on the boats. Some of them have turned their boats into marina decorations I will also stop by the local marina to and maybe post in their bulletin board to offer my services as "crew" in case others are looking for help on weekends.

Thanks again for all your answers.
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Old 06-04-2011, 11:42   #12
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Re: Sailing Classes Help

My wife and I attended a BWSS week-long, live-aboard class in 2007 (?). We took the "Course A Plus Cat" class. I see that now is priced at $2095 per person. I don't think it was that much when we went. Regardless, it was worth every penny, for us, in our situation. We already had some sailing experience in smaller boats and were looking to gain confidence in a larger boat (specifically a cat), spend an extended amount of time on board (more than just an overnight), and break the bad habits we had developed being mostly self-taught. Our class did exactly what we needed it to do.

I would recommend BWSS. Our instructor was excellent. She was an experienced cruiser, knowledgeable skipper, and was great at teaching what she new - which is more than what is in the course materials. I think BWSS is little pricey. That's likely because the school charters all the boats they use either from the instructors or from a nearby charter company.

Definitely read and learn everything before you show up for the class. Otherwise, you'll be completely over your head. You are expected to learn the printed material before you show up at the dock so that you can apply what you learned over the course of the week.
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Old 06-04-2011, 12:34   #13
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Re: Sailing Classes Help

Quote:
Originally Posted by dgasmd View Post
My ultimate goal is what I said in the original post: to be able to sail, skipper, and crew comfortably a 45-50 ft boat. From the answers I've gathered and from what I've read so far, it seems the classes are worth the effort.
If it were me, and it was 5 years ago, I'd start small and work up. Sure, the eventual goal is a 45-50 footer, but why not start off with a dinghy or small keel boat? The physics of sailing is the same whether you're on a windsurfer or a galleon. Since every boat is different, unless you're going to buy exactly the boat you train on, there WILL be things that you are going to have to adjust to. So, regardless of whether you move from a smaller boat to a bigger boat or move from a bigger boat to a different bigger boat, things will change. Please don't think you need to start at 45 feet because the ultimate goal is 45 feet.

It is far more cost effective to learn on a smaller platform, then move up to a larger boat. I bought my Catalina 22 in 2006 for the sole purpose of using it as a training platform. It has been an invaluable tool in learning to sail. For less than $3,000, you could have your own small boat to sail whenever you wanted rather than spending that amount of money for less than two weeks of formal instruction on a 45-50 ft boat.

Kevin
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Old 25-04-2011, 12:26   #14
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Re: Sailing Classes Help

Another suggestion.....

Join your local chapter of the Power and Sail Squadron, a Coast Guard auxillary. They offer a bunch of courses (classroom) that are well run, and you have to pass a proctered exam to complete them, so they are widely recognized. They are inexpensive..the fees are generally only to pay for your materials. I have taken Seamanship, Piloting and Advanced Piloting. These compliment nicely with the on-the-water ASA courses.
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Old 25-04-2011, 12:38   #15
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Re: Sailing Classes Help

Dingy sailing, small boats or racing is completely different than big sailboat cruising.

Boating whether power or sail is 90 percent boating, 10 percent propulsion.

Once comfortable with the basics of sailing...one can advance on their own boat at their own speed.

Being a safe, great cruiser is absorbing knowledge whether written or watching (preferably both)...whether from pros that charge or really experienced and GOOD cruisers is irrelavent.
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