Well, I am uniquely qualified to help you, because I took the very course you are probably taking - the live aboard "Fast Track to Cruising" at Bluewater Sailing School
in Ft Lauderdale.
I had a highly unusual perspective - I expected to prefer power boating
, but wanted to give sailing a shot, and I wanted to see if the live aboard lifestyle was for me. The only way to live aboard a large powerboat while learning
would have cost $5,000+ instead of the $2,100 of the sailing school
, so sailing school
is a relative bargain.
There were four individual male students, which is unusual; more normally there are two couples. As a result of the promise of private sleeping accommodations, we got a 51' boat, which at first sounded like a privilege
, but it wound up that about half of us, including me, had significant trouble with the physical effort of turning the winches and operating the boat.
I would definitely second the suggestion, already given here, that you take your wife along. Both you and she will need to learn the boat, and two minds are likely to absorb more information than one.
To get the most out of the class, you definitely need to absorb the contents of the first book, which teaches you basic sailing. There are a lot of arcane terms to learn, and the more you learn in advance, the better off you are. The material in the other two volumes is, at least for me, much easier to learn and so if you are short on time, concentrate on the first volume and you will be fine during the course.
Our class was quite interesting. We all got along very well. We had an entrepreneur who was in the process of selling his business so he could go sailing. We had an about to retire entrepreneur who wanted to move up to chartering larger boats. We had a Chilean who wanted to start up his own sailing school
in his native country and wanted to learn the English boating
terms so he could teach them.
The Chilean was, understandably, an expert sailor.
I was lousy at sailing - didn't like cranking winches, found heeling uncomfortable, but loved being out on the water
. So I look forward to a power boating life, just as I'd expected. The instructor was accommodating and let me go on the helm
during the longest power parts
of the cruise
, during which I had a blast.
So here is my assessment of the training.
The first entrepreneur had extensive sailing experience and was young and vigorous, in his mid-40s. He will do fine, but the course was far from his only experience.
The other entrepreneur was older, had some sailing experience. If given a charter
boat, I would expect him to goof up a lot but muddle through.
I probably would have been able to take out a boat in calm waters without actually destroying it. Hopefully.
I did not think the course focused enough on power handling skills and docking
. He let each of us dock
the boat exactly once, under his direct supervision. He pretty much told us what to do and we did it. I am not sure if any of us (other than the Chilean) could dock
a similar boat competently today. Hopefully we could dock it without actually destroying it, because we were always told to go slow. But it seems unlikely we could do a particularly good or neat job, or do it under difficult conditions.
Because I was unable to do a lot of the needed winch
cranking, I did not pass the on the water
course and did not get a certification. Since I'm powerboat bound, that wasn't of much concern to me. What I wanted was on the water experience at a fair price
, and I got it.
The other three people passed certification and can, in theory, now bareboat charter
I should mention that, ironically enough, I got a better grade on the written test than any of the others. If you remember your test taking skills from school, the tests are pretty easy. The best sailor got the worst grades due to his poor English
knowledge, and the worst sailor - me! - got the best grades. Pretty funny
In summary, I would say the course is well worth taking. You will learn a lot. I think the course is slightly oversold in that most people should get considerably more experience than offered in the course before captaining their own sailboat. Our older entrepreneur still had trouble tying a bowline at the end of the course. Even our younger entrepreneur wasn't quite able to dock the boat under power at the end of the course. He did fine when he tried again, but that might give you an idea of how shaky the knowledge we attained was.
I think the total crew - all four of us - absorbed enough sailing knowledge to charter a boat together, but I'm not sure if we learned enough individually to charter a boat alone.
If we had capable crew, we could probably have all captained a boat successfully, in calm conditions. But as a head
of a family
, I'd say more experience would be needed.
But it's an excellent start, and i think it's a good way to determine whether sailing is really for you ... this is a hobby many people dream about and few succeed in.
One important fact is that this is NOT a vacation
. A couple of the days, especially the one where we did basically nothing but tack and jibe, were physically exhausting even to the strapping younger folk. For what it's worth, you are probably going to want a vacation
after your vacation.
On the other hand, it's quite a bargain. $2,100 paid for the whole trip, including all my meals
and expenses. The young entrepreneur paid for our two meals
out, and the restaurant we went to was so cheap
I could have done the same if I'd wanted to. Those who drank in the evenings paid under $20 for alcohol, but that was the only extra fee. So look forward to spending essentially nothing other than your course fee and whatever tip you want to give the instructor.
So in conclusion, if you want to learn how to sail with little experience, I recommend the course. I think if I wanted to be a real sailor I would have taken ASA 101 separately, on a smaller boat, and then taken a live aboard course separately. It was sufficiently rigorous and strenuous that it's something I'm glad I did, but wouldn't want to repeat.
Hope that helps.