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Old 31-07-2009, 15:38   #16
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Boy, I'm glad I didn't take one of the all-in-one courses. Those all sound miserable and five strangers on a 36' boat sounds like a nightmare. I took my classes over a period of probably two years ... much slower but likely learned more. At least at the club I went through we went on three concecutive weekends with classroom time and on 25' boats for maybe up to six hours at a time, then tested for the first basic cert. In my case, I then participated in the once-weekly racing series and sailed on rentals through the summer and then challenged the Cruising class on about a 34' Bene if I recall correctly - this turned out to be especially good because I basically spent the day one-on-one with an instructor who then helped me work on my weak points. This was definitely the way to go for me because you were learning enough, then using it for a bit, then learning more, then using it. If you had much experieince you could've easily done those first steps in a couple months of weekends, I just didn't have the time. I completed the other courses the following year with two nights spent on a 42' with three other (male) students and a very experienced instructor. We had a great time and learned from each other nearly as much as the instructor at that point as several of us had been sailing and racing for a while by then.

You could condense all of that down into probably four months of weekends or shorter if you did some weekday challenges if you put your mind to it. I think trying to learn to sail in a week - no matter how intensive and how good the instructor -would be a waste of time and money. If you already had a decent background you could certainly do it, but you wouldn't learn or retain nearly as much information. Spreading it out a bit allows you to absorb, practice, ask questions, and provides a variety of conditions to learn in. If you just want to check the "I took a class" box, then a week on aboat would achieve it, but at that rate you'd be better off buying a book and bobbing around on your own experimenting.

In my experience, if I really want to learn a physical skill - especially the nuances - I have to invest time and practice. The total cost for all of the course work and membership in the club probably ran close to $1500, but that was spread over months or years and included at least seven days on the water and likely another 30 hours in class room (especially for the Nav class). I know at least our club (and probably all the others) have good discounts for membership and classes when the Boat Shows roll around.

Good luck!

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Old 31-07-2009, 15:49   #17
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More Than One Way to Skin a Cat

Much of what determines what's right for you depends on
  1. your personality
  2. the resources (financial, space) you have to own a boat
  3. how much of a hurry you're in

If I had the money and room to store a WWP19 anyway, I'd just read a good "introduction to sailing book" (plenty on the shelves @ Barnes & Noble). The one I put my hand to was Bob Bond's The Handbook of Sailing, which I still think is excellent, after bumping into some others.

I read, studied, pictured it in my mind, and read it again and again. I put two chairs facing each other, and practiced moving from one to the other while handling a tiller (a broomstick) and an imaginary mainsheet from one hand to the other, reading from the book and tacking in my living room.

Then I bought a 14' plywood dinghy, launched her in the local sheltered bay, and made my mistakes (like ruining a non-waterproof watch on my first capsize ). But I'm a high visual: I absorb text like a sponge, and can imagine three-dimensional objects in my mind clearly (I think they call that spatial intelligence). I'm also kind of stubborn.

A couple of summers of that; then the 22' swing-keel weekender for 3 seasons while I saved my money; now, a 30' coastal cruiser. For me, it was the right pathway.

I took the 101 course after learning to sail the dinghy and in preparation for the 22' swing-keeler, but I didn't learn a single thing I hadn't already picked up from my own reading/practice. It served as confirmation that I wasn't a complete Bozo, and could pursue my own course. So okay, world, get out of my way: here I come.

The resources I had: a decent mind that likes to read/retain, a garage to store the dinghy, a nearby sheltered bay, a friend who lived aboard his 34-footer to crew with.

I didn't mind capsizing the dinghy, or getting the mainsheet tangled into a massive knot in the weekender, or having to figure out how to sail up to a public dock for a sweet solo tie-up in the 30-footer when the diesel quit outside the channel: each experience with a particular boat gave me the experience I needed to step to the next challenge.

Right for me, not right for someone else. The best advice I can give kcmarcet, solely based on reading two posts is: after that class, come to the conclusion that you can have confidence in yourself now. Be a reader, get out on that Potter in good weather, while taking proper safety precautions. Bite off chewable pieces, then bigger ones. You know plenty, you need to exercise that knowledge and add to it the knowledge that comes with experience.

Fair Winds,

s/y Elizabeth— Catalina 34 MkII
"Man must have just enough faith in himself to have adventures, and just enough doubt of himself to enjoy them." — G. K. Chesterfield
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Old 31-07-2009, 19:36   #18
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Originally Posted by Pblais
The three in one week courses promise far more than they can deliver. You need perfect weather the entore time and all the students need to have had a leg up and get along. It's fine if you want to do the first course on a challenge then take the other two, but going from nothing to everything takes just too much. ... On board crew dynamics are not covered in any course but they sure matter as much as trimming sails.
I agree with most of what you write. In late March - early April, I did 101, 103, 104, and 105 (coastal navigation), pushing the time to 10 days so as not to go totally crazy. I actually finished in nine days and just kicked back on day 10. Of course, it was just me and the instructor for the whole time, and we did have perfect weather the whole time (USVI & BVI). I thought it a plus to be on an older ketch without GPS or an autopilot and a 4-sail sail plan. The instructor was terrific, but I did a LOT of reading ahead of time, and my trig and geometry are in very good shape, which made 105 a lot easier than I had expected.

My bottom line is that if you prepare well, and really want to learn, the 3-in-1 courses (or 4-in-1, in my case) can work out very well.
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Old 31-07-2009, 19:56   #19
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My best friend and I did a weeklong course this spring that covered 101, 103 and 104. We both left very satisfied with the experience. Of course, we'd gotten the textbooks ahead of time and studied diligently before our trip, and we each had experience sailing little Hobie cats, so we understood points of sail and other fundamentals. It was also just the two of us working with our instructor, which meant that each of us spent the entire week at the wheel or the winches. No standing around watching for us!

We've since joined our local sailing club, which is made up of a lot of really great folks who strive to get people in the Cities introduced to sailing. They do a good job of covering the basics, but there's really no comparison between a friendly sailor showing the ropes to a new guy, versus a competent instructor methodically covering a list of required knowledge and skills. For one thing, the pro is a lot less likely to teach you bad habits.

I think the courses are a very good idea, but the other commenters are right -- the right instructor makes a big difference. We didn't really have a chance to fly down ahead of time to meet with people, so we were really fortunate to have such a good teacher. And the smaller the class size, the better off you'll be. Trying to cram three courses into five days (because let's be honest, the weather doesn't always cooperate) is a tall order, doubly so when you spend half your time sitting on the rail.
"Life moves pretty fast. You don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."
--Ferris Bueller
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Old 17-08-2009, 06:48   #20
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I just took the 101 class this weekend. It is worth the money, in my opinion ($425 for the one I took). The class size was reasonable at four students. As others have already said, you may want to shop around for an instructor. I was very impressed with the one I had. I can see where the instructor you end up with can shape what you get out of and think of the course.

I tend to be pretty introverted, but I got along with the people in my class just fine. Unless you're completely anti-social, I don't think you'd have a problem being on a boat with a few strangers.

While much of what you learn is essentially right out of the book (or any other for that matter), there's no substitute for hands on learning.
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Old 08-09-2009, 17:19   #21
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Looks like most agree that the ASA classes would be worth while. One thing that was lightly touched on is insurance. From what I have experienced lately, most insurance companies will "rate" your experience,boat ownership, and sailing classes. In addition, if you ever charter from one of the dozens of places you have to choose from in your area, you'll need some certifications, probably 101,103, 104. Living in Florida, you have lots of options, both public and private for classes. To get the most out of the "instructor's" time, commit to getting the sailing terminology down pat in advance. That way you can focus on the hands on stuff, and have more fun.
Good luck

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