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Old 20-02-2017, 09:40   #46
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Re: Sailing instruction, certifications, and making lemonade from lemons

First off, I’d like to say that I am not an ASA affiliate school. I am an ASA instructor. I’d like to clear up a few things that I think may be misconceptions.

First off, the American Sailing Association is a company that provides teaching materials and marketing to affiliate schools. They accept, as an affiliate, any school that meets their criteria. They set some standards to continue using their materials, e.g., the school must use ASA certified instructors, the school has to allow students to answer the ASA questionnaires, the school must actually have a boat, etc. However, the ASA does not have the ability to go around and verify if a school is actually teaching well. I don’t believe that there are more than ten people who actually work full time for the organization. There are a lot of us who have certifications and affiliations, and we do something in support of the ASA – working at a boat show, reviewing teaching materials.

There are over 300 ASA Affiliate schools and over 3,000 certified instructors. There is simply no way for the 10 people to go around to all of these schools and review all of these instructors on any sort of regular basis, to see which ones are doing well and which are not.

Secondly, the affiliate schools fall into three general business categories. The first is someone who wants to teach sailing, has a boat and opens her own school. She is a one person operation – and if she does well, she does well. The second is the school that is an affiliate of some other business. For example, a sailboat brokerage might associate with ASA to provide training to their customers. The brokerage doesn’t want to create their own training program from scratch, they just want to be able to provide a service to their clients. The third is the true school – someone who has created the school from scratch, then affiliated with the ASA for access to the additional materials and the marketing.

In the first case, there generally is only the owner doing the teaching. It is a way to make money with a boat. The second and third cases may or may not use additional instructors. In some cases, the people who work in the school are employees of the school or at the associated business, others may be contract employees. Most ASA instructors are actually contract employers.

So, when you decide to go to a school, you may find that the school is really good, but the individual instructor simply is not a good fit. You may find a good instructor working at a poor school – where the boat is sketchy or the support materials are useless. What, then, keeps bad schools out of the mix? Simple – market forces.

Most schools survive on word-of-mouth marketing. If you had a bad experience, let the school know. Maybe they need to get rid of a bad instructor – or at least find out what went wrong. If someone asks you how you feel about a school, give them your opinion. If enough people have a bad opinion of an instructor or a school, that is what shuts down bad operations. Complaining to the ASA is not a bad idea, but they simply are not going to have enough resources to investigate every bad comment by every one of the thousands of people who take classes every year. I work with schools that have good reputations, but I have seen schools shut down by bad ones.

So, why go to an ASA sailing school at all? Well, first off, because it is illegal and immoral not to. In fact, no one ever learned to sail before 1983, when the ASA was created. That is why, of course, no boat ever sailed before then, despite the fact that all boats were actually created in 1960, when fiberglass was discovered (for those of you who are confused, that would be sarcasm). Of course people learned to sail for centuries before the ASA and the US sailing and the RYA programs were created.

The real reason to go to the ASA (or the US Sailing program) is because of consistency. The material you should be taught and tested on in the Great Lakes will be the same as in the Gulf of Mexico. So, if you want to, you can take a 101 class on a small lake in New York, then do a 103 class in the Chesapeake Bay and a 104 class in the Caribbean. You can be reasonably sure that the 103 will build on the 101 and the 104 will build on the 103. You will probably get information in each class that is shaded toward the boat and the area you are sailing, but that will build on, not replace, the information you are going to be tested on.

You could go out sailing with the guy who owns the boat three slips down from you and he might teach you everything he knows. However, he only knows what he knows. If you go from him to someone else, that new person has no idea what you know – and there is a distinct possibility that the two of them will miss something that a third person would feel is key.

There is one more misconception I’d like to clear up. I have never trained someone in any of my classes and felt that they were qualified after a course to go out and conquer an Atlantic crossing. I have certified that they have enough knowledge to keep learning. They will need more sailing experience before I will feel comfortable moving them on to the next step. But I do feel that they are safe to go there.
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Old 22-02-2017, 11:36   #47
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Re: Sailing instruction, certifications, and making lemonade from lemons

Being new to sailing, I find this thread educational in different ways.
Thanks to the OP, first off, for starting this and providing experiences and suggestions.
Thanks to CaptFrankM at the end for clarifying what one organization... the ASA... does and provides and how it operates.
Inbetween.... I found some posts with helpful information as well... some where the person's reading comprehension is different than mine apparently... and some that looked a lot like what they were accusing the OP of doing - bashing.
From the opening post, I read this...
1. The OP tried learning from three sources: ASA, Private Captains, and others.
2. Out of those 3, the worst experiences came from the ASA instructors used, and the private captains hired.
3. The OP was persistent in learning to sail from actual people, not just books and videos. Unfortunately, this individual hit upon several poor experiences.
Although the OP has had some poor experiences with those particular instructors, I never saw any complaint about the actual material... just in the instruction of it. So... I never read into the post that ASA should be avoided for sailing instruction. I think others have read more into the post than what was actually typed.
Some readers of this forum, like at many other internet forums I belong to, tend to use a lower level of reading comprehension and thus miss details or invent details. The OP, in their opening post, never state this is solely about ASA. But that didn't stop several people from grousing about how the OP invalidated some supposed argument about ASA when they mentioned hiring private captains and learning from 'others'.
I never saw anything mentioned in that first post where the OP claims that all ASA courses and instructors are bad/drunk/dangerous... just that taking ASA courses was ONE route on their journey towards learning to sail, and the particular instructors behaved rather poorly, according to their assessment.
Nice to know.
Also nice to know about other schools and means of learning.
Thanks to all the helpful contributions!
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