While taking ASA
lessons and paying for instruction from professional captains I have experienced the following:
Frequent cancellations at the last minute due to "not enough students to make the lesson worthwile"
Almost constant deviation from the syllabus, schedule, and prescribed training for any given outing to general pleasure cruise
Outright incorrect and dangerous commands from the instructor or drunk captains
Boats so poorly maintained they were in a steady state of taking on water
, had significant equipment
failures at sea, required towing to make it back to safe harbor, and did not meet basic coast guard requirements.
Drunk captains, sick instructors, informal "regular guys" with no instructor certification
or captains license
covering for paid instructor staff to fill lessons
I also discovered the material was almost never adequately covered. less than 30 minutes of each lesson was spent actually sailing,less than 10 minutes of a typical lesson was actually spent on the subject material after briefings, coffee, chit chat, "preparing the vessel" motoring in and out of the harbor dealing with breakage or maintenance
If several students were on a lesson, very little direct instruction or hands on experience was available for anyone.
Lessons would be canceled over the phone
"due to weather" upon visiting the marina sail boats everywhere sailing all over the place in fabulous conditions
A constant push to finish lessons quickly, to test out of lessons entirely and "graduate" and even more constant push to begin chartering large boats from the schools charter
Our drunk "professional" Captain
sailing and tacking back and forth in the motor only
fairway on a very busy saturday afternoon literally screaming at everyone on his own and other boats while spilling his drink and heading below to take a long restroom break...handing the tiller to some poor lady who had never sailed before
Never had an instructor even suggest a harness or a life jacket or put one on. not even when they were soiling their pants, trying to reef or douse torn sails
, start an outboard
that wouldn't, and clearly concerned by the surprising swell and weather
outside the jettys which strangely enough seemed to happen a lot. Plus they always look at you funny
when you put one on, like you are scared or don't trust them.
Lots of instructor confusion about routine tasks, such as line handling, radio
operation, general navigation
(stand on or give way? hmmmmm) One instructor who does most of the lessons become so completely befuddled while trying to teach man overboard
practice everyone aboard eventually agreed to work
on a different lesson.
After this type of training I have some advice for people looking to begin learning
to sail like myself, making lemonade from lemons.
Never miss a chance to sail. Sail sail sail and sail some more. by hook or by crook sail and learn everything you can.
Check out a school
in person before signing up. Look at their boats closely. poorly maintained crummy boats will likely mirror the instruction you will receive. ask around the docks about the school
. Very informative.
Connect with people who own boats, yacht clubs and yachting groups as much as possible. Power squadron coast guard auxiliary etc... Often learning
and even certifications can come from these and you may get far superior seamanship training. Usually there is a yacht club that is a collection of sailors and boats more so than a building with a bar, a dock
full of huge boats, and burgee, these are good in my opinion.
If you hire a captain
, or charter
with a captain, check them out. Insist on seeing basic things such as a license
, proof of insurance
, a vessel that is seaworthy
and would pass a coast guard inspection
. more life jackets, less rum
. ask around the docks about the guy. Very informative.
When enrolled in a school, if you do not fully understand the lesson material and feel confidant after the lesson, TAKE THE LESSON AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN until you do. don't let the school "express pass" you into a certification
to charter or minimize your time and instruction.
Do as much home study as you can, know the material and all the details of a lesson before you even arrive at the boat
. You should have good book knowledge of the material you are learning before the lesson.
, warm clothes, hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, good shoes and GLOVES. There is no law that says you cannot bring some of your own safety equipment
such as a handheld VHF
and your own harness/pfd a local chart gps
, binoculars, flashlight, leatherman etc. Keep stuff you are not using in a bag, keep the bag out of the way, handy, and secured.
When the lesson is happening, shut up, sit still, pay attention, and absorb as much as you can from the instructor. insist on hands on practice until you are confidant. You can learn huge amounts through quite observation, and other students and even other boats often can teach you if you watch and listen.
Don't use the head
staying seated and out of the helms way is a good idea. following instructions from the captain is mandatory. walking around on the foredeck, shouting "there is a another boat over there!" constantly attempting to be helpful and asking 101 questions while the boat is piloted in a busy fairway is not fun for the helmsperson.
When another student is involved in the lesson and hands on, let them learn, do not make the whole thing all about you.
Lessons are not a pleasure cruise
. You are there to learn. jacking around, lounging, talking about unrelated things, going into couch potato mode etc... not gonna help you learn anything. endless discussions about boating
topics unrelated to the current
lesson are also detracting from learning for you and other students for example
instructor: "Today we will learn about tacking and fore sail handling"
Student: "How do you use the radio
A good question that has nothing to do with the lesson
. After the lesson, go home, and learn about using VHF marine
radio, among other things.
You can learn a lot from almost any situation, A drunk captain and a poorly maintained boat will teach you volumes when the engine
dies, the battery
goes low, the furler
jams, and there is water
sloshing around the cabin sole
. especially when swell and wind
picks up, fog
starts to roll in and it starts getting dark outside the safety
of the harbor. "The running lights are so dim I can't tell if they are on..." "isn't there a shipping
lane just south of here?" "Well yeah, there is a huge port for container ships just south of our harbor. they come and go all the time" "Which lights are the city and which are the harbor?" "Make me a drink while I tighten up this loose tiller would ya"
Might as well make lemonade!