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3.10 Chartering and learn-to-sail schools


This article is from the Boats FAQ, by John F. Hughes with numerous contributions by others.

3.10 Chartering and learn-to-sail schools

In the US, various people on the net have spoken highly of Womanship
(and one of their instructors is a regular reader, I believe). In the
Virgin Islands, the general summary of charter operations seems to be
that you get what you pay for-the lower-budget operations have
less-well-maintained boats.

Can one become competent for a bareboat charter in two weeks? You
may be able to do so (according to the Charter operation_i.e., they may
let you charter a boat), but I would not count on it. (jfh)

Here is Cheryl Nolte's mini-FAQ on the subject of learning to sail: So you
want to lean to sail? Great! Here's some information to help make your
choice of schools a little easier along with some answers to frequently
asked questions.

There are numerous sailing "schools" out there. They generally fall
into three categories 1) Established Schools 2) Charter-to-learn
courses and 3)Private "schools". A look in the back of any sailing
magazine will give you a good idea of the variety of instructional
courses available.

1) Established Schools There are several types of 'established'
schools, by 'established' I refer to those schools which are not run
by a single person aboard his/her boat- these are private "schools",
there are general schools offering a variety of instructional levels
and there are specialized schools. There are specialized schools for
racing, for women-only, for navigation, for 'bluewater', for children,
and a host of other topics. - ASA Certification, What is it and do I
need it? American Sailing Association (ASA) certified courses cover a
set curriculum and ASA instructors have paid a fee to take a
certification-approval "checkout" course. Think of it as a sort of
"quality control". The instructors must possess a minimum skill level
and a "basic keelboat" course at one ASA school should cover the same
general material at another school. Do you need ASA Certification in
order to charter a boat? The simple answer to this is NO! In fact,
possession of ASA certification is no guarantee that you will be able
to charter a boat. Most reputable charter agencies will request a
'sailing resume' and will base their decision partly on that. One
never should be surprised to be asked to go on a 'test sail' (usually
out of the marina and back in) and first time charterers with a weak
sailing resume may even be required to take a captain along for a
short time. On the other hand, some charter agencies will allow you to
take a boat based solely on your credit rating. Some schools really
push their ASA certification- it simply means they have paid an
association fee; in fact, the two top sailing schools in the US (as
rated by Practical Sailor magazine) J-World and Womanship do NOT offer
ASA certification.

2) Charter-to-learn cruises These seem to be a popular way for couples
and families to improve their sailing skills. Basically you are part of a
flotilla of boats, all members of the flotilla having approximately the same
sailing experience, and you have a 'instruction' boat accompany you on
your cruise. One of the instructors will probably join you aboard your
vessel druing one or more days of the cruise offering some personal
instruction. Biggest drawback of such courses is that you kind of just
bumble through, not knowing whether you are doing things right or
wrong and as long as you end up at the appointed destination in one piece
it is deemed successful. I wouldn't advise this for persons just learning to
sail or having little experience, there simply isn't enough individual
attention and too much relying upon figuring things out (without knowing
the right or wrong way). Better suited to the advancing sailor who wants
a more challenging situation with the support of an instructor.

3) "Private" Schools A quick peek in the back of any sailing mag will
reveal a host of advertisements for sailing instruction with an
individual on his/her boat. A word of caution here- make sure the
instructor is a USCG licensed (or appropriate equivalent overseas)
Captain. It is illegal to accept a fee unless you are a licensed
captain. Some individuals will post ads such as "get bluewater
experience with experienced sailor on trip from St.Thomas to Norfolk;
$2000/week." Many such ads are simply looking for people to PAY to
deliver someone's boat under the guise of 'instruction'. Again,
beware! Check references and licensure; ask questions. There are many
*good* private schools out there, ask around.

Here's a list of popular sailing schools... Annapolis Sailing School
1-800-638-9192 All levels of instruction, also have flotilla courses.
Locations in Annapolis MD and Florida. J World 1-800-343-2255,
1-800-666-1050, 1-800-966-2038. On board and classroom instruction.
Specializes in racing. Various locations. Womanship 1-800-342-9295 The
original learn to sail school for and by women. Now offers customized
courses for couples and families too. Locations: Maryland, Florida,
New England, San Juan Islands, BVI, Nova Scotia, Greece, New Zealand,
Tahiti Offshore Sailing School (Steve and Doris Colgate)
1-800-221-4326, All levels of instruction, Locations: Florida,
Caribbean, New York, New England. Sea Safari Sailing 1-800-497-2508
Specializes in multihulls Women For Sail 1-800-346-6404, all levels of
instuction, women only. Sunsail 1-800-327-2276 Flotilla
charter-to-learn courses, various levels and many locations. The
Moorings 1-800-535-7289 "Friendly Skipper" program, puts an
experiences captain on board til you reach a level of
competence. Locations worldwide.

4) I didn't mention this earlier but for many the best introduction to
sailing may be through Community Sailing programs. US SAILING has put
together a Community Sailing National Directory which lists hundreds
of local sailing programs. Many of these are offered though park and
recreation departments, colleges, community centers, local yacht clubs
and sailing clubs. It is a wonderful resource of public access sailing
courses. The directory is available through US SAILING (401) 849-5200
and is also available on CompuServe (access word is Go Sailing).


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