The reason I recommend that you take the classes separately is that in most couples one spouse will defer to the other if they are in a class together, which generally means that one is going to get a lot less actual experience and learning in the class.
By taking them separately, this problem is eliminated. Both people in a sailing couple should have the skills necessary to sail the boat by themselves, without a reliance on their partner being there.
The reasons for this should be obvious, but if you're the type that can't figure it out...what happens in a MOB situation and the more capable partner ends up in the water... As has been reported in news stories not all that long ago...it usually ends with the more capable partner drowning and the other calling for help and getting lifted off the boat by the USCG. Also, much of sailing long-distances is effectively single-handing when the other half of a couple is down below getting much needed rest...
Another good example is if the couple has small children... while one spouse is taking care of the children, the other is effectively stuck single-handing the boat. You can't be handling the jib sheets if you're down below changing a diaper.
As for books, the one I most often recommend is David Seidman's "The Complete Sailor".
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You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
a boat to the sea you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps
her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.
—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)
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