Originally Posted by rob420
I'm a sailnet newby and had a question about sailing schools in the virgin islands.
I've been sailing unofficially since I was a kid (but not recently)--and am looking to start sailing 'officially' (get certified) so that I can eventually start chartering with confidence.
I figured I'd learn where I intend to sail, which is the virgin islands. Having never been there, I'm looking at St. Thomas vs. Tortola--are there any recommendations?
Any recommendations on particular schools (or what to look for)?
Thanks for the help.
I appreciate that you wish to improve your sailing skills. On the weekends I work for a charter company on St Thomas and do charter briefings. In other words, after going through all of the systems, sail controls and a chart briefing, I actually go out with customers (like you) and have them demonstrate that they can raise the main sail, unfurl the jib, put a reef in the main and tack a couple of times with some semblance of understanding. In doing this dozens of times I've come to the conclusion that certifications have no connection whatsoever to sailing or seamanship skills. Sailing is a perishable skill. Some guests are not allowed to take the charter boat out without another person along (like me) to assist in revisiting basic sailing, anchoring, mooring, motoring and seamanship skills. Rarely does this happen but it does. Even more rarely does the client put up much of a fuss because it is typically quite obvious that they are incapable of controlling the vessel. I’ve taken out people that have stacks of every certification under the sun and they can’t figure out how to unfurl a jib. (I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve seen someone pull on the jib furling line, realize they can’t move it and immediately put it on the winch!!!!) I’ve also gone out with people who have no certifications but have experience and are very competent mariners. I’m not saying there is not a value in getting certifications but that it is not necessary to charter in the USVI and BVI. If you’d like to get certified then by all means do it.
Back to your request for sailing school recommendations. That is tough. Some schools have really good instructors that do a very good job. Some instructors just suck. I think the particular school has little to do with it. More than a few ASA instructors bounce between companies so you don’t always know who you will get. I would modify your quest to look for a reference to a good instructor first and then see about getting a vessel to learn on second. Once an instructor is chosen try and force the school to put it in writing that you will be getting that instructor. Hopefully others will respond that have taken courses with specific instructors.