Thank you for the clarification, Jack; it is much appreciated and just what I needed! Perhaps this the most important comment that you made:
Both are very good standards; what matters is the quality of instruction / instructor.
I will take up your kind invitation to pm you.
It's a shame that I haven't been able to find anyone who's taken the course I'm thinking about taking, or any course for that matter! Factors for me include cost and travel, as well as the reputation of the instructor and quality of the boat. If an instructor consistently
gets poor reviews, I feel comfortable in avoiding his teaching; the odd poor review most likely indicates, I feel, a personality 'conflict' of some sort. As this will be my first course, I think I can 'get over it' (if I have to) for one bout with poor instruction - it would however become a very regrettable waste of time and money.
I did receive a reply from a west coast (Nanaimo, BC) school, which was also very explanatory although less technical and detailed than the very useful and clear info that Jack posted above. For the benefit of those Canadian beginning sailors who may find the simpler version more to their liking, I'll post some of it:
"Both CYA and ISPA are well recognized and both would qualify you to charter other sail boats around the world with intermediate level and coastal navigation. The material that is covered is identical in both courses although the teaching techniques are slightly different. Both certifications have the same value- so the choice is yours.
With ISPA there are two components – Shore and Practical. The shore section is done “at home”. This involves studying each section of the manual and completing the exercises at the end of each section. The exercises need to be completed before you do the practical side with is the part of sailing techniques on the water. The instructor then marks your exercises and passes your practical skills while you are sailing and then signs your log book. Once the instructor has signed off your log book he will register you onto the ISPA website and then you can order your registration seals- one for practical and one for shore. There is no formal exam with ISPA.
With CYA you would study the manual before the practical sailing and once you have completed the course then you write and exam which is then marked by the instructor. Once you have passed the exam and the instructor is confident that you have mastered to the level that you are being tested the school then sends your instructor signed form to CYA who will send you the registration seal.
Both CYA and ISPA registration seals are put into your log book as proof of completion of the course. (I assume this means the seal for the course that you succeeded in passing; I'll have to ask if that means 'both' as in two! Though I doubt it)
I understand however that some insurance companies will reduce the insurance on the owners vessel if they have a CYA certification.
Someone on this forum wisely commented that the answer to most sailing questions is 'it all depends', in this case on where you are, what course is available that you can afford, who is teaching it and on what boat. Just do the research and the homework (as I was attempting to do)
After all, if you're trying to follow bljones' advice, that's about all you can do... then enjoy yourself and have fun doing it!
"You start with an empty cup of experience and a full barrel of luck. The trick is to fill your cup before the barrel runs dry." - bljones