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Old 02-22-2014
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Are sailing schools worth it?

Hi everyone,
Tomorrow I have a beginner's discover sailing course which I decided to take after much consideration. Not the learning bit....I WANT to do it. But the cost.
The discover sailing for 1.5 hrs is costing me 60$. If I take the whole course it is around 2000$ after which I will also get a certificate.

My question is....Is it the right way to spend so much(almost any school is around this range) for a week? Or is there other way
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Old 02-22-2014
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Re: Are sailing schools worth it?

As a former instructor with one of the major sailing schools, we parted ways because I felt the curriculum was too centered. I thought it was a sort of "our way or the highway" situation, with no flexibility.
Most of it was excellent, and I cannot fault any of the instructors; they did a wonderful job within the very strict curriculum, but I just wasn't comfortable repeatedly stressing that this was the only "right and proper" way to do some things.
I would rather see folks purchase a small, inexpensive sailboat and a couple of books, like Royce's Sailing Illustrated, and go out and have some fun learning to sail. Banging into docks, tipping over and not getting hit on the head by the boom in a gybe.
My sailing companion has over 5k offshore and inter island miles under sail on a 50 footer and has a very good understanding of what to do with the sails, strings and things, but until I can get her into something like a Sunfish or Laser, she will not really understand why.
"Any idiot can make a boat go; it takes a sailor to stop one." Spike Africa aboard the schooner Wanderer in Sausalito, Ca. 1964.

Last edited by capta; 02-22-2014 at 12:44 PM.
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Old 02-22-2014
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Re: Are sailing schools worth it?

I learned how to sail, with formal instruction, at 14 in a week long course (and my daughter learned the same way). But, the course I took, was just about how to sail. Nothing else about rules of the road, anchoring, storm tactics. Just how to make a boat move under wind power.

After the basics, it was easy to learn everything else by myself, from books, talking to other sailors, and personal experience.
On the northern Gulf of Mexico.

"Best thing to do is get her out on the ocean. If anything's gonna happen, it's gonna happen out there." Captain Ron Rico
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Old 02-22-2014
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Re: Are sailing schools worth it?

Yes, it is worth it. You can buy the ASA books and learn quite a bit.

What you really need is to get on the open water and put that knowledge to the test.
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Old 02-22-2014
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Re: Are sailing schools worth it?

I went to a county sponsored saturday lesson on a Helms 24 and had the time of my life. I told the capt/owner that I was available any weekend and most evenings, if he knew anyone who wanted novice crew/rail meat/etc.

I sailed the rest of that year on other people's boats and continued to have a ball. The next year I sprung for a Venture 21 of my own and went out as often as I could.

That was almost 40 years ago, and I still did more sailing then, than now. By far!!

My wife and I did take the ASA basic 3 class course, which helped.

But doing it on a small boat, of your own, making your own mistakes/decisions was the key. For what the whole course now, you can buy a used "wet" sail boat or a small dry daysailer and learn more, more often and when you want. IF you want more instruction hire a mentor to come to you and your boat.

All the best, no matter what you decide!! Get out there and sail.
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Old 02-22-2014
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Re: Are sailing schools worth it?

I would have to say yes.

Sure you could buy a boat for 2 grand and get a buddy to show you how to sail it. I did.

Then, I got the bug and wanted to do more, learn more, get a bigger boat, and do bigger sailing.

I had been considering an eight day course for a while and last April my wife signed us up for class in Santa Cruz, Ca. We stayed on and sailed a Catalina 320 for the duration of the course.

I had done no coastal sailing whatsoever. I did not know if I would get seasick or how bad if I did. Turns out I was a bit queasy for a couple of days and then settled in.

We sailed in moderate conditions, 4-6 foot swell and 20 kts, which was quite a bump up from lake sailing.

Having been reading and sailing for a few years prior to this I picked up the curriculum quickly and learned a lot. For my wife it was a struggle. She mostly wanted a vacation.

Looking back, would I do it again? I believe so.

Do i think it was a good value? Yes. When compared with the cost of chartering, (which requires some form of accreditation), or slip fees, or the purchase and maintenance of a boat, and then realizing the romantic notion of sailing doesn't compare with the reality of it. Priceless.

For two grand I spent eight days living on,learning on, and sailing with an instructor. At the end of it all if this had turned out to be something I wasn't as interested in as I thought, I could just walk away and not be stuck with a boat that cost money just sitting there.

I'm still sailing our 22 footer and dreaming of something bigger. I am now certified to ASA 104 and my wife to 103, so we could charter most anywhere and I have improved my skill level.

I am glad I did it.

Last edited by Daydreamer22; 02-22-2014 at 01:40 PM.
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Old 02-22-2014
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Re: Are sailing schools worth it?

I don't know about schools. But if you live near a club or facility that gives sailing lessons, take a couple. If that doesn't get you far enough along, then probably a school is what you are looking for.

I teach part-time giving weekend lessons to locals, or others who are visiting New Orleans. A couple of basic keelboat lessons in a decent, responsive boat may do the trick for some learners, especially if you have a way to get out with friends on their boats too (easy here, just hang on the docks on Wednesday race nights for a ride).

Power Squadrons or Coast Guard Auxiliary classes can teach you the chart and piloting work, and most of the practical and regulatory dos and don'ts. Then it's a matter of how to plan for a cruise. Get invited on a couple of short coastal trips or deliveries if you have a winning personality and know the basics. Or crew on some coastal/offshore races.

I think once you can handle a boat in a breeze on all points of sail, run an engine, and get from A to B on a chart with a compass and a GPS,, then you just need to add some "camping writ large, or writ wet" skills to your repertoire, meaning provisioning and weather awareness.

Now what I think I've just described is what a school will do for you all at once. I learned it basically as described in the "non-school" method back in the '60s. Did some racing, some deliveries, and picked up a captain's license along the way.

Now I get to teach. Is this a great country, or what? ;-)

But what I'm getting at is that it's easy to learn to sail if you live where sailing is going on, and you are determined, personable, and helpful.

But if you live where boats are not, or don't want to cobble together a do-it-yourself program over time, then maybe the resident schools are the way to go. Most who have gone to them speak highly of the experience.

Different horses for different courses, I guess..
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Old 02-22-2014
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Re: Are sailing schools worth it?

No offense to the instructors here, but the ones I've come across over the years have not really been that knowledgeable or experienced beyond very focused attention to some basics that are easily learned on your own.
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Old 02-22-2014
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Re: Are sailing schools worth it?

Whether it's worth it depends on you.

Someone on a tight budget with limited goals might not find it so worthwhile.

Someone who's about to spend big bucks on a boat and wants to get up the learning curve fast and avoid making expensive mistakes with an expensive boat purchase, and doesn't have good local mentors, could find it a very worthwhile bargain.

There are lots of ways to learn, and lots of different kinds of learning and learning styles. One size does not fit all.

One thing I am a bit leery of is the compressed "instant hero" or "zero to hero" classes; I'd prefer to space out the learning more, with more chances for practice, getting into and out of situations, and coming up with questions, and refining skills.

I'd like it if the sailing schools would encourage you to talk with your instructor before hand and try to work out how you learn best and get an idea of what skills, background, strengths, or limits you bring to the learning situation.
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Old 02-22-2014
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Re: Are sailing schools worth it?

As an Instructor (not sailing) I still should say yes BUT, I learned by "seat of the pants" and many of the available books. And now there are cd's and youtube to help you learn, I am not discounting classes as they will have much to teach, you'll still have to make that solo flight and you will do just fine. Every time you go out you learn something new and you will be putting all your experiences in your own book "LOG" and one last thing HAVE FUN...
"There are those that stand at the shore looking to the sea, wondering, and there are those standing at the helm looking back at shore, knowing." - Kurt Leisenfelder

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