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post #1 of 57 Old 06-10-2014 Thread Starter
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Sailing school reviews

Does anyone have a review for Virgin Island Sailing School on St. Thomas? My friends and I are looking to go in September. Any suggestions on the best month to go will be appreciated. Just worried about hurricane season
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post #2 of 57 Old 06-10-2014
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Re: Sailing school reviews

Their picture on ASA Sailing School | Virgin Island Sailing School of a guy trimming a line with a complete override indicates a some level of cluelessness about sailing...

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Last edited by sailingfool; 06-10-2014 at 08:51 PM.
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post #3 of 57 Old 06-11-2014
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Re: Sailing school reviews

Having lived here over 9yrs and never heard of them I went to the website. A few things, first as Sailingfool pointed out, the first photo you see on their website is a guy tailing a self tailing winch with an override. They are open from November to July 31st, not in September as you mentioned. September is a really dicey time to come sailing in this area anyway. It is the height of hurricane season. Even if a hurricane or tropical storm doesn't get you, there will almost guaranteed be a few days of rainy weather. It is just the nature of the weather patterns around here in September. Lows roll off of Africa every three days or so and bring cruddy weather for them. They talk about how their Hanse was voted the best charter boat of the VIs and then in the small print it says in St Croix. I didn't know there were any J-24s left on St Thomas. Almost all of them have been converted to IC24s. I wonder where there Hanse was on the podium at. I've never seen it in any of the local races... They may be great, I don't know. They may be the only ASA based school in the USVIs, I don't know. I do know there are many ASA based schools that are widely recognized that are based in the US and come down here to teach classes in the winter time.
Best month to come down is tough to say, November wouldn't be bad. You'd be here before the crowds come in, the temperature is a bit cooler than the summer and the chance of bad weather is pretty slim. Good luck.
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post #4 of 57 Old 01-08-2015
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Re: Sailing school reviews

I have a review...worst vacation ever!

To say that it was a huge disappointment would be an understatement. It was by far one of the worst vacations that I have ever experienced.

First, the descriptions of the boat, the sailing experience and the “school”, as presented on the website, is very deceptive. The website states that each cabin has a bathroom with a shower. The “shower” was the sink’s faucet that pulls out. I could live with the fact that it was a faucet if we had hot water. However, not once during the entire trip did we ever have any hot water in which to bathe.

The website also states that the boat has air conditioning. It does not. Since we were living on the water and Mother Nature provided us with a natural tropical breeze, the necessity of air conditioning was minimal. Unfortunately for my crewmates and myself, there were three nights during which we were awaken by a deluge. Because of the necessity of sleeping with our hatches open, we were drenched by this sudden rain. We all had to quickly close our hatches and then sleep in the sweltering heat because there was no air conditioning.

The website states, either directly or through an insinuation, that you have five boats, they have one. The website states, that they have six captains, they have one. The website states that we will start out learning on a smaller boat, we did not do this until day 4, which is completely illogical. The website states that, if the winds are favorable, we will sail to Anegada, yet we were told that it would be impossible to sail there because it was too far. The website states that are the only US Virgin Island ASA certified sailing school, not true, there is another. In addition, such a certification ensures that a uniformed instruction and standard will be applied, yet there was no set curriculum and no requirement that even the basic skills were learned by each of the students.

Notwithstanding the misrepresentations of the amenities of the boat, the condition of the boat was well below any acceptable standard. It was dirty and cluttered. The Captain had her papers, junk and clutter all over the desk area and items were stuffed in a haphazard manner in each of the cabinets. The sink and cleaning sponge were so dirty and moldy smelling that I was constantly pouring soap over everything to try and clean the area. The refrigerator was overwhelmed with old, bad food. The grill looked like it had not been cleaned in months, if ever! The hatches in two of the bathrooms were broken to the extent that they were “sealed” with duct tape and the main window in the galley could be completely pushed out and was not properly sealed. Finally, the cups, plates, towels and linens looked as though they came from Goodwill with nothing matching. We were each given one bath towel and one hand towel and we were never allowed to use any additional towels. In fact, one time when I grabbed an extra towel to use after snorkeling, I was questioned by the Captain (in a very rude tone), “don’t you have your own towel?”

The Captain could only be described as rude. I could not believe it when a fellow crewmate one morning simply asked her a question about schedule for the day and she snapped at him and said, “can’t I finish my breakfast first”! Unacceptable. Especially since she was always the last person to get up and we had to fend for ourselves every morning.

I do not know if the Captain was suppose to adhere to a specific schedule and if she was to ensure that costs are reduced but it was obvious that things were done, or not done, because of expenses. On the first day, she requested that we pay for her meals and drinks whenever we went ashore. I can certainly afford to pay for a few extra meals but this request was not only unexpected, it was improper. Such a requirement should have been addressed by the company prior to our arrival. On the first day of sailing (Sunday) we went directly to St. John and moored at some out of the way location, which was nowhere near any place where we could go ashore for shopping, exploring or eating. We moored at approximately noon and never left for the remainder of the day! The majority of our sailing time that day was wasted. She did not want to go to Tortola that day (although it was listed on the website that we would be going there that day) because it would cost too much money to check into customs on a Sunday rather than a Monday. This type of day was not unusual. There were three afternoon/evenings, where we moored at some out of the way location in which we had no opportunity to go ashore. Perhaps it is not unusual to end the day at some remote location and spend the evening relaxing after a full day of sailing. I could accept this, if we actually put in a full day of sailing!

The lack of sailing experience is my biggest complaint of the entire trip. After six days I was given the opportunity to drive, not sail, the catamaran twice and I worked the rudder of the small boat once for approximately five to ten minutes. I helped with tacking many times but that was the extent of my sailing experience. I would say that during the whole trip, we motored about as much as we actually sailed the boat. After six days aboard the boat, I am still not qualified, at any level, to sail a boat.
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post #5 of 57 Old 01-08-2015 Thread Starter
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Re: Sailing school reviews

Joi,

Unfortunately, we went with this company too. You completely hit the nail on the head and described our experience with them. Although we had a different Captain that was interested in teaching us to sail and did try to make up for the terrible condition of the boat.
When we arrived the Captain was not expecting us, and was waiting for a different couple. When we boarded the boat we found dirty dishes and the nastiest sponge in the sink. And the counter top sticky. There was left over spoiled food in the fridge. The grill was dirty and had bits of leftover fish on it. We went ahead and shopped for the three of us and as we were about to depart the dock, another couple and one other man showed up. This threw the itinerary off and we had to provision again and adjust for a full boat. We had been told that we would be the only ones on this trip...wrong! Our head was very smelly and the captain tried to fix it. The heat was terrible and trying to sleep in between opening and closing the hatch during rain was exhausting. The transmission was not working and my husband had to help make repairs. One of the men cut his finger, we located the boat's first aid kit, but it was useless. Thank goodness I brought a little first aid kit with me. There were no flashlights on board and the EPIRP was well past it's inspection date. Many things did not work properly. Our bedding smelled and there were not enough towels. If it hadn't been for the Captain the trip would have been far worse.
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post #6 of 57 Old 01-08-2015
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Re: Sailing school reviews

Just found out about this opportunity yesterday and wanted to throw it out there as a possibility....

The 2015 St. Maarten Heineken Regatta starts March 5 and runs through the 8th. According to their website (link below) and a few reviews there are many "charter" spots available for people from skill level 0 to advanced. The way it works is a "captain" charters a boat (many appear to 60 to 70 foot Volvo Ocean Racers) and you purchase a spot as crew. Training time is included. This probably won't get you your ASA 101 certification, but it would sure be a fun way to experience sailing and it sounds like the cost would be very minimal.

St. Maarten Heineken Regatta
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post #7 of 57 Old 01-09-2015
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Re: Sailing school reviews

This school sounds pretty dubious, but there were a couple of criticisms that may just be piling on.

First, unless you get into some pretty large boats, all showers aboard are from the sink faucet, pulled up and mounted on the wall.

Second, air conditioning is generally considered a super-luxury and infrequently used away from the dock anyway, even when one has it. You have to run a generator, which isn't a great idea when sleeping. Rain at night is an occupational hazard on all boats.

Lastly, I've never heard of anyone learning to sail on a cruising catamaran. Was this truly a class, with an expected ASA certificate at the end, or just a captained charter?

Not defending the school, they sound like bums.
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post #8 of 57 Old 01-09-2015
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Re: Sailing school reviews

Quote:
Originally Posted by scubadoo View Post
Just found out about this opportunity yesterday and wanted to throw it out there as a possibility....

The 2015 St. Maarten Heineken Regatta starts March 5 and runs through the 8th. According to their website (link below) and a few reviews there are many "charter" spots available for people from skill level 0 to advanced. The way it works is a "captain" charters a boat (many appear to 60 to 70 foot Volvo Ocean Racers) and you purchase a spot as crew. Training time is included. This probably won't get you your ASA 101 certification, but it would sure be a fun way to experience sailing and it sounds like the cost would be very minimal.

St. Maarten Heineken Regatta
Generally you will be railmeat along for the ride. They may let you take the helm for a minute before racing and get your photo taken at the wheel. It would still be a thrill zipping along at those speeds!!
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post #9 of 57 Old 01-09-2015
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Re: Sailing school reviews

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Originally Posted by Minnewaska View Post
This school sounds pretty dubious, but there were a couple of criticisms that may just be piling on.

First, unless you get into some pretty large boats, all showers aboard are from the sink faucet, pulled up and mounted on the wall.

Second, air conditioning is generally considered a super-luxury and infrequently used away from the dock anyway, even when one has it. You have to run a generator, which isn't a great idea when sleeping. Rain at night is an occupational hazard on all boats.

Lastly, I've never heard of anyone learning to sail on a cruising catamaran. Was this truly a class, with an expected ASA certificate at the end, or just a captained charter?

Not defending the school, they sound like bums.
Depending on the vessel and what one is paying to be on it, if it is advertised with gen and AC then it is not unreasonable to expect it to run sometimes. If you've spent any time in the aft cabin of a cat, laying on top of or beside a hot motor, you know the ventilation is pretty poor. I know very few boats that are locally chartered with a generator and AC that do not run them most of the night when it's hot or rainy. Someday you will have to come on down and explain to the 1000s of people running their factory installed generators at night why it's not a good idea.

I absolutely agree with your comments about boat shower setups in smaller boats. Nothing out of the norm there at all. Not having hot water is pretty strange in this day and age considering the boats from the schools website.

As for the itinerary, that can somewhat be weather dependent. When the marketing guy is throwing the brochure together he doesn't know if the wind will be blowing east 30 with 12' seas. He is going to showcase sapphire blue water and cloudless skies. He also may not know if the boat and capt can legally enter into the BVI. Are the students crew or are they passengers????

I ran into a female capt teaching ASA classes 101-10? in the BVI on a cat a few weeks ago. It seemed like she was teaching through some school on her personal vessel. I sure do not disagree with you that teaching some basic sailing skills to beginners on a cat wouldn't be the optimal choice. No immediate feedback from trimming or the helm.

I hate to paint an entire school with a negative broad brush because I've met so many captains and students that have come out of the same place. The captains really make the class. There are some great ones out there along with some barely functional drunks. Most of these schools don't let you know who the instructor will be ahead of time which is very unfortunate.
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Last edited by FarCry; 01-09-2015 at 10:45 AM.
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post #10 of 57 Old 01-09-2015
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Re: Sailing school reviews

I guess a question for the mods on high is whether two lengthy critical reviews of a school by first time-posters hints of a vendetta. Just asking...

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