Certified Class v. Learning by Doing - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 27 Old 12-03-2016 Thread Starter
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Certified Class v. Learning by Doing

Hey all,

Not sure if this was already discussed previously in another thread, but wanted to get all of your opinions. I'm new to sailing and trying to find the best way to dive in and learn in Chicago. I've read several viewpoints now of people who recommend finding a local US Sailing/ASA class and work your way up to a certification. I've also heard several people who took a lot more adventurous route by just getting out on the water with a small starter boat and figuring it out through experience and supplementing with some reading.

What would folks recommend? Are either of these approaches better than the other, or is there some middle ground of maybe not certification but a basic intro class and then on the water?

I'm operating on a smaller budget right now and obviously have some time before I can do either of these options with the weather as it is but wanted to pick your brains so that come May I'll have a good idea about how to finally get in to a dream of mine. I can see that classes provide a lot of good foundational skills and the right direction up front, but maybe not as much practice time on the water. Just getting out there gives maximum time, but I'm sure a lot of frustration and error along the way.

Thanks all for your thoughts, and apologies for the likely newbie question!
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post #2 of 27 Old 12-03-2016
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Re: Certified Class v. Learning by Doing

Hey,

I learned to sail by purchasing a Catalina 22 and 'going for it.' I did have an experienced friend take me out the first time. I would sail, then read, then sail, then read, and so om. After a few years of sailing with my family on our boat, i started crewing on other people's boats. Between sailing on my boat and going on other boats I managed to become proficient

I'm sure that taking a few classes would have been beneficial and would have shortened the learning curve. However, if you have time and a small budget, you can learn as you go.

Barry
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post #3 of 27 Old 12-03-2016
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Re: Certified Class v. Learning by Doing

How about both? This winter, take a U.S. Power Squadron course and pick up a 15 - 20 footer for next spring

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post #4 of 27 Old 12-03-2016
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Re: Certified Class v. Learning by Doing

Maybe hire an instructor/captain without going through a sailing school. Won't get the certification, but will get the knowledge and time on the water with a coach.
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post #5 of 27 Old 12-03-2016
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Re: Certified Class v. Learning by Doing

Cheapest, fastest, best way around here is thru a club, I just googled Chicago sailing club and came up with this one there are probably others.
Sail Chicago
Learn to sail on someone else's boat so you can concentrate on sailing and not sailboat maintenance.
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post #6 of 27 Old 12-03-2016
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You have several good sailing schools on the lake in Chicago. I have been in communication with one and am considering a winter ASA 105 course.

You could get the class manuals for ASA 101 and ASA 103 and study them this winter. Then as soon as they put boats in the water in the spring you could take an ASA 101 class to get the basics. Shop around because prices vary a good bit.

That would help you master the basics of tacking and gybing. Gybing is the maneuver that can be tricky and sometimes flip you in the water or smack you in the face with a boom. (check out the link to a previous discussion on here in which one sailor broke his face.)

Then you would feel more confident about hitting the water in your own boat and learning-by-doing.


Crash Gibe to the face

Taking some instruction also helps allay the fears of family members. My wife and kids fear that I am too much of a daredevil and am too willing to dive into new things without knowing what I'm doing. Taking my wife along on my Cruise and Learn vacation helped her gain a great deal of comfort. Seeing that the instructor felt confident enough to have me do all aspects of the sailing for the entire trip helped. It also helped her to know that the company issued me a certificate that entitles me to come back and lease a boat by myself. It gave me an official seal of approval.
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post #7 of 27 Old 12-03-2016
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Re: Certified Class v. Learning by Doing

I would take a hybrid approach, take an ASA 101 class to ensure you understand the basics, then learn by doing. I believe boat ownership and learning by doing gives you a much richer experience than the ASA classes. Get a simple boat give yourself some sea room to make low consequence mistakes, those are the lessons that will stick.

If you are thinking of chartering and using ASA certifications for leverage; boat ownership of a 27í or larger works just as well for most companies.
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post #8 of 27 Old 12-04-2016
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Re: Certified Class v. Learning by Doing

There are a lot of good internet classes and a lot of them are free... Some will even give you a certification...

NauticEd.org is one

They will take you through the basics and "book" knowledge that you get in the "hands on" courses.

Rules of the road. (When to give way or hold line)
Skipper course
Maneuvering under power
Bareboat charter clinic
Sail trim clinic
Weather, Safety at sea, celestial navigation, anchoring, electronic navigation, coastal and storm tactics just to name a few..

Each course has a study/teaching section and a "test" at the end

More courses you pass the higher your ranking on your certificate

Armed with that knowledge, you'll be confident and comfortable in taking the plunge and setting out on your own boat....

According to them your certificate is recognized by most charter firms

They also set you up with a log to track your "actual" experience creating a resume some charter companies require.

The actual sailing part is not hard...you can go out and get back easy enough... Doing it "right" or in the most efficient manner... Well, that takes practice.

Best place to learn it is "out there"....

Hey, if anything is going to happen... It's gonna happen out there....

Go for it...
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post #9 of 27 Old 12-04-2016
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Re: Certified Class v. Learning by Doing

Pretty much everything one needs to know when getting into sailing is in Royce's Sailing Illustrated. It's a fun little book and not at all 'preachy'. I've been using it as a basis for teaching folks to sail for over 50 years and it was the book I learned from. Too many sailing books are like text books, crammed full of information presented in a boring and tedious way.
Personally, I'm not much impressed by the ASA type classes. They are pretty much cookie cutter classes with little or no leeway for the various students learning abilities or level, but some do require this structure to learn. I say this after teaching for a national school for a very short period. I just did not like the system.
That said, sailing is by no means rocket science. Men have been doing it for thousands of years on everything from balsa rafts to the China Clippers (the pinnacle of sailing vessels), mostly successfully and safely. It might be tougher to get into it up your way because the weather is a limitation, but if you can get out on the water as much as possible on a small boat (say under 15 feet), you should have a pretty good grasp of sailing in just a few weeks. Nobody can actually learn to sail on larger boats, IMO. They can learn to pull strings and things, understand the principles and techniques but will never feel the results of their actions as one does when sailing a small boat which responds immediately and vigorously to those actions.
There's plenty more one needs to learn about 'boating' safely, beyond the sailing, and all that comes with time on the water. See my signature below for probably the most important quote about sailing (IMO) by an old Cape Horner to a young sailor learning what would become his lifelong profession.
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post #10 of 27 Old 12-04-2016
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Re: Certified Class v. Learning by Doing

No two people learn the same way. You should know yourself.

I learned by reading, then doing, then reading, then doing. I'm sure a class might have helped a little, but I am comfortable figuring things out by reading, thinking, and then doing. I don't want someone to tell me how to do it without my understand why, and why takes time to understand.

Not a little reading. A LOT of reading. IMHO, until you've spent the effort reading a lot, why expect someone to teach you? Why expect to get much real learning from a class, without the foundation? Always do the reading and consideration first. But others will feel differently. Additionally, many people just want to learn to do the thing, with caring why it works. Many fine racers don't really understand why it works, but they have a robust set of rules of thumb. Weird to me, but it works for them.

Know yourself.

I would aways vote for reading plus beach cat or 2-man dinghy. It's more fun, and a dinghy will teach lessons a keel boat never will.
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