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Old 03-02-2007
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Blue Water Sailing School?

I am looking at taking blue water sailing school's one week course that covers ASA certifications of 101,103,&104. I have a friend who recommended offshore sailing school but it is about twice the price for the same certification. I havent heard any opinions on the Blue Water Sailing school except those "unbiased" ones they chose to list on their website. Any thoughts would be great, I basically just want someone to tell me if it's a decent school and to assure me it's not a scam before I hand over my visa info. Thanks.
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Old 03-02-2007
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Well, no one has responded to you so I will drop some thoughts:

If you like the instructor and feel comfortable with the knowledge, give it a shot. Try 101, then go from there. Are you getting the certification to learn to sail or to charter? If the first, I don't care what the name of the company is or what their credentials are: it will all come down to what you can get out of the teacher. In fact, isn't that true of both?

If your reasoning is the second, well, call Moorings or Sunsail and see if they have a problem with the credentials. If not, go for it.

If you want first hand knowledge on this school, which is where your original post started, I cannot help you. Sorry. But a school is only as good as its teacher that is only as good as its student. Will I get screamed at for saying not to get your hopes up too high?? Your best experience will come from time behind the wheel of your own boat, like when you look and say to yourself, "Now, is that a green squall line? What pretty colors. Wonder if I should reef?" or, my other favorite, "Hunny! Stick your foot out and stop the boat!! I think we are coming in too fast!!!"

Good luck. Fair winds,

- CD
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Old 03-02-2007
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I took the same courses from the same school and have a few thoughts, some contradictory:
1) As CD said, a lot depends on the instructor (and the students)
2) BWSS is legit (at least they were...)
3) we took our class late in the season and the boat was a little tore up (could be late season, could be cheapskates in the front office... can't really say)
4) We learned enough to go out and charter (without incident, even!), but we had some experience, i had keelboat from US Sailing, the Admiral and i'd been out ~30 daysails and i'd been reading every book on sailing i could get my hands on for years.
5) there were too many people in the class (4)
6) 6 days isn't enough time for all three classes (but it sure fits our modern schedules!)
7) if there's a jerk in the class, you may not learn anything (not our experience, but from one of the instructors 'true sea stories')
8) they really are a bargain, but that has two sides

in short, i did what you're thinking about and it went great (and my wife was in the class also), but "your mileage may vary"

Good luck

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"... the only matter of consequence before me is what I will do with my alloted time. I can remain on shore, paralyzed with fear, or I can raise my sails and dip and soar in the breeze." - Richard Bode, First you have to row a little boat (pg. 94)

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Old 03-02-2007
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My wife and I also did the double course from BWSS. We had experience sailing but not cruising. I would say my wife benefited from the week more than myself. For one week she could not ask me what to do and I could not tell her what to do. Her confidence grew!!! That was the first law from the instructor. We too had two others who were less experienced but wanted to learn. The instructor structured the class so that each one of us could get what we were looking for. The boat was also less than cherry, but qualified and we had no major breakdowns, the few problems we had were great experience builders and problems you could run into on a brand new boat. We had a great instructor and other students were super, which made for a great week. Attitude is 90% of the experience.

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BWSS has a pretty good reputation. I have talked to a couple of people that have taken the class you are thinking of and their experience was similar to what you have heard herr already.

Bottom line, and course, sailing or otherwise, depends on the instructor. They usually put their better instructors on the longer courses because they want to keep them paid, happy, and returning. The newbie instructors usually end up with the short courses.

I did charter a boat at the affiliate charter company with BWSS and used one of the BWSS captains for a day sail. Before we bought our boat I wanted to find out how my wife reacted to the motion ( motion sickness) and I was not familiar with the area. The boat left some things to be desired, but the captain was great.

As far as the boats are concerned, they are charter boats and they do get beat up if used as frequently as their owners want them to be. However, liability says that they are usually safe and clean. You are not buying the boat, just vacationing and learning on it for a week. Ever rented a condo that was just OK? Same thing. Also, when there are four student and an instructor berths are the issue. You need at least three cabins and someone in the salon to accomodate in most cases. Therefore the bigger boats, which there are fewer of, which means that they are used more.

Good Luck
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Old 04-10-2007
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I took the same course you are looking at in Fl. I thought the experience was wonderful. I learned alot from my instructor, as well from other students. In my opion the course was worth it.
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Old 04-10-2007
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My two cents worth. I took their course two years ago in the BVI. I had a great time, learned a lot and yes the boat did break down. But unlike most people who view break downs as a negative thing I viewed it as a positive thing since cruising is fixing boats in exotic places. Our steering system failed (autopilot mount fell off, all four bolts stripped) so out came the emergency tiller. Good lesson there all in itself. I helped fix the problem, small hands, small frame to get to the autopilot,finding a machine shop in the islands (an adventure in itself) and reinstall was the one of the most valuable lessons learned. I was the only female on the crew and was treated with respect. I concur with the others, it is all about the instructor and other students. One bad apple and it ruins it for everyone. I plan on taking their offshore class one of these days. Two thumbs up!
S/V Freedom
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Old 04-10-2007
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Hi Melissa,

Great comments - sailing is all about attitude, overcoming life's obstacles and smiling while you're doing it. In my years living aboard and sailing in general, I remember the storms, yes, but I also remember the mechanical failures that forced us to create jury rigs, or in their absence, to overcome adversity through luck, skill and sheer doggedness. These are fond memories! (even if ther are too many of them!) When my kids talk about our trips, they never fail to say something like, "remember the time that widget broke and we ...."

Good luck with your next adventure.
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