I took the 101, 103 and 104 classes (A+) with BWSS earlier this year. Overall, I had a great time. I posted a review on TripAdvisor.com since I was not aware of SailNet at that time. Here is a copy:
I just returned from a 7 day/6 night trip with BWSS and found it to be a very educational experience. This was their A+ certification course that allows you to get three ASA certifications (101, 103,104) which will permit you to charter a boat by yourself.
We (two students, one instructor) started on a Friday afternoon in Ft. Lauderdale exploring our 43 foot sailboat and getting ready to sail to Key Largo. Since we were a small group (usually it is a 4:1 ratio) we had plenty of space on the boat. During the seven days we had to pass three practical and three theoretical exams. This requires some studying on the student’s part, but BWSS sends you the books before the trip so you can prepare.
Overall, I really liked the trip. The instructor was a former ‘racer’ and shared a lot of his experiences. Since we were a small group we got plenty of ‘attention’ and all of our questions were addressed. The tone on the boat was friendly and professional; of course, we had some fun, too. As time went on all of us got more relaxed and sometimes it felt like a ‘real’ vacation. Both of us passed the exams without any problems, but we did have to study, so be prepared to put some reading time in when on board.
The typical day started around 8:30am with breakfast. At the beginning of the trip the instructor had taken note of any special meal requests and bought the appropriate food (I even got my favorite cereal). Breakfast was followed by lectures from the instructor; some days half an hour, other days up to two hours. Once we had covered the theory we lifted anchor
and sailed (or motored) towards our destination. During the day we did our practical exercises and practiced our newly acquired navigation skills. Unfortunately, we did not have a lot of wind, in particular in the morning, so we had to rely on our engine a lot. For better wind conditions I recommend a trip during the winter time, which is also peak time for BWSS. Dinner time on the boat was always great: our instructor did most of the cooking (he did it very well); simple meals, but well prepared. Dinner was followed by cleaning up and studying or talking about the day. This is the time when you can reflect and get all your questions answered. Some nights we even got ‘homework’, which consisted of exploring an assigned subject and presenting it to the other student(s) in the morning (is actually a fun way to learn).
The trip took us to a small marina at the north end of Key Largo (Route 1). We docked (exercises!) in front of an open air bar/restaurant where we spent the evening talking, drinking, eating and listening to the locals singing with the karaoke machine.
Sleeping and living on the boat was a great experience. This is obviously not your typical 5-star hotel and bathrooms and sleeping quarters are quite small. However, this trip gives you the true live-aboard feeling. The instructor was great. He prepared us well for the exams, had a good sense of humor and some interesting stories to tell. He definitely came across as very knowledgeable.
The only drawback of this certification course is the limited amount of time. I would have liked to practice my newly acquired skills a lot more, but due to the number of exercises (& exams) and the wind conditions, this was not possible. Other than that, I recommend this trip and I am thinking about taking the next ASA course with BWSS.