Learning to sail, My initial observations of Sailing Associations - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 3 Old 03-01-2009 Thread Starter
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Learning to sail, My initial observations of Sailing Associations

I don't want this to necessarily be a plug for any specific sailing association but just an interesting observation that I have recently made, and would like to pass this on to other newcomers to the sailing world.

I have had a real keen interest in sailing for years, but either didn't know the right people to get involved or didn't live in the correct area to be sailing. I grew up outside of Annapolis, Maryland and owned a few small runabouts and ski boats in my time, but always watched how graceful and beautiful the "blow boats" were. Still no sail boating. I moved away from the Chesapeake Bay region for a decade or more in the early 90s and got involved in other land lubber activities like restoring cars and shooting sporting clays for a number of years. Any time I managed to get to Hilton Head or Charleston I would miss the water and want to go home to the Chesapeake Bay.

A few years ago I got my wish and moved back to the Bay area and settled in a little town right on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay. Although the town I live in is more noted for charter boats, and fishing for Striped Bass (rockfish), it still gets me close to the many sailing marinas in the area.
Subsequently, I made friends with a couple guys at work that sail a lot and was invited out on their boats several times before I became hooked and wanted to learn to sail. As I began my quest for sailing knowledge I have discovered that there is so much more to learning to sail than just buying a boat and getting under way.

This takes me to the main point of my post here. Both of the guys that took me out sailing are members of a local Sailing Association that provides both training and experience, with some camaraderie thrown in for good measure. This particular association, "The Annapolis Naval Sailing Association" is a member of the "US Naval Sailing Association" and follows the training requirements, qualifications and policies set forth by the USNSA for developing its new and upcoming members.

I joined the organization a little while ago and attended my first meeting last night. I had a good time and had a chance to meet the Commodore and several of the other officers and was pleased with the group. Oh did I mention the food was great too!

The training ANSA provides is delivered in stages or Qualification levels that correspond with the USNSA Checklists. Levels are attained through classroom work and hours spent on the boat sailing the waters of the Chesapeake on the organization's 44 foot CSY (Carribean Sailing Yacht), the "Fantasea".

Additionally, members can volunteer to assist with regularly scheduled checklist maintenance items and special maintenance projects on the boat, which develops good skills transferable to the members own boat. In addition members get to participate in day sails, raft-ups and other club sponsored events. Members can charter the club boat with an approved D-Level Skipper aboard at reasonable club rates too.

For me, I think this is going to be a great opportunity to learn how to maintain and sail my own boat. Otherwise if I had to attempt to learn on my own or through other means I'm sure it would take even longer to get through some of the learning curve associated with taking up sailing. If you are looking for a way to get involved with local sailors and learn the ropes, perhaps looking into a local chapter of the USNSA or other Sailing Group will get you moving along on a faster tack!!

Chesapeake Beach, MD
C&C 25 MKI, Hull No. 039
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post #2 of 3 Old 03-07-2009
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I am on the West coast and was confused about the same issue. Though you may be on the East Coast, I would like to share what I found in my research of each association.

In research of ASA vs. US Sailing Associations:

I learned that each association schools switch their affiliation from ASA to US Sailing believing that, on a business level one may be better than the other. I found out that ASA has 315 school locations; US Sailing has less than 50. One of the very largest and most respected schools in the United States, Annapolis Sailing, switch from US Sailing to ASA, so there are a few schools going back and forth at any given time.

ASA started keelboat education in the United States in 1983. About ten years later, US Sailing followed suit and replicated ASA’s education standards and levels. Therefore, the systems themselves are virtually identical. Sad that they do not respect each others certifications. Business plans getting in the way?

In researching, it might be said that ASA provides a training format and experience that is geared for people interested in renting charter boats, or who would be potential customers for charter services. They both have excellent training materials and training formats. The US Sailing side is usually presented as being more amateur racing oriented, and more geared to training you to sail sans heavy chartering emphases.

I made an Excel spreadsheet of all schools ASA and US Sailing in San Diego. It included the club joining and monthly fees, additional family member fee, cost for each certification level, pro/cons of each school and fleet, for comparison. We prioritized our preferences for training and we wanted a school with catamaran training and reciprocal sailing clubs out of our area. Our goal was also to gain as much experience sailing with different conditions, sailing locations, variety of boat types and variety of sizes to ensure our future sailboat purchase would be as educated as possible. We visited our top five choices of training facilities and weighed all of the factors. We ended up with ASA, mainly due to the 13 reciprocal club affiliations around the U.S, in general. Also appealing is Tuesday raceing, group sails, and club activities centered around education, gaining experience while having fun. I would like to point out a book that jump started me into all aspects of sailing, in general. THE ANNAPOLIS BOOK OF SEAMANSHIP by John Rousmaniere. It is fairly expensive but well worth it...

At the end of the day, it’s the quality of the specific school and instructor that matters most, regardless of whether they are ASA or US Sailing.

I do feel that after your training is completed you should consider joining a sailing club. I found this to be the best way to gain additional sailing experience, which is to do it. Its kind of like chess, easy to learn, takes forever to master. I found that volunteering to crew on someone else’s boat for sailboat races or legs of a cruise are the best way to gain additional hands-on experience. A sailing club that has weekly racing, providing you pay attention and have a crew who tolerates questions, is a great way to learn about reading wind, trim and other important aspects. Crewing on an extended cruise is a great way to learn navigation, watch keeping, chaff protection etc.

Best of luck,


Life and everything in it, is either an 'ordeal', or an 'adventure'...depending on your attitude.
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post #3 of 3 Old 04-18-2009
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Sailing with others

I have to agree. Some of my best learning has come from crewing on other people's boats - either for racing or cruising. You can always learn something new or a different way of doing something. Even though I have been a boat owner for many years, I still enjoy sailing on other people's boats.
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