I am taking an American Sailing Association course, the Basic Keelboat ASA 101 from Modern Sailing School and Club in Sausalito, California. Last Saturday and Sunday I and one other student, Nick, were there from 9:00AM to 3:30PM. Next weekend we do it again for a cost of $650 for the course. The instructor is JT Meade who has won several awards as best teacher. There are normally four students in the ASA 101 class, but they decided to run the class anyway. We are covering a lot of material and the instructor is constantly asking questions to make sure we understand and cover the material. Some items covered are charts and symbols, tides and currents, rules of the road, points of sail, sail trim, knots, checklists, sail attachment, rigging, winches, raising sails, jibing, tacking, mooring, docking under power, dock lines. I also stopped by Cal Sailing Club a Berkeley Marina
. It’s been 35 years. Sailboards are a big item now. They still have sailboats, both dingy and keelboats and have a certification procedure that is rigorous; however, instruction is more laid back. I think Modern Sailing School and Club wants folks out there as soon as possible to rent their larger sailboats. As I said, we are leaning a lot in a hurry. The instructor could exaggerate on the amount of damage a rope in the propeller could do and the fines for sewage overboard. If he wanted to scare us to make a point, he could have described the monetary consequences of discharge of oily wastes into water, which are severe in my mind. Otherwise he was a good instructor that makes us think while on the water. He let us make minor mistakes as a test, but also was adamant in his teaching style. I will say that I learned from him. The boat was an old Pearson 31. I think the motor mounts were bad, as we would get a vibration above a certain rpm setting. Also the hull needed cleaning, as the speed indicator did not work. I learned about the inboard diesel controls, and working with a wheel. I was used to a tiller. We did a lot of practice docking which was a good experience. I had dinghy experience and the advice many times is to start with that; however, the other student had no experience on any sailboat and did really well. The Windex wind direction indicator helped him a lot. We were lucky to have enough wind that reefing was required. I was at the helm when the wind came up strong enough that I completely lost control, as the rudder was not sufficient to control the boat. That was an interesting experience. The teacher knew what was going to happen I am sure, but he just let me experience it.
Update: Modern Sailing did not have enough students to do the Basic Coastal Cruising ASA 103 course so I took the class at Spinnaker Sailing in Redwood City. Again there were only two students where Bob Diamond taught the class. He has a broad amount of experience and is good at verbal description. He is gentler in his approach on the water. It was comfortable, as he took better care of the student. He would take over if you were getting into trouble; however, his reasoning for doing so was explained clearly so that I knew what the problem was and I learned what to do. The sailboat was a Merit 25 with an outboard engine, a tiller, and no electrical system, but at least I did not have to be concerned about that complication, like switching between batteries through the off position and plowing the diodes in the alternator. The fleet was well maintained. The sailing area was more constrained by buoys and dredged channels; however, this brought a clear understanding of the need to know where you are and proper control of the sailboat to prevent running aground. Bob as I said was good at description of how to control the boat and what was happening. I thought crew overboard was especially useful as it taught a lot about boat control as well as being a really necessary thing to know for safety reasons. This course dealt more with safety issues. Maybe it was just the instructor's approach, but he dealt a lot with safety issues in this class. The Spinnaker Sailing had a lot going on besides sailing, like their vacation packages in BVI and team building exercises for businesses. It was a friendly place. The facilities were better with a real classroom with equipment for demonstrations. See as follows: San Francisco Bay Spinnaker Sailing School
Both ASA schools were good. I would not recommend one above the other because both had their strengths in location, equipment and methods of instruction. The experience was a broader one.