Join Date: Jul 2001
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Texas or Florida Instructor / School?
I said I would give a report upon my return from a week of training in SW Florida, so here goes: The instruction was given by the Florida Sailing and Cruising School for ASA 105, Coastal Navigation, and ASA 106 Advanced Coastal Cruising, wherein I lived aboard a 1991 32'' Island Packet cutter for 6 days and nights in the Burnt Store Marina near Punta Gorda, FL on the gulf coast. I was, unfortunately, the only student signed up for the class at that time, so I had to pay extra for the private lesson or face the expense and hassle of changing airline tickets and work schedules. While this was not ideal, the arrangement had been fully explained to me in advance and I was prepared for it.
The nav instruction consisted of working a series of example problems on a training chart to demonstrate mastery of the course material you had studied yourself from the textbook supplied to you months in advance. I suppose if I asked for help or clarification with something, it would have been given. As it was, I just took the written/plotting test the second morning and that was that. Like almost everything else, preparation is key. I doubt most people could come in "cold" and learn everything in just 1-2 days, although there are those that try, I''m told.
The advanced coastal cruising portion had a long written test and lots of sailing skills to learn/demonstrate. My frank assessment is that the skills are no more than you should have already mastered in previous courses (basic cruising and bareboat chartering) with the exception of sailing, navigating, and MOB drills at night. The written test emphasis was on essay answers to important questions (dismasting, running aground, prepping for heavy weather, etc.), along with many diverse questions to prove you really understand most of the theories and practical aspects of sailing. I doubt you could pass that without having really absorbed a lot of material; there was too much to simply "cram" at the last minute.
I learned that each instructor I have had so far has his own preferences for doing things, some of which are in direct contradiction to previous instructors. I decided early on to keep my challenges to a minimum and just make up my mind for myself what works and satisfies my safety criteria. For example, I like to have the sails ready to hoist/unfurl before casting off, and until tied up at the dock. That sure made a difference when we lost an engine due to raw cooling water failure after entering the channel approaching the marina. Fortunately, the wind was off our stern quarter and we could broad reach under partially-furled headsail until we got with a few hundred yards of the dock, then use the engine for one minute before it overheated.
I also got to get my hands dirty diagnosing and repairing the cooling water failure. It''s a hot job in the slip when it''s 88F, but all part of boating, right?
The main thing I got out of this course was lots of docking practice. I have not had to back into a slip before, and backing a heavy, long keel boat with brisk winds coming from varying directions was a bit challenging. I learned what I hope will be some sound fundamentals for future use.
My instructor was particularly adept at handing the boat under power in challenging conditions, and that helped me a lot. I did expand my knowledge and practical experience in other areas, too, such as in night sailing (which I loved). Other than that, the courses did not do too much other than confirm what I already knew - which is good, but a tad expensive way to do it.
The experience also exposed me to one more type of boat and all the aspects of her that make it easier or harder to do things. As much as I respect the build quality, I doubt an IP (or a cutter) is in my future.
I''ll be glad to answer specific questions if there are any.