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jephotog 09-03-2010 10:35 PM

Challenging ASA ratings?
I live in Utah and my sailing has been limited based on location. I am looking to charter over the next couple of years so i have chosen to take an ASA course then found a place where I could challenge the ratings. I am looking to challenge the following courses:

Basic Keelboat
Basic Coastal Cruising
Bareboat chartering
Coastal Navigation

I have not sailed regularly in a few years, but have been studying for it. Has anyone taken these courses or rating? I have studied the ASA standards and can answer any of the questions and will practice to perform the sailing skills in the only boat I have access to: a dingy.

For anyone who has taken these classes, is there anything I may need to know outside the ASA standards listing?
ASA Standards - American Sailing Association

Any other suggestions on preparing for these tests?

sailingdog 09-03-2010 11:19 PM

I'd point out that practicing some things in a dinghy will not help a whole lot in a 35' LOA, 10,000 lb. boat. For instance, motoring, docking under power, dealing with propwalk, setting/retrieving an anchor, etc., are all things that it TAKES ACTUAL EXPERIENCE to deal with to any degree of proficiency.

The skills and techniques needed for a keelboat are a bit different than those required for a sailing dinghy. If you haven't spent any time on a cruising keelboat, I would highly recommend you arrange to have some time on one before thinking of tackling the standards.

Book knowledge is nice, but no substitute for hands-on, in-the-boat experience, and a sailing dinghy won't really suffice to give you the skills you need for a cruising boat IMHO.

jephotog 09-04-2010 12:18 AM

Thanks SD,
I know it is a hard road from here to there. I am a little nervous, however it is not my first dog and pony show. In the late 80s after sailing a hobby 16 I challenged Basic keel boat and passed then took a class that after 3 days let me charter boats but never got any ratings via ASA. I have sailed a lot since then but just have not been skipper of a large keel boat recently.

My guess even rusty I am a better sailor than someone who has never been on a sailboat before and takes a 7 day course. I am also trying to get on-board a keel boat in the mean time. I just want to make sure I don't fail based on knowledge. Does the ASA standards cover all questions on the written?

tempest 09-04-2010 02:31 AM

Hi Jordan,

For the sailing certifications:
There are two Parts to obtaining an ASA certification. Part one: is knowedge
( written test ) Part two: is the on-water demonstration of skills in an appropriate vessel.

Just to clarify...
Are you saying that you found an ASA school that will grant you those certifications by only taking the written tests? Or, will you also be asked to demonstrate the on-water skills as part of your challenge?

Keep in mind, that if you are challenging the skills portion, it's not a course.
there's no instructional piece to it. You will need to demonstrate all the skills correctly without the aid of instruction.

The bareboat charter, has a 48 hour component to it, as well. How will that be handled? Can you document, time served aboard other vessels of appropriate size as master or mate ?

To answer your question: The standards listed basically cover the knowledge you need to pass the written tests. In addition, you should know how a diesel engine works.

The navigation is a test only. Some mistakes can be cumulative. Meaning, there are multi part questions regarding a single plot. ie. If you navigate to the wrong place on a will also get the depth wrong and the type of bottom etc. The 1st 5 questions are fill-ins...chart symbols. It's not an easy test.

Good luck.

sailingdog 09-04-2010 06:24 AM

The on-water demonstration of skills is the part that being a dinghy sailor won't help with. That requires some actual time on a cruising sized boat IMHO.

cb32863 09-04-2010 07:22 AM

Having just completed ASA 103/104 on Lake Superior, I can attest that sailing a dinghy will not get you that cert. As has been stated, there is book smart and then there is the sailing skills section of the certifications. SD & Tempest are right on, you need time on a larger boat for Coastal Cruising and Bareboat Charter. I also did ASA 105 last winter and as Tempest says, you start out wrong you will end up wrong. I had two other guys in my 103/104 class that had been sailing 20'-25' keel boats for about 5 years each, they just tested out of Basic Keel Boat. As with most things in life, a little practice and reading a book does not always get you where you need to go. But, you can always try I guess....

tomandchris 09-04-2010 09:40 AM


My suggestion would be that you call a ASA school and ask them which classes you can test out of. I think that you will find that the answer will vary by school and what you are attemptiing to accomplish. There is a fee to test through classes which covers materials and man hours.

Certainly the written exam for 101/103/104/105, etc. could be passed quite easlily by studying the books that coincide with the class. I don't remember any questions on the test that were not covered in the book, and with the exception of 105 Navigation the questions are mostly multiple choice and covered by reading and digesting the material in the book. The Nav test is a lot harder than the Nav test for a Captains licence.

You will probably find schools that will test you through 101/103 if you are taking 104 or 104/105 from them. In that way they can also see and test you on the actual boat handling part of the courses as well. Dingy sailing will not prepare you to dock a 30 something 12,000 pound boat, but most of the sailing skills and terms are easily transferable.

Some sailing schools will let you charter one of their boats after you have passed 101/103 and they are comfortable with your learning. Most charter bases want to see your sailing resume and 104 level before you charter. Even if you could test out of all the ratings you will have to prove your ability to a charter base. If they do not feel you have the skills, they will require a captain for the time you need to get up to speed which will increase the cost of the vacation and delay departure in some cases.

You can pass all the tests and still not have a clue of what to do when the **** hits the fan unless you have had enough experience to have some logical reactions. If you owned the charter boat would you want the charter company letting someone taking your investment out based on the fact that they read about it in a book?

However, I am convinced that in some cases the available credit on your Visa card is enough to get you a boat for a week with some charter companies. Good luck with your quest.

k1vsk 09-04-2010 09:47 AM

Please keep in mind these are essentially marketing gimmicks and the ratings are somewhat meaningless. Clearly almost anyone can learn something new but as a prerequisite to chartering, these ratings are a joke. As others have said, the only way to learn is to do it and if you can demonstrate ability to handle a boat, no charter company will refuse you. Conversely, you can easily obtain all the certificates you want but not be able to get out of the slip.

jephotog 09-04-2010 10:20 AM

Thanks for the info guys,

FYI, you are able to challenge ASA ratings, not all schools will let you, but I found one that will let you challenge all of them. I will have to pass all portions of the written and sailing skills.

I just want to make sure I am properly prepared for the knowledge portion of the tests. I have sailed boats this big 20 years ago as the captain with a boat full of non sailors. Its kind of scary looking back on it.

From 2000-2005 I lived on the coast and sailed as many as 100 days in one year, either racing (sometimes as navigator) or on my own 22' keel boat, which I could sail in and out of the slip solo. I am a much better sailor now then I was way back then but also some portions of my sailing knowledge and skill has eroded. A racer and day sailor does not make a good cruising sailor. I remember during a race on a boat filled with what I thought were good sailors, when our sail tore during a gale and we had to enter a harbor, I was the only one who knew "red right returning".

I agree some of these ratings are gimmes, especially if you take an expensive course and then take a year off and then charter a boat. I am using these ASA ratings as a way to force myself to study and re-learn what I used to know, brush up on my skills and get the ratings that will allow me to charter a boat. I imagine I can challenge and pass the first rating or two without any problem. The skill set of the ASA 104, I may need to rent a boat and captain for an hour or more to refresh my close quarter maneuvering skills in a larger boat.

ASA 105 is still up in the air though, if I have time to prepare for it. I am under the impression this is one of the harder ones. So I gather the answers are cumulative or at least the errors can be. What is the hardest concept you are asked to answer on the 105 test?

I am doing this later this month, I will let you know how it goes.

tomandchris 09-04-2010 10:53 AM


Then, to answer your question: If you read and absorb the material in the books you can easily pass the written tests for all but Navigation. That can also be done, but it is more difficult and practice is needed.

Let us know how it all works out.

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