My advice to the OP is to look at the boats that will be used for the class. While the Colgate 26 is a GREAT training boat, and is used by the US Naval Academy (which calls the the N26), it is not the only boat that I would use for 101 or Basic Keelboat. The new Beneteau First 24, and 27 look like interesting boats on which to teach as well. There are other schools that use 30-foot cruising boats (with a wheel at the helm) to teach 101 or Basic Keel Boat courses.
Do not just look at the type of boat, but the condition
of the boats that are used by the school. This is one area that Colgate's Offshore Sailing School (OSS) excels. They have many more boats in their fleet than are required (at least 4), and therefore, if anything is not right with one boat, the instructor can simply notify the maintenance manager, and grab another boat. Here is how you can tell pretty quickly about the condition of the boats; are ALL of the lines on board that should be? What is the condition of the boat, and in particular the lines? Do the boats have roller furlers (expensive and convenient) or hank on sails? Did the school cheap out when a roller furler broke and switch to hank on? Are the rub rails in place, or have they broken off and not been repaired? - A Colgate 26, for example, SHOULD have the following: a grab rail that runs the length of the cockpit, single lifelines that run from the grab rail to the bow pulpit, a roller furler, five (or more) working clutches on the cockpit top, a main sheet (which should be blue), a main halyard (red), a traveler line (black), a backstay adjustment line (white), a Cunningham (white), and ideally a spinnaker and spinnaker pole stored below.
I totally agree with
that you simply cannot take a person with no boating experience and make them competent to bareboat charter in a week. Schools that offer this are doing so to entice more people into taking their classes; they are shortchanging their students. Fast-Trac courses are a rip-off. YouTube has several videos starring people that thought
they were capable. Fortunately, OSS offers Basic Keel Boat certification in 3 forms: a three-day course, a five-half-day course (five 4-hour days), and two days as part of the Fast-Trac course. The five-day course allows the student to really learn something and gives them time to enjoy the resort.
Because I am an instructor, and you may wonder about my motivation; I will share with you that the easiest course to teach is the two-day portion of the Fast-Trac course (you simply pass the student on to the next instructor), the three-day course is next easiest, and the five day is most difficult - and least financially rewarding (because instructors are paid by the hour - the time spent on boat pre-check, set-up and put away are not paid).
Another area that OSS excels is that there is a Steve Colgate developed presentation that EVERY instructor uses. This assures that EVERY student is exposed to the same material in the same way. If I were the OP I would ask the schools that I was considering if they teach from a presentation or whiteboard the course. Many schools simply use a whiteboard "chalk-talk." Aside from variances in the individual instructor's artistic abilities, it leads to instructors stressing different things within the course. In order to address my lack of artistic ability, and to provide consistency with MY courses, I use my own presentation that I developed and copyrighted when I teach sailing for "chalk-talk" schools. I believe that
does this as well.
One more suggestion for the OP is that you and your spouse or "significant other" NOT take instruction in the same boat! In my years of teaching, I frequently see that one partner dominates the other. This is a couples dynamics thing. A similar situation is teaching your spouse to sail, or ski. While it is great if you are in class together, allowing you both to make mistakes and learn apart from each other is an important enabler to learning. Every chance that I can I separate couples into different boats, and it has always worked to the better learning of the students. Sometimes this means that there is a "boys boat" and a "girls boat" other times it is a "mixed couples boat." When you and your other get together you can share what you have learned, and you meet more people this way!
Also agree with
in that you NEED experience outside of class in order to make the lesson's stick. OSS's three- and five-day classes are ended with the students taking the boat out without the instructor aboard
. I joke that if you don't come back you don't pass the course.
Disclaimer: I have taught for both BlackRock and Colgate's Offshore Sailing School (Captiva and Fort Myers Beach), as well as other schools. I am sharing my experience and opinion to try to help you. YMMV.