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Hello;

Well some might have read my thread about finding my sailing school and setting up my trip. Here is what happened.

I arrived in the USVI on Friday, May 22nd and made my way to the American Yacht Harbor. I had booked an extra night before and an extra night after so I would not have to worry about a hotel or cab's. I arrived at the yacht harbor at 5 pm after 14 hours of flights and lay overs, I went to the slip and found.... No Boat.... I had received an email confirmation as to where the boat would be and had a print out but the boat was not there, the slip was empty. No problem I thought, I would just call the 1-800 number and get it all sorted out. Little did I know that pay phones are an endangered species in the USVI and I did not bring my cell phone as it would not have worked. To top it off the marina office had closed so I was just sitting on a bench trying to figure out what to do next. I have to say that the people at the marina were very friendly and helpful, I had many people offering me a cell phone to call Fair Winds and most of the people seemed to know the captains of Fair Winds and told me that they were great people. After a few hours of calls and running around I found out that my boat was not expected back in till the next day but there was another boat from Fair Winds in the harbor and I would be bunking on that boat for the night before transferring to my boat. It was a long day but hey things happen, at the end of the day I had a place to sleep.

Day two I meet my captain and I board the boat, I also found out that my luck was amazing! The class before me had 6 people and the class after me had 6 people but my class was a solo run. The other person that had booked had canceled and I was getting a week of private lessons. The captain, Bob was an amazing sailor with plenty of experience and was doing what I want to do so I got a lot of knowledge about living aboard that was not part of the curriculum. Day two was spent setting up a meal plan, and provisioning the boat. Then I was given a list of about 60 items to find on the boat while Bob went shopping. The scavenger hunt came with only one instruction, tear apart everything to find everything. In the process of tearing apart the boat to find everything on the list I also found a copy of the answer sheet in with the boats documentation. I did fight the urge to cheat as the point was to locate the items on the list, not copy a sheet.

Day three - nine was spend sailing and I could tell you all about each island we visited or the coral we snorkeled on or even the restaurants we ate at but this is about the school. Bob was outstanding taking time to teach me about the individual concepts of sailing. I had spent considerable time before the cruise reading about the specifics, parts, knots... but it was the practical and concepts I was learning. It was just amazing! I now appreciate terms like heel so much more, day four I had a 43' GibSea doing 7.5 Knots with one reef in the main close hauled; heeling at 55 to 60 degrees in force 5 winds. I have never had so much fun in all my life!

Bob had me working the winches, the sheets, the windlass, setting the hooks, using the wheel, checking the daily checklists for the engine, working on the auto pilot and chartplotter, checking into and out of a foreign country, running up courtesy flags, docking under power... I spent time in the galley, stowing gear, dropping the main and putting it back in the sail bag, plotting a course on paper and taking bearings, using the dinghy, practicing knots... I even had time to do some basic repairs around the boat. The experience I gained have left me feeling that I am ready to get my own boat and feel comfortable taking it out and getting use to it. I passed all my ASA tests with averages over 94% on all tests. Most nights we met up with another boat from Fair Winds, a father and son were taking a catamaran (ASA 114) course, so it was just the three students and the two captains. I took over 700 pictures of some of the most beautiful and amazing places I have ever seen like the Baths in Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke, Monkey Point, Willy T's @ Norman Island, Pelican Island, Cinamon Bay & the St. John National Park...

When I returned to the American Yacht Harbor I had an extra night after the trip to spend on the boat. I met another of the Fair Winds captains, all three I met were friendly, outgoing people and you could tell they just loved doing what they did. All in all I had a life changing experience and the most amazing week of my entire life. I plan to cast off on my own sailing adventure next year taking 4 or 5 years off to go sailing. Fair Winds provided me with a great experience and Captain Bob was just outstanding as a teacher.

My only negative were the hours spent looking for the boat that was not there but it did get sorted out and I would not avoid the school because of this. I would reccommend Fair Wind whole heartedly to anyone looking for a sailing school. I would take another course with them and I might be looking at getting my ASA 105 and 106 with them next January.

Hope this review helps anyone looking for information on Fair Winds, I took a chance on them as I found little reference on the internet.

Robert M.
 

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Robert,

Sounds like you had a great experience! That little glitch with the boat not being there is really just part of the adventure. Glad you rolled with it and kept a good attitude.

I'm also glad you finally got down there - I seem to remember a few delays/postponements. Thanks for sharing, and it would be nice to see some of those photos too!:)
 

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Amazing, Robert. Thanks for sharing; another item on my wish list!
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Sailing Day 1

Did someone ask for pictures? No problem.

American Yacht Harbour


Arabella in RedHook


Underway from Redhook to Cruz Bay



Cruz Bay, St. John, USVI


At Anchor Cinnamon Bay, St. John, USVI

 

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Discussion Starter #5
Sailing Day 2

Sopers Hole, Tortola, BVI





Norman Island, Treasure Cave, BVI

 

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Discussion Starter #6
That's the first couple days. Can I upload more? I don't want to flood a 'Learning to sail' thread with pictures if I am not allowed.
 

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Please MORE ~!~! great shots and brings back my days cruising those waters.... luscious.... sounds like you're on your way !
 

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what camera are you using ?
 

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I was one who had asked for feedback on Fairwinds as I am considering using them for training on Lake Erie.

Thanks Robert for the detailed report, it really helps.

I will have to wait until next summer to attend. Being forced to take 4 weeks off, unpaid from work really puts a cramp on the budget.
 

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Discussion Starter #11 (Edited)
To be perfectly honest I am seriously considering taking another course with them. I have another week off coming up and I am thinking about taking their Advanced Sailing, ASA 105 and ASA 106 out of Chesapeake Bay. From their website:

"We also offer advanced sailing instruction in a complete circumnavigation of the Delmarva Peninsula. These are advanced sailing lessons covering the material in ASA 105 (Coast Navigation) and 106 (Advanced Sailing). This is fantastic sailing covering the entire length of the Chesapeake Bay and C&D canal, plus extended time in the open ocean and the Delaware Bay. While this sailing instruction is advanced, these sailing lessons are great fun (and ok, some hard work too!) covering just about all the sailing environments the East Coast has to offer. A super advanced sailing trip for the advanced sailor. Prerequisite for the advanced sailing lessons is prior certification in ASA 101. 103 and 104. "

Is a course like this helpful? I mean the instant bareboater course was required as I had never stepped foot on a boat before. I now feel comfortable enough to sail a boat myself in lake Ontario and start building experience, what else would I get from ASA 105 and 106 that I couldn't learn over 6 months practicing on my own boat next summer on Lake Ontario. Well maybe not comfortable but I do feel I will be able to get the boat in and out without damaging anything and know enough to keep it upright on the water. :)

They offer ASA 107 as a take home course as well, I would be interested in that too regardless of taking the 105 and 106.

Sailingmum - I took 2 camera's, underwater shots were with an Olympus Stylus 850SW that I bought just for the trip. Almost all other shots were with my digital rebel XT with a 17 - 40mm F:4L lens. I will upload more photos, I have to crop them down to fit size requirements.
 

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I had the same issue as Krozet when I arrived in Red Hook.
But before I get into that it is my "only" criticism.
Fair Winds should provide a cell number of the captain you will be assigned to so you can call, or have the staff of the American Yacht Harbour call them to let you know you have arrived.
The staff at AYH office were great as they let me throw my bag in their lobby when I walked the dock looking for Zeniada(my Fair Winds assigned yacht)
After about an hour Captain Rosemary surfaced, as she is a busy lady getting things organized for the next trip.
It turned out that Fair Winds reassigned me to another yacht(a 42' Island Packet) since there were only 2 of us students(Late May 2014), so from that point I had no other issues.
Would I recommend Fair Winds yes.
Comparatively they are priced fairly for the the equipment they operate with.(Its not brand new) All systems worked on the Island Packet and Captain Rosemary was a fine captain, patient instructor, and wonderful host.
I really enjoyed myself having learned to sail a yacht and experience the Virgin Islands
LFB Toronto
 
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