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Top 5 Questions to Ask a Sailing School

Bluewater students prepping a Catalina 22′ in Marina Del Rey.

#1: How many hours will it take to become ASA 101 certified with your school?​

Not all schools will have the same answer to this question. That’s because there are many types of schools with different missions that drive different timeframes. You’ll likely see examples of different timeframes if you compare a dedicated sailing school with a membership-based boating club, or a sales-driven boat dealer, or a vacation destination course geared toward vacation fun. If you’re talking to schools whose sole mission is educational quality, then you’ll likely hear that proficiency and confidence on the water are the milestones for certification rather than a set number of hours. Generally speaking though, look for schools that provide a minimum of 40 hours of instruction and practice sessions to complete the basic 101 level.

#2: How many hours is each one of your school's ASA 101 class sessions?

To fit into busy sailors’ schedules, many schools have built their course offerings around day-long 8 to 9 hour class sessions scheduled on weekends. Other schools have evolved to provide focused 4 hour sessions scheduled whenever convenient for the student. When weighing which session length is best for you, consider how you best learn new skills. In the beginning when there’s a lot of new material to absorb, many new sailors prefer shorter more focused sessions. (And it’s a good bet that you learn best when you aren’t tired from a long day in the sun.) Schools that offer shorter more focused training and can schedule those sessions based on your availability are worth engaging to find out more.

#3: Does your school recommend that I take the ASA 101, 103 and 104 in one combination course?

Many facilities and vacation destinations offer a resort-type course that combines all three ASA courses and their certifications into one 5 to 7 day class. These offers may be discounted and are appealing from a scheduling standpoint. Professional sailing schools are less likely to offer this type of training because their mission may focus more on measuring proficiency in increments of competence on the water rather than in increments of a course number or set number of hours. If the school suggests this kind of combination course, and you’re looking to build solid proficiency at each step, then you may want to also look for schools that are focused on one class at a time.

#4: Is your school credentialed by the ASA to teach the full ASA course curriculum?

Some schools only offer a subset of the ASA curriculum. Schools that are fully ASA credentialed will have more experienced instructors on staff. That translates to a deeper set of skills you will be able to learn.

#5: Do you train and certify ASA Instructors as well?

Only a select set of schools are approved to train and certify at the highest level of professional ASA accreditation with certification programs for ASA Instructors. Ask if the school has an ASA accredited Instructor Evaluator as part of their full time staff and if they regularly sponsor ASA Instructor Qualification Clinics. If the school is training at this level of accreditation, your learning experience will likely include a more modernized and comprehensive curriculum taught by professional mariners.

A Final Thought

Look for schools that engage you in a dialog about your personal goals for sailing and how you see sailing fitting into your life. If the school presents a plan that gets you where you want to go, then that’s the school for you.

Fair winds.