Some people are lucky enough to grow up on the water, with a parent, sibling, or friend who is an expert sailor to teach them the ropes. But most of us weren’t that fortunate, so we have to look for a different way to learn to sail. When you make the choice to get a sailing education, you are in effect saying, “I want to do it the right way.” This means learning the fundamentals, which will give you a strong base, and empower you to learn more advanced sailing techniques.
Sailing education begins with learning to sail and captain a small keelboat, something in 20-25 foot range, during the daytime in moderate weather. That’s where ASA 101: Basic Keelboating comes in. You’ll learn exactly how a sailboat works, what all the lines and tools are for, how to steer, trim the sails, read the wind, and more. This course basically covers the essential skillset that any sailor must have. For some people, that’s enough. It allows them to take their friends sailing on a local body of water for a fun afternoon. Others want to take it further, and for them, basic keelboating is the platform on which great sailing adventures are built.
The next step is getting comfortable making longer passages, and navigating within sight of land. For that, there’s ASA 103: Basic Coastal Cruising. You’ll learn the finer points of navigation, get more practice handling the boat, and generally grow in confidence. A big part of this course is practicing Crew Overboard techniques, beginning with preventing anyone from falling overboard in the first place, and then knowing what to do if it does happen. Safety is one of the most crucial skills good sailing instruction can give you.
ASA 104: Bareboat Cruising is not the final piece of the puzzle, but it is the one that many people are striving to put in place. This is the certification that gives you the knowledge, experience, and credibility to charter a boat for a spectacular sailing vacation anywhere in the world. The course covers practical stuff, such as: How does the charter business work? What do you need to bring with you, and what is provided? And also sailing skills: Handling a larger boat, as many charter boats are in the 40-50 foot range, navigating safely in unfamiliar waters, and using the onboard electrical and navigational systems, and the engine, among other things. This involves at least a 48-hour live-aboard cruise, so you’ll get a taste of how much fun it can be to sleep, eat, and explore on the boat!
This is only the beginning of the sailing education you can get. There are many other courses in the ASA curriculum, which you can find here. But it all begins with that first step: contacting your local sailing school and signing up to learn “the right way!”