The kind of boat you choose to sail will define your relationship with the sport as a whole. Like wind and weather conditions, the boat is one part of the entire sailing experience. So what kind of boats are there, and which type is right for you? Many sailors transition from boat to boat depending on where they are and what sailboats they have access to, but many also stick to the same kind of boat for their entire lives! Here’s a quick overview of the two most common types of sailboats: dinghies and yachts.
Vacations are for rejuvenation and exploration, right? So why not one-up all the normal resort-goers and take sailing lessons at your vacation destination this summer! Sailing can be both relaxing and adventurous, so it’s the perfect sport to pick up on your next trip. Besides, who wouldn’t want to learn how to sail in the Caribbean or the Mediterranean? Many popular vacation destinations have nearly ideal sailing conditions, so there’s nothing standing in your way.
Whether you have a six-year-old son or a sixteen-year-old daughter, sailing is a wonderful bonding experience that everyone in the family will enjoy. Next time you suggest board games and the kids roll their eyes, try something new that you’ll delight in as well. The adventure-seeker in your family will be drawn to exploring new coastlines and traveling the world. The risk-taker will love the prospect of heavy-wind sailing through relentless seas. The artist will be inspired by the boat’s beautiful lines and the ocean’s ever-changing shades of blue and green. The athlete will catch sight of a fierce catamaran or laser and yearn to try it out. Even the indoor kid with an affinity for physics will find joy in understanding how everything works. Sailing really is for everyone.
One of the most important parts of beginning your sailing education is finding the right sailing school. Every individual has different strengths, weaknesses, needs, and ideal learning methods. Likewise, every sailing school has different instructors, courses, boats, and teaching methods. Even a school’s location can affect your sailing education. For example, learning to sail in San Francisco Bay’s heavy winds might scare one student and motivate another. Here at ASA, we want to provide every sailor with a sailing education that conforms to their needs and inspires them to continue sailing. We know this for sure: you know yourself, and we know sailing. So it’s up to you to determine where you will be happiest and learn the most.
Aside from perusing each sailing school’s website, the best way you can determine what school is the best fit is by calling them. It might seem a little old fashioned to the younger generation, but by talking to a human being you will be able to get all your questions answered and get a real feel for the school. You are essentially interviewing each school for the opportunity to teach you how to sail. That’s one of the huge benefits of learning to sail with ASA… We have so many schools that you always have a choice!
“We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch – we are going back from whence we came.” –John F. Kennedy
As sailors, we are inextricably linked to the ocean. On the most basic level, we need it to practice the sport we love. Even more importantly, we need a healthy ocean. Not just for the sake of our passion, but for the sake of our planet and the generations to come. Recent reports from Guanabara Bay, Rio de Janeiro’s 2016 Olympic Sailing venue, bring to light the contamination of our seas and its influence on even the most highly regarded regattas.
Rio’s first official test event at Guanabara Bay will take place in less than three months, and it is still dangerously polluted. Most visibly, dead animals, tires, couches, and other large discarded items litter the bay. If left as-is, the debris will be more than an eyesore; it will likely alter the race results as well. If a boat collided with a partially submerged object, it would surely affect the outcome of the race in such a competitive fleet. Likewise, even small plastic bags can slow boats and inhibit steering by wrapping around blades. Appallingly, this isn’t the worst part of sailing in the bay. Almost seventy percent of Rio’s untreated sewage goes directly into the ocean, and Guanbara Bay’s sewage levels are consistently over the legal limit, which is much more lenient in Brazil than in the United States. Contact with this extremely contaminated water can cause Hepatitis A, cholera, dysentery and a multitude of other diseases. Sailors will without a doubt be exposed to the harmful water while competing, causing a worldwide outcry for more water testing and a change of venue. International sailors have referred to the sailing site as an open sewer, and even Brazilian sailors have spoken out in condemnation of Brazil’s inability to make good on promises for clearer and cleaner water for the 2016 games. For more information, check out this Guanabara Bay footage.
The buzz surrounding Guanabara Bay applies to more than just Olympians. It serves as a reminder to us all that we cannot reverse the damage our species has done to the ocean. It would take over a decade to significantly decrease Guanbara Bay’s pollution, and the wildlife and pure quality of water will never return. Imagine sailing through miles of murky water filled with debris. Instead of enjoying the smell of the ocean and the occasional salty spray, you cower away from the diseased water. There is no sea life in sight. A world without clean, healthy seas is a world without sailing the way we know and love it today. We are lucky enough to have the biggest playing field in the world, and it is our job to make sure it remains untainted.
Here are 10 easy ways you can help: Save the Ocean
Sources: USA Today, NY Times, National Geographic
Once, while sailing in the San Juan Islands, I saw something I’ll never forget. A powerboater cruised into the dock at high speed with his wife on the stern, line in hand, ready to tie up. As they approached, he seemed to realize, far too late, how fast he was going, and turned abruptly in order to prevent the boat’s momentum from carrying it into the dock itself. His wife, expecting the dock to be there, casually stepped into thin air. She barely made a splash, and still held the line coiled in her hand.
We pulled her out of the water, shocked but completely fine. (Their marriage, on the other hand…I didn’t stick around for that part.) The incident left a strong impression on me. Roaring up to the dock might be some people’s idea of fun, but a true mariner approaches such things carefully and with respect for his/her craft, crew, and the sea itself.
A perfect day’s sailing might go something like this: blue skies, with some fluffy white clouds casting their deep shadows on the water, gentle, rolling seas, a steady breeze at around 15 knots, the skyline of some iconic city, or maybe the green cliffsides of a tropical island, as a backdrop. Good friends and a trusty crew along for the ride (all ASA certified, naturally). What could be better?
The best way to cap such an idyllic day would be to execute a perfect docking maneuver, earning the awe and admiration of your neighbors in the marina. Too often, though, we see other boaters (and sometimes even ourselves) giving what appear to be lessons in how NOT to dock. If it’s not the hotshot in his powerboat blazing in at high speed, it’s “The Drifter,” who knocks aimlessly into other boats, or “The Rammer,” who just plows into the dock and counts on it to stop his momentum. Docking is one of the most intimidating aspects of sailing for many newcomers – getting that giant boat into that (seemingly) tiny slip!
However, at its most basic level, docking is very simple: it’s about keeping the boat off of the land, while you step ashore, and it’s an essential skill for any sailor. If we keep that in mind as our baseline goal, obvious as it may seem, the more complex techniques in docking a sailboat will fall into line.
So how can you learn to dock like an expert? Get ASA’s Docking Endorsement (ASA 118)!
With this endorsement you’ll learn the most important principles of docking, and get the hands-on practice you need to master this critical skill:
- Understanding the forces acting on the boat while docking
- Learning which forces you can control, and how to use them to your advantage
- How to handle the lines and tie the relevant knots
- All safety considerations and procedures
- Avoiding collision or grounding (keeping the boat off of the land)
- Docking while dealing with different types of wind (wind pushing you onto the dock, cross wind, etc)
- Docking in different attitudes (side-on to the dock, bow into a slip, etc)
So don’t be The Hotshot, the Drifter, the Rammer, or any other docking stereotype. Well, maybe just one: the Captain, that man or woman who guides the boat safely, confidently, and impressively into place, with a minimum of panic, pandemonium, and stress.
Contact your local ASA sailing school to see if they offer a Docking Endorsement!
A good education combines practical experience with study – and nowhere is that more true than in the world of sailing. As important as it is to understand how a boat works, to learn the terminology, and to grasp the principles of navigation, it’s even more important to get hands-on learning time with the boat on the water.
Until you’ve done it for yourself, there’s no way to really understand what sailing is like. With practice, you get a sense for how the boat moves through the water, whether the sails are trimmed properly, and how to read the conditions. All of this enhances the fun factor, too, taking it from a pleasant day out to a transformative voyage – not only are you sailing from Point A to Point B, you’re also taking on new challenges and growing as a person.
If you want the best sail education available, step one is to find an ASA sailing school near you.
ASA’s curriculum and textbooks set the standard for learning to sail, and each of our affiliated sailing schools adheres to our strict standards. All instructors are certified through our rigorous process and represent the elite of the sail-training field. The ASA curriculum is proven, with over 800,000 sailors certified worldwide, and provides a mix of classroom study with plenty of on-water training. However, this doesn’t mean every school is the same. On the contrary, each individual school has the freedom to teach to their strengths, to make the best use of the waterways they sail on, and to adapt to serve the needs of their students.
What does that mean for you? It means you have endless options to get exactly the kind of sail education you’re looking for. With over 300 schools in our network worldwide, there’s sure to be one that fits you perfectly.
When deciding which school is best for you, we suggest starting by contacting the schools in your preferred sailing area. Here are some questions you may want to ask:
- What courses and levels are offered? (Not every ASA school offers every course in the ASA curriculum.)
- Does the school have any specialties? (Some schools specialize in teaching sailing for couples, or all-female classes. Others have destination courses in the Caribbean and elsewhere. Some are interested in sailboat racing, others are not. Consider what your sailing goals are, and find a school that can help you reach them.)
- Does their course fit your schedule? (Different schools teach at different paces. Find out what kind of schedule the school offers.)
- Are you looking for a private class, or would you like to learn with a group?
Modernist author and noted sea enthusiast Ernest Hemingway once said, “The sea is the same as it has been before men ever went on it in boats.” While that may be true, a great deal has changed about the boats, the lifestyle of seagoing, and perhaps the men and women themselves. For many, bareboat chartering–renting a boat and skippering it yourself–is now the ultimate goal of learning to sail, and with good reason. The charter options, variety of destinations, and accessibility we enjoy today might make even the notoriously adventurous Hemingway jealous.
The question, then, is how to get the most out of the bareboat charter experience. Likely you already have an idea of where you see yourself spending a dream vacation, whether it’s the Virgin Islands, down-island in the Grenadines, exploring the nooks and inlets of Chesapeake Bay, or navigating the cliffside fishing villages of the Mediterranean. But what do you need to know before you embark? Here are 5 essential skills to master before you leave the dock.
1. Basic Sailing Proficiency
If you’re going to be the skipper, it’s crucial that your sailing competency is up to the job. Each sailing ground is different, and some are far more challenging than others. Being honest with yourself about your experience and skill level is the best way to have a fun, stress-free adventure. Necessary seamanship skills include: Competency in steering under power and sail, trimming, reefing, and handling the sails, anchoring and mooring, and navigating using charts and line-of-sight. All of these skills and more are taught in ASA 101 (Basic Keelboat), 103 (Basic Coastal Cruising), and 104 (Bareboat Cruising). Sailors who have completed these courses have proven their ability to safely skipper a bareboat charter and are welcomed by charter companies virtually everywhere.
2. Any Special Skills Needed Where You’re Going
Again, with apologies to Ernest, the sea may not have changed, but neither is it any single, comprehensible entity. Everywhere you go, there are differences, both subtle and drastic, in the sailing conditions. If you’re chartering in the San Juan Islands, for example, you need to make sure you have a grip on tides and currents, while these are a complete non-factor in many other places. In the Mediterranean, you need to know how to pull off the famous “med-moor,” which involves tying up with your stern to the dock. The Caribbean is popular with beginning charterers for its steady tradewinds, light seas, and easy navigation, but even so, there are always things to watch out for. Make sure you consult with your charter company about what you need to know for the area you’re visiting. Pick up a copy of the local Cruising Guide and seek out those who have been there before. (The ASA community on Facebook and Twitter is a great place to bring your questions.)
Like Odysseus escaping the island of Calypso, or Jimmy Buffett getting ejected from a Miami Heat game, the Charter Check-Out is one of those rites of passage every sailor must undergo. No, it’s not the most fun part of your trip, but don’t underestimate its importance. This is your chance to go over the boat and make sure everything is in working order, that you know how to use everything on board, and that you’re getting exactly what you paid for. A representative from the charter company should be on hand to show you around, answer any questions, and repair anything that isn’t working. It’s mandatory for the skipper, but we recommend having some or all of your crew participate. The more people on board who understand the vessel’s systems, the greater the likelihood that you can solve any problems that may arise.
A sailing voyage without good food and drink is unthinkable. You have two main choices when bareboat chartering: The charter company can provision the boat for you, or you can provision it yourself. Many charter companies will provide you with a comprehensive order form, allowing you to have the boat stocked with exactly what you want. Others have more generic provisioning “packages.” Depending on where you’re chartering, the most delicious and cost-effective method might be to buy your own provisions from local vendors or markets. Nothing can compare with local fruits and fresh-caught seafood. Many charterers opt for a combination of the two strategies: Buy your “staple” provisions from the charter company, and garnish it with those specialty items you can only get from the locals.
5. Choosing and Managing Your Crew
You don’t always get to choose the people who surround you in your daily life, but you can choose whether or not to bring them sailing. Do it wisely. Many bareboat charters are family trips, in which case you can skip this step. But if you’re planning a vacation with friends, spend some time thinking over the arrangements carefully. Remember, a sailboat is a smaller living space than you’re used to. People will be in tight quarters, and it’s important that they get along. It’s also key to consider whether they share the same interests. Will they want to stay up late or turn in early? Are they party animals or soul-searchers looking for serenity and relaxation? Some people prefer to spend more time ashore, and others will be looking for any excuse to dive, snorkel, and kayak. To keep everyone happy, make sure they understand the itinerary beforehand.
Ready to cast off? Visit Find My Charter to book your very own bareboat charter anywhere in the world.