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ASA members unite for a special week in the BVIsASA members unite for a special week in the BVIs Lots of people sail the British Virgin Islands every year, but not many get to do it in quite the same style as the 2014 ASA Member's Event, which took place March 1-8. For...

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Your Photo Could Be On the Cover of Our New Book!Your Photo Could Be On the Cover of Our New Book! In 2014, ASA will release Bareboat Cruising Made Easy, the latest in our line of cutting-edge sailing books. But before the book can be published, we need to find the perfect...

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VIDEO: Trailer for Maidentrip, documentary about Laura DekkerVIDEO: Trailer for Maidentrip, documentary about Laura... For years here on the ASA blog we followed Laura Dekker's amazing round-the-world sailing adventures. The Dutch teenager battled the legal system, contended with public opinion,...

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ASA's 30th Anniversary Caribbean Getaway Sweepstakes!ASA's 30th Anniversary Caribbean Getaway Sweepstakes! Join us to help improve the lives of children in the Caribbean, and you could win a 6-night stay at Conde Nast award-winning Rosalie Bay Resort in beautiful Dominica, complete...

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Four Ways to Get Sailing Experience

Category : Schools

“You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”
― Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

sailing experienceWhat the wise poet demonstrated about life itself is equally true in sailing: When it comes to where, when, and how you get sailing experience, it’s entirely up to you. The options are more various and appealing now than ever before. Whether you want to become intimately familiar with your local waterways close to home, or seek out fair weather and relaxation in the tropics, or anything in between, those choices are available to you.

Most people who enjoy sailing don’t own boats. That should not stop you from participating in the sport, improving your skills, and exploring new places. We’ll run down some of the ways you can gain sailing experience here, even if you don’t own a boat:

1. Take a sailing course at your local ASA school. Find a school here, and get in touch to see what courses they’re offering. If you’re new to sailing, you’ll start with ASA 101. If you’ve already got some sailing chops, you might be interested in higher level courses. Either way, you’ll be out sailing on your local body of water with expert ASA instructors.

open sea2. Take a “destination” sailing course through ASA. Many of our schools are either located in, or teach periodic courses in, exotic locales. They can be found throughout the Caribbean, from Puerto Rico to the BVIs and down to Central America, and in numerous other countries around the world. Contact your local school to see if they have destination courses, or look at at the ASA schools based outside of the US.

3. Go on a skippered or bareboat charter. If you’ve taken courses through ASA 104 (Bareboat Cruising), you’re likely excited about the prospect of chartering. This is a great way to get the cruising experience you can’t get close to home. On a skippered or bareboat charter, you live aboard the boat, sail it from place to place, and practice skills such as mooring and anchoring that you might not use in your local marina. Not to mention, it’s a fantastic vacation. To learn more about charters and book yours, visit Find My Charter, ASA’s official charter partner.

4. Practice your sailing skills with a local club or school. Many ASA schools also run sailing clubs, host races, and have boat rental or timeshare programs. When you don’t own a boat and you need access to one, your sailing school is often a great resource. Stay in touch and let us help you keep your skills sharp.

From Landlubber to Old Salt: Beginner Sailing Tips

Category : Schools

studying with coconutSailing season is almost upon us, and that means a lot of people will get their first chance to go out on the water. Here are some beginner sailing tips for making sure you have a safe, fun, and successful voyage.

1. Pick a day with favorable conditions and dress appropriately. Depending on your area, good conditions come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Generally, you want fairly calm seas and lighter rather than stronger winds. Sunshine and 0% chance of precipitation is a plus! Remember that it is often windier and cooler out on the water than it is on shore, so dress appropriately.

2. Have the right boat. When you’re learning, a smaller, more responsive boat makes it easier to understand the dynamics of sailing. ASA 101 courses are taught on 22′ keelboats, which are bigger and sturdier than a dinghy, but small enough that you can really feel the forces of wind and water acting on the boat.

3. Be aware of the boom. The boom is the big, heavy bar at the foot of the mainsail. It swings across the boat whenever you tack or gybe, and you really don’t want it to hit you. It can injure you and even knock you overboard, but it’s easy to avoid as long as you’re paying attention. Whenever you hear talk of tacking or gybing, make sure you’re down in the cockpit, well out of the way. Experienced sailors also know how to control the movement of the boom, mainly by “sheeting in” when preparing for a tack or gybe, as allowing it to move freely causes unnecessary wear on the boat. By a combination of common sense safety and good sail-handling, you can ensure that there’s no danger or unpleasantness.

sails up!4. Go with someone who knows what they’re doing. We recommend an ASA instructor. An experienced, trained teacher of sailing will make a world of difference–the difference between a frustrating, unfulfilling experience, and a safe, fun, highly educational experience.

5. Know some basic sailing terms before you go. (We’ve previously covered important sailing terms here.) Learning basic terms such as “tack” and “gybe,” the difference between port and starboard, and the points of sail, is recommended. This will make it easier for you to contribute to sailing the vessel. Once you’re safely back at the dock you can expand your nautical vocabulary to include key phrases such as “beer,” “rum,” and “more beer and rum, please.”

If you do these five things, you’re setting yourself up to have a great time sailing, whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned plougher of the high seas. The best way to combine them all into one experience is to sign up for an ASA sailing course at one of our 300 schools nationwide. Find a sailing school near you here.

Upcoming ASA events at the America’s Cup

Category : Schools

ac logo
The America’s Cup, one of the world’s greatest sporting spectacles, and the biggest event in competitive sailing, is underway right now in San Francisco! Check the schedule below to see the upcoming events ASA has going on, and watch this space for updates!

(Are you an ASA school hosting a Bay Area America’s Cup event? Contact us to get it on the schedule.)

To get more information and join any of the events listed below, click here.
ac racing
America’s Cup/ Louis Vuitton Cup Spectator Cruise Dates:

Louis Vuitton Finals
Sunday August 18, 2013

11:30 am – 3:30 pm
$145 per ticket.
Includes California Continental Brunch. Beer, Wine, and Soft Drinks may be purchased aboard.

Red Bull Youth Cup
Sunday September 1, 2013

11:00 am – 2:00 pm
$75 per ticket.
Includes California Continental Brunch. Beer, Wine, and Soft Drinks may be purchased aboard.

America’s Cup
Sunday September 8, 2013
11:30 am 3:30 pm
$195 per ticket.
Includes California Continental Brunch. Beer, Wine, and Soft Drinks may be purchased aboard.

Click here for more info and reservations!

Announcing ASA’s “Sail for Hands” Events In Honor of Our 30th Anniversary

Category : Schools

sail for handsDo you like sailing? Or barbeques? Or how about a nice glass of wine, beer, or rum, after sailing? ASA and its network of schools are hosting fun sailing events this summer and fall that cover all of those categories, and even better, it’s all for a good cause. In celebration of our 30th Anniversary, we’re continuing our work to benefit Hands Across the Sea.

Hands Across the Sea is dedicated to raising the literacy levels of the Caribbean children by shipping new books and school supplies and working with students, principals, teachers and volunteers to create school community borrowing libraries and reading programs across the Eastern Caribbean. Last year, ASA hosted a sweepstakes and raised $18,000!
fun in the sun
When you register for a “Sail for Hands” event, you will pay a registration fee of your choice, with all proceeds going directly to Hands Across the Sea. That money will directly improve the lives of children throughout the Caribbean–and then you get to have a great time!

How to Participate

Contact your local ASA sailing school to see if they’re hosting a “Sail for Hands” event this year. (Are you a school owner? Email ASA’s Marketing Director, Lisa Carrington, to set up an event at your school.)

Why Sailing School Makes Sense

Category : Schools

My first sailing class on the windy, choppy waters of Puget Sound was a Christmas gift, and probably the best one I’ve ever received. I was hooked immediately, but little did I know where sailing would eventually take me: Cape Cod, Mexico, the South Pacific, Europe, and the Caribbean, just to name a few places, and my adventure continues.
the freedom of sailing

Now, with the holidays coming up, we’re all starting to think about what to get for our family and friends this year. Lessons at an ASA sailing school are the gift that keeps on giving–years after the course is over, you’ll still be getting joy and adventure out of what you learned. So if you’re looking for something different to put in the stockings this winter, consider skipping the long lines at the mall, and look up your local sailing school instead!

Here are just a few of the reasons why a sailing school is the best place to learn:

1. Expert Instructors
Maybe you have a very good friend who is a master sailor, owns a boat, and has the time to take you out and teach you everything you need to know. But if that’s not the case, the place to find someone like that is an ASA sailing school! Our instructors are highly trained professionals who have dedicated their lives to sailing, spending countless hours on the water and in the classroom. In order to become an ASA instructor they must offer proof of substantial sailing and teaching experience, and undergo a rigorous Instructor Qualifying Clinic. In other words, only the best make it!

2. Comprehensive Curriculum
There are many books, online tutorials, and videos on how to sail, and some of them are very good. But those alone can’t teach you to sail. On-water experience, combined with study, is critical, as there are some things you can only learn by doing. How does it feel to steer a boat, or haul a line? How does a boat respond to the wind and waves? It’s about more than just getting your sea legs, it’s about really understanding how a sailboat works! And after all, isn’t being on the water the reason you’re doing this in the first place? That brings me to my next point…

3. Skip the Painful (and Expensive) Trial-and-Error

Learning a new skill or hobby is always a process of making mistakes and learning from them. But it shouldn’t be a shot in the dark, which is why sailing lessons from a qualified instructor can save you a lot of time, money, and stress. Sailing can be easy when you’ve had the right preparation and training, but if you’re unprepared it can turn into a frustrating experience. In a worst-case-scenario, it could even be dangerous. Much better to have an expert sailing instructor along to guide you through any uncertain moments. That way you’ll be making your beginner’s mistakes in a safe, constructive environment.

4. Accessibility
Here’s a fun fact: Most people, even avid sailors, don’t own a boat. Your local sailing school, however, DOES own a boat–probably a bunch of them. The best part of all? They’ll let you use it. A huge part of ASA’s mission is making sailing accessible to everyone, so that your education doesn’t end with certification. You don’t need to splash the cash on a brand new Beneteau or Hunter–we do it so you don’t have to. In addition to teaching sailing, many of our schools also operate sailing clubs, racing regattas, and double as charter companies, meaning you can rent their boats for an afternoon, a weekend, or a fortnight, whatever suits you. Once you start taking ASA classes, you’re part of our community, and we’re determined to provide opportunities to practice your skills and enjoy everything sailing has to offer.

5. Fun!
Not only will you be able to share the sport of sailing with your friends and family, at your sailing school you’re sure to meet like-minded people, both students and instructors, and who knows where that will lead? Maybe you’ll put together a team for Saturday night beer can races, or just find a group to go daysailing with. Perhaps you’ll even end up going on a flotilla in some exotic locale? Our instructors lead dozens of them every year, all over the world. (Here’s a list of ASA’s 2013 flotillas, by the way.) Once you start sailing, there’s just no telling where it might take you.

My sailing adventure began as a gift all those years ago. (Thanks Mom & Dad!) Now, are you ready to start yours?

Spotlight on Sailing in New York

Category : Schools

Tsailing liberty statuehe Bronx is up, and the Battery’s down. But in the great state of New York, there’s sailing in every direction. While perhaps not as strongly associated with sailing culture as some of the nearby Eastern seaboard states, New York is actually a huge sailing destination, offering a ton of variety. Just pick the kind of sailing you’re into (Open ocean? Wide bay? Serene rivers and lakes?) and then find an ASA sailing school nearby!

Spotlight on Sailing Schools in California

Category : Schools

catalina sunsetThe name itself is a Spanish byword for “earthly paradise,” and for hundreds of years it has had an irresistible to attraction to those seeking fame, fortune, or a fresh start. We’re talking about California, of course, but you don’t have to be a gold panner or an aspiring movie star to feel at home in the Golden State–in fact, there are few better things to be than a sailor.

Why sail in California?

California is larger than many countries, so there’s an incredible variety to the landscape and weather. You’ve got the rugged beauty of NorCal, the greenery of the Central Coast, and the surfer’s paradise of the south, just to name a few. No matter what kind of sailing you’re into, there’s bound to be a spot to satisfy your needs. Not to mention the fact that, thanks to the famously clement weather, sailing season goes year round!

Cruising for the masses – from Sailing Magazine

Category : Schools

ccme coverA review of ASA’s Coastal Cruising Made Easy from the July/August 2012 issue of Sailing Magazine.

Many sports, like swimming or soccer, are relatively easy to learn because there are a few basic moves assembled in the right order. Sailing is like that, too. Learn to trim, steer, tack and jibe, and a fair-weather daysail is pure pleasure.

Sailing may be easy to learn, but it is difficult to master because unlike swimming and soccer the playing conditions change, often unexpectedly. Wind and waves increase or decrease, halyards fail, engines quit, but the sailor must keep sailing. There are no rain delays or timeouts on the water.

Mastery of sailing takes experience and that’s just what the American Sailing Association brings to its new training manual, Coastal Cruising Made Easy. ASA has certified more than 7,500 instructors and can draw on the organization’s vast experience, probably totaling over 75,000 years worth of water time, to educate students.

That much information could fill many volumes on cruising, but Coastal Cruising Made Easy’s three editors and five authors concentrate on common cruising scenarios while addressing questions and concerns daysailors ask on the gentle jump up to coastal cruising. The book is designed to fall between the ASA’s basic keelboat course and its bareboat chartering course.
chapter 4 ccme
The textbook progresses as naturally as the tide with chapter subjects laid out in the same sequence a sailor might follow on a cruise. The first chapter is a tour of the cruising boat, the second is motoring fundamentals, the third is safety and the cruising life, then line handling and sail trim, navigation, and so on, to the final chapter, achieving independence. Independence is planning a cruise: organizing provisions, timing around tides, what personal gear to bring. Independence is arriving safely to a new harbor and securing the boat.

Independence is the magic the authors bring to Coastal Cruising Made Easy. Throughout the book they cast those little tips and tricks that turn a successful sail into a superlative sail. For example, as you enter a new harbor look back occasionally, that way the exit looks familiar on the way out. Another example: If possible, sail on the windward side of a channel so the boat is easier to sail off a grounding. Those small but useful tips can be learned two ways, the hard way, or the Coastal Cruising Made Easy way.

Visual learners will thrive with this book. Outstanding color graphics demonstrate groundings, boat repair, sail trim, weather diagrams, charts, cockpit layout and everything else the editors could think of. Photographs by noted SAILING Magazine Contributing Photographer Billy Black cover nearly every page. His images of sailboats entering crowded anchorages or passing commercial vessels are sharp enough to make any sailor stop and read the accompanying text, learning from the master sailors and master instructors of the ASA, the people who know how to make coastal cruising easy. — Rich Evans

Originally published in Sailing Magazine July/August 2012. Reprinted in its entirety with permission.

Sailing Schools from Coast to Coast and Around the World

Category : Schools

afternoon lake sailOn this blog recently we’ve covered what sailing school is like, why you would want to take sailing lessons, and the history of ASA. Now, the question is, how many sailing schools does ASA have, and WHERE ARE THEY?

The answer is: just about everywhere you can find water. (That includes several landlocked states, by the way!) And the more water…the more ASA sailing schools. Want proof? Coastal Living Magazine just published a list of America’s 15 happiest seaside towns, and what do they all have in common? You can find one of our schools in or near every single one, naturally.

If you had to name two states that are really the sailing “capitals” of the United States, it would be hard to go wrong with California and Florida. In Northern California alone, which includes the legendary sailing grounds of the San Francisco Bay, host site of the 2013 America’s Cup, you can find 17 ASA schools. Venture down to sunny SoCal and find another 30 ready to get you out on the water!

As for Florida, you’ll find 40 sailing schools in that great state, stretching from Key Largo, to Miami’s Biscayne Bay, and up to Pensacola on the panhandle. You can learn to sail in the Atlantic Gulf Stream, the eastern Gulf of Mexico, or the northernmost Caribbean.

But what about the rest of the country? Where do the rest of us get to learn to sail?  Don’t worry–they aren’t left behind. There are ASA sailing schools in 38 of the 50 states, plus Canada, and we’re expanding all the time. All season long, our sailing students are exploring the Chesapeake Bay, cruising past Ellis Island, sailing the Great Lakes, navigating rivers, and honing their skills in hundreds of other destinations. From the confines of the local lake to the widest oceans, our schools are there.

And we aren’t limited to the United States, either! ASA is international:

  • More than 20 schools in the Caribbean, including the British Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, and more.
  • Asia! 2 schools in China, two in Hong Kong, 3 in Japan, and more in Thailand and Taiwan.
  • Europe! Israel and Greece, with additional American-based schools teaching courses in the Mediterranean.
  • Central America, with sailing schools in Mexico, Panama, and Belize.

coastal nav
Wherever you want to go, and however you want to sail, you’ll find an ASA sailing school close at hand and ready to help. So you can shout gybe-ho in Ohio, or learn to trim the “Maine” sheet. Maybe Georgia’s on your mind, or your old Kentucky home. You can go big in Texas, or anchor down in Anchorage. (That’s probably enough cheesy puns to get the message across.) We can’t wait to sail with you!

Do I Really Need Sailing Lessons?

Category : Schools

plotting courseThey say there is more than one way to skin a cat, and though they’re not referring to catamarans, the phrase still applies to sailing. There is more than one way to learn to do anything–so why do you need to take ASA sailing lessons? The answer is: You’ve got to learn somehow, so you may as well learn from the best.

Some people are lucky enough to be raised on the water, and for them sailing comes as naturally as breathing. (Many of those people grow up to become ASA instructors, by the way.) For the rest of us, who weren’t so fortunate, a helping hand is needed and professional sailing lessons make the difference.

We don’t believe that sailing has to be hard–that’s why our books are called Sailing Made Easy and Coastal Cruising Made Easy. But it is an artform, and to be a good sailor you need good training, just as writers, painters, and athletes require instruction and practice to reach their potential.
trimming sail
ASA sailing lessons are designed to establish confidence through a strong understanding of the fundamentals of sailing, starting with the basics: Understanding how the parts of the boat work, how to use the wind, how to steer, tie knots, and deal comfortably with problems that arise. From that strong platform of skills, you can go anywhere: For example, bareboat chartering in the tropics (ASA 104), or sailing out of sight of land with Offshore Passagemaking (ASA 108).

There are other ways to learn these skills. You could happen to have a friend who is a great sailor, and has the spare time to teach you the ropes. You could teach yourself through trial and error (we strongly do not recommend this method), and some local clubs give lessons, although these certifications are unlikely to be recognized by charter companies or boat rentals.

We simply feel that none of these options offers what ASA does: expert instruction, a feeling of confidence, and membership in an association that supports you in the sailing lifestyle through benefits, events, flotillas, camaraderie, and more.

To see ASA lessons in action, watch this video of Bareboat Charter students sailing on our recent St. Martin flotilla. You’ll notice the instructor calmly coaching his students through the maneuvers–that comes from years of experience teaching the ASA curriculum. No panic, drama, or stress! Instead, the learning environment, even on the windy Caribbean Sea, is conducive to skillbuilding and retention.
(If you can’t see the video, click this link.)

If you want to know more about what sailing lessons are like at our over 300 sailing schools around the world, click here.