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Let’s start a conversation about ASA 101, etc. is it helping or hurting?

Joe

.
Jun 1, 2004
7,154
Catalina 27 Mission Bay, San Diego
If you want to learn to sail, start on dinghies at local schools. Studying stuff online or from books doesn't teach you reaction, balance or motion... when you're in a small boat you feel everything through the tiller and boat's motion.... wind, water, and your actions, get immediate reaction.
Once you've experience those feelings... it will make sense to approach sailing more academically...
 
Nov 8, 2007
1,348
Hunter 27_75-84 Sandusky Harbor Marina, Ohio
First, there is no way a reasonably good sailing course will “hurt” the sport. Is certainly one good way to get started. Another is to find a yacht club, and hang out there. Volunteer to crew in races. Offer to help Out in any way you can.

My Dad and I learned to sail by building a little Moth scow, reading a book, then taking the boat out to a local lake and turning it over until we learned to sail it. I turned down the chance to “frostbite” with a college room-mate on Long Island Sound in the winter. That was stupid, because Pete turned out to be the college national champ dinghy sailor his senior year. I learned about keel boats, jibs, and spinnakers taking my wife out on Narragansett Bay in Rhodes 19’s when I was in Navy OCS in Newport. At the same time, the Navy was teaching me docking, piloting, and navigation.. I really learned the finer points of sailing racing a Sunfish in the Key West Naval Sailing Association over the 2+ years I was stationed there. When we bought Lady Lillie in 2000, I paid an ASA instructor for a day of tutoring that focused on safety and systems/checklists, since I already knew how to set and trim a sail. I am still learning to improve my skills mostly from this site, and by reviewing things that happen cruising in Lady Lillie with the Admiral, my wonderful wife, who has been with me since the Moth.

The key is that I loved sailing the Moth, then I took advantage of opportunities that came my way. Still wish that sloth hadn’t kept me away from frost-biting with Pete, though!
 
Jan 19, 2010
705
Catalina 34 Casco Bay
IMO.... The first class that anyone takes should be a general boating course. LEARN the rules of the road first. Understanding what a power squadron teaches will help you anticipate what a power boater might do. Boiled down, sailboats are powerboats when motoring ( into or out of mooring fields, marinas or a lack of wind). Once edified on the Rules of the Road, the sailing courses will fall into place..
 
Nov 8, 2010
11,240
Beneteau First 36.7 & 260 Minneapolis MN & Bayfield WI
I mostly skimmed earlier replies, lots of good thoughts there. I might duplicate some of them.

I look at sailing (skill wise) as a cross somewhere between driving a car and flying plane. There are skills that have to mastered if you want to be proficient at it, enjoy it, and keep yourself and others safe. Developing skills any activity is done by a combination of knowledge and practice, takes time and is muli-layered. Somethings you simply cannot learn until you have MASTERED a more fundamental skill

Thats why a simply attending a weekend long class could never make you proficient. But it CAN be a solid baseline for more learning. I got that baseline years ago sailing with my parents and family friends. If that is not available to a person, classes are a great way to go.

But I put zero value in someone having a class certification. Its your resume that matters.
 
Sep 15, 2016
504
Catalina 22 Minnesota
There are skills that have to mastered if you want to be proficient at it, enjoy it, and keep yourself and others safe.

Thats why a simply attending a weekend long class could never make you proficient. But it CAN be a solid baseline for more learning. I got that baseline years ago sailing with my parents and family friends. If that is not available to a person, classes are a great way to go.

But I put zero value in someone having a class certification. Its your resume that matters.

I completely agree with your about the classes helping and not putting to much weight in certification. I have worked in the Maritime industry and served under some captains that just leave me shaking my head and also worked under some who leave me in awe of their skills. It is certainly experience that counts which is why the push for more paper cirts (ASA or others) has me wondering if its good or bad.

So on the flip side @Jackdaw since you are part of one of the leading clubs in our part of the country what is your club seeing? Do you see new sailors come with an ASA class or two before buying a boat? Or do you see more people wanting to serve as crew to get some experience before making the call for classes?
 
Feb 26, 2004
21,317
Catalina 34 224 Maple Bay, BC, Canada
I forgot (won't be the first time, but it was pretty long ago: 1983). We bought our first sailboat on SF Bay, an almost new Catalina 22. We did take lessons, four of them. Three on other boats --- 25, 27 & 30 feet. The last one was on OUR boat, and in traditional SF winds. We learned a lot and felt exhilarated on that last sail with a lot more confidence in both ourselves and our boat.
One of the best lessons you can have is one on YOUR boat, if you have one.
Thanks for reminding me. :beer:

Thing is: learning is a process, like almost everything else in life.
 
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Nov 8, 2010
11,240
Beneteau First 36.7 & 260 Minneapolis MN & Bayfield WI
I completely agree with your about the classes helping and not putting to much weight in certification. I have worked in the Maritime industry and served under some captains that just leave me shaking my head and also worked under some who leave me in awe of their skills. It is certainly experience that counts which is why the push for more paper cirts (ASA or others) has me wondering if its good or bad.

So on the flip side @Jackdaw since you are part of one of the leading clubs in our part of the country what is your club seeing? Do you see new sailors come with an ASA class or two before buying a boat? Or do you see more people wanting to serve as crew to get some experience before making the call for classes?
Regarding a 'push' for more certs; I really don't see that, except for perhaps emails from the ASA!

I'm guessing that 90% of the the people that do the ASA 1xx series are boat-less people that want to charter. What the brochure does not tell them is really what they are getting is more akin to a driver's 'learners permit', which you must have before actually driving a car (during the day, no highways) with an adult sitting next to you. Building hours, you can't cheat that. And the charter companies require hours.

At both WYC and the AIS, racing is the focus so most owners have a fair amount of experience. Our adjacent community sailing center (Wayzaya Sailing) offers USsailing affiliated instruction, but I know of maybe 2 owners that have done that.

Now with our rapidly growing j70 fleet, there are several new owners who are in way over their heads. First boat for many of them. Some of them don't drive, and some of them shouldn't. But thats a different story!
 
Feb 26, 2004
21,317
Catalina 34 224 Maple Bay, BC, Canada
there are several new owners who are in way over their heads. First boat for many of them. Some of them don't drive, and some of them shouldn't. But thats a different story!
Ah, would love to see some of your quality videos on those guys! :beer: + popcorn to follow...:biggrin::biggrin::biggrin:
 
Nov 8, 2010
11,240
Beneteau First 36.7 & 260 Minneapolis MN & Bayfield WI
Ah, would love to see some of your quality videos on those guys! :beer: + popcorn to follow...:biggrin::biggrin::biggrin:
Sadly no video, but we saw (and heard) this one. Breezy day. J70 downwind gets hit with a puff; driver does not react in time, rounds up and T-bones an upwind Capri 25 with the sprit out! It when right into the cockpit; taking out a winch, a genoa car, stanchion etc.

tbone.jpg
 
Sep 15, 2016
504
Catalina 22 Minnesota
I'm guessing that 90% of the the people that do the ASA 1xx series are boat-less people that want to charter. What the brochure does not tell them is really what they are getting is more akin to a driver's 'learners permit', which you must have before actually driving a car (during the day, no highways) with an adult sitting next to you. Building hours, you can't cheat that. And the charter companies require hours.

That right there about sums up this conversation. Seems that on this forum the consensus is that training is good but nothing will trump experience. Interesting though how my impressions of push for ASA were a bit off. Glad to know many are still joining the sport.

It would be interesting to start a whole different thread about those who are trained but still make mistakes but that's a topic for another day. For this conversation let me finish my part by sharing the video below. This vessel is 165 feet long 5 stories including lower engine and restrooms below the water line and the deck on top. It has a licenced and well trained captain but even the best have their bad days.

Side note this is at least the 3rd time this has happened to this same vessel to my knowledge and each time was a failure in the ability to take the vessel out of gear due to an electronics failure between the wheel house and the engine room. Technology is great until it fails at the most inopportune moments regardless if the vessel is sail or power. Thanks again to everyone for your thoughts.

 
Jan 7, 2014
174
Beneteau 45F5 51551 Port Jefferson
:plus: This.

I don’t think there’s a one size fits all approach to learning sailing. Some people have learned fine in different ways without classes. Some people have taken classes and speak highly of them.

I bought my first boat, an '87 Ericson 32-3, seven years ago. I had never sailed anything more than a sunfish once or twice before that. The PO gave me and my teenage boys a few lessons and off we went. I always, and still do, have a healthy respect for safety. Sure we made mistakes but I never went out in conditions that were beyond my skill set. I always told myself I don't even know what I don't know. We joined a yacht club, started racing (and placing) and cruising and moved on to a bigger boat. I read books, searched the internet ans watched youtube videos and I continue to do that to refine my skills. My wife and I just got back from a 7 day cruise of the Long Island Sound, to Martha's Vineyard and back. I watched the weather, I know my engine, carried spares, and charted the next days route every night. I am not saying the ASA courses are not needed and I do plan on taking one some day but everyone learns differently.
 
Oct 22, 2014
13,435
CAL 35 Cruiser moored EVERETT WA
This subject of ASA classes and certifications is not new nor is it limited to our side of the ponds.

Early in his book "Fast Handling Techniques" by Frank Bethwaite, he recounts the teaching of young sailors at the Northbridge Sailing Club in the 1960's. If we are to improve we need good mentors. His style was to put new sailors in boats with a teacher.

As they had success with new members, and competent young sailors, some organizational focused members felt structured Sailing training programs implemented by the "International Sailing Federation." The IYRU and the AYF graded certificate program was needed "based on two assumptions:
1. That if sailors’ qualifications were certificated, management of the growing sailing population would be more efficient. This assumption was true.​
2. That as regards competitive performance, all sailors improve with experience to the point where all reach the ultimate level at which all sail about equally fast, regardless of how they were introduced to sailing in the first place. At that time this assumption was almost universally believed to be true, but has since been proven false."​
Learning a skill like sailing benefits from some theory, but you can let theory replace practical experience. You need to be in a boat. You need to experiment. You need to experience a knock down and a broach. You need to recover from such experiences and move forward. Such experiences with an active coach beside you (not unlike learning to fly with an instructor) makes the most sense to me.
 
Nov 8, 2010
11,240
Beneteau First 36.7 & 260 Minneapolis MN & Bayfield WI
This subject of ASA classes and certifications is not new nor is it limited to our side of the ponds.

Early in his book "Fast Handling Techniques" by Frank Bethwaite, he recounts the teaching of young sailors at the Northbridge Sailing Club in the 1960's. If we are to improve we need good mentors. His style was to put new sailors in boats with a teacher.

As they had success with new members, and competent young sailors, some organizational focused members felt structured Sailing training programs implemented by the "International Sailing Federation." The IYRU and the AYF graded certificate program was needed "based on two assumptions:
1. That if sailors’ qualifications were certificated, management of the growing sailing population would be more efficient. This assumption was true.​
2. That as regards competitive performance, all sailors improve with experience to the point where all reach the ultimate level at which all sail about equally fast, regardless of how they were introduced to sailing in the first place. At that time this assumption was almost universally believed to be true, but has since been proven false."​
Learning a skill like sailing benefits from some theory, but you can let theory replace practical experience. You need to be in a boat. You need to experiment. You need to experience a knock down and a broach. You need to recover from such experiences and move forward. Such experiences with an active coach beside you (not unlike learning to fly with an instructor) makes the most sense to me.
Sorry, but not sure what point you’re trying to make here. Dinghy sailing is not yachting.
 
Nov 21, 2007
417
Beneteau Oceanis 34 Tacoma, WA
The correct Viking procedure would be:

1. Put you in the dinghy
2. Set the dinghy alight
3. Leave you to drift away on an endless sea.

View attachment 184975

Nothing more satisfying than a job well done :thumbup: !
This if definitely the most efficient cycle. No wasted time thinking that you've actually learned or accomplished anything. You were doomed from the beginning. :facepalm:

I don't think that there is any such thing as "hurting" an activity by spending time learning in a controlled environment.

My wife and I are among the people who did not have access to sailing or boating early in our lives (although we both lived in the Great Lakes region growing up). We didn't start sailing or boating until we were in our 50s. At that time, we had local access to a commercial sailing club which offered both ASA sailing courses and access to a small fleet of basic keel boats up to 30 feet. Our favorite was a Catalina Capri 22. Since then, we have owned two boats of our own, and have spent tens of thousands (OK, technically, hundreds of thousands) of dollars in support of sailing in our region. I don't think that the ASA Basic Keel Boat course "hurt" in our case.

Full disclosure; I've spent more years, in my retirement, teaching as a PSIA Certified ski instructor than in any other single job that I held in my life (I'm an advocate of structured "coaching").
 
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Aug 10, 2020
144
South Coast 22 Rocky Mount
As a new sailor, on a budget, with 2 kids, here is what I found and how I learned ...

I started sailing in early March 2020, lifetime boater, marine tech, glass tech.

I always wanted to learn and caught the sailing bug in St Croix.

I started putting a post on the ol Facebook looking for cheap boats. I looked a dozen or so neglected, rotting, half sunk old boats, and read l lots of forums and groups. I learned what to look for and avoid. I had $1800 max budget for a boat. I watched eBay for ideas on what appealed to me. I decided 18-24ft mono with a swing keel and trailer would be ideal.

I constantly read books on sailing and watched hours of YouTube tutorials. I made sure I understood the basics of sailing, terminology, point of sail, etc.

When doing all of this, I kept hearing about these ASA courses, so off I went to the local YC... Being a tech, I bypassed the sales office and club it's self and walked the lot, walked the docks and finally got approached by a salesman. I explained what I was doing and looking for an promptly got shown boats 2-3x my price range. I asked about courses. They wanted almost as much for lessons as they did for a "cheap" boat. He tried selling me on their club membership, which included use of boats and lessons, but the boats were 30-36ft and bigger than I wanted to learn, and still WAY out of budget. I ended up asking if they had any abandoned boats, boats left in storage, projects, etc.... that basically got me laughed at and in short let me know I wasn't welcome there, and the salesman walked away. A couple months later they also turned me away from their "race day" which is open to the public, on the grounds of my boat not being good enough to run with them.... way to encourage the sport A-holes.

So..... I kept looking and finally bought a derelict 21 foot Clipper Marine flatdeck. It was sunk on the trailer by a garage. Cabin was trashed. Rigging was fair and compete. Sails were good. It was $300 and the fella said he would have just gave it to me but he had $300 in tires and wheel bearing in the trailer. I traded out some work for a 3.3hp merc. I took it all apart and put it together, stepped the mast, rigged the sails and got comfortable with my knowledge of the boat in my driveway. I must have stepped the mast 10 times before even taking it to the water.

I kept reading amd after a couple weeks of tinkering I took it to the water! I applied what I had read, what I had learned by tinkering and managed to sail it my first time out. By the end of the week I was running up and down the channel with both sails up and having a blast.

ASA classes? I am sure they are beneficial, but for me it was more tactile. I learned it by doing. the yc made me feel like a dumbass that didn't belong there in my paint covered shorts and worn out flip flops with my hair in a ponytail.

My total investment to get on the water was $500. Even if I hadn't enjoyed sailing, it would have been a minimal loss to sell the boat.

My point, do not spend thousands to learn to sail. Educate yourself, there are great resources out there! There are thousands of cheap boats! don't get caught up in shiny paint and fancy cabins, blue jackets and boat shoes, when you haven't gotten the wind in your sails yet.

I am now the proud owner of a 22 south coast (Whirled Peas) that is a floating pile of junk, but safe and sound. I am also redoing a 26 Laguna in my driveway. Keep tinkering, keep reading, keep sailing.
 
Apr 8, 2010
1,461
Ericson Yachts Olson 34 Portland OR
Interesting thread. The posters came at this thru different venues, but there are commonalities in the result.
FWIW.... we wanted to learn to sail, and tried to start out with a well used Lido. Discovered that neither of us liked hiking out. Sold that and bought a new Ranger 20 in 1976, and most important, joined the local fleet.
This put us in touch with a lot of other couples and with the informal weeknight racing got us on the water a lot. Then were were weekend gatherings and picnics at nearby islands. Meetings, sometimes with speakers. Winter parties for the off season.
While I had rowed around in small fishing boats as a youth, I had no sailing experience. I did read books, tho. For shear enthusiasm the Arthur Ransome series of novels are perfect for any young person. :)
Most helpful technical book was "This is Sailing" by Craigh-Osborne (sp).
Suspect that some of us may have, perhaps by an accident of genetics, more "wind sense" than others, also. Perhaps.
I recall that early on, I noticed that some skippers would unconsciously turn their boat when they turned their head.... and I weeded out that response from my actions. Lots of subtitles in sailing!
Also learned that I really enjoyed light air racing, where every nuance of trim and course study needed to come together.

In general, the local OD fleet was a huge part of our experience, and soon we joined a small YC, and cruised and raced a lot with them. We did stick with OD racing and then Level Racing when we bought a larger boat.
Tried handicap racing and disliked it, quite a lot. One Design (OD) racing is absolutely the Best for quickly growing skills... By Far.

Like others here, I am also leary of skippers with paper certifications. It seems to be of value for some, tho.
Speaking of boating in general, I also learned a lot from several decades of deliveries offshore, and recommend this, in general. It will seldom involve a lot of sailing, but the operations of different boats and systems is quite valuable. The lessons in human nature are illuminating, as well.... :)
 
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Apr 8, 2010
1,461
Ericson Yachts Olson 34 Portland OR
Learning a skill like sailing benefits from some theory, but you can let theory replace practical experience. You need to be in a boat. You need to experiment. You need to experience a knock down and a broach. You need to recover from such experiences and move forward. Such experiences with an active coach beside you (not unlike learning to fly with an instructor) makes the most sense to me.
Great wisdom! Not having an instructor with us, next best thing was 15 to 25 other identical Ranger's around us to watch and learn from. The social gatherings were great for this as well.
What sometimes gets overlooked in discussions about 'racing' is that winning requires Close Competition, and that advising others on how to sail faster makes your wins much much more enjoyable. The better your competitors are, the more satisfying it becomes for all of the skippers /crews.
Best nights we ever had on the water was where we could barely win by a couple of lengths after over an hour of racing! Those trophies were well-earned..... :)
 
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Jun 8, 2004
8,349
-na -NA Anywhere USA
For years dealers sold new and used boats to non sailors. I have been an advocate of dealers should train those purchasing sailboats. Of course I met with resistance.

As for my dealership for example with the larger sailboats depending on experience, I required as part of the sale for example a 44 foot, two weeks of training to include maintenance, systems, electronics, navigation, docking, sailing, safety etc... Otherwise I would not sell a boat. I had various instructors but it was worth it. Everyone appreciate what I did. However there was one exception to the rule as I was unaware I sold a boat to an alcoholic. Training included brokerage too.

This is one tool for a successful dealership