Post edited 5:14 pm –March 31,2012 by Jonathan Cline
I have taken quite a few classes now from various schools since I'm one of those guys who didn't "grow up around boats"
Here is my review.
- ASA (Basic sailing,couple weekends)
Great class. Took through university,so great price (less than $100!). Drawback was the small boats used (I forget;something 16ft or 22 ft). More focused on racing skills and tight situations such as needed in tiny boat (Laser) racing. However as we know,the fast-thinking-get-it-done racing skills come in very handy when the wind picks up during cruising. Taught good discipline for sailing with crew (i.e. calling maneuvers).
- US Sailing (Basic sailing,Basic cruising,each a couple weekends)
I would not pay for their products again. Overpriced ($$$$$!),not great instruction,and material significantly dumbed down. Check out their text books,they are written for a 2nd grade audience. Should have looked into this more before I paid for it. Seemed aimed at the beer float crowd to me. Got to the navigation portion and the class rolled their eyes and said "Omg I can't do math" so the instructor basically skipped it —I should have requested a refund.
- US Power Squadron (many classes on all topics)
Wish I knew about these first,then I would have focused on these. Amazing instruction and rock bottom prices. This group is the little brother to the US Coast Guard. Drawback is that most of the instruction is classroom style,not on-the-water,although this seems to be changing. Text book material is written at a real level (i.e. technician manual level). Also this is a volunteer organization so instruction is not consistent across all U.S. or across classes. Other drawback is that it is half focused on power boaters (gads!),though some might consider that a money-making opportunity:-D Also,it's more of a club,so expect instant invites to raft-ups. Another big benefit is that the group is not alcohol focused like the local yacht clubs are.
- Yacht club racing (regattas etc)
Show up,find a captain,join his crew,don't get much instruction besides "trim it! trim it!",get yelled at,everyone gets drunk,get asked to join in U.S. national races,get yelled at more,everyone gets drunk,then various drama due to drunken and disgruntled crew and drunken captains who want to argue about rules &weights. Costs varies,sometimes free,sometimes the cost of drinks. Not my cup of tea. Racing instructors admit they don't know how to anchor or dock (haven't ever done it). Incredibly useful for learning how to manage fast &stressful situations. It's okay for a season,not really educational beyond that. Also great for learning how to be a horrible captain and as such,the mistakes to avoid,for example,mislabeling clutches and expecting crew (or wife/girlfriend) to know which line to handle.