Are ASA and US Sailing Courses Really Worth It?

UPDATE!! JUNE 10, 2014 ~ Several people asked two great questions:

Q: What is a “sailing resume?”
Q: If you don’t offer a certification, do your courses offer something to verify the experience and skills gained?
I answered YOUR questions at the bottom! Thanks for asking!

Ben and I have over 25 years of combined sail training experience. I began teaching sailing professionally at age 18, and Ben at 20. We have both worked for a wide variety of sail training programs. We are now offering offshore and coastal sail training expeditions aboard Rocinante, our Norseman 447. Potential sail training students often ask us…

Screen Shot 2013-10-29 at 5.39.51 PM

Q: Do you offer sailing certifications?
A: We do not.

There are several organizations that offer sailing certifications. I am most familiar with US Sailing (USS) and American Sailing Association (ASA). I have either taken a certification course, become a certified instructor, and worked for several of these certifying programs—all of which I did before the age of 19. I was signing certificates for my students when I was only 18 – years before I truly felt like I understood sailing!

The great thing about organizations like ASA and USS is that there are standards of quality and curriculum on which students can rely. If you choose to go with an independent organization, like ours, you draw more of a wild card. You have to do your own research to know if you will be receiving quality instruction from an experienced sailor. Ben and I did consider offering certification to our students and seriously looked into it.

Ultimately, we decided certification would not enhance our program for several reasons:

  1. There is substantial cost to becoming a certifying program.
    That cost would be passed on to our students. But it wasn’t only about money! The cost wasn’t a deciding factor at all actually. We do not think it would add any value to our course. Whats more, we actually feel that it will decrease the value and quality of our program. Also…we didn’t want people paying extra for something we didn’t find significant value in.
  2. We felt that the standardized curriculum was limiting.
    Each student makes progress at different levels and not everyone fits well into a pre-determined program. Additionally, if a student’s ability surpasses the prescribed curriculum, we are prepared to offer them a more challenging expedition.
  3. Our research has determined there is no significant benefit to having a sailing certification.
    Apart from the education received, there are no real measurable benefits to having a recreational vessel certification.

So We Did Some Research…

We have had several potential students say they wanted a ‘sailing certification course’ in order to make them eligible for discounts on bareboat charters and/or boat insurance. Not wanting to miss out on a good thing, we thought we ought to do some research, and find out what the scoop was on all these discounts!

Bare Boat Charters

I contacted 10 bareboat charter companies in the Caribbean, US, and Bahamas and asked the following:

  1. Do I need a certification to charter a boat?
  2. Will I get a discount if I’m a certified keelboat sailor?

Every charter company I contacted said that experience is the most important quality in chartering a boat and they do not offer discounts for certified sailors. Here it is in their words:

  • “There are no discounts for ASA or US Sailing.”
  • “Certification not necessary. Just a good sailing resume. No ASA discount. Sorry.”
  • “We do not require any certification as such, but we need you to have experience of having captained a similar sized vessel. We will ask you fill out a sailing resume.”
  • “If you would like to charter in any of our Caribbean bases you do not need certification, all we require is for you to fill out our Sailing Resume.”
  • “In response to your email, unfortunately we do not offer any discounts for certifications.”
  • “We are looking for ASA 104 certification OR equivalent experience.  Your experience should be on a similar type and size boat as the one you wish to charter.  As a first time charter guest we’d have you fill out a copy of the sailing resume. We do offer credit for significant experience.”

 Boat Insurance 

I asked 10 US boat insurance companies the following:

  1. Will I get a discount if I have a keelboat sailing certification?
  2. What do I need to get a discount?

Every insurance company I contacted said they do not offer discounts for ASA certified sailors. Here it is in their words:

  • “Unfortunately we do not offer any discounts for certifications.”
  • “The discount for an ASA certification isn’t better than for having experience. Other factors such as location, boat value, etc. have a greater effect on premium.”
  • “There are a number of factors that are included in the “experience discount”.  It’s primarily a judgment factor the underwriter uses to price a risk.”
  • “We do not offer discounts for ASA classes.”
  • “With most companies, there is no discount for ASA.”

Q: What are the benefits of taking a certification course?
A: A sailor benefits from taking a quality course, regardless of certification.

Admittedly,  I didn’t know what the specific, post course benefits were of taking a certification course. So I wrote to ASA and US Sailing and asked them, “What benefits do I get after I take your course.” Neither company answered my question. Instead, they sent me their course schedule and a standardized reply. You can count on Ben and I to send you a personalized reply, and with most of our students we even schedule a phone call first…or several if needed!

APPLEBEESimagethumbnail

Ben and I do have a lot of respect for many programs that offer certification. I was 16 when I earned my first certification. I liked my instructor and learned a lot from her. However, programs like that are like the Applebees of sail training. The food is decent and consistently taste the same at any Applebees anywhere. I always know there will be a meal on the menu that will satisfy. But by going to Applebees, I just might miss out on a fabulous meal prepared by a brilliant chef at the local treasure.

Q: Will you offer sailing certifications in the future?
A: Possibly.

We aren’t ruling it out. But at this time we simply intend to offer quality courses with a curriculum that is specifically tailored to our student’s ability, goals, and learning style.

blurryGroupMarcJen2

 

UPDATE!! JUNE 10, 2014 ~ Several people asked two great questions:

Q: What is a “sailing resume?”
A: A sailing resume is just like a job resume! It lists the boats you’ve sailed on, what position you were, how many days, the waters, how far offshore, and number of hours per day.

Q: Do your courses offer something to verify the experience and skills gained?
A: YES! We do! We can provide a letter of sea service that documents your time aboard our vessel. It will quantify and qualify your experience via number of days, waters, offshore miles, etc. It will also detail the training drills you participated in. This will be signed by two licensed and working USCG captains. Professional sailors collect letters of sea service from their captains or employers to submit to the USCG for license applications. You can use yours for the same, or to build your sailing experience resume and actually earn those discounts on charters and insurance!

Find out more about sail training with Ben and Teresa! Join the conversation and earn $100 off your tuition just by commenting below.

 

, , ,

19 Responses to Are ASA and US Sailing Courses Really Worth It?

  1. Kathy June 7, 2014 at 12:36 pm #

    I am very interested in your sailing courses. I have a BCC but have never had enough hands on to feel comfortable. I have taken ASA courses years ago and agree with your comments about certification.

    • Teresa Carey June 7, 2014 at 3:52 pm #

      Great! Send me an email and we will see if we can get you out on a course!

  2. Sean June 7, 2014 at 2:44 pm #

    My father and I have ASA 101, 103, 104, 105, and 106 (all taken in the last 2 years) and really don’t think they are a huge benefit. We took two one week training courses to achieve all 5 certifications and while it’s helpful to learn a broad range of topics, the ASA courses really need a major overhaul. The books are out of date and don’t contain all the needed information for the tests. The tests themselves are flawed, poor wording, questions on the test not covered in the book/course, incorrect question details which lead you to a different answer than the key says if right (especially in the 105 course).

    I am hoping to join Teresa and Ben for the August 9th course if I can work out the finances.

    • Teresa Carey June 7, 2014 at 3:53 pm #

      We hope so too Sean! Would you be taking the course with your father or coming alone?

      • Sean June 7, 2014 at 3:55 pm #

        Sadly, alone. Dad has other plans this year; but at least those plans include the purchase of a Tayana 37 :)

  3. Joe C. June 7, 2014 at 3:22 pm #

    Hey, Teresa (and Ben)!

    Thanks for posting this info…it answered a lot of my questions about sailing certifications, the perceived benefits of such, etc.

    My wife and I will be in the market for sailing instruction in the near future…we’ll be in touch. :)

    -Joe
    Chattanooga, TN.

    • Teresa Carey June 7, 2014 at 3:54 pm #

      Awesome Joe. We specialize in couples! People often find that they get better communication skills and ability to cooperate and trust their spouse from our courses. It wasn’t intended, but we just naturally teach that way! There is also a discount if you come with a partner or spouse!

      Let me know which course you are interested in, and we’ll make it happen!

      ~Teresa

  4. Ellen June 8, 2014 at 5:53 am #

    Hi Teresa. Thanks for this post. My husband (a more experienced sailor than I) and Ii have been having a debate similar to this about classroom courses vs. reading/learning some things yourself. I took a Power Squadron course in Piloting this winter. Gruelling and uninspiring I’m afraid, but i am more able to pull out the charts and identify where we are without GPS than I probably would have been. It’s been my understanding that at least one of us should have an ABC boating safety course/card, so I was considering taking that test through the USPS as well, just to get the card. This is my second season on an H28 and we’ve done some charters, so I don’t think passing is the issue, but I’m questioning the need, money, etc. thoughts?
    On a different note, I would love to join you at some point to improve my independence/confidence/skills. I don’t think having spouse be the sole teacher is a good plan! If not this season, then I may see where you are in the winter.
    We may see you out there this season. We’re heading fron CT shores to RI and Cape in a couple of weeks.
    Thanks!

  5. Jay Rose June 8, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    Every time I read a post on this blog I say to myself “Ben and Teresa are so awesome” … but I figured I’d finally write it… You guys are so awesome. ~~_/)~~

  6. Jean-Pierre June 8, 2014 at 11:40 am #

    Thanks for this post. This is a very interesting topic. Personally I learned how to sail many years ago at Annapolis sailing school, an established and recognized sailing school, at least locally and at the time, but not affiliated with any of the programs you mention. That was a good choice to start I think. I then added some practice with friends who owned boats and took courses and exams in France and then Spain where I was located because simply these titles are mandatory. I found them short on practice and long in theory, so I took one on one classes with a teacher in France to be able to sail solo, and crewed on a yacht for a delivery from the UK to Portugal to experience offshore cruising and overnight sailing. After a long interruption I skippered a friend’s yacht for coastal cruising in Greece and Turkey, 3 months in 2012 and 2 months in 2013. This last experience showed me I needed to complete my education on boat systems so this year will be about engine courses, electricity on board, electronics, etc. all practical hands on courses. And then I still need practice in rough weather sailing. Is there an end? I want to retire on a cruising boat and will need to bring my wife up to par for it, that will be another challenge…. I am writing this to say I love your approach as I found that all the packaged courses I took ( including the RYA I also tried last year) have limitations and if I had to do it again I would gladly turn to you and Ben. As it is it will take another year or two for my wife to be free of her professional obligations and ready for an offshore adventure, I’ll be in touch to check your availability and prices as I have a daughter and grand daughter in the US and come regularly, we might also invite you on board in the Mediterranean. Cheers.

  7. Cathy Norrie June 8, 2014 at 11:34 pm #

    Hi Teresa,

    I totally agree with you about the value of some of these courses. As a retired teacher-librarian I recognize in you the qualities of an excellent teacher. As you say it is essential to find out where a student is in their learning and personalize the educational experience. From what I can tell this is what you and Ben are doing… and doing it extremely well.

    I learned from a personalized curriculum that was taught by my now co-cap, Bill. We are now circumnavigating and after having read many books, learned significant lessons from Bill, sailed in all sorts of conditions and now experienced extensive offshore sailing (having sailed across the Pacific and last year sailing from New Zealand to South Africa) both of us continue to learn.

    Here’s an idea… why don’t you create some professional looking certificates (Microsoft Word has a number of good looking templates for them) that are duly signed by you. You can then say to those who want/need a certificate that they will definitely have one at the end of the course. Just thinkin’… :)

    Good luck in all of this. I’m confident that your courses will be sold out with a waiting list very soon!

    All the best
    Cathy

  8. Dorothy Mammen, s/v Aviva June 9, 2014 at 10:32 am #

    I want to say yet again how amazing you both are as sailors and sailing instructors! Fred and I both learned SO much — both technical sailing skills and the no-less-critical “soft” skills, ie communication and conflict resolution — on our training delivery with you from FL to RI in May 2013. With an asymmetry in sailing experience between partners (Fred having more than I), with lake sailing experience but not coastal and offshore, and with it being very important to me that I be fully capable on the boat in my own right, the hands-on training we received with lessons tailored to our gaps versus what we already knew was exactly what we needed. Many of the practices that we learned on that trip, such as Captain of the Day and Morning Muster, are now our standard. Plus -- we had fun!!!

  9. Rod June 9, 2014 at 11:34 am #

    B+T,

    Very interesting, and most timely. Experience levels can always be improved! It is VERY interesting that the training supplied by these organizations carries no weight when it comes to the logical application thereof: Renting anything appreciable.This says a lot about “accreditation”, no? Apparently a huge zippo.
    I am reminded of the “time at sea” form that CAN be filled in by a boat owner to document experience toward the “six-pax” undocumented vessel. Now THAT carries weight.

    Point number two is this: I’ve spent a bit of time surrounded by government published forms related to navigation, regulation, documentation of standards, etc., and it may be worth mentioning that lots of textbook companies seem to camp directly underneath the Government Printing Office. They then re-produce what is available essentially for free, in a more convenient form to access (selected portions) and then make their money from this rendering what is freely available to all. If CFR 33 is where lots of it comes from then how about making that the academic focus, not someone’s private rendering thereof, with selected portions only? Ok, I quit.
    It seems like ASA, USS “sailing schools” are in a bit of a similar position? No harm done, but WOW the fact that it is practically meaningless is shocking.

    As you have stated more or less, no paper test can amount to EXPERIENCE. FACT!
    Getting training from the two of you would do more than I dare say ANY classroom with an attendance roster, a simple quiz (likely constructed from a statistical formulation of minimal inquisition to subject matter retention’s proof) geared for the masses (not where any given learner is at any given time)? This is revealing. Not that any teacher has it all.

    A glass framed certification cannot be used in gale force winds, nor petitioned against 14 waterspouts, eh? --”In the name of ASA, I command you to disappear!” --Survey says: “Splat”. Only then can you realize what you’re made of, and pull from previous experience?
    It takes a lot of immersive time to gain the elusive experience. There are no short cuts.

    The two of you know CLEARLY where the “guard rails”, er, “buoys” (LIMITS) are in MANY situations: I’m talking about the limits that are NOT seen so easily, nor easily referenced, categorized or indexed. Clearly you are circumspect, I’m convinced. Communicating this to anyone who is seeking to expand their knowledge is something SO MUCH BETTER by BEING THERE.

    Great Tutors like you two are life (and property) savers. Never doubt it.
    May your efforts be truly blessed.
    Best Regards.

  10. e.p. June 9, 2014 at 12:13 pm #

    I just started sailing this spring -- I’ve crewed a friend’s 63 footer multiple times on daysails, and I now have a 13′ Chrysler Pirateer which I daysail almost every weekend (it’s addicting!).

    How do you build a “sailing resume” as you say? Is it purely time (sailed for X years) or boat size (IE: my experience on a 13′ will never be good enough to rent a 30′?)

    Thanks,

    -e.p.

  11. Hawk June 10, 2014 at 7:43 am #

    Awesome article… course work and certs might be a must for some folks who never had any other exposure but your article nails it…. there is no substitute for hands on custom tutoring from motivated and experienced crew like yourselves.

    I would say its just as important (if not more so) for casual boaters and beginners to take a state boater safety course (Florida has an excellent one) as a low-budget certification that will pay off for years especially considering that most people with only casual sea time or no hazardous duty (military, etc.) do not have a real safety mindset.

    Sailing has been a casual sport in my family for generations and I built my own 10′ sailing pram when I was 22 without knowing much terminology but knowing the feel of how to sail. My first and only formal instruction came after that on the English Channel in force 5-6 and frankly the guy didn’t have much time or patience and hated me by the time we got done. I have sailed a good bit since then and am much more concerned about preparedness when I go out than my resume.

    Love you guys; I’m always checking for new videos and eagerly waiting to watch “one simple question”

  12. Sarah August 1, 2014 at 1:00 pm #

    Thank you! I’ve been wondering this very thing for a few weeks now. I haven’t taken any formal sailing lessons, just been going out on boats as much as possible. I was considering getting a certification because someone told me I won’t be able to charter boats without one. Thanks for doing the leg work, looks like I’m going to add a few more things to track on my sailing resume and I’ll be set!

  13. Bob Westman August 15, 2014 at 2:03 am #

    I retired from the Army and I am going to buy a Sail boat and sail the Bahamas for the winter… I currently race on an A Scow. Built by Buddy Melges… I also have sailed J boats and Keels… I just wanted to let you know that I enjoyed your videos very much… Hope to see you around the Islands some day…. I also would like to sail around the globe… Happy sailing… A few of my friends have sailed the world…Not sure if you have ever seen the movie the Ultimate ride A-Scows I race with Crazy Leo… I am the Number 2 or number 3 on the crew….

  14. Mike Reid August 27, 2014 at 9:37 am #

    Great Article and just what I was looking for. I actually just met a German guy who was biking from Germany to Japan and happen to stay at my house in Japan via Couch Surfing. Besides being a long distance biker, he is an avid sailor and really motivated me to try sailing. He directed me to Crewbay and Findacrew.net to find some sailing opportunities. Having no experience, I thought it would better if I got a certification to at least show some type of “formal sailing education.” After reading your article it seems like actual hours in the water are what really matter and I’m going to direct my search towards finding some type of “on the water training” besides the two day certification courses. Out of curiosity: What trainings do you offer?

    • Teresa Carey August 27, 2014 at 5:37 pm #

      Wo do offer training! Thanks for asking. Our website is http://www.morsealpha.com.
      We also offer private charters with a captain and cook. They can be sail training or vacation charters. Let me know what interests you.

Leave a Reply