Beware the faux full learn-to-sail course!

We’re getting very tired of schools, and daily deal sites, promoting “3-day” learn to sail courses that just aren’t.  It’s misleading marketing at best and does a real disservice to the consumer and the entire industry.

What am I talking about?  How about a course that is two days of sailing instruction, plus a few hours of classroom theory one evening.  In what universe does a few hours add up to a day?  Or, two days of sailing instruction, plus practice sailing on another day that’s counted as a day of instruction – yet with no instructor on board.  It’s not what they’re billing it to be, and it’s not revealed until the consumer digs a little.

Even if the schools and daily deal sites were honest about it, two days is just not enough for the average student to learn to sail.  Period.  Sometimes three days is barely enough, which is just one of the reasons we include free supervised practice sails after our course.  It’s the best balance of pushing students to gain the confidence to sail without an instructor on board and assess how ready they are to go further.  If this reveals that they need more time with an instructor, we give it for free.  (And this almost never happens.)

Neither ASA nor US Sailing mandate that a Basic Keelboat course be a certain length or format (and yes, they both use exactly that name for the learn-to-sail level; don’t get us started…).  But allowing less than three days simply devalues the certification.  The main reason we stopped offering rentals to the outside public is that there are so many students going through 2-day programs that cannot skipper, and it’s a mutually disappointing waste of time for them to come and fail a rental checkout.

One school’s 2-day program ends with the student taking her or his Basic Keelboat certification exam (if he or she chose to pony up the extra $50 for the privliege that is not included in the tuition).  then, whoo-HOO!  They’re certified.  That’s supposed to mean they can skipper a suitable size boat (20 – 27 feet by current ASA standards, and around 20 feet by their historical standard).  But, alas, they cannot.  When they join that school’s sailing club, they cannot skipper BY DEFINITION for the first season!  It’s even on their web site!  Yes, somehow ASA allows this, and a seemingly well-educated and discriminating demographic continues to throw away their $400 to $500 not learning how to sail properly.

So, our advice to you if you’re reading this and have not yet bought a learn to sail/Basic Keelboat course: do your due dil on the number of days and hours you’ll get at the candidate school, and what they really do with those hours.  You’ll probably be surprised at what you find.

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