A Lot to Learn and Certs to Earn

I learned to sail at the US Naval Academy in the early 80s and always felt the call of living aboard a sailboat. Barbara, on the other hand, was raised in power boats and wasn’t particularly interested in sailing until a couple she knew sold all their stuff and bought a sailboat, posting their adventures on social media as they figured the whole thing out. Barbara fell in love with their pictures and stories and suggested the lifestyle to me.

Initially I thought my wife had fallen in love with “Facebook sailing”, and suggested trying it out by taking some ASA sailing classes.

If you’re seriously considering doing something you’ve never done before, take classes in it. The 4 basic ASA certs mentioned below give you a crash course in catamaran sailing and enough confidence to keep a full head of steam as you chart your course to voyaging. a lot of the content won’t make sense, though, ’till you get your own boat and start breaking stuff. In any case, your insurance company will want to see you’ve attained these quals before they’ll cover you taking your boat out by yourself.

So, we ordered the books online and waited anxiously for their arrival. When they got here, we dug in! The classes aren’t hard, but there is a lot of reading and you’re basically picking up a new language with words like “clew” and “luff” and “vang” that are not at all intuitive.

We did our homework through October and November, enjoying the chance to work on a tangible part of our future together. With every “book learning” lesson, our excitement to get on the water intensified.

Finally, the 2016 holiday break came and we flew to St. Thomas to learn the art of sailing from Blue Water Sailing School’s Captain Dick Dawson aboard Keremeos. Captain Dick, his wife Gail and their dog Sailor are super people (well, not Sailor … he’s a dog), and their hospitality aboard Keremeos was top-notch!

Between Christmas and New Years we sailed the US and British Virgin Islands, learning to raise the sails, drop the sails, run the engines …

NOTE: Yes, most sailboats have engines too. It’s not their primary propulsion, but it does help to maneuver in and out of port and serves as an auxiliary means of getting around when the wind doesn’t cooperate!

… pick up a mooring ball, navigate from Point “A” to Point “B”, anchor and keep from running into other boats. By the time it was all over, we’d successfully completed:

ASA 101 – Basic Keelboat Sailing
ASA 103 – Basic Coastal Cruising
ASA 104 – Bareboat Chartering
ASA 114 – Cruising Catamaran

And it was awesome!
… well, maybe not all of it. The other couple taking lessons (Keremeos is an owner’s version Fountaine Pajot Orana 44 with three staterooms) brought the flu aboard, so we all caught it at some point during the class. Barbara and I suffered from it for about a day and a half, but it really knocked Gail for a loop the last few days of the sail.

Despite this uncomfortable couple of days, Barbara’s desire to go cruising remained strong, and we completed the course with flying colors. Afterward, we spent the last couple of days in the USVI in a beautiful hilltop bungalow looking longingly out to sea in anticipation of the adventure ahead – the sailing hook was set!

… maybe … but I had to be sure …

“How ’bout we try this one more time?” I asked Barbara. She agreed and I started looking for the right place for our next sailing adventure … and found it … off the coast of Panama!

2 Thoughts

  1. We loved Blue Water Sailing and working with David Pyle to begin out learning experience. We were on a Dufour with Captain Duane, met Gayle and Dick during the same week. So much fun!


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