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Old 01-01-2009, 11:13 AM   #1
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Having looked at a number of forums I think it would help if I gave a few pointers about how to select a sailing school.

There are a number of points worth looking at.

Financial Standing.

Short list all schools that seem to be well founded and established. In other word if they say meet under a lamp post on Marina street beware. Schools are not required to keep your advance payments in the bank till you take your course. Some do but most do not. If the school goes bust bang goes your money. You may be able to insure against this but it is worth looking into.

The boats

Check with the school that the yachts are in good condition, fully MCA safety coded for the work they are doing. Check if you will be sharing double berths. (This can happen at a school with small boats you could be cooped up in the forepeak with a complete stranger). if you prefer a private cabin check that you are going to get one. Check out any extra charges, how many meals are included etc. Check out bedding. Some schools use sleeping bags which are fairly grotty in my view. Nice clean duvets and sheets are much nicer.

Instructors

Schools are only as good as their instructors. Find out what the qualifications of your instructor are and how long they have been instructing. If you are taking courses up to Day Skipper you will probably get a cruising instructor and nothing wrong with that if they are good. Unfortunately there are quite a few bad ones out there and how would someone with no experience know this so use a school with a good name. Do not hesitate to complain if you think your instructor is not up to scratch.

For coastal skipper and above make sure you have a fully qualified RYA Yachtmaster Instructor. Nothing less will do. Schools are not allowed to use cruising instructors for this work but some do.

Your instructor should never shout at anyone on the boat if they do they are no good and you should let them and the school know.

Theory courses

Schools are not allowed, by the RYA, to carry out theory courses on board a yacht if it is for a theory certificate. They can provide theory revision on board but certificates can not be given for this.

Check the school you are taking your theory course with has classrooms and facilities with all the computers and kit that goes with it. If you decide to take your theory course on line then make sure again that the course is a recognised RYA one.

Get advice.

Check out the school you choose with previous students but do not rely on one possibly biased view. Check out a few and if you know any Yachtmaster Examiners they can be a good guide to which schools get good results.

Fast track

If you are thinking of doing fast track then for goodness sake visit the school you are thinking of using and check out there current students, yachts and facilities. It is worth it even if it means you have to pay for a flight. Some schools offer an opt out after two weeks which gives you the choice to leave with a refund. This shows the school has confidence in its product. Don't opt for those offering Ocean passages. Sitting on a boat for three weeks bobbing across an ocean is not how you should build your miles up. Your miles need to be done on shorter trips with lots of navigation and marina handling. James Stevens head of Cruising at the RYA stated at one of the RYA Conferences that Fastrack was just as good as slow track and miles should be built up on shorter trips. A period self skippering should be included in the course two or three weeks. Otherwise students will never have had the benefit of sailing and not having an instructor to fall back on.

Last remarks

Make sure your course is tidal. Take out holiday insurance and enjoy your courses.

Happy new year to all.

Vic Punch OYMI.
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Old 01-02-2009, 05:30 AM   #2
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Good advice Vic. Thank you for that.

Anyone looking for a sailing school would be well advised to follow Vic's advice.

Aye // Stephen
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Old 01-02-2009, 05:15 PM   #3
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While some of this advise is specific to RYA courses and not to other programs, e.g., the comments about theory on-board; most are true of all sailing programs.

I might suggest that sharing berths is not uncommon. Providing single cabins for all crew is often not feasible as it means that the boat may be short-handed on long passages.

For students I would add the following:
  1. Do not rush things, get experience at one level before attempting the next. The best advise I got after my initial certification was to go sailing, not take other courses. I waited and sailed for 6 years before upgrading.
  2. Make sure that you bring the equipment needed for the course. Your own foulies, sea boots, PFD, Harness, rigging knife, strobe, etc.
  3. Make sure you have the necessary prerequisites. This might be First Aid and a VHF certificate.
  4. Pack lightly.
  5. Use initiative, do not wait to be told what to do.
  6. If standing orders are available, get and study them in advance - and be prepared to follow them.
These are some that come to mind right now, others may have more.

Jack
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Old 01-03-2009, 03:28 PM   #4
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While some of this advise is specific to RYA courses and not to other programs, e.g., the comments about theory on-board; most are true of all sailing programs. .....
Hi Jack some good advice there just though I would mention a couple of things that may be relevant.

Cabin and berth sharing

During my teaching career I experienced quite a number of students who were not impressed when they found out about sharing a berth. (This means on the same bit of foam). Sharing a cabin is not to bad as long as you are not in the same bed. So I think checking out and knowing in advance is a good thing.

A number of schools now do master class courses which are maximum three to a yacht plus the instructor and, all though more expensive, students get a private cabin and a lot more hands on experience with less time spent waiting for everyone to take their turn.

Theory on board

Regarding theory on board it is surprising how many schools still run theory courses on board against the RYA regulations. This makes it harder for the schools who invest in classrooms and good facilities to survive. I mentioned it mainly because part of the the RYA theory course includes the use of their PC plotter program. At least one P.C. per two students. Moreover the facilities should include large tables or desks to lay books and charts out on, good lighting etc.

Gear to take along.

Most good schools provide foulies and have to provide life jackets and harness. The life jacket will include a light but a strobe as an extra over is very good.

First aid and VHF are not required until taking a Coastal Skipper or Yacht Master exams however it can not be a bad thing if you have them in advance.

All schools should provide a list of items they supply and items you need along with full joining instructions.

I think you are right when you say it is best not to rush things if you are taking courses one week at a time but six years not sure about that.

All this said most RYA schools run good courses, insure their boats, keep the safety coding up to date and try to satisfy clients to the extent that they will return to the school for further courses.

Vic
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Old 01-03-2009, 09:39 PM   #5
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Cabin and berth sharing

During my teaching career I experienced quite a number of students who were not impressed when they found out about sharing a berth. (This means on the same bit of foam). Sharing a cabin is not to bad as long as you are not in the same bed. So I think checking out and knowing in advance is a good thing.

A number of schools now do master class courses which are maximum three to a yacht plus the instructor and, all though more expensive, students get a private cabin and a lot more hands on experience with less time spent waiting for everyone to take their turn.

Vic
We do use sleeping bags, but not grotty ones. The double berths we use have lee clothes between the crew. I happen to beleive that lee clothes are crucial in any event. On a trip from Newport to St Barthes via Bermuda, there was no lee clothes. One berth was unusable and in the aft double we had to sleep sideways, with our legs braced against the cabinetry.

By all means get as much information about the boat, instructor, expectations, etc. as you can. There will be enough surprises as it is.

Jack
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Old 01-04-2009, 07:05 AM   #6
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We do use sleeping bags, but not grotty ones. Jack
Hi jack

I was not saying you personally use grotty sleeping bags I was simply trying to warn future sailing school students that some schools do, so take your own.

This is the same with shared berths (not cabins) why share when you can choose not to is all I am saying. Some people really object to this.

Lee cloths are essential in my view and are a requirement of all sailing schools for at least 50% of the berths however it is not a requirement to provide them as a screen to divide a double berth into two singles.

Vic.
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Old 02-03-2010, 08:51 PM   #7
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There is some good advice here.

If you are going to learn to sail in a warm climate then having plenty of space on board the training yacht, not having to share a cabin, and having showers and a swim platform are particularly important.

I'd just like to point out that non-tidal sailing courses have their place as well!

The RYA Competent Crew course has exactly the same syllabus whether taken in tidal or non-tidal waters. Many hesitant partners can be pursuaded to try a sailing holiday in the Greek islands or along the Turkish coast. No tides ... but great sailing!

Many people want to learn to sail so that they can charter or take flotilla holidays in the Mediterranean. For them it also makes sense to do their Day Skipper or Coastal Skipper training in the area in which they will eventually sail.
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Old 04-01-2010, 10:41 AM   #8
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Thanks for that topic Anyone knows how much costs that kind of course for offshore skipper?
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Old 04-01-2010, 10:56 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by anula' date='01 April 2010 - 12:41 PM View Post

Thanks for that topic Anyone knows how much costs that kind of course for offshore skipper?
Prices vary. Contact any sailing schools for their current prices. However, one of our members may be able to post a "ball-park" figure here.
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