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Sailing is something you have to learn in steps. If you don't master the basics such as winch safety, anchoring and trimming a sail, you'll never understand how to manage difficult sailing situations such as heavy wind, a rudder breaking or bad weather. If you don't know how to manage the helm, you'll never feel comfortable going farther away from shore. That's why the US Sailing Association has determined seven levels of standardized training which must be taught by certified instructors. When you begin at the first level, Basic Keelboat, you'll begin a log book in which you'll record all your course completions and the stickers sent to you by US Sailing. This information will also be submitted to a national database and your official log book will serve as a passport for renting or chartering boats locally and around the world (once you receive the proper certifications).
After Basic Keelboat you will progress to Basic Cruising certification, allowing you to advance to larger boats with hull sizes as big as 35 feet. You'll spend more time docking and learning the handling maneuvers of larger boats. Once you earn this certification, you'll be ready to take your family on a day trip.
After you get enough experience day-sailing larger keelboats, you can move to Bareboat Cruising, Passage Making and Coastal Navigation certifications. By this time you'll be an experienced sailor capable of dealing with difficult situations like current and wind. You'll also be skilled at dead reckoning techniques, chart reading and deteriming fixes (your position).
If you choose a sailing school, make sure your instructors have been certified by US Sailing. If they have, they will then be able to offer US Sailing certifications upon successful completion of courses and you can feel safe that the curriculum was adequate. For more information, visit ussailing.org.
If you just bought your first sailboat, you might be tempted to load it up on a trailer and get it in the water the first chance you get. But, that could get you into trouble in some states. The laws relating to boat ownership differ from state to state so the first thing you should do is investigate what is required where you live. You can do this at boat-ed.com. There you will find online tests for boat licenses and any other types of certifications you must obtain before sailing. Even if your state does not require a safety certification, consider taking a course and obtaining one anyway. You may prevent an accident and even save a life--and that life could be your child's or your own. Luckily, with the advent of the Internet you can now take many boat certification courses online. You can also study boat safety requirements and read official state handbooks. If you ever get stopped while boating by the authorities, having a boat certification--even if your state does not require it--may help you out.
Only 100 miles from Florida's mainland lies an easy sailing destination for anyone seeking a Bahamas sailing school. Once populated by swashbuckling privateers, this area is now one of the most placid sail cruising areas for intermediate to advanced sail training. The water in the Abacos is clear with good navigational aids, and is a popular destination for families and couples. Offshore Sailing School guarantees that you earn US SAILING Certification in whatever course that you take. At Offshore's Bahamas sailing school, you can take a Catamaran Live Aboard Cruising Course, A Live Aboard Coastal Navigation Course or if you have a need for speed, Offshore's unique Fast Track to Power Cruising course.
With Live Aboard sail training, you can combine the pleasures of cruising a larger yacht with US SAILING Certification in both Basic Cruising and Bareboat Cruising. Bareboat Cruising Preparation qualifies you to cruise without a hired crew. Basic Keelboat certification is required for this course. Taught on luxurious 38- 46-foot cruising yachts, you'll enjoy amenities such as hot showers, air conditioning and share learning experiences with no more than three other classmates. The experience will be unforgettable.
Ready for something more advanced? Obtain advanced US SAILING Certifications in Coastal Navigation, too. Or, in just five days you can get certified to take the helm and skipper a 46-foot power catamaran.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|