How to Charter a Sailing Yacht: ASA Certifications

Sailing is within your reach
Sailing is within your reach | Source

You Can Charter a Sailing Yacht

Sailboats and sailing represent adventure and romance. While on vacation or at the sea shore, you might have looked longingly at the sailboats as they glide by gracefully, wishing that you were on board. But unless you grew up sailing, you may think that learning to sail or chartering a yacht is out of reach. It's not! There's a process for getting the skills you need to charter a sailing yacht and this article will show you how.

Required Credentials

The major sailing yacht chartering companies, Sunsail and The Moorings, have requirements for chartering their yachts. Formal training isn't necessary but you do need to have actual experience on a boat including a basic knowledge of seamanship, navigation, and boat handling. Each company requires prospective charterers to fill out a sailing resume. Based on your past experience, they'll recommend the size of boat and the sailing areas that are best for you. For example, a beginner might start out in the British Virgin Islands, which has been described as the Kindergarten of sailing, on a 32ft monohull. They may also recommend that one of their captains accompany you for the first day of sailing.

This is great for those who've been lucky enough to know someone with a boat to gain that basic level of experience. But what if you've never sailed before and you don't know anyone with a boat?

Taking  a break from sailing in the BVI
Taking a break from sailing in the BVI | Source

Formal Training

When looking for a sailing school, it's important to find one that's certified by either the American Sailing Association (ASA) or Royal Yachting Association (RYA). These two groups are the most well-known and recognized certifications and will ensure credibility. The ASA offers three classes/certifications that are required to qualify for bareboat chartering, shown in the table below.

Course
Description
ASA 101: Basic Keelboat Sailing
Able to sail a boat of about 20 feet in length in light to moderate winds and sea conditions in familiar waters without supervision. A preparatory Standard with no auxiliary power or navigation skills required.
ASA 103: Basic Coastal Cruising
Able to cruise safely in local and regional waters as both skipper and crew on an auxiliary powered sailboat of about 20 to 30 feet in length, in moderate winds and sea conditions.
ASA 104: Bareboat Chartering
An advanced cruising Standard for individuals with cruising experience. The individual can act as skipper or crew of a 30 - 50 foot boat sailing by day in coastal waters. The Standard includes knowledge of boat systems and maintenance procedures.
Source: ASA

Your choices for classes are nearly endless. There are sailing schools located throughout the country on lakes, rivers and oceans.  You can even take a class in the Caribbean that doubles as a vacation.  One word of warning though.  These classes are intense.  Don't expect to have a lot of time for fun and sightseeing if you take a live aboard class that offers multiple certifications.  You'll be spending your days learning how to sail by practicing drills, handling the sails and manning the helm.  You'll be expected to prepare meals on board and clean up.  Finally, you'll need to study for and take tests in order to pass each level.  By the end of the day, all you'll want to do is go to sleep.

You're Certified. Now What?

Congratulations! You're now certified to bareboat charter. Your first step will be to contact one of the yacht charter companies, provide your resume, and talk to them about their recommended sailing location and boat size. As mentioned previously, a typical first destination is the British Virgin Islands. This is a relatively easy place to sail because of the small tidal changes, consistent winds, and line-of-sight navigation. It also offers a myriad of beautiful bays to drop an anchor and go swimming, snorkling or exploring.  The more you sail, the better you'll get.  With each successive charter, you'll feel more comfortable and will be able to handle a larger boat or a more challenging destination.  

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