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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Who should take the Cruising Essentials course?

What if my cruising partner wants to focus on skills that do not include sail handling or steering?

Do you cover performance sail trim?

What skills do I need before I start cruising?

How long before I will be ready to start serious cruising?

With so much to learn, how do you choose what you teach so I'm not overwhelmed?

What does a typical lesson look like?

Does the course cover rivers and inland waterways?

Why can’t I just learn everything I need to know from a book?

How does this course compare to training offered by ASA or US Sailing?

How does this course compare to on-the-job training offered by a live-aboard crew experience?

Who are the Instructors?

Who should take the Cruising Essentials course?

You may be preparing to (1) start coastal cruising, especially if the male wants to go and the female is fearful (2) rent a bare boat where you plan to travel to destinations that are beyond visable locations, ( 3) live-aboard or (4) you may need a stepping stone to blue-water cruising. Sure, you could train yourself but our course is designed to help you reduce your learning curve down from years to months. And we teach couples to work together. We'll also discuss the right and wrong types of boats to help you avoid buying the wrong boat for the waters you intend to sail. Our training will prepare you for daytime cruising between anchorages with some overnight passages. From there, you may plan longer and longer cruises in preparation for an ocean voyage.

What if my cruising partner wants to focus on skills that do not include sail handling or steering?

If you're cruising with a partner, our course is designed so that, if you choose, one of you may act as captain and focus on sailing skills while the other may focus on other skills (e.g., how to provision a boat). Or, for more of a vacation experience and a reduced charge, a partner may audit the course or just relax.

Do you cover performance sail trim?

Yes, we believe that a sailing course should teach you about the beauty of sail. If you enjoy tuning your sails and feeling a well-balanced helm while watching the spray, then you'll enjoy our training. We're not just about cruising. We're about the joy of sailing and selecting the right boat, right sails and equipment needed to experience that joy.

What skills do I need before I start cruising?

First, and this cannot be overemphasized, you need the right boat for the waves you intend to sail through. If you currently have a boat, you need to understand its wave limitations. No amount of skill or preparation can make up for sailing in waves that are beyond your boat.

Second, you need to know how to handle your boat well, day or night, in a variety of weather conditions. For example, you need to be able to navigate in or out of a reef and able to tuck into a bay and anchor with complete comfort. Our course gives you hands-on training in these basic skills.

Next, you need to learn how to navigate in unfamiliar waters, deal with currents and tides. Here, we can reduce your learning curve by teaching you a simple, solid navigation technique. Our course focuses on the essentials you need to know about navigation.

Finally, you need to learn how to deal with mishaps before they occur. Important mishaps include running aground, diesel air locks and crew overboard. Again, we can limit your learning curve by teaching you very simple, common sense cures that are not rooted in obsolete traditions. For example, if someone falls overboard, we recommend that you quickly drop your sails and motor back. What is important here is that your rigging system allows your sails to drop quickly and that you practice this. We do not recommend that you attempt a figure 8, full sail recovery unless you have a well-trained, full crew!

How long before I will be ready to start serious cruising?

If you're accustomed to sailing in some rough weather (not prolonged storms) and are comfortable anchoring overnight in varying conditions, then you should be cruising within a few weeks after you take our course. Just practice your navigation and you're off. But if you're more comfortable with fair weather and staying at a marina overnight, then you should expect at least one season of intense practice before being ready to start serious cruising. By intense practice, we mean that most weekends you're sailing regardless of the weather and you're anchored overnight.

With so much to learn, how do you choose what you teach so I'm not overwhelmed?

We've developed a Cruising Essentials Guide that focuses on must-have cruising skills. Our guide covers not only what you should know before you venture out, it also covers what you can skip. Here are some examples:

  • We recommend that you can quickly tie 3 knots instead of a couple dozen knots, and we recommend that you master 6 nautical terms, not dozens. Though we list 22 nautical terms that you can learn at your leisure, there are 6 terms that you must recognize instantly.
  • We recommend that you know how to navigate between buoys and know how horn signals work when meeting another boat. You need to master these skills for both inland waterways and on the ocean because there is a difference. But you don't need to memorize dozens of navigation aids that can be found in a reference book.
  • You need to master a couple of the “Rules of the Road” so they become reflexes. The other rules can be pondered.
  • You need to learn to expect and deal with a hard grounding and a diesel air lock, because if you cruise, these problems will surely occur. But you don't need to take a course in diesel repair.

What does a typical lesson look like?

Let’s consider a practical example of a skill that you need to master: relating the navigation buoys on the water to the buoys on a navigational chart.

For this skill, the lesson starts with a review of the information in our Cruising Essentials Guide:

  • A list of important chart attributes that you need to master (e.g., red/green buoys with light specifications, preferred channel buoys, safe water marks, chart depth in feet or phantoms)
  • A sample chart
  • A list of important related publications such as Chart 1
  • For advanced study, the name of a self-tutorial on navigation

Then, the remainder of the lesson is hands-on training as you practice following the red and green buoys in sequence on the chart and learn how to understand the sequence from the number 1 buoy on up. You'll also practice how to find the safe-water mark and how to recognize these navigation aids on the water, day or night.

Our lessons are designed to teach you the essentials to get you cruising safely without overwhelming you.

Does the course cover rivers and inland waterways?

Waters that we cover include the ocean coasts, coastal islands, the great lakes, rivers and inland waterways. Actual training will take place in the Bay of Biscayne, Bahamas and Florida Keys.

Why can’t I just learn everything I need to know from a book?

Our course focuses on skills that are difficult to learn from a book. For example, what does the right amount of weather helm feel like? What does bad holding ground feel like? When is an anchor really set? When is a genoa over-sheeted? What is too much draft anyway? What boat will work best for you?

However, books are important learning tools. We provide our Cruising Essentials Guide to help you continue to learn once the course ends.

How does this course compare to programs offered by ASA or US Sailing?

The instructor of the Cruising Essentials course is ASA Certified; however, the course is not an ASA Certified course.

The ASA and US Sailing programs are more traditional and deal with far more details. They offer a line up of sequential courses, each a prerequisite to the next. Their course content includes classroom and hands-on training. Examinations and certifications are given. These are good courses.

By focusing on the essential sailing skills, we cover in one week what the ASA and US Sailing programs cover in several weeks. We are 20% classroom and 80% hands-on, and we do not give examinations. We do provide bareboat certifications to students that demonstrate good skills.

Our strategy differs from ASA and US Sailing courses in that we don't mix essential skills with dozens of non-essential skills. The essential skills are the skills that need to become reflexes in your mind and body. For example, one of the essential navigation lessons is that green buoys have square tops with odd identification numbers. These buoys start with the number 1 on your left as you enter the harbor from the sea. If you learn a dozen other non-essential lessons about buoys, it's hard to recognize what really matters.

How does this course compare to on-the-job training offered by an extended live-aboard crew experience?

Our course is a one-week, on-the-job, live-aboard experience. We do not pretend to replace what you can learn from a several month live-aboard experience. Because our time together is limited to one week our course structure differs.

If you have several weeks or months to spend as a live-aboard crew member, this offers excellent training. In this type of training, the captain conveys the essential skills to the crew by osmosis and you practice what you’ve learned daily. During our one week course, we provide a more structured learning environment with classroom time to speed up the osmosis; the captain will also be your instructor to identify the essential skills that you need to learn and to transfer those skills to you.

Also, your experience as live-aboard crew member is more valuable if you're on a boat that is similar to the boat that you sail. Some live-aboard programs are on small ships. We sail a 46-foot Jeanneau—you might buy or charter this type of boat to bare-boat in the Virgin Islands.

Who are the Instructors?

I'm Stan Sroga. Together with my wife, Kathy, we'll be instructing you. I have an ASA Instructor Certificate, a USCG Captains license and 20 years of cruising experience. I also have over 15 years of experience as a technical instructor.

Kathy and I have over 20 years of cruising experience. This includes 2 years as live-aboards and 18 years with at least forty days per year cruising. Waters include the Great Lakes, inland rivers and waterways, the US east coast from Canadian waters to the Chesapeake and the Caribbean from Florida to the Virgin Islands.

As a hobby, I have spent 8 years rebuilding both wooden and fiberglass sailboats in the 29- to 46-foot range. Vespera, our 46-foot Jeanneau, is a project boat that will be featured in Good Old Boat Magazine and also written up in Ocean Navigator magazine.

 



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